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Thursday, January 18, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: In the Land of Milk and Honey by Nell E.S. Douglas @nellesdouglas

In the Land of Milk and Honey
by Nell E.S. Douglas

It is my privilege to Spotlight this Contemporary Adult Romance novel for you today.

Please continue below for a blurb, Author Bio & Question and Answer section, followed by an Excerpt from the book.  

Happy Reading!

Publishing: January 30, 2018
Genre:  Contemporary Adult Romance
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 466 Pages


No one ever warns you how fine the line is between love and madness...

When Gabrielle “Bree” Valentine awoke in a hospital bed with a newborn baby, she centered herself and rebuilt. Bree didn’t think about her mental breakdown, lost memories, or the features of a stranger emerging daily in the face of the son she is raising alone. Five years later, on a weekend in the Hamptons, a chance encounter with a man unlike any other jars her—bone deep. Daniel Hawthorne Baird II, wealthy, dangerous, British aristocrat, gravitates to Bree like caviar on crustinis. In his relentless obsession with Bree, their lives entwine despite Bree’s resistance. With the unconditional support of friends she calls ‘family’, Bree confronts the most difficult questions of her life. Unearthing the painful mysteries behind: who fathered her child, who the real Daniel Baird is, and the irrepressible desire driving her towards a man destined to be the end of them both.

Author Bio:

Author Nell E. S. Douglas

Nell E. S. Douglas has possessed a deep, abiding love for written words since childhood. The transition from reader, to writer, was a natural one. Her first stories, penned on the lined pages of class notebooks, were inspired by her mother’s poetry and epic tales of travel, and a professorial inquisitiveness inherited from her father. Following college in Florida, Nell exited the world of pure imagination, and entered the one of business, successfully establishing a career in sales, and developing a cup-a-day habit (of coffee) that has served her well in the road she didn’t know lie ahead. Today, Nell writes during the spaces in-between domestic goddessing, and contributing as a managing partner to a thriving small business. Nell resides in Florida, with her husband and their children, passing on the traditions of her mother, and sinking her feet in the sand whenever possible.

Her favorite books are Pride and Prejudice, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Her favorite movies are Gladiator, The Outsiders, Pride and Prejudice, and Bridesmaids. 

Follow:  Email | Twitter | Instagram 

Author Q & A:

What is In the Land of Milk and Honey about?

It’s a love story, at its heart. But there are mysteries to be solved, first. It takes off from there—that question—who fathered Bree’s son? True to life, answers aren’t always answers.

What is your writing background?

For all relevant intents and purposes, this book. I’ve done minor copy work, previously. And before that, loads of poetry and short stories in my youth.

Why would someone want to read In the Land of Milk and Honey?

The characters. The ‘family’ surrounding Bree, as she struggles to solve her life’s riddle. August, Jill, and Violet. Who wouldn’t want friends like that? The mysteries (more than one). And then there is Daniel Baird, of course. Just typing his name give me chills! Not all bad ones. Daniel’s character emerges in a visceral way. The son of a British Lord has that effect.

Who will like your book?

I think non-readers will enjoy it.  I think readers of romance, adult and new, will enjoy it, and people who enjoy mystery, intrigue. It’s an escape. If you’ve read both Gillian Flynn and E. L. James, I hope I’m not being too fearless when I say: swipe right—it’s a match.

Where can In the Land of Milk and Honey be purchased?

It will be released exclusively on Amazon (EBook) this January 31st. You can follow on Instagram (@nellesdouglas), or Twitter (@nellesdouglas), for forthcoming updates on print, Barnes and Noble, Google, and iBooks.

What was your experience like writing In the Land of Milk and Honey?

Haha. Well. Like... purging myself of Bree’s life story, as though she were a real person whom I had all this empathy for. Crazy. I’ll add this quote:
No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing.
– E. B. White

I am extremely confident of the people who read in our genre—the women who read stories about love. Easy love, hard love, sexy love, complex love—and in Bree’s case, a mother’s love. I’m one of these readers. At no turn do I underestimate them. Reversing E. B.’s statement, I hope the conclusion is that I have written it decently, for them. 


Chapter 5 - A Glimmer Named Hope
August tiptoed in around three a.m. and I finally fell asleep around six. When I awoke, almost six hours later, I found the note he'd left telling me he was in a meeting in one of the conference rooms and would meet me on the patio at lunch. I called Tristan and apologized for not calling first thing, but he sounded happy and distracted. He was playing horseshoes with Ian and Jill and getting ready for a cook-out at her townhouse. I told him I loved him (and Jill promised to take lots of pictures).
I showered and quickly dressed myself in a tailored white blouse, minimal gold jewelry and dark slim jeans. Women here typically wore pearls and boucle skirt suits, but I had my limits. I blew dry my long, straight, dark-chocolate color hair until it glossed, and applied a little make-up before heading out the door.
Just my luck, as I hurried through the halls I bumped (literally) into a little red haired girl who was crying. She told me she lost her big brother so I led her up to the front desk where the girl told us her name was Amy and that she knew her Mom was at the spa. They sent out a page for a lost Amy, and an irate looking woman in a white robe, slippers and a face mask marched up.
“I told you to stay with your brother! Can't I get a facial without having a crisis? It took me days to get this appointment...” she ranted to the little girl as she held her hand, dragging her behind. Maybe she was better off lost.
Outside, on a massive paver deck, they'd set up food stations with chefs serving lunch, a la carte. I was hungry from having missed breakfast and made a beeline for the meat-carving table. Most of the wives and girlfriends had the same idea, and the tables were filled with ladies who lunch.
I grabbed the first vacant seat I found, only one other woman sat at the table. I was bad at introductions, but she didn't raise her eyes from her magazine, so we ate silently. She had a short blonde bob and was very polished in (what else?) a light blue Chanel boucle dress and multi-strand pearls. All she was missing was a wide brimmed hat with a bow. We wouldn’t have anything to talk about anyway, I concluded.
"Daniel!" she called out, waving her hand in the air, flagging someone down. Within seconds, there stood Mr. V-neck himself—Danny—flanked by two other dark haired men. He was dressed more casually than the other men, who wore full suit and tie. He looked like he hadn't gotten much sleep and I noticed for the first time his hair color was a rich, beer bottle brown.
I smiled warmly in greeting, but his face was stony and he turned away. I guess Danny and I weren't friends when others were around.
"Join me, gentlemen," blonde bob implored. She was English too, and clearly knew how to play her role here. I realized then she was the other half of the V-neck Crew from the lobby— Danny's other half. As she waved her hand, I also noticed the giant sparking canary yellow diamond on her hand.
Danny’s nod was a directive; the two men filled the chairs between us as he sat at the end, the blonde at his side. As the men took to discussing financials, I picked up they were all English. I was not impressed when they placed special orders to the kitchen, apparently too good to plate their own food or eat what the rest of us did.
"Bree!" I heard, and turned the sound of charging footsteps. I spun just in time to see little Amy barrel into my chair, giggling. Everyone had turned towards the disruption, eyeing her disapprovingly. Well, except Danny, whose eyes were closed and his brows were knitted together as if he'd just been poked with a needle. She wedged herself between the snobby suit guy, bumping his elbow, and fired away.
"Did you know my Mom wears a wig sometimes?" she announced, panting heavily from her run. I laughed inappropriately loud before covering my mouth. She took that as encouragement.
"And sometimes, at night, I hear her in her bedroom shaving her legs all by herself. Buzzz, buzzz, buzzz, allll night. That's what it sounds like. Yep," she mimed while nodding, smiling brightly. I was wide-eyed as I surveyed the table. The blonde was aghast, as was the suit directly opposite her, but the guy to my side was laughing and Danny observed her as though she were a curiosity.
"Little one, I don't know if I'd share that with anyone else today, okay?" I suggested amusedly as a pulled a stray hair from her face.
"She won't care," Amy shrugged.
"Let's keep it our little secret, anyway," I whispered.
"Cool," she whispered back, liking the idea of a secret.
"What's your name little girl?" the Suit next to me asked.
"Amy, I’d like you to give your mother my card. Tell her it's in case she needs any help shaving tonight," he said smugly, flicking out his hand. She snatched the card. I hoped he was kidding when I saw the wedding band on his finger.
"Okay! You two can come play with me now if you want?" she exclaimed to myself and Suit one, bouncing on her heels. I wondered if her mother had fed her bars of chocolate to placate her. Or possibly uppers.
Her eyes bounced back and forth from the suited man and me expectantly, he raised an eyebrow that said how preposterous, and I took a cue; even his eyebrow seemed to have a snooty British accent.
"Amy, I think the nice man has business to do, but maybe I'll come and play later."
"I’ll be on the hill.” She pointed beyond the pool down to the sloping grassy hills beyond and then she bolted for it. I snickered, observing her stumble once, her legs not fast enough for her body.
I checked my watch, wondering where August could be. As I did, the overcast sky parted for just a brief moment, a few beams of sunlight rebelliously breaking through the grey and lavender clouds, the rays falling like tiny radiant spotlights and in the corner of my eye, I caught a glimmer of cognac—just like a spark—and an errant thought raced through my mind, too quickly to catch.
I felt suddenly tense, like I needed some air; air somewhere else. I rose from the stuffy table and smoothed out my shirt, and by the time I looked up Danny had risen from his chair, the other men abruptly followed suit. I was puzzled by the gesture but I snapped out of my daze, my inner tension returning, when the blonde grabbed his forearm and gave him a look like he'd just stood for the maid.
I turned, heading for the hill where Amy played and stood watching from the edge of the patio, trying to clear my head. Several children were chasing each other and I smiled, thinking of my son, but somehow I still felt... troubled.
I turned back searching for August and finally I spotted him. Of all things he was standing beside Danny's chair, smiling and talking vividly—reassuring the troops, I'm sure. But as soon as he walked away he began rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand. He spotted me and rushed over.
"Bree," he said hurriedly. "I'm so sorry I missed lunch. I've been doing damage control all morning.”
“Anything I can help with?”
“It’s beyond helping. A total disaster." I was going to ask more, but it seemed out of my depth.
"Don’t worry about me. Go do what you need to," I said firmly, leaning on tiptoes to kiss his cheek in hello and goodbye.
"Are you sure?" He laid his hands on my shoulders.
"Yes. Now go be a superhero," I teased, shooing him off. He smiled, dropping a kiss on my cheek before hurrying off.
My old distress was replaced with worry for August. Amy ran up and asked if I'd be “home base” in their game of hide and go seek. I laughed, agreeing to the distraction. Several rounds in, she ran up to me, sticking out her little leg.
"Will you tie my shoes?" she asked, cutely, so I bent down to lace them.
"You're pretty, Bree," she sang smiling and blinked. I smiled back and patted her head before she ran off screaming to the hiders “you’re in trouble now!”
"You have an admirer." I turned to see Danny standing a few feet behind me.
"Uh, no, just a little friend," I replied, confused by his sudden presence.
"You make friends easily,” he supplied. I laughed at the irony; I would have made more friends sitting at the children's table than at his (because it clearly became His table once he sat).
"I found her in the hallway,” I explained. “She was lost."
It looked like the rest of his group was gone, which explained why he was talking to me again. I was beginning to think the parallel I'd drawn between his face and a sculpture was truer than I'd realized. His face was always perfectly stoic, but he shook his head briefly as if to say Of course.
"I think they've got a sixth sense, you know?" I mused, watching the children play.
"About safe places to run?” I smiled at his odd guess. He obviously wasn't a kid person.
"No. Well, sort of," I paused, wondering how long he'd been watching the game. "I think they can sense other mothers. They seem to automatically trust us," I clarified, watching Amy maul a boy to the ground. She reminded me of Violet. He didn't reply so I checked to see if he was there. He was looking at his loafers.
"You have a child," he intoned solemnly.
"Yes," I replied with pride. "I have a little boy."
Finally he spoke. "I am…happy for you,” he said. I thought he was being sarcastic but when he raised his gaze and his eyes met mine, but there was honesty there.
"I'm pretty happy for me, too," I replied, thinking of my amazing little son.
"Bree! I won! I won! I caught them all!" Amy ran up and flung herself at me. I grabbed her just in time before she knocked us both over, laughing.
"See, doesn't this just make you want to take one home?" I turned, and said to the thin air where Danny had formerly been standing.
Eat your heart out, Houdini.
Many hours later I was standing in front of the two dresses lying on the bed, internally debating which to wear. Violet had pulled them for me for tonight’s formal dinner, the main event of the weekend and the primary reason I'd accompanied August. The first dress was a silky deep blue empire waist dress. It was conservative and pretty. The second was a fitted black satin gown with a thin satin belt with a diamond buckle. It was glamorous and a little sexy. I tapped my chin and thought, what would Nicole Kidman do? I grabbed the black Armani. I figured it might be time to bring out the big guns—pun intended. Well, small C-cup guns, but whatever.
I hadn't seen August since lunch and I’d spent the rest of the afternoon in a pottery class. While the employees were in meetings the company arranged different activities for the significant others to participate in, like massages and facials, and some random things, like photography and pottery. It was more like a babysitting service for the pampered spouses. In fact, the only other person in my non-spa activity was the husband of a female executive. While checking in with Tristan I finally got a text from August saying he was running late and for me to go ahead and get ready.
I slid on my dress, zipping it tight, and slipped on my black stilettos. The gown fit like a glove and made my waist look like a teacup. I'd styled my hair in soft waves, parting it on the side so a wave glided above my eyebrow, and then I added a vintage crystal hair pin on other side. My make-up was usually minimal, but I opted for dark eyes and red lips. My skin was a fair, creamy, light olive and my eyes were the color of brown sugar with a touch of grey so the palette worked and I was just rubbing in some moisturizer with a little shimmer on my bare d├ęcolletage when I heard the door and close.
"What do you think?" I asked, sashaying out of the bathroom, extending my arms out as I whirled.
"Wow, Bree," he breathed. “You are a stunner."
"Is it too much?" I asked seriously, dropping my arms to my sides, noticing how exhausted he looked.
"It's perfect," he said, seeming to catch a second wind as he grabbed his tux from the closet. "They may just keep me on to have you around."
"I'm here to help," I said, watching him disappear to the bathroom. I knew I looked amazing, but I didn't take it too seriously. I considered my packaging to be battle armor for August's little war. I practiced walking in my heels that made me feel ten feet tall, and completed the ensemble with diamond drop earrings and a diamond bracelet I'd borrowed from Jill.
August was showered and dressed in record time, and he would have made James Bond cry when he stepped out of the bathroom in his tux. He was hands down the best looking man I'd ever met in real life. I grabbed my clutch and we headed downstairs for cocktail hour, linking arms as we confidently entered the room.
Immediately, people swarmed August and I was swept up meeting and greeting as we worked through the room, smiling brightly, and arm in arm. Everyone looked great in their formal wear, though PETA would have gone wild at the amount of fur present. My cheeks began to burn from smiling and I resisted the urge to tug at the bodice of my dress; it was garnering more attention than I'd anticipated. We were talking to a nice older couple who intrigued me with their ability to talk through clenched teeth like uber-posh ventriloquists when August tensed, then whispered in my ear.
"Head's up. Sharks in the water."
I laughed like he'd made a personal joke and he smiled genuinely at my little trick. I casually perused the room. Maybe the gesture looked staged, but in a room so full of facade it went unnoticed. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, despite tension being the palpable undertone of the night. I watched as the crowd parted towards the entrance for a tall couple, a shimmer of coral, and an entourage of tuxedoed men following quickly behind.
A man I recognized as John—August's assistant—rushed towards us, quietly conveying a message to August.
"Fitch is at the bar, again. I need to go handle this," August whispered quickly and I nodded before he finished.
I mingled aimlessly, chatting on water-cooler level, when my Spidey sense began to tingle. I spun my head, my hair slithering on my shoulders as I sought out my seeker, but saw no one in particular. It remained a vague ocean of tuxes, until Morris approached.
"My cherrie," he cooed, quickly taking my hand. He surprised me when he whirled me around. I cringed as the sweaty hand gripping my fingers pulled it towards his lips. "You are a vision."
"Thank you," I replied, tightly. Morris smiled in a way that could make a girl uneasy.
"You look positively edible tonight," he complimented leaning in, placing a hand on back. I stiffened, craning away. He smelled like he'd been hanging out at the bar with Fitch. In fact, he smelled liked he’d spent the night inside a whiskey cask. He kissed the tips of my fingers, adding, "And I wouldn't waste one morsel."
"Uh, that's flattering, Morris, but August will be back any moment," I reminded him, as he leaned further in and I did the opposite.
"I don't understand why we don't get together sometime for—"
"Mr. Werp," a controlled, gorgeous voice broke in.
Morris dropped my hand and stepped back immediately. I recognized the source.
Danny glared down with narrowed eyes. Morris took another step back, and that seemed like a good idea; Danny was not happy. I almost hadn’t recognized him—he was without his glasses and the stubble was gone. "Is this how the head analyst for Goldfarb & Fitch behaves around taken ladies?" he said, dripping contempt, and crowded Morris further, who visibly withered. Several partygoers watched the interaction intently, which didn't seem called for.
"Mr. Baird," I heard August's calming voice before I saw him. "It's good to see you."
"Likewise," he replied, turning to August, letting his eyes graze over me as he did.
They were standing side by side in identical tuxes and though I'd never thought it possible to consider another man handsome in August's presence, in that moment, Danny eclipsed him completely. He was beyond dashing, and with a chin and features like that, I thought that he should never wear scruff again. His shoulders were broad but not bulky, and he was noticeably taller than August. He looked powerful and confident—indestructible.
Wait, why did August address him as Mr. Baird?
"Morris, why don't you join Mr. Fitch at the tapas table? I hear they're delicious," August told, not asked.  Morris was flushed as a beet, and slunk away.
August smiled, moving towards me, looping an arm around my waist. "Mr. Baird, let me introduce my companion, Ms. Gabrielle Valentine."
Daniel's eyes flickered at the introduction. "We've met," he clipped.
"You look beautiful, as always, Ms. Valentine," he said slowly, meaningfully, staring at me intensely and extended his open hand. Too many seconds passed until August nudge me and I placed mine in it. Danny’s hand was large and warm, and I am ashamed to say that even though I'd believed the gesture was outdated, I truly enjoyed the warmth and moisture of his lips as they pressed into my skin, his deep green eyes looking up at me through dark lashes, never breaking away. Morris should take notes.
I felt a whisper of an inhaled breath against my skin and his thumb brush smoothly across the sensitive skin above my knuckles. His lips broke away slowly and he lowered my hand like it was made of glass. My hand twitched involuntarily, squeezing his just before he let go. No one noticed but us. I offered him a sheepish expression in apology, but something flashed in Danny's eyes, a glimmer of something close to... hope? I had to be mistaken.
I felt like time was standing still, the silence unnerving, so I spoke.
"Thank you. You look nice this evening, Danny," I understated by a mile, and I felt August's arm stiffen around me. I tore my eyes away and finally noticed Blondie was now at his side in a beaded coral gown and white fur stole. A few tuxedoed men stood around them. Her eyes, and a few others, were widened at my use of his moniker.
Blondie cleared her throat delicately and extended her hand. "August.”
"Ms. Hearst." He kissed her hand and then smiled warmly.
“Kate, please,” she permitted.
August smiled. "It’s an honor, Kate. I believe dinner is ready. Shall we?" August extended an arm out inviting them to pass.
"Yes, Daniel, shall we?" Kate said pointedly, looping her arm through his; his stony expression quickly returning.
"We're right behind you," August assured them, as they passed with entourage in tow. I stepped to follow, but August spun us towards the entry door and whisked me out and around the corner until we stopped near the elevators.
"What's going on, August?" I asked, confused.
"Bree," he started and peered at me curiously. "How do you know Mr. Baird?"
"I met him at the restaurant last night, and today at lunch. He sat at my table," I answered honestly. He looked at me for a moment and then nodded.
"Why did you call him Danny?" he probed, tilting his head.
"That's his name, isn’t it? It’s what Mr. Finch called him last night," I explained. "Why are you calling him Mr. Baird?"
August sighed. "Bree, Mr. Baird is CEO of BarclayBaird. Actually, Daniel Baird is BarclayBaird. His mother's a Barclay and his father's a Baird. His blood is probably the original color swatch for blue. I'm telling you this because BarclayBaird is the company that is somewhat hostilely taking us over.” He’d said it calmly, but my mouth gaped open.
August smiled bleakly, absently scratching the back of his neck. "Did Mr. Fitch really call him Danny?"
"Yes," I recalled. "But Danny didn't seem to mind."
"I'm sure he didn't," August murmured, and I was taken aback. August wasn't sarcastic. "Apparently, last night Mr. Baird invited Mr. Fitch and the entire board out for dinner and drinks—a bars’ worth. Mr. Finch ended up missing every meeting today but Mr. Baird was somehow there and ran the meetings alone. It was an embarrassment."
"That's because he didn't drink," I shook my head. "He was pretending to drink. It was just water."
He looked startled. "How do you know this?" he quizzed.
"He told me," I shrugged. August stared at me, then frowned.
"He's more cunning than I was made to understand. Mr. Fitch drinks, but he knew better than to go overboard last night. What else did you talk about?" August probed, and I clapped my hand over my mouth.
"I told him Mr. Fitch was a drunk!" I exclaimed. "And I made a comment about them drinking while you were saving the ship."
August took that revelation in stride, and processed. "Mr. Baird offered me Chairman of the U.S. holdings today. He has to leave someone in charge here once he leaves for London tomorrow to head International. He found me after lunch and that's why I was late to the room this evening," he mused vacantly, staring at the wall behind me.
"My gosh. Did you take it? Wait, doesn't that mean...”
"That Mr. Finch gets fired? Yes," he answered, seriously. "I told him I needed to think about it. It feels like a stab in the back to Mr. Finch. I certainly wasn't angling for it, but he'll probably think that, and my schedule is hectic enough as it is. I wouldn't have any time for family."
I smiled knowing whom he meant by family—then frowned.
"I'm owe you an apology. I only spoke freely because I thought he was a Fitch guy. I asked him if you worked together and he said yes. Do you think what I said was what made him decide to fire him? I sort of implied his excessive drinking was, well, commonplace," I confessed guiltily.
"I'll be frank. You're an outsider with no agenda. He probably trusted your opinion to a degree. But Mr. Baird doesn't seem to trust anyone. The offer he made me may be a test of my Fitch loyalty. He's completely unreadable," he said, mildly frustrated, looking back in the direction of the party.
I nodded in agreement and then felt my phone buzzing in my clutch. I told August I'd meet him back at the dinner table. I opened the text from Jill.
J: How's it going, chica?
G: I think I'm in bizzarro world. What are you guys doing?
J: Heading to dinner. The kid wants calamari!
I laughed at my son's strange appetite.
J: Hold on...special message coming.
J: Mommy!
G: Hello! I miss you so, so, much!
I wondered how much Jill was helping him with texting.
J: I miss u too
J: I'm sad ur away. Please come back to me soon.
I guess she was transcribing for him. My heart broke a little.
G: It won't be long and I'm always with you in your heart. Have a good night, my love. xoxo
J: I love you, too.
J: Have fun with your little charade. Wink. Nite-nite sexy mama.
I snorted. That must be Jill again.
"Who was that?" I jumped out of my skin and bumped in to something solid right behind and then leapt away, the train of my gown swishing around me as I faced a very suspicious Daniel.
"Jesus Christ, how do you do that?" I gasped, clutching my chest.
"You didn't answer my question," he replied firmly, folding his arms.
"Are you stalking me?" I peered at him.
He peered back. "Was it another man?" He said it like, ‘you naughty girl’, and then there was that glimmer in his eye again.
"I'm feeling very stalked right now." I shook my head and walked to pass him, but he blocked me.
"Excuse me," I said indignantly.
"You're not excused."
"That's not up to you," I countered.
"Oh, I think it is," he replied confidently and his lip twitched upward, but he resisted the smile.
"No. It isn't, and I don't like being deceived," I challenged, lifting a brow. He unfolded his arms, letting them rest at his sides.
"I didn't deceive you." He arched one brow back. "You perceived."
"And you did nothing to stop it. That is called deception."
"Is it?" he replied, his eyes searching mine like he knew I thought differently.
"The distinction is obvious,” I retorted, eluding a judgement just shy of an edict. August and I were currently perpetrating a deception much bigger than his, but he couldn’t know that...
"I am not a man of many words," Daniel replied laconically, in the tone of one who doesn't explain himself to anyone, and didn’t intend to start tonight.
"More the “speak softly, and carry a big stick” type? The only reason you talked to me was to use me. You were just fishing for intel," I accused, but gulped down hard admitting my words were etched into the club that he’d used to swat down Mr. Fitch.
It looked like his patience had snapped. I may have said too much, but the self-doubt he’d created in me triggered my defenses.
"That's not why I talked to you,” he explained finally. I narrowed my eyes.
"Then why did you?"
He just stared at me for a while. I don’t know what was running through his mind—lots of things it seemed—but most of all it looked like he was deciding something. And after moments of consideration, I watched resolve form in his tightened jaw.
"We should be friends," he said in decision, not offer—but that’s not what surprised me.
"Friends?" I repeated back dumbly. Then I thought of his cohort with the ring on his finger handing out his number to help “shave her legs”, and the unsurprised look on Daniel's face, the compliment about my appearance, the slow kiss to my hand. I realized this banter he'd suddenly decided to engage me in could be interpreted as a caveman form of flirtation. Men like this always had women on the side... I was appalled.
"I don't believe I'm the type of friend’ you're looking for," I replied tartly, trying to pass him again, but he captured my wrist.
"Just friends." He bit out each word, as if he disliked the taste of them, and slowly raised his eyes to mine. He wore the same look as Ian, that first day at lunch when he asked me not to leave. I still wasn't convinced, but pragmatism tipped the scales. I needed to play along, for August's sake.
I exhaled.
"Just friends," I repeated firmly, drilling it into his eyes.
"Excellent," Daniel said satisfactorily, releasing me. I clasped my hand around the wrist he’d released, not because it hurt, because it had stirred something. My face flushed.
“And next time you want my attention, call me by name,” I instructed.
He wasn’t insulted. “Accept my apology. It’s not my habit to touch a lady who doesn’t want to be touched.” 
Needing to get away, I nodded. I began walking off and he took one stride and caught my ear.
"But I wouldn't waste one morsel, either," he whispered to me. I watched him stride forward, disappearing through the doors, and my heart pounding in my chest.


  1. How about the part where she started this as Twilight Fanfiction and never completed it, but still wants her readers from back then to now pay to finish the story? I guess she forgot to include that part.