I SEE LONDON by Chanel Cleeton

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Excerpt from I SEE LONDON by Chanel Cleeton
New Adult contemporary romance available now from Harlequin HQN

I peered out the taxi window, watching as the city passed me by.

The ride from the airport took a little under an hour. As we drove, we crossed into more urban areas where the landscape of little houses disappeared, replaced by large blocks of multistory apartment buildings and small shops on street corners. Little by little the traffic increased, the driver laying on the horn several times and shouting out the window. BBC Radio blared through the car speakers. The announcers spoke of things like “cricket” and I felt the weight of being in a foreign land. At least I understood the language—for the most part.

The sidewalks were filled with people, their strides long and confident. Everyone looked as if they were in a hurry, as though wherever they were going was the most important place in the world. And it was noisy. Even over the radio, I heard the sounds of the city, so different from anything I’d ever experienced.

When the cab passed by the infamous Hyde Park and then Kensington Palace, only to turn onto what the cab driver referred to as Embassy Row, the reality of my new life began to sink in. We passed rows of expensive buildings—mansions, really. Some had guards stationed out front and flew flags of various countries, no doubt how Embassy Row got its name. Others were private residences, each one large and imposing. The taxi pulled through a set of enormous gates, traveling down a long gravel driveway. The driver let out a low whistle.

I stared out the window, barely resisting the urge to panic.

The school was huge. The grounds were perfectly manicured; large trees dotted the landscape. Security buzzed around as students gathered in small groups, greeting each other and joking around. Ridiculously expensive cars, the like of which I had only seen in movies, passed by.

Thank god for my scholarship.

I stepped out of the cab on shaky legs, offering a quick smile for the driver before sliding three crisp twenty-pound notes into his hands. I rolled my two black bags up the drive, ignoring the group of boys lounging in front of the school’s wooden doors.

“Yo, Samir, check out the new girl.”

I turned. I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist. I came face-to-face with a short boy dressed in a Gucci baseball cap, dark jeans, and a sweater. He flashed me a cocky smile.

“American. Not my type,” an accented voice, smooth and rich, called out behind me.

I stiffened, turning to face the speaker. And froze. For one spectacularly awkward moment, all rational thought fled my brain, save one—

They didn’t make boys like this in South Carolina.

A boy stared back at me, lounging against the railing leading up to the school steps like he owned the place. He was average height and lean, dressed casually in jeans and a black sweater. His hair was an inky black, curling at the ends, his skin a deep tan the likes of which I’d never seen before. His eyes were a rich chocolate color, his lashes full and thick—a girl’s dream. His lips were lush, his mouth curved in an ironic tilt.
I couldn’t tear my gaze away.

He was hot, but more than that, he carried himself differently than anyone I’d ever met.

He looked comfortable in his skin, in a way I couldn’t help but envy.

The boy—Samir, I guessed—flicked a cigarette butt onto the ground, a fancy black loafer rubbing it into the concrete. His gaze did a once-over, starting at my long brown hair, drifting down my body, lingering on my boobs—my eyes narrowed—before coming back to rest on my face. There was something appraising in his gaze— a flicker of interest— followed by a smile that had my heartbeat ratcheting up a notch.

For a moment he just stared, his expression taunting me, his eyes searching.
Something sparked in the air between us. Something electric that sent a thrill running through my body.

All it had taken was one look. This one was pure lust and desire—sex on a stick, as my friend Jo would say.

He flashed me another cocky smile. That smile was lethal. “Sorry.”

He looked anything but.

I wanted to say something clever, wanted to say something. But like always, words failed me. I’d never been good with guys—in high school I was prone to what I not so lovingly referred to as deer-in-the-headlights syndrome. If a guy I liked showed any interest in me, I would freeze, standing there awkwardly, all clever thought evaporated. It was a spectacularly effective way to ensure I never had a boyfriend.

I wasn’t shy—I could talk to adults, other girls, no problem. I was even okay with guys.

But guys I liked?

Epic fail.

I stood there, pinned by the weight of his hot gaze and all that swagger. I literally could not push the words out of my mouth. I looked away, painfully aware of how flushed I must be. Get me out of here, now.

His laughter, warm and smooth, filled the space behind me.

I SEE LONDON February 3, 2014
I SEE LONDON Copyright © Chanel Cleeton
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

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