SNEAK PEEK: Beauty of a Monster by Eleanor Lloyd-Jones & Katie Fox

Will shivered as he stepped into the cold night air and tensed every muscle in his body ready for a fight, his hands still curled around the kitchen broom, ignoring the fact he was now ankle deep in snow. Following the prints slowly, he rounded the corner of the manor and then stopped abruptly. His face screwed up in more confusion as the trail came to a halt at the bottom of a ladder that leaned against the wall and stopped just near the south wing’s roof.

The tapping noise was louder now, and Will dropped the broom, utterly perplexed and highly annoyed at the situation. He walked to the bottom of the ladder and placed his hands on his hips, lifting his chin to look to the top. He no longer cared who it was or how big the fucker was, he wanted them gone.

Squinting in the darkness, he made out a small silhouette huddled over on the slate. There was a torch shining in front of them where he could just about make out the movement of a hammer or some other tool.

He cleared his throat in an exaggerated fashion, loudly and with real conviction, and as he did so, the figure turned around suddenly, almost losing their balance.

Will’s eyes widened as the intruder’s arm swung and the torchlight caught their face. “Josephine?” He shielded them with his hand in an attempt to see better. “What the fuck are you doing on my fucking roof?”

“Jesus, Will!” Heart slamming against her ribs, Joey steadied herself, regaining her footing, and once again, her balance, as she turned to look at him. “Must you constantly do that? What the hell is with you appearing out of nowhere all the bloody time?” She shook her head and rolled her eyes, breathing in a lungful of cool air. “What does it look like I’m doing? Fixing a leak, obviously. Lord knows we can’t rely on the manor’s owner to do it his damn self.”

She began to turn back around, searching for the hole that had allowed a constant supply of water to slowly drip into her room, the sound of it splattering to the floor and waking her from her sleep.

“You’re nothing but a fucking nuisance, Miss Bell. It’s three am. Get down and go to bed.” Will dropped his hands to his sides, slipping them into his pockets, and shook his head as he turned to walk to the door, the snow slowly seeping up the legs of his jeans and annoying him further.

“Go to bed?” Joey laughed dryly. Was he being serious? “Have you any idea what it’s like trying to sleep with water dripping through your ceiling?” She paused a moment, pursing her lips in thought. “Wait. Don’t answer that. Not so surprisingly, I think I already know the answer.” Locating the hole, she returned to patching it up, covering the section with a new piece of tile. The fix would be temporary, but it would have to do for now. “I’ll get down as soon as I’m finished.”

Will stopped short, his head hanging low and an incredulous smirk playing at his lips. He turned back around and pulled his hands from his pockets, holding his palms skyward. “Do tell, Josephine. What is the answer? You seem to think you know one hell of a lot about me so please, don’t hold back. Do I have any idea what it is like?”

“No. No, you don’t.” Joey bit the inside of her cheek in order to stop another seething laugh from escaping. She gritted her teeth, annoyance heating her skin that had been ice cold only a few seconds ago from the bitter chill blowing around her. “How can somebody who drowns himself in luxury, who doesn’t even know how to cook himself a simple meal, know what it’s possibly like to live in an anything less than perfect state, to not have everything handed to him on a silver platter? Wake up, Will. Sometimes, people have to lift a hand to do work, and I’m not talking the effort it takes to pour yourself another drink and bring the glass to your mouth.” Exhausted and ready to be done with this conversation, Joey continued hammering the last few nails she needed to secure the tile in place.

Blood boiling with frustration at her evaluation of his situation, Will retorted quickly. “I have news for you, Josephine Bell. You know nothing about my life. Nothing. So you can damn well keep your holier-than-thou attitude and your judgements to yourself.” He turned back towards the house and began to stride through the snow to the still open door around the corner.

Hammer in hand, Joey hurried off the roof and scrambled down the ladder. She wasn’t about to let him walk off with the last word. Not on her life. As she reached the bottom rung and stepped down to the ground, her boots sinking into the snow, she tossed the hammer beside her feet and, without thinking, leaned down to scoop up a handful of the cold, white powder. She quickly compressed it into a firm ball, and threw her arm over her shoulder, hurling the snowball through the air straight at Will. “Lighten the fuck up, would you!”

It hit him, square between his shoulder blades, wetting his shirt and breaking apart in a splatter of frozen, dusty crystals. The force of the solid, ice cold ball and the slushy wetness seeping through to his skin had Will stopping dead, his eyes narrowing and his lips pulling in tight. She was going to wish she hadn’t done that.

Joey’s jaw dropped open at her precision, never expecting to actually hit him, and a giggle of a laugh stirred in her chest.

Served him right.

Uptight dickhead.

He spun around and glared at a wide-eyed Joey whose hand had come up to cover her mouth. She stood there in a pair of wellies, short pyjamas and a huge unbuttoned coat—which clearly didn’t belong to her—that almost came to her knees.

She looked as sexy as hell.

He cocked his head to the side. “You’d better run.”

Oh… shit.

Will’s words flew through the air as fast as the snowball had soared, and the second Joey recognised the serious tone that accompanied them, she froze, panic in her eyes as she realised Will was between her and the safety of the house. Her only other option was to run off into the darkness of the grounds, and there was no chance of that happening. A split second decision had her hauling arse towards the corner of the building, hoping to God she could get past him fast enough.

The moment she set off running, Will stepped to the side and reached out his arm in an attempt to grab her, but she was too fast. Her nimble frame dodged and twisted to the side leaving his fingers grasping at nothing but thin air. Annoyance had him turning around, his arms lifting into the air and his hands clasping on top of his head, his eyes closing.

Only a moment slipped by, though, before his stubbornness took a hold of him and he in turn set off running, watching as her tiny body disappeared around the corner, an extreme feeling of deja vu filling his mind.

Why was he always chasing her?

A strange rush of adrenaline surged through him as his wide strides found him at the door only a second or two behind her, and the jingle of female laughter, laced with playful fear, wafted through the gap and into the winter air sending a tingle of undefined lust down his spine.

Goddamn her.

All coherent thought left him. His only goal was to catch her—to grab her and to stop that clever mouth of hers from hurling her thoughts at him. He continued down the corridor and watched as Joey ducked into the sitting room where he had been sleeping not an hour before.

Big mistake.

There was no door out of that room once you were in there, and he knew he had her trapped. He almost laughed to himself at her foolishness and the urgency of his movements slowed a little as he approached the room, knowing he had already won this little game. He stood in the doorway, his arms above his head and his hands gripping the top of the frame, watching her as she stood behind the sofa, breathless, her eyes and cheeks shining in the dim light and an almost childlike smile on her face.

Fuck, she’s beautiful.

Realising she was stuck, Joey stood still, her lungs heaving from her short sprint through the house and her heart pattering wildly. He took up every inch of the doorway, his shirt stretching across his chest, showing off each well-defined curve of muscle.

“Is it too late to call a truce?”

Will eyed her with his steely gaze and nodded slowly. “I don’t believe in truces.”

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