THE 27 CLUB
New American Library
Coffee Beans Part I
The wind howls and the palm trees whip against the windows as the storm seems to make its way closer to landfall. Thunder booms and lightning lights up the room, startling me. No, not lightning—a lamp.
“Hello, Zoey.” The voice is deep and husky.
As the sound registers, I scream. I quickly sit up and scan my unfamiliar surroundings. My eyes immediately land on the silhouette of a man standing beside me, and I scream again, this time scrambling off the bed in terror.
In this moment, my heart stops beating, my lungs stop breathing, and my brain stops thinking. I’m petrified.
The man raises his palms up in surrender. “Zoey, I’m Nate, Z’s friend. You don’t have to be scared. I’m not going to hurt you.”
My fear must be evident. I stare at him for a few long moments, both alarmed and trembling. Only once realization sets in, that yes, this is Nate, my brother’s best friend, do I attempt to calm my ragged breaths.
He takes a cautious step back. “Just cover up with something so we can talk.”
Oh my God, my clothes.
Tangled sheets catch on my limbs as I climb back onto the bed and unsuccessfully try to pull the covers over my practically naked body. Before humiliation grabs complete hold of me, I give up and dive for my soaking wet shirt lying on the floor.
Sliding the cold fabric over my head, I pull it down to cover my panties and stand up, quickly crossing my arms over my chest to shield any signs of the chill I’m feeling.
Not great, but better. At least I can look at him with a little dignity.
Finally, I glance up and my gaze catches his. As soon as it does, he drops his eyes.
The photos I’ve seen of him over the years, when my brother would text me a funny shot—a selfie of him and Nate at some top chef restaurant, at the beach, or at a coffee house—didn’t nearly do him justice. Those shots were goofy poses with baseball caps turned backwards and funny faces. Not that I didn’t think he was good looking in them, because I did, but there’s just something different about him.
I blink and focus on the matter at hand. “You scared the shit out of me. What are you doing here?”
Staring at the ground, he leans against the door jam. “You beat me to the punch. I was just about to ask you the same question.”
“Why would you ask me that?”
He raises a brow. “I guess I’m just curious.”
I sigh, feeling confused.
His gaze lifts, and those eyes, those bewitching emerald green eyes, stare back at me. “Not that I mind that you’re here. It’s just—a little warning would have been nice. That’s all.”
His tone is more bemused than apologetic.
I’m not sure what to think.
With a straight and confident stance, I clear my throat. “I e-mailed you earlier today to let you know that I was coming for the weekend. I’m really sorry about the late notice, but I decided at the last minute.”
He reaches into the pocket of his low-slung jeans and pulls out his phone. After a few taps and scrolls he looks up at me. “I guess you did. Here it is. I’m usually on top of my e-mails but today my . . . schedule was full. Had I seen your message, I would have tried to rearrange my plans.”
“That’s fine really. I managed. It’s not a big deal.”
I steal a glance at my reliable Timex—just after midnight. What is he doing in my brother’s house in the middle of the night? Just as I’m about to ask him, my eyes catch sight of the way he predatorily walks around the room and I’m momentarily distracted. He moves like a panther— slowly circling his prey, keeping his distance, not too close, but close enough to pounce if he feels the urge. He settles back against the wall, just a little closer now. “Zoey, did you hear me?”
I swallow. “Sorry, what?”
His tone grows more insistent. “I said I would have at least sent a car for you. You shouldn’t be out in this weather on your own.”
My brow furrows. Why is he still talking about the airport?
When I don’t respond, he crosses his arms over his chest like he owns the place.
It’s then that reality sinks in. And as cliché as this sounds, I am not going to let Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome intimidate me. It’s time to take charge. “There was no need. I managed just fine. But if you didn’t know I was coming, can I ask what you’re doing here?”
Confusion seems to have taken over his thoughts as he steps even closer—moving with a lethal grace that makes my body start to hum. I can’t help but study him as his features come into clear focus. His body is long and lean. His hair is dark, the most unusual shade of brown, maybe like the color of expensive chocolate, but not exactly. His eyes are languid, watchful, and the most beautiful shade I’ve ever seen—darker than emeralds or the deepest of forest greens. His
lips look full and soft. He is handsome in a way that is unlike anyone I’ve ever seen.
My mind is going haywire.
A look of realization seems to cross his face as he stares at me.
“Nate, why are you at my brother’s house in the middle of the night?” I ask him again.
With a smirk, he ignores my question. Instead of answering me, he opens the door beside him. It’s a closet, Zach’s closet to be exact, and he steps right in, again like he owns the place.
“What are you doing?” I ask impatiently.
He comes back into the bedroom with a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt in his hand. “You’re trembling. How about you get changed and we sit down to talk?”
The audacity of this man is beyond comprehension. From his e-mails he seemed nice, but then again, you never can tell what lurks behind the words on a computer screen.
He stares and his small smirk really irritates me. “Take these, they’re mine. I’ll wait downstairs while you get changed.”
If I weren’t standing here, chilled and in my underwear, I might just tell him to go to hell. But instead I reach for the clothes, and as I do, I start to wonder if he’s been squatting in my brother’s house. Once the clothes are in my hands, his mouth spreads into a slow, easy grin.
Annoyance grabs hold of me as I pivot on my bare feet and head toward the bathroom, making sure not to glance over my shoulder. When I hear heavy footsteps, I let my body fall back and shut everything out of my mind for a few short seconds.
What is going on?
When I’ve gathered my composure, I quickly strip out of my wet clothes and redress. Then I make the mistake of looking in the mirror. A wet dog would look better than I do right now. In an effort to improve the image, I grab a towel and wipe the black mascara from under my eyes. Then I use my fingers to comb through my mass of curls and try to calm them, but that’s nearly impossible.
Okay, better—but not great.
Who cares anyway?
It’s not like I’m trying to impress him. In fact, I’ve never tried to impress a man.
Excerpt #2 (Post on February 18th)
THE 27 CLUB
New American Library
Coffee Beans Part II
Time to get down to business.
I stomp out of the bedroom and down the stairs. The TV is on and I can hear the weatherman announcing the same info the driver relayed to me. “Tropical Storm Angela seemingly having stalled out once it passed over Cuba is picking up wind speed as it makes its way toward the Florida Keys.”
The rain is still beating down, but there are no calls for evacuations so I can only assume I am fine staying here.
Determined to get this conversation over with, I’m stopped dead in my own tracks. Nate is standing in front of a built-in coffee maker, waving his hand frantically up and down cursing under his breath, “Motherfucking piece of shit.”
“What happened? Did the Miele not do what you told her to do?”
I feel like I’m watching him in slow motion.
Without warning, the air crackles.
He’s momentarily taken aback, but then a look of amusement crosses his face. “Zoey Flowers, you are . . .”
Words pop into my head—sexy, beautiful, hot as hell, fuckable.
Where did those come from?
That grin lingers on his mouth. “Your brother’s sister, without a fucking doubt.”
Tears prick my eyes. Not the words I hoped to hear, but so much more meaningful.
His face contorts, the glow of amusement gone from his eyes, shadowed by something darker. He sets two cups of coffee on the counter that separates us. “Hey, I’m really not good at this stuff. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
I swipe the drops away. “No, really, it’s okay. I just miss him. That’s all.”
Nate’s hands grip the counter and his head falls. “Yeah, me too.”
Silence sweeps the vastness of the space, but strangely it’s not uncomfortable.
His gaze lifts. “Zoey, it’s nice to finally meet you.”
I can’t help but be charmed. “It’s nice to finally meet you too, Nate.”
He clears his throat and a bit of shyness seems to cross his face.
I fear I might be staring, so I avert my gaze to look down at the counter and it lands on the two cups. “Are those lattés?”
His head lifts at the same time mine does. The connection is immediate—a jolt of electricity travels between us and I swear I see a little smile—not a smirk, but an actual smile on his face.
The most adorable boyish grin.
My belly flutters and I can’t help but return the smile, feeling a little shy myself.
“Yeah, well that’s what they’re supposed to be. I didn’t know what you drank, but thought I’d try these.”
I move closer, close enough that my hipbones nudge the edge of the counter. “Lucky for you, I’ll drink anything made with coffee beans.”
Then it hits me, that his hair is the color of the finest imported coffee beans.
“Yeah, lucky for me,” he repeats.
Taking a seat on one of the barstools, I blow on the top of the latté. The froth is not exactly froth-like, more like big soap bubbles or maybe clumps of soured whipped cream.
“You’re a schoolteacher, right?” he asks.
“Something like that,” I say. “I’m employed by the University of Rochester. You’re a landlord, right?”
His lips tip up a fraction. “Something like that.”
I laugh. “Just kidding. I know all about you—big successful CEO of an up-and-coming development company, who buys unprofitable businesses, turns them around, and then sells them.
Zach said you are very business savvy.”
This is true, but what I fail to mention is Zach told me so much more about him.
He raises one brow in the sexiest way. “You’re going to make me blush if you keep talking like that. But it sounds to me like you’re leaving some crucial things out. I’m sure your brother must have given you some dirt on me.”
How does he know Zach told me all about his inability to commit, his obsession with work, and his need to always be in control? He never spoke of him in a demeaning way though. No, rather Zach seemed to idolize this man. The words integrity, hard working, and respectful always followed anything that might have been construed as negative. Zach once mentioned that he thought something must have happened that triggered Nate’s extreme behavior.
He could understand that.
Honestly, so could I.
“Z never could give a compliment without making sure to put a little bite in it. My guess is he would have said something like this: “Big shot asshole of some rising development company.”
I shrug. He did have my brother pegged. “Maybe it did go more like that.”
He smirks, and God help me. I have to look away.
I try to tuck my emotion aside by sipping on my latté. It tastes more like water, but the coffee lover in me is distracted by the trouble that’s watching me.
His eyes seem to darken as they follow the liquid into my mouth and then down my throat.
His breath seemingly goes shallow as if he’s picturing my mouth on something else.
My imagination must be in overdrive. I shake it off and point to my cup. “Not bad.”
He takes a sip of his and practically spits it out. “Not bad! It tastes like shit.”
I can feel my lips turning upward again. I swear I haven’t smiled in so long that I snap and just let the laughter roll through me—my body quaking, my hair bouncing like a lion’s mane.
Nate stares flabbergasted, and I can see his body tensing.
Once I’m finally able to speak, I manage to say, “Really, it doesn’t taste terrible. You just have your timing and ratios off, that’s all. Steam the milk a little longer, and add more beans.”
He sets his cup down and gives me a skeptical look.
“I used to work at a coffee shop when I was in college. I can show you if you like?”
Our gazes lock.
When he doesn’t respond, reality crashes down around me. I can’t let this become flirtatious.
I clear my throat. “Well, anyway, can we get back to why you’re here in the middle of the night? You can be honest with me—have you been staying here?”
A muscle twitches along Nate’s jaw, but he doesn’t answer me. Instead, he picks up his cup and turns to the sink, dumps his full latté down the drain, and then walks to the back of the house in the darkness.
My head twists so my eyes can track him.
He flicks a light switch on and twists his own head.
I know he must have caught my stare, and God knows what possessed look I might have had on my face. I quickly turn back.
“Zoey, I think we need to talk.”
“I know we do. And Nate, it’s okay. Really. I don’t mind that you’ve been staying here,” I reassure him as I turn back around.
He opens one of the many sliding glass doors and the sound of the storm gets louder. “Come over here. I want to show you something.”
Something draws me toward him.
He’s a man of authority. I can tell he’s used to getting his way, but I’m not usually one to submit to dominance. I’ve been around it enough at work—male professors are the poster children for authoritative personalities.
But still I move forward, approaching him with caution.
The sound of the waves crashing against the shore is beautiful. With the door open the smell in the air is pungent in the most delicious way, or maybe that’s Nate—clean, fresh, manly.
Without realizing it, I’m standing right in front of him. I get lost in the wind, the air, the sound—and him. I tilt my head back to look at him. I’m tall, but he’s almost a head taller than I am—he must be six-two. Something about his proximity makes my body feel possessed.
It’s nothing like I’ve felt before.
He steps out the door and onto a covered deck, scrubbing his stubbled jaw. “I told you I’m shit at this kind of stuff so I’m just going to get this over with.”
Relief takes over.
Here it comes.
Pre-order The 27 Club
B& N: http://bit.ly/1x0uC5f
RELEASE DATE: March 3, 2015
You don’t know when…
You don’t get to choose if…
When it’s time to join…you’ll know.
You might think you want to be a member—but trust me this is one club you don’t want to join. It’s not a place where people go to live out their deepest, darkest sexual desires—there are no handcuffs or blindfolds.
The 27 Club only admits those who die young and tragically. My brother was recently bestowed membership and joined many of our ancestors before him. I know I’m next. This is my destiny, and I was ready to yield.
But then I met Nate. He awakened a sensuality in me that had never been explored, never satisfied. I knew then I could no longer accept my destiny. Nate’s presence controls me. I’m overwhelmed by his touch, his words; my every thought is consumed by desire. I believe he was brought into my life for a reason.
Nate doesn’t believe in destiny.
But I do.
And if there’s a way to cheat it—I must.
View a book trailer here: https://vimeo.com/109601829
About the Author:
I live in Florida with my husband and four kids. I've always had a love for reading books and writing. Being an English major in college, I wanted to teach at the college level but that was not to be. I went on to receive an MBA and became a project manager until quitting to raise my family. I currently work part-time with my husband and full-time embracing one of my biggest passions—writing.