And so starts February…I have to say after the crazy weather we’ve been having on the West Coast, I’m looking forward to XOXOs from Mother Nature this month. At least the inclement weather afforded a good excuse to snuggle up with a good book.
I’m a sucker for second chance/secret baby books. But as a writer I’ve always struggled with the secret keeper needing a rock solid reason for keeping a child a secret. I think Lisa’s got one. I hope you agree if you read the book. In the meantime, please enjoy Lisa and Joe’s first–in a very long time–kiss!
He stopped her. “One confession at a time. I owe you an apology.”
She looked up. “For what?”
“For being an ass the day of Patrick’s funeral. I was mad at the world, and I needed somebody to blame for what happened. I didn’t care who I hurt in the process. You. My dad. Hell, I probably said something nasty to my mother, too, but I don’t remember.” He glanced toward the door. “Don’t ask her, okay? I’m a Kelly. Humbling myself once a day is all I can take.”
Her lips curved upward but only for a moment. “Why are you bringing this up tonight, Joe?”
“Because ever since you picked me up at the airport I’ve felt like there was some ponderous weight between us. Patrick. The past. Our past. And, of course, my asinine behavior at the funeral. I was hoping if I apologized we might find a way to get past it.”
“Why? Because we’re going to be working together—well, in close proximity—for the next few weeks?”
Her tone sounded contentious. “Yes, partly.”
“Because you’re already bored and need a little romance to spice up your stay?”
Momentarily stunned speechless, he watched her tap the corner of the envelope to her lips. “Well, I hate to disappoint you, but it isn’t going to happen. I may be a small town girl who is too afraid of life to risk leaving Worthington, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have plans. I do. And you aren’t part of them.”
Too afraid of life to risk leaving Worthington? His words came back to haunt him. The night by the lake, after they’d made love, Joe had asked Lisa to go with him. She’d refused, and he’d accused her of being too afraid to take a chance on a bigger life outside of Worthington.
“I was eighteen and full of myself. I thought I had all the answers when, in fact, I didn’t even know what the questions were.”
He shook his head and made a gesture toward the bar where the sound of laughter filtered under the door. “You proved me wrong, didn’t you? You’ve met your goal of graduating from college. You have a lot of friends who think you’re fabulous, and your son has turned out great—despite a few little age-related glitches. You have a lot more to show for your life than I do.”
She set down the card and took a step closer. “How can you say that? You’re a successful filmmaker. You’re living your dream.”
“I left here convinced I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg. That didn’t happen.”
She smiled the way she would have if Brandon had said something self-effacing. “So neither of us has set the world on fire,” she said with a shrug. “I’ve decided there comes a time when you either embrace your life—flaws and all—or give up.”
She shook her head and a lock of golden-red hair escaped from her fancy updo and danced across her shoulders. He took her by the wrist and pulled her a step closer. Their bodies weren’t quite touching, but he could reach her by leaning forward.
He moved slowly, giving her a chance to back away, but she didn’t. He put his mouth on hers. She didn’t respond right away, but after a heartbeat her mouth opened. At first, all he could taste was the tangy flavor of the wine she’d been drinking, then her tongue touched his and memories poured into his mind. Even after all these years, she still tasted like Lisa.
This, he realized, was what he’d wanted all night. All week. Ever since he’d walked out the doors of the airport and seen her standing beside her perky little car. He needed this. He needed her.
But Lisa apparently didn’t need him.
Stepping back, she held on to the table with one hand and used the other to touch her lips, as if making sure they were still there.
“I stole a kiss, not your lips,” Joe said, trying to lighten the moment.
She didn’t smile. “I can’t do this, Joe. Not now. Not until… There’s something you…” She didn’t finish the thought. “I’m sorry. I have to get back to my guests.”
With that, she walked out of the room.
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Me! So much to do and so little time. But I shouldn’t complain. At least, I’m not trying to build a living créche in the little town of Paradise, Montana. That’s my heroine’s ambitious goal, and it’s going to take a whole lot of prayers—and one amazing hero—to make it happen.
Sometimes, it takes a village to create a Montana miracle.
Gage Monroe has given himself until Christmas Day to wrap up the unpleasant bits and pieces of his old life in Paradise, Montana, before starting fresh in much warmer climes. And the last thing a loner like Gage needs is a beautiful, passionate pastor’s misguided attempt to draw him into her flock. The people of Paradise exiled Gage a long time ago…with good reason.
Pastor Samantha “Sam” Zabrinski didn’t move halfway across the country to accept a position in the little town of Paradise because she lacked gumption. She has no intention of giving up on Gage Monroe–a man with depth and heart he hides from the world. Besides, Gage just may be the Christmas miracle Sam’s been praying for…
Sam heard the words, but they sounded so much like an invitation to go out with him on a date, she was certain her brain had something mixed up. Men like Gage Monroe–heartthrob handsome, intense, introverted loner types–didn’t date single moms who were also members of the clergy.
She looked at her watch. “Isn’t it too early to eat?”
He stepped closer. “I didn’t mean this minute. Are you being coy or intentionally obtuse?”
“Neither. I don’t get asked on dates very often. That is what you asked, right? Me. On a date? With you? Alone? Not me and my daughter or a double-date with Jody and Rob Barnes?”
The get-real look he gave her made her cheeks burn. “I haven’t double-dated since tenth grade.”
“How’d that go for you?”
“I got to second base.”
“You touched her boob?”
His grin made her knees wobble. “Lightly grazed.” He ran the backs of his fingers across her jaw, barely touching her skin. Still, the sensation shot straight to the heart of her womanly self. “But it felt like a big deal at the time.”
“Did you brag about it to your friends?”
He looked offended. “I asked her to the school dance. She spent the whole time dancing with a junior. We never talked again.”
“Yes. Well. The thing is I haven’t been on a date since Makayla was eight. My sister, Gretchen, agreed to babysit. She was fifteen. Very capable. They were watching a movie and decided to try throwing popcorn in the air to catch it. Makayla got a piece lodged in her throat and started choking. Gretch called Dad and Liz, my step-mom, and they took her to the ER to be safe.” She walked to the window to check on Makayla. She hadn’t moved from the passenger seat where she sat with headphones on, eyes on the screen of her phone, and her feet on the dash. “I’d just made up my mind to have sex when I got the call.”
He pointed upward. “You took that as a sign from Heaven.”
“Actually, I chickened out. The one time I let my base desires take control, I wound up a single mom with a baby and a lot of people questioning whether or not I had the moral caliber to be a minister. This episode reinforced my belief that I wasn’t meant to have a sex life.”
His nearly perfect features screwed up in a look of mystified bafflement. “An accidental pregnancy and one near-miss date? That’s it? Wow. You really do have strong faith. But it’s totally misplaced, in my opinion.”
She crossed her arms defensively. “Oh, really. Who are you to judge?”
He framed her shoulders between his big, powerful hands and walked her backwards into the bathroom. He flicked on the switch and closed the door. Grinning, he said, “This is the cleanest–and most private–room in the house.”
Then he closed the gap between them, forcing her to tilt her head back to look up. “Where were we?”
Panicking because the man I’ve been secretly lusting over suddenly asked me out on a date?
He held up one finger, smiled and touched it to the tip of her nose. “I remember. You asked who am I to judge? And I was about to tell you that I’m just a guy who thinks you’re cute. And sexy. I’ve wanted to kiss you since…about the first minute I saw your incredibly kissable lips.”
Her heart stalled and a prickle of panic formed under her armpits. “I have incredibly kissable lips? Really? No way. They’re just lips.”
He put one arm around her back to draw her snug against his body, then proved his point. So matter-of-factly, her mouth parted in surprise. He took that as an invitation and deepened the kiss. His tongue touched hers. And, damn, if her treacherous body didn’t react the way a woman’s body was supposed to react when a handsome man kissed her. Her arms looped around his shoulders and she kissed him back.
If you enjoyed that, you can read the first Chapter for FREE at Tule Publishing: Chapter 1, or you can buy the whole book from the vendor of your choice at Books2Read here: B2R