Friday, January 27, 2012

Excerpt Post: Strings Attached by Anne Holly

As promised, taking up where the snippet left off in my featured book interview...

When Canadian rancher Josie Sergeant gets a call from her brother announcing his impetuous decision to marry, she has her reservations. But, when her brother’s would-be brother-in-law swoops in from Australia to stop the wedding, Josie has no choice but to defend the family.

Theo Sabich is bull-headed and dangerously sexy, but also damaged beyond repair… or so he thinks. He enjoys getting on Josie’s nerves, but when he finds her getting under his skin he must decide - face his demons and grab this last chance for happiness or bury himself in his lonely Outback ranch once and for all.

Under the northern lights, their attraction ignites beyond their control, and Josie finds that a one-time “no strings attached” release of passion is easier said than done when love is hanging by a thread.

But how will they bridge the difference between two worlds, let alone conquer the wounds of the past and find the courage to live again?

An excerpt of Strings Attached.

Josie looked at the tall Australian. He was obviously displeased there was no smoking in the restaurant, judging by the way he occasionally fidgeted with his lighter. But then again, she conceded, if she’d ever taken up the habit she wouldn’t choose tonight to quit, either.

The tension was palpable, though she couldn’t really find impoliteness in his manner. Rather, deep unhappiness emanated from him in an elemental and animalistic way. Whether it was over the present situation or otherwise, she couldn’t tell. She wished desperately that she wasn’t seated between the large man and her brother in the crescent-shaped privacy booth, but there’d been no way to back out without being obvious about it, and she was determined that Theodore Sabich find no fault with their family.

Josie had felt shivers when their eyes had met that first time, and she was shocked to realize that he was, quite possibly, the most attractive man she’d ever seen. Before he’d found out that she was his future sister-in-law, she’d glimpsed a small spark of interest in his intriguing emerald green eyes. However, once he’d found out who she was, a titanium force field had slammed shut over his features, closing off any further communication. Josie felt an inexplicable sense of loss at the barrier and was angered at the realization that he’d already decided to hate Richard, along with anything or anyone connected with him.

“So, Josie,” Julie’s charming outback tones cut through her thoughts, “you still run the family ranch, is that right?”

“Yes, indeed,” Josie confirmed proudly, with a cheeky smile.

“Six hundred and forty of the best acres in northern Manitoba, producing some of the finest sheep north of the Dakotas.” Josie, despite any modesty she felt about herself, was never slow to praise the land she owned or the high quality stock that sprang from it. She achieved great pride from the place, and always enjoyed the interest it inspired in others. She looked to Theo, but saw shocked amusement rather than admiration in his face.

“What? A woman?” Theo smiled crookedly. “Girl, more like! You can’t be any older than this little mite here,” he scoffed, jabbing a thumb to his right, indicating his twenty-four-year-old sister.

Josie felt her hackles rise immediately, and heard Richard’s expulsion of breath. This hadn't been the first time Richard had witnessed someone make the mistake of questioning Josie’s abilities based on her gender, age or looks, and, undoubtedly he pictured his fiancĂ©e’s brother’s body laying dismembered on the perfectly groomed forest green rugs. He shot an apologetic look at Julie, as if to tell her that he could do nothing to save her beloved brother, but she was looking at Theo with a horrified look on her face.

Josie, who felt the flush spread up over her fair cheekbones and turn her face an outraged rose, tried to remember that it was important that she be nice to Theo. Despite this, her desire to stab the big gorilla with her salad fork overrode her inner critic, and she found a mature middle road: name-calling.

“Well,” Josie shot back in measured tones, “I’m glad to know that the image of the Australian male as conceited, cocky, and chauvinistic is no mere stereotype, but is really based on you.”

Theo and Josie stared each other down. Josie’s eyes shot ice daggers, but Theo’s face revealed his barely restrained amusement.

Finally, the dam broke, and Theo almost fell out of his chair laughing.

“Put your claws back in, kitten,” Theo quipped, voice dripping with condescension, “you got me.”

“Listen, jerk,” Josie growled and threw her napkin onto the tabletop, glancing around at the neighboring tables and keeping her voice low. “I am perfectly able to run circles around you or any man in the ranching business, and I am definitely not your ‘kitten’. You may not think that a dozen women have a brain between them, but I can assure you that women like your sister and I are more than capable of doing just about anything we set our minds to.”

All good-humor fled from Theo’s face, this being the second time some snippy girl barely out of her teens had hinted that he was butting into his sister’s life uninvited.

Watching his handsome features tighten into a mask of extremely male annoyance, Josie would have been fascinated had she not been so intimidated. His presence seemed to swell next to her as resentment heated the air between them.

“You listen to me,” Theo shot back. “Why don’t you calm down and try to act as grown up as you think you are?” He ignored her annoyed snort and reasoned with her. “My ranch takes me, my two brothers, and our father to run it, and we still have to hire out in some seasons. You have to realize it’s unusual that a ranch be run by a young woman alone.”

Said like that, in even tones and with rationality, Josie’s ire deflated against her will. The damned Aussie caveman was trying to diffuse her, and she didn’t enjoy being ‘handled’ by him. She sat back and paused a moment.

“Sheep,” she attempted to inject brightness into her tone. “They’re easier to deal with, and they keep your hands soft.”

“Hands soft?” Julie went along with the attempt at normalizing the conversation.

“The lanolin in the wool,” Josie explained lamely.

Silence fell for a time. Forks clanked and each person struggled to think of something to more to say. Except for Theo. He still simmered, and appeared to have no desire to save the others from their discomfort. He downed the dregs of his third beer, instead, and stared at his steak as if someone had written the meaning of life on it.

Available now on Kindle, Nook, epub, etc.

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