SEALing Fate Excerpt

The scent of the flowers climbing the trellis behind her back wafted in the warm air, and occasionally a light breeze cooled and caressed Kat's hot skin. There was nothing like a summer night in St. Louis. Oh sure, there were times the humidity could make her feel like she was breathing soup, but tonight was actually quite pleasant. It was mid-September and an oppressive heat wave had sent temperatures skyrocketing above one hundred degrees for the last two weeks. When she woke up this morning, the air coming through her open bedroom window felt clean and fresh, not stale and stagnant as it had been. The change was being celebrated all over the city.

She listened to the music blaring from the speakers on the dance floor, a slow hypnotic rhythm calling to the soul. Her eyes were having trouble tracking people in the colored, strobe lights winking on and off, the effect causing people to catch only glimpses of their dance partners and making the atmosphere seductive and anonymous. The dancers tangling on the patio made Kat wonder how it would feel to move so freely, so seductively. Fantasies of a man holding her close and moving to the hypnotic music flitted through her mind. Too bad said man did not exist.

Looking to her right, she spied her best friend Amy with her fiancé and smiled. Seeing their happiness warmed a place in her heart, but it could not fulfill the longing to feel that closeness with another person. Kat didn't see that happening for her very soon, if at all. Allowing someone that close left a person defenseless. Kat had known vulnerability and complacency from a very young age and refused to allow those weaknesses to control her again. She deemed the occasional twinge of loneliness an acceptable aftereffect for securing herself from susceptibility.

Kat saw a couple on the dance floor so wrapped up in each other that she felt as if they had created their own little world. They were an attractive couple. The solidly-built man stood tall behind his dance partner, whose height complemented his. She leaned into the man's chest, with her head resting on his shoulder as he circled her stomach with his arms and leaned down to kiss the nape of her neck and shoulder where perspiration glistened. Although they were barely moving, the dance—a gentle sway back and forth and a grind of the hips—made it easy to envision them standing just like that and slowly making love.

Kat became lost in the fantasy for several minutes until a man's deep, husky voice whispered into her ear "Enjoying the show?"

She turned to examine the owner of the sexy voice. In the darkness all that was visible was a strong face and sensual lips. She coyly smiled at him. "I always enjoy a good performance." A playful smile shaped his lips. Kat couldn't help but stare.

I wonder what they feel like. Are they soft, and does the touch linger or do they command surrender? Do they bring pleasure or spew venomous pain?

Returning her attention to the conversation, she heard him say, "Ahh, so you're a voyeur?"

Kat considered her response before answering. She didn't want to encourage some deranged stalker by answering with a suggestive remark.

"Isn't everyone to a certain extent? How else do you explain the obsession with physical appearance or rubbernecking motorists trying to catch a glimpse of fatalities on the freeway?"

"I never thought about voyeurism in those contexts, but it certainly makes sense. It is the human response to innate curiosity. I'm Jace Hudson." He offered his hand to shake, and when she hesitantly answered, his hand enclosed hers in a warm, strong grip.

"Kat Martin." She felt rough calluses as their hands separated, giving clue to his rugged nature. Whatever this man did, it was not behind a pampered desk. That realization only enhanced Kat's interest.

* * * *
Jace looked at the woman standing in front of him. Her back was up against one of the poles holding up the tent. Almost as if she wanted to blend in with the background whereas most of the clubs patrons were out on the dance floor going wild under the bright lights. With the darkness, he could barely identify any distinguishing features, but he felt drawn to her in a way he could not explain. Jace watched as the lights from the dance floor flashed across her face and caught the aloofness in her eyes. The detached demeanor was one he knew well; one he often saw in himself.

The nature of his work required a degree of separation from others. One could not serve in his capacity and maintain close romantic relationships. He wondered what had caused the isolation in this beautiful woman's eyes as she sat watching the exhibitionist couple. She managed to portray a heady combination of both loneliness and arousal.

The dim lighting made it difficult to tell the exact shade of her long, dark hair, which could have been anywhere from rich sable brown to inky black silk. Soft curves on her petite frame made him want to wrap his hands around them. Jace had caught her scent as he walked up behind her—an enticing blend of vanilla and peaches, with a darker hint of womanly musk that instantly made his blood heat. Her voice hit him like warm Kentucky bourbon, soft and seductive.

Her face wasn't what would be called classically beautiful, but very intriguing with deep-set eyes, a small nose with a little turn at the tip, and full lips designed to be kissed. When she'd turned around to look at him, a flash of the lights left him momentarily stunned by a glimpse of the most incredible green eyes he'd ever seen. They were somewhere between emerald and sea green, with brown flecks at the center, just like a cat.

That thought presented out loud. "Is it because of your green eyes?"

Kat chuckled. "No, actually my name is Kathleen, but nobody except my mother called me that."

Noticing that her reference to her mother was past tense, he wondered if that had something to do with her expression earlier. He watched as she closed her eyes. Small adjustments of her body in time to the music gave away the fact that she wasn't as unaffected by the atmosphere as his initial impression. Jace felt an overwhelming desire to see how she would feel moving in his arms.

"Kat, would you like to dance?"

Gasping, she responded with, "Oh, gosh, no… I… don't dance."

Jace gave a puzzled look, considering their location and her apparently unconscious movements just moments ago. "You don't like to dance?"

"Oh, I love to dance, but only in my socks in the kitchen late at night."

He smiled. "Why is that?"

Kat looked straight into his smoky-grey eyes. "Let's just say I don't like being judged based upon my lack of dancing skills."

"And who do you think would be judging you?"

Kat looked at him like he was a simpleton. "Everyone."

"So, why come to a dance club?"

"Well, I let my friends think they were dragging me out, but actually I love to come and listen to the music. I love letting the beat move through my body. There's something about feeling the rhythms as they blast through the air that can never be matched with any personal listening device. It's very stimulating."

Jace wasn't sure if she had meant that to sound seductive, but it definitely gave him stimulating images. "Okay, I have a solution for you. Come dance with me in the corner over there. We can feel the music together, but nobody will be able to see you."

"Okay."

Jace took Kat's hand and led her deeper under the tented patio. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her give a little wave to some girl with a huge smile on her face and two thumbs sticking up as a sign of approval. Probably the friend who dragged Kat to the club.

Kat moved into his arms as a deeply rhythmic song began to make the air pulse. Heat radiated from her, and he didn't think it was all due to the warm summer temperatures trapped under the tent. Her soft chest pressed against his hard one. Jace instantly recognized the potency of her body.

She wore a short leather skirt, silk V-neck sleeveless top, and the kind of heels that make a man think about a woman wearing nothing but the shoes. Her head came just above his shoulders. Putting his arms around her waist, he pulled her close. Kat's hands held onto his hips, and he felt her grip tighten when he pressed one of his legs between hers.

The slow heavy beat, hypnotic melodies, and trance-like vocals worked perfectly for keeping her close to his body—his primary objective.

"Okay, Kat, close your eyes, feel the music, and just dance like you would at home in the dark."

Kat began to move to the music and Jace had to stifle a groan.

Oh, man, the way she's moving her body should be illegal.

Her movement was sensual, rather than blatantly sexual like the couple Kat had been watching before, but Jace's blood grew hotter by the second. He turned her around so her back was to him. Unable to resist touching her just a little, he slowly slid his hand just under the hem of her top to feel her warm, soft skin. Not wanting her to get anxious, he turned her around again and rotated their bodies so his back was to the room.

* * * *
Jace turned out to be a perfect dance partner. For some reason, he didn't make Kat feel pressured to perform at all. Able to close her eyes and just let the music guide her body, she slipped into that elusive fantasy she dreamed of earlier. His hand on her stomach burned and instantly stoked the fire in her blood from warm to a raging inferno she knew wasn't due solely to the summer night.

When he rotated their bodies again, she looked over his shoulder and could not believe her eyes.

He must have felt her tense because when Kat looked back at him, he asked, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I just saw some people I know."

Jace pulled her even closer. "Do you want to stop dancing?"

Kat thought about it for a brief moment and realized that was the last thing she wanted at the moment. The feel of his arms surrounding her brought all kinds of fantasies to mind. His touch was strong, but not forceful. Kat could sense a latent dominancy in him, but he let her control the situation.

Not wanting him to get the wrong idea about her silence, Kat said, "No, I'll just ignore them."

"Are they friends?"

"Hardly. In fact, for many years, they were my staunchest adversaries."

He looked down at her, frowning. "Why were they your enemies?"

Kat saw what she thought might be concern and a hint of protectiveness in his expression. She considered blowing off the sticky emotions and downplaying the situation, but felt that would be dishonest and cowardly. She took a deep breath. "I wasn't exactly popular in school, and, to put it bluntly, they made my life a living hell for twelve years." Figuring this comment was going to call a halt to their time together, Kat expected him to look at her like she was crazy and find some lame excuse to take her back to the table.

Instead, Jace turned them in a circle and looked over her shoulder. When his body tensed, she peeked over her shoulder to see the two men standing behind them with shocked expressions.

They mouthed what looked like "What are you doing?"

Before she could figure out what was going on, Jace’s mouth was against her ear and Kat sucked in a breath.

"Want to have a little fun with them?" he whispered to her.

You know them?”

Jace’s arms tightened a little and he smiled. “Uh-huh. So?”

She thought about asking him to take her back to the table. She wasn’t sure what Jace intended to get out of this situation. How on earth did he know Collin and Peter? And if he did why would he want to screw with his friends? And again if he was friends with the two men, did she want to continue any type of association with Jace? It had been a long time since her nightmarish childhood. Maybe the waters were better left still? Instead she heard herself answer softly, "Sure, a little revenge might be fun."

What little demon inside her came up with that response? She wasn't a vengeful type of person. She avoided confrontation when at all possible. Another song came over the speakers, this one faster, edgier, and definitely sexual. Jace started to caress her body, pulling her tight into him.

Her neurons skipped a couple of pulses before she caught on to his intent and started rotating her hips. Making her movements much more overt, she moved her arms up past his hard chest to circle his neck. His dark hair, crisply trimmed, gave the impression of discipline. However, the look in his eyes at the moment gave the impression of the exact opposite. In the chaos of the thumping music, writhing bodies, and pure vitality being in Jace’s arms caused, she tilted her head back and molded herself as close as possible to his body, giving herself over to the night and the music.

Jace took her hand and whipped her into a spin, turning her so she was facing the crowd again. Kat wasn't quite ready to face the audience yet, so she closed her eyes.

I wonder what they are thinking now.

She hoped it was sheer jealously that they couldn't touch her the way Jace was—so tenderly and seductively. His touch made her feel desirable for the first time in her life. Ever so slightly, she raised her eyelids to see if they were still standing there.

Jace's hands moved up and down her torso, and then he grabbed her hips in the erotic dance. The feel of his soft lips and hot breath on the back of her neck nearly made her legs collapse. In fact, she probably would have ended up at his feet if Jace wasn't holding her so tightly.

As the song came to a grinding end, he turned them back around and dipped Kat in a slow arc, and his hand reached under her hair and caressed a trail leading from her neck to between her breasts. Kat opened her eyes, and looking right in the eyes of the men standing there, gave a slow wink.

Their eyes widened when they caught that.

Mmm, revenge IS sweet!

TRR Hint: If you've read this far then I think you deserve the answer. The name of the winery is Nautinghaus. Thanks for Playing!