Clifford and Claire, Part 4
So, as promised, this is the fourth and final installment of the Clifford-and-Claire excerpt from my upcoming novel, Red Wolf Rising. I hope you’ve been enjoying this little sneak peek, and I hope you feel forgiving of me for being a lazy blogger by posting stuff I’ve already written, but the saved time has been well-spent for me in that I’m making great progress on the book!
Next week I’ll have something more “blog-ish” for you, I promise. There is so much sexual tension in this next novel that it’s wearing me out and I kind of need a break anyway. Along with the back-story of Clifford and Claire being told at the same time we’re keeping up with what’s going on with him and Heather in the present day timeline, there’s a new set of characters developing their own little lust-fest. I’m wondering if it might be too much for the average reader.
In case you missed last week and are too lazy to click on the archives, these two have just had an unexpected and perhaps inappropriately intimate moment…
Claire could feel his eyes on her as she made her temporary escape. She slowed her pace, trying to act naturally, then immediately worried she might look like she was trying to further entice him with a more sensual gate. God, this was awkward. What had possessed her to grab his hand like that? It had been totally inappropriate.
But he had responded. He had definitely responded. She pushed through the door to the restroom.
Well, what male wouldn’t respond to what she’d done? She may as well have grabbed his crotch. If she’d been a much younger woman, he might have… Gasp. She was brought up short by her reflection in the long mirror behind a row of sinks that covered one wall.
She was looking at a much younger woman. When she’d stood before the mirror in her apartment earlier that same morning, she’d noted how her age was showing. It was the natural consequence of poor nutrition, the stress of going through the change so regularly, and the absence of the pack bond all wolves needed to stay healthy and sane. Not to mention her nearly ten centuries of life.
But in the last few hours some of those centuries had disappeared from her face. Wrinkles and lines had smoothed. If it wasn’t for the gray hair, she could easily pass for a human woman in her forties. Early forties, probably. Hell, even the hair looked younger and healthier. She leaned forward and pulled her pony tail around next to her face. Were there a few strands of the original dark black? Her mouth dropped open.
This was much more than could be accounted for by rest and a decent meal. In fact, she hadn’t even rested; she just felt like she had. Was her proximity to Clifford Crane simulating a pack bond, without his wolf being out yet? Even if that were possible, it couldn’t account for such a profound effect.
Perhaps a witch’s spell? If so, it was a doozy. However, she didn’t think she’d encountered any witches recently. She couldn’t be sure, but she didn’t think there would be any in Charlotte, not with so many vampires around. And what would any witch seek to accomplish with such a spell, anyway?
She drew her fingers across her cheek. Soft. Wow.
No, Clifford Crane was the only thing that had happened between waking up this morning and now, as far as she knew. She looked at her left hand, the one she’d shared so intimately with his moments ago. She could still feel the touch of his flesh, and the memory made her pulse quicken. My god, what kind of wolf was he carrying around inside? Her eyes widened, and a shiver ran through her. Could it be?
Hope that had been squashed over the last few months of fruitless searching threatened to erupt in her and she pushed it back down. Careful. Don’t go off the deep end just yet. But the more she considered the possibility, the more it fit. There might be more in her attraction to this man than that of a horny old woman. Perhaps there was a higher purpose.
She needed to find out more about Clifford Crane. She took a deep breath and exhaled. She rubbed her hand over the rough material of her jeans in an effort to take her mind off the memory of his touch. It would be best if she didn’t try to rip his clothes off on the ride back to her car. She smiled at her reflection.
That could come later.
The walk to Clifford’s truck was awkward, and they both remained silent during the drive to her car. Claire kept her hands folded in her lap, afraid they might of their own volition find their way across the console that separated their seats and entwine with his.
Clifford broke the silence as he turned onto Sardis Road. “So, you’re parked at the trail head, right?”
“Yeah. Just up here on the left.” He slowed, waited for an oncoming vehicle to pass, and turned into the lot. “That’s me, there,” she pointed. “The green Subaru.”
He pulled into the space next to her car. “Here you are,” he said.
He shifted into neutral and pulled the emergency brake, but left the engine running, which she took as a signal that he didn’t want to hang around. He’s still pretty freaked out, she thought. Probably can’t wait to get away from me. She put her hand on the latch of the door and pushed it open slightly. Shit. Was it her imagination, or did he visibly relax? “Um, thanks again for the pancakes,” she said.
“No problem,” he answered. “I enjoyed the company.” He smiled.
She couldn’t bring herself to get out of the truck, not just yet. Maybe the smile meant he wasn’t as eager for her to leave as she thought. “Me, too,” she said. “I, uh…” God, she felt like a silly adolescent. “Guess I’ll see you around, then.”
“Yeah,” he said. His thoughts were in a whirl. He knew he was attracted to this mysterious woman, and he had no business pursuing any kind of relationship, especially the way things were at home right now. Yet, it slipped out. “I hope so,” he added.
The shift in her expression and body language was subtle, but he thought he detected an eagerness in her reply. “I probably owe you a meal,” she said.
“Oh no, not at all. You don’t owe me a thing. Just, uh… pay it forward.”
She had a puzzled expression on her face.
“Y-you know,” he stammered, “to someone else who needs it.” Uh oh, that could have come out better.
“Oh, you mean if I run across someone naked and starving in the park…”
“Well, yeah. But, not necessarily nak… I mean, it could be anyone who… you know… you want to help out… or something.”
She looked at him. He was blushing fiercely now. It was so cute, and she had an almost irresistible urge to lean over and kiss him. She allowed herself to elaborate on that thought for a moment, how he might respond, what it might lead to. She became aware that she’d closed her door and inched closer to him.
Wait. I need to discover if he’s what I think he might be, not jump his bones. A seduction would just complicate things. Hadn’t she learned that lesson enough times in the past? Didn’t all relationships end in pain, often with someone’s death? Simple honesty would be the best policy in this case. Honesty, but perhaps in small doses.
She straightened. “Clifford, I think you’re an interesting person, and I’d like to get to know you better.” There, that was open and above-board, right? “Would you mind that?” With only a little bit of manipulation.
“No, I wouldn’t mind. I’d like to get to know you, too. It’s just that… Well, maybe it shouldn’t have to be this way, but I gave up all my female friends when I married Kathryn. She… doesn’t deal with that so well. And… I hope I didn’t give you the wrong impression when I was babbling on over breakfast. My marriage and family are important to me. I can’t do anything to jeopardize them. Nothing would be worth that.”
Not even saving humanity?
Oh, god, had she said that out loud? “Huh?”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry. I thought you said something.”
“I didn’t think I did, but at my age...” She shrugged. “Listen, I understand. I don’t want to cause any complications in your life. I’d just like the opportunity to talk some more. Wouldn’t you?”
He would. “Yeah, but…”
“Hey,” she brightened, “what about this? I’m up early most mornings. You looking for a jogging partner?”
He wasn’t. His early morning jogs were the only times he had to himself these days. “Um, I usually do about five miles.”
Wait, please. I’ve seen you jogging. I could run circles around you all day. “I’m in better shape than I look. I should be able to keep up.” He looked doubtful. “Hey, don’t worry. I’ll be fine. And no obligations on your part. You just stick to your regular schedule, and I’ll just show up one day soon. We’ll see how it goes.”
He hesitated. That sounded safe enough, just some jogging and talking. “Okay, that sounds like fun. Um, I’m usually out around four-thirty, five-ish…”
“… whenever the weather’s good,” she finished for him. “Right.”
“Oh, I told you that already?”
Had he? “Uh, sure. You must have, right?”
He grinned sheepishly and ran his hand over his close-cropped hair. “I’ve probably babbled everything there is to know about myself already. Next time, I’ll have to ask the questions.”
She smiled and opened the door again. This time she got out.
“I need to hear some of your story,” he said.She smiled and closed the door. All in good time, Clifford Crane. All in good time.
Okay, that’s it. Of course, it’s only the beginning. Look for the rest later this year.
And, if you haven’t read the first two books, there are links below to sites where you can purchase them in various formats. The ebooks are only $2.99! Check ‘em out.
Coming up next week…
Looking for inspiration? Walk your dog.
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle
ebook for Kindle
The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle
ebook for Kindle
Until next time, happy reading!