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Excerpt: Almost in Love

Excerpt: Almost in Love

Book 4: Clover Park Charmers

A tall man bounded on stage in full pirate regalia—white, puffy shirt unbuttoned to show off lots of muscular chest, a black bandana tied rakishly around his shaggy hair, a thick black belt with a sword on one side, tight black breeches, and knee-high black leather boots.

“Wow,” Steph breathed.

“Yeah,” Amber said. She leaned forward, straining to see his face. Something about him was familiar.

“Ahoy, landlubbers!” he called into the audience. “I am the Pirate King!”

Amber leaned so far forward she nearly fell out of her seat. She knew that voice. Bare. Was it really him?

The man nodded to the pianist, the music started, and he launched into “I am a Pirate King” with a booming baritone that filled the auditorium. He sang, he strutted, he swaggered, even brandished his sword a few times. He finished with a dramatic bow.

Everyone clapped.

Bare slid his sword back into its sheath and inclined his head. “Thank ye, ye scurvy lot.”

Toby stood. “Who are you?”

“I am the Pirate King.”

Toby grinned. “You are now. I’m the director, Toby Whalen. We’re so glad you stopped by today. Rehearsals start Monday night.”

Bare nodded once and exited stage right.

“I’ll be right back,” Amber told Steph before slipping out of the auditorium. She hoped to catch Bare before he left. She caught sight of his back as he was heading down the hallway to the exit.

“Bare?” she called.

He turned. “Amber?”

“What are you doing here?” they asked at the same time.

“I’m auditioning,” he said at the same time as she said, “I’m painting.”

He crossed to her, and she felt herself flush. The white shirt, open to the waist, gave her an eyeful of chest and abs. Wow. She forced her eyes up to meet his, which were sparkling with mischief.

“Speak again, m’lady, if you dare,” he growled. “Explain what ye do here.”

A thrill ran through her. She almost forgot it was Bare for a moment there. She licked her lips. “I paint the scenery.”

“Ah. Had me an audition for the Pirate King.”

“I know. You were amazing! I didn’t know you could sing.”

“Arrr, matey, sing, loot, pillage, fight with me sword.”

Sword. Her eyes dropped to his crotch hugged snugly by the breeches. She felt her face flame. What was wrong with her? He hadn’t meant that kind of sword!

She met his warm brown eyes again. “You don’t have to talk like a pirate.”

It was confusing her. Friendly and sexy were getting crossed. And wasn’t she mad at him for something?

He grinned devilishly. “Aye aye, me beauty.”

“Oh.” She giggled. “Have you done a lot of theater?”

“Aye, wench, but it’s been a while.” His voice, low and scraping, registered on a deep, throbbing level.

“Too long?” she asked. Only they weren’t talking about theater anymore.

He leered at her, letting his eyes trail up and down her body. “Saucy wench.”

She shook her head. “I can’t believe the way you just belted that song out.”

“Believe. Aye, truth is, me singing is a regular thing.” He stepped closer, and his voice rumbled close to her ear. “Me shower knows the tale.”

Her throat went dry as she pictured him naked in the shower. Stop that, you dirty brain. This was her friend and neighbor Bare. Regular old Bare. Good ole…Bare.

“So…okay,” she said, suddenly tongue-tied as their gazes collided. She had the strangest urge to step right into his arms and let him carry her off to his pirate ship and have his wicked way with her.

She cleared her throat. “I’d better get back to painting.” She gestured in the direction of the band room. “The pirate ship is huge. It’s going to need at least two coats of black.”

He gave her a rakish salute with a wink that left her speechless.

“Will ye be at rehearsal on Monday night, wench?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” she breathed. “I’ll be there.”

He gave her a slow smile, and it was like the sun had suddenly come out and shone its sexy good looks all over her body. “That be good news.”

He turned and strutted out the back door. Look at that ass. You could bounce a quarter off it. She quickly averted her eyes and moved back to the band room in a daze.

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