A Picnic – From “The Protectors”

Today, author Carolyn Wren is sharing a picnic scene from The Hostage, Book 4 in her “Protectors” series.  

First, a little background on the story.

Carolyn explains:

Our hero, James ‘North’ Northam is attempting to find out the identity of the woman who rescued him from a deadly hostage situation.  Is Meg, the schoolteacher, really the highly skilled covert operative who risked her life for his?

In this picnic scene he is trying to find out her secrets.  Meg is equally determined to keep them.

Enjoy!

Lying in the surprisingly comfortable bed in the early hours, and after formulating various scenarios in his head, North decided on something simple. Food.

He stepped in front of her as she exited the school the following afternoon, a large wicker basket in his hand. “I have a picnic basket.”

“That’s nice. I hope you enjoy it.” Meg stepped sideways to pass him.

He countered, blocking her path again. “It has enough for two.”

“Then I hope you’re hungry.” She took another step to her left.

North countered. “I’m asking you to join me, Meg.”

“Thank you, I have a lesson plan to write.” She made to take another step in the opposite direction, obviously hoping he’d take the hint.

Mrs. Jenkins appeared behind her. The headmistress was clearly unashamed by her eavesdropping. “That’s fine, Meg. There isn’t any rush. You should go along, have some fun. You spend way too much time on school work.”

North had the distinct feeling Meg wanted to roll her eyes and couldn’t, because he was watching her. He resisted the urge to grin.

“Gee, if you put it that way, I don’t see how I can possibly refuse,” she replied, her voice the personification of cheerful.

North offered her his arm. She refused with a shake of her head.

“You’ll have to drive,” he reminded her, “unless you want Martin to sit in the car and wait. I figured you’d have a better idea of the area, know of somewhere nice to go.”

Meg looked down at the basket he held. “Two people you say? That’s big enough to feed an entire family, for a week.”

“What can I say? I’m very hungry.”

“I wasn’t aware Mrs. Harrison’s grocery store had branched out into gourmet hampers?”

“It hasn’t. I have a very efficient London express courier company on standby.”

“Does everything always fall into place when you snap your fingers?”

He tilted his head and regarded her steadily. “Apparently not, but I keep hoping,”

* * * *

Meg drove them to a local park. At her instructions, North carried the basket to a giant oak tree. A stream tinkled and gurgled over rocks nearby. This was her place, a place she liked to sit and ponder, to unwind after an assignment. However, North didn’t need to know that.

He cleared an area of twigs and other fragments of nature and laid down the large woolen blanket. The food was beautiful, of course, succulent chicken, crisp salads, fresh fruit and a variety of gourmet accompaniments. North poured her a glass of white wine.

“Unseasonably warm weather,” he said, handing her the long stemmed glass with an innocent look.

“Exceptionally so,” she replied, not trusting him for a moment.

“Lovely here though, under the tree. Nice shade.”

“Yes, trees are shady,” Meg suppressed a grin. He’s up to something.

“How long have you lived in the village?”

Here we go, the interrogation begins. “A while now.”

“Have you always been a teacher?” North took a sip of his wine, his expression open and curious.

“No, but I’ve been doing it for a few years.” He watched her, not saying anything. It seemed like a safe subject, so she continued. “Children are so important.  I know it sounds cliché‚ I feel like they really are the future. It’s imperative they be nurtured and taught. The world isn’t always a safe place. When they’re with me, I try to make them feel like it is. School is a place to learn and grow, where everything should be perfect, the future an endless world of knowledge to explore.”

She stopped talking. North’s gaze had become intense. Meg wondered if it was such a safe subject after all. “What about you? Have you always wanted to be a multi-millionaire company director?”

His lips twitched at her obvious deflection. “It’s a job, a well-paid one. It has its good and bad points. Some parts offer more satisfaction than others. I like the chase. The drive. The perks.”

“Perks like Anika Sorrenson?” As soon as the words left her mouth, she cursed herself.

He raised his brows. “Have you been researching me, Meg?”

She had researched him, from a professional point of view. She’d needed all the information she could get after he’d been taken and had done an exhaustive, mostly illegal search into his life. Anika Sorrenson, an ice blonde actress had turned up as his most recent lover. Meg had quickly discarded her as a suspect as the woman didn’t seem to have any real power or any grudges concerning North.

“You were both in the newspapers a lot,” she said, explaining her knowledge. “I like the celebrity pages.”

He shrugged. “It was more of a business arrangement than anything. Anika approached me, said she wanted to break into bigger movie roles. To do that in today’s media hungry world you need to get noticed. She didn’t want scandal. So she decided three months on my arm would accomplish her goal nicely. She proposed a deal. I accepted.”

“Payment for services rendered?” Meg asked.

“If you like.”

“Not your usual type of deal.” Meg was curious, despite herself.

“It stirred my interest at a time last year when business was annoying and life was a little stressful.”

“So she got three months in your home?”

“Never in my home. A tabloid rumor, unfounded. She did spend three months in my bed, a mutually satisfying side venture to the agreement.” He looked over at Meg.

She met his leveled gaze, giving him no reaction.

Putting his glass aside, he laid down on the blanket. When he stretched out, his long body spilled over the ends. Raising his arms, he folded them behind his head and closed his eyes, the epitome of male relaxation.

“Anika is a lovely girl. We got on remarkably well. Despite what you may be thinking, I would never have entered into such an agreement otherwise. She’s smart and highly intelligent. I feel she should be looking for a more productive career. I offered to put her through college at my cost, no strings attached. She had it in her blood though. Nothing would satisfy her, except acting.”

“She turned down your offer of an education?”

“She did. Anika’s very stubborn. She’s dating a director now. He should be able to help her with her dream. I sincerely wish her all the best.”

He’s one of the good guys. Ruthless, undoubtedly. But honest and upfront, with good morals and judgment. A life worth saving.

She followed his lead, laying down on the soft blanket and stretching out. It was large enough to provide enough space between them for her to be comfortable. The sun flickered through the leaves above, making her squint. Meg closed her eyes.

Sleep had been elusive lately. The last assignment had taken its toll, mentally as well as physically. She loathed having to admit it. Dreams plagued her in the darkness of the night, fractured, disturbing images, and memories. Meg forced herself to breathe deeply. Lying in the late afternoon with the sun and the bubbling stream nearby was relaxing. North had apparently given up on his interrogation for the time being.  She surrendered to the peace. The tension in her muscles began to relax.

The screech of an angry bird startled her. Meg woke, instantly and completely, without moving, just as she always did. God, she needed more sleep if she could just nod off at a moment’s notice like that, here in the open where anyone could penetrate her defenses. Glancing to her left, she saw North sitting up, staring into the distance.

The light moved through the trees, casting shadows over his face and body, almost like the first time she’d seen him. Then he had been dirty and unshaven, gaunt, injured, and exhausted.

He had a strong profile, a square jaw, and high cheekbones. His hair and lashes were as dark as his eyes, an arresting and handsome face. He’d put back what little weight his incarceration had stolen from him and looked strong and healthy.

Meg hadn’t seen any hospital reports. Her assignment had finished the second she’d handed him over to the transportation team. He looked well, despite his eye injury she still regretted. Is that why she’d agreed to coffee yesterday? Plagued by guilt over an injury she hadn’t known about? He’d been beaten long before she arrived. There was nothing she could have done. Still, it troubled her. Meg wanted to ask after other injuries. Of course, that was ridiculous. It would blow her cover. Physically, he’d made a full recovery. Meg felt sure the mental scars remained. Was that why he’d set out to find her?

She continued her perusal. Powerful shoulders, broad back, strong arms. He had one knee drawn up, and his arm rested on it. His other arm was by his side, and his hand was…holding hers. His larger fingers curled around hers like a form of protection. She tugged them free. To his credit he didn’t try to stop her.

“You haven’t been sleeping at night?” He turned to face her.

“It was just a little nap. I’m not used to drinking wine during the day.”

“Is it physical pain or do you have dreams?”

Damn the man was perceptive. “It’s nothing for you to worry about.”

“Meg, talk to me. Sometimes talking helps.”

“I have nothing to talk about. I keep telling you, it’s all in your head.”

“You have shadows under your eyes.”

“Are you always this complimentary with women you have picnics with?”

“I’m sorry I held your hand. It’s just that you watched over me while I slept, kept me safe from harm. I was simply returning the favor.”

He watched for a reaction. She gave him none, perhaps because his frank statement had surprised her into silence. A good man, a life worth saving.

Sighing, he rose to his feet. He leaned down and offered his hand. She ignored it and stood without his help.

“You’re much more stubborn than Anika,” he said, lips curving.

“Perhaps, we both think you get your way all too often. Come on. Let’s get you home. I have a lesson plan to write.”

 ~ ~ ~ ~

 More from Carolyn:

I was born in England. My parents loved to travel as my dad spent many years in the navy. By the time I reached the age of 12 we had traveled pretty much around the world on cruise ships.

This sounds fun and exciting unless like me you can get sea sick sitting in a bathtub. Lets just say boats do not feature highly in my books.

I still love to travel, but I use planes. All of my life I have written stories in my head. I would rewrite and add characters to TV shows, edit and change novels I was reading, invent scenarios and scenes to amuse myself on long journeys. But strangely I never wrote any of them down. About three years ago I woke up with a scene so clear in my head I knew I had to put it down on paper. Now, what should I do with this one page of prose? I know, I will email it to some friends. The friends approved, in fact they asked what book it was from. I shyly admitted it was my own work and the reaction was immediate…please write the next bit! I did and I have not stopped writing since.

~ ~ ~ ~

Check out Carolyn’s other books in The Protectors Series:

The Diplomat’s Daughter, The Actress, The Scientist, and The Widower’s Child.

Forgivables…What’s on YOUR List?

Everybody has certain stories they love to tell. They’re stories that are part of us, part of our lives, part of who we are. So, those who know me well or who have followed me in cyberspace will already know the story I’m about to tell. I call it the story of THE LONG AND HAPPY MARRIAGE.

The Long and Happy Marriage

Once upon a time, way back when I was growing up, a story was published in the Reader’s Digest about a couple who’d been happily married for a long, long time.  As this happy couple celebrated another anniversary, the reporter covering the story asked the smiling woman, “What’s your secret for a happy marriage?”

“The list,” she quickly replied. She went on to explain that when they were first married, she told her husband she would make a list of ten things for which she would always forgive him.  “It always worked out,” she continued. “Whenever he did something that annoyed me, I’d give it a little thought, then nod, and say, ‘Lucky for you, that’s one of the ten.'”

Naturally, the interviewer’s next question was: “What was on that list?”

The woman blushed, then shrugged. “Well, you know, I never actually got around to making the list…”

And the moral of the story is…

Everybody has annoying little habits, or does things that irritate a spouse or partner, but how many of those things are actually worth fighting about? Not very many.  As people like to say today, Don’t sweat the small stuff. And sometimes folks go on to add that, “It’s all small stuff, really.”

Well, maybe, or maybe not. Some things are worth fighting for, but most of the problems we face in relationships day by day are probably little things we could learn to live with.

As I was thinking again about the story of THE LONG AND HAPPY MARRIAGE, I wondered what “forgivables” would be on my list of ten things if I were to make one.

I have to admit, it was a bit of a challenge. I’m very fortunate to have a loving, understanding husband who really doesn’t annoy me too often…or maybe it’s just that I’ve grown so accustomed to his quirks that I don’t even notice them.

OK, so my list. In no particular order, I will always forgive my husband for:

  • Leaving things on. The television is on day and night — but that’s partly for the parrot — and my husband seems to believe some awful catastrophe will strike if the light above the stove is ever turned off. He’s heard that burglars don’t bother houses with a porch light burning — even all day. He never shuts off any lights. It never occurs to him to shut off radios or fans, either. Oh, well. Honey, I will always forgive you for this.
  • Forgetting the laundry. I should be glad he at least thinks of laundry. I just wish he’d finish what he starts. He’ll throw a load of dirty laundry into the washer…and walk away without washing it. Or, he’ll wash it, then forget it’s there. I’ll find it a few days later. Sometimes he does get a load washed and into the dryer, but then forgets to turn it on. (You’ll notice he seems to have problems turning things off and on.) Once in a while, he will get a load of laundry washed and dried, but that’s as far as it gets until I start looking for something and find the wrinkled mess in the dryer. But, I love him. I can forgive him for this.
  • Not putting a trash bag in the wastebasket. Now, first of all, my husband is very “old school”.  In his opinion — with which I happen to agree — a woman should not have to mow the grass, nor should she ever have to take out the smelly garbage. On occasion, I do take out the trash, but only if he’s not there to do it. I always get out a fresh trash bag, too. But he’s got a habit of…well, forgetting, I guess. I think once he gets outside, he gets distracted or something. So, I forgive him, and I put a new trash bag in for him. It works for us.

  • Setting the toilet paper on the floor. This one, I can’t really figure out. We neither one care if the roll goes “under” or “over”, so that’s not the problem. He’s always great about getting a new roll  when the old one runs out. But instead of putting in ON, he puts it on the floor. Why? I don’t know…but, yeah, I’ll forgive him.
  • Ruining my menu. I plan our meals carefully. I make sure to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, different proteins, and healthy multi-grain carbohydrates. I even post the menu on the refrigerator so he’ll know in advance what I’ve got planned. But he can’t help himself. Now and then, he’s got to stop at the store to pick up milk or bread, and he’ll fill an entire shopping cart with things that aren’t on the menu. He’ll bring home a whole ham, grab a hot, rotisserie chicken, or load up on frozen pizzas because they were on sale. And don’t even talk to me about the hot dogs. I’ve not only forgiven him for messing up my scheduled meals, but for our anniversary last month, I bought him a hot-dog storage container. If he’s going to buy them, at least now he has a place to put them.
  • Channel Surfing. I’m not much of a television viewer, but hubby is. Now, with the wonders of satellite TV and the availability of hundreds of shows on hundreds of channels, he can always find something to watch. Or, more like 5 or 6 things to watch. All at once, of course. With remote in hand, he’s flipping back and forth between his half-dozen shows, and my head starts spinning trying to keep up. For the rare occasions that I watch a show, I’d like to actually watch it.  I guess it’s my problem, not his, so I forgive him. Of course, we’ve got a DVR, so I can always hit the “record” button and watch what I want when I want…which is when my husband isn’t home with his hands on the remote.
  • Blocking my car in the driveway. He does it on purpose, and I know he does. He knows it, too, and he knows that I know it, but he’s a little on the possessive side. He just likes to know I’m safe at home, and that’s where I like to be, so I forgive him when he blocks me in and then says, “Honey, you’re not planning to go anywhere, are you?” No, I’m not. If I were, either he’d gladly move out of the way, or he’d offer to drive. No problem. I’ll forgive him.
  • Promising to do things “later”. He’s such a kind, sweet, loving husband, and he’s always so helpful. He knows I’m busy, so he’s quick to say, “Don’t worry about doing the dishes, honey. I’ll take care of them.” Or, “I know I made a mess on the table, but I’ll pick it up.” Or, how about, “I’ll take those folding chairs out to the shed later.” He fully intends to do what he says…later. It’s just that his conception of “later” and mine aren’t quite the same.  So, I smile, do it myself, and forgive him. I know he really was going to do it…later.
  • Ranting and raving. Thank goodness, he never rants and raves at me. But he does rant and rave to me, which is almost as upsetting. Things annoy him, especially if it’s hot or he’s tired. He’s learned to control his temper when he gets angry, but then he comes home and all his pent-up frustrations spill out in a torrent of four-letter words — usually shouted, of course.  I’m surprised that parrot of ours hasn’t dropped a few f-bombs. She’s certainly heard enough of them. I hate it when hubby gets upset, and I always wish I could do more to calm him down. I guess it helps to have someone who’ll listen to his rants and raves, so I forgive him, and do whatever I can to help.
  • Unscrewing light bulbs. OK, we’re back to the lights again. He never turns them off, but he usually keeps half of them unscrewed in each fixture. “To cut down on electricity,” he says. I have to laugh. Honey, turn them off. That’s how to save on the light bill. But, no, that would be too easy, I suppose. Instead, I have to live with light fixtures that always look as if half the bulbs are burned out. But, I’ll forgive him.

While I can poke fun at him, I know I have just as many — probably more — little quirks that he’s got to forgive. I hope his “forgivables” list might include forgiveness for:

  • Leaving cabinet doors open. Hey, I’m short.
  • Saving empty boxes. You never know when you might need one!
  • Cramming junk in the drawers without sorting through it.
  • Eating rice cakes in bed. Sorry about the crumbs, honey.
  • Leaving half-finished cans of cola sitting around.
  • Buying plants for “my” garden — for him to plant for me.
  • Calling him at work because I don’t know how to switch between the television and the DVD player.
  • Needing him to change the cartridge on the printer because I can’t figure that out either.
  • Not throwing out the wilted flowers. He buys me flowers. All the time. I love them, but I get busy and forget to throw them out after they’ve wilted and died.

And my number one most annoying habit for which I hope he’ll forgive me:

  • Collecting pepper seeds. I have this thing about peppers. Green peppers. Red peppers. Orange peppers. Yellow peppers. I can’t cut one open without saving the seeds. Yes, I’ve planted some, grown plants from them, got peppers from them, and saved those seeds, too. We have pepper seeds everywhere. I save them in baggies, I put them in jars, I roll them up in tissue, I try to hide them…it’s an obsession!  I can’t help myself!
Fresh picked from MY garden!

Fresh picked from MY garden!

Honey, please, forgive me for the peppers!

~~~~~~~~~

Now, it’s YOUR turn. I want to hear about YOUR list of “forgivables”.

What foolishness, foibles, faults, and flaws are YOU willing to forgive?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the August giveaway.

From: Forever Love — A Short, Sweet, Sexy Excerpt

In my continuing series of picnic scenes this summer, I’m pleased to share this scene, courtesy of romance author Melissa Keir. Enjoy!

Forever Love

From:   Forever Love by Melissa Keir

Seducing a man was outside my range of experience. I’d had only a few simple lovers feeling that my virginity was more of a hindrance than a blessing. After arranging for Dad to have dinner with T.J.’s mom, I ran to the local grocery for the ingredients to my famous chicken piccata. Packing my picnic basket with everything we might need from food to beer, I hoped tonight would be perfect even while I deliberated if I’d be able to go through with my plan.

With the basket in my hands and a smile on my face, I jumped into T.J.’s truck when he arrived after dusk.

“Where to pretty lady?”

“Let’s go back to where it started. Let’s go to the beach.”

Watching his face throughout the drive thrilled me with the excitement I had over finally acknowledging my feelings. Longing to run my fingers over his jaw and lips, I sat on my hands in order to keep from reaching for him.

“Why are you looking like the cat that swallowed the canary?”

“I had a long talk with Dad. He enjoyed your visit and the dinner with your mom at the VFW. I haven’t seen his spirits that high since I returned to Amherst. That’s because of you. Thanks.”

“I always liked your dad. He was cool even with playing all mean and all. I’d have loved to spent time fishing or hunting with him. My own dad was gone a lot so we weren’t close. I felt like I could be that way with your dad.”

“I didn’t realize. But I’m glad you and Dad get along. He seems to have eyes for your mom.”

“Eww. Stop that! No pictures of parents and sex.”

I laughed at the look on his face. “So you don’t want to be brother and sister?”

“No, I have other plans for you and your basket! It was nice to be asked to dinner. I can smell your famous chicken. I haven’t had it in ages. No one makes it like you do.”

“I have cherry pie for dessert too.”

Another of his full smiles crossed his face as he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.

“Hey, eyes on the road. We’re almost there.” The banter comfortable was between us. Knowing he was the one for me, my nervousness evaporated.

The beach parking lot was relatively empty because of the recent chill to Ohio’s weather. T.J. walked over to my door and opened it for me, pulling the basket into his hands.

“Let me help with this. Do you remember when we used to come here on the weekends and sit watching the sun set? We’d talk about our dreams.”

Turning toward T.J. and pulling the basket from his hands, I set it on the ground before looking him in the eye. “Yes. Those were my favorite times—sharing my plans with you for my life. I’ve thought of you but never took the chance of thinking we could go back to what we had. However, Amherst is my home again and you’ve earned that second chance.”

I pulled his body close to mine and devoured his lips, breathing nor the chicken was important. So stepping away from T.J. was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I want to take my time with him, with this. I needed to cool down.

“Catch me.” Running with the basket was harder than I realized. T.J. quickly caught up to me on the soft Erie sand.

“You’re mine.” He growled before lowering me to the sand, kissing me with passion.

~ ~ ~ ~

You can visit Melissa on the web here:

Sexy Between the Covers

Other books by Melissa include Beach Desires, and A Christmas Accident, both part of the Wilder series, as well as Second Time’s the Charm, Three’s a Crowd, and more.

For more romantic excerpts from your favorite authors, click here:

The Picnic Page

An Afternoon Picnic – Romance Novel Excerpt

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.

Irresistible by Christina Cole

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.

“Why not?”

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.

“Very special.”

“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.”

“And now?”

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:

From Jean Joachin: Now and Forever 3 – Blind Love

From Whitney K-E: What Happens in Ireland

Still More to Enjoy:

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Picnic – Excerpt from “What Happens in Ireland”

 Today’s picnic excerpt comes from “down under” author Whitney Keevers-Eastman, better know as Whitney K-E. She’s sharing a sexy picnic scene from her romance novelWhat Happens In Ireland.

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What Happens in Ireland

Those green eyes are eating me alive.

Looking up at the sky above, Kate thought about what she wanted right now.

Instantly, a sensual image of Jack ravishing her in the middle of the field, his naked back bared to the sun, the muscles there straining beneath her fingertips, the unforgettable tattoo that entwined his arm glistening black, filled her mind.

But trouble would be the only result of such a request.

And so, she had to think: What was the next best thing to Jack O’Reilly’s magnificent body at her fingertips?

An unexpected yawn escaped her. “A coffee would be nice actually.”

The sparkle in Jack’s eyes brightened.

Surely not.

Winking at her, he turned to rummage through the saddle bags. Stilled by her disbelief, Kate found her eyes drawn to his jean clad buttocks.

Now there’s a slice of heaven.

Jack turned, his hands hidden behind his back. Admittedly, it had taken her a few seconds to concentrate on his face with the image of his perfect arse still on her mind, but at last, she managed.

“Would ye like to take a guess as to what is hidden behind me back, lass?” he asked.

Kate stood there speechless, her muddled brain not quite registering what he said.

Damn distracting man.

“Please tell me it’s a flask of coffee?”

“And if it is?” Jack’s gaze fell to her lips.

They tingled with awareness.

“A woman is not very agreeable when she’s denied coffee, Jack,” she warned him sternly.

Jack laughed at her threat. “Are ye implyin’ that ye might go through with yer past threat to turn me into a eunuch, if I don’t give ye yer sweet poison?”

“Don’t tempt me.”

His grin grew wicked. “But I live to tempt. And ye like it just as much as I do.”

“Is this Jack or his arrogance speaking?” Kate retorted, hoping to God that she was successful in keeping her desire buried six-feet under an iron façade.

“Who do ye want me to be?” Jack rumbled, his voice low and seductive.

Her cheeks burned. “Don’t do that!”

Jack frowned. “Do what?”

“Use your voice like that.” Marching past him, she headed for the picnic blanket.

“Use it like what?”

Irish accents are going to be the death of me…

When she turned suddenly to face him, the burly Irishman almost ploughed into her.

“Use it in that sexy—”

“Sexy, ye say?”

Desire burned in Jack’s gaze. Desire aimed in her direction.

“No.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. Electricity crackled in the air between them.

If she wasn’t careful all hell was going to break loose. And if it did, she wouldn’t be calling it hell for long.

“Yes, ye did.” Jack took a step closer.

“No, I didn’t,” she choked, stumbling back just as she stumbled over her words.

“Don’t lie to me, Katie.” Her pulse leapt at his use of her nickname. “I can always tell when ye lie to me.”

“How?”

“Yer lips,” he whispered, his hand catching hers. She stopped and Jack bent his head down to hers. His hot breath teased her lips. “Ye purse them and avoid me eyes. That and other thin’s.”

Kate thought she might collapse, her body had grown so weak.

“You’re just saying that because you can’t handle the fact that I’m not attracted to you.” Her heartbeat was deafening, pounding fiercely in her ears.

“There ye go again.”

Of course she was lying. Look at her! She was a melting pool of wanton desire. A blind man could see as much.

“I know ye find me attractive, Kate,” he said, his hand sliding down her side. “Just as I find ye.”

Kate took a forced step out of his reach. Jack followed.

“If I were to give ye yer sweet coffee,” he continued, his sculpted arms crossing over his muscle-packed chest. “Would ye admit the truth?”

Her gaze shifted to the flask in his hand. “What if I’m telling the truth?”

“Then you’d have to lie.”

Good Lord, the man’s lethal.

Sitting down, Jack began to search the saddlebags. Producing a pair of mugs, he held them out for her inspection. Setting them on the ground, he filled each with the heavenly brew. As if nature itself was in Jack’s favor, a gust of wind swept through the valley and wafted the scent of caffeine straight up her nose.

Right now, she’d do almost anything for a cup of coffee. Admitting the truth was hardly going to kill her.

Sighing, she marched over to him. Sitting beside him, she huffed indignantly and stared at her feet. “I surrender.” Peeping at Jack from behind the curtain created by her hair, Kate finally gave in to the hilarity of the situation. She smiled.

It’s official. Smiling is contagious.

~ ~ ~ ~

Want to know What Happens in Ireland?

You can find Whitney’s novel  at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookstrand, All Romance E-Book, Secret Cravings Publishing, and Smashwords.

Picnic! Romantic Excerpt From Author Jean Joachim

Thanks so much to author Jean Joachim for sharing this delightful picnic scene. It’s from Now and Forever 3 – Blind Love, and at this point in the story, the heroine is blind. Later she recovers her sight. The story’s hero is a womanizer who has agreed not to seduce Lara, but he’s having a hard time keeping his promise.  Enjoy!

~ ~ ~ ~
Now and Forever 3 Blind Love by Jean Joachim

Now and Forever 3 Blind Love by Jean Joachim

Saturday came quickly. Peter picked up the picnic lunch at the deli before he called for Lara.

“Any suggestions on a secluded spot, Dad?”

“A little last minute…oh, wait. I’ve got just the place. Hold on.” Sam went to the desk and took out a small pad of paper.

“Not too far away, okay? I don’t want to get lost.”

“Simple directions…you might see a pair of cardinals there, Pete. Definitely black-capped chickadees and some gold finches maybe even a downy woodpecker.” Sam finished scribbling then tore the piece of paper from the pad and handed it to Peter.

He nodded to his father then picked up the bag of food.

“No seduction, right?”

“A deal’s a deal.”

His father smiled and patted his son on the shoulder.

“Have a good time.”

“I could have a better time if…”

“Deal’s a deal.”

“Bye, Dad.”

Lara was waiting outside her uncle’s house with a small CD player and a blanket. She wore a full cotton print skirt in pink and a low-cut matching tank top. The drive was a pretty one, through a stretch of state forest. The sun beaming down on the trees highlighted the varying shades of green. Peter felt a twinge when he remembered Lara couldn’t see any of it.

“I love the smells here. The air is so fresh. Where are we?”

“Passing through Major State Park. It’s beautiful.”

After they got through setting up, Peter unpacked the basket. Cold fried chicken, potato salad, cole slaw and blueberry turnovers were accompanied by blue and green striped paper plates and white plastic utensils. Between bites of chicken, Peter did his imitation bird calls he learned from his dad. Lara heard the birds respond. She shared stories about her ballet friends.

“Tell me about your life in the city.” He lounged back on one elbow on the blanket, chewing on a chicken leg.

“After I left the ballet…I hung out with a…a…fast crowd. Some of my friends did cocaine and stuff. I never did drugs. A dancer is an athlete. Respect for your body, you know?”

Peter sat silently, his gaze sweeping over Lara’s form. I have a lot of respect for your body.

“You there?” She asked nervously.

“I’m listening. Cocaine and fast friends. Go on.”

“At night we went to clubs…drank, danced till dawn. It was one big party.” She chewed.

“Party girl?”

“Sort of… Not anymore.” She turned away from Peter.

“Hey, it’s okay,” he said, taking her arm.

Lara turned around, groping for her plate. Peter handed it to her and she quietly finished her potato salad.

“Have you ever been in love?” he asked her.

“I don’t remember. Maybe.”

“Did you have many men waiting for you at the stage door?”

“Some.” Lara picked up a chicken breast and took a big bite.

“Did you go out with a lot of them?” He asked.

“A few. We went out a lot in groups. I had a few boyfriends…”

“Anything serious?” he asked, and finished the last of the chicken leg.

“Not that I can remember.”

“Did you sleep with a lot of guys?” He sat up straight and threw the chicken bone in the bag designated for garbage.

“Peter!”

“Well?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Have you slept with a lot of women?” she countered, easing back on her elbows.

“I asked you first,” he parried.

“Not a lot. I don’t think…I’m not a virgin, if that’s what you’re getting at,” she said, changing position, raising herself up on one elbow.

“I didn’t think you were. I’ve slept with a lot of women. I admit it.”

Lara shifted her position again, moving away from the sound of his voice.

“At least I’m honest. You asked. Those days are over. Now I want only one woman…you,” he said, inching closer to her.

“But what about tomorrow?”

“Today, tomorrow…only you,” he said, moving even closer. “You look beautiful. Always wear pink…”

~ ~ ~ ~

About  the author:

Jean Joachim, wife and mother of two sons, is owned by a rescued pug, named Homer. She’d been writing non-fiction for what seemed like forever until she got up the nerve to try fiction. It was love. Now she spends her days in New York City in the company of her characters, with a cup of tea and a secret stash of black licorice.

 

Jean’s books include:

Sunny Days, Moonlit Nights

April’s Kiss in the Moonlight

Now and Forever 1, a Love Story

Now and Forever 2, the Book of Danny

Now and Forever 3, Blind Love

The Marriage List

Champagne for Christmas

The Renovated Heart… and others.

For additional information, visit Jean at her website: Jean Joachim Books.