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Seduction in Silver
By Natalie Anderson, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Natalie Anderson
All rights reserved.
Nina Breslin gripped the long strap of her handbag, determined not to give herself away. As it was, her abs were tauter than Superman's and the heels of her nude summer pumps clipped along the concrete at an accelerated pace. Though that could be explained away by necessary haste, right? She had a train to catch.
He shouldn't be there. Until now, she'd only seen him in front of his building weekdays and well before the commuter rush. But today was Sunday, mid-morning. And it wasn't his usual corporate casual chinos but ink-blue jeans that encased his long legs — lovingly. Even more arresting was the form-fitting gray, long-sleeved tee that skimmed his flat abs and disappeared into those low-slung, leather-belted jeans.
That's why she had to grip her bag strap so hard, because the tee revealed what his more formal shirts hadn't — his ripped strength. The breadth of his shoulders and the curves of his biceps, triceps, and those other muscles she didn't know the names of were clearly discernible. Not too-much-protein-powder bulky — they were in proportion to his long limbs and he clearly worked them. Yeah, his physical blessings — and he had plenty — were honed to max their potential. He looked like the statue of an ancient Greek athlete come to life.
But while his tall, striking presence commanded attention, he didn't offer the same courtesy in return. Instead, he stood aloof, never directly engaging with those so irresistibly drawn to admire his masculine perfection — i.e., everyone. He epitomized the arrogance she avoided outside of work. She had to deal with his kind all day. Intelligent, successful men who had it all — who'd go blow stupid amounts of money on champagne in lap bars at lunchtime. But with his aura of untouchability, this one took it to a whole other level. Without words or movement, he kept that remote distance — emphasizing his place in an upper echelon. No doubt he had extreme success in it all — looks, wealth, work, and of course, sex.
But she wasn't giving him the satisfaction of knowing he had yet another female fanning herself in the corner as she watched him. And she was most definitely not succumbing to the urge to run her hand through her hair, despite the awareness tingling over her scalp.
She'd read the body language book only yesterday during the few quiet spells at work. Heavy on diagrams, it hadn't taken long to read through the "winning sales techniques" section that was supposed to help up her commission during her last week before hiding out on the Continent. But of course, she'd flipped to the "courtship and mating" signals section straight after, because sometimes a girl needed to be armed with info of the "Is he into you" variety — especially when one's perception was as far removed from reality as hers was. So now she knew why she had the urge to preen, but she wasn't going to succumb to it. It'd be a waste of energy, anyway. For two weeks, she'd passed him every morning on her way to the Baker Street Tube station and he'd not once glanced her way.
She was stupidly piqued by that — another nail in her self-confidence coffin. He wasn't her type — truly — but even so, part of her wanted him to notice. She pushed feminine hormones and pride aside. She wasn't lifting her hand to her hair and exposing her breasts to his gaze in the process. It was merely an animal reaction — as was the way her nipples had tightened. Such a strong sexual attraction to a remote stranger was that "raiding foreigner" thing — the desire to mate with an outsider so as to widen the gene pool and preserve the species. Utterly cave-girl of her.
Uh-huh. She'd lost it.
Fortunately, he'd be gone in a second. Every day he stood on the path for a few stunning moments before a gleaming black car pulled up and paused only long enough for him to get in before gliding away. No mixing with the plebes on public transport for him.
Nina expected the smooth engine would pass her in two seconds. Except as she watched behind her big sunglasses, the guy stopped on the pavement, glancing impassively down the street toward her. And then he turned and actually started to walk.
While billboard perfection when standing still, when moving he exuded graceful, mesmerizing, power. Like a dangerous animal that'd be invincible should he decide to pounce — the kind who only had to fix you in his sights to have you immobile and in thrall.
Nina didn't have time to be immobile, but she was enthralled. She followed — pressing her lips together to stop the smile. He was going on the Tube? Really? By the time she got into the station he was taking a ticket from the machine. A second later he was through the turnstiles and striding down the escalator.
Nina swiped her weekly pass and went past the tiles with their distinctive Sherlock Holmes silhouette — her smile widened. That she lived in London? That she was going to France and Germany and beyond? She still had to pinch herself to believe it.
The roaring sound grew louder as the escalator descended. She knew what it meant — a train had just pulled in. Her heels clattered as she walked faster. As she got to the platform, she glanced at the board to check the destination. Already the recorded message to stand clear of the door was playing. Damn, it was her train — Jubilee line — and it was going to be ten minutes until the next.
She ran. She couldn't be late, she was solo at work today and even though it was Sunday there was money to be made and every penny would help her Euro-trip last a few days longer. The mechanism whooshed, signaling the doors were about to close, but she was three meters out. Too far to run or jump and flying wasn't one of her abilities.
"Nooo," Nina groaned, still running even though she knew it was useless.
Through the window, the crowd on the carriage didn't notice her — staring up, down, away from anyone else's eyes, already in the insular, determinedly isolated poses that only public transport could induce. Nina stared, wishing she were one of them.
She stopped as the doors slid closed. Because there he was, right inside the doorway of the nearest carriage. How typical he'd have made it — no doubt all doors remained open for him. Nina glared at the edge of the platform, muttering bad words beneath her breath. As she did, the doors made that lurching, screechy sound the way they did when something blocked them. Then she heard them slide again — open. Her jaw dropped open when she saw the obstacle in the way of the door was a broad shoulder — his broad shoulder.
She didn't muck around. She leapt the two steps to get on board. A second later it was a driver's voice — not a recorded message — tetchily reminding passengers to please stand clear of the doors. The gorgeous guy straightened up, no longer making the barrier that had helped her.
Surprised — and thrilled — at his gesture, she smiled at him. "Thank —"
Her voice died. So did her brain. She totally forgot what she'd been saying because she saw he'd taken his sunglasses off. All she could do was stare as a different thrill shivered down her spine and sent her heart drumming into overdrive.
She'd imagined his eyes would be a gorgeous brown — glossy and dark and chocolaty. They weren't. They were blue. Brighter than a kingfisher's wing, yet cooler than a mountain spring, because though bright, they were pale. And right now they regarded her intensely. Startled at the unexpected help he'd offered, she kept staring at the unexpected lightness in his eyes.
His lips curved, ever so slowly, and then that smile tiptoed into his eyes as well, softening the clinical, drilling assessment. "You're welcome."
Oh dear heaven, he was foreign. Not "boring" foreign like her. But speak-another-language foreign — his English lilted and tilted and intrigued. Hopeless at identifying accents, Nina reckoned he could be from any land where the Mediterranean lapped. There was warmth in his words and smile and tone that made her think of olives and tomatoes and sweet drizzling oil.
She rapidly blinked. No need to get giddy about it — she could get a grip. She was off to the Continent in a little over a week and there'd be gorgeous Latin types on every street corner. More attainable ones too — this guy was in another realm.
The train raced through the tunnel and Nina grabbed the steel pole at the opposite side of the door to him.
Balance, girl. Calm down.
She looked away, embarrassed at her gawping. But yeah, for a moment there'd been a connection — when he really saw her and she most certainly saw him — and Oh my. But she wasn't going to turn puppy-eyed and it wasn't like she'd ever try to talk to him, certainly not in this crowded, quiet carriage with everyone eavesdropping. His action in helping her had been a random act of kindness — not attraction. Nina never attracted guys like that.
She studied the map stuck above the door and followed the silver snail line showing the Jubilee's route. The train would take them through the center of London and down to the Southside and then out east to the Docklands — where the financial institutions were and the mall where she'd worked for the last four months.
The train traveled fast. Instead of the commuter crush of weekday mornings, there was a hefty number of tourists onboard. She didn't try to find a seat. Nor did he. She'd have this one journey across from him — sharing the same air.
Yes, she was this tragic. And it was definitely time she went abroad, found her inner fun-time girl, and had a fling. She reckoned she deserved to have a few — just as soon as she built up some moxie. But it was hard to put confidence back together when it had been so brutally crushed. And her confidence had never been all that anyway.
The train pulled into the next station — only a couple more until hers now. As half the occupants exited, Nina concentrated on the big poster across the platform advertising the new Shakespeare exhibition at the British Museum. Super keen to see it, she planned to go on her own and take all the time she wanted, with no one standing crossly beside her sighing with impatience. There'd be no more missing exhibitions or shows she wanted to see because someone else's priorities were more important. She could be as geeky and boring as she liked. There were many pluses to being single, right?
But as the doors slid shut and the train moved on, Nina couldn't resist anymore and snatched a peek at the out-of-her-league gorgeous foreign guy. The second she did, she froze. His pale blue eyes were fixed on her — like he wasn't noticing anything else in the world around them. Only her. Suddenly unable to move, all Nina could do was look right back. Until his eyelids flickered as his focus dropped to her mouth.
Hell. She'd licked her lips without realizing — unconsciously sending him that "I'm interested" signal. Jeez, the human body was a scary thing, giving her away when she least expected. And now she couldn't help notice his lips curving slightly again and that smile stealing back into his exotic eyes.
Everyone avoided eye contact on public transport; it was the way things were. People sealed themselves into their own impenetrable sphere, despite the closeness and sheer number of people in such a small space. That way no one thought you were a psycho stalker. But he didn't politely look away, and she couldn't. She'd become all zombie under the spell of her master.
Suddenly someone started singing — a single voice, female, beautiful, rising high in a bell-like solo. But Nina couldn't break away from him to look down the carriage. She guessed it was a busker — a good one. But then a second voice joined in — from the opposite end of the carriage — in stunning harmony. She sensed movement as a third voice rang out, the tune suddenly lifting as a whole choir joined in.
Good grief, they'd locked eyes and the world had literally started singing?
He still didn't look away from her and the dreadful thing was that while he didn't, she couldn't. The curve of his lips deepened. He seemed to light up from the inside as almost the entire carriage broke into song. And then dance. As the movements became bigger, she had to watch — for her own safety's sake — finally breaking the connection between them.
There were about fifteen of them in sync, pulling some hardcore coordinated dance moves. A flashmob. She looked around, searching for a focal point — but couldn't see one, and then couldn't help looking at him again to clock his reaction.
He was still watching her but smiling widely now. And there was no stopping her return smile, or the rocket launch of her heartbeat. Singers danced up and down the carriage, full on energy and volume and infectious enthusiasm. As one passed, Nina leaned to the side to give the dancer space — but she stumbled as the train took a slight corner at the same time. Nina gasped, bracing for an imminent face plant on the floor, sure she'd be pulped by flying, fierce feet. But a firm arm encircled her waist, pulling her back out of the high-kicker's path.
Frying pan to fire!
He pulled her to him. She put her hands on his chest, curling her fingers, certain her skin would be seared if she had direct contact.
"Sorry," she breathed.
"No problem," he whispered back, amusement dancing in his eyes.
He had to feel her heart pounding against him. He had to feel the shiver that just wracked her body. She cleared her throat and made herself rock back on her heels. She could balance all by herself and put an inch or three between them — right? Yes.
She dropped her hands to her sides. But despite that small distance, he kept his hand on the small of her back. Frankly, the magnetism was too strong for her to resist, so she didn't step further away.
Flustered, she couldn't look at him — she watched the show instead. The mob pulled out red and blue flags and she realized they were Olympic supporters. She had no idea which tiny nation they were backing, but it was fun. The fans seemed every bit as athletic as any official competitors they might support — and so enthusiastic.
Then she felt the slightest stroke of his fingers on her back. Insanely sensitized, she glanced at him and he gestured to the now-vacant seats.
Right. Of course. Good idea to get out of the way of the wide arms and high legs. She walked quickly and took a seat. He took the one next to her. Nina felt fried. Hopefully, he couldn't hear how choppy her breathing had gone. To mask it, she clapped loudly along with the few other passengers not involved in the flashmob — though not as much as the gang cheered themselves. At the next stop, the troupe didn't get off the train. Nor did she. And nor did he.
Thank heavens for the seat, because now it wasn't just her lungs acting like she'd run a double marathon, her legs had jellied too. Good thing the next stop was hers, or she'd be at risk of complete meltdown.
A loud mechanical squeal stopped her heart again. A sharp jolt screwed her already messed-up breathing. The train slammed to a stop — midway between stations. Stuck.
Nina breathed in deeply and released the air in a long, hopefully calm-inducing sigh. For a second there was total silence in the carriage. And then that lone voice soared, the second, the third ... the choir began all over again. Nina watched the whole performance through — they really were good. And loud. But not quite enough to distract her from her absolute awareness of the hot stuff in the seat next to hers.
The song ended and the train still didn't move. And now that she was seated beside him, she couldn't gawp at his gorgeousness without being painfully obvious — so she looked at the floor. The flashmob participants chattered excitedly for a bit before spreading back out along the carriage. And then — just when Nina knew they would — they started the show again. Being stuck between stations with singing sports fans on repeat? There was nothing to do but laugh — and groan.
Excerpted from Seduction in Silver by Natalie Anderson, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2012 Natalie Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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