Our weather’s been lovely here in the midwest over the last few days…perfect for a picnic. We took advantage of the beautiful afternoon on Sunday to enjoy a picnic lunch beneath the trees. Now, I’m pleased to share another little romantic picnic excerpt with you. This excerpt comes from one of my historical romance novels, Irresistible.
Rise Childers was once an aspiring artist with dreams of attending art school. Financial hardships destroyed her dreams, and her sister’s death extinguished Rise’s ability to see beauty in the world. In hopes of re-igniting Rise’s passion for art, an affluent friend has given her the opportunity to spend a summer at the luxurious Lindenhurst resort in upstate New York. There, she’s met the resort’s handsome owner, Samuel Mills.
After her own wardrobe was ruined, Samuel has taken Rise to the dressmaker’s shop to purchase a few new gowns. Now, in hopes of pleasing the usually-gloomy Miss Childers, he’s come up with a little surprise for her. Enjoy!
~ ~ ~ ~
When she emerged from the shop and walked toward the carriage, Samuel hurried to her. In the late morning sunlight, she seemed to glow with a rich, vibrant warmth. His heartbeat quickened.
“We’re not leaving yet,” he told her, reaching to take her hand in his.
Another frown. He countered it with an eager smile.
“I told you earlier I had a surprise.” And earlier, he’d told himself he was done with it. But he’d been wrong, he realized now. And maybe, just maybe, what he had planned would bring a smile to Rise’s enchanting face. “We’re going to take a little stroll, have a picnic lunch, and see the sights.” With regret, he released her hand and returned to the carriage. From the boot, he took out a plaid blanket and the basket of food and wine his chef had prepared. “Come along. I think you’ll enjoy this, Rise.”
Holding the blanket against his chest, he slipped the basket over one arm, then took Rise’s hand and led her toward a narrow wooded trail.
“It’s incredible,” Rise whispered as they moved into a clearing. The vantage point provided a breath-taking view of the Shawangunk Mountains. A crystal-clear waterfall tumbled down the mountainside, and colorful rainbows danced in the pool of water beneath it.
As Samuel watched, Rise stood before him, stretching her hands out as though to touch the beauty, to grasp it, and hold it. Her fingers moved, and an odd, almost pained expression came to her face.
It was not the smile he’d wanted.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“I wish…oh, if only…” She turned to face him. “I want so much to capture this scene! Do you have any pencils with you? Anything I could use for drawing paper?”
Samuel sensed her excitement, and he hated to crush it. He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I don’t.” His heart pounded with anticipation. “We could come back another time,” he offered. “Would you like that?”
“Oh, yes, please! I have my pastels back at the resort, and a sketch book. I’ve just been so afraid to try drawing again.” She turned to him, then quickly came to help as he spread out the blanket. But her frown returned when Samuel pulled out the bottle of wine.
“You’re not supposed to have any alcohol,” she reminded him sternly. “You agreed to try my suggestions.”
“Not even on a special occasion?”
“Is this a special occasion?” she asked in reply, sitting down beside him.
“Oh?” Rise looked off toward the waterfall again and nodded. A slight smile touched her lips. “Yes, I think you’re right. At least, this is a very special place. Still, rules are rules, and I don’t think you should indulge.”
He uncorked the wine, poured a single glass, and handed it to Rise.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a glass of wine,” he said. “It’s one of the best from the Lindenhurst’s cellars. Please, don’t disappoint me by refusing.”
She accepted the wine and sipped at it. “This is what you meant about letting go and enjoying life, I suppose. Maybe you’re right.” When Samuel handed her a plate of grapes and cheese, she smiled again. “I’m sorry for my outburst earlier. And I want you to know, I am very grateful to you for the new gowns.”
Samuel moved slightly closer. “It was the least I could do.”
They chatted about inconsequential matters while they enjoyed the delicious picnic meal his chef had prepared. Several times Samuel refilled Rise’s wineglass. A delicate flush rose to her cheeks. She seemed more at ease than he’d ever seen her.
“I should apologize,” she told him, boldly patting his hand. “I really don’t mean to be so gloomy, and I certainly don’t want you to think me an ingrate. I’m just not sure how to act, to tell the truth. About the new gowns, I mean. I’ve never really had anything new.”
“The dress you’re wearing…”
“Isn’t really mine,” she quickly explained. “My friend, Lorraine, gave it to me. She knows I can’t afford fancy gowns, so she’s kind enough to give me her hand-me-downs. Not that I need them, really. I don’t have any place to wear fancy gowns.”
Samuel moved closer still.
“I’m always a season behind in fashion, too, but the gowns Lorraine gives me are so elegant and beautiful, I don’t really mind. Sometimes I go to my wardrobe, open the door, and stand there looking at all the gowns she’s given me. Such exquisite colors. Such soft fabrics. One of the gowns is even trimmed in Belgian lace. It’s almost enough to make me dream.” She hiccoughed, then clasped a hand over her mouth. “Of course, there’s little point in dreaming.” The smile faded from her face.
“Why shouldn’t you dream?”
“I’ve had enough disappointments in my life,” she answered. “Why invite more?”
“Maybe you should dare to dream. I’m being serious,” he added. “This isn’t just idle talk. People need dreams, Rise. We all need something to strive for, something to bring out the best in us.”
“I had dreams once.”
“Tell me more,” Samuel urged. Perhaps if he knew more about Rise, and the things she desired, he could find the way to make her happy. Maybe he could make her smile.
“I wanted to go to art school.” She lowered her gaze. “My father always encouraged me, you see. He thought I had talent.”
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know,” she said, sipping another glass of wine. “I’ve always loved drawing and painting, but after my father passed away, there wasn’t any point in dreaming. Mama and I couldn’t afford the cost of art school.” She lifted her chin. “What are your dreams, Samuel?”
“My dreams?” He hadn’t expected to be put on the spot that way. It was disconcerting. Samuel shrugged. “To make the Lindenhurst the most popular resort in the valley. To see the world. To someday find the right woman.” Why had he even bothered to mention that? He shook his head. “Enough about me. This conversation is about you. You’re the one who’s so afraid of life you won’t dare to dream.”
“I don’t see the point in setting myself up for failure, that’s all.” She sipped her wine again and turned toward him. “Consider your dreams, Samuel. A nice resort? Well, you have that. To see the world?” She gave him a weak smile. “All that takes is a bit of time and money, and you obviously have a surplus of both. As for finding the right woman, your real problem seems to be turning down the wrong ones. I’m sure you have no shortage of romantic prospects. I mean, a man with your—” She stopped, her cheeks scarlet.
“A man with my money. That’s what you were going to say, right?”
“Actually, no, that’s not what I was going to say. A man with your good looks.” She sucked in her breath, sitting stiffly. “There, I said it. I gave myself permission to speak my mind, and I’ve embarrassed myself something awful. Now, are you satisfied?”
Satisfied? Not by a long shot. I won’t be satisfied until I’ve tasted those delectable lips of yours and…
“Samuel? Are you all right?”
So lost was he in thoughts of kissing Rise, he could think of nothing else, had no idea what she was saying to him. He kept staring, his hunger growing.
“What? Yes, I’m fine, thank you.”
“I suppose we should go now.” She turned and began to gather up their things.
“All right, but I’d like very much to bring you here again. With your sketch book,” he added.
Her mouth dropped. “Would you really do that for me?”
“We can go to the resort, get your sketch book, and be back here within the hour.”
“Do you mean it?”
When he nodded, Rise beamed. “Oh, Samuel! I can’t tell you how much I’d enjoy that!” She jumped to her feet. “One of the reasons Lorraine invited me to come with her was in hopes that I might start painting again. I—” She lowered her gaze. “I haven’t been able to paint since my sister died. I just felt that something within me had died, too.”
Rise gestured toward the distant waterfall. “I feel alive again.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Samuel watched the rise and fall of her breasts and yearned to take her into his arms. With much effort, he resisted the urge, choosing instead to delight in merely watching her, seeing genuine joy and happiness in her eyes for the first time.
He had done this. He had given her this happiness.
His heart swelled with pride, and he could hardly wait to return here with Rise, to watch her sketch the scene, and maybe…
Actual tingles coursed through his body at thoughts of what might possibly happen between them. He imagined the two of them lying together in the soft grasses.
Holding hands. Kissing. Touching.
“Let’s hurry,” he suggested, grabbing the blanket and basket. “The sooner we get to Lindenhurst, the sooner we can come back here.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from Irresistible.
Other excerpts for your summer-reading pleasure:
Still More to Enjoy:
- Planning the Perfect Picnic (discoverthepoweroflove.com)
- Its picnic time! (sarahulcoq.wordpress.com)
- Picnic Ideas (deepblueaptmnts.wordpress.com)