New Year's resolutions have never looked so good.
New Year's Eve. The party is rockin', and Claire is in her usual spot holding up the wall. It's all right. She's much happier scribbling in her trusty little notebook than mingling. Especially since those notes turn into the sexy erotic romances she pens in secret. Those two gorgeous gods across the room are perfect hero material and...oh dear, are they headed her way?
Mason and Hunter know she won't remember them as the scrawny geeks they were in high school. She also doesn't know they've been lusting after her for ten long years, waiting for her to meet a man and have a normal relationship. They're through waiting. The time has come to make their move--and show her exactly how much they've changed.
One night in the middle of a Mason/Hunter manwich, and Claire has enough research material to fill a hundred notebooks. Good thing she's got OfficeMax on speed dial to order more. Except suddenly her two hunks have this crazy idea that keeping her is selfish. Selfish? She may be mousy, but this mouse is about to roar...
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December 29, 2009
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Excerpt from Make Mine Midnight by Annmarie Mckenna
New Year's Resolutions:
1) Dye hair...platinum! Don't they say blondes have more fun?
2) Exercise more. Or at least exercise at all...
3) Get an agent. Nah, my editor's too good. Who needs an agent?
4) Ooh, ooh, buy new clothes! Something that shows off my...what? Lack of boobs?
Grass-green eyes--no, no, scratch that.
Claire Crater set her glass of definitely spiked punch on the chair next to her, took her glasses off and wiped away the smudges before putting them back on her face.
Emerald. Those eyes were emerald, not grass. They sparkled like the twinkly lights strung around Paul's more-generously-sized-than-her-own studio apartment. They were framed beautifully by thick black lashes and set perfectly spaced over a nose that had been broken perhaps. The dark tan of his skin and squarish jaw created the face of a hero. His head was capped by unruly dark chocolate-brown hair that looked as if he'd only tried to tame the strands with his fingers.
She wondered why he looked familiar. Surely she would remember someone as hot as him. If she'd worked with him, she'd be doing her best to avoid him simply because she wouldn't want to be caught gawking. But no, she worked from home, penning erotic romances and creating a world for herself she'd never achieve in real life.
Then where had she seen him?
Claire shrugged, licked her lips and dug in her back pocket for the little notebook she always kept there. Whoever he was, the man was a god personified, and if she didn't get those looks down on paper, the thoughts would be gone before she took her next drink of rum punch. She eyed the fruity red beverage next to her and giggled. She probably ought to stop sucking it back like it was water because already her arms felt like they were floating and her cheeks were hot. And she'd only had half a glass. Someone had gone heavy on the rum part and light on the punch. Two glasses might put her on top of the table. Doing the chicken dance. Nekkid.
Hmm...maybe she should shoot for something bigger than the chicken dance like...winding up in some man's bed tonight in a drink-induced haze. Alcohol loosened the inhibitions, right? Well hell. She'd need twelve drinks before her body loosened up enough to go to bed with a stranger. Five or six, at least, to do it with someone she knew.
Can you say loser?
She cocked her head and thought about it. It was New Year's Eve after all. Time for resolutions to be made. Maybe one of hers ought to be to get some. Just do it. Pull on the big-girl panties and jump into bed with the first man to proposition her. She wrote it in her notebook before her brain could tell her fingers not to.
5) Sleep with the first man to offer.
Claire looked around the room then promptly put a line through number five and rewrote it.
5) Sleep with first non-squicky, non-stalkerish, non-ew-type man to offer.
There were a couple at the party she might want to pass on.
She thought about scratching that line out too, but didn't. What good was a resolution if you scratched it out? How could it possibly come true? Claire eyed the room and waited for divine intervention to point out the man of her dreams among the thirty or so guests Paul had invited. Some were dancing, some were sacked out on the couch watching the party in New York on TV as it closed in on the moment the ball of sparkling lights dropped--which had always seemed strange to her since the damn thing had already dropped an hour earlier for New Yorkers. Most of the other guests were standing around conversing and drinking. All looked like they were having a good time. Who knew? One of those men mingling might be the man she'd just resolved to sleep with.
But, alas, nothing happened. No halo of lights illuminating her would-be roll in the sack, no neon flashing arrows pointing the way.
Outside, occasional fireworks lit up the night. She got a glance of one every now and then through the floor-to-ceiling windows gracing the north side of Paul's studio. Lucky bastard. She didn't get near the view he had. Then again, she also didn't have the monthly rent he did.
With a sigh, she went back to scribbling down every juicy detail of the godlike man for the hero in her next book. The scrumptious, emerald-green-eyed hottie wore a tight black T-shirt that accentuated his biceps and abs and a pair of well-worn, soft blue jeans that hugged a tight ass and cupped a rather impressive bulge in front.
Claire glanced up from her description to see if she'd missed any details and sucked in a sharp breath. Mr. Gorgeous was staring at her. Her heart thudded, her belly flopped and her mound tingled. It freaking did a tingly, throbbing little flippy flop. The kind she wrote about.
The kind she'd never really experienced.
And then reality smacked her in the face with a two-by-four, making her forgot all about her stupid resolution.
He wasn't looking at her. Nobody ever looked at her. Only through her to see the person behind. She sighed and twisted to see what incredible woman she'd find catching his interest. Faded blue-gray paint offset by the abstract paintings Paul, her happy-go-lucky gay best friend, found so fascinating, filled her vision. She'd forgotten that she'd found a couple of chairs butted up against the wall where she could sit and watch the partiers mingle. The position made her the most comfortable, and despite knowing Paul would scold her mercilessly if he saw her huddled away, she'd plopped herself down, content to observe from the outside as she'd done most of her life.
Now she had to turn back to Mr. Gorgeous again.
He wouldn't still be facing her, would he?
The hairs standing at the back of her neck said yes. She swallowed and slowly rotated in her seat.
He winked at her.
An honest-to-goodness wink. Not a something-in-his-eye kind of blink, but a wink. Directed at her. Her face went from flushed with alcohol to drained of blood in a second flat. Might have had something to do with the fact that she suddenly couldn't breathe. Claire dropped her gaze to the small notebook now fisted in her hand.
Mason Ledbetter smiled at the panic written on sweet little Claire's face. How long had it been since he'd seen her? Had it really been ten years? He'd definitely have to remember to thank Paul profusely for the invite when they started back to work after the New Year's holiday break. From the first day Mason had gone to work at CAP Technologies, he'd become fast friends with the eccentric man. Paul had hit on him, and Mason had firmly let him know that he was only into women. He might like to share women with his best friend, but he'd never gone both ways.
Paul was also a talker. The more he talked about his cute neighbor, Claire, the more Mason wondered if Paul's friend and the girl he'd gone to high school with were one and the same. He'd been looking for her since the second he'd walked in the door and there she was. Just as he remembered her. Except a bit more grown up. Still beautiful, still holding up the wall. And watching her from across the room, he was pretty sure she had no idea who he was. How would she? He could jog her memory by producing a yearbook, but where would the fun be in that? He'd changed a lot since those god-awful high-school years.
Claire Crater. She thought she could hide, blend in with the wall or something. She still wore glasses, another thing to hide behind. But they didn't detract from the clear blue of her eyes or the way they sparkled when she laughed or dulled when she hurt.
No matter. Mason wasn't about to let her slip through his fingers this time. Her eyes jerked from him to the TV, back to him, to the windows and back to him again as if she were trying to decide if he was really looking at her.
He was looking, all right.
He couldn't wait to spread her out across his bed, all that beautiful dark hair flowing around her in a curtain of curls. First he'd take her lips with his until she writhed beneath him. Then when he had her breathless, he'd move down to what he imagined would be dusky pink nipples. He'd suck them until they were hard and she begged him to give her more.
And more he would give. With Hunter. Another man she probably wouldn't recognize. Ten years ago neither one of them would have stood a chance of winning Claire's attention. She'd been painfully shy, hadn't dated even once that he was aware of, and he and Hunter had both been...well, non-existent. Part of the outside crowd. Computer slash math geeks minus the pocket protectors, really. They most certainly hadn't resembled the men they did today. Scrawny might best fit their former descriptions. Late bloomers?
He eyed his best friend and scratched his chest, their signal to move in for the kill. They were about to rock Claire's world, whether she was ready for them or not. No more hiding. Paul had renewed their interest in Claire. Ten years was long enough. Claire was about to discover that they were exactly what she needed to finally come out of her shell.
Hunter Morris swallowed the last of his beer and set the bottle on the bar behind him. Time to conquer. His erection grew thick with anticipation of seeing Claire in the raw for the first time. He tried to think--as he had since high school--of what he wanted to do to her before anything else. Lap at her nipples until they peaked taut or go straight for the creaminess between her legs?
No matter the course, he and Mason planned to have Claire begging for mercy before the night was over, and with any amount of luck, they'd keep her for good.
Damn but she was beautiful. Even more so than he'd thought she'd been ten years ago. He'd hoped, prayed, to see her at the reunion a few months ago, and when she hadn't shown up he'd been disappointed to say the least. He and Mason might share women--something they'd learned worked very well for them in college when a woman had decided she wanted to try them both on for size--but in the back of his mind, Claire had always been there. Like a rash that wouldn't go away. A good rash.
Okay so maybe rash wasn't the right word. A dream then. He'd dreamed about her often enough. Wondered where she was, what she was doing. Who she was sleeping with.
Since he worked with Mason, Hunter knew as much about her as his friend. Paul had certainly been a wealth of information in his yapping about his quirky neighbor, the erotic writer.
Jesus. Claire wrote erotic romances. Who'd have thunk it? The wallflower wrote sex better than most people had it. He'd read her stuff. Gotten hard picturing himself and Mason as the heroes and her as their heroine. They could certainly give her some ideas.
Reading her books had made them speculate if perhaps she didn't fantasize about being a part of a m�nage herself. They knew from Paul that she was single--in fact Paul made it sound like she never dated. Ever.
He liked to think it was because she was waiting for them.
Hunter snorted at the image of her pining for the geeks they used to be. Well, they were here now. Still geeks, but by God they'd grown into buff geeks.
He just hoped to hell they didn't ruin things and scare her off.
Before he could take a step, the sultry voice behind him stopped him in his tracks. Kelly, another of their coworkers, traced a red-tipped fingernail down the center of his chest. He barely refrained from snarling. She'd been in half of the beds of the men they worked with already. Even if she hadn't, Hunter didn't go for blonde bimbos with fake eyelashes and even faker tits.
"I don't have anyone to kiss at midnight." Her bottom lip turned out in a pout.
The mere thought of putting his lips anywhere near hers made him gag. "Hm. Well I think Paul is free."
Kelly's mouth fell open. "Paul is gay."
Hunter shrugged. "Even gay people need a kiss at midnight."
He was surprised she hadn't stamped her foot. "Kelly, I'm sorry. I've got my kissee all picked out. In fact, I'm headed that way right now."
"With Mason, no doubt."
"No doubt." He left Kelly glaring at his back and met his friend not quite ten feet away from the woman they planned on having spread eagle and panting at midnight.