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Excerpt Day: The Shape of a Heart by Kimberly Gardner

The Shape of a Heart by Kimberly Gardner
Release Date: Mar 22, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-60168-193-5
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press
Publisher Link: http://www.aspenmountainpress.com/new-releases/shape-of-a-heart/prod_227.html

Blurb: Still grieving his partner's death after two years, Zach Jensen takes solace in his work and his memories. But when his sexy new employee offers more than just help with the inventory, Zach is forced to face the fact that the past is cold comfort. Keith Hart is used to life on the run, treating each new place as no more than a temporary stop. Until he meets the man with the hole in his heart. Against his judgment, Keith reaches out to Zach while a dark menace from the past reaches out for Keith. Will the threat prove to great? Or can they come together and win their future in the shape of a heart?

Excerpt:

Zach paused in the arch that separated the café from the bookstore. As he watched Keith work, wiping down the counter with the rag in his hand, Zach's chest tightened. How could he have known how goddamn hard it would be to see another man, a man who was not Jay, moving around the café and looking so at home there? Or maybe, on some level, he had always known and that was why he'd left the café empty for so long.

Keith hummed softly as he worked, rinsing the rag then moving from the counter to the espresso machine. It looked like he was just about done for the day too. He'd closed the blinds on the wide window that looked out on the street and turned off all but the single light over the counter, throwing most of the café into shadow.

Keith began to sing to himself. He had a sweet, soft tenor that made Zach's heart ache just a little. He listened but couldn't place the tune. He knew it, he was sure. It niggled at his memory, familiar but just out of reach.

Zach's gaze traveled down that lithe body, appreciating the lean muscles and the smooth efficiency of Keith's movements. He flexed his fingers. He could practically see himself gripping those slim hips, could almost feel how Keith would move under him when they--

"What song is that?"

The singing stopped. Keith's shoulders tensed, his spine going rigid.

Just when Zach was sure he wouldn't get an answer, Keith spoke. "Just some old Jackson Brown song, I think."

"But what's it called?"

"I don't remember."

"Sure you do. You were singing it. How can you not know what it's called if you were singing it?"

"How long have you been standing there?"

"A couple minutes." Zach took a step closer. "So what's it called?"

Keith tossed the rag into the sink, then turned and stared hard at Zach. "Is there something you want?"

Oh yeah, Keith was pissed. But rather than regret or embarrassment, Zach felt a little thrill race through him. Was that arousal? And how fucking weird was it that the idea of pissing Keith off was a turn-on?

"I want to know the name of that song." Zach walked over to the counter, wiped clean and gleaming white under the single light. He propped a hip on one of the stools and let his gaze slide down Keith's body, letting some of that excitement show in his eyes.

"I told you, I don't remember."

The silence stretched between them like melting taffy.

Finally, Zach cleared his throat. His gaze strayed to the container that held the brownies. It sat on the counter, ready to be taken away. He couldn't see if there was anything left inside.

"So how did the brownies go over?"

"Great. The customers loved them. They were all gone by the middle of the afternoon." Keith paused. "I was talking to Rhonna about us maybe selling them. She thinks it's a good idea."

His words trailed off but he didn't look away. He also didn't ask Zach what he thought of the idea. Pointedly didn't ask.

The man had balls. He liked that.

" It is a good idea." Zach shifted his weight, slid off the stool but got no closer to Keith. "Listen, about this morning …"

Keith said nothing. His expression remained cool and impersonal. But something flared in his eyes. It disappeared so quickly Zach wasn't sure if it had been there at all. He chose to believe that it had.

He tried a smile. "I was an ass." He took a single step toward Keith. "The brownies are good."

"I know they are. That's why I brought them." Keith crossed his arms over his chest.

"yeah, well ." Zach's gaze flicked once more to the container. "Are there any left?"

"I told you, they all went by mid-afternoon."

Zach took those last few steps. Without asking, he opened the lid of the container. Two brownies sat in the corner in their little paper cups. He lifted his gaze to Keith's, considered asking then didn't. Instead he reached into the container, picked up a brownie and raised it to his lips.

Rather than pop it into his mouth, he stroked the sweet over his bottom lip. The heady aroma of dark chocolate filled his nostrils. So sweet. With his gaze steady on Keith, he took the smallest bite.

Keith's eyes followed the movement. Heat flared in their golden depths as a flush crept into his cheeks.

Zach's prick jerked. Part of his brain, the normal, sane part, demanded to know what the hell he thought he was doing. He wasn't the flirty, game-playing type. Never had been. There was just something about this man that made him want to push his luck, to act out in ways he never had before.

He took the rest of the brownie into his mouth, chewed and swallowed. "Mmm."

"What do you want?" The words poured out in a rush, low and rough and loaded with some meaning that went straight to Zach's dick.

He could apologize, say what he came to say and get the hell out, except it was already too late for that. Instead he picked up the other brownie, took the few remaining steps to where Keith stood and raised the sweet to the other man's lips.

"Open up."

Keith's lips parted and Zach fed him the sweet. His teeth closed on the bit of chocolate, his lips brushed Zach's fingers, sending a bolt of lust to his crotch. His dick swelled, pressing painfully full against his zipper.

He stood frozen, unable to tear his gaze away, and watched Keith chew and swallow, muscles working in that long, pale throat. The urge to press his lips to the hollow where Keith's pulse jumped was almost irresistible.

He felt the steady bump of Keith's heart under his hand. When had he pressed his palm to Keith's chest? Zach took a breath. He needed to get some control here, some distance. He took half a step back.

Keith caught his wrist, holding him there. "Where do you think you're going? I want the rest of my treat."

He took the rest of the brownie into his mouth. His tongue slipped out and stroked Zach's finger before drawing it into that warm, wet cavern.

Zach's brain shrieked at him to slow down, get a grip, stop this madness before it was too late. He ignored it.

Growling low in his throat, he yanked Keith against him, crushing their bodies together. "If you don't want this, tell me now."

Kimberly Gardner is giving away an ebook in .pdf format from her backlist, winner’s choice, to the first person to email her at kstarrett5 (at) comcast (dot) net
Tags: author: kimberly gardner, excerpt
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