Read an Excerpt
His to Claim #2
By Opal Carew
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2014 Opal Carew
All rights reserved.
From Part 1:
A knock sounded on her door. Melanie pulled on her top again, then straightened it and hurried to the entrance. She smiled, assuming it was Jessica, coming over to see her new ink.
Oh, man, thank heavens Rafe hadn"t come up after all. It would have been awkward if Jessica had arrived with Rafe here.
Especially since as soon as the man walked into her apartment, she probably would have thrown herself at him and torn off his clothes.
She grabbed the door, anxious to show Jessica her new tattoo. When she pulled it open, shock vaulted through her.
There in the doorway stood big, sexy Rafe, a crooked smile on his face.
Melanie's heart skipped a beat as she stared at the wickedly sexy Rafe, his large frame filling her doorway.
"Uh ... hi," she stammered. "Come in."
With his broad shoulders and tattoos flowing down his muscular arms, he could be an intimidating presence. In fact, she was amazed someone actually let him in the front door, but then, who would argue with him?
A shiver danced down her spine as he stepped inside. Big and utterly masculine, he seemed to take up all the space in her tiny apartment. Something she'd dreamed of for a long time.
"Sorry to just show up at your door, but your wallet fell out of your bag," he said. "I found it in the storage compartment when I went to grab my helmet."
He held it out to her, and she almost giggled at the sight of her bright pink, rhinestone-adorned wallet in his big, masculine hand.
Oh, damn, she was giddy.
She took it from him, trying to ignore the shiver of heat that rushed along her arm at the brush of his fingers against hers.
"I'm glad you found it. I would have panicked tomorrow morning when I noticed it was missing. Plus, it has my bus pass."
She grabbed her purse and slid the wallet inside, then closed the snap, which was a little flakey. That's why the darned wallet had fallen out. Not that she was complaining. It gave her another chance to see Rafe.
"So how's your tattoo?" he asked. "I see you've taken off the dressing."
Her hand fluttered to her breast as she turned to face him again. "Oh, it's fine. Just a little red, which they said to expect."
His gaze slid to her breast, and she couldn't push away the memory of her earlier suggestion that he come up and check it out. Now, with him here, she was tempted to draw down the fabric of her top to reveal the tattoo to him. And more.
"Okay. I guess I'll be on my way."
"Wait," she said. "Would you like coffee? I have decaf. Or soda? Or beer?"
His lips turned up in a charming smile. "I'd like that. A soda will be fine."
She went into the kitchen and filled two glasses with cola, then returned to the living room to find him sitting on the couch. She handed him one and sat down beside him.
"Did you do that?" he asked, gazing at the sketch of a phoenix she'd framed and hung on the wall over the desk.
"Yes, how did you know?"
"It's the same style as your tattoo." He nodded toward the phoenix. "It's very good. Have you tried selling your art?"
She placed her glass on the coffee table. "Oh, no. I mean, sometimes a friend will ask me to do something for them, but I never charge them."
"You know, if you're interested in doing something artistic for a living, I'm sure we could find something for you in the art department at Ranier Industries."
She smiled. "There you go trying to help me out again. You know, you're not responsible for me."
"You're right, but I'd like to help. Not because I feel obligated. I think you're talented and just need a chance to shine. I'd love to help you do that."
"Did you want help when you broke away from the company and went off on your motorcycle to find yourself?"
His lips quirked up. "No, but I have a big bank account to fall back on. And the family business. You have to play it closer to the edge. But I get it. You want to do it on your own."
She smiled and took a sip of her drink. "Talking about your time away, how was it playing your guitar in front of huge audiences?"
His eyes glowed. "It was a pure adrenaline rush."
She grinned. "A few months ago, I never would have been able to imagine Rafe Ranier, businessman, always impeccably dressed in a designer suit, playing guitar with a rock band in front of screaming fans, but after seeing you with your tattoos and leather jacket, and riding the big motorcycle ..." She shrugged. "I still say you inspire me."
He leaned forward. "I like that."
The intensity of his gaze unsettled her.
"If I can be some part of you breaking free and finding yourself, that makes me feel good."
She gazed into his sky blue eyes, her heartbeat increasing. "I'm glad I make you feel good."
He was so close. With his broad shoulders and impressive height, she felt tiny in comparison. She felt the pull of his masculinity as she leaned a little closer. Heat simmered in his eyes as his face drew nearer, then he tipped up her chin. Her breath held as his lips brushed hers. Lightly. Tenderly. Then his mouth moved on hers. She breathed in his musky male scent mixed with leather and mint. The tip of his tongue teased her lips and she opened. Her arms swept around his neck as he slid into her mouth. His hands glided around her waist and he drew her closer. Her eyelids fell closed as she felt his arms envelop her.
Oh, God, this was really happening. She was in Rafe Ranier's arms. They were alone in her apartment and he was kissing her. Her bedroom was only yards away. She curled her tongue around his and stroked it. Weak with need, she melted against him.
His mouth drew away and she opened her eyes.
He seemed uncertain. "Melanie, are you sure —"
A knock sounded on the door and she jumped. Rafe drew away and she mentally cursed whoever it was.
"We could wait until they go away," Melanie suggested, but then another knock sounded.
"Melanie, it's Jessica."
"Coming," Melanie called, then her gaze shot to Rafe. "Will this be awkward for you?"
"Don't worry about it."
She stood up and walked to the door. Maybe he wouldn't find it awkward, but Melanie wasn't too happy about Jessica finding Melanie and Rafe alone in her apartment.
Not that Jessica would mind. She'd done everything she could to encourage Melanie to start a relationship with Rafe.
She opened the door and Jessica smiled at her.
"So let's see that tattoo," Jessica said as she stepped in the room. Then she stopped. "Rafe, hi." She glanced back at Melanie and smiled. "I can come back another time if I'm interrupting."
Rafe stood up. "Not at all. Melanie and I ran into each other at the tattoo studio and grabbed dinner together."
"Then he found I left my wallet behind and he brought it up," Melanie added.
"And now I'm going to take off." Rafe walked toward the door.
"I'll see you at the office Monday?" Jessica asked.
"The staff meeting at ten. I'll be there." Then he disappeared out the door.
Jessica stared at Melanie with a Cheshire cat smile. "So ... do I sense romance in the air?"
Melanie narrowed her eyes. "Did you have anything to do with us meeting today?"
"What do you mean?" Jessica asked innocently.
"You said someone recommended the studio. I assume that was Rafe. And did you by chance arrange my appointment right after his?"
"I may have found out he was going in for another tattoo, and happened to book the same day." But Jessica couldn't keep a straight face under Melanie's stare. She laughed. "Okay, you caught me. But it worked, didn't it? It triggered your first date with Rafe."
"It wasn't a date. It was just dinner."
"Did he kiss you?"
Melanie frowned. "You know, you're entirely too nosy."
Jessica laughed again. "Okay, fine. Now let's see that ink."
* * *
The bell over the shop door jingled as Melanie finished lining up the muffins in the display case.
"Wowza!" Sue whispered. "If you don't hit that, you're crazy."
Melanie stood up to see Rafe, impeccably dressed in a dark gray suit, dove-gray shirt, and dark teal and charcoal tie walking toward her. He was a stunning sight. And other than the subtle glint of the diamond studs in his ears, there was no hint of the laid-back biker with arms and chest adorned with tattoos. He looked every bit the wealthy businessman.
She smiled. "What can I get you?" she asked, trying not to think about his arms around her, his tongue gliding into her mouth. And how warm and solid his body felt against hers.
"Nothing. I just wanted to talk for a minute," he said. "Do you have time?"
The place was empty. "Uh ... yes. Of course." She knew Sue wouldn't mind covering for her, just like she did when Sue's sister came in.
She followed him to the same table they'd sat at last time, near the back, then sat down.
"I just wanted to make sure we're okay after Saturday night," he began.
She blinked. She was okay with what had happened. More than okay. But it sounded like he wasn't.
"Um ... sure. Why wouldn't I be?"
"It's just ... things were getting pretty hot and heavy."
"Is there anything wrong with that?"
"I just don't want to jeopardize our friendship."
She shrugged, but she could feel her cheeks heating in embarrassment. She'd thought the attraction was mutual, but he must have just been caught up in a rush of hormones. Clearly it wasn't her he'd been attracted to. Just any woman would have sufficed, and Melanie had made it clear she'd be ready and willing.
"Okay. No harm done. I don't know what either of us was thinking." She tried to laugh casually, but it came out strangled and sad. She stood up. "I should get back to work." She turned to escape.
She turned back. His brow creased and his blue eyes were filled with concern.
"I seem to have insulted you and I didn't mean that. Melanie, this is new territory for us. I just don't want to ruin things."
"What is it you do want?" she asked point-blank.
He stood up and pulled something from his inside jacket pocket and handed it to her. She glanced down at it. A ticket to an event.
"I'm playing with Savage Kiss at an outdoor concert on Saturday. You said you'd like to see me play sometime. What I want is for you to come to the concert."
* * *
Saturday was a hot day, so Melanie decided to wear a camisole and a short denim skirt. She tossed a light sweater in her large shoulder bag and went down to the lobby of her building.
The concert was about an hour out of town, so Rafe had offered to send a car for her. She'd be meeting him after the show.
When she walked out the door, she saw a black limo waiting at the curb, the chauffeur standing beside it.
He opened the door and she climbed inside.
She sat back in the ultracomfortable leather seat and glanced around. There was a bar along the side with small bottles of wine, cans of soda, beer, and juice. There were nuts, chips, and other snacks, too. On the right was a TV.
Wow. This was luxury. She could happily relax and fall asleep in this seat.
The car pulled smoothly from the curb. She poured a glass of wine and turned on the TV, then relaxed. The miles and minutes just seemed to slip by as she sipped the rich Cabernet. When they finally arrived at the venue, she thanked the driver and followed the other people flocking to the admission gate, her ticket at the ready.
Once she was inside, a uniformed security guard walked toward her.
"Good evening, miss. Are you Melanie Taylor?"
"Yes." She reached into her purse to find the ticket stub and pulled it out.
"Come with me."
Her chest compressed. "Is something wrong?"
He smiled. "Not at all." But he gave no further explanation.
He led her through the crowd, toward the stage, then to a cordoned-off VIP area where a few other people were sitting on cushioned folding chairs. Outside the select area, people stood or sat on blankets.
Once she sat down, another security person set down a black bag beside her chair. It looked like a soft-sided cooler.
"This is for you." He handed her an envelope, then the two of them went on their way.
She opened the envelope and in Rafe's familiar handwriting it said, "Enjoy the show."
She opened the zipper on the bag and inside were several bottles of a vodka drink she hadn't tried before, but some were mango and berry so she knew she'd like them. Also, there were a couple of bottles of water and some bags of nuts and chips.
It was like being on a date but without her date present.
She opened a bottle and sat back. Before long, the band was introduced and excitement murmured through the crowd. The members of Savage Kiss bounded onto stage, and the crowd cheered. One band member stepped forward, introducing himself as Travis.
Making use of visual effects, Travis expertly whipped the crowd's enthusiasm to a frenzy of excitement as he introduced each band member. Storm came last, appearing out of an explosion of smoke and a blaze of lights.
Women cheered wildly at the sight of him. And Melanie couldn't blame them. He wore a black tank top that showed off his muscular, tattooed arms, and he oozed the aura of a sexy bad boy who set any woman to dreaming of wicked nights in his arms.
When he began to play his guitar solo, Melanie's eyes widened. My God, he was talented. And his charisma on stage was captivating.
She sat mesmerized for the entire show, trying to reconcile this wild performer with the Rafe she knew.
After they'd played their final set, the crowd cheered and applauded until the band came out for an encore. Even after that, the enthusiasm of the crowd was relentless. People even started calling for Storm until he came out and performed a final solo. Anticipation quivered through her as she realized she'd soon be with him. Just the two of them.
At least, she assumed he'd be meeting her after the show. But she wasn't sure how to go about getting backstage to see him, and she doubted that he'd come into the crowd to find her. He'd be mobbed.
Finally, the show was well and truly over and the crowd started to break up. She left the VIP area and meandered toward the stage. Other women were gathering by the fenced-off area and security guards hovered around.
She waited with the other women, unsure what to do. After about twenty minutes, she began to despair that she'd misread the situation. But surely Rafe wouldn't leave her stranded this far from the city. Maybe the limo driver was waiting for her where he'd dropped her off. She turned with a sigh and started walking toward the entrance.
"I think he's coming," a woman said excitedly.
"Over there. Isn't that him?" another woman cried.
As Melanie turned toward the fence again, several women started to shriek and wave.
"Storm! Over here!"
Melanie was still near the front of the crowd and was pushed toward the fence as the women surged toward it. Melanie grasped the linked metal as she peered through to the other side.
There was Storm, walking in their direction.
"Hello, ladies." He smiled as he continued toward them.
"Oh, Storm, we love you!" a woman screamed.
"Storm, I want you so bad," another said.
"I'll show you a good time you'll never forget," a third yelled, then lifted her top and revealed her bare breasts. Her enormous, perfectly formed breasts.
"Me, too," responded another and she pulled up her top, too.
Soon several pairs of bare breasts peered toward him. He smiled and stopped about a yard from the fence, glancing across the crowd.
The brashness of the women shocked Melanie, but it was also exciting and wild.
Just then, Storm's gaze turned to her and recognition flickered in his eyes.
She locked gazes with him, then obeyed the urge thrumming through her, and reached for the hem of her camisole top, then tugged it up, revealing her naked breasts.
They might not be as spectacular as the first woman's, or as big and round as the others', but Storm's eyes lit up at the sight of them.
Within seconds, someone grasped her shoulder and she glanced behind her. A big, burly security guard frowned at her. She tugged down her top.
"Come with me, miss."
She glanced at the guard's stern face and her cheeks heated with embarrassment. Oh, God, was she being arrested for indecent exposure? Oh, damn, why had she listened to that wild, erratic voice in her head?
In the commotion of the crowd, she lost sight of Storm. The guard led her through the crowd, past the stage, toward a tent with a sign stating SECURITY.
As they neared the security tent, however, Melanie's guard veered to the side and took her to a gate in the fence. It was wooden, blocking the view of what was behind it.
They stepped through the gate and it closed behind her. On the other side of the fence the bright lights that had turned on after the show so that people could see their way out were still blazing, but it was shadowy here. She gazed around, disoriented. Someone stepped toward her.
Excerpted from His to Claim #2 by Opal Carew. Copyright © 2014 Opal Carew. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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