He was a man of missed opportunities.
— In reference to Logan McClare,
Love at any Cost by Julie Lessman
WHOO-HOO … I finally have a cover to show you for book 1 in my new “Heart of San Francisco” series, Love at any Cost! And unlike Mr. Logan McClare, the 2nd-tier hero to whom our quote today refers, I am not about to miss any opportunity to share it with you along with scene to pique your interest!
Because this series is written a wee bit lighter and a little more humorously than my last two series, my publisher decided to give our heroine, Cassie McClare a sassy pose, which really does fit her pretty well, I think, so I hope you like it too.
But … don’t judge a book by it’s cover because although Love at any Cost has a lot of humor in it, it would never do for a Julie Lessman book not to have its moments of high tension and drama, right?? Of course, right, which is why I decided to also give you a sneak peek at a scene between the older hero in this book, Logan McClare and the widowed heroine, Caitlyn McClare, Logan’s sister-in-law AND the ex-fiance he cheated on twenty-six years ago before she upped and married his brother.
Caitlyn and Logan are my “Marcy and Patrick” of the “Heart of San Francisco” series, meaning my older secondary love story that I hope will provide an ongoing underlying romantic tension throughout all three of the books. I’ll leave you with just a glimpse of the sparks that will fly in the “Heart of San Francisco” series in the following scene. Caitlyn McClare, Chairman of the San Francisco Vigilance Committee has just asked her brother-in-law Logan, who happens to be on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, to support her proposal to clean up the brothels, bars and peep shows on the Barbary Coast. Logan agrees to do so and then gives Cait his heir signet ring that her husband Liam—his brother—wore before it was passed on to Logan after Liam died. And then the sparks fly …
BIG FAVOR: If you have time, PLEASE hop on over to the following Amazon.com link and click on the LIKE button for Love at any Cost. Note: The pic is not up yet on CBD.com or B&N.com, which is why I didn’t list them. Here’s the link, then just arrow back to return to this Journal Jots page!
Thanks SO much and I hope you enjoy the excerpt! Have a great weekend and stay cool!
“I have something to give you,” he said quietly. Hands still in his pockets, his thumb grazed the ring on his finger, knowing full well what he was giving away. Not his heart as he’d hoped, but a piece of his heritage and the only ring he would apparently be able to put on Caitlyn McClare’s hand. He could almost feel the raised gold outline of the lion and Celtic cross against black onyx, the McClare signet ring passed down from centuries past. It had belonged to his ancestors of old … on down to his grandfather, his father and then Liam, who’d never taken it off till Cait gave it to Logan the day Liam was buried. His father’s will delegated ownership to the McClare heir, but it had pained her to part with it, he knew, from the tender way she’d fingered it with such care. Just as I’m doing now. Pulling his hand from his pocket, he removed the ring, thumb gliding against the smooth onyx one last time before he held it out, determined if he couldn’t love her the way he wanted, he’d love her the only way he could. “I want you to have this,” he whispered. “It belongs to you.”
“No …” She shook her head as tears pooled in her eyes. “I can’t take it—it’s yours.”
Yes, it was. And it claimed a piece of his heart for so many reasons. The connection to his heritage, his father, his brother … and to her. For twenty-six years it had grazed her skin when Liam had held her hand, touched the warmth of her body every night when they slept, and when she’d given it to Logan, it was as if she’d given him a piece of herself. A piece he realized he no longer had a right to. Not if she didn’t care like he did. Not if she wasn’t drawn as he was.
“Take it, Cait,” he whispered. “You lived with it for twenty-six years—it belongs to you more than me.” He took her hand and placed it in her palm, closing his fingers over hers.” And maybe—just maybe—it will give you a touch of Liam, easing your heart like I long to do.”
Her hand trembled to her mouth as tears trickled her face. “Oh, Logan …”
His heart seized when she launched into his arms, clutching him so tightly, it paralyzed him to the spot. Moisture stung and he closed his eyes, resting his head against hers, the scent of lavender invading his senses and taunting his soul. Oh, Cait, I’d give anything to have you love me once more, want me again …
She pulled away and swiped at her eyes, her lips quivering into a smile. “You must think I’m crazy, but I’m just so very grateful …” Peering up, she gently braced his jaw with her palm, eyes shimmering with gratitude. “I don’t think I’ve ever loved you more than right this moment, Logan McClare—thank you!”
His heart seized when she pressed a kiss to his cheek, and almost by accident, he turned into her touch, their lips so close he could smell the hint of hot chocolate they’d enjoyed around the fire. They froze in the same split second of time, and his pulse thudded slow and hard as he waited for her to pull away. Only she didn’t, and heat scorched his body.
“Cait,” he whispered, barely believing her lips nearly grazed his. He waited, not willing to push for fear she would bolt, but when her eyelids flickered closed, his fate was sealed. “God help me, I love you,” he rasped, quickly caressing her lips before she could retreat. The moment his mouth took hers, he was a man hopelessly lost, bewitched by her spell. She jolted in his arms as if suddenly realizing her folly, but he refused to relent, his grip at the nape of her neck strong and sure, allowing him a taste of the sweetest lips he’d ever known. A groan trapped in his throat, and he devoured her, delving deeper with a passion stoked by twenty-six years of denial and longing. “God, help me, Cait,” he whispered, voice hoarse as he nuzzled her ear, “I need you in my life.”
He felt it the moment the winds shifted, pulse skyrocketing when her blanket dropped to the ground and she melded in his arms. His mouth explored with a vengeance, the frenzied beat of her heart throbbing beneath his lips as he grazed the hollow of her throat. He skimmed up to suckle the lobe of her ear, and his heart swelled with joy when a soft moan escaped her lips. Blood pounding in his veins, he wove fingers into her hair to cradle her face. “Marry me, Cait, please!”
Her eyelids fluttered open to reveal a glaze of desire so strong, his mouth descended again, dominant and possessive until her lips surrendered to his. “Marry me,” he repeated, his kiss gentling to playful nips meant to coax and tease. “I need you, Cait … and I want you.”
In the ragged space of a heartbeat, she suddenly hurled him away, breasts heaving and eyes wild. “Oh, you’re a devil, Logan McClare,” she whispered, tone quivering with anger, “always lusting after what you can’t have!”
Sleet slithered through his veins. “No, Cait, it’s not true—I want you because I love you.”
He reached for her, and she thrust back, fury welling in her eyes. “You want me because you can’t have me. And once you had me, you would just throw me away again, returning to your old habits of carousing with women all hours of the night.”
“You’re wrong—let me prove it, please. Marry me.”
She shook her head, a scarlet curl quivering against her neck. Her tone trembled with a violence that stunned. “I-don’t-want-you, and I-don’t-need-you, do you hear?”
His anger surged, but he tamped it down with a clamp of his jaw, his words as hard as hers. “Really, Cait? Why don’t you tell that to the woman whose body just responded to mine?”
The lightening force of her slap shifted his jaw clean to the right, the sound of it like a crack of thunder. “How dare you?” she whispered, tears streaming her cheeks. “You forced yourself on me in your usual callous way, and if you ever do so again, it will be the last time you step foot my house, is that clear?” He didn’t answer, and she took a step forward, her jaw engaged once again. “I said, is-that-clear?”
Gritting his teeth, he turned away. He sucked in a harsh breath and released it again, fighting to keep his temper under control, the only control he apparently possessed with the woman before him. Well, she might hold all the cards and he might lose this hand, but he would not lose the game. With a heavy blast of air, he turned—and stopped—all anger fading at what he’d reduced her to. A quivering mass of tears. God, forgive me … He studied her with sorrow in his eyes. “Yes,” he whispered, all of his emotion finally spent, “it’s clear.” She started for the door and he stopped her with a gentle hand. “Forgive me, Cait—I never meant to hurt you. Not then, not now.”
She nodded stiffly and started to leave.
“Cait?” She turned at the door. He plunged his hands in his pockets, no longer a man of the world, but a little boy whose heart was on the line. “I love you, and deep down inside, I think you know that, know I would never cheat on you again.” He stared, his eyes naked with the truth for the very first time. “That said, I need to know why? What else are you afraid of?”
She must have sensed his honesty because the hard plain of her face ebbed into a look of such sorrow, it plucked at his heart. Her voice was gentle and low once again, the Caitlyn he was privileged to love. “I love you as family, Logan, but I can never be “in love” with you again.”
The words stabbed. “Why?” he whispered, his voice no more than a croak.
Her bodice quivered with a burdensome sigh. “Because I don’t trust you.”
“Why? I swear to you Cait—I will be faithful.”
“No Logan, you can’t. A man of your habit and ilk can’t be faithful without God.”
“Let me prove it. I can do this.”
“Maybe. But I can’t. I refuse to fall in love with a man who doesn’t share my faith.”
He took a step forward, his eyes intense. “I believe in God, Cait.”
“No, Logan, you believe in yourself first, God after. There’s a difference.”
His jaw sagged in disbelief. “You’re attracted to me and love me, yet you turn me away because my faith isn’t up to snuff?” Fury boiled in his veins, trumping his passion. He chilled her with a look so cold, he saw her shiver. “Even if it means your precious Vigilance Committee?”
The blood leeched from her face. “You wouldn’t,” she whispered, her words laced with shock. “Y-you agreed, and it’s the decent thing to do.”
He moved in, fists clenched and a nerve twitching in his cheek. “No, Cait, the decent thing to do is to forget the past and admit you’re in love with me.”
Her legs faltered before steel appeared to fuse in her spine. “That’s your price, then?”
He stared, his jaw as rigid as his pride. She loved him, she wanted him, but she wouldn’t have him because of God? Outrage like he’d never known singed his very soul. “It is.”
She winced as if she’d been struck, pain contorting her face while she listed against the wrought-iron chaise. Firelight flickered across her beautiful features, illuminating myriad feelings that tore at his heart. Shock, fear, fury, resolve … and sorrow. The same sorrow he saw in himself, reminding him he was a man of missed opportunities. The flames spit and popped behind him, as if portending a fiery future that would ravage both him and the woman he loved.
He watched as the anger slowly siphoned from her body, softening her features, welling her eyes, and he was reminded once again what a rare woman she was. Prone to gentleness rather than anger, giving rather than taking, others rather than self. Despite the fact he would rob of her of something so dear, her eyes bore no retribution or blame, only a sadness that seemed to personify Caitlyn McClare where he was concerned.
“Then it’s too high,” she whispered, the trace of a tear glazing her cheek as she placed his ring on the chaise. She turned away, her voice a broken whisper that prophesied their doom. “Even for my precious Vigilance Committee.”