Those of you who have been following this DABWAHA contest know already that readers were kind of split in their requests for either an additional sneak peek of SUN-KISSED or of Matt’s still-untitled book, the first of the Vie en Roses books (properly speaking; Turning Up the Heat and The Chocolate Rose are both prequels to this series, and Raoul Rosier’s story is in the anthology No Place Like Home).
And below you’ll find a little glimpse of Matt Rosier. Thanks so much again to everyone for all your support of THE CHOCOLATE TOUCH and SNOW-KISSED in this DABWAHA contest. SNOW-KISSED comes up for vote again FRIDAY MORNING (midnight to noon CST). But it’s going up against THE GEEK WITH THE CAT TATTOO, only one of my favorite novellas from last year!! So I don’t even know how to tell you to vote against it. But either way you want to vote, the link is here. (Friday morning. There are some other books up for vote right now, though, including Julie James, Sarah Morgan, Deanna Raybourn, and Susanna Kearsley…go have fun!)
EXCERPT: MATTHIEU ROSIER
Burlap slid against Matt’s shoulder, rough and clinging to the dampness of his skin as he dumped the sack onto the truck bed. The rose scent puffed up thickly, like a silk sheet thrown over his head and knotted with rough rope to hold him captive.
He didn’t fight it, too used to it, although maybe he had fought it in the past. Maybe that was all that Nathalie was. And the scars from her were like the ones his wrists would get, twisting against a rope as rough as burlap.
But his hands were utterly free here. Strong and fast and capable, the roses everywhere a silk he could touch, take, hold, nothing that had ever really been possible with Nathalie and which, therefore, had left him very confused about his hands. Hands that could do anything, hold everything, fix everything—and yet they couldn’t touch a woman or fix her or make her his?
He shrugged that away, roughly, the hangover pounding in his head and stirring thickly in his stomach. The lessons he learned from that Paris-model-princess-girlfriend episode were all false ones, but he kept wanting to repeat them anyway, in his head, as if he had imprinted the wrong spelling of a word in his brain or something and couldn’t shake it out to make the right one seem natural again. Was it Matthieu or Mathieu? Who was he, exactly?
It pissed him off, him, who had always known who he was, and he took a deep breath of roses, letting the sounds of the workers and of his cousins and grandfather ride against his skin, be drawn into his lungs. No, this was a good day. It could be. He had a hangover, and he had made an utter fool of himself the night before, but this could still be a good day. The rose harvest.
He stretched and even though it wasn’t that hot yet, went ahead and reached for the hem of his shirt, so he could feel that scent of roses all over his skin.
“Show-off,” Allegra’s voice said, teasingly, and he grinned into the shirt as it passed his head, flexing his muscles a little more, because, well—he liked Allegra. She was cute and happy. And it would be pretty damn fun if she was ogling him enough to piss Raoul off.
He turned so he could see the expression on Raoul’s face as he bundled the T-shirt, half-tempted to toss it to Allegra and see what Raoul did—
And looked straight into the green-brown eyes of Curls.
Oh, shit. He jerked the T-shirt back over his head, tangling in the bundle of it as the holes proved impossible to find, and then he stuck his arm through the neck hole and his head didn’t fit and he wrenched it around and tried to get himself straight and dressed somehow and—oh, fuck.
He stared at her, caught in the T-shirt like a bird in a plastic soda ring, all the blood cells in his body rushing to his cheeks.
Damn you, stop, stop, stop, he tried to tell the blood cells, but as usual they ignored him. Thank God for matte skin. It had to help hide some of the color, right? Right? Heat beat in his cheeks until he felt sunburned from the inside out.
Curls was staring at him with her mouth opened as if he had punched her. Probably thinking what a total jerk he was, first slobbering all over her drunk and now so full of himself he was stripping for her. And getting stuck in his own damn T-shirt.
Somewhere beyond her, between the rows of pink, Raoul had a hand blocking his mouth and was trying so hard not to laugh out loud that his body was bending into it, going into convulsions. Tristan was grinning, all right with his world. And Damien had his eyebrows up in that elegant irony of his, making him look all controlled and princely, like someone who would never make a fool of himself in front of a woman.
Damn T-shirt. Matt yanked it off his head and threw it. But, of course, it didn’t go halfway across the field but let the air friction stop it and fell across the rose bush not too far from Curls, a humiliated flag of surrender.
Could his introduction to this woman conceivably get any worse?
He stared at her, miserable and hostile.
She stared back, her eyes enormous.
“Well, what?” he growled. “What do you want now? Why are you still here?” I was drunk. I’m sorry. Just shoot me now, all right?
She blinked, as if he’d just slapped her, and he wanted to crawl into a hole.
He folded his arms over his chest, trying to hide his chest hair. Because he was pretty sure that made him look like a man, you know, one of that species of big brutes capable of hauling a woman off to a cave. His last girlfriend had at first thought his chest hair was quaintly barbaric, and then a little icky and couldn’t he shave it off like most men did? Her genuine belief that most men had the good manners to shave their chest hair—because most of the men she knew intimately did—should probably have rung greater alarm bells sooner. He wasn’t so good at pretending to be someone he wasn’t. He supposed he hadn’t realized it at first because he hadn’t initially known he was pretending; deep down he’d always hoped maybe he was a prince or a knight in shining armor. “What?” he growled again.
Damn it, that had sounded like a grunt, hadn’t it?
“Matt,” Allegra said reproachfully, but with a ripple disturbing his name, as if she was trying not to laugh. “She was curious about the rose harvest. And she needs directions.”
Directions. Hey, really? He was flat out damn with directions. He could get an ant across this valley and tell it the best route, too. He and bunnies could crouch down and have conversations about the best way to get their petits through the hills for a little day at the beach.
Of course, all his cousins could, too. He got ready to leap in first before his cousins grabbed the moment from him, like they were always trying to do. “Where do you need to go?” His voice came out rougher than the damn burlap. He struggled to smooth it without audibly clearing his throat. God, he felt naked. Would it look too stupid if he sidled up to that T-shirt and tried getting it over his head again?
“It’s this house my great-grandmother gave me,” she said. She had the cutest little accent. It made him want to squoosh all her curls in his big fists again and kiss that accent straight on her mouth, as if it was his, when he had so hell ruined that chance. “113, rue des Rosiers.”
The valley did one great beat, a giant heart that had just faltered in its rhythm, and every Rosier in earshot focused on her. His grandfather barely moved, but then he’d probably barely moved back in the war, when he spotted a swastika up in the maquis either. Just gently squeezed the trigger.
That finger-on-the-trigger alertness ran through every one of his cousins now.
Matt was the one who felt clumsy, stumbling around battered while everyone else went quiet.
“Rue des Rosiers?” he said dumbly. Another beat, harder this time, adrenaline surging. “113, rue des Rosiers?” He looked up at a stone house, on the fourth terrace on the edge of the valley, just where it got too steep to be practical to grow roses for harvest unless the price went way up. “She gave it to you?”
Curls took a step back.
Had he roared that? His voice echoed back at him, as if the valley held it, would squeeze it in a tight fist and never let it free.
“After all that?” Five months. Five months his Tante Colette had had him working on that house. Oh, could you fix the plumbing, Matthieu? Matthieu, that garden wall needs mending. Matthieu, I think the septic tank might need to be replaced. Every single time he had started writhing at how ridiculous he had made himself over Nathalie, he’d gone over and beaten that house into submission. His aunt’s list of tasks had been endless. “You?”
Curls stared at him, a flash of something across her face—surely she didn’t have any feelings about him soft enough for him to hurt?—and then her arms tightened, and her chin went up. “To her great-granddaughter, yes. I hear people do that kind of thing sometimes.”
Yes, but—“To you?” Tante Colette knew it was his valley. You didn’t just rip a chunk out of a man’s heart and give it to long-lost relative you’d never even met.
Not if you cared anything about him. Tante Colette, were you just using me, too?
Curls’ chin angled high, her arms tight, her eyes shining like the damn dew on the roses. “You seemed to like me last night.”
Wounded, sullen heart, shame, and a hangover were a perfectly horrible combination. “I was drunk.”
She flinched a little as if he’d slapped her. Her mouth set, this stubborn, defiant rosebud. “I never thought I’d say this to a man, but I think I actually liked you better drunk.” Turning on her heel, she stalked back to her car.
End of excerpt
[PS: In case this isn’t clear, Curls is not her real name. Matthieu doesn’t know what that is yet.]