“Besides, Mrs. McClare,” he said softly,

“I can be stimulating too.” The rogue in him took over as his gaze flitted to her lips

and back, his voice a husky whisper. “Or don’t you remember?”

Love at any Cost by Julie Lessman

WHOO-EE, crazy week!! I’m heading up to Revell in Grand Rapids, Michigan Thursday and Friday for a meeting and a book signing, so I’m posting my Journal Jot early AND taking the  easy way out with one of my favorite scenes from the 1st book in the Heart of San Francisco series, Love at an Cost.

But first, if you live in Grand Rapids or close, I would LOVE to see you, so consider checking out my Q&A/Book signing at the Baker Book House Thursday night, March 15, from 7:00 – 8:30 PM. Bring your books for me to sign or just come say hello if you are in the area, okay?

Now on to what is one of my favorite scenes in Love at any Cost. There is no kissing in this scene, but there is such a strong attraction and longing, that I really like it—especially the paragraph where Logan talks about being “familiar” with Cait. To set you up, this particular scene involves the matriach of the family Caitlyn McClare and her rogue brother-in-law Logan McClare, to whom she was once engaged 26 years ago before he cheated on her. She then married his older brother instead, but now has been a widow for two years. Logan has never stopped loving her and fully intends to make her his, which is the last thing Cait wants even though she’s attracted to him. Here’s a scene at the famous and historical Palace Hotel in San Francisco where the two are dancing at a family dinner for Logan’s birthday. Happy reading!

“So … two questions, Cait,” Logan said. “One—why did you finally agree to dance with me after declining all night and two—why did you agree to Napa?” He spun her in his arms, the orchestra’s rendition of Jere Mahoney’s For Old Time’s Sake haunting him as much as he hoped it haunted her. His heart thudded as he studied her in the soft glow of the chandeliers overhead. The flawless porcelain skin, the eyes the color of jade and that lustrous auburn hair piled high with just enough loose strays to tease an alabaster neck, leaving no doubt whatsoever that his attraction to her had never waned. Oh, he’d buried it deep when she had married his brother, certainly, allowing him to survive the loss of her in his heart and in his bed, but somehow it had surfaced with a vengeance in the last year, and that alone told him that the timing was right.

She’d been chattering nonstop while they danced, so out of character for a woman as content with silence as she was conversing with family and friends, and he couldn’t help the faint smile that shadowed his lips. She was obviously nervous—the song, the dancing, the memories—all too close to home for them both, and her unease reminded him of the girl he’d proposed to almost twenty-seven years ago in this very ballroom. Only seventeen, she’d been shy and sweet and oh, so tempting, but innocent to a fault. A ‘fault’ that had resulted in utter shock and heartbreak when he’d dallied with another. He exhaled slowly, his regret hidden behind an easy smile. Come on, Cait, give me another chance. For old time’s sake?

She stared at him now on the heels of his questions, the chatter suddenly nowhere in sight, and he was fascinated by the slight flare of her pupils, the shift of her throat, those full lips so ripe for tasting now parted in shallow breaths. He awaited her response while heavily fringed eyelids flickered in thought, and he realized her pull on him was stronger now than the night he’d slipped the ring on her finger. He hadn’t been just smitten with her then, no, he’d been besotted, but a man whose desire for her, regrettably, was far outweighed by youthful lust.

“Why did I finally agree to dance with you?” she repeated, her voice as wispy as the gauzy pale-yellow bodice that rose and fell with every breath she took. Her chin lifted enough for him to know she was steeling herself for battle, promptly broadening the smile on his lips. A good sign—at least she was battling something. Her feelings for him, perhaps? Or his for her?

“Yes, why now?” he said, with a shuttered smile. He slowed his steps as the music ended, but held firm lest she bolt away. “After cruelly turning me away all night.”

Color toasted her cheeks, and the chin rose higher. “I danced with you, Logan McClare, because you asked, and I didn’t prior to because I was engaged in stimulating conversations.” She stepped back a fraction of an inch despite his lock on her waist.

The strains of Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder filtered through the ballroom, and Logan found himself hoping against hope that the song was prophetic for Cait. Heaven knows it was for him. He grinned. “Come on, Cait, you’re not a woman prone to untruths. Why don’t you just admit the only reason you said yes is because it’s my birthday and you felt guilty?”

A pretty shade of rose burnished her cheeks and he laughed, enjoying that she was so easy to read … and rile. He swept her in a wide arc, savoring the way wisps of scarlet fluttered in the breeze. “Besides, Mrs. McClare,” he said softly, “I can be stimulating too.” The rogue in him took over as his gaze flitted to her lips and back, his voice a husky whisper. “Or don’t you remember?”

Color swamped her throat and cheeks, nearly swallowing her whole, and he laughed out loud, firming his grip when he felt her attempt to pull away. “Come on, Cait, I’m sorry, but you’re just so easy to bait.” His smile ebbed into a tender look. “You always were, as I recall.”

Shooting a nervous glance at their table, she fixed him with a stern gaze, gold flecks of fire in those startling green eyes. “Please keep your voice down.” Her nostrils flared slightly as she drew in a calming breath, chin engaged once again. “And I’d appreciate it if you would not refer to our past to anyone, including me.” Her tone softened. “We are friends, Logan, please keep that in mind. I am not one of your many women to be toyed with, I am your sister-in-law. I ask that you treat me with the respect due your brother’s wife.”

He gave her a veiled look. “You mean my brother’s widow,” he said quietly.

Her jaw set. “Either way, you are my brother-in-law, and it’s uncomfortable when your comments or actions are overly familiar.”

Grip firm, his eyes and voice softened. “You forget, Cait,” he whispered, his humor no longer a mask for his feelings, “I am overly familiar with you, whether you like it or not. I know your habits, your expressions, every nuance of your face. I know you take Earl Gray with sugar in the morning and Chamomile without at night. I know you have a habit of jutting your chin when backed into corner and that wine makes you tipsy after the first couple of sips. You pick at your nails when you’re nervous and you twirl you hair when in thought, and despite your love for the classics,” he said in a rush, exhaling slowly, “you have a secret fondness for dime novels.” His voice trailed to a whisper. “Especially on rainy days.”

She stared, lips parted, as if poised for her lungs to start breathing again.

Her hand felt small and warm in his and with a shift of his throat, he gently circled her palm with his thumb. “We have history, Cait,” he said softly.

Tears glimmered as she carefully slipped her hand from his, the grief in her face a mirror reflection of his own. “Yes, we do. But that’s no basis for a future.” Slowly, gently, she cupped a palm to his cheek. “I need a friend, Logan, nothing more.” The bridge of her nose puckered as she studied him intently. “Can you be that for me—please?” The orchestra began to play, and she took his hand. “Can we celebrate your birthday as family members who respect and support each other?” She peered up, a gentle woman with a gentle request. “And friends—good friends?”

He paused, unable to breathe for the ache in his chest. Bracing his palm to her shoulder, he lifted her hand to begin the dance, a dance of will and heart that he was determined to win. He smiled, his manner as kind as hers. “Sure, Cait, friends.” With casual grace, he whirled her to the music, her body suddenly relaxed and fluid and calm.

For now.

Happy Weekend!!