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Author Dorien Kelly
Award Winning Author Author Dorien Kelly
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Below Deck Read an Excerpt Amazon.com B&N Indiebound.org
Harlequin
ISBN: 0373389655

Below Deck
by Dorien Kelly
November 2007


An Excerpt


Lin knew no surprise that Gideon Dayan would arrive exactly on time. Since Helga the dragon had left her lair for the day, he had come straight back to her room.


As she did with all who requested her services, she left the room for a few moments to give him the chance to disrobe to the degree that he felt comfortable and to get settled in on the massage table. While she stood in the hallway, she worked on her own degree of comfort. She couldn’t blame her discomfort on Gideon, either. He’d been slightly distant and yet polite when he’d arrived. He was a client, no different than any other man who had stretched across her table.


“Except for the obvious,” she murmured to herself, for she seemed to be having some distance problems, herself.


“I’m ready,” his deep voice called from the small massage room.


And so I must be, too.


Lin opened the door, then quietly closed it behind herself. Her pulse jumped as she took him. Despite his scars, he had an undeniably beautiful body. He lay there on his stomach, with his lean, muscled arms bracketing his head, and a sheet draped low over his hips. In the soft light, his skin held a dusky tone--not the pale gold of her own, but more of an olive shade. She already knew how it felt to touch him, and she had to admit that on one level it was a blessing to be able to do so again, even if she should not allow herself the pleasure of that touch.


Ah, pleasure. How very long it had been absent from her life. And how very wrong to seek it in this room.


“Would you like any music?” she asked, thinking that a distraction from what she was about to do would serve her well.


“No more than I did when you asked me the same question five minutes ago.”


She could feel color rising on her face and was thankful that he wasn’t looking her way. “Yes... Of course.”


She turned to her small warming stand and selected an oil that carried just a slight hint of sandalwood, one that Gideon had expressed a preference for the first time she’d given him a massage. After she’d poured a small amount in her right palm, she turned back to him.


“Has your leg been bothering you?” she asked. He had come to her that first time seeking relief from the ache in his upper thigh.


“Not so much my leg as my lower back,” Gideon replied, his voice slightly muffled. “I think I’ve been pushing myself too hard.”


Lin smiled, as she certainly knew about that. “I think a deep tissue massage would be best, then.”


He pushed himself up on his forearms and looked back at her, smiling. “A deep tissue massage from you? I’d think that sturdy Helga would be more the sort.”


Lin laughed. “We keep Helga at the desk where she can do no harm. Trust me, I’m strong enough for this task.”


His brows arched. “Task?”


She placed the flat of her left hand between his shoulder blades and gently urged him back down. “It was a poorly chosen word.”


“Excusable, since it’s a safe guess that English isn’t your first language.”


“Very safe. And you?”


“I grew up bi-lingual--Hebrew and English. My mother is American by birth, and my father, Israeli. They met when my mother came to Israel one summer during university to volunteer in a kibbutz.”


Lin rubbed her hands together, spreading the oil between both, and then placing them on the warm skin of Gideon’s upper back. It seemed to her that a current of something--Awareness? Caution?--passed from him to her when she first touched him.


“A kibbutz?” she asked, trying ever so hard, but failing, to ignore the pleasure rippling up her arms and to her heart. She placed her thumbs on either side of his spine and began a slow and deep downward path to first ease the surface tension from Gideon’s back.


“Kibbutzim are communal farming and light industrial communities. It’s popular among Jewish students to volunteer at one while traveling Israel.”


She nodded. “Ah.” This was a very different farming scenario than what her parents had experienced, indeed. Their time on a farm had been coerced.


She refocused her attention on bringing Gideon at least a physical sort of ease. Since she had no client coming later, she paid no heed to the time and let her hands guide her to the areas where his muscles sat taut under his skin. And what muscles he had. His was not the build of a vain man, but one of someone who appreciated the gift that God had given him, and tended well to his body. The only marks he bore appeared to have been inflicted by others, and Lin’s knew a moment’s anger, again thinking about what one human could do to another.


“You can ask, you know,” Gideon said in a low voice.


She hadn’t realized that she’d paused in her kneading. Her fingertips rested over a rope of scar tissue that wrapped to the front of his right knee.


“It is not my place to ask,” she replied. She moved her hands upward and pressed more strongly into the back of his right thigh.


“Then we’ll wait with the answers until it is your place,” he murmured.


Her hands again stilled of their own volition. “Pardon me?”


But he said nothing at all in return.


Lin drew a breath and busied her hands once again. Her place? Surely she had imagined that comment, and if not, how could he imagine that she would ever be privy to his life? And how could she for a moment wish to be?

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