Announcing book winners, Goodreads contest: Krystyna Smith, New York, Wanda Snow Porter and Emily Stemp, California, Wend Holland from Ontario, Canada and Anthony Ingram from Washington state. A copy of The Return of Joy is going in the mail. Watch for a chance to win Book 1 in the Starting Over Series, More Than a Job, coming tomorrow.
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To celebrate the release of PROTECTIVE INSTINCT, Tami and I want to thank you, our loyal fans, so we are doing a giveaway. Grand prize winner will win a $20 Amazon Gift, the second runner up with receive a gift card to either Starbucks or Teavana and the third winner will receive an e-copy of PROTECTIVE INSTINCT. Thank you so much for your support and reading our books. Good luck and make sure to enter every day for your chance to win!
She smiled up at him, then wound her arms around his neck. Standing on her tiptoes, she kissed his whiskered cheek. “Thank you so much. You won’t regret it. Who knows, he may even reward you by offering you a position at the manor stables.” The thought took wings in her heart then soared. “Oh, Nick, if that happens, everything will work out perfectly between us.”
He’d flushed scarlet beneath his whiskers when she’d kissed him and her words brought his brows into a V.
“Bet–“ He cleared his throat. “Between us?”
She sighed, then smiled up at him. “I think I should fill you in on the rest, Nick.“ She gestured to the chair by the fireplace. “You may want to sit down, this is going to take a bit, and may be somewhat hard to believe at first.”
He shook his head. “You were really going to kill me?”
She scowled at him. “You know, you’re wasting an awful lot of energy on that. I’m thinking it’s pretty much a moot point now. It’s time to let it go.”
His lips pressed firm, then in a move she didn’t see coming, his head swooped down and those tense lips were pressed on hers.
The kiss was angry, exasperated, exploratory, and gentle — all at once. The shock of it quickly faded and heat, which was unfamiliar and just a bit overwhelming, coursed through her as his lips continued their sensual assault.
Sensations pooled low in her belly, her heart thumped so hard she feared it would thump its way right out of her chest, and her hands, palms pressed to the twitching muscles of his chest, had gone sweaty.
Wow, so this was kissing?
If she’d known it would be so life altering, she would have let herself be kissed way before now.
A gentle nip had her lips parting and his tongue swept inside her mouth and her brain took a long awaited holiday.
She was a mass of feelings, with no thoughts to interfere or second guess the attraction which had ignited even during the fight at the police station when she thought she was wrestling the enemy.
She wanted more.
Frank bowed a little, doffing his cowboy hat. “Sorry if I startled you, Ma’am,” he said in his deep, resonating voice. “May I walk you back to the cabin? I’d like to have a word.”
Eliza nodded her assent and he dropped into step beside her. “Thank you again for the dinner, Ma’am.”
Eliza smiled up at him. “It was the least I could do.” Even though she’d paid the hands as well, dinner was part of the custom. You paid your workers with cash and with care, Mrs. McWhorter always said.
Frank removed his hat completely and turned it in his big, work-worn hands. He cleared his throat. He seemed nervous. She stopped and looked up at him, waited for him to say his piece.
He stared at his hands for a long while. “Miss O’Malley, I was wondering…”
She could hear the sound of her own heartbeat, along with the night sounds of a working farm. “What is it, Mr. McGee? What can I do for you?”
He looked up and into her eyes then. His dark eyes glowed in the scant light from the moon and the campfire.
“Miss Eliza, would you do me the honor of allowing me to court you?”
Had she heard him right? Or had her own romantic thoughts about Mr. McGee played tricks with her hearing? She peered into his intense gaze and repeated, “Court me?”
Frank drew in a great deep breath and blew it out.
“Yes, ma’am. Unless you are spoken for?”
“Spoken for?” She couldn’t get her mind to catch up to the thought that this handsome man wished to court her. This had never happened to her before and she had not expected it, not so soon after meeting the man.
Frank shoved his hat back onto his head and she was afraid she’d offended him. Then he reached out and grasped both her hands in his own and squeezed them tightly.
“Eliza, please, think of me as a suitor,” he implored her. “You are smart, beautiful, a hard worker.” He took another deep breath. “And you smell like heaven. I would be honored if you might consider me a beau, and might allow us to get better acquainted.”
Her heart tripped into a rapid beat. This man noticed scent.
She allowed herself a small smile. “I have no experience in such things, sir, but if you are sincere, and if you might be patient with my inexperience I would indeed like you to court me.”
He dropped fervent kisses on both her hands.
“Thank you, Eliza. Might I call you Eliza?”
She giggled. She’d thought of him as simply Frank almost all day long. “You may, if I might call you Frank.”
He grinned at her then, and his straight white teeth flashed in the moonlight. He tugged her hands, pulling her a little closer.
“You may.” His gaze was intense as he searched her eyes. “Eliza, just so you know, I am going to kiss you now.”
He didn’t hesitate, but dropped his face very close to hers. She could feel his breath on her lips a second before he touched his lips to hers in a soft, slow, very gentle kiss.
It was nothing like the hardy, rowdy kisses she had sometimes seen between the women at the pub and the men they were with. When she witnessed those kisses she got a funny feeling in her stomach, like she was seeing something wicked she should not observe. She got that funny feeling in her stomach again, but not because it felt wrong. Because the kiss felt very right. His lips were feather soft, moving very lightly, very carefully. He didn’t embrace her but still held her hands in his. Her heart pounded and he placed her hands against his chest where she could feel the rapid pace of his heart under her palms. And still he kissed her, slowly drawing her into the new status as the one Frank McGee was courting.
When he finally lifted his face from hers she followed his movement so she could place her cheek against his. His face was rough from the day’s growth of beard and she rubbed against it, needing to anchor this memory. Or was it just a dream? Would she wake up if she pinched herself?
She hoped not.
“Goodnight, sweet Eliza,” Frank said, his breath tickling her ear where he whispered the words. “When you are ready we can announce to your Pa that we are courting. I’ll not dignify the man with a request. You are your own woman and your decision is all I need.” He turned then and walked toward the campfire. She touched her fingers to her lips and could still feel the tingle of his gentle touch.
She carried that sensation into the cabin. It was time to find the diary – the book her mother promised would guide her as a Heartmark woman when it came time to fall in love. She took one of the lamps into the room with her, closed the door, and turned up the wick so the light spilled into the room.