Whether the idea of a celebrity falling for an everyday person is your tropetonite, or you’re just a sucker for the ‘famous life’, there is something Ivy Owens’ new novel that is both wonderfully fanciful, and also completely relatable. And I have a little sneak peek for you.
Alec studies me in that gentle calculating way of his.
“What?” I ask after a long ten seconds of hyperaware silence.
“I think it’s because I’m tired,” he says, blinking to clear his trance. “And have had a drink—now another—on an empty stomach.”
I wait for the rest of it. “You think what is because you’re tired?” I finally ask.
“I remember you as this sweet, scrawny kid. Not this . . .” He gestures to my body, and I don’t miss the way his eyes trip over my breasts. “Woman.”
“I already said I’d sleep upstairs; you don’t have to seduce me.” I expect him to laugh or backtrack, explain in his polite way that no, no, he only meant it’s surreal to see someone after so long. But he doesn’t say that. He gazes at me patiently.
I blink down at my glass, bringing it to my lips. “But seriously, Alec. If I’m going to your room, I insist on using the pullout.” My eyes go wide. “The sofa bed, I mean.” I bark out a laugh. “Oh my God.”
Alec fights a smile. “Does that mean what I think it means?”
“Strike it from the record.”
“I can’t.” He grins. “It’s already out there.”
I bend, burying my face in my arms.
“It’s great.” Alec laughs. “Honestly, it’s refreshing.”
Sitting up, I gulp my wine. “In my defense, I haven’t slept in . . .” I calculate. “Well over thirty hours. You have no idea the stuff that’s reeling through here.” I press my index finger to my temple. “I really should just go to bed.”
He glances over my shoulder and then pulls his sleeve back to check the time. “Try me.”
“You’re asking to be scandalized.”
He laughs, a round, open-mouthed sound. “I promise, you can’t shock me.”
Is that right? I grin at him. “Are you daring me?”
Swirling my wine, I stare at him over the rim of the glass. There’s a dark, playful gleam in his eye, and I’m tempted by it but also wary of it. What if I’m thinking this is a flirtatious moment, but he actually thinks I’m just going to tell him about an oddball scrapbooking hobby?
“Georgia, hello,” he whispers, and points to his chest. “I’m waiting to be scandalized.”
So I blurt it out, “Sitting this close to you, I am intensely conscious of the fact that I’m not wearing any underwear.”
He nods slowly, gaze heating but—to my surprise—not showing any sign at all of being scandalized. “I am also intensely conscious of this.”
“Of course I knew.” He sips his drink again. “You took only a carry-on for a weeklong international trip that extended for another week and were planning to be home tonight.” He leans back and adds in a quiet rumble, “Besides, Gigi, I’ve studied every inch of you in that dress.”
My skin is engulfed in heat. His frank, unruffled reactions throw me. Alec isn’t nervous in the slightest. I have to bite my lip to keep from letting an embarrassed laugh burst free.
“Pervert,” I whisper, grinning and secretly loving that he called me by my familiar nickname. It tunnels me back almost a decade and a half to watching him, shirtless, throw a football to his friend jogging away down the middle of the street. But now—here—it rolls out of him differently, like a filthy promise.
Laughing, he leans forward to set his glass down. “Pervert? Says the one who can’t stop staring at my hands.”
I open my mouth to protest, but his eyes shine with amusement. “True,” I say instead. “But they are indecent, Alec.”
“Indecent?” He smiles around the word. How many women must he get into his bed this way, simply by being sweetly playful and forthright?
He lifts a hand, holds it palm up, and slowly turns it, wiggling those long, graceful fingers. “How is this indecent?”
“Watching you play a piano would be like watching porn.
This makes him smirk. “Is that what you’d like to watch me do?”
“Frankly I’d watch those hands flip through an encyclopedia if it was my only option.”
“It’s not your only option.” These words land seductively between us. “But sure.” He lifts a finger, pretending to flag down the waitress. “They probably have a book behind the bar somewhere.”
I lean over, smacking his shoulder, and he quickly catches my hand. Leaning forward, Alec props his elbows on his thighs and turns my hand over in both of his, trailing a fingertip along the inside of my wrist. I swear my heartbeat is centered right there, being dragged like a magnet beneath my skin wherever his touch goes. He loosely grips each of my fingers, squeezing down the length of them in turn before pressing both thumbs to the center of my palm, massaging in firm circles. With just this touch, he’s coaxing nearly six months of tension from my entire body.
I don’t think I realized how much I needed physical contact until he did this, but suddenly I’m starved for it. It’s all I can do to not scoot around the U-shaped couch and climb into Alec’s lap. I feel him look up and take in my reaction as he rubs my hand, but I can’t stop looking at what he’s doing. His fingers are strong, his touch firm. His hands are huge around mine, but he’s not treating me as delicate. He’s giving a goddamn amazing massage.
“Do you by chance work for the massage office at the BBC?” I mumble.
“No.” He laughs. “Give me your other one.”
Without hesitation I offer my left hand up and he takes it, repeating the actions almost identically. I imagine those fingers kneading the tense muscles of my shoulders, walking down the ridges of my spine, gripping my hips. It’s impossible to not extrapolate this feeling and imagine it on my breasts, my neck, between my legs.
“Is that nice?” he asks quietly.
“You have no idea.”
“I have some idea,” he says, “going off your expression.”
I look up, meeting his eyes. “What are we doing, Alec?”
A few seconds pass before he answers, “Whatever you want.”