Luke & Bella: Two Streets Over is the story of two television journalists thrown together to create a brand new travel program. They travel to exotic locations, stay in luxurious hotels, meet interesting locals… Is it any wonder they fall in love?
Here’s an all new excerpt:
Luke went out on the terrace to smoke a cigar while Bella changed for going out. He thought back over the things she’d said. There were times he wondered if he missed out, not having family. Bella’s story reminded him that family equals complications.
“Hey, ready?” she asked, breaking into his thoughts. He turned and for a moment he could only stare. She had changed into a black long-sleeved sweater with a deep V-neckline over a grey form-fitting skirt finished off with some very sexy grey heels. Once again, she was all curves. He wondered briefly if she was wearing that bra he’d seen earlier.
She looked down at herself, frowning. “Is this alright?” she asked, self consciously.
“Um, yeah, you look…great,” he managed.
She smiled. “Oh, good!”
“So let’s go,” he said.
They walked the two blocks to McTavish’s. Holding open the door as he allowed Bella to precede him into the pub, Luke instinctively placed his hand on the small of her back and at once felt a charge of electricity. He looked at her curiously, wondering if she felt it as well.
Bella appreciated Luke’s old-school manners. Who says chivalry is dead? she asked herself, smiling. She didn’t at all mind that he held the door for her as they entered the pub. It was funny, though. As she passed him in the doorway, his hand grazed her back innocently enough, but she felt a shiver that went from her head to her toes. Focus, girlfriend, on the task at hand.
Glancing around, she saw that the interior was all dark wood and looked like a classic pub. Bella noted that the crowd seemed local. They were headed toward the bar when they heard a roar.
“Luke mother-fucking McGillicutty! You son of a bitch!” Luke moved toward the source of the roar, a tall man with shaggy grey hair, warm brown eyes, and huge smile. The two men embraced then stepped back to shake hands.
“How are you Nevin?” Luke laughed.
“I’m grand, Luke, very well,” said Nevin, but his eyes were on Bella. “Terribly sorry for my foul language,” he apologized, bowing. “Who is this lovely lady?”
Bella stepped forward, hand out and offering her best smile. “Hello! I’m Bella Grant. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Nevin ignored her hand and instead wrapped her in a huge bear hug.
“Nevin, Bella. Bella, Nevin,” Luke smirked.
“Bella, it’s lovely to meet you. What in bloody hell are you doing with this loser arsehole?” he demanded. “Come, sit, drink,” he said, leading them to the bar.
“Um, actually, we work together,” Bella replied, a bit overwhelmed for once in her life. She observed, with a smile, that the foul language was back.
Luke noticed she did not dispute his status as a loser or an arsehole, but followed the two of them anyway.
“How do you and Luke know each other?” Bella asked. Nevin launched into the story of how they met during a joint exercise back in their special ops days.
“Haven’t seen him since he was here covering that horrible explosion about five years ago,” Nevin finished solemnly.
Bella looked questioningly at Luke. “Yeah, that time that whole block went up in a natural gas explosion,” he muttered. “I was in London and they sent me here.” He blinked his eyes trying to unsee what he’d seen.
“How is it we came to Edinburgh and you didn’t mention that?” Bella asked quietly. Luke ignored the question. She looked at him, wondering.
Nevin immediately moved behind the bar and asked what he could pour her.
“I wouldn’t mind a glass of white wine,” Bella replied.
“Aren’t you going to take my order?” Luke asked.
“I know your poison,” Nevin laughed, and poured Luke a glass of Three Labels Scotch.
Pointing at the bottle, Luke told Bella, “This is it. This is Nevin’s family label.”
“Really?” asked Bella. “I’d try it, but I’d rather get my work done first.”
“So, Nevin, we’d like to shoot your place then have a chat with you. Would that be okay?” Luke proposed.
“Of course, especially if that is the desire of the lovely Miss Bella,” charmed Nevin.
She giggled in spite of herself. “Yes, please,” she answered.
“It’s settled then. And McGillicutty, be sure to get my good side,” joked Nevin.
Bella set about ignoring Luke as he worked his camera and she engaged Nevin in conversation, which was very easy since clearly Nevin liked to talk. They discussed the pub and the clientele. Her first impression had been correct—most of the patrons were locals. Nevin spoke lovingly about the pub and the business. Bella asked Nevin to talk about how life in Edinburgh had changed over the years.
When he’d finished, she changed the subject. “I’d love to visit the distillery. Would that be possible?” she asked.
“Of course, we’d love to have you,” was Nevin’s warm reply.
Bella looked at Luke. “I think we’ve got it,” she said.
“Yep, looks good,” Luke agreed.
“So is work done, then? Let me give you the best table in the house and the serious drinking can commence,” said Nevin, grinning gleefully. He led them to a high top table next to the back wall with a view of the entire pub. Luke and Bella sat across from each other while Nevin disappeared.
“That was good,” Luke said.
She smiled at him. “I think it went well, too.”
Nevin returned with a new bottle of Three Labels and three glasses. He proceeded to pour them each a shot. They all lifted their glasses and Nevin toasted, “To friends!” They all tossed back the Scotch.
Bella coughed a little and the men laughed.
“That’ll put hair on your chest,” Nevin grinned.
Luke’s eyes immediately went to her cleavage which was fully on display in the deeply v-cut black sweater. “Careful, Cowboy,” Luke whispered to himself. Bella glanced at him, unsure she’d heard him clearly.
“Well, friends, I need to take care of my customers. I’ll stop by later to see how you’re doing.” They watched him move away greeting people like long lost family.
“He’s quite the force of nature, isn’t he?” Bella commented.
“Yeah, he’s good people,” Luke replied. He poured himself a second shot and offered one to Bella, not expecting her to take it and surprised when she did. He tossed his back and watched her do the same, without coughing this time.
“You didn’t tell me you’d worked here before. I’m wondering why,” Bella said, looking at him intensely.
“It’s not a very good memory, actually. Not one I like to discuss,” he replied, pouring for himself again. She still had him fixed with that fierce gaze and he realized she wasn’t going to let the matter drop.
Luke sighed. “What do you want me to say, Bella? I’ve seen a lot of shit in my time. The explosion here? It was bad. Took them three days to put out the fire. Debris was scattered for two miles in every direction. They found charred body parts…” he trailed off.
“You still have nightmares.” It was not a question.
He set his mouth in a grim line, finished with the topic.
“Well, we’re interviewing a survivor of that fire tomorrow at 10:30,” she countered, and poured herself another shot.
“That’s our appointment tomorrow?” he asked.
Bella nodded. “Are you going to be alright with that?”
“Sure, no worries,” he replied, draining his shot. She tossed back hers as well, looking him straight in the eye. He watched her but didn’t say anything. She had to be feeling that Scotch by now.
He poured again for himself and she pointed to her glass. Somebody has a competitive streak, he thought. He poured for her as well, but questioned the wisdom of doing so.
A server approached their table balancing a small tray carrying a single glass of white wine. “This is for the lady from the gentleman at the bar,” she said. Luke looked toward the bar and saw a short young man standing at the bar staring at Bella.
“Tell the gentleman the lady says No, thank you,” Luke growled, surprising Bella.
“Oy, pal, Nevin says the lady isn’t with anybody,” called the man at the bar.
“Clearly, she’s with me,” Luke countered, and started to get up. Nevin rushed in to diffuse the situation, offering a free drink to the man at the bar and shooting an amused glance at Luke.
Draining her fourth shot, Bella commented, loudly, “Clearly, McDude isn’t paying attention. We’re drinking Scotch over here.” She dissolved into giggles.
“Alright, Princess. Let’s get you back to the hotel,” said Luke, protectively. He helped her to her feet and they moved toward the bar. “See you tomorrow, Nevin. Around 2:00?” Luke said.
“2:00 it is,” Nevin replied. Bella waved goodbye and turned unsteadily toward the door. Nevin winked at Luke and turned back to his customers.
Luke steadied Bella as they stepped out onto the sidewalk. She waved him away. “I’ve got this,” she said stubbornly.
“Okay, you’ve got this. I’ll just help a little,” he smiled. They made it back to the hotel and up to the suite. He led her into the bedroom.
“Come on, Princess. We’ll get you into bed.” He sat her on the side of the bed and helped her off with her shoes.
“Arms up,” he said, and pulled the sweater off over her head. She was wearing the same bra from earlier. He felt part of him stiffen.
“Okay, now lie back,” he said gently, and slid off the gray skirt. Her panties matched the bra. Of course they do, he thought, mentally rolling his eyes.
Pulling up the covers he leaned down to kiss her gently on the forehead. “Good night, Princess,” he whispered.
“Luke,” she called quietly.
He bent over her. “What?”
She leaned up and pressed her lips to his, kissing him hungrily, probing his mouth with her tongue. Abandoning his resolve, he kissed her back for a long moment before reluctantly pulling himself away.
Sighing deeply, he brought her a glass of water from the bathroom and placed it next to the bed. “See you in the morning,” he whispered before retiring to the couch for the night.
Luke & Bella: Two Streets Over is available at these fine online booksellers.