Alterity Excerpt

 

Austin didn’t sleep a wink that night—he couldn’t. His mind was insistent on mulling over and over different scenarios, a war raging within. It was now or never. He cared about this woman and needed a cogent way to express that sentiment. To let her know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was committed.

 

Liz lay facing him, her delicate features iridescent in the low light of the flat screen on the wall. She was ethnically exquisite, the bronze in her skin alluding her origins just as surely as if her lips spoke them. He’d noticed it the first time he’d seen her, been drawn to the energy she exuded the second their skin touched. They seemed to travel the same wavelength, share the same ambitions in life.

 

For better or worse, in the course of just a few weeks, Liz Carlisle had changed so many aspects of his life. Through her, he’d rediscovered his passion for composing—a pastime that had diminished over years of forced conformation to please his mother. While the lyrics he wrote were merely trickling thoughts and random streams of consciousness, they were softer and more introspective. Liz forced a more sensitive side to emerge, rendering him vulnerable. He’d tried to fight it, knowing the hell they would endure if they dare to pursue a relationship.

 

Austin didn’t buy Jennifer’s reaction to the break-up. She had damned near stripped him in public. Such a passionate response meant that she would never forfeit what she believed to be hers. His ex was simply licking her wounds and biding her time, contemplating her next move. There would be no peace, because Jennifer Clawson would resurface.  

 

He sighed, running the back of his hand along Liz’s bare arm. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, so how would he ever stem something so strong? It would take him over, require more strength than he had to deny the truth lying between them. Even in repose, her body emitted a force that called to him on some level he was only beginning to understand. Still, his body responded in kind. The simple sight of her was enough to stir his insides into a mix of nerves and wild lust. What he felt was a powerful, unstoppable force—much like the woman who stoked the emotions.

 

How do you contain nature?

 

You don’t.

 

Rolling to his side, Austin stared out at the reflections dancing across the wall. He was aroused and thinking with the wrong head. The sensations welling, he shifted in the hope of alleviating the pinned up energy rolling through his veins, his heart thundering until he thought it might just burst under the strain.

 

“What’s wrong, Texas?”

 

Her fingers on his back burned through the skin, resonating deep within his bones. Stunned, he flicked on the lamp, then turned to find her perched on one elbow. Her tousled hair fell over her face in unruly ringlets that brushed past her shoulders. Austin could just make out the dark eyes silently questioning him.

 

Liz’s hand found his, pressing palm to palm, their fingers twining together.

 

Her touch was like nothing he’d ever experienced, the contact surging fire throughout every cell. “I’m sorry if I woke you. I can’t sleep.” He kept constant eye contact when he whispered, “I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for us to share this bed.”

 

Liz’s grip tightened on his hand. “We’re adults, Austin. We share your bed all of the time. What makes tonight any different?” Her raised-brow expression challenged him.

 

“That was before—” He regretted the outburst the second it spewed from his lips, because he would have to explain himself.

 

Her hand abandoned his, travelling to his left pectoral, her fingers rubbing over the inked image of a Yorkshire terrier and the name, Tulu, stenciled in cursive script across his heart—the very place his fur friend would forever remain. “A memorial for your dog. That’s really sweet.”

 

Austin couldn’t speak with her eyes blazing into him like orbs of hot chocolate.

 

“I like this one, too.” She rested her head against his chest, her digits circling the tattoo of a crucifix wrapped in a rosary and dangling from a Celtic knot armband stamped on his left bicep. Her lips puckered against his skin in a simulated kiss.

 

The contact raised the hairs on the back of his neck, awakening that column of flesh between his legs.

 

“Now, tell me what’s changed since we met.”