Tea For Two
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: October 14, 2008, print August 1, 2009
Lies and secrets have a way of returning to bite a girl in the butt…
Hayley Williams thought she was past the screwing-up stage of her life.
These days, she wears her good girl persona well—except when she moonlights as a gypsy tea leaf reader in order to earn money to buy her own home. There’s something about Sam Norville, though, that prods her inner imp back to life. A chance meeting, a margarita…okay, two…a stolen kiss, and suddenly she’s back in hot water.
Sam, a successful businessman, doesn’t believe in love at first sight. Not anymore. For him, involvement with any woman means risking a run-in with the tabloid press. But his mysterious gypsy lover keeps him coming back, keeps him prodding her for more…like the truth. Of course it’s not love. No, sir. Sam only does lust.
Hayley knows she shouldn’t want Sam, especially since she lied to him. The right thing to do? Shove that naughty imp off her shoulder and come clean. But that pesky imp just won’t budge…
Warning: There be lies and secrets ahead, wrapped in pretty bows with margaritas, a one-night stand, fortune telling and a gypsy. Oh, and tea. Lots and lots of pots of tea.
Note for Readers: You must be over eighteen to read this excerpt.
“Hello, darling,” he said and he lifted her off the chair, hauling her into his arms. Before she had a chance to react, he lowered his head and kissed her. To anyone else, to the three women stalking him, it would appear like a quick peck between friends, but with this woman, something changed. Shock roared through him and he froze. He pulled back enough so he could stare down at her, trying to fathom the sense of possessiveness that had blindsided him without warning. Yes, her eyes were beautiful. Stunning. The freckles across the bridge of her nose were cute. She smelled of wildflowers, a light, natural scent that didn’t make his eyes water or bring on a sneeze.
This woman was…
No way. No how! Not possible. He wasn’t going to act on the instinct screaming through him. He’d traveled that road before. No, all he intended to do was chat, maybe dance and reassure himself that this love at first sight stuff really was a load of crap. And of course, avoid the three stooges stalking him at the same time.
He released the woman and offered her a grin, the charming type his mother and sisters accused him of using whenever he wanted something.
“Hello, I’m Sam. You don’t know it yet, but you’ve just saved my life. I can’t thank you enough.”
“If you wanted an original pickup line, you’ve found it,” she said dryly, cocking her head slightly to the side to look up at him. Her voice was low and throaty. Seductive. And her mouth. Oh, yeah. Her bottom lip glistened, the plump pink curve highlighted with a gloss of some kind. Sam wanted to touch, but curled his hands to fists to halt the impulse.
“You haven’t heard my best ones yet.” Sam held out his hand and waited for her to acknowledge his greeting.
“Oh?” The beginnings of a grin twitched at the corner of her sexy lips, but didn’t go any farther. Slowly, she stepped back to put a more respectable distance between them. Sam’s heart thudded violently without warning, and he found himself wanting to make her smile. He could imagine her face lighting up and wanted to see if his imagination matched the truth.
“How much will you charge me for a smile?”
“You’re funny.” Slowly, she placed her hand in his. When she tipped back her head to study him and their hands touched, a sharp spark of desire flared up his arm. His sharp inhalation sounded loud, harsh to his ears, but the woman didn’t seem to notice. Her attention centered on his lips, in the same way he’d looked at hers. She seemed mesmerized, certainly as interested as he was in touching, tasting her mouth and making her smile. Suddenly Sam felt like he was back at school, a teenager with a crush on the most popular girl in his class. He wanted to swallow and shuffle his feet. He wanted to caress her mouth again in the worst possible way. This time he’d make the kiss slower. Deepen it. Explore. Conquer. The unwanted thought registered, and he frowned, drawing back and releasing her hand.
“And yet I haven’t made you smile,” he said. “I can’t be as funny as you thought.” Sam had to clear his throat, something that surprised him since he hadn’t felt uncomfortable or ill at ease with a female for as long as he could remember. He frowned inwardly. “I’m going to have to kiss you again. Should I apologize first? Oops, no time.” He grasped her shoulders firmly and, with his fingers, gently lifted her chin. Their eyes met and his pulse jumped. Incredible, he thought. The shuffle of feet behind them and a wave of cough-inducing designer perfume told him he was out of time. His mouth swooped to capture hers—his mystery lady. He’d kissed many women. He liked kissing women, and thought he was pretty good at it. This kiss felt different. Heat flared between them, and he felt her shiver in the conflagration. Pleasure radiated outward and he stepped right into the fire, letting his hands wander across the silky fabric covering her shoulders, her back. The blood roared through his veins. His eager response, fueled by her equally natural reaction, sent shockwaves skittering through him. And surprise. This couldn’t be happening. He couldn’t, wouldn’t trust his instincts with women again. That way lay trouble. He pulled back subtly, easing away from the kiss.
Aware his trio of stalkers hovered in the vicinity, waiting for an opportunity to approach, he tightened his grip on the woman and took her hand. Crazy. He should thank her for the save and leave. But he didn’t. “Would you like to dance?”
A slight frown creased her forehead. She opened her mouth, as if she might reject him.
“Please,” he said hurriedly. “You haven’t even given me a smile yet. I look upon that as a challenge.”
“Women don’t say no to you, do they?” Amusement sparkled in her beautiful blue eyes. He wondered idly what her dark hair would look like without the pins and jeweled combs that restrained it so tightly. Probably really good against his sheets.
“Not often,” he said, guiding her to the dance floor with a hand at the small of her back while battling his instincts to pounce. Too bad. He was losing the fight. Big time. “You wouldn’t want to spoil my good image. Word might get around. My reputation would suffer.”
She chuckled, the sound rich and musical, without artifice. “Your reputation seems quite healthy. I’ve seen you in the gossip magazines with a different woman on your arm each time.”
“You recognize me?” Damn, a woman he instinctively liked, and she had preconceived notions. The wrong ones, if she read the gossip mags. Damn, he hated this, although he couldn’t change the fact his mother was minor royalty and his father had more money than most people dreamed about. Their fairy-tale marriage had sparked public interest that had never waned over the years. If anything, the arrival of children brought more attention. It seemed, in this world of throwaway relationships, a lot of people craved happy endings.
“You’re a very photogenic figure, Mr. Norville.”
“Sam,” he said, taking her into his arms. “You can call me Sam.” She was about six inches shorter than him—the perfect height. Nothing worse than a sore neck from bending at an awkward angle. They moved together easily, bodies brushing in time to the music. At least she hadn’t flounced off in disgust, he thought while he navigated the crowded floor. “Are you going to tell me your name?” He offered her his best smile, infusing it with charm and sincerity, when all he really wanted to do was bite. His smile slithered into a smirk at the thought. It wouldn’t be a problem. Laving away the sting with the lash of his tongue would be half the fun.
“H-Helen,” she said.
Cute stutter. Combined with the freckles and perfume, it added up to compelling—for him at any rate—and a woman who didn’t do casual. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Yeah, right. Try telling that to his body.
“You can’t believe everything you hear or see, especially in the media,” he said, returning to their earlier conversation.
“Is that so? But the stories seem fairly consistent. There must be an element of truth.” The sparkle in her eyes gave away the fact she was teasing.
A couple bumped into them. Sam gathered her closer and moved them out of the main traffic area on the dance floor. Their legs glided together and his unruly hormones leapt to full alert. Difficult to hold back his groan of pleasure.
“You can’t let my reputation scare you off. That would be like trying a man without giving him a hearing. Innocent until proven guilty, remember?”
Helen lifted her head and her mouth stretched into a wide grin. It echoed in her blue eyes, taking her from quietly attractive to striking. Sam stared, fascinated by the difference a smile made. “Just what do you intend to do with me, Sam? We’ve only just met.”
Strange how the stutter had disappeared. He’d rather liked the small imperfection. “We can discuss our relationship over a drink.”
“A drink sounds nice.” Her full lips twitched with amusement. “But really, it’s too early to call what we have a relationship.”
He chuckled, attracting the attention of several couples near them on the dance floor. For once he didn’t care about the public scrutiny. “I respond well to a challenge. I also bite. You should take that as a warning.”
Helen grinned. “I must update my immunization shots.”
Sam led her to an empty table, smirking inwardly. The woman was refreshing. Interesting. A waiter strolled past, carrying a tray of margaritas, and he took two, handing one of the salt-encrusted glasses to Helen.
Sam sat, not wanting to leave her side now he’d seen her close up and held her, despite his inner warning system blaring at full alert. His fascination overrode his survival instincts, which meant he didn’t intend to go anywhere. His employees had things under control with their bigger clients, so the rest of the night belonged to him.
He watched Helen over the rim of his glass, trying to work out what made her different from every other woman. She wore her dark hair up in a knot at the back of her head. A few chocolate brown wisps softened her face, curling across her temples. Golden freckles dusted her nose, giving her a touch of innocence and freshness. Every single item of her clothing was black. A black blouse skimmed her body and a long black skirt hit her below the knees. Nothing clung to her curves or overtly displayed her body, but he knew she possessed very sexy curves. He’d touched them when they danced together. Her skin felt as soft as it appeared and made Sam want to stroke his fingers across her cheek. And that was just for a starter. Hell, it made him yearn to rip off her clothes and explore the curves beneath. He was positive her skin would feel soft all over her body. The delicate scent of wildflowers filled his every breath, refreshing after the heavy, multi-faceted perfumes his dates normally wore.
“It might be early, but this is a party. It’s the perfect place to get to know each other.” Sam sipped his margarita and admitted to himself he wanted this woman. He definitely wanted to peel away the layers of clothing to see her natural shape. He frowned, not liking the direction of his thoughts, because he really didn’t believe in love at first sight. Lust, yes. Lust made sense. His mood lightened. That’s what this was—sexual desire. And he could do something about chemistry and lust, especially if he found a like-minded woman.
“I bet you say that to all the girls.” Her husky voice stroked him, playing across his nerve endings like a finger across guitar strings. He imagined her fingers exploring his chest and shifted uncomfortably at his body’s instant reaction.
“Don’t judge me by the publicity.” A grin played around his lips. “Most of it isn’t true.”
“But some of it is.” Her big blue eyes blinked at him, intrigue chasing across her expressive face. “You’re a bad boy,” she said finally. “I think I’m allergic to bad boys.”
“Ah, you’re not sure, which means I have a chance to change your mind.”
“So you admit your bad-boy status.”
“I never hurt anyone and don’t gossip about details.” Coming from her, the bad-boy label hurt. “And I never lie. Ever. I don’t like liars.”
“Why me? There are lots of beautiful women here for you to flirt with. One of the three standing over there, for instance.”
“They’re trophy hunters. They want me because they’re models after some publicity to push their careers. Too blatant. I hate being used. I prefer to choose my own women. I pick you.” Sam surprised himself, since he was usually a little more subtle. This was deliberate seduction. He captured her hand and rubbed his thumb across the back before turning it over to study her palm. No rings. That was good.
Her brows arched upward. “And do I have a choice?”
“Not anymore,” he murmured. “It’s too late now.”
Despite the laughter, loud music and intoxicated shouts, it felt as if they were in a world of their own. Damn, he wanted this woman, but it wasn’t love at first sight. No such thing. Sam held his breath at the flare of desire when he threaded their fingers together. Oh, yeah. This was lust big time, and that was all. Lust he could deal with.
“This is the perfect story to curl up with on a cold winter’s night, add a glass of wine, some music, and lose yourself in the ups and downs as star crossed lovers discover their soul mates. This is such a fabulous story, and I look forward to reading more stories written by this amazing author. Kudos, Ms. Munro!”
~ Sensual eCataromance.com
“Ms. Shelley Munro is quickly becoming a must read author. I enjoy her style and her approach to her varied plots. These two main characters were certainly no exception. The storyline was full of secrets (from both Hayley and Sam). The more time the couple spent together, the less likely it became that Sam would buy into his family’s theory that Norville’s fell in love at first sight. Ms. Munro has such an appealing way of revealing her story that it is impossible to put down the book.”
~ The Romance Studio, A 5 Heart Sweetheart Award.
“This was a really cute contemporary romance….I recommend it if you’re in the mood for a fun, light read.”
~ Book Binge.
“A strong point of Ms. Munro’s writing style is her relationships. She does not disappoint and you’ll enjoy each hot and seductive encounter between Sam and Hayley. Tea for Two is a book I definitely recommend for readers who enjoy upbeat, funny and touching romances between two characters that come to life from the moment you meet them.”
~ Whipped Cream Reviews.
“As I have come to expect of any book written by Shelley Munro, Tea For Two is hot. The attraction between Hayley and Sam practically smokes, while the vulnerability of both characters makes it a very touching story. It was exactly what I needed to make me forget this winter weather. Definitely a recommended read!”
~ I Do Not Want To Wait, I Want The Book Now.