Tag Archives: take me i’m yours

Interview/Giveaway: Michelle Miles, author of Phoenix Fire

Please welcome back Michelle Miles, author of a new paranormal romance with historical elements: Phoenix Fire!

A fantasy romance with a gladiatrix heroine–so much fun! Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

I dreamed this book. Not from start to finish but I had this amazing, incredible dream about a gladiatrix who had to fight her lover to the death in the arena. I distinctly remember this day, too, when I woke up and could not stop thinking about the story. I thought about the whole time I got ready for work and drove to work. I had the main plot worked out and ended up writing a synopsis. Granted, I didn’t follow it much when I wrote the book, but it gave me an outline as to where I wanted the book to go. Elena and Cassius were born out of that dream. I wish all my books came to me like that. 😉

Would you mind introducing us to Elena and Cassius?


Elena is an orphan. She never knew her father and she was stripped from her mother at a young age and put into an orphanage. She grew up there, defending herself and other girls from boys and men. She’s always been a fighter, very feisty and not overly beautiful. She’s scarred, emotionally and physically. When the Emperor plucks her from the orphanage, originally she’s to be a house maid, but she gets herself into a lot of trouble there, and the Emperor puts her in the Games. She’s his favorite and he rigs the Games to keep her alive in the hopes that he can seduce her into his bed one day.

Cassius is a former general of the Legion. He’s lost everything dear to him–his family, his honor. He will do anything to keep from going back into the Legion and working for the vile Emperor–so he becomes a hired assassin. When a Senator bent on getting rid of the current ruler hires him, it alters his life in a way he never expected. Initially he refuses, but the Senator uses his power to take away the one thing Cassius values most–his freedom. He is tossed in the Games and finally agrees to assassin the Emperor. In the Games, he meets Elena and sees someone desperate for freedom like him. He offers her an alliance–she helps him kill the Emperor and he’ll guarantee her freedom.

How closely is Hixyl based on ancient Rome?

It’s as close as I could get it without making it Rome. 😉 I added mythical creatures—centaurs, nymphs, etc for that fantasy flare. I knew I needed an arena for the gladiators, but I also added a coliseum for the chariot races (yes, there are chariot races).

What kind of research did you do for this story?

I read a lot about the Romans, including their customs, clothing, food, entertainment. I also read a lot about gladiators, where they lived, what they ate, etc. Of course, not everything made it into the book. I needed to know what my city looked like, so I drew a map on graph paper and outlined everything in the book. I referenced that a lot when I wrote the book so I could keep the location of everything straight.

Are any of the characters based on historical figures?

Not really. I read up on a lot of different Emperors who ruled in Rome, but didn’t use just one to pattern him after.

Do you have a favorite Roman?

Cassius 😉

What’s your favorite part of the story?

I love the chariot races. It was probably the most fun to write.

Phoenix Rising is a bit darker than your recent paranormal release, One Knight Only. Do you find darker stories more emotional to write? Or different in any other ways?

They’re more intense. I have to be in a certain mindset to write darker and it’s harder for me. I tend to struggle a little with the storyline.

Will there be a sequel to Phoenix Rising?

I would love to do a spin-off with Elena in her earlier years! I haven’t quite decided if I’m ready to write a sequel, though.

You have quite a range: time travel romance featuring medieval Scotland, historical-based fantasy, wicked-hot contemporaries. Do you have any tricks for switching between genres?

Hehe I write what I’m interested in at the moment. I’m a Gemini, so I tend to get distracted easily and my Twins are always at odds with each other on what to write next. So I choose whatever is pulling at me the hardest. I try to stick with one book at a time but usually I’m writing new material and editing old at the same time. I have a scheduled hour of writing and really try hard to stick to that. In the evenings, I edit or critique. It just depends on where I am in the process.

What are you working on now? What can Michelle Miles fans look forward to in 2012?

I am currently working on the sequel to ONE KNIGHT ONLY, featuring the two Fae characters, Elyne and Derron. I have completed a new erotica futuristic that needs to be polished for submission. It will be a new three-book series and is on the darker side. I also have a novella, TAKE ME I’M YOURS, previously published that I’m polishing and getting ready to self-pub, so look for that soon.
What’s your favorite…

…movie? Raiders of the Lost Ark

…dessert? Cookies and ice cream

…gemstone? Emerald

…shoe style? Stilettos!

…supernatural creature? Oh! That’s hard. Do Elves and Faeries count?

How about an excerpt?

Excerpt from Phoenix Fire

Elena lived to kill and killed to live.

Such was the way for the lowest of the low. A slave to slaves. Her pathetic excuse for a life teetered on the edge of her blade every time she swung it. This time, it made contact with the minotaur’s skull in a crushing blow. She could hear the snap of bones as she sliced through skin and fur hair.

She watched the creature fall to the sand, bleeding it red as it gasped its final breath. After years of fighting, she’d gotten used to the sight. It no longer made her stomach queasy like it once did. Nor were her nerves shredded on the edge of shattered glass. This was her life. She’d long ago accepted it and stopped fantasizing about freedom.

Her victory was short lived as another attacker engaged her. This one was barely a Youngling, a female centaur. Much too young and frail to fight in the arena. But then again, the Emperor was known for being twisted. Pitting the Youngling against Elena, Phoenix of the Grand Arena and Hixyl’s best gladiatrix, was a sure death warrant.


The screench of metal against metal as swords crossed. The cloying stench of blood in the air. The roar of the crowd. All familiar. All part of her daily existence.

Clink. Clink. Clang!

Her sword clashed hard against that of the girl, who seemed to have surprising force. The steel reverberated up Elena’s arm, jarred her bones, shuddered her soul. She clenched her jaw, her back teeth throbbing. Shrugging off the pain, she dogged the scrawny centaur as it reared up on hind legs and tried to kick with front hooves. She carried a round shield like Elena’s, a short sword her weapon of choice.

Behind her, another battle raged. Men pitted against men. Centaur against centaur. Elena tried to concentrate on her own skirmish instead of the scuffles around her. Thankfully the slit in her steel faceplate blocked her peripheral vision, forcing her to focus all her attention on her own fight.

Sweat plastered her long brown hair against her skull under her helm and dampened her brow. She could feel it, too, rolling down her spine. Her armor wasn’t much more protective than the girl’s, though she was lucky she was allowed to wear leather greaves, bracers, and a leather and steel tunic with shoulder plates. Perhaps that gave her an unfair advantage, but then that was how the Emperor worked.

Elena gripped the round shield in her other sweaty hand. Her fingers cramped from holding it so tight. But she dare not release it, for she knew her fate if she did, even though she was fairly certain the girl wouldn’t know how to kill her if she tried.

Her attacker lacked skills, but made up for it with agility. She charged, thrusting her sword towards Elena with an ear-splitting war cry.

Her opponent stabbed the short sword toward her again. As Elena raised her shield, the sword bounced off it with a thump, back towards the skinny yet muscular Youngling. The impact caused her to lose her footing. Her back legs crumpled, her arms flailed, and she exposed her ribs and chest.

Elena lunged, plunging her sword between ribs, right into the heart. The crowd cheered as the Youngling fell back and Elena reclaimed her sword, now dripping with blood.

The female centaur’s death had been a silent one, but her face had said it all.

It was the faces Elena remembered. Always the eyes widening with surprise. The brow creasing from several lines to none before the light diminished. The tense muscles releasing as life ebbed.

After participating in the Games for years, Elena could no longer smell the familiar reek of blood and death and rot. She could no longer hear the death noises of men and beasts slaughtering each other. The screams of defiance. The splish of blood against sword. Being inside the arena was like home—and hell.

“Elena, look out!”

Heart pounding, she whirled in time to block the sword. Holding it two-handed, her muscles contracted to ward off the attack. Fatigue had slowed her reaction, turning her limbs into sweat-soaked noodles. The seedy-looking fellow grinned, showing off decaying yellow stumps of teeth.

Their swords clashed and he threw all his weight behind his, pushing her backward. Energy failing, she stumbled, giving him enough opportunity for his stumpy fingers to latch onto her throat and squeeze.

Marcus—the Serpent—had given her the warning and now came to her aid. He stabbed the man in the back of the neck, severing his spine. The man dropped like a lump in the dirt to the boisterous cheers of the crowd. Her chest heaving, she gave a nod of thanks to her fellow fighter.

They were the only two left standing. Elena didn’t want to see who had been lost to death today and who had been merely wounded. Instead, she turned toward the stands, waiting as the Emperor rose from his cushion. He stood at the railing for all to see as he stuck out his arm, his hand fisted. When he gave both standing gladiators a thumbs-up, the crowd cheered louder. Some threw roses and streamers to show their appreciation and adoration to the gladiators.

Accolades for slaughter.

Leave a comment and say hi to Michelle, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of Phoenix Fire!

Phoenix Fire available as ebook at:
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/86kfs3s
All Romance eBooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-phoneixfire-677374-153.html

One Knight Only available as print and ebook at:
Ellora’s Cave, Amazon.Com, Barnes & Noble and All Romance Ebooks

Connect with Michelle:
Website: www.michellemiles.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MichelleMilesRomance
Twitter: @MichelleMiles
Email: michelle@michellemiles.net
Plotting Princesses: http://plottingprincesses.blogspot.com/


Interview and Giveaway with Michelle Miles

I’m delighted to introduce the lovely and talented  Michelle Miles, who also happens to be my critique partner.  She writes steamy contemporary and paranormal romance–the sparks really fly in a Michelle Miles story!  One of you lucky commenters will win a copy of her new release, Sex, Lies and Martinis in the e-format of your choice.

Romance Author Michelle MilesPlease tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.

I was born on a dark and stormy night… 😉 Just kidding. Born in Dallas, I was raised in the ‘burbs and finally migrated west to Fort Worth when I became an adult. In high school, my then-best friend and I used to write and illustrate our own Indiana Jones comic books. I wrote fan fiction for Star Wars, Star Trek, Bladerunner. Freshman English was completely boring to me, so I started writing short stories. One memorable one was about princess, her evil uncle the Duke, and the prince who would save her from him. I stopped writing for a long time until I finally came back to it in 2001 when I was home on maternity leave. I wrote a short story and submitted it to Writer’s Digest 2001 Writing Competition and was actually awarded Honorable Mention. It was my first writing-related anything! Finally, about four years later, I discovered Romance Writers of America and joined. I also joined a couple of chapters and met some really awesome people (present company included!). My first book was released with Samhain Publishing in 2006. TALK DIRTY TO ME is a contemporary hot romance and is still available for purchase.

What was the origin of your new release, Sex, Lies and Martinis?

To answer that, I have to go back a bit. I hope that’s okay. 🙂 TALK DIRTY TO ME started it all. I had this coffee house I featured in TDTM, then wrote a sequel, NICE GIRLS DO, then a third TAKE ME I’M YOURS. The latter features Marion and Graeme and has a cameo by Marion’s best friend, Delilah. Once I finished TAKE ME I’M YOURS, I had so much fun with Delilah, I decided she needed her own story. She’s the star of SEX LUST & MARTINIS and reconnects with her lost love, Sam.

What’s your favorite moment in Sex, Lies and Martinis?

I think my favorite is when Delilah sees Sam again for the first time in years. 🙂

Sex, Lies and Martinis is the second in a series, right?  Can you tell us a little about the previous book, Take Me I’m Yours?

It’s actually the fourth. 🙂 The first two (TALK DIRTY TO ME and NICE GIRLS DO) are with Samhain Publishing. TAKE ME I’M YOURS is the third installment in what I call “The Coffee House Chronicles”. TAKE ME I’M YOURS is the story of Graeme and Marion. He designs adult websites while she’s a personal trainer mending a very broken heart. Marion’s meddling ex-fiancé comes back to wreak havoc but Graeme is determined not to let her get away. It’s a fun story.

If you could be one of your characters – Who would you be?  And why?

LOL – Delilah! She believes in high fashion, awesome shoes, great handbags and martinis!

What works of fiction (books, movies, myths, etc.) have influenced you as a writer?

Great question! I love a good romantic comedy but I also love a great action flick. I’m a huge Star Wars/Star Trek fan. I also love Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, X-Men, Indiana Jones. (Yes, I love trilogies). They’ve had a huge impact on my writing. Also, Patricia A. McKillip has long been on my TBR list. I read her for the first time when I was in my teens and have loved her ever since. Victoria Holt is another one that I loved reading when I was younger. Two books that made me want to write: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and Road To Paradise Island. Awesome books.

What genres do you read?  Do you write in those same genres?

I’m into urban fantasy/paranormal type books but I also love historical and just about anything by Nora Roberts. My favorite series at the moment is Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. I’m waiting impatiently for the fifth book of that and looking forward to what she’ll do next.

How would you describe your approach to writing?

Haphazard mostly. 🙂 I have focus issues sometimes. I really need to write on a schedule and it’s hard to do that while working full time.

When you have writer’s block, how do you break free?

I have to make myself do it. Sometimes I get 500 words; sometimes I get 1500. And when I really am stuck, I put a placeholder and then move on. Forward progress is always best.

Where do you get your best ideas?

All over the place! Sometimes even from my dreams.

How many drafts do you go through before you consider a story to be complete?

At least three. The first draft to get the story down, the second the tweak, the third after my critique partners have read it. Okay sometimes four. 🙂

How much of your personal experiences do you use in your stories?

There’s a little bit of me in everything I write. That’s all I’m saying. 😉

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Watch movies! We’re avid movie-goers.

What was your favorite childhood book?

Oh I love this question. It was called COULD BE WORSE and I adored that book. I read it so much it fell apart. It’s the story of Grandpa and how all he ever said was, “Could be worse,” when anything happened. Then one day, he told the most outrageous story and the grandkids only response was, “Could be worse!” I love that book. I still have it and I read it to my son when he was younger.

What do you hope readers get from your books?

I hope, above all, they’re entertained and love the characters as much as I do. Books are a form of escapism and I want people to feel like they’re IN the story.

If you give aspiring writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Never give up. No matter what people tell you. And writing is NEVER a hobby – just remember that. If you’re serious about it, then don’t let anyone put it down. It maybe seem like a hobby to our family members (you know, the ones we ignore while we’re hammering away at the keyboard) but you know better.

What project are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a revision of a fantasy I’d submitted to a publisher who rejected. They agreed to let me revise and resubmit so I’m trying to get it done and out the door. I’m also working on a historical/time travel about jousting.

Will there be a third book to follow Take Me I’m Yours and Sex, Lies and Martinis?

I hadn’t considered it yet, but you never know with me. I do love my contemporaries. 🙂

What question do you wish people would ask you in interviews?

LOL. THIS one!

If you could have a harem made up of your favorite fictional characters, who would be in it?

LOL! Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Wolverine, James Bond (Sean Connery), Jack Sparrow, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler/300)

Buy Sex, Lust and MartinisSam ripped out her heart. Now Delilah wants it back!

Delilah Storm believes in sex, lust, and martinis. She knows what she wants and how to get it. Until she discovers that her favorite sex toy shop has been taken over by her ex-husband.

Sam Ford is a man who doesn’t know what he wants. So when Delilah walks back into his life, he sees it as a sign. And he’s willing to try anything to get her back.

Sparks fly, proving they’re still in lust with each other. Now the two have to put the past to rest, or risk losing each other again…this time, for good.


Saturday, one week before the wedding.

She’d been called a goddess in four-inch heels. She’d also been called a bitch in stilettos. Sometimes she’d preferred being a bitch, because trouble usually followed the goddess title. It was hard work being a goddess. It was easier being a bitch.

And Delilah Storm found this moment to be a bitch one of the easiest of all, because the man sitting across from her at brunch was definitely trouble. She’d been thinking about it for the last few weeks when Cliff—Cliff? Why did she even agree to a date with a man named Cliff?—had stood her up time and time again. And when they did finally go on a date, he took her someplace where he could get the meal for free. He had connections, he called them.

And every time they did manage a date, she ended up driving nearly an hour out of her way to get to the place. And despite his claims he had to rush home to the babysitter, being the single dad and all, she had her suspicions he was actually still married. After all, she’d never seen the inside of his house or met the kids. And she didn’t even want to think about the numerous times they’d gotten it on in his car because he claimed he was overcome with emotion.

She’d been swept up in their sheer physical attraction, their whirlwind dating, their meeting and greeting and getting to know each other. She could overlook a lot of things. She could tolerate even more, since she was a no-strings kind of gal. But when she’d sensed he was still married, and she’d overheard the conversation with his “business partner” the night before, she knew it was time to cut him loose.

She’d been so stupid. And she would never doubt her intuition again.

She knew, sitting here now at brunch with this man who claimed he was divorced, today was Cut-Loose Day. Too bad Cliff didn’t know. She had put up with it for nearly three months. What did she see in this guy? A quick meal ticket and hot sex? No, that wasn’t it. He made her feel powerful, as if she were in control. When really she wasn’t in any sort of control at all. He was. And that flat ticked her off.

What was he talking about anyway? Delilah refocused, tried to pay attention to what Cliff was saying. He was chattering about some client party he wanted her to attend with him. She should have been tipsy with glee at the very fact he was actually inviting her somewhere other than (a) his car for sex or (b) some restaurant on the other side of God’s green earth to meet for dinner. Instead, annoyance crawled under her skin.

“Listen, Cliff,” she said, cutting him off. “That sounds nice, but I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

He paused, stared at her across the table as though she’d grown another head. The only sound around them was the clink of silverware on plates, the murmur of voices from the other brunch diners.

“What?” he said.

Oh, crap. Please don’t cause a scene. It was too early for a scene, and she hadn’t had nearly enough coffee. “I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately, and it’s just that…well, I’m not ready to get serious.” There. That sounded plausible.

“It’s a damn client party, Delilah. I’m not asking you to marry me, for Christ’s sake.” He threw his fork on the table, the silverware clinking against his plate.

Did she mention he had a bit of a temper, too?

“I realize that.” This discussion was going sour quickly, and she didn’t want to get into a long, drawn-out conversation about breaking up. Or, worse, a fight. She wanted it to be over and done with. Quickly. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea if we see each other anymore. Even though we’ve only been dating a few months, I’m not ready for the next step.” She leaned back in her chair, hooking one elbow over the back, pleased with her well-practiced speech.

He gave her a blank stare. “The next step as my date to a party, you mean.”

“I don’t think it’ll work out.”

“Because you don’t want it to.” Cliff leaned back in his chair. He pinned her with a hardened gaze. “I know your type.”

She laughed. “What type is that?”

“The type that’s afraid of commitment,” he said. “You’re so scared of being with someone you deliberately fuck it up. Or head them off at the pass by breaking up first.”

“That’s not true.” Immediately on the defensive, she shoved her long, strawberry-blonde hair over a shoulder. “I don’t deliberately fuck anything up. And as far as breaking up first—”

“Sure you do.” He said it casually, cutting her off, as though conversing about the weather. “You don’t want to go with me to the client party because that makes it all too real. It would make us a couple.” He sipped his coffee, looking triumphant.

“No,” she snapped. “Not at all. Maybe I don’t like you that much.”

“If you don’t like me that much,” he said slowly, leaning forward, “then why did you scream at the top of your lungs while you were fucking my brains out last night?”

“In your car, you mean?”

Delilah pursed her lips. “Why” was the real question, wasn’t it? After last night, she’d made up her mind no amount of money or looks could make up for the way he treated her. Like the dirty mistress. They were both going through the motions, and Delilah was sure Cliff would realize that once she made the break.

She was pretty sure he was still married, and she was the mistress.

“Bullshit.” Cliff leaned back again, a smug smile on his face.

“As much as I’d love to stay here and chat about my relationship shortcomings, I have important wedding things to do.” She picked up her purse, preparing to stand.

“Oh, of course. The wedding you weren’t going to invite me to.”

“It’s better if I go alone.” And it was. If she brought Cliff, she’d have to deal with unending questions from Marion about who he was and how long they’d been seeing each other, yadda yadda.

“Go ahead, then. But someday you’ll call me begging forgiveness and asking to come back, and you know what? I’ll say no. Because, Delilah, you’re walking away from something great.” He waved his hand up and down his body, indicating the “something great” was him.

Right. Add egomaniac to the list.

“We’ll see about that, won’t we? Good-bye, Cliff.”

She walked away from the table, her heels clicking on the floor, out of the restaurant and to her car. She always made sure she drove her own car so she could have a fast getaway if she ever needed one. It was her dating Rule #1. Today, her instinct was right on.

And anyway, she really did have wedding things to do today. Since her best friend, Marion, was getting married and Delilah was the maid of honor, she had duties to perform. Like purchasing the happy couple a wedding present. She wanted to get them something different. Not your everyday, run-of-the-mill wedding gift. Nope, no blender or service for eight for Marion. Delilah was different. Delilah was getting the happy couple a vibrator.

Technically the gift was for Marion, but she knew Graeme, her fiancé, would have fun with it, too. Delilah knew exactly which one she wanted to get her—the Super Rabbit with the clitoris stimulator guaranteed to help any woman achieve the biggest orgasm of her life. Marion had never had one—a bunny, that is—and despite her protests, Delilah thought she and Graeme would have a helluva time with it.

Besides, a visit to her favorite toy shop would take the edge off breaking up with Cliff. Delilah hadn’t frequented the store in a while, since she was satisfied with her current collection. Liquid Heat wasn’t the typical adult toy store. It wasn’t the kind that creeped you out when you went inside. Or made you wish you carried a .38 special for your own personal safety in the store or in the parking lot.

The door swooshed closed behind her as she entered the store and perused their selections, looking for the Super Rabbit. A pair of pink fluffy handcuffs caught her eye, and she reached for them to check the price.

“Can I help you?”

She knew that voice. It was a voice she hadn’t heard in ten years. It couldn’t be, could it? She froze mid-reach, not wanting to turn and see him. Her heart did one of those flips in her chest, and she suddenly felt cold all over. She couldn’t exactly pretend to be invisible. Or pretend she didn’t hear him.


He sounded as surprised as she felt. The man who had a starring role in all her wet dreams. She turned to him, pasted on her best smile, and flipped her long hair over her shoulder—her signature move. Ten years after their divorce, Sam Ford had reappeared in her life.

Or rather, she’d happened to reappear back into his. Damn the luck.

He had shredded her heart, left her soul for dead. He had taken every ounce of love she ever had and sucked it dry. He had nearly destroyed her.

But Delilah had somehow managed to recover. She had never loved anyone as intensely as she had loved Sam…and she never would again.

“Sam Ford. I don’t believe my eyes.”

Delilah had met Sam—short for Samson, and yeah, she’d heard all the jokes—ten years ago in the place you met those of the opposite sex: a bar. Back then, Sam came strolling in looking all scruffy, with long, unkempt hair and jeans with holes in the knees. She would never forget what he wore: a faded St. Louis Rams T-shirt and beat-up sneakers he never bothered to tie. He had tattoos on either bicep.

They’d sized each other up immediately, latched onto each other instantly, and hours later were screwing like rabbits.

Even now, he still looked damned good, Delilah had to admit. He had cut his hair and shaved his face. He had to be pushing forty, and he certainly didn’t resemble the young man she had fallen in lust with so long ago. He looked…grown-up. And…hot. All those long-buried feelings surged forward.

Before she could take evasive action, he enveloped her in a huge hug. He smelled good. Like something clean and crisp that tickled her olfactory nerves and triggered that part of her brain that remembered how awesome things had once been. He felt good, too. His hard body pressed against hers, making her nerve endings stand at attention. They saluted him valiantly for the male-to-female contact, elated at the familiarity of him. Delilah hugged him back, resisting the urge to grab his ass. His face brushed hers before he drew away, holding her at arm’s length and grinning. His scent lingered on her short-sleeved Gucci sweater, enticing her further.

“Delilah…” He let her name roll off his tongue. That glorious tongue she remembered doing glorious things to her. “How long has it been?”

Ten years, four months, three days. But who’s counting? “Too long, I’d imagine.” She grinned. “It’s good to see you, Sam.”

She was telling the truth—it even surprised her how good it was to see him, and the last of her annoyance over Cliff evaporated. She looked Sam over appreciatively and let him see her as she did so. She covertly checked out his left hand for evidence of a gold band and found nothing. So, he hadn’t remarried either. Unless, of course, he’d become one of those guys who never wore a ring just to trip up the single gals who lusted after him.

From what she could tell, he still had that sexy body under that white collared shirt. Delilah wondered if he still had the tattoos. The memory of lying on his chest, trailing her fingers through the sprinkling of hair there, came forward with such power it nearly knocked her back a step.

But wait a minute. Since when did Sam Ford start wearing golf shirts? It was like the world momentarily tipped on its axis as she processed that. She peered at him closely and could see the faint lines of his tats on his biceps. Whew. What a relief. She’d hate to think Sam had gone and done something crazy like laser removal.

He wore a pair of faded blue jeans that hugged thick thighs and caressed hard calves. All that remained to be inspected was his backside. She could see the shoelaces peeking out from under his jeans—maybe he’d learned how to tie his shoes in ten years. He looked downright delicious.

Too bad he was dead to her.

“I never thought I’d run into you again,” he said, still grinning. He had perfect white teeth in that ruggedly handsome face. He must have endured serious sessions of teeth bleaching for those pearly whites.

Delilah found herself wanting to kiss him. She eyed the thin line of his lips, and he ran his tongue over them as if in invitation. He knew what she was thinking. Aggravation warred with desire. Vexation sparred with longing. She clenched her mouth tighter.

“I guess the world really is a small place. It’s good to see you, too, Delilah.” Finally he dropped his hands and stood back. She hadn’t realized until that moment he’d still held on to her shoulders. “So, what are you doing in my shop?”

“Your shop?” She’d been coming here for a couple of years and had no idea he was the owner.

“I bought it about three months ago.”

That explained why she didn’t know. She hadn’t been in the shop in at least six months.

“Well, congrats on the new business venture.” Delilah wondered if he would have the same enthusiasm—or lack thereof—for Liquid Heat as he did all his other jobs. Sam wasn’t exactly a go-getter. He’d floated from one job to another while they were married, never landing in one for any length of time.

“What brings you here?” he asked.

“Marion’s getting married.” She hadn’t meant to blurt it out.

“No kidding!” He looked genuinely happy. “That’s great.”

Sam had known Marion back then, too. She was dating some guy named Ralph at the time, one of her many beaus B.E.—Before Ethan, the greatest asshole known to man, had dumped her at the altar. That was B.G.—Before Graeme.

“She’s madly in love with him. Imagine that.”

“She’s not marrying that Ralph guy, is she?” Sam wrinkled his face as if he smelled something foul.

Indeed, that Ralph guy was somewhat foul. She shook her head. “She caught herself a painter.”

“How about you? Are you madly in love with anyone?”

A trick question and a trap. One Delilah was all too familiar with. She ignored it altogether and got right to the point. “I’m here to buy Marion a wedding present.” She waved away the discussion. She was here to buy toys, not rehash the past.

“Here?” He quirked one blond brow and laughed. “I see you haven’t changed much. You always did have that twisted sense of humor.”

A flash of anger swelled inside her. Oh, yes, she had changed. She had grown up, too. She had evolved from the naïve, nerdy girl of so long ago who just wanted to get laid to the smart, savvy businesswoman who had shed that geeky persona—and just wanted to get laid. She’d finished college and gotten a great job.

“A little untraditional, isn’t it?”

“Of course it is. This is me we’re talking about here. I’m looking for the Super Rabbit.”

“Oh, sure. I have those in stock.”

Sam walked through the store toward the counter, and Delilah paused long enough to watch him walk. Awesome ass—check. The one she used to plant her hands on and squeeze when he was on top of her. And he still had that strong, muscular gait, hinting that he worked out.

But there was something different about him. She couldn’t put her finger on it and found she really wanted to put her finger on it to find out.

“What made you buy the shop?” Curiosity made her ask; she had to know.

He shrugged, lifting one thick shoulder in a sexy move. God, she wanted him. The feelings of love and hate warred inside her. “I was tired of corporate America.”

Delilah burst out laughing. Who was he kidding? Sam in corporate America? Picturing Sam in an office was like picturing a hippie at a black-tie event. She couldn’t see him wearing shirts and ties and nice pants and looking businesslike.

“Hey, now, it’s not that funny.” He frowned, his brow furrowing. “I worked in an office for about eight years.”

Doing what? Delilah wondered. Sorting the mail? Filing? She knew Sam had ditched college like she had, and she also knew he didn’t really have any skills. “Sorry, but I just can’t see it.”

He leaned on the counter and gazed—or maybe leered—at her, a twinkle in his mellow blue eyes. As if he had something on her. Yeah, sure, ten years ago she was adrift in a sea of bad jobs, too. But at least she was always steadily employed and paid the rent on time. She had this terrible fear of becoming homeless.

He cocked a half grin. “And what about you, missy? What are you doing these days?”

This was where Delilah looked down her nose at him, all haughty. “I’ll have you know I earned my master’s degree and am now the public relations director of an advertising firm.”

She spared him the part where she wore couture, owned a Balenciaga bag and drove a Mercedes, which she got at a police auction for a steal, no pun intended. Sam’s grin fell, as if he’d been one-upped. And maybe he had. She only felt a small twinge of guilt. Finally, she’d proved to him she was better than that girl of long ago.

He chunked the Super Rabbit on the counter. “It’s sixty-nine dollars plus tax.”

“Sixty-nine,” Delilah said, still grinning as she reached for her Coach wallet. “My favorite number.”