I’ve never believed in love at first sight, which is probably why I write mysteries, and not romances, for a living. Besides, I’m too focused on expanding Elementary, a mystery dinner party business I own with my brother Noah. I don’t have time for romance.
When the handsome and successful Ian Crane books our services, I can barely keep my wits about me. He’s setting fire to all my rules, and I can’t resist his flames.
I don’t recognize the woman I’m becoming, but I don’t want to go back to who I was. There’s a part of me that can’t help wondering, what if he’s too good to be true? Because if he is, my heart will be nothing more than ashes.
Special sneak peek:Ch. 2: Ella is co-owner of Elementary, a mystery dinner theater company in Brooklyn, NY, and Ian Crane is their first high-profile client—and considered to be the one of the city's most eligible bachelors—and Ella's meeting with him to discuss his upcoming party...right, the party...
After the brutal cold of the night, his apartment feels welcoming and cozy. He takes my coat, his fingers brushing mine. The unexpected touch sends delicious shivers down my back. I don't know what I'm doing here—he's a client, and an important one. We've been trying hard to get into neighborhoods like his. Plus, he's friendly and seems sincere—I don't want to ruin anything for Elementary.
But there's something about him—and I don't mean the fact that he's stunning to look at—that makes me want to spend more time in his space. He's different. Most of the guys I've met here have been professionals, driven and goal-oriented. And they seemed to treat their romantic lives the same way. Ian feels more…relaxed. Maybe a bit impetuous? I don't know. But there's something here I haven't felt in a long time, and I've missed it.
We make small talk about his firm while the coffee brews. He's hoping to be made a partner in the next few years, and he mentions a case he just finished. He's loosened his tie, shed his suit coat, and when we relax onto his leather couch with our respective mugs, the conversation slows as we enjoy the aroma and flavor of the drink.
"My God, you weren't kidding." I sigh after I take another sip. "This is incredible."
"I'm not sure if it's the machine or the beans she sent, but I haven't been able to stay away from the damn thing since it arrived."
"I can see why." I imbibe a bit more before setting my mug next to his on the coffee table. There are several feet between us on the couch, and even though we were probably seated closer together at the Japanese restaurant, this feels very intimate.
"You said earlier that you never gave much thought to going to law school. Where did you think you'd end up?" The gas fireplace crackles, punctuating my sentence, or perhaps mocking me as I'm trying to ignore what's going on and why I'm still in this man's apartment.
"I never gave it much thought. Honestly, I was a stupid kid." His grin is a bit embarrassed as he stretches back against the couch cushions. "Between undergrad and law school, my father forced me to take a year off. When he retired, he'd decided to travel, but not in conventional ways. He visited friends working in third world countries and helped them treat those who couldn't afford medical care. So he dragged me along with him, as a payback for him paying for law school. It forced me to grow up…in a lot of ways."
"Wow. Your dad was hardcore."
"He was." He nods, his smile shrinking a bit. "But he taught me a lot. I grew up privileged. I had everything. And even though my parents tried to make sure I was brought up right and understood the world, you don't really get it until you see it. You know what I mean?"
I nod. "I do. We were the opposite. My parents…they did okay for themselves, and they were smart. They got life insurance, so when Noah and I turned eighteen, we had college money and a little bit of a cushion to survive on. But our grandparents were poor. So we grew up knowing the price difference between frozen and canned peas and watching the coupon pages in the newspaper. But we knew we had more than others."
"Exactly. We get comfortable in our lives here—and we should. That's part of living in this country. But it's dangerous when we assume everyone has that opportunity."
The intensity of the conversation turns the silence afterwards reflective. We sit quietly for a few minutes, each lost in thought.
"More coffee?" Ian nods to my cup.
"Sure." I follow him into the kitchen, noting how well his suit pants fit his ass and the way his shirt clings to his muscled shoulders. Yummy, indeed.
He's doing something with the coffee machine, and I lean back against the counter, trying not to stare at him. When he turns, he's just a bit too close, and then his mouth is on mine, soft yet demanding, and his hands slide up to my shoulders. It's a quick kiss, almost chaste, but the heat sears my lips.
"I really hope you wanted me to do that." He drops his hands to his sides, his tone pensive.
I bite my lip, still feeling his mouth. "I didn't stop you." My insides are turning to jelly, but all I want is to feel him against me again. So I do something I never do.
I make the next move. He's taller than me by several inches, so I draw his face down to mine, lips teasing over his as I ease us into the next kiss. His mouth is hungry, but his touch soft as his hands slide over my back, pulling me against him. I lean in, enjoying the sculpted length of him against my body and the light scent of his aftershave. When my tongue teases the edge of his mouth, he answers in kind, deepening the kiss, his arms tightening around me.
"Wow," I say when we come up for air. "That was…"
"Unexpected?" His eyes crinkle at the corners, his expression hopeful.
We forget about the coffee, getting lost in the excitement of skin and heat. When his hand slides beneath my sweater, moisture pools between my legs. I haven't felt this turned on in a long time, and for once, my usual caution seems to have evaporated. He lifts me, setting me on his counter as he continues his exploration of my skin. I wrap my legs around his waist, enjoying the feel of his hardness against me. His fingers release my bra, and when his palm skims my breast, I suck in a breath, letting his mouth drop to my neck as I revel in the sensation.
"I want to undress you," he whispers in my ear, sending a delicious chill down to my core. "It would be a lot easier in my bedroom."
~Note from the author~Thank you so much for checking out my book, Crossing the Line! This is book 2 in the Without a Trace series, and tells the tale of Ella and Ian—it is a prequel to Inside the Lines. If you read and Lux and Fin's story, you'll recall these characters—you know the ending...but can you guess their beginning?
Keep an eye out as books 3 & 4 in the Without a Series will be out this year!
~About Ally Bishop~
When you do something effortlessly and people commend you continuously, you have found your gift.
That’s what I tell people all the time. And it’s true.
I get story. I always have. I started writing when I was 8 on a Smith Corona (the electronic kind — I’m not THAT old). I wrote stories in every spiral notebook I had. Eventually, I graduated to a Mac (yes, I’m one of THOSE people). I imagined new worlds, emotional conflicts, and HEAs while I waited at stoplights or wandered the grocery store. But here’s the thing: I didn’t just dream it up and write it down — I critiqued what I read. I knew when ideas were good, and when they stunk. I ran writing groups, judged creative contests, and eventually got two graduate degrees in writing. That’s right: I love it that much.
So here I am, years later, writing kickass heroines and devastating good guys, along with some mystery and vampires thrown in (I promise: THEY’RE COMING). And what’s really cool? I do what I love. Wanna write a success story for your life: I promise you, that’s it. Do what you love. And hopefully, you can make a living at it too. That’s the golden ticket, Charlie.
And chocolate doesn’t hurt, either…
The serious stuff:
I have an M.A. in creative writing, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing with a focus in publishing. I produce two podcasts, host one, and am a freelance editor and publicist over at Upgrade Your Story. In my free time (what is that, exactly?), I read, workout, game, and converse. I’m a high introvert despite my extroverted behaviors, so you’ll find me behind my computer most days. I’m married to the wild and brilliant Billy Crash, have two dogs who are filing to change their species designation to “human,” and can often be found wandering Manhattan in search of the perfect writing spot.
You can find me at Twitter at @upgradestory & @allyabishop, Facebook, Pinterest, and my website.