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An Imperfect Match (Dare to Dream 2) (Chapter Two)

Book By: Bea LaRocca

At her father's request, literary agent, Claire Brady travels to the Adirondacks to secure a contract with reclusive horror author, Zach Colden

Submitted:Jun 25, 2014    Reads: 172    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

~~ Claire was on the highway headed upstate by 5:00 a.m. Friday morning. Marcus had made reservations for her at a quaint little B&B that touted its proximity to the best hiking, rock climbing, and river rafting trails. She wasn't really into that kind of thing but it really didn't matter anyway, she would be working all weekend.
She stopped at a roadside diner around 10:00 a.m. for some brunch and, in addition, ordered a sandwich and coffee to go. She still had a good two hours of driving to do, at least, thanks to being stuck in traffic twice, once behind an accident and the second time behind roadwork. She assumed that the heavy traffic headed upstate had something to do with the amazing display of fall foliage that she'd been admiring herself.
Another hour into the drive, it began to drizzle lightly. She flicked the wipers on and kept driving. She'd decided to stop at Zach Colden's house first, get it over with, and then she'd check into the B&B and settle in for some hardcore reading. She'd entered his address into the GPS right before she'd left the diner. She'd told Marcus to take enough work home to see him through until Tuesday morning. She wouldn't be driving back to the city until Monday and had suggested that he just work from home on that day. Let Ben and his nephew go it alone for the first day.
Now that the shock of Ben's announcement had worn off, she was beginning to feel a lot better about this Nick. They could certainly alter the way that they did things for a while. Let Ben's lawyer nephew deal with all the legal stuff, contract negotiations and all of that, for now, while Marcus and she caught up on some of the reading. And he could prove useful in dealing with the legal issues surrounding the Starlight authors that were still under contract. After all, those contracts did not require the author to have an agent and the fact that they already had a contract left Claire a little unsure about what exactly it was that she was supposed to do for them. They could train him little by little in the rest of it, and Ben had a few days to show him the ropes before he left. And she wasn't going to feel discouraged because none of the interviews that she'd conducted so far had panned out. She had five more to conduct next week. And if none of them worked out? There were literally thousands of people out there looking for work. She would find the right person or persons, eventually.
She abandoned her inner musings and returned her focus to the road as the drizzle turned to light snow. She cranked up the heat just a little more, as the temperature had started to drop as soon as she'd hit the mountains.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking! And it changed with each dip and rise in the winding road. Tall evergreens and the occasional deciduous trees lined the road on each side, twisting streams and tiny waterfalls visible off in the distance. Then, suddenly, this would give way to a sheer rock wall or craggy cliff face that extended hundreds of feet down to the valley below.
She hadn't spotted a sign of civilization for several miles now, except for the paved road that she was driving on and the sturdy guardrails that ran along each side of it. Claire decided right then that she would never again tease Kate about the remoteness of her lake house property. Compared to this wilderness? Her friend lived in the suburbs.
* * * *
Zach brought the axe down, splitting the piece of wood in two. He'd abandoned his flannel shirt some time ago and his short-sleeved T-shirt was soaked with sweat, the veins prominent along the corded muscles of his forearms and biceps. He'd pulled his long, black hair back off his face and secured it in a ponytail at the back of his head.
He threw the split pieces onto the pile, stood another large piece of wood on its end, and brought the axe down once again.
He'd lived in these mountains for most of his life, so he knew that the storm that was coming was going to be one for the record books. He could feel it in the cold, wet air, smell it in the gradually increasing wind.
Pulling a bandana out of the back pocket of his jeans, he used it to wipe the sweat out of his eyes before loading his arms with several pieces of the split wood and carrying them into the cabin. After several trips, he had the racks on each side of the fireplaces stacked to the top with wood, in both the living room and his bedroom. He brought in a few more pieces and made ready the fireplace in each room. The bin next to the furnace was already full and he'd had the underground propane tank that supplied the fuel for his stove and backup generator filled last week.
The snow was coming. It was going to be wet and heavy, and there was going to be a lot of it. Not that he minded being stuck inside for a few days. He needed to get back to work even though he had no idea what he was going to do with this book when it was done.
He thought about the recent turn of events while he headed back outside to grab his shirt and to return the axe and unsplit logs back to the metal storage shed where he stored them to keep them dry.
He'd been working with the same publisher for almost ten years, but they'd been struggling financially for a while and they'd had the option of either declaring bankruptcy or merging with a larger company. They'd chosen the latter.
Not really a disaster in and of itself, but this new parent publisher required that every one of their authors be represented by a literary agent. He'd gotten along fine without an agent for all this time, why should he have to give up a percentage of his profits to a middleman now? Or a middlewoman, he thought sarcastically. He'd done some checking into the agency that Premier Publishing had recommended and learned that the publisher's own daughter ran the agency, surprise, surprise!
And the woman hadn't even bothered to make the pitch herself, sending one of her responsible-looking employees up here to talk to him. He'd sent the man packing before he could get a word out.
He shook his head sadly. That was the problem with people with money. They never seemed satisfied with what they had, and were always coming up with new schemes to get more.
Not that he was a pauper by a long shot, but property taxes and alimony took a big chunk of his royalty payments, and he wouldn't last long if he didn't make a decision soon. He just really hated being backed into a corner. He would come out swinging every time, guaranteed.
The first flakes clung to his flannel shirt as he climbed the steps onto the front porch. He turned and faced the yard and then the woods on each side, letting loose a piercing whistle, three times. Where the hell was that damn dog?
* * * *
It was really coming down now. Claire's windshield wipers were smacking back and forth furiously, but she hadn't attached snow blades yet. It was still a week until Halloween, and she was driving through a freaking winter wonderland. Ten more miles to go. If she weren't so close she'd turn around now and head straight to the B&B, talk to Zach Colden tomorrow or the next day, but she'd just have to make this quick, and then she could head back down the mountain and get tucked into her comfy little room, ASAP!
* * * *
Zach stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist, padding back into the living room and over to the front door where an incessant scratching was punctuated by an occasional bark.
"I should just leave you out there," he mumbled as he unlatched the door and let his snow-coated husky into the house.
As soon as he relatched the door, the dog shook himself off furiously, spraying snow onto the floor in all directions. Zach jumped
back from the cold spray that hit his calves and shins.
He snapped his fingers once and the dog headed over to lie on the rug in front of the fireplace. Turning around once, he settled down and rested his nose on his front paws, staring at his human with those ageless white eyes.
"I don't want to hear it. You should have come when I first called you!" He stalked back into the bathroom and finished drying off, slipping into a pair of sweats and rubbing his dripping hair with the towel.
A loud pounding started at the front door this time and he cursed loudly, "What the hell?"
He stalked over to the door, convinced that he must be hearing things. Who would be crazy enough to come up here in this?
He pulled the door open and fell into a pair of leaf-green eyes.
* * * *
"Mr. Colden?" Claire asked tentatively. Holy crap! Please, tell me that this delicious hunk of man isn't the insufferable bastard that Ben had described?
The man stood in the doorway, glaring at her with the darkest eyes that she had ever seen. The ends of his thick, straight hair, just as black, hung past his broad, muscular shoulders. He was nude to the waist, the darkly tanned skin of his chiseled chest and abs, hairless. Holy crap!
Zach swallowed hard and found his voice finally. "Are you insane?" he asked rudely.
Oh yeah, this was him. And hot didn't even begin to cover it! Too bad that those incredible onyx eyes were cold with anger, Claire thought sadly. "May I please come in?" she asked politely, trying not to shiver from the cold wet snow covering her from head to toe, from the hot pool of moisture that was seeping into her panties. Good lord!
"Who the hell are you? And what the hell are you doing here?" He continued to bark at her, a low, rumbling sound that seemed to ripple down her spine.
"I'm Claire Brady." She stuck out her hand in the traditional greeting. "I've come to talk to you about-"
"I know why you're here," he cut her off harshly.
Claire gulped. Ben had not been kidding. This guy defined antisocial.
Zach forced himself to break contact with those mesmerizing eyes so that he could study the rest of her. A riot of coppery curls framed her pretty face and brushed the shoulders of her jacket, the tip of her nose bright pink from the cold. So, this was the middlewoman? Maybe he wouldn't mind having her in the middle after all, between him and his mattress.
"May I please come in?" she asked again, unable to control her shivering this time.
His face tight with anger, he stepped back away from the door and allowed her to step inside. She stepped into the spacious, raftered living room, the heat from the roaring fireplace instantly seeping into her bones. She shrugged out of her damp jacket, realizing too late that her nipples, puckered from the cold, poked at the thin material of her silk blouse.
She fought off the urge to cross her arms over her chest as his eyes locked on her breasts.
He turned away instantly, but not before she noticed how his face had tightened even more.
Holy fuck! Zach stalked past her and headed into his small kitchen, his cock twitching as he grabbed a beer from the fridge and came to stand at the breakfast bar that separated the kitchen from the living room. Why'd she have to have a body that was just made for fucking? He leaned his arms on the counter as he took a seat on one of the stools. Claire hung her jacket on the back of one of the stools that was on the living-room side of the bar. She glanced around nervously as he continued to glare at her. Her eyes settled on the animal that lay staring at her from its spot in front of the fireplace. What is it, a dog, or a wolf? She tensed up instantly.
"Does it bite?"
"No, he doesn't. Unfortunately."
Claire's eyes narrowed on him as he took another swig of beer.
"Want one?" he asked grudgingly.
"No, thanks." She cleared her throat and stepped up to an empty stool. "May I sit down?"
"Suit yourself." Zach tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore his physical reaction to her. This was an impossible situation. Because, he knew what she had yet to figure out. That she was stuck here with him…for days.
Claire took the seat gratefully. The last half hour of the drive up here had been nerve-racking. She needed to deliver her pitch and get the hell out of here, fast.
"Well, Mr. Colden-"
"Zach. You said that you know why I'm here?"
"Sure do. You're here to convince me to hire you to do something that I'm perfectly capable of doing myself."
"That may be true, but why should you have to? Why shouldn't you just relax and create and let someone else deal with all the
His lips settled into a smirk. "And why should I let you earn a percentage of my profits when it takes me months to complete a novel and you spend all of five minutes getting me a contract from your daddy?"
Claire's temper went from zero to furious in a split second.
"Obviously coming here was a complete waste of my time. I'll be seeing myself out!"
Zach grabbed her wrist before she could come all the way to her feet. "You're not going anywhere."
"Excuse me?" Claire was livid. And terrified. What the hell have I gotten myself into?
Zach saw the anger and fear in her eyes and he released her suddenly, forcing himself to even out his tone.
"Take a look outside, Irish. There's at least six or seven inches of heavy, wet snow covering the ground already and it won't be stopping any time soon. If you try to drive off of this mountain now? You'll either drive off a cliff that you can't even see, plow your car into a tree that you can't even see or just stall out and freeze to death…eventually."
"And why would you give a shit?" Claire asked hotly, her temper still sizzling just beneath the surface.
"Personally, I wouldn't want your ghost wandering around my mountain for all eternity."
"Was that an attempt at humor?" she asked sarcastically.
"I don't do humor. I do horror."
"So I've heard." She sunk onto her seat, the reality of the situation sinking in finally. She couldn't leave here without endangering her
life, but she couldn't stay here either, with him.
Zach thought about what she'd said finally. "Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You carried your pretty little ass all the way up here, in the middle of a blizzard, to convince me to let you represent me, and you haven't even read my work?" he asked incredulously.
He thinks that I'm pretty? she thought irrationally. She ignored her reaction to that knowledge, and focused on what he'd said. He did have a point. Damn him!
"I came up here to discuss your options…all of your options. I don't expect you to believe me but all I want is for you, for any author to be able to share their work with the world, and I encourage them to take the best deal that they can get, even when my father's company isn't the one offering it."
"That's not what I asked you," he said, calmer now.
Claire sighed heavily. "No, Mr. Colden, I've never read your work."
"What's the matter, Irish?" He leaned forward suddenly and fingered one of her tightly coiled, red curls. "Afraid of things that go bump in the night?"
His suggestive whisper had her shivering again, with arousal this time. The double entendre was not lost on her. That deep voice of his had dropped to a low, rich timbre that had her pussy throbbing. Her tongue darted across her lips and she swallowed hard.
"Why do you call me that?" she asked huskily.
"What? Irish? You are, aren't you?"
"Yes, but-"
"But what?" his voice dropped even lower.
What an irritating man! She couldn't decide whether she wanted to choke the life out of him, or lick him from head to toe.
Zach pulled the strand of hair that he was still holding straight out, and then let it go, fascinated when it coiled back into place. He
wanted to grab fistfuls of her fiery curls while he shoved his cock down her throat, right between those pink, pouty lips.
Claire backed away quickly, needing desperately to remind herself that his preformed opinion of her had completely pissed her off. She'd already said all that she was going to say. She wasn't going to waste
her breath trying to explain herself to him. She could care less what this grizzly mountain man thought of her. Okay, maybe not so grizzly, she thought reluctantly.
She cleared her throat. "But, nothing, it's not important."
He left his seat and headed over to the fridge to grab another beer. As he turned back toward her, she noticed the prominent bulge that poked at the front of his sweats. Holy crap! He had a hard-on. And it was huge.
Shit! Zach thought irritably. Her eyes had settled on his crotch and widened with…panic? If only I hadn't spent the last few seconds fantasizing about fucking her in her pretty mouth. Eventually her reaction hit home and it set him off again.
"I can't stay here!" she mumbled desperately as she jumped up from her seat. She was stranded at the top of a mountain, miles from anywhere, in the middle of a blizzard, with the rudest, most hostile, hottest man that she had ever met. She'd been here all of five minutes. She didn't know anything about him really, no one did. He could do anything he wanted to her and no one could help her.
She tried to get a grip, to gain control of her runaway panic, and her eyes flew to his as she tried to determine if she needed to make a run for it.
Those eyes were filled with cold fury as he watched the expressions cross her face. His voice was even colder when he spoke.
"I have never touched a woman who didn't want me more than she wanted to draw her next breath…" He drew in a deep breath and
continued, "and I'm sure as hell not going to start now."
His eyes raked over her dismissively before he leaned forward. "I can guarantee you, Ms. Brady, that you won't be seeing an inch of this cock"-Claire's eyes widened with shock when he gripped himself firmly-"unless you beg for it!"
He stalked over to the other doorway that led off his kitchen before he turned to face her suddenly. "And maybe not even then."
He continued on into the hallway and within seconds Claire heard the resounding slam of an unseen door.
She stood there, speechless, frozen in place.
The clicking of the dog's nails as it padded across the hardwood floor broke the ice finally, sounding incredibly loud in the abject silence. It came to stand beside her, appearing to peek around the doorway to the kitchen, his ears standing straight up. After a few tense seconds he turned to face her, his strange, light eyes meeting hers. He just shrugged his doggie shoulders then and turned back around, returning to his comfy rug in front of the fireplace.
Claire suppressed her hysterical chuckle. Oh that does it! I have completely lost my mind! It was all the stress that she'd been under lately, it had to be. And she was tired from the long drive. Yeah, that was it. It had to be.
She took a deep, steadying breath and returned to the seat that she had occupied earlier. She needed to take stock of her situation. Deciding to ignore her confusing reaction to that horrid man, she calmly considered her options.
The problem was she had no options. Well really, she had two. Leave and probably die, or stay and maybe die. Ahh, decisions, decisions.
She forced herself to suppress that hysterical chuckle again. Several minutes went by and still not a peep from Prince Charming. Claire sighed heavily. If she was stuck here for the night? She was going to need something to do. And she just might need the can of pepper spray that she kept hidden in her briefcase. She'd better head out to her car now and grab her stuff before the snow got any deeper.
Grabbing her still-damp jacket off the back of the stool, she
slipped into it and headed for the door.
* * * *
Zach stood at his bedroom window, staring out at the falling
snow. His experienced eye gauged the snowfall rate to be about two
inches an hour. If it kept up at this rate for as long as he expected it to,
records would definitely be broken.
He'd pulled on a clean T-shirt and socks while he tried to gain
control of his temper. God, she'd pissed him off! He'd never been so
offended in his life. Does she really believe that I'd force myself on
And she'd confused the hell out of him. At first he would have
sworn that she was attracted to him too, physically at least. But maybe
he'd misread the way that she'd looked at him?
Not that he cared either way. He had no intention of getting
involved with someone like her, ever again. Sure she was easy on the
eyes, and his dick ached to be buried inside of her, anywhere and
everywhere. But it just wasn't worth the headache.
He should have seen to his body's needs when he headed down
the mountain to pick up supplies a few days ago, he thought with
regret. There was more than one woman in town that wouldn't have
minded giving him a few hours of her time. But he hadn't had the
urge then. He damn sure had it now!
The sound of the front door being opened and then closed intruded
on his train of thought, and it set him off again.
God, she couldn't be that crazy! Could she?
Fuck! He stalked back out to the living room and quickly stuffed
his feet into his boots, grabbing his jacket off the coatrack by the


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