For #Sample Sunday, here’s another excerpt from Hardball, the sexy contemporary romance I wrote with my husband under the pen name of VK Sykes. Our hero Nate, a superstar baseball player, took Holly, a serious and rather shy pediatric surgeon, to an upscale charity dinner for their first date. They’re back at her place now, and things are getting a bit hot and heavy…and Holly is getting a bad case of cold feet.
Holly plastered her hands on his chest, her fingers digging into the smooth fabric of his suit. “Nate, hold on,” she gasped.
He slowly pulled back, his eyes clouded with passion “What?”
She looked away from him and took a step back. They hadn’t even made it out of the hallway and she’d let him get her half-naked. Mortified, she quickly put her bra back on. “I could use another glass of wine,” she said in a shaky voice. “What about you?”
She needed time to recover her wits. If she started babbling about how she felt, it would probably come out all muddled and stupid.
Nate looked mystified. But, after a moment he nodded uncertainly, raking a hand through his thick hair. “Well, okay, we can take it slow. Maybe I came on too strong, but…” His eyes cleared and he shook his head. “No buts. Sure, I could use a drink. Got any cognac?”
Relief weakened her knees. As if they aren’t already weak enough.
“Of course,” she said. “I’m my father’s daughter. I always have a good stock of fermented products on hand.” She led him into the kitchen and retrieved a bottle of Courvoisier from her pantry.
“Make it a double,” he said.
Holly pulled up her bodice and flipped the straps back over her shoulders. Seeing Nate’s face deflate, she decided not to reach around for the zipper. She’d already thrown enough ice water in the poor guy’s face.
“Sorry, I just need a breather,” Holly apologized. “But take your jacket off and stay.” She poured a double cognac into a snifter and handed it to him, then uncorked a bottle of red wine and poured a small glass for herself. She didn’t really want any more alcohol, but she needed the cover.
“Okay,” he said, his confusion evident.
He draped his suit jacket over a stool at the counter and followed her into the small living room off the galley kitchen.
“Okay, did I do something wrong?” he asked as sat on the sofa. Its old wooden frame creaked ominously, but he ignored it. Given his big, rangy body, that kind of thing probably happened all the time, but she could only pray her grandmother’s antique sofa didn’t collapse beneath him.
Wouldn’t that be a great end to the evening?
Repressing a spurt of semi-hysterical laughter, she sipped her wine. Finally, when she could no longer avoid his question, she sat down in the overstuffed armchair on the other side of the coffee table and forced herself to look at him. Part of her was amazed he hadn’t already bolted. And it touched her that he continued to wait patiently for her to find her voice.
“Nate, I’m sorry. I really wanted to do this. I can’t tell you how much.” She paused, unhappily searching for the right words.
He simply nodded. If he was angry with her, he was doing a good job of repressing it.
“It’s just that I haven’t had that much experience, and most of what I’ve had has been, well, sort of mediocre. I was always too busy with school or work to bother very much with men and sex.” She shook her head, feeling a prickling in her eyes that told her tears weren’t far behind. That was so not going to happen. “It’s weird and embarrassing to be talking about myself this way. But I feel like I have to get this out on the table,” she finished in a firm voice.
He leaned forward, setting his snifter on the table between them. A smile lifted the edges of his mouth. “Can I try to help you out?”
“Please,” she sighed.
“Based on what you’ve no doubt heard already about me, I’m guessing you think I’m some kind of, I don’t know, super stud or something.”
She stared at her feet, wishing she could crawl under the floorboards. How had she gotten herself into this ridiculous situation? But now that she was in it, she had to plow ahead. “I don’t know about that. But I do know the kind of women you’re used to. And I’m not in the same league.”
Her voice caught on an infuriating croak. Suck it up, Holly. You can do this.
“Look, if we do this, I’ll disappoint you,” she said through clenched teeth. “And I can’t stand the thought of being judged on how good I am. In bed, or whatever. By you or anyone else. That’s not what I’m about.” Angry, embarrassed tears stung her eyes. “Damn, this is ridiculous!” She shook her head hard, furious and lost in an unfamiliar jumble of emotions.
Nate pulled out a crisp white handkerchief from an inside pocket and handed it over. With a defiant sniff, she dabbed at her eyes.
“Holly, look at me, okay? Everything’s cool. I understand where you’re coming from.” He moved around the coffee table and went down on one knee before her, reaching out his hand. She hesitated a moment, then held out her own. As Nate grasped it gently, Holly absorbed the warm strength of his calloused palm and her heartbeat began to settle.
“Forget about not being experienced enough,” he said gazing straight into her eyes. “Experience is way over-rated. Trust me on that.” His eyes were warm and open, but his voice held a touch of cynicism. Oddly enough, that reassured her.
Without letting go of her hand, Nate stood and drew her up to him. “And as for disappointing me, you can forget that, too. You’re incredible—in every way. Man, I’m the one who should be worried, not you.”
Hard to believe that, but it sounded like he actually meant it. The tension in her body began to ease.
“Truth?” she whispered.
“Truth,” he said firmly. He slowly pushed the straps of her dress down, his lips brushing each bare shoulder in turn. She shivered as the bodice fell away, just as it had done minutes earlier, and she had to fight not to stiffen up again.
“Relax, sweetheart. Let me take care of you. Let me make love to you,” he whispered in her ear. “Tonight is going to be all about you.”
“Okay,” Holly said, allowing him to pull her close. “I think I can go along with that plan.”
Have a great Sunday, and for those in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving!