Friday Free for All: Up by Five by Erin Nicholas
You made it to Friday! We're so proud of you, because this week was kind of a long one, huh? Today we've got a treat, an exclusive excerpt from rising contemporary star Erin Nicholas, and an awesome giveaway. Erin's the author of the addictive Counting on Love series, the fifth entry of which, Up by Five, is out next week.
It's the story of Connor Dixon, who finally has his sisters' lives sorted out. He's ready for some solitude, some guy time. So of course he ends up rooming with fellow paramedic Gabby, who all of the sudden is looking pretty sexy.
Want to know more? Check out the exclusive excerpt below! And enter to win one of four e-copies of Up by Five. But wait, there's more! (We feel like one of those awesome infomercials.) One lucky winner will win the entire e-series set: She's the One, It Takes Two, Best of Three, Going for Four and Up by Five! This giveaway is especially awesome because it's open to everyone on Earth, you'll just need to specify your digital format preference. Happy reading, and have a great weekend! Thanks so much for hanging with us this week.
Note: The grand prize winner is Anne Golden.
The bathroom door in the hallway was wide open, as was her bedroom door but as he approached his bedroom door swung open and Gabby stepped out.
Along with her came a cloud of something that smelled delicious—and girlie.
She came up short when she saw him.
She’d pulled her hair back and changed clothes. Instead of the fitted jeans from before she now wore loose fitting yoga pants and a green T-shirt that in no way hugged her breasts as nicely as the camisole or the tank top from last night.
Which was too bad. He was becoming quickly comfortable with his newfound attraction to small breasts.
“Conner,” she said, as if relieved to see him. “Oh my god.” She looked over his shoulder, then grabbed his wrist and pulled him into his bedroom and then into the master bathroom.
Wait. Conner blinked. His bathroom was not decorated in pink and black.
He glanced around. But, yes, this was his bathroom. In spite of the fact that every towel rack, the shower curtain rod, even the hooks behind the door had pink, white and black silk and lace hanging from them.
Tiny pieces of silk and lace.
Conner swallowed hard. “You went shopping today.”
Gabby stopped talking about…whatever she’d been talking about. He honestly had no idea what she’d been saying. His bathroom looked like Sexpot Barbie’s closet had exploded.
Gabby followed his gaze to the pink thong that was draped over the toothbrush holder.
“Yeah. Obviously I needed to replace a few things and I had to wash them out tonight so they could hang to dry by tomorrow and I couldn’t really hang these out all over the bathroom those guys are going to need to use when the beer catches up to them.”
Conner managed to focus on her face. Her hair was pulled up now and he wondered what kind of idiot he was to not have noticed how beautiful she was even without her thick, long hair falling free.
“Did you buy all this stuff because you knew it would drive me nuts?”
He’d never given Gabby’s underwear a single thought before she’d paraded through his kitchen that morning, but now he really thought she seemed more the basic cotton type.
Gabby looked around again. “Sorry. I’ll move this stuff as soon as they leave.”
Loud laughter from the kitchen drifted in to them and she rolled her eyes.
She was damned cute.
How the hell had he not noticed this?
Because you don’t want cute and you don’t want someone you like. You want hot and gone-in-the-morning.
“I’m not…upset that you hung this stuff up in here, G,” Conner said, shoving his hands into his front pockets. He needed to not reach out and see if the lace on the white panties hanging closest to him was as soft as it looked.
“You’re not?” she asked, watching his eyes. “Then why do you look like I hung dead animal carcasses up in here?”
He snorted. “I didn’t realize that I look disgusted when I’m turned on.”
She opened her mouth, then frowned. “You’re turned on?”
She seemed a little puzzled, but also amused. “Good to know I can get to you with a nine-ninety-nine five pack from Carl-Mart rather than needing to spend fifteen bucks for one at Tease.”
“These are not Carl-Mart panties,” Conner said.
She snagged one off the towel rack. “They are.”
He took it from her. It was pale pink and silky with lace around the top. “These are…”
“They’re hot pink and black see-through with…lace.”
She laughed and looked around. “And purple and light blue and peach.” She grabbed another pair. “And there’s no lace on this one.”
Conner looked again. Now he saw the purple and other colors. What the hell?
His eyes landed again on the hot pink and black that had first caught his eye though. “Those are not from Carl-Mart.”
“They are,” she assured him. “They’re sexy, I’ll give you that. I couldn’t resist. But they were only five bucks each.”
Conner lifted his hand to rub his forehead, realized he still held the light pink panties and handed them back to her.
“I’m seeing things and smelling things.”
“Cinnamon this morning, hot pink crotchless panties now.”
“Crotchless?” Her voice sounded a little choked.
He shrugged. “That’s what I see.”
“Seriously?” She looked concerned. “Have you been having headaches or any other symptoms?”
A raging hard-on for about twenty-four hours, actually. But he wasn’t going to mention that.
He looked around his bathroom with a sigh. So she wasn’t trying to drive him crazy with her panties. And yet he was going crazy anyway.
Living with a female…he knew it was a bad idea.
There was a loud crash from the front of the apartment, followed by several expletives, then more laughter.
Gabby’s eyes slid closed. “I’m so sorry about them.”
He wasn’t bothered by the guys. They were loud, but they were harmless. Funny. They even had the potential to be interesting. “You have a big family.”
“You dick!” someone in the living room shouted.
There was more loud laughter.
“I’m really sorry.”
Conner chuckled. “It’s not a big deal. They’re just worried about you.” His gaze wandered to the dark purple bra hanging over the shower rod.
“No, grandma told them to come.”
He looked at her. “Your grandma sent them over?”
Gabby nodded. “I mean, I’m sure Lance, Steve and Jeff won a game of pool or something to get to be part of the posse that came over to check you out, but it was Grandma’s idea.”
Conner felt his mouth twitch. “Josh and Grant didn’t have to fight to be included?”
She shrugged. “Brothers are automatic.”
Right. “I can see why your grandmother might be concerned about you living with some strange guy.”
“Nah. She knows who you are and that you’re a good guy,” Gabby said, waving her hand.
Something made Conner reach for her and grab her wrist. She stopped talking, her eyes wide.
“How does your grandmother know that I’m a good guy?” He tugged slightly, bringing her closer.
And was gratified to see her gaze flicker to his mouth before returning to his eyes.
“I’ve talked about you.”
Her brother had said that earlier and it had given Conner a stupid warm feeling in his chest. Hearing her say it, however, made him warm a little further south.
But it was still stupid.
“What do you tell her?”
Gabby licked her lips and cleared her throat. “Um, you know. Just stuff.”
“Stuff?” He felt her pulse hammering in her wrist and smiled. “Like how brave and strong I am?”
She rolled her eyes. “I might have mentioned one time when you were really stupid and went climbing into a car hanging on the edge of a big ditch to pull a kid out before the car was stable.”
“Stupid. Uh-huh.” He stroked his thumb over the soft skin of her inner wrist. “And I bet you tell her how great I am at calming people down in traumatic situations.”
The way her breathing had sped up didn’t exactly illustrate his calming techniques. Then again, he didn’t necessarily want her calm right now.
What do you want her feeling, Ace?
He ignored that question and concentrated on Gabby and her big brown eyes.
Brown didn’t seem quite right though. They weren’t chocolate brown. They weren’t the color of coffee. More like the color of scotch. Or whiskey. Something intoxicating.
Conner shook his head. Christ. Where had that come from? That was a bit poetic for him. There were three eye colors—brown, green and blue. And he really liked blue.
“I might have mentioned one time when you hit on a woman who was pinned inside an SUV after she rear ended a semi-truck.”
Conner grinned. He hadn’t been hitting on the woman—not really. But the flirting had worked to calm her down and take her mind off the tools they were using to pry her loose.
He ran his hand from Gabby’s wrist to her shoulder and down again. She shivered and the warmth he was feeling spread. “I bet you tell grandma how hot I look in my uniform though.”
Gabby shook her head, but she was smiling. “I did mention the time when you and Ryan got stuck in the sauna when we were working on that heart attack victim at the gym.”
Oh fuck, that had been hot. Not in any good way at all.
He chuckled. “So your grandmother thinks I’m a stupid, inconsiderate jerk. No wonder she sent the guys over here.”
Half of Gabby’s mouth curved and she sighed. “Grandma thinks you’re great.”
“Because you think I’m great?”
Something in her eyes softened. “Of course I do.”
It wasn’t exactly heat that spread through him this time but it was something. Something unexpected. Gabby thought he was great. That was…something.
Women often thought he was great. Lots of them. Most of his life. But Gabby had made a point yesterday that had stuck with him—most of them had no idea how full of shit he was.
He had been faking the confident, I-know-what-I’m-doing, I’m-always-right thing since age seventeen. It was second nature now. The fact that Gabby had seen through it was scary. And kind of cool. Because she thought he was great anyway.
He pulled her in closer.
She came, her toes nearly on top of his, her breathing even quicker now, her pupils dilated. “Conner.”
It wasn’t really a question. Or an answer. It was just his name.
And the heat was right back and spreading quickly.
“You don’t think I walk on water,” he said.
She shook her head slightly. “I think you’d do your damnedest to walk on water if you thought someone needed you to. But,” she said softly, her eyes on his mouth, “you don’t need to be able to walk on water, Conner.”
Later, he planned to blame this all on the pink and black lace surrounding them, but at the moment he knew that the urge to kiss her was far more complicated than that.
It was no less strong, however.
He leaned in and brushed his lips against hers.