As you know, Her Hero To Love – Book I of the Love, Montana series is FREE through Valentine’s Day, so I figured it was the perfect time to give new blog readers a chance to sample the other two stories in the series. (And give my regular blog readers — like Shelagh–a chance to wander down Memory Lane.) I had a lot of fun with this book and researching the climbing locale in Santa Barbara was pure bliss. If you ever have a chance to hang out along that stretch of southern California coastline, I highly recommend driving inland for some spectacular views and a surprising piece of history.
A masked ball. Two star-crossed lovers. A New Year’s Eve kiss at midnight.
“It’s that time, my friends. Grab a glass of champagne and that special person. Here we go. Ten…nine…”
Bailey’s voice got drowned out by the crowd.
He closed his arms around Nicole to keep her safe as more people flooded onto the dance floor.
“Six,” she said, looking directly into his eyes. The lights had come up so he could study the subtle hues mixed in the blue of her irises.
Beautiful eyes. Familiar, somehow.
“Five,” a voice boomed to his left.
Tucker, who was holding Amanda the same way Justin held Nicole, gave Justin a guy-nod that seemed to say, “Way to go, bro!”
Justin liked to think he didn’t need his friends’ validation to feel good about his choices, but this time he was navigating new waters. Dangerous waters. This woman was about to become his boss. That couldn’t be good.
But Nicole didn’t feel dangerous or threatening.
She felt as though she’d been made to dance with him. They fit together perfectly. He liked every thing about her, except her job.
“Three…” If he and Nicole were going to do this, he had to make sure they had an end game in place.
New Year’s Eve. Maybe the weekend. They’d play that part by ear, but after Monday nothing could happen between them.
“Two,” he said softly.
“One,” she whispered, looking into his eyes with a question he was ready to answer.
“Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year,” he said before lowering his head to press his lips to hers.
He expected the usual few minutes of testing the waters, feeling each other out, but that didn’t happen. From the moment their lips met, he felt as if he’d crossed the Rubicon. This wasn’t a one-time deal. They’d done this a million times. Together. Theirs was a reunion of souls kissing across eons, remembering.
Her lips parted, her tongue seeking his without hesitation. He hadn’t expected such frankness, but her greedy pleasure made him need more, too.
He closed his eyes and immersed himself in her sweetness, a combination of honey and spice. He would have gone on exploring this newfound fascination forever if not for the sensation of something touching his head. He pulled back and look around.
“The balloons,” Nicole cried, letting go of him to tap at the large white, gold and silver balloons cascading around them.
Confetti shot from somewhere nearby added to the glitter and excitement. Nicole was pulled from his arms to exchange air kisses and hugs with perfect strangers. Justin found himself in a bear hug, too.
“Helluva thing, huh? Beats the crap out of last year,” Tucker said.
Justin clapped Tucker on the back. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I mean starting the year off with someone you care about. There’s a first time for everything, Ona always says.”
Ona, Tucker’s Cajun grandmother, was a font of truisms. Justin had met her twice and loved the dear woman as the grandmother he’d never had. I wonder what Ona would say about me kissing my future boss? Probably something arcane about not defecating where you eat, damn it.
He caught up with Nicole before anyone else could dance her away. He grabbed her hand and spun her slightly off-balance back into his arms. “Unfinished business,” he mumbled against her lips.
She may have started to protest but her reaction changed the minute she realized this kiss meant business. His tongue wasn’t polite or inquisitive. Justin knew what he wanted, and it started now. They were both breathless when he broke off the kiss before embarrassing himself too badly. His body reacted to her in a way he didn’t remember happening with any of his previous lovers.
Flynn Bensen knows that, but maybe as the new head of Crawford County Search and Rescue, he can make up for the one he lost. Or go down trying.
Never fall for the boss.
Kat Robinson should have gotten Flynn’s job. But the single mom’s priorities lay with Brady, the light of her life. No way is she looking for a relationship. Too bad Flynn’s so darn hot, gorgeous, kind and authentic.
Will Flynn be the hero Kat needs to help her find the courage to fall in love again?
He led the way to the kitchen, flicking on lights that illuminated a workshop that must have been a family room at some time in the house’s life. The sparkle and pop of silver, gold and semi-precious stones brought a smile to her face, despite what she knew was coming.
“Bailey’s really talented, isn’t she? I bought a pair of her earrings at the Big Marietta Fair last summer. They were my favorite until I lost one in the laundry.”
Flynn busied himself by filling a kettle with water. “I heard the ladies who work here talking about a replacement they were working on. Bring the one you have to work and I’ll…” He didn’t finish the thought. Instead, he reached overhead for a box of herbal tea choices.
He carried the box and two mugs to the table.
“Are you quitting because of what happened at the school today?”
She sat opposite him. She didn’t dare sit too close. Giving up her job was only part of her penance. She’d come to the conclusion that this could have been avoided if she’d been a more attentive mother. Brady somehow picked up on her latent, mostly hidden–even from herself–desire to have a “real” family.
Since that was never going to happen, she owed it to herself and her son to hunker down, regroup and refocus all her energy on Brady.
“Brady thought he was helping me.”
He cocked his head in that thoughtful, questioning way that told her he was listening intently to what she had to say. “That’s not surprising. You’re the center of his universe.”
An observation? Or judgment?
“It might be different with two parents, but even when Greg was in the picture, he was hands-off where Brady was concerned.”
“Honestly, I think he was afraid Brady was smarter than him. Which Brady is. His intelligence is off the charts, but he’s never been able to connect well with people.”
“So, you’ve had to be his advocate, his interpreter.”
A strange flush of pleasure swept through her. “Yes. You could say that. Especially when he was younger.”
The kettle started to whistle. Kat couldn’t stop her gaze from following him. He hadn’t changed out of his jeans and long-sleeve red shirt, but she was certain she’d never seen any man look sexier in “uniform.”
He carried the kettle using a potholder on the handle and placed another on the table. Thoughtful. Did she know any men who would do that?
“Pick your poison,” he said offering the box of individual tea bags to her first.
She grabbed one without looking. What did it matter? She ripped open the package and dunked it in the hot water, watching the reddish hue spread.
What did I pick?
She flattened the crumpled envelope to read: cranberry spice.
When she looked up, she found Flynn watching her, a hint of a smile on his lips–as if he knew exactly what she’d done.
He held up his little package. “Mint. Helps settle my stomach after a big meal so I can sleep better.”
“Do you have trouble sleeping?”
His gaze dropped. “I was having nightmares. Post-traumatic stress, probably. The guys wanted me to see a shrink, but then my brother contacted me about this job, and I decided to see if a change of venue would help.”
“Yes. And no. I’m still not sleeping as soundly as I used to, but no more nightmares.”
They sat in silence a few minutes, just the tick-tock of a clock above the stove keeping track of their wasted time. “I’ve never talked to anyone about my possible connection to the Zabrinski family. I went back and forth in my mind about whether or not I should ever bring it up.” She swallowed hard. “What if I was wrong? What if my mother slept with every guy in town and this is just a big misunderstanding? It could ruin a person’s life.”
He took a sip of tea before answering. “You don’t owe me any explanation, Kat. Especially not if you’re leaving Marietta.”
She rubbed her knuckles across her forehead. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Looks to me like you’re resigning.”
“Yes. I’m quitting SAR. You deserve someone better. You have a strong moral compass, Flynn. I thought I did, too, but, lately…” She stared into the pink murkiness of her tea. “I should have done something about Ken’s blatant sexism.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I’ve been asking myself the same question lately. Maybe I got in the habit of advocating for others, like Mom, Brady, and Molly, and somehow lost track of myself.”
A line from an old movie she and Brady watched a couple of nights ago came back to her. “Not once did I ask what’s in it for me,” she quipped with a lightness she didn’t feel.
Flynn’s sudden grin made her breath catch. She set the mug on the table hard, hoping he didn’t see her hand shake.
“Field of Dreams. I’ve probably seen it a hundred times.”
He leaned forward, bracing his elbows on the table. “Feeling disconnected from your body or your emotions is one of the symptoms of Vicarious Trauma, Katherine. You need to make time for you. Find a few of those missing pieces.” His smile changed. “I say that as your friend, not your boss.”
“I need to kiss you,” she said.
He blinked. “Really? Now?”
“Yes. Would that be okay?”
He tried not to smile; she could tell by the way his lips twitched. Finally, he gave in and grinned. “Oh, all right. Since you’re no longer my employee.”
As excuses go, it worked. She’d used it, too.
She got up and walked to his side of the table. She waited for him to scoot back his chair, leaving ample room for her to sit on his lap. His rock hard thighs supported her weight without question. She indulged in something she’d wanted to do from that first moment they’d stood with a box of doughnuts between them; she ran her hands across his broad, muscular shoulders.
“How much does that pack you’re always carrying around weigh?”
“Eighty pounds, give or take.”
“Are you always On Call?”
“Not officially, but I feel an obligation to my training. If I had the chance to help someone and didn’t go because I wasn’t prepared, I’d feel pretty awful.”
She knew that about him without being told. He took his responsibilities seriously. As did she. It might be the thing she loved best…No. Don’t go there. This isn’t about love or any long-term emotion. It’s about grabbing a tiny bit of goodness for myself before all hell breaks loose.
She kept her eyes open so she could memorize his face as she lowered her head. His eyelashes were thick, like Brady’s, but not as curly. His brows were trim and darker than his lashes. She liked the little bits some might consider flaws. She saw them as his unique perfection.
She bumped her nose lightly against his, drawing a smile that warmed the hue of his eyes, which looked more gray when she was sitting across the table from him, but now looked blue. She wetted her lips with the tip of her tongue before tilting her head to touch her lips to his.
After two weeks of mental foreplay, she’d fully expected a zing, but the charge that swept through her entire body took her breath away. Better than good. When she started to pull back, Flynn deepened the kiss.
“Not enough. Not nearly enough,” he murmured with a low growl that released the surge of yearning Kat had kept carefully banked.
His tongue teased her lips until she opened them for him with a tiny moan that covered her cry for more. His taste held a smoky flavor of beer and garlic. And the hint of mint from his tea. She explored without hesitation…until he pulled back.
Was he ending things or…
“Are we doing this?”
Of course, he would ask. Flynn wasn’t the type to assume anything.
“Yes. Please. Just one night. That’s all I’m asking for.”
He lowered his forehead to touch hers.
“I can’t promise that, but I’m willing to try.”
Then he stood up, as if she were as light as his pack, and he carried her to his room. What girl doesn’t dream of this from her Cinderella days, Kat thought, resting her head against his shoulder?
She’d take the dream for as long as it lasted.
OK, then. Are you just a little bit in love with Flynn Bensen? I know I am. Sigh. You can grab this book for FREE through Valentine’s Day here: DOWNLOAD.
Triggered by the 30-year anniversary of the release of Die Hard, my hubby and I have started “re-visiting” some older movies, which thanks to the little touted perk of age–poor memory–seem like new releases to us. 😉
First up: Quigley Down Under – starring Tom Selleck and his moustache.
We truly enjoyed this movie for several reasons.
First, Tom Selleck’s hero never wavered. He carried the female lead (Laura San Giacomo) across a freakin’ desert and — be still my heart–when he left her to go finish off the bad guys, he did what every great hero does…he looked back. I cheered. My hubby rolled his eyes.
Second, to our complete surprise (“Is that… No, it can’t be…OMG, it is…) Alan Rickman played the bad guy. So well. With such smug, self-satisfied egocentricity, he could have been a politician. I miss him. 🙁
Third, we were reminded of the sad facts surrounding the treatment of native residents at that time. I’d never heard the term “pacification by force.” Some scenes were truly heartbreaking.
Do you have an older movie favorite we might enjoy? I’m making a list to get us through the cold winter nights. 😉
P.S. – one of my Tule books is currently free and it has a pretty cool hero, too. FYI.