“Her body tensed beneath his lips
and he knew this was it—the moment of reckoning.
When Katie would tell him the truth or lie through her teeth.
Taut with both passion and anger, Luke coaxed, trailing her collarbone with kisses
while toying with the strap of her gown . . .
—A Love Surrendered
Ahhhhhhhhhh … One book down in the “Heart of San Francisco” series, two books to go!! This week I worked on edits for Love at any Cost, and although it wasn’t as nearly as bad as A Love Surrendered when I had to cut 50,000 words, I still had to cut 5,000 words to meet my contracted word count. In order to do so, my editor “suggested” I cut a scene from the subplot of the widowed matriarch (Cait) and her rogue brother-in-law (Logan)—you know the one she was engaged to before he cheated on her and she marries his brother? Well, I love Cait and Logan’s sub plot sooooo much, that I worked like crazy to cut everything but their story, although I did trim the scenes somewhat. So I wasn’t sure if my editor was going to approve, but WHOO-HOO, she did and I got the nod today, telling me the check’s in the mail!! 😉
Ironically, I also received the galleys for A Love Surrendered this week as well, so I jumped on that yesterday after I finished the edits for Love at any Cost, and WOW, am I having a good time or what??? I honestly didn’t think I liked A Love Surrendered as much as the other O’Connor books after I wrote it, but going through the galleys today and yesterday, I am falling in love with this story, which is SUCH a relief! It’s SO much fun sit out on my lower deck (it was in the 70s yesterday!), feet up and hazelnut cinnamon coffee by my side while I edit the galleys, laughing, crying, blowing my nose with all the Kleenexes I’m going through. I’m telling you, this one rips my heart out, but then it’s no secret I’m a weepy type of gal, so maybe it’s just me!
Sooooo … in honor of finishing one book and almost done with the galleys on another, I thought it would be fun to celebrate! To do that, I’m going to introduce a new contest AND give you a brand-new excerpt from A Love Surrendered to whet your appetite like the galleys are whetting mine.
NEW CONTEST TILL MAY 31ST!!! Three chances to win!! Okay, everybody, this is your chance to win a signed copy of any of my books, including A Love Surrendered, a $50 gift card AND have a bit character named after you in Steven’s story, A Love Surrendered, due out in October. DETAILS ON THE CONTEST TAB OF MY WEBSITE, SO CHECK IT OUT!!
And now, one of my favorite love scenes from A Love Surrendered … It’s between Katie and Luke because obviously I can’t have too many “love scenes” between Steven and Annie since they aren’t married, after all. 🙂 Anyway, Luke has just found out that his new (and pretty) intern saw Katie studying with Jack, her old fiancé whom Luke despises, in the Hartford Law Library. Luke is irate, but also guilty because he hasn’t told Katie that he has a new intern with whom he’s been working MANY late hours. In this scene, Luke is coming home to try and coax the truth out of Katie … Hope you enjoy it!
Opening the door into a dark parlor, Luke tossed his coat over the faded blue armchair rather than the brass coatrack Katie insisted he use, knowing it would ruffle her feathers. He intended to ruffle more than her feathers if she didn’t come clean, explaining just why she was cozying up to Jack. He peered toward their bedroom, where a shaft of light spilled down the dark hall, and then paused to suck in a stabilizing breath. He would give her every opportunity to confess, of course. He didn’t want to go off half-cocked like she would if she found out about Lauren. Besides, working late with an intern to prepare for the biannual board meeting when Bobbie Sue and Gladys were out of commission was a lot different than chumming it up with an old boyfriend.
“Luke—is that you, I hope?” Katie called, her voice groggy, like she’d fallen asleep.
“It better be,” he said, strolling into the bedroom with a wry smile. He sat on the bed to give her a quick kiss before removing his shoes and socks. “Unless maybe you were expecting somebody else?” He rolled the dirty socks in a ball and aimed it at the hamper across the room, where it ricocheted into a corner. Ignoring his faulty throw, he unbuttoned his shirt.
She reached her arms overhead in a lazy stretch and yawned, an open book flat on her lap. “Nope, my boyfriend couldn’t come over tonight, so I figured I’d wait up for you.”
Not funny, Katie Rose.
She delivered a sassy smile, her sleepy blue eyes and mussed blonde hair lending a sweetly seductive look that both annoyed and triggered his pulse at the same time. She leaned to glance at the clock on the nightstand, letting loose a low whistle. “Goodness, McGee, anyone would think you had a girlfriend, working as late as you do.”
Blood gorged his face, prompting him to rip the buttoned shirt right over his head, tie and all, hoping to deflect the heat in his cheeks. Crumpling it, he stood and sailed it and the tie toward the hamper, missing it by a mile.
Katie chuckled. “Gee, you’re zero for two. Hope you’re not losing your touch.”
He turned to face her, not missing the swell of breasts straining her nightgown when she reached to angle the clock. His mouth went dry, reminding him the last thing he wanted to do was to lose his “touch.” “Hope not,” he said with a faint smile, trying not to focus on her gown.
“So . . . are you hungry?” She sat up. “Because I can warm up the stew . . .”
“No.” The late hours he’d worked all week had certainly heightened his appetite . . . but not for food. He studied her while he unbuckled his belt, wishing she didn’t look so darn sexy in his bed when he had a bone to pick. He dropped his trousers and folded them before hanging them in the closet, then slipped into the bathroom to brush his teeth and change into pajama bottoms. Returning, he flipped off the light and crawled into bed, pulling her into his arms as he sucked in a deep breath. With a gentle kiss to her head, he exhaled his stress, praying the encounter with Jack was only by chance. “So . . . how’s Kit?”
She snuggled in, teasing the smooth skin of his chest with soft, little kisses that almost pushed Jack from his mind. Almost. “Well, she learned all her colors this week and drew a picture of you and me under a rainbow with her crayons, so she’s real excited to show it to you.”
He sighed. “I can’t believe she’s going to be three,” he said, grateful Katie had bonded so closely with his adopted daughter. “Seems like she was just a baby.”
“Well, she’s not a baby now,” Katie said with a grunt, “and she’ll spit in your eye if you tell her so. She’s even taken to selecting her own clothes, refusing to wear anything I suggest. Today she wore a striped romper with a plaid blouse. I thought my eyes were going to cross.”
He chuckled, thinking for the hundredth time what a good mother Katie was. He suddenly thought of Jack, and his smile went flat. Now to make sure she remained a good wife . . . “How’s school?”
“Draining, especially the seminar Monday night. I was spent when I finally picked Kit up from Lizzie’s.” She trailed a finger over his bicep and down his arm, slowly circling his palm with her thumb. “I felt like you with all the hours you work. I don’t know how you do it, Luke.” She nuzzled his neck. “When’s the board meeting over again?”
“Three weeks,” he said, his voice a near croak. He forced himself to focus on the problem at hand rather than the thrum of his body. “So . . . other than the seminar Monday night, what have you and Kit been doing with the rest of your evenings?”
Her thumb ceased. “Nothing much, lots of books, games, walks—you know, the usual.”
He paused, fiddling with the strap of her gown. “So you just stayed home all week? Didn’t go anywhere any else, like your parents’ or Lizzie’s?”
Her chest expanded and released with a heavy draw of air before she responded. “Well, I did go out last night,” she said slowly, voice breathless. “Mother watched Kit while I went to the law library.”
The air eased from his lungs. “Alone?”
She hesitated a moment too long. “Yes, of course. Meg couldn’t go.”
“Aw, you hate studying alone.” He massaged her arm. “Run into anybody you know?”
He felt the shift of her throat when she swallowed hard. “Uh . . . yeah.” She rushed to kiss him full on the mouth, swaying her lips against his. “Mmm . . .”
Heat jolted, and he rolled her over, kissing her thoroughly before trailing his lips to her throat. “Who?” he whispered, the scent of her almost making him forget that he cared.
She moaned softly, ignoring his question while she tunneled fingers into his hair. His lips wandered lower. “Who, Katie?” he asked again, and her body went completely still. He looked up, heart thundering. Tell me the truth, Katie—please. “You all right?” he asked quietly.
Her mouth opened and closed as if she wanted to speak, but nothing came out, blue eyes blinking so fast, he thought she might cry. All air wedged in his throat. Please, Katie, don’t lie . . .
“Luke,” she began with a chew of her lip, “you know how I’ve struggled with contract law and you’ve been too busy to help?” She avoided his eyes. “Well, I . . . ,” a shaky breath quivered out, “accepted someone’s offer to tutor.”
He didn’t breathe.
She stared for several seconds, eyes clouded and teeth grating her lip in a way that meant she was weighing her options. Disappointment stabbed when she lunged to take his mouth with hers, pulling him down. “I love you, Luke McGee,” she whispered, “and I missed you so much, it hurt.”
Yeah, I know the feeling. Tempering his frustration, he gently fondled her lips, taking his time with a languid kiss that made her go soft beneath his hold. In a slow and measured tease, he explored her mouth with his own, eliciting a moan deep in her throat when he gently tugged at her lip. “Who?” he whispered again, mouth straying to the lobe of her ear.
“What?” Her eyes were closed and her breathing shallow.
His mouth meandered to the curve of her throat, keeping pace with his hands as they skimmed the curve of her body. “I was wondering who helped you?”
Her body tensed beneath his lips and he knew this was it—the moment of reckoning. When Katie would tell him the truth or lie through her teeth. Taut with both passion and anger, Luke coaxed, trailing her collarbone with kisses while toying with the strap of her gown . . .
She shuddered beneath his lips, voice barely audible and as soft as a guilty thought. “Jack.”
His lips stilled on her skin. The lids of his eyes weighted down with relief before heat surged that had nothing to do with the lure of his wife’s body. “Jack?” he rasped, the word more of a hiss than a name. He jerked to a sitting position, shocked at the venom that flowed in his veins. “You asked Jack to tutor you?” He pierced her with a gaze that made her squirm.
Wincing, she shot up, hand clutched to his arm. “But you told me to get help . . .”
His mouth went slack. “From your teachers, Katie Rose,” he ground out, “not your former fiancé.” He slashed taut fingers through his hair, feeling the tug of the couch. “Oh, I’ll just bet old Jack is flying high over this one, worming his way back in.”
“He is not worming his way back in, Luke, he’s helping an old friend.” Her eyes sparked, matching a tone way less conciliatory than before. “Because,” she said with tight emphasis, “her lawyer husband can’t find the time to come home, I might add, much less tutor his wife.”
He leaned in, lips compressed along with his jaw. “Yeah, well, I work for a living, Katie Rose, which, I might add,” he said, mimicking her words, “apparently allows my wife the time and luxury to dally with her old boyfriend.”
“Dally?” she breathed, all color blanching from her face. Her petite body rose up several inches to slant in, meeting him nose to nose. “My GPA in contract law has gone from near-failing to dean’s list, you Neanderthal, and no thanks to you.”
She may as well have bopped him with his own club—heat blasted his face. Translation: My old boyfriend was there when my husband wasn’t. He swallowed hard, guilt the perfect stabilizer for jealousy. “You’re on the dean’s list?” he said quietly, pride battling the angst in his gut.
The jut of her lip softened, catching his eye, stirring his pulse. She folded her arms with a grunt. “Yeah, well, I guess all that ‘dallying’ must have paid off.”
He exhaled heavily, hands mauling his face before they dropped to the bed where his fingers strayed to circle her thigh. “I’m proud of you, Sass,” he whispered, “really I am, and I apologize for not being here when you needed me.” Cupping her face, he bent to brush a tender kiss to her lips, then pulled away, eyes locking with hers. “But I have a right to know, Katie—did you ask him, or did he offer? And where and how long has this been going on?”
She stared at her fingers, now laced with his. “Four months,” she whispered, muscles tugging in her throat. “At the law library. I ran in to him one day and he offered to help.”
“Oh, I just bet he did.” His fingers nudged her chin till her gaze connected with his. “Four months?” he repeated. “You’ve been meeting with that clown for a whole semester?” He expelled a noisy breath, torn between kissing her senseless or shaking her silly. He opted for the first and pushed her to the pillow hard, descending with a kiss meant to restake his claim. “Never again, Katie Rose,” he whispered when he finally came up for air. “Jack is out of our lives for good, is that clear? No tutoring, studying, or dallying of any kind beyond hello and goodbye. The next time you need help, you come to me, no matter how busy I am, understood?”
She nodded, eyes glazed and chest pumping. Her gaze strayed to his mouth, and his blood heated by several degrees, but he restrained himself to drive the point home. “It’s just not smart, Katie, for a married woman to spend time alone with a man unless he’s the dean, a blood relative, or a priest.”
Or an intern? The thought singed the back of his neck, setting his jaw. Lauren’s different, he argued in his mind, an employee and nothing more. And hired by Carmichael, not me.
A soft smile tilted her beautiful lips. “You’re right, and you have my word—I’ll never spend time with Jack again.” Her eyelids lowered to half mast, delivering a smoky look that tingled all the way to his toes. She licked her lips, mouth parted and words breathy. “I’m sorry, Luke, I know how I’d feel if you did that to me …”
He swallowed hard.
Issuing a seductive smile, she trailed fingers down his bare chest. “From now on, you’re the only tutor I need.” She tugged him down until his mouth mated with hers. “But it’s only fair to warn you, Mr. McGee,” she said, breathless against his skin, “with extra classes this summer, I may need a whole lot of work.”
He descended, settling in with a broad grin. “No problem, Sass,” he whispered, his mouth playing with hers. “You can depend on me to work you hard till you shine. But just to make sure . . .” Lips skimming her jaw, he eased his way down, dislodging the strap of her gown with his teeth. “We better begin tonight . . .”