(Book one)

Excerpt One - Chapter 7

Antara washed her face, brushed her hair and changed into her own clothing from the bag Murphy had picked up. Emerging from the bedroom, she found the Irishman scooping baked beans out of a pot and heaping it onto three plates of decent looking toast. Ross was once again out on the balcony with his hands curled over the wrought iron railing and staring off into the distance. Not ready to deal with his particular brand of jackass, she padded barefoot over to the kitchen area and parked her butt on a stool at the long granite counter. Murphy pushed a plate toward her and then held out a knife and fork.


“You’ll feel better if you eat,” he advised.


Antara levelled a sceptical look at him after eying the orangey-brown mush on the toast. He tilted a lopsided grin in return and shrugged. “I’m no Gordon Ramsey, but it’ll fill a hole.”


She could point out the various ways a simple meal like beans on toast could be juiced up to restaurant quality, but, right now, she was starving and more than willing to chance whatever crap was put in front of her.


Foregoing the use of eating utensils, Murphy lifted the whole slice of toast from his plate and took a bite. After chewing for a while, he swallowed. “You know he’s trying to protect you, right?”


Antara glanced up from cutting a neat corner off of her toast and arched a brow. “Why? He doesn’t even know me. And if I need protecting from anything, it’s from him.”


Murphy’s attention skated over her head to the raven-haired male on the balcony.


“He can’t help it. It's uh,” he paused and, catching a sauced bean about to fall from his toast, licked his finger, “it's in his DNA.”


She frowned and ate the bite she’d cut off. “What is? Being an arsehole and scaring the shit out of a perfect stranger?”


Murphy muffled a gruff sound of amusement with another mouthful. “You’d think after all this time he’d be better with the charm stuff, eh? I’ve seen him smooth talk his way past kings, politicians and into the beds of queens. But you…” Murphy waved his toast at her, and a couple of beans slid off and landed on hers. “You came out of nowhere. You were the one kink in his plan he couldn’t anticipate,” he added and squared her with an unsettling stare.


Antara dropped her gaze and with the tip of her knife scraped the fallen offerings to the edge of her plate. Gross.


“If I’m cramping his style so damn much, then why won’t he let me go?”


“Because first, I need to know what you are,” came Ross’ voice followed by the sound of the glass door sliding closed behind him.


She hated the way the sound of him warmed her in places she didn’t want to think about right now.


“What I am,” she said, pushing her plate of half-eaten food away and swivelling around to give him the stink-eye, “is fairly sure you were raised by hyenas and have little to no social skills.”


Behind her, Murphy made a choking sound and coughed into a fist.


“What I am.” Antara slid off the stool and stalked over to where Ross was standing with his arms folded over his bared chest, fixing her with a narrowed look. “Is so over your fronting and thinking you’re all that, with your expensive car and your la-di-da apartment when your tattoo isn’t even real. Not to mention those creepy, glow-in-the-dark contact lenses of yours.”


An explosive splutter came from behind her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Murphy snort his coffee all over the granite counter.


Stopping a foot away from Ross, Antara gave him the thorough once over. “Sure. You’re a stud. Let's give you a round of applause for going to the gym and reading Men’s Health. Maybe if you tried to be nicer, you wouldn’t need cheap tricks to get a girl into your bed.”


Ross stood there, an implacable expression in place, eyes boring into her. If he expected her to fall to her knees and beg for his mercy, he had another thing coming.


In an even, quiet voice, he said only three words. “Murph. Catch her.”