May 18 2013 11:00am
Seduction’s Canvas: Excerpt
“I want to paint you” Artist Samara Leighton had wanted to say those words to the sexy motorcycle rider who lived in the building ever since she first laid eyes on him nearly a year ago. But now that the words were out she couldn’t stop her heart from beating wildly in her chest.
“Honey, you don’t have enough paint to cover me.” Security specialist Mark Thorn didn’t mean to come off as a hard ass. As a matter of fact, he wanted nothing more than to let the tempting artist from across the hall do whatever she wanted to him and then some. But her haughty demeanor left the normally cool rider off his game.
Samara knew this was her only chance to live out her long-standing fantasy and she wasn’t going to let it slip through her fingers. She had very little time before her show was done and the pressure of her family legacy meant she would finally go through with living out her life under the umbrella of the Leighton name and its responsibilities. There would be no more downtown jaunts, lazy museum afternoons, and evenings spent lost in the magic of color and her canvases. And definitely no time spent holding tight to the muscular form of her dark rider while the horrors of her past and her cares drifted further away with each mile of road they covered.
Get a sneak peek of K.M. Jackson's Seduction's Canvas (available May 27, 2013) with an exclusive excerpt from Chapter 2. K.M. Jackson is also known as the Heroes and Heartbreakers blogger, Kwana Minatee-Jackson.
I want to paint you. Did she really just say that? Out loud?
“Excuse me?” Sam heard the confusion in his gravelly voice — or was that amusement? Her mouth opened to a wide “O” as she felt her cheeks heat in embarrassment. After brunch with the parents could this day get any worse?
She shifted; her spine stiffening as she forced her well worn mask back into place though inwardly she shook. There was no way in hell she was addressing her earlier painting comment. Her first time speaking with her silent rider and that was what she said? Just perfect. “Sorry, I was just, um, talking to myself and, well, adjusting.”
To that, her silent rider raised a dark brow and stepped into the car, filling most of the usually ample space. She watched as he readjusted his frame, moving the large box he was carrying from one hand to the other. His corded arms were barely restrained by his thin black tee.
He seemed to make light work of the heavy looking wooden box. And despite herself, Sam swallowed as she studied the muscular lines of definition that the tee highlighted, her eyes turning into an invisible brush as she studied the light and dark shadows his muscles made, the way they led her eyes from one to the other, up his forearm to his biceps and from there across his broad shoulders. She squinted and thought she could just make out the faint shadows of a tattoo banded across his upper bicep.
The rider shifted and Sam moved, easing to the side and tilting forward slightly to see what button he would press. When he didn’t press any as the doors closed, her senses once again jumped to full alert. So what, he lived in her building — that didn’t mean he couldn’t also be some mad man following her into the elevator. All she knew of him was what she had seen as she saw him zipping in and out of the garage on that sleek bike of his. And, yes, during the few side-eyed glances, she slipped when she’d happened to catch him picking up his mail or slipping out of the building as she sat on the bench across the street admiring the view. Never during any of those times had they exchanged words.
Sam pulled her purse closer, and made sure her cell was in emergency ready mode. She noticed his eyes shifted as he rolled back from the balls of his feet to his toes then back again. “Can I get a floor for you?” she asked, forcing her voice to sound steady. There was no way she was getting off on her floor alone with him.
He slowly turned around. “No, I’m fine.”
She felt her brows knit together. Fine? What the hell did that mean? It wasn’t like there was an abundance of people he could be visiting on her floor. There was just her and the hermit-like sculptor who barely opened the door for Season’s Express food deliveries. She narrowed her eyes on him further and felt her lips twist. Just then the elevator came to a jarring stop, sending her swaying as the doors swooshed open, making her refocus her thoughts. Time to get a move on.
The rider took a step and balanced his box in one hand while putting his hand out to hold the door open for her with the other. Sam took a cautious step forward. “After you, Miss Leighton.” Sam froze, her breath catching and stopping in the middle of her throat. As her name flowed from his lips, a fissure of desire ran down her spine and all she could think of was summer heat and burning Bronx asphalt.
She looked up at him, prepared to go either for her cell or his balls, whichever seemed the best choice. She went for neither as she met his gaze — he was all golden marble and fierce dark eyes. It was then she noticed the small scar above his eyebrow, but somehow it just made him that much more fiercely handsome. She’d give him one chance, then it was on. Cell or balls. She was ready. “How?”
“I’m Mark Thorn, your new neighbor.”
Sam blinked as her mother’s words about the new neighbor came back to her in a rush. It couldn’t be. But with her luck, of course it could. She licked at her suddenly dry lips and watched, dumbfounded, as the granite-like Mark — no longer her mystery, silent rider — Thorn spread his full mouth sheepishly wide and give her a warm, yet shy and, oh hell, oh so wicked grin.
Sam fought to throw a net over the suddenly out of control butterflies going berserk in her stomach, shook her head with resignation, and stepped forward into the corridor.
Just freaking perfect. From the devil you knew to the new one across the hall, all in ten minutes flat.
• • •
Mark watched, amused, as Samara Leighton’s face went through a myriad of emotions. Sure, she tried her best to cover them up with her cool mask of composure, but he still caught it. It was all there behind her expressive brown eyes. The shock, the embarrassment, and then the cool detachment that had those eyes going glacier all over again. No, he wasn’t fooled. She might have donned that mask quickly but he saw all. Caught her surprise and before that, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. A spark, small, but still, a spark.
He paused and let his mind roll over the spark for a moment before dismissing it with a click to his brain. Who was he fooling? She was probably just wondering if he was some thug about to steal her purse. Another rich girl playing at slumming it in a downtown address that was supposed to be all industrial, but if you squinted, had all the bells and whistles of a Park Avenue condo, just muddied up a bit and a little color added in for flavor.
Samara Leighton stepped ahead of him, but then quickly turned around, probably watching her back. He inwardly grinned. Mark couldn’t fault her for that. Hell, he could respect it.
“So what brings you up here from the ground floor?” she asked, a slight frown crossing her brows as he knew she became instantly aware of her mistake. Yeah, she had been watching him and she knew where he lived or used to live.
Mark fought to bite back on his first and more immediate primal response which, if he let the truth be told, he’d say was probably following the damned alluring scent of hers, clear up to the top floor, like a dog in heat, but no, he couldn’t do that. Better to keep things polite. A woman like her would only respond to the more civilized type of chatter.
His eyes quickly swept over her, taking in her silky rosewood skin that had him itching for a touch, catching on those smoky almond eyes that reminded him of an endless lake at midnight, and finally stopping on her lips that, despite the way she tried her best to keep them firm, were still full and pouty and had that sweet indenting bow at the top that made him want to dip his head down and go happily off to heaven. He watched in rapt attention as those lips moved oh so sexily and she let out a frustrated huff. Yes, today she seemed to be every part the cool, rich, completely untouchable New York ice queen she was born and bred to be, in her tight, white, impeccably cut skirt and matching blazer that screamed you touch it, you dirty it, you bought it. And he sure as hell knew he couldn’t afford it. But that voice. That deep, throaty, old smoky, Hollywood voice, it was something that made a man stop and think before answering anything she said, no matter what she was wearing or how quick and smart he thought he wanted to be.
Mark’s eyes paused at the top of her blouse, noticing the way she defied the suit by wearing a nearly transparent black lacy camisole underneath which left little to the imagination. Around her neck, heavy links of sterling silver chains was her last bit of an FU to the polished look. Suddenly, he remembered that the top button of that skirt was still undone and got a tightening in his groin. She wanted out. Those clothes weren’t her. And he could just imagine being the one setting her free of them.
Besides, he’d grown used to seeing her ducking in and out of the building in her faded jeans or those odd overalls she insisted on wearing more days than not as she did her time as a not so starving artist living downtown. At times Mark thought they were just a quirky fad, but now that he was seeing her up close he once again questioned who the real Samara Leighton was. He also questioned his sanity. He must have been crazy, taking this apartment across from her. Opportunities be dammed, he should have turned tail and ran as soon as he saw that she lived in the same building as he did. But no, what did he go and do? The fool he was, he’d decided to play with fire and go and buy an apartment right across the hall from her. Grind that salt in even more.
“Well?” Her impatient tone brought him blinking back up to her sharp brown eyes.
He shrugged. “Maybe I’d had enough of slumming it down on one and I thought I’d see what the view was like from up top.” He softened a bit. “But in reality, maybe my rental lease was ending and this option to buy in the same building was just perfect timing.”
Samara raised a perfectly arched brow and then glanced down at the box he was holding. “So what, you’ve got all your belongings in that little box?”
He grinned. “You’re not so far off. But no, I’ve got a few more things. The essentials: couch, TV, bed, my bike.”
Sam crossed her arms and he watched as she let a slow breath out through her nose. “Yes, I’ve seen you on your bike.”
He grinned again and saw her brows crinkle into a frown. “And I’ve seen you seeing me. I noticed you getting out of that limo today. Sugar or a daddy?” He watched as the nostrils in her fine nose flared and her eyes gave him another spark of fire.
“Is that an answer to my question or something to do with the way I ride?”
“I’m not answering your question. I’m talking about how you ride. You almost ran over a woman leaving the building one day not that long ago.”
He felt heat rise up his neck. It was partially due to hearing the delicious Samara Leighton refer to his riding and partially because she was right. He shook his head. “Yeah, that was a bad day. You’re right — I should have been more careful. But I did apologize to her when I saw her again. I swear, I’m a perfectly safe driver. Safety’s my thing.”
It seemed like she was about to say something else, but he guessed his quick admission of guilt took her by surprise. Instead, she stepped off on her heel and started to walk again toward her apartment. He followed.
Stopping, she looked back at him and took a bold step forward, causing him to pull up breaks abruptly so as not to bump into her with the box. “How did you know who I was?”
It was his turn to raise brows. “Do you really think I’m going to take the apartment across from just anybody? You’ll be happy to know that the previous owners gave you a glowing recommendation. Besides, most people know who you are just by facial recognition. You’re not exactly anonymous in this town.”
She let out a little huff. “I’m not exactly a celebrity either.”
“Now you know as well as I, that definition is pretty flexible nowadays.”
To this he got a slight nod of agreement, but still she wasn’t fully bending. “And how would the old owners know about me? They were hardly ever here.”
Mark sidestepped her and put the box down in front of his door which, God help him, now that he looked at it again, really was directly across from hers. He stood again and noticed once again that damned intoxicating floral, but still slightly earthy sent coming from her pinned up soft brown hair. Was it lavender? In that moment all he wanted to do was lean in. Shit, this was nothing but trouble. He fought fingering the scar on his brow and just stared at her, not trusting anything else.
She challenged him with her own stare back. Damn, she was tall in those heels. Just about matching him eye for eye.
Mark loosened his stance. “You’re right. So why don’t you tell me yourself, Miss Leighton? Should I be worried? Is there something I should prepare myself for — loud parties, a barking dog … ” He licked his lips. “You barking in the middle of the night?”
She smiled then. A small quirk, the corners of her lips barely twitching. He braced himself. “I can see you’re going to be … interesting, Mr. Thorn.”
He felt his breath hitch. The way she said his name was like nothing he’d ever heard. All low and throaty and soothing. He wanted more than anything to lean over her, take those pouty lips in between his own, and swallow the words as they came out of her mouth. Pull back and make her say his name over and over again. Feast on it. Watch that gorgeous pink tongue play on the “th” as it ran across the inside of her upper teeth. It was like foreplay and he didn’t want it to stop.
But just then another switch clicked off in his head. A warning switch telling him to hit the shut off valve. He deadened his gaze. “No, I’m boring. About as far from interesting as you can get.”
It was then that the sweet lips went flat. She gave a small shrug of her shoulders and then turned for her door. Those sexy as hell, expensive, red bottomed heels pausing before turning back his way.
Oh, just go into your apartment already, woman.
But no, she spoke. “Just so you know, Mr. Thorn, you have my name and that’s all you need to know. I like my privacy. I pretty much keep to myself and I’d appreciate it if you did the same. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m kind of a solitary person.”
He nodded. “No problem, ma’am. I get that. We can all use our space.”
She gave him a terse nod and a large chunk of her pinned up hair fell forward across her eyes like a shield. His hands ached to reach out and move it, give him his view back. But he resisted, instead going for his keys as she went for hers.
They turned and unlocked their opposite doors at the same time.
“Welcome to the top floor, Mr. Thorn.”
He paused at her words as desire shot through him like a bullet. He turned back around. She had put out her hand for him to shake, plastered on a smile that could sell hand warmers in hell, and all irrational thought told him to reach out for her, take her hard against his body, and wipe all that cool haughtiness right off her perfect little face. Instead, he took her hand in his own, letting the brief moment of warmth wash over him while trying hard to ignore the current of electric energy that charged them both. “Thanks for the warm reception, Miss Leighton.”
Copyright 2013 by Kwana Jackson.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Seduction's Canvas by K.M. Jackson before its May 27 release:
K.M. Jackson is a writer of women’s fiction, and a former fashion designer. She lives in the suburbs of New York with her husband, boy/girl twins, and her precocious terrier named Jack who keeps her on her toes. She can be found at her website kwana.com and on Facebook and Twitter.