Welcome to this week’s Romance Writer’s Weekly Blog Hop. If you’ve arrived from Kristi Rose’s blog, hi, and thanks for clicking, and don’t forget to check out her book The Girl He Knows – currently on sale for 99c.
Your hero & heroine are playing an “old-school” board game (one with an actual board or pieces old or new – just not a video game). The winner gets a special prize. 1000 words or less.
“Okay, so we have Clue, Monopoly, and I think there’s a really old chessboard somewhere back here. Any of those appeal?”
It takes a moment to realise he’s asked a question. I’m too busy staring at the sliver of skin between his belt and the hem of his shirt, revealed when he bent over to sort through the games closet.
“Kirsty?” he prompts again.
Jesus, when did he grow up? The last time I saw Nate Matthews he was still losing his battle with puberty, his voice spanning two octaves with a vocal range an opera singer would be proud of. That was ten years ago. The man kneeling in front of me bears only the faintest resemblance to that long-ago teen.
“I can’t play chess.” My reply is as dumb as the rest of me. I’m too transfixed by his long, thick eyelashes to think of anything else. Calm yourself, woman. He’s your best friend’s little brother. Completely verboten.
Therefore all the more alluring.
“I could teach you.” He sits back on his haunches, flashing me a dazzling smile. “It’s not as if we have anything else to do.”
He isn’t wrong. The rain battering against the windows of his parent’s holiday cottage is a reminder of why we are here alone. His sister, Cara, plus her boyfriend Dean and our other friend Marie should be on the last ferry tonight. But with the weather being as it is, there’s no way the ferryman will chance the crossing. So it’s me and Nate, plus a closet full of board games.
And a whole host of my raging hormones.
“How’s college?” I ask him. Cara keeps me up to date with her family’s news, and I know Nate’s studying Physics at MIT. I graduated last year, being two years older than the kneeling Adonis, and am currently interning at an advertising firm in New York. That’s why I jumped at the chance of a week’s cheap vacation at the Matthews’ lake house in Michigan. Nate and I flew in this morning, hiring a car to cover the 200 miles to the lake, while the others were driving up after work.
Of course they’ll be sleeping on the other side of the lake tonight, while Nate and I weather the storm here. Alone. Just the two of us.
He sets up the chess board with nimble fingers. How many times has he done this? He lays each piece in sequence as if it’s his second nature. There’s something unbearably sexy about his nerdiness.
“Is it hot in here?” I ask. “This storm hasn’t gotten rid of the humidity.”
He looks amused. “I was just thinking how cool it was getting. Do you want me to find a fan? I’m pretty sure Mom keeps one here somewhere…” Nate looks around, his brows dropping into a frown. He rolls his bottom lip between his teeth, and it sparks a memory. Twelve year old Nate trying to explain why the Theory of Relativity was really cool, while Cara and I laughed uproariously at him.
I’m not laughing now.
“I’m okay. Maybe I’m having a hot flush,” I tell him. “Premature menopause or something.”
Nate starts to laugh. “I know you’re older than me, but I don’t think you’re quite middle aged yet. You’re way too young and pretty for that.”
Is it stupid that I want to jump up in the air and scream when he calls me pretty?
“You go first.” He gestures at the board. I reach out for a black pawn. “No, white always goes first in chess.” There go those long eyelashes again. “And you can move two spaces forward if you want.”
I lift up the white pawn and place it two squares ahead. “Like that?” I smile when I ask.
He grins back. “Perfect.”
Nate plays his next move and then I take my turn, both of us flirting to the soundtrack of the storm. When I lift up my knight and slide it diagonally across the board, Nate wraps his hand around mine to show me the right way to move it.
“He moves like that?” I raise my eyebrows. “What kind of game is this anyway? I knew we should have played Monopoly.”
“I’d have kicked your ass at that too.”
“I don’t doubt it,” I say. “But at least I’d have known what I’m doing.”
His hand is still holding mine. “Don’t you like me telling you what to do?”
I’m about to reply when a crash of thunder echoes across the lake and the lights flicker three times before going out altogether. The sudden blackness makes my chest tighten with panic and I reach out, my hand opening and closing until I grab hold of Nate’s top. My fingers close around it in a vice grip.
“Nate? I hate the dark.” Fear strangles my words.
A moment later his arms circle my waist. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m here. It’s just a power cut.”
There’s something warm and reassuring about his embrace, but my heart is still racing. “Do you have a generator or some candles?”
“There’s a whole bundle of them in the kitchen, but I’m gonna have to leave you to get them.” He’s so close I can feel his breath on my ear. “Will you be okay?”
“No! Take me with you.” I stand up, my sudden movement knocking the chessboard. I can hear the pieces scatter across the wooden floor. “Oh shit.”
“Let’s call it a draw.” Amusement is laced through his words. “Or we can have a rematch tomorrow.”
He guides me into the kitchen, one hand circling my waist, the other holding my hand. He’s warm, he’s strong, he makes me feel safe. He may be Cara’s little brother but he’s all man, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than lose to chess to him every night this week.