May 24 2014 1:00pm
His to Claim, Part 1: Exclusive Excerpt
Rafe is a rock musician by night and head of a multi-million dollar family business during the day. Melanie is his former assistant, a wallflower who’s harbored a secret crush on him for years. Someone he'd never even consider sleeping with. But when Melanie decides to leave behind her shy exterior and live out her own sexy bucket list, the two of them are thrown together in a whirlwind affair that pushes both their boundaries.
Get a sneak peek of Opal Carew's His to Claim (available June 3, 2014) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.
“You gonna take off the top, or just pull down the edge?” Charlie asked.
“Oh,” she gazed at Rafe, then glanced at the paper template in Charlie’s hand, “will it work to just tuck it down?”
“Yeah, why not?”
Rafe’s gaze locked on Melanie’s fingers as she slowly tugged down the top edge of the fabric, revealing the swell of her breast.
God damn, she was sexy. But he shouldn’t be thinking of her that way.
As she pulled the fabric lower, revealing more sweet, creamy flesh, he realized that she didn’t work for him anymore, so he could think about her any way he wanted. As long as he didn’t act on it.
Unless she wanted him to.
Would she, he wondered.
Charlie placed the paper on her round flesh, and as he rubbed it to make it smooth against her skin, Rafe wished he could be doing that. He longed to feel that lovely curve.
Charlie peeled away the paper, leaving a beautiful design of a bird taking flight.
“Nice.” Rafe smiled.
“Thanks. I did the design myself.”
Surprise skittered through him. He knew she liked to express herself with color, like her nail polishes, but he hadn’t realized she had an artistic bent.
“It’s beautiful. You’re very talented.”
Her cheeks flushed pink. He didn’t know if it was from the compliment, or the fact that half her breast was exposed.
“My parents weren’t very supportive of my dreams either. They worked menial jobs and pushed me to go to college to be the family success story, to make all their sacrifices worthwhile. So I went and got my administrative degree, even though I really wanted to go to art school. But they never would have supported that—so the only way I ever got to express myself these past few years is through my nail art. But I really want to bring it back into my life. I love to imagine things and bring them to life through my artwork.”
When Charlie turned on the tattoo machine, Melanie jumped at the sound. Rafe stepped to her side and rested his hand on her forearm.
“I’m gonna start now,” Charlie said. “You gotta stay real still. Got that?”
She eyed him, nodding uncertainly.
“It’s okay. It ain’t gonna hurt too much.”
Charlie was a little rough around the edges, but he had his compassionate side.
“Okay.” But as he leaned toward her, Melanie’s hand slipped around Rafe’s forearm, and her fingers tightened.
Rafe covered her hand with his. “Breathe.”
She drew in a deep breath as Charlie pressed the device to her skin. At the first contact, her eyes widened, but she didn’t move.
“You doing okay?” Rafe asked.
She nodded again, watching Charlie work. Rafe watched in fascination as the artist glided the machine over her creamy breast, the skin reddening around the black line of the design as he moved. Melanie continued to breathe deeply, but soon began to relax a little.
He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. “Not too bad, right?”
She nodded, as if afraid to utter any words.
When Charlie finished the outline, he drew away, getting ready for the shading. This part hurt more.
She gazed down at the design, which was taking shape nicely. Right now it was just an outline of the bird, but once Charlie filled it in with color, it would come to life.
“Do you want some water?” Rafe asked.
She drew her delicate hand from his arm and he immediately missed the contact. He grabbed a bottle from the small fridge Charlie had on the side and twisted off the cap for her.
He handed it to her and she took a deep swallow, just as Charlie returned to her side, a number of pigments doled out on his tray in little pools. He dipped the device into one of the blues, then began filling in the wings of the bird. She tensed again and this time Rafe reached for her hand. She glanced up at him and smiled timidly, then gazed at Charlie’s handiwork, her fingers clinging tightly to Rafe’s hand.
“So why did you pick a bird?” Rafe asked, hoping to distract her.
“It’s a symbol.” She laughed tensely. “I guess that’s true for everyone. But for me it represents freedom, and that’s something I’m trying to embrace right now. Not getting caught up in other people’s expectations, and just being true to myself and my own dreams, even if they’re impractical.”
She took another swallow from the water bottle. The bird took form as Charlie swirled the tattoo machine along her skin. Melanie seemed to want to concentrate on watching Charlie work, so Rafe just continued to stroke her hand. Although she was handling the pain, after a while it seemed to be getting to her, so he drew her hair back from her face, then curled his fingers behind her neck and kneaded the tense muscles. She gazed up at him in surprise.
“That’s nice,” she said. “Thanks.”
She seemed to relax as she gazed at him rather than the tattoo. There was something in her bright green eyes that disturbed and yet elated him. A warmth that he realized he’d seen before. Had she always looked at him that way and he’d never noticed?
A tightness coiled in his stomach. Or had he chosen not to notice? Shutting it out because, he realized now, he felt the same warmth for her but he would never act on feelings for an employee. He would never put her in that position.
They’d been close when he’d been her boss. At least, they’d shared a friendly camaraderie.
And he’d told her things he wouldn’t tell just anyone, like when he’d returned from a year of soul searching and told her about Jessica, the woman he’d fallen in love with. But that hadn’t worked out.
But here was Melanie, looking absolutely sinful as a sheen of sweat appeared on the swell of her cleavage. She bit her full bottom lip, and his gut told him it was worth exploring where this might lead.
Charlie wiped the design with his cloth, then changed pigment. Melanie tensed when he started up again and Rafe continued stroking her neck, pleased that he could help her through this.
Charlie continued filling in the tattoo. Finally, he sat back and stared critically at the bluebird design for a moment, then nodded and smiled. As well he should. It was stunning. Charlie grabbed a big handheld mirror and offered it to her. She took the mirror and held it so she could see the design front on, rather than staring down at it. Her face lit up with a beautiful, beaming smile.
“Oh, it’s beautiful!”
“It really is,” Rafe agreed, though he found he couldn’t drag his gaze from her stunning features.
High cheekbones and soft-looking, heart-shaped lips. A delicate chin and pert little nose. And big emerald green eyes that seemed to glow.
How had he never realized how beautiful she was before?
Copyright © 2014 by Opal Carew.
Learn more about or order a copy of His to Claim, Part 1: No Strings by Opal Carew, available June 3, 2014:
Learn more about or order the full book, His to Claim, available September 2, 2014:
Opal Carew is the author of fourteen erotic romances for St. Martin's including His to Command, Pleasure Bound, and Twin Fantasies. She lives in Canada and makes regular trips to the U.S. to speak at conferences and industry events.