New York Times bestselling author Alice Clayton is back with the third book in her Cocktail series, SCREWDRIVERED. Viv is a tough-as-nails software engineer who designs programs and loves hospital corners. But she’s also a secret romance-novel junkie who longs for a knight in shining armor, or a cowboy on a wild stallion, or a strapping firefighter to sweep her off her feet. And she gets to wear the bodice—don’t forget the bodice.
So when she’s given two hunky options in real life, she’s a bit conflicted. There’s a cowboy that ignites her loins. But there’s also a librarian, Clark Barrow. And he calls her Vivian. Can tweed jackets and elbow patches compete with chaps and spurs? You bet your sweet cow pie. Pitting Superman against Clark in a hilarious and hot battle that delights a swooning Viv/Vivian, Alice Clayton answers the question of the ages: Why ride a cowboy when you can ride a librarian?
Check out the excerpt below!
My phone rang at 1:17 in the morning. One guess who was on the other end . . .
“Explain to me why no one in California can tell time. Is it the laid-back attitude? The sun shining too brightly to see your watch?” I growled.
“You called me, Clark. You don’t know who you’re talking to?”
“Let’s see . . . aggressive, sarcastic, an all-around pleasure to be with . . . Yeah, I know exactly who I called,” he said with a low chuckle.
“I’m sound asleep and you’re picking apart my delivery?” I yawned, sinking back and scrunching up my pillow under my head.
“Impossible woman,” he said, almost under his breath. “I was calling about the Legless Knight.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Do I sound like I’m kidding?”
“To be fair, I’ve never heard you kidding. Who knows what you sound like?”
“You’ve never heard me do a number of things, Vivian. You have no idea what I might sound like.”
Ah. Nighttime Clark. I curled onto my side, cuddling the blanket a little tighter. “Okay, I’ll bite. What in the world is so important about the Legless Knight that you had to call me after one in the morning?”
“You’ll bite?” he asked.
I clutched at the pillow a little more. “Clark . . .” I warned.
I got another chuckle. “I was thinking that perhaps we were a little too quick to get rid of him. After all, he’d been the man around the house for quite some time. Perhaps he should stay around a little longer?”
“You were the one that said that not everything was worth keeping. Which was impressive by the way, and correct. There was entirely too much house packed into that house.” But I had to admit I’d been a little sad to see the knight go. “Besides, who knows where he even is now, since John took him to the antiques store?”
“Actually, the knight stayed with him. He thought he might want it for the restaurant. I think his exact words were ‘might add a touch of class to the patio.’ ”
“Not really sure a medieval theme is the right message you want on a restaurant patio.” I laughed.
“Exactly what I told him when I went to bring it back.”
“Wait, so you already went and got him?”
“You were sure I’d say yes to bringing him back to the house?”
“You’re a little full of yourself, aren’t you?”
“So what the hell did you call me for? Sounds like you’ve got it all worked out already, Clark,” I said, rolling over on my back. “You sure that’s the only reason you called?”
It was silent on the other end of the phone. Except for the almost imperceptible sound of him taking a sip of what I assumed was Scotch. Water. Neat. An image rose in my mind: Clark, sitting low in a leather armchair, one hand on the phone, the other on his glass. Hair, unparted and messy. Eyeglasses, abandoned for the evening next to a book on the side table. Jeans. White buttondown, untucked and the top two buttons undone. Blue tie, loosened but not untied. A five o’clock shadow that had progressed to scruffy goodness.
I pulled my pillow from behind my head and covered my face to muffle my giggle. What in the world had gotten into me?
Then I heard him take a breath. Deep, prolonged, and almost . . . shaky? Almost a . . . shudder?
My own breath? Caught. Held hostage by a librarian three thousand miles away who called me in the middle of the night to ask me about a bisected suit of armor.
I held so very tight to my pillow.
“You want to know if that’s the only reason I called, Vivian?” he asked finally, his voice octaves and octaves lower than Daytime Clark. Raspy, gruff, rough-and-tumble.
“Uh-huh?” I squeaked.
“That’s the only reason,” he said. “Have a good night. Sweet dreams.”
He hung up.
I buried my head into the pillow, kicking my legs into the air.
Eventually, I slept.
But sweet dreams? Not in the slightest. Salty? Hell, yes.
* * *
Clark continued to call me while I was back east, not every night and not always at the same time. But late enough and with enough regularity that I went to bed each night wondering whether Nighttime Clark would be making an appearance. And more often than not, he did.
“Wait a minute, just wait a damn minute. Chess team? Please tell me you’re joking,” I said during one phone call. I was lying in my bed, eating Sour Patch Kids and asking Clark about his high school days. A few nights ago we’d started chatting about grade school, progressed on to everyone’s least-favorite and most awkward junior high years, and had finally made it to high school.
“Chess team was serious business. Do you know how great that looks on a transcript? Colleges eat that shit up.” He laughed and sipped his Scotch. Three hours ahead of him I wasn’t indulging at the same time he was, but it did make for a more relaxing conversation. And for a looser Clark.
“Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you curse before, Mr. Barrow.”
“I’m sure I have,” he said.
“Nope, pretty sure you haven’t. Although I’ve gotten a few willy-nillys and a holy mackerel and—”
“I’ve never said holy mackerel and you know it,” he interrupted me, and I laughed.
“Oh yes you have; it was when I was going to throw away the moth-eaten blanket that was on the back of the couch in the living room. You launched into this tirade about how it was an authentic Adirondack woolen blanket, extremely rare for California, as they were typically found in upstate New York, from the old camps where wealthy families would go to escape the heat of Manhattan and Philadelphia and Boston at the turn of the last century, and that we couldn’t possibly throw it away. That it would be akin to trashing Americana as we know it,” I said, snorting a little at the end.
There was a long pause.
“You have a stunning memory, Vivian,” he finally said, a hint of humor in his voice. I’d been worried I’d hurt his feelings.
“Sometimes I do, I suppose. About some things.”
I switched positions on the bed, getting more comfortable. “So, chess team, huh? Tell me more about that.”
“What did you just do? You sound different,” he said.
“I just turned around in bed, I had my feet up against the wall before.”
“Mm-hmm,” he breathed.
Nighttime Clark. I grinned into the darkness. “I’m lying the right way,” I said, my voice lifting a little at the end.
“I wasn’t aware there was a right way to lie in bed, Vivian,” he said, his voice deepening, going all warm honey.
“Depends on the bed, I suppose,” I teased.
“Depends on the body, I’d suppose,” he teased right back, and just like that, my skin pebbled. “Tell me all about the right way,” he said, with more of the warm gooey.
Officially? I was lying on my back with my head on the pillow, my legs under the blanket. But unofficially?
“I’m stretched out on my back, arms over my head, my legs barely tucked under the comforter since it’s so hot in here tonight. I’ve got one hand twisted in my hair, and my other hand is holding . . . you.”
I closed my eyes, held my breath, and waited.
Clark. Groaned. Deep.