Excerpt: Miss Match

MissMatch-Web“Why’d you pull me off?” Clare railed, out in the lobby, where she was pacing and drinking down the bottle of water Javier had pressed into her hands. He’d taken her straight to the ship’s clinic to have her fingers checked out. When it was obvious there were no broken bones and she wasn’t going to get gangrene and lose the whole hand, he’d escorted her back out to the lobby. Now he was leaning up against the reception counter, his arms crossed loosely over his chest, a little smile on his face as he watched her storm.

“I can handle myself, you know. I’m not some little kid on the playground, out of control.”

He ran a finger bemusedly along a raven-black eyebrow. “Did you realize you kicked that guy?”

“I did not!” She frowned and swigged down some more water. Of course she’d kicked him. He’d stood on her damn fingers, and they still hurt.

Another apology to add to her list, after Mr. Stat Department. She wasn’t even an alcoholic, yet she was growing intimately familiar with the most famous step of the twelve-step program—Make direct amends to those whom you have harmed.

Her stomach rumbled. She’d missed breakfast, not wanting to hurry to make it to anyplace called the Breakfast Nookie. “When’s lunch?”

Javier checked his watch, a silver one with a wide band that he wore loosely, slung casually around his wrist like jewelry. “In about an hour.”

Clare eyed him and his watch with annoyance. Damn him for being the most attractive guy on the Lucky Duck by about three football fields. Judging by his clothes and that damn watch, he looked like he was gainfully employed, too. Just the kind of guy she’d love to hook up with, back at home. Back where things were normal, where she knew the score as well as how to play the game.

“I’m going up to my room for a while,” she said abruptly.

“Hey.” He moved toward her and lowered his voice to a sweet, placating murmur. “Let’s not overreact. You got your fingers stomped, and that must’ve hurt like hell, but they’re okay, aren’t they?”

“I guess,” she said grumpily. She wasn’t used to being babied.

“Here. Let me have a look.” Javier took her hand.

“Ow,” she said, needlessly.

He lifted her hand. Keeping his eyes on hers, he blew on her fingers as if she’d burned them on the stove, like she was a little girl and he was taking care of her. Then he pressed a light kiss to the backs of them, soothing the burn.

And fire licked into her. God, she wanted to put her fingers in his mouth, let him suck on her. She wanted to feel the smooth, wet warmth of his tongue. She wanted to wrap her legs around his waist and kiss the breath out of him.

Undone yet again, she pulled away and fanned herself. “Is it hot in here? It’s really hot in here. I need some more water.”

Amused, he pointed a thumb down the hall. “Let’s go to the Cantina Caliente and have a margarita.”

She eyed him. “It’s eleven in the morning.”

He shrugged. “We’re on vacation.”

She started to smile. Daytime drinking. Finally, a language she could understand.

She looped an arm through his. “Lead the way.”

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