**Edited to add: Cast Away would have been my second novel had I finished it (my first was the 120K medieval romance I keep mentioning, never to see the light of day). I only got about a hundred pages into Cast Away because I kept going back and forth with a new YA story idea I wanted to write (Sinister, for those who keep tabs on this. I should really put it in my sidebar). So I decided to focus on the YA novel and see what happened, and I've written YA ever since.
But anyway, I like the almost-kiss in chapter one, so here it is!
Nathan stopped rowing and his turquoise eyes grew round. Gabriella found it difficult to breathe when he looked at her that way, a fact that frustrated her further. “In any case,” she said, struggling to keep a civil tone, “I wanted to thank you. After all, if it hadn’t been for you--”
“We’ve struck,” he said, his voice hushed... almost disbelieving.
“Oh, I see,” she mumbled, then realized what he’d said. “You mean we’ve struck land?”
Nathan tugged on his oars to demonstrate. Gabriella peered over the boat’s edge with a pounding heart. They'd been rowing toward that infernal island for so long she almost didn't believe they'd ever arrive.
Instantly her mind dropped all thoughts save one: land! A bubble of laughter rose in her chest and she clapped her hands over mouth. Nathan clamored out of the boat, not bothering to suppress his own laughter. “Come on! It's shallow enough.”
She splashed out after him, doing her best to help pulled the boat along the gentle low tide. Land, land! She hardly dared believe the soft rush of sand along her feet as they made their way toward the shoreline.
Despite the low tide, the pull of the ocean rushed their boat forward, propelling it to the white strip of beach ahead. Gabriella's skirts swirled around her as she struggled to catch her breath, nearly falling over in the waves. “We’re saved,” she panted, realizing she'd been muttering the phrase like a mantra.
“And to think,” he said, holding her arm as she steadied herself against him. “You were so certain we'd perish at sea. Are you disappointed? You so detest being proved wrong.”
She laughed, too giddy to stop herself. “I am still certain we shall perish, though now it will be on this savage island.” A wave pushed past them, swelling to Nathan’s thighs and Gabriella's waist. His smile faded, his breath coming in shallow pants of leftover exertion. Gabriella swallowed the last of her laughter. Shimmering droplets fell from his hair, and those bright blue-green eyes of his churned like the sea around them.
Her gaze dropped to his chest and the wet linen shirt that clung to each hard, muscular ridge. The warm current urged them together. Gabriella exhaled as their bodies made contact. She tasted the salt water on her lips, felt his hand tighten on her waist... when had it gotten to her waist?
No. No. This was Nathan. “The tide is coming in,” she said in a clipped voice. “We had best get back to shore.”
He was so close, still touching her... holding her. She waited, though it was difficult to meet his eyes with him so intensely close. “This is a liberty,” whispered harshly.
“Perhaps I'm the sort that takes liberties.”
“Well I am not the sort that gives them,” she retorted automatically.
He raised a brow and she blinked past a moment's shame. Too late she recalled what he'd seen between her and that idiot in London. Her blush set her skin to scalding. Another wave rolled by, propelling their boat to the beach and Gabriella into his solid frame again. She refused to rest allow her gaze to linger on the rise and fall of his chest... his smoldering eyes-- they held no appeal for her. Even the rows of golden stubble covering his jaw didn't stir a ripple of hot longing. She refused to wonder what that unshaven face might feel like pressed against her hand, those lips against her own.
He cupped her chin and she could only blink up at him. His other hand, still on her waist and hidden below the water’s surface, made its way to the small of her back, urging her closer.
“Nathan.” The word came from deep in her throat, embarrassing in it's intimacy, startling her back to her senses. He brought his lips so close she could feel his warm breath as she turned her face away. She couldn’t keep her eyes open against the pleasure of his rough, bristly cheek against her skin. She could barely trust herself not to grab his jaw and kiss him like she'd wanted to do since before she could remember. “Let go of me,” she said, sounding harsh in her effort to keep control. “Let go.”
Thanks for reading, I can't wait to read all of yours!