This week, we are getting a brand new slow burn, romantic suspense standalone from S.L. Scott, featuring a very swoony alpha billionaire hero, and I am so excited to give you a sneak peek!
The first time I heard the name Ethan Everest I was at a party in the Bronx. I was sitting on a futon sandwiched between a blonde model from Romania and some girl who kept sighing out of boredom. The model exhaled and said, “One day I’m going to climb Everest.”
I thought she was referring to the mountain.
She was referring to the man.
A year later, he’s sitting just three barstools down from mine. This is not the first time we’ve seen each other since that party last year. It’s just the first time he makes his way over since then.
The memory of the first time I saw him comes back so readily.
At six three with a presence to match, Ethan Everest is impossible to ignore. Wearing an Astros cap in the middle of Yankees country, a white smile livens full lips, and dynamic green eyes manage to instantly brighten the dingy Bronx apartment.
Our eyes catch twice across the crowded living room and my palms begin to sweat. Ethan Everest doesn’t fit in with this crowd. He’s too happy, too content in his life, too much personality and has drawn the center of attention from both males and females. Yep. Impossible to ignore. No matter how much I try.
I turn away abruptly, not sure if I’m ready to talk to him.
We almost kissed a year ago. His lips were almost pressed to mine . . . and then they weren’t and he was gone. A sharp elbow to the ribs causes me to flinch. “Ouch.” After fifteen years of friendship, my best friend and I still haven’t perfected our non-verbal skills, so I ask, “What are you doing?”
Her lips twist to the side and she rolls her eyes. “Behind you.”
For a brief moment I convince myself he’s going to walk by and go to the restroom or order a drink. He doesn’t. I turn, and there he is in all his majestic glory—Ethan Everest.
He bites his lip as shyness shadows his light eyes. Then he smiles. “It’s good to see you again, Singer.”
The hum, the electricity, all that I felt on that fire escape, returns as my name rolls off his tongue in a purr, reminding me of what almost was.
His body folds to ease out the window, and he sits on the small staircase several steps down from mine. His presence consumes the small space high above an alley. It doesn’t feel like an invasion of my personal space, but more like a coup, considering the many women inside vying for his attention.
With a charming smile aimed at me, he casually says, “Avoid the discussion inside.” Enticing enough to let down my guard, his tone is easygoing, his voice deep and soothing. “They’re arguing that freedom is the illusion of the American consumer.” The small southern cadence to his words is something I could listen to all day.
What he said isn’t funny, but I laugh anyway, a nervous reaction to the hot-blooded masculinity rolling off him in waves. With movie star good looks, I can’t turn away. “What do you think?”
He chuckles. “I think I prefer being out here with you.”
I don’t remember blushing in a while, but with the weight of his gaze heavy on me, my cheeks are hot even if the weather isn’t.
Ethan Everest is rugged with his unshaven jaw and casual clothes, yet refined in his mannerisms as he offers me a beer. “I brought you a beer if you’d like it.”
“I would. Thank you.” I reach for it and our hands wrap around the can, the tips of our fingers weaving together. I hold on just long enough to look up and see the intensity of his eyes. On me. Sitting on the fire escape, I’m suddenly a girl who’s stumbled onto an Adonis and knows what she’s discovered—a male masterpiece made up of muscles and a hard body.
Add in that boy-next-door charm, and I’m caught in his gravitational pull. The female population of New York doesn’t stand a chance against the allure of this man, much less me when he cracks a smile.
When he releases the beer, he opens one for himself. “Cheers.” He taps his can against mine and my whole body awakens.
His eyes remain on mine as he tips the beer back and the lager flows into his mouth. My gaze dips to his throat where I become mesmerized by his Adam’s apple as he swallows.
Watching him swallow has to be one of the most erotic sights I’ve ever seen.
My chin is lifted, and my eyes meet his. “Hey,” he says with a deep chuckle. “Up here.”
Holy mother of all things humiliating. Was I staring at his throat? I glance back down. Yep, I was. He interrupts my fantasy involving the five o’clock scruff shadowing the hard lines of his jaw and his throat. I squeeze my eyes closed and then look at his eyes that are fully amused it seems at my expense.
Licking his lips he says, “I was thinking we could hang out sometime.”
The suggestion comes as a surprise. “Really?” It’s been a year of this cat and mouse, flirting not flirting, have we met or are we strangers keeping our distance game. I’m confused why he crossed enemy lines tonight.
“Really,” he replies easily.
When my words don’t come quick enough, Melanie steps in. “She’d love to. When did you have in mind?” Ethan and I both look at Melanie sitting next to me in her eagerness to make this happen, whatever this is.
I’m just about to respond, but she presses on, “Singer’s free all weekend.”
Wow. Did that just happen? It did. No, I don’t feel pathetic at all . . . Nope, I feel totally humiliated. I may not have any plans, but she could have lightened the blow to my ego. “Geez, thanks,” I mutter under my breath.
Ethan glances to me but responds to Melanie. “Let her know I’ll see her at MacDougall’s on Sunday. The game starts at three.”
“Football?” she asks.
Even I know the answer this time. I’ve made sure to pay more attention to the seasons. “Baseball,” I whisper to her and sit back, letting them continue to set up this date . . . friend get together . . . hangout they’re planning like I’m not sitting right here.
“How do you know she likes baseball?” Melanie asks, crossing her arms and challenging him.
“I don’t, but I figured I’d find out pretty fast at the sports bar.” He relaxes in his stance. There’s a twinkle to his eyes and a curve to his lips that reveals amusement.
Melanie finally eases up, sitting back proud as a peacock with her smug grin. “She’ll be there, and she likes lagers. Just in case you were wondering.”
“I was wondering,” he replies, sending me a quick wink. “It’s good to know we have that in common. See you Sunday, Singer.” He rejoins his friends, and I die a slow death of incomparable mortification.
I drop my head in my hands. “Oh God. What just happened?”
“I just got you a date on Sunday.”
“You got me a date? I’m fairly certain he was already going to ask when he came over.”
“Pshaw. I set up a date for you with the hottest guy in this place.”
Maybe it’s just starting to sink in, but holy wow. I whisper, “Ethan Everest.”
When I look up, she’s grinning widely. “You’re welcome. Now don’t mind me. I’ll just be here drowning my jealousy in booze.” The slurp of her straw grates on my nerves, which she knows, and I’m pretty sure she’s doing it on purpose, but her pity party makes me laugh.
“Jealousy? Pfft. It’s nothing. It’s a sports bar at three on a Sunday afternoon, not dinner and a movie on a Saturday night.”
“Damn it. I should have insisted on Saturday night, but I didn’t know if you had a date.”
“Nope, no date. Anyway, Sunday is what he’d prefer for hanging out, I’m sure.”
“You don’t know that.”
“He’s just been worn down from seeing me around so much. He probably figures we should be friends at this point. I mean it is kind of silly to keep running into each other like we have and not make the effort to get to know one another better.”
“No guy asks a girl to hang out who he’s not interested in—sexually.”
“Ethan Everest just did.”
“Want to bet?”
“I’ll bet dinner on it.”
“I’ll take that bet,” she says confidently. “And prepare yourself. When I win, I’m going to skip lunch and be extra hungry for dinner. It will be awesome to eat on your dime.”
There’s no point in arguing with her. She’s the queen of the need-to-be-right, so I order another round of drinks, and try not to freak out that I’m meeting up with Ethan Everest in less than forty-eight hours.
We didn’t kiss last year, though we were so close. Our time on the fire escape was real, a connection made, one I feel deep inside even today. It’s a feeling I’ve held on to, an unfair expectation placed on my dates since that party. No guy has made my body hum or buzz with excitement since him.
Since that night, we’ve seen each other on occasion. Melanie’s coworker dates his friend, so we end up at the same party or in the same bar every so often.
Before tonight, we hadn’t spoken in a year, but I always felt that hum between us, hanging on at the back edges of hope. The buzz remains as I peek over at him a few barstools down from mine. He winks and I look away quickly, smiling.
The bar gets more crowded as the night carries on. I’ve had three drinks when I promised myself I’d only have two. “Two more, please.”
We mingle with our friends and laugh with a guy who can’t seem to notice I exist because he’s so attentive to Mel. When it comes to my love life, she’s all over it. When it comes to her own, she fails to notice the obvious. Mike, who’s in finance we find out, is sweet. His flirting is not heavy-handed, but he’s not let another guy within an inch of Mel in the last hour.
I eventually work my way out of the conversation as sparks begin to fly between them.
When I turn, the right side of Ethan’s mouth goes up in such an inviting way that I’m not sure if I’m supposed to smile and wave, go over and talk, or stand here like I am and debate myself out of doing anything.
I want to turn away from him, but I don’t. I can’t. I like his eyes on me. I like the way he looks at me like we have some unfinished business to tend to. I take three gulps of my drink because I’m pretty sure that will make me forget about this embarrassing heat settling inside my cheeks.
It doesn’t. The warmth causes me to put my glass to my skin in hopes of finding relief just before I’m spun around, coming face-to-face with Melanie. “Let’s go,” she demands.
“Yes, I need to go.”
“Okay.” When she’s ready she is really ready, and pushing it might mean a stint in the bathroom holding her hair back. I set my nearly empty glass on the bar, but when I turn, my gaze finds Ethan once more. I watch him and those lips that almost kissed mine. I watch even though he might think I’m self-indulgent or shameless. But at this point, I’ve drunk enough to not care.
“Come on. I’m ready.” I take Melanie’s hand and we make our way outside. When it comes to Ethan, there’s something that I’m missing, a piece of the puzzle I keep hoping to find, answers to unasked questions. Maybe the full picture will never come into focus, or maybe I just need to ask what I want to know when I see him on Sunday.