I’m thrilled to share an exclusive excerpt from Tough Enough by M. Leighton, out Nov. 3rd!
I’m currently reading an early copy right now and LOVING it!
She gets all fidgety and nervous and adorable under my scrutiny, so I release her. Albeit reluctantly.
“So, a minivan,” she says, dropping her eyes and clearing her throat. I love that I put her off balance. I doubt much gets under this girl’s skin and I’m happy as hell that I appear to be making my way in, slowly but surely.
“A minivan,” I confirm, raising the wine bottle and glass questioningly.
“Oh, sorry. Kitchen’s through there.” Katie points to the most obvious doorway and I head in that direction. She follows after a few seconds. When I stop at the small island, she breezes past me, setting down the glass that I brought her and keeping her face averted. Makes me think she might be blushing again. After she rummages through a drawer for another minute, she turns her composed self back to me, a corkscrew in one hand. “There has to be a story behind it.”
“Behind what?” I ask, content to just watch her rather than talk. Or think.
Her grin is more pronounced this time. “Behind the minivan.”
“Oh, right. The minivan. I have a brother who came with me. He’s handicapped. I dropped him off at the gym on the way to the park.”
Her expression softens. Visibly. “Y-you have a handicapped brother?”
“And you . . . you take him places with you? You take care of him?”
I shrug. “Well, I don’t know about that. I mean, he’s grown, so . . .”
“Does he live with you?”
“For the most part.”
“That’s . . . that’s . . .” Katie is looking at me like she’s just now seeing me. Really seeing me. After several seconds, she glances down at the counter, at the glasses she’s arranging in a straight line with the bottle of red. “That’s very kind of you. I’m sure he appreciates it.”
“I’m sure he does, but like most guys, he’s got a piss-poor way of showing it.”
“Just like a damn man,” she says softly, glancing up at me from beneath her lashes, the hint of a playful smile still curving her lips.
“Bastards,” I reply.
Her eyes sparkle up at me and it takes every ounce of willpower I have not to haul her into my arms and kiss her senseless. Which might take a while. She’s got plenty of sense about her. Too much, maybe.
After a minute, when the temperature in the little kitchen is rising noticeably, Katie clears her throat again, pulling that swath of rich auburn hair over her shoulder like I’ve seen her do before. “So what is it that you drive when you’re not carting your brother around?”
“Maybe if you’re nice to me I’ll show you one day.”
She grunts indignantly, her lips parting yet still curved. “I’m always nice to you.”
“But you could be nicer,” I tell her with a half-grin.
She raises one dark brow, the sexiest damn thing I think I’ve ever seen on a woman. Besides her licking the corner of her mouth when she’s concentrating or nervous, that is. “And just how . . . nice are you expecting me to be?”
“Not that nice,” I answer. “Unless you just want to be that nice. I would never argue if you wanted to be extra, extra, extra nice to me.”
I give her my widest, most innocent smile. She laughs outright, an action that fills the kitchen with a delicate tinkle and turns her face from beautiful to breathtaking. A display like this from her is pretty rare, so pulling it out of her makes me feel like I’ve won the lottery.
“Do that again,” I request quietly, so drawn to her that I can’t stop myself from moving closer, from reaching out, from touching.
“Do what again?” she asks. When I cup her silky cheek in my palm, she straightens, but she doesn’t back away. A good sign.
“I can’t laugh on command,” she explains, her eyes flickering up to mine and away, up to mine and away.
“I swear to God, I think I’d do just about anything to hear that again, to see your face light up like that.”
My thumb blindly stroking the crest of her high cheekbone, I catch and hold her eyes this time. They’re like melted sapphires, a fathomless liquid that I could easily let myself drown in.
Katie’s lips open and close a couple of times, like she’s trying to find words where there are none. But the time for talk is over. I feel like I’ve waited patiently for an eternity to taste, and now it’s time for my reward.
Slowly, I bend my face toward hers, hoping she won’t move away, praying that she won’t stop me. “You’ve been on my mind since the first day I saw you, Beautiful Katie. It’s time you give me the answer to a question that’s been haunting me for weeks.”
I can feel the sweet, shallow puffs of her breath fanning my lips as I get closer. “W-what’s that?”
“Do your lips taste like cotton candy?”
“How would I know?” she asks a bit dazedly.
“Give me five minutes and I’ll tell you.”
I bring my other hand up to hold her face still as I brush my mouth over hers. When she doesn’t move away, doesn’t push me away, I sink into her lips like I might sink into a bed made of marshmallows. Sweet, plump, light-as-air marshmallows. And, God help me, Katie sinks right back.