FIRST KISS TUESDAY: from Her Hero To Love

You can’t save them all.

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?

A First Kiss snippet courtesy of ©Tule Publishing:

“How ’bout a cup of tea?”

She nodded. Anything to stall.

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?”

“Mostly.”

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.”

“How come?”

“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?

Zero.

“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.

Oh.

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.”

“Did it?”

“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.

HAPPY READING, DEB

FINALLY FRIDAY: an unexpected perk of getting older

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. 😉

Cheers, Deb

P.S. – one of my Tule books is currently free and it has a pretty cool hero, too. FYI.

FIRST KISS: TUESDAY – from Montana Miracle

ONE WEEK until Christmas…who’s counting?

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…

Here’s a First Kiss snippet from MONTANA MIRACLE (© Tule Publishing):

“Have dinner with me.”

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.”

“Interesting.”

“Clever stall.”

“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.”

“I disagree.”

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.

Good Lord.

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

Have a festive and not-too-hectic next few days!

Happy reading,

Deb