An all-consuming new marriage-of-convenience romance is out now from author Ella Maise, and I have a little sneak peek for you.
So…we really were playing pretend, and I had to get that into my head whenever I was looking into his eyes and starting to catch feelings.
No more feeling mushy when he came to the coffee shop—which happened often.
No more jumpy heart whenever he walked through the door.
No more of those excited little butterflies everyone kept talking about being all fluttery in my stomach.
This was a business deal between two adults, nothing less, nothing more.
Logically, he was right. I wouldn’t be going to such a high-profile event if it weren’t for him, so it made sense that he’d buy the dress, but I couldn’t ignore how small it made me feel around him.
Without another word, I picked up the credit card.
I was more than ready to leave for work and get far away from him. I was quietly passing Jack when his hand on my arm stopped my movement. I was expecting him to ask me his favorite question: What’s wrong with you?I was trying to come up with an answer that would let me get out of the kitchen quicker when his other hand gently nudged my chin up and my surprised eyes met his. His thumb gently swiped back and forth on my jawline as if he had no control of it. Then it stopped and his hand slowly cupped my cheek.
My heart jumped in my chest—even though I’d decided mere moments ago that it wasn’t allowed to do that—and then slowly started to pick up speed as I realized I couldn’t look away from his searching eyes. My lips parted because I wanted to say his name, wanted to tell him to…not look at me so intently, as if we weren’t as fake as it got. I wanted to say I didn’t think I could take it anymore.
His expression softened, the creases on his forehead smoothing out.
“Buy whatever you want, for me.”
For him? I nodded, incapable of stringing two words together. His gaze moved across my face, pausing on my lips, and I simply forgot how to breathe. What was he doing? What witchery was this?
First you breathe out and then in. No, you need to breathe in first. You need air in your lungs first to be able to breathe out.
“Something white, maybe, or nude,” he continued, unaware of my flustered state. “You look good in those colors.”
What in the world was happening?
I tried to fire up my brain so I could think if he’d ever seen me in white, but other than maybe a white blouse I wore over my black jeans, I couldn’t think of a single outfit.
I swallowed and managed another nod.
If at that moment he had smiled at me, I was fairly certain it would have pushed me straight out of my trance because I would’ve been sure this was a copy of Jack Hawthorne—a really gorgeous one, but just a copy—but he didn’t. When I didn’t stumble after he let go of my arm, I thought I could survive anything, but then he tucked the longest part of my bangs behind my ear and started leaning toward me. He was only a tad quicker than a turtle this time, but it still gave me time to slightly lean back with widened eyes.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
He completely ignored my attempt to protect myself and gently pressed a kiss right under my jawline on my neck.
I forgot how to breathe, how to exist in this new world.
“Let me know the customer count sometime. Text me.”
If I had tilted my head back any more, I’d have toppled over.
“But you said you don’t like texting.”
“Text me anyway.”
Breathing was still a problem, because when he pulled his hands off my body, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Did I leave now? Did I just stay and stare? He must’ve realized I was frozen, but he didn’t make any comments as I stood stock-still trying to figure out what had just happened.
He casually looked down at his watch and I realized how tightly he was holding himself.
“Raymond must be waiting for you,” he commented, turning to the espresso machine, probably for his own morning coffee. I finally got unstuck.
“Er…right. Yes. I am late, aren’t I? You should, umm, have a good day at the office.” He faced me, leaning against the counter, hands gripping the edge of the white marble. “Happy…day!” I added at the end, as if that would make anything better, and then I turned around.
I closed my eyes and wished myself a quick death as I quickly got out of there. I was only three steps out of the kitchen when his voice stopped me in my tracks.
I didn’t answer. Words were still precious to come by, in my case.
“You forgot the coffee.”
I closed my eyes, turned, put one foot in front of the other, and strolled back into the kitchen, keeping my eyes safely away from his.