American Beauty, Book 1
After her parents’ tragic deaths, Elisa Snow wanted nothing more than to escape her past. Eighteen and alone, she fled her quaint English village and moved to the United States. A starving science student by day and an artist’s muse by night, Elisa has slowly built a new life. She never dreamed she would lose everything again.
She’s one week from graduation when her visa is unexpectedly denied. Given thirty days to leave the country, she must face the one thing she cannot survive again—saying goodbye and leaving her home. Yet within minutes of her world shattering, she meets a man with the power to piece it back together.
After finishing his tour of duty in Iraq, Aiden Hale traded battlefields for boardrooms, becoming one of the most successful venture capitalists in the nation. But all his wealth can’t buy him reprieve from the horrific memories of war. The only thing that gives him peace is a painting of Elisa.
Drawn together by their invisible wounds, they begin a passionate affair as they race against the clock to defy their pasts—and fight for their future.
Earlier versions of this book were posted on the author’s blog under the titles of The Master’s Muse and 30 Nights of Snow, using the pen name Ani Surnois, and has since been extensively edited.
©2015 Ani Keating
EXCERPT 4: THE BEDROOM
We walk through a hallway along the ubiquitous glass wall, our footfalls echoing on the polished hardwood floor. Over the sound system, Neil Diamond croons about a girl becoming a woman. We walk past six open doors and stop at one that is slightly ajar. He opens it and steps to the side. I enter, feeling like I am walking into a haunted house and a dream at once.
It’s his bedroom.
Everything here is gray and cream too, but my attention is riveted by the walls. Here are my paintings. All of them, side by side on the wall facing his bed. The one with my neck is first, then my shoulder, my waist, and finally my leg. As though he is undressing me for the very first time. The bottom of my belly tightens violently at the thought.
“In your bedroom? Not where I expected them,” I say, trying and failing to control my blush.
“Where did you expect them?”
“I don’t know, to be honest. But not here.”
“Well, my office seemed inappropriate.” He chuckles, shaking his head, as if he really considered the idea. My eyes flit to the enormous cream-colored bed.
Resting on it are a white shirt and a pair of knickers. I walk over and pick up the knickers gingerly. My immediate feeling is relief. It’s not a thong. It’s a silk bikini, the color of my skin, with lace only on the sides. I almost jump him in gratitude but that would not help me at all.
“Relieved?” he asks, amused.
“Yes, very much. I was imagining a lot worse.”
“Worse? Hmm, I’d use the term ‘better’. Believe me, I drove myself mad thinking of the options.” He caresses my lower lip. It burns at his touch.
“I’ll let you get ready. Not a good idea if I’m here.” He winks and saunters out of his bedroom.
The moment the door closes behind him, I sink on the floor. Deep breaths, deep breaths. Hydrogen, 1.008. Helium, 4.003. Lithium 6.94… Oh Isa, don’t be such a baby. It’s just a shirt. I stand up, the wine fortifying me a little, grab the shirt and the knickers, and march to what I think is his restroom. The lights brighten again. The restroom is massive, like everything else in the house, but I don’t have enough presence of mind to analyze my surroundings. I turn my back on the mirror, afraid I’ll lose the nerve.
I slide on the knickers, ignoring the way they feel against my sensitized skin. A small but rapid pulse beats between my legs against the delicate silk. I take his shirt and have the urge to smell it. Sandalwood and Aiden. As I inhale his scent, I realize he has already worn this shirt, maybe even today, perhaps to mark it as his. The thought sends me into near convulsions but also, oddly, gives me some courage. Maybe he knew I would be nervous but unable to resist wearing it, knowing it had been on him. I put it on, and his scent brands my skin.
Ani Keating Bio:
Ani Keating is an attorney, daughter, sister, and wife, living in the City of Roses, Oregon. When she is not in court or at the office helping clients sort through legal issues (and complaining about the photocopy machine), Ani explores her childhood passion for writing. Her first novel, Thirty Nights, is a sexy and heart-tugging story about love’s power to save and guide us even at our darkest moments.
Thirty Nights was originally posted online on fanfiction and on Ani’s popular blog. Over the course of eight short months, the story received more than half-million hits, 63,000 visitors, over 1,000 followers, and over 3,000 reviews and messages. It will be released for everyone on November 17, 2015. Its sequel, Ninety Days, is currently in the drafting stage.
When she is not writing, Ani spends endless hours at Powell’s Bookstore, exploring classics and latest releases. She also likes to stroll through the Portland Rose Garden, drool over shoes on any store window, and dance to everything from Beyoncé to Johnny Cash.