Kisses, Kisses, Kisses!

Since some in the Christian market have dubbed me “The Kissing Queen,” I decided to explore some of the different types of kisses in my books, so here’s a sampling of my various styles. And if you’re curious, scroll to the bottom to find my two favorite kissing scenes I’ve ever written. Happy reading!

The Sweet Kiss

Hello, Everyone! My tagline is “Passion With a Purpose,” which means I like to infuse a fair amount of passion into my kisses, albeit always according to God’s precepts. I explain why I do this in a Seekerville blog entitled, Life on the Edge, where I go into great detail as to just why I write the way that I do. But … in all fairness, I have also written a number of “sweet kisses,” so I thought that would be a good place to start.

To set up this scene from A Love Surrendered, the hero, twenty-five-year-old Prohibition Officer Steven O’Connor, drives his sister’s seventeen-year-old friend, heroine Annie Kennedy, home along with her little five-year-old sister, Glory, after a dinner at the O’Connor’s. Although both Steven’s sisters and Annie would like to see Steven date Annie, he wants nothing to do with her romantically because of her young age. But when he carries a sleeping Glory to the front door with Annie, he’s coerced into a kiss – first for Glory and then for Annie, catching both of them by surprise.

“Come on, munchkin,” he whispered in Glory’s ear, “time for bed.” Gently dislodging Glory’s fingers, he leaned forward to pass her to Annie.

“No . . .” she groaned, her sweet, little voice groggy with sleep as her arms inched back to his neck. “I don’t want you to go . . .”

He paused, head tucked against hers as emotion thickened his throat.

Annie tugged at her sister. “Glory, Steven has to go home and we have to go to bed . . .”

“B-but will I see you a-again?” she said with a whimper.

He swallowed hard. “Sure, kiddo, anytime you want.” His gaze flicked to Annie and back, and suddenly his hopes for distance seemed to be fading.

“We’ll see,” Annie said, voice and hold adamant as she tried to pull Glory away.

“Okie-dokie.” Glory loosened her grip, then patted a fat, little palm to his cheek. “You’re itchy,” she said with a giggle, then deposited a sweet, tiny kiss on his mouth. “G’night, Steven.”

“G’night, Glory.” He kissed her nose before Annie managed to pry her away.

“Thanks again,” Annie said, inching through the door with Glory in her arms.

“Wait! Aren’t you going to kiss her too?” Glory spun around, eyes wide with the innocence of a little girl who had no earthly idea what she was asking him to do.

He blinked, noting the expanse of Annie’s eyes.

“Glory, no,” she whispered, turning ten kinds of pale.

“Please?” The little troublemaker stared at him with those wide eyes of an angel.

Heart thudding, he did the only thing he knew to do. He kissed Annie right on the tip of her nose. Clearing his throat, he stepped back. “Well, good night, ladies.”

“No, silly,” Glory said, “like this . . .” She demonstrated with a sweet little peck on her sister’s lips as if he were too stupid to understand, then tilted her head. “See? It’s easy.”

Too easy, he thought with a trip of his pulse. Way, way too easy . . .

“Stop it, Glory, Steven doesn’t want to—”

“Sure I do,” he whispered, his words shocking him as much as Annie. Gaze holding hers, he slowly leaned in, close enough to see the long sweep of her lashes, the pale gold in eyes so green, he felt like he was in Oz, about to be granted a wish. He heard the soft hitch of her breath when she stopped breathing because it coincided with the halt of air in his own lungs. Cupping her face in his hand, his eyelids sheathed closed at the touch of her lips—soft, supple, and just a hint of peppermint from the candy she’d offered him in the car. It was meant to be no more than a peck like Glory had given him, but somehow his mouth wanted to linger and explore . . . He stepped in close, body grazing hers and Glory’s till they were one. A little-girl giggle broke the trance, and Annie’s lips curved beneath his.

“His whiskers are itchy, aren’t they, Annie?” Glory asked, patting his face once again. “Kind a makes you wiggly all over, doesn’t it?”

Annie’s eyes glowed as she caressed her own cheek. “Very wiggly,” she whispered.

The No-Nonsense Kiss

To set up this scene from For Love of Liberty, the hero, Finn McShane, is forced to co-chair a committee with his childhood crush and nemesis, Liberty O’Shea. When she pushes and prods and yammers him to death in a meeting between just the two of them, he finally loses his temper and shuts her up the only way he knows how—with a kiss!

She caught her breath, mouth slacking open in shock. “Are you implying that I’ve monopolized this meeting tonight?”

He slacked a hip, his hunger and fatigue siphoning out every bit of manners his mama ever taught him. “No, Miss Bell, I’m not implying that at all. I’m saying it outright. You’re bossy, pushy, and you like the sound of your own voice, so I’m going home where I can get some peace and quiet.”

“Well, I never!”

“No, I don’t suppose you have,” he said, thinking the woman would be even more drop-dead pretty if she didn’t talk so dad-burned much. “Because I’m sure those milksop dandies you’re used to dealing with in New York toe the line. But this is Virginia City, Liberty Bell, and I’m a man who doesn’t take kindly to a pushy woman. Good night.”

“Oh, no you don’t!” She sprinted to the door and slammed it closed, plastering her body in front with arms outstretched and palms to the wood. “There are at least ten points left on my list to cover, mister, and I am not leaving until we’re done.”

“Oh, we’re done, Miss O’Shea,” he ground out, the rare usage of her real surname an indication that his usual tease and banter was as empty as his stomach. “Now get out of my way.”

“No.” She responded with that same determined glint in her eyes she’d always had in spelling bees and science fairs, triggering a hair of his humor—but only a hair. She braced her arms in a tight fold, and he swore the low heels of her green satin ankle boots—which matched her expensive dress to a toe—would leave dents in the polished hardwood floor. The almond-shaped eyes snapped with green fire, igniting both his temper and something far more dangerous to them both. She gave him a sassy jut of her chin. “We can finish our meeting here or at the table, Mr. McShane, your choice.”

“Oh, so now I have a choice?” His brows shot high in mockery, mostly to head off a twitch of a smile. They slashed low again as his voice ground to a growl. “No, ma’am, I’m tired of your yammering and I mean to go home. So I’m not going to tell you again, Liberty Bell—move that fancy dress of yours out of my way, or I’m going to move it for you.”

“You wouldn’t!” Those full pink lips parted in shock, and he mentally tasted them in his mind, grazing their softness with his mouth.

“Try me.” He singed her with a glare as hot as the fire she’d lit in his belly.

She studied him in blessed silence for several moments, as if gauging the validity of his threat, probably not even aware she was biting that lush lower lip he ached to lay claim to. And then the bodice of that incredible dress rose and fell as she switched tracks as smoothly as the V&T, appearing to take a different tact. “Finn, please,” she said in a soft voice that would have melted his insides if he trusted her. Which he didn’t. “Just twenty minutes more, and our meeting will be over, I promise.”

He stood his ground, eyes fixed on emerald eyes fringed with thick lashes instead of those deadly pink lips. Liberty O’Shea had an awful lot to learn about him if she thought she could get anywhere with feminine wiles, which galled him even more than a pushy woman. Didn’t work with Jo Beth, and it sure in the devil wasn’t going to work with the woman who’d just dragged him through the mud in the biggest newspaper in town. At least pushy women were honest—right out there with their bossy demands rather than hiding an agenda to control or manipulate. Besides, the day he’d let Liberty O’Shea win an argument was the day he’d pack up and leave town. And he wasn’t going anywhere.

Except home.

“Hate to break it to you, Miss Bell, but our meeting is over. Now.” Tucking his satchel under his arm, he looped both hands around that tiny, little waist and hiked her up in the air so fast, all he heard was the catch of her breath. Without ceremony, he plopped her down behind him, battling a grin when she squealed and wobbled like a newborn calf on mother’s milk with rum. Snatching his hat off the hook, he slapped it on his head and opened the door. “Good night, Miss Bell. See you next week.”

 Slam! The door banged closed with a stiff breeze, almost taking his nose with it while a wild-eyed firecracker bonded herself to the wood. “You are going to listen to me, you mule-brained skunk, if I have to nail this door shut and your shoes to the floor!”

Finn blinked, not sure whether to laugh or cry. He’d always heard redheads had volatile tempers, but he’d honestly had no idea. Although Liberty had never been what you called mild-mannered in school and certainly testier than most girls he knew, she’d never lost control like this before. It was almost like this was her own personal vendetta against the dominance of men in a society that knew little else. A battle of wills she obviously intended to win, but he had some bad news for the little spitfire.

He intended to win too.

In more ways than one.

Sparks and words were flying, but all he could do was glare, the fire in his belly slowly smoldering out of control when his gaze flicked to her lips and held. That perfectly beautiful mouth was just a yapping away, but the only thing he heard was the violent thud of his own pulse and the sound of those lips calling him home …

“And another thing, Finn McShane,” she said, slapping her hands to her hips, “if you don’t march right back to that table and pull your load, I will not only tell the mayor, but I will tell Miss Willoughby and Mrs. Poppy as well.”

Her words suddenly registered, and he could do nothing but shake his head, shades of the old Liberty tattling to their teachers coming to mind. He grinned while he mauled the back of his neck, pretty sure he’d never meet another woman who could fire up every emotion in his body quite like her. “You know, Liberty, you may have grown up into a woman with a fancy degree, but deep down you’re still that spoiled little brat who just wants to get her own way.” He slacked a hip and folded his arms, shuttered eyes issuing one more warning. “Now we can try this all over again next week if you’re willing to behave, but I’m going home, and I suggest you do the same. Now please move.”

“Or what?” She locked her arms to her chest like him and angled a brow, apparently under the mistaken notion she had the upper hand. “You going to manhandle me again, you big bully? Well, there’s nothing you can do to get me to move except sit back down and act like a civil human being.”

“Ha! As if you would even know what that is.” He blasted out a sigh and dropped his head, hands perched low on his hips. “Okay, lady, I’m going to ask you one more time, real nice and civil-like …” He peered up beneath hooded eyes, a near smile on his face. “Will you please move out of my way?”

“Nope.” She smiled and shook her head, as if quite confident he was on the thaw. She clutched her hands behind her back like a little girl about to misbehave, green eyes issuing a dare. “And you can’t make me.”

He sighed. Poor, misguided, little rich girl. “Yeah?” He pushed the brim of his hat up. “Watch me.” Hurling his satchel to the floor, he heard the catch of her breath when he struck like lightning with an arm to her waist. Jerking her close, he kissed the daylights out of her while her boots dangled in the air. Unfortunately, the moment he tasted those soft lips parted in surprise, he was struck by a little lightning of her own, electrifying every nerve in his body while his blood simmered to a dangerous boil.

When a telltale mew escaped her throat, he was helpless to contain the low moan that rose deep in his belly. Butting her to the door, he cradled her face in his hands, longing pumping through his veins as he claimed the sweetest lips he’d ever known—and he’d known plenty—completely disarmed by the scent of her skin, the soft flesh of her ear. Sure, he’d dreamed of kissing Liberty O’Shea for as long as he could remember, but he never expected this—a kiss that could surely tame his taste for all other women.

The very thought bucked like a thorn-saddled bull, and with a rush of icy mountain water surging through his veins, he dropped her to the floor like he’d been bit by a rattler. She teetered precariously—along with his heart—eyes glazed and mouth still open in shock. Mustering all the calm he owned—which was a mite low at the moment—he yanked his hat down low and reached for the knob. She bolted away like he was a grizzly fresh up from a nap, and Finn had to stifle a chuckle, tossing her a wink as he opened the door. “Told you.”

He startled at the sight of Miss Willoughby hurrying down the hall, papers fluttering in her hand while heat seared his collar. “Oh, Finn, I truly apologize for the delay, but the mayor was in one of his chattier moods.” Her pace slowed as her eyes flicked from his sheepish grin to Liberty’s pale face, a crimp of concern creasing her brow. “Is everything all right?”

“Oh, yes, ma’am, we’re all done here and on our way home.”

Relief washed over the schoolteacher’s face as she unleashed a grateful sigh. “Oh, good! I was so worried, but it sounds like you two made some good progress.”

Tipping his hat, he couldn’t resist a smirk over his shoulder, deflecting the wild beat of his pulse with a leisurely wink. “Yes, ma’am, I believe we did.”

The Hidden Desire Kiss

This is one of my favorite types of kisses because there’s something so compelling about a hidden desire, isn’t there? It’s that “still waters run deep” feeling that although the hero denies his attraction, it can’t help but bubble to the surface like hot lava whether he wants it to or not.

In this scene from A Passion Denied—how’s that for an appropriate title!—the hero, John Brady, is trying to comfort the heroine, Lizzie “Beth” O’Connor, who has been in love with him since he started mentoring her in the Bible when she was fourteen. But John refuses to admit his attraction because he sees her as a little sister … or so he says. When Lizzie’s sister Charity convinces Lizzie “that a kiss is the only thing that will haunt him until he admits he’s in love,” Lizzie goes for broke and forces a kiss on John, unleashing an unexpected reaction for them both.

“Beth, you’re so special to me,” he whispered, “I never want to hurt you.” He kissed the top of her head, and she could smell a trace of the peppermint he kept for children at the shop. A sharp ache pierced her heart. He was her Brady … good and strong and kind … but he would never really belong to her. Not the way she yearned in her heart—as a husband, a man, a lover. The thought all but crushed her, and she collapsed against his chest in painful weeping.

“Beth, don’t cry, please. I love you …”

She felt his lips in her hair, and her anguish surged. She jerked away. “No, don’t lie to me, Brady! You don’t love me—”

He groaned and embraced her. “I do love you, little buddy, more than anyone in this world.” With grief in his eyes, he searched her swollen face. He caressed her wet cheeks with gentle hands. “You mean everything to me,” he whispered. He bent to press a light kiss to her forehead.

Shallow breaths rose from her throat at the warmth of his lips against her skin. Her body stilled. “A kiss is the only thing that will haunt him until he admits he’s in love.

She lifted her gaze, taking great care to impart a slow sweep of lashes.

“Beth, are we okay?” He ducked his head to search her eyes, then brushed her hair back from her face. A smile shadowed his lips. “Still friends?”

Friends. A deadly plague only a kiss could cure. Resolve stiffened her spine. “Sure, Brady … friends.”

He smiled and tucked a finger under her chin. “That’s my girl. Now what do you say we pray about some of these things?” He leaned close with another quick kiss to her brow, and in a desperate beat of her heart, she lunged, uniting her mouth with his. She felt the shock of her action in the jolt of his body, and she gripped him close to deepen the kiss. Waves of warmth shuddered through her at the taste of him, and the essence of peppermint was sweet in her mouth.

“No!” He wrenched back from her hold with disbelief in his eyes.

Too late. She had never felt like this before. Years of seeking romance from flat parchment pages had not prepared her for this. This rush, this desire … her body suddenly alive, and every nerve pulsing with need. All shyness melted away in the heat of her longing, and she pounced again, merging her mouth with his. John Brady, I love you!

A fraction of a second became eons as she awaited his rejection. His body was stiff with shock, but no resistance came. And in a sharp catch of her breath, he drew her to him with such force, she gasped, the sound silenced by the weight of his mouth against hers. He groaned and cupped the back of her head as if to delve into her soul, a man possessed. His lips broke free to wander her throat, and shivers of heat coursed through her veins. In ragged harmony, their shallow breathing billowed into the night while his arms possessed her, molding her body to his.

“Oh, Brady, I’m so in love with you,” she whispered.

Her words severed his hold as neatly as the blade of a guillotine. He staggered to his feet, and icy cold replaced the warmth of his arms. She opened her eyes and saw pain in his. She grabbed his arm. “Brady, can’t you see? You love me too … not as a friend or a sister, but as a woman.”

“God help me, Beth, I can’t love you that way.” He stared like a zombie, chest heaving with jagged breaths that swirled into the cool night air, drifting away.

Just like her dreams.

She reached for his hand, but he pulled it away. She blinked. “You just did, John. Nothing can convince me otherwise. You love me … and you want me … just like I want you. Why can’t you admit it?”

His tone was rough with emotion. “Because it’s wrong, Elizabeth. You’re a little sister to me, nothing more.”

She rose, along with her ire. “I see. And that’s how you kiss a sister?”

Blood gorged his cheeks. His shoulders straightened as he stood stiff and tall. An uncommon show of anger glinted in his dark eyes. “I regret what happened tonight, and I apologize. Please give my thanks to your mother and my good-byes to your family.” He moved toward the stairs.

“Brady, wait!” She latched onto his arm while tears pooled in her eyes. “You can’t leave like this. Not now. I opened my heart to you … and you took it when you gave me that kiss.”

The anger in his eyes faded to pain. “I know, Beth. Forgive me. It won’t happen again.” His back was rigid as he strode down the steps.

She ran after him. “No! Don’t leave—please! Friends don’t leave when you need them the most.”

He stopped, hand poised on the gate, and the coolness of his manner was totally foreign. He turned with a look of agony she had never seen.

“No, Beth, they don’t.”

And without another word, he unlocked the gate and hurried away. Fading quickly—just like her hope—into the darkest of nights.

The Caveman Kiss

Okay, I’m pretty sure I always get an eye-roll from my editor every time I write what I call the “caveman kiss,” which is when a hero takes a kiss by force, dominating the heroine to stake his claim. You know, like in those wonderful old-fashioned movies when John Wayne would lay one on Maureen O’Hara in McClintock, or when Rhett drags Scarlett from the wagon to steal a kiss on a sunset hill in Gone with the Wind? Or even like that classic pic of the soldier kissing a nurse in the street—a perfect stranger—following the armistice for WWII?

Sigh. Call me old-fashioned, but I love the stolen kiss, although I do realize it’s not always politically or socially correct in today’s world where things like spousal abuse and date rape are a sad reality. Please note—in no way do I condone either of these types of behavior nor are my scenes meant to be perceived as such. They are written in the old-fashioned “Calgon, take me away” style of romance so prevalent in the old Hollywood movies and in absolutely every case, the dominant hero is called to task for his behavior and eventually learns from it.

In this billiard-room scene from Love at Any Cost, the hero is a pretty-boy rogue bent on turning the head of our heroine who wants nothing to do with him. After she stomps on his pride and trips his temper, he opts for vindication with a stolen kiss, for which he pays dearly with a kick in the ankle, a knee in the thigh, and the heroine’s disdain for the next month.

He grinned, eyes never straying as he chalked his cue. “Up for a game?”

“With you?” She arched a brow. “No, thank you, I don’t play games with men like you.”

Ouch. She was obviously a woman who was honest and forthright, what you see is what you get, and so help him, what he saw, he definitely wanted. But . . . she didn’t want him. Yet. He softened his approach. “Come on, Cassie, one game of eight ball isn’t going to kill you, and then you’ll have the chance to give me the thrashing I so richly deserve.”

She hung her head and huffed out a sigh, finally meeting his gaze with a candid one of her own. “Mr. MacKenna—”


“Jamie, then . . . ,” she began slowly, as if attempting to ease the blow of what she was about to say. Sympathy radiated from those remarkable green eyes that reminded him so much of a pure mountain stream—unspoiled, refreshing. And icy enough to tingle the skin. Long lashes flickered as if begging him to understand. “Look, no offense, but you just broke my heart.”

He blinked. “Pardon me?”

“Oh, not you exactly,” she said, dismissing him with a wave of her hand, “but a man just like you—you know, handsome, smart, the kind that melts a woman with a smile?”

A ridge popped at the bridge of his nose. “Uh, thank you—I guess?”

She looked up then, head tilted in much the same way a mother might soothe a child, expression kind and tone, parental. “Look, I’m sure you’re a very nice person, Jamie MacKenna, and we may even forge a friendship before summer is through, but you need to understand something right now if that friendship is ever going to see the light of day.”

She took his hand in hers, patting it as if he were five years old, and in all of his twenty-five years, never had a woman given him a more patronizing smile. “You have zero chance . . .” She held up a hand, index finger and thumb circled to create an O, then enunciated slowly as if he were one of the livestock back on her ranch. “Zee-ro chance of ever turning my head because I have no interest in you or any man right now, especially a pretty boy.” She gave him a patient smile edged with just enough pity to get on his nerves. “I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I see no point in hemming and hawing around a pesky hornet when I can just stomp on it before it stings.”

His jaw sagged. “Hornet?” He’d been called a lot of things, but somehow, out of the pursed lips of this Texas beauty, this stung his pride more than the blasted hornet. A nerve pulsed in his cheek as he replaced his cue in the rack, his smile cool. “Is that so? And what makes you think I have any interest in turning your head?”

She folded her arms again and hiked one beautiful brow, daring him to deny it.

And, oh, how he wanted to. His jaw began to grind. But he couldn’t because it would be a bald-faced lie, and they both knew it. He exhaled and pinched the bridge of his nose, finally huffing out a sigh. “Okay, you’re right, Miss McClare—I was trying to turn your head. But I’m not stupid—I can see you obviously have no interest in me whatsoever.”

“None,” she confirmed, brows arched high in agreement.

He nodded, head bowed as he kneaded the back of his neck. “Which means, of course, there’s no attraction whatsoever . . .”

“Oh, heaven forbid.” Her body shivered in revulsion. “Not in a million years . . .”

He stared, a trace of hurt in his tone. “Nothing—not even a glimmer?”

She shook her head, face scrunched as if she tasted something bad. “Good gracious, no.”

He exhaled loudly. “All righty, then,” he said with a stiff smile, his pride effectively trampled. Rubbing his temple, he supposed there was only one thing left to do. He extended his palm with a conciliatory smile. “Well, I’m glad we got that out of the way. So . . . friends?”

She stared at his hand as if it were a rattler about to strike, then shifted her gaze to his, lids narrowing the slightest bit. Absently scraping her lip, she tentatively placed her hand in his.

His fingers closed around hers and he smiled. Ah, sweet vindication . . .

In a sharp catch of her breath, he jerked her to him so hard, the cue in her hand literally spiraled across the plush burgundy carpet. Thudding against his chest, she emitted a soft, little grunt, and her outraged protest was lost in his mouth, the sweet taste of her lips shocking him even more than he had shocked her. She tried to squirm away and he cupped her neck with a firm hold and gentle dominance, deepening the kiss.

A grunt broke from his mouth when her foot near broke his ankle. “I’ll tell you what, Miss McClare,” he said, teeth clenched as pain seared his leg, “I’ll give you feisty . . .”

“You . . . haven’t . . . seen . . . feisty,” she rasped, flailing in his arms. With another sharp jolt of pain, she cocked a very unladylike knee into his left thigh, stealing his wind while her words hissed in his face. “Oh . . . why . . . didn’t . . . I wear . . . my boots . . .”

Because it’s my lucky day? Jamie grimaced, determined to prove the lady a liar, at least on the score of attraction. Body and mind steeled to win, he jerked her flush and kissed her hard while she pummeled his shoulders in a flurry of fists. All at once, her scent disarmed him—a hint of lilacs and soap and the barest trace of peppermint, and he stifled a groan while he explored the shape of her mouth, the silk of her skin, the soft flesh of her ear.

Relief flooded when her thrashing slowed and her body listed against his with a weak moan. He gentled his mouth, softly nuzzling before finally pulling away. Satisfaction inched into a smile when she swayed on her feet, eyes closed and open mouth as limp as her body. “Nope, not in a million years,” he said, his breathing as shallow as hers. He planted a kiss to her nose.

Roused from her stupor, her eyes popped open in shock and she suddenly lunged, fury sputtering as she hauled back a fist, clearly hoping to dislocate his jaw. With all the grace and speed of his Oly Club boxing title, he skillfully ducked, chuckling when her tight-knuckled punch bludgeoned the air. Hands in his pockets, he made his way to the door and delivered a gloat of grin over his shoulder. “Well, I guess you have a deal, then, Cassie McClare—friends it is.”

She spun around, eyes flashing. “You are nothing but a yellow-bellied snake of a womanizer, Jamie MacKenna, and if you ever lay a finger on me again, I’ll hogtie you so fast . . .”

He laughed, hand on the knob. “Come on, Your Highness, I did us both a favor—now that we know there’s no attraction, we can be friends, right?”

“When polecats fly,” she screamed, and he grinned, shutting the door with a wink. Something hard crashed against the wood and he winced. “Yes, ma’am,” he whispered to himself on his way down the hall. “Definitely the makings of a beautiful friendship.”

The Accidental Kiss

Come on, you know what I’m talking about—the “accidental kiss” is when the attraction is there, but the intent isn’t . . . until something as innocent as a kiss on the cheek sets passion ablaze. In a second-tier love story from Love at Any Cost, an innocent thank-you kiss on the cheek turns into far more between the widowed matriarch and her rogue brother-in-law—the fiancé she was once engaged to before he cheated on her and she married his brother. Bundled in a blanket around an outside fire, Caitlyn McClare rises to thank her brother-in-law Logan with a kiss on the cheek for a tender and noble gift he’d just given her. 

Peering up, Caitlyn 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 silky caress, 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 when her shallow breathing warmed his skin. 

“Cait,” he whispered, barely believing her lips nearly grazed his. All he could hear was the roar of blood in his ears as he waited, not willing to push for fear she would retreat, but when her eyelids flickered closed, his fate was sealed. “So help me, Cait, I love you,” he rasped, nuzzling 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. A delicious dizziness overtook him at the taste of the sweetest lips he’d ever known, a heady tease of chocolate and peppermint and Caitlyn McClare. A groan trapped in his throat, and he devoured her, delving deeper with a passion stoked by almost twenty-six years of denial and longing. “God help me, Cait,” he whispered, voice hoarse as he feathered 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 into 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 space of a heartbeat, she hurled him away, breasts heaving and eyes wild. “You’re a devil, Logan McClare, 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.

The Coaxing Kiss

In this scene from A Hope Undaunted, the hero, Luke McGee, is hoping to coax the heroine, Katie O’Connor, into dating him, unaware she has just accepted an engagement ring from her boyfriend Jack.

Glass in hand, she paused at the sink. “Do you want ice?”

His approach was achingly slow as he strolled toward her. With a casual air, he took the glass from her hand and set it on the counter while his warm gaze welded to hers. He moved in close, wedging her against the sink by just the mere threat of his presence. She swallowed hard and craned her neck up, wishing her voice hadn’t fused to her throat.

Massive palms slowly grazed the side of her arms, as if he thought she might be chilled, but the heat they generated made her feel anything but. In fluid motion, they moved to her waist, the gentle caress of his thumbs all but stealing her air. His blue eyes deepened in intensity as he leaned in, and his husky voice made her mouth go dry. “Let’s face it, Katie Rose,” he whispered, “I don’t want ice, I don’t want water, and I definitely don’t want chocolate.”

She caught her breath when his words melted warm in her ear.

“I want you . . .”

And before the air could return to her lungs, his mouth dominated hers with such gentle force, it coaxed a breathless moan from her lips, heating the blood in her veins by several degrees. “Say it, Katie Rose . . . say that you want me as much as I want you.”

She could barely speak for the racing of her pulse, and her breathing was as rapid as his. Powerful arms refused to relent, drawing her close as his lips trailed her throat with an urgency that made her dizzy. “Say it,” he whispered again, “tell me you care for me too.”

“Luke, I—I . . . I do,” she breathed, too disarmed to deny it.

His mouth took hers like a man possessed, deepening the kiss until she was putty in his hands. And then all at once, he pulled away to cup her face with his palms, his eyes so full of love, it took her breath away. “That’s all I needed to know, Katie. And I promise from now on, I’ll be taking it slow. I don’t want to rush this.”

She blinked, her pulse thudding to a stop. “Rush what?”

He bent to give her a warm, unhurried kiss. “Us,” he whispered against her mouth. “I’m in love with you, Katie Rose.”

The Kiss-And-Make-Up Kiss

There is almost nothing I would rather write than a kiss-and-make-up scene following a horrendous fight. There’s just something about those rollercoaster emotions—from anger, to apology, to love—that makes me want to swoon. A good example is this scene from A Hope Undaunted, where we have the subordinate hero Patrick O’Connor attempting to comfort his wife Marcy after a volatile argument.

He bludgeoned his pillow and edged away once again. Tears spilled as she stared, the muscles of his body as rigid and hard as his words. With a broken sob, she fell on her pillow, forcing violent heaves to shiver their bed.

Painful seconds elapsed before she felt him move beside her. Her body jerked at the touch of his hand, and like a wounded animal, she curled her knees to her chest.

 “Marcy—” The pull of his hand drew her close, and she fought him with flailing arms. His hold became like steel casing, crushing her close, and the chaotic beat of his heart pulsed in her ears. “Marcy,” he whispered into the curve of her neck, “I’m sorry. We’ll talk this through, I promise. But please, darlin’, no more crying—you’re breaking my heart.”

Moments passed before her sobs finally stilled and all energy drained from her body. With soothing whispers, Patrick kissed her brow, her cheek, her lips—gentle brushes all, laden with repentance. He cupped her jaw in the palm of his hand and fondled her lips with a gentle caress, then pulled away to plead with his eyes. “Marcy, I was wrong. Blame it on poor temper from a bad game of chess or the dip in the stock market, but I overreacted badly, and I’m sorry. But we need to come to terms over Gabe, or I worry we may have more than a fight on our hands.”

She sniffed, and he leaned back to retrieve his handkerchief from the nightstand. He handed it to her, and she blew her nose, all anger finally diffused. “I-I know, and I’m s-sorry too. We need to work in tandem, I realize, but sometimes it’s so hard because I just want to love her.”

He gently pushed the hair from her eyes. “You’re a loving woman, darlin’, which comes in handy with a lout like me, but with a strong-willed child like Gabe, it needs to be coupled with discipline.” He lifted her chin with his finger. “We have to present a united front, my love, and you need to learn to say ‘no.’ Or I’m afraid with Gabe, there will be a heavy price to pay.”

She nodded and sniffed again.

With a tight squeeze, he buried his head in her neck before pulling away with a lift of his brow. He stared at her new satin gown, then slowly fanned his hands down the sides of her waist. “And speaking of a price to pay—so you’ve taken to wearing perfume to bed, have you, Mrs. O’Connor?” He bent to caress the curve of her throat while his fingers grazed the strap of her gown. “And a new satin gown, surely not just for sleep.” With a slow sweep of his thumb, the strap slithered from her shoulder. “Oh, I’m afraid this is going to cost you, darlin’.”

He kissed her full on the mouth, and heat shivered through her. “I suppose this isn’t one of those times when I need to say no,” she whispered, her breathing ragged against his jaw.

“No, darlin’, it’s not.” And clutching her close, he fisted the satin gown and moved in to deepen the kiss, his husky words melting into her mouth. “For all the good it would do.”

The Kiss of Desperation

In A Passion Most Pure, it’s Good Friday and war on Germany has just been declared by the U.S. The subordinate heroine, Marcy O’Connor, begs her husband to stay and comfort her rather than go into work, but when he tries to put her off, she resorts to a kiss of desperation. 

Patrick smiled, a rush of love welling his heart. “Marcy, what if I took an extended lunch hour today? You know, between noon and 3:00 p.m.?”

She lunged, almost tipping the chair with her embrace, kissing him with such passion, a soft moan escaped his lips. “Mmmm . . . maybe I won’t go in at all!” he teased, returning her kiss with equal fervor. He paused and drew back, a brow shifting high. “You do realize, of course, I’ll have to work a bit later tonight, don’t you?” 

She nodded and kissed him again, and he chuckled at her little-girl enthusiasm. Patting her on the leg, he resumed an air of responsibility. “I’d best be going, then; I’ll need every minute I have at work.”

Instead of getting up, Marcy pressed closer, her lips swaying against his.

Patrick groaned and nudged her away. “Marcy, you’re a wicked woman,” he said with a tight grin. “Darlin’, there’s no time—” He stopped, his heart flinching at the desperation on her face while her eyes pooled with dread.

“Patrick,” she pleaded, “please . . . the world’s being torn apart at the seams. I need to be close to you . . . to hold you. God help us, we’re at war! And we don’t know what tomorrow might bring . . .”

The reality of her words stung, and he felt his perspective shift. He picked her up in his arms and kissed her again before letting her go. Pulling his suit coat off the back of the chair, he slung it over his shoulder and took her hand in his, quietly leading the way to their room.

The Mental Kiss

To me, one of the most effective ways to add romantic tension is by starting out with an innocent scene that escalates into fun or frenzy. Then, in a single throb of a pulse, it culminates in the moment when both parties suddenly realize an attraction. An attraction so strong, the mental desire for a kiss creates a spark of romantic tension without one lip ever touching the other.

This is what I was striving for in this scene from A Light in the Window: An Irish Love Story (the prequel love story of a much younger Marcy and Patrick from the Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series). The hero and heroine experience that taut moment where a mental kiss teeters on the threshold of action. It all happens during a water fight between two “friends” doing the dishes at the church soup kitchen where they both volunteer.

Her laughter turned to squeals when she tried to get away, but he clamped a steel arm to her waist while he held the rag dangerously close to her neck. “Repeat after me, Marceline,” he whispered, eyes issuing a challenge. “Patrick, I’m a brat, I’m sorry, and I will never do this again.”

Pulse sprinting, she giggled, eyes flicking from him to the rag in his hand, weighing her options. “And if I don’t?”

One dark brow jutted high as his smile eased into a grin. “You won’t have to bathe tonight, darlin’.”

His words warmed both her cheeks and her temper. “You wouldn’t,” she dared.

“Only one way to find out.” There was a bit of the devil in his eye, the rag dangling precariously close to her neck.

Marcy sucked in a deep breath. “All right, Patrick,” she said, skin tingling with mischief and eye on the rag, “I’m a brat, I’m sorry, and I . . . won’t promise . . .” Lunging, she whipped the rag from his hands so fast, he never saw it coming, christening him with dirty dishwater like Father Fitz christened babies in the back of the church.

He hooked her waist before she could escape, and her high-pitch giggles merged with his husky laughter as she flailed in his arms, a death grip on the soppy rag thrashing over their heads. Dishwater flew every which way while he tried to reclaim it, but Marcy hid it behind her back with squeals of laughter. Locking her to his chest with one arm, he circled her waist with his other, his breath warm on her cheek as he grappled to claim the win.

Near breathless, she tried to wrestle free. “Give . . . it . . . up . . . Patrick,” she said, her words punctuated by shrieks and shallow rasps. “You will . . . never, ever win . . .”

Her words seemed to paralyze him, and in a single heave of her breath, his body stilled against hers. She could feel the ragged rise and fall of his chest, the hot press of his arm at the small of her back, the wild hammering of her pulse in her ears. All at once, she was painfully aware of his nearness, bare inches away from the dark stubble that peppered his jaw. His hard-muscled chest was so close she could almost feel the dampness of his shirt while the familiar scent of spices and pine whirled her senses. His breathing was ragged like hers, warm and sweet with the faint scent of chocolate from his chocolate cream pie, and when his gaze lowered to her lips, heat coiled through her so strong, it sapped all moisture from her throat.

The silence roared like the blood in her ears as he stared, a battle waging in his eyes that eclipsed to a dark fervor, shocking her when it quivered her belly. “I will never give up, Marceline,” he whispered, his lips parted to emit shallow breaths. Fire singed when his glance flickered to her mouth.

“T-take it . . . ,” she whispered, alarm curling in her stomach. Dear Lord, had he meant to kiss me? Prodding the rag to his chest, she pushed him away while heat throbbed in her cheeks. She took an awkward step back, gaze on the floor as she buffed at her arms with brisk motion. “Goodness, Miss Clara will have our heads,” she said with nervous chuckle, unable to look at him even yet. “You win, Patrick—I surrender.” She forced a casual tone and attempted to sidestep him on her way to the broom closet.

Her heart seized when he halted her with a gentle hand. “Marcy . . .” His voice was somber and steeped with regret. “I’m sorry . . .”

“For what?” A deep voice sounded from the door, shattering what was left of Marcy’s calm.

The Mistaken-Identity Kiss

The element of surprise is always fun in a mistaken-identity kiss, such as in this scene from A Passion Most Pure where the hero Collin McGuire mistakes the heroine Faith O’Connor for her sister. 

“Stay, Barney,” she whispered, silently opening the door to slip outside. The chill of the night air shivered through her, and she pulled her robe tighter about her, bracing herself for more than the cold. She stared out at the oak, and her heart skipped a beat when he wasn’t there.

Stepping forward on the porch, she strained her eyes to catch sight of him. And then, like a thief in the night, he was behind her, his strong arms encircling her waist and his lips lost in her hair. He was kissing her, whispering things that caused her cheeks to flame in the glow of the moonlight. The heat of his touch felt like fire. Oh God, I need your help!

And then, somewhere deep inside, beneath the passion he stirred, she could see things clearly once again. Yes, she wanted this—and she wanted it with him. But it had to be God’s way, not hers and certainly not his. 

With a calm not experienced in his presence before, Faith pried his arms from her waist and slowly turned, hands propped on his chest to push him away. The startled look on his face almost made her smile as she stepped back.

“It’s you!” he muttered, clearly taken by surprise, and she noticed his reflexes were a bit slower than usual. The easy smile was conspicuously absent, and he seemed shaken. 

“Did you think I was going to send my sister down? Are you crazy . . . or just not very bright?” This was fun. It felt wonderful getting the best of Collin McGuire. 


Collin blinked, and then instinct kicked in with the slow smile. His eyes traveled from her face, down her body, and back up again. Even in the moonlight, he could see her blush.

“No,” he drawled, “I just thought you wanted me for yourself.”

She caught her breath and jerked her robe around her shivering frame. “You are the most egotistical, low, selfish human being …”

“Well, you might have me on egotistical and low, but lady, on the selfish, I’m afraid you got it all over me.”

He heard the soft catch of her breath as her lips parted, the whites of her eyes expanding in shock. “Me? Over you? You must be drunk!”

Collin chuckled to himself and ambled over to the porch swing to sit, his long legs sprawled out before him. “Yeah, I’ve had a few, no question about that. But I’m not drunk––at least not too drunk to see things the way they are.” He watched her from the shadows of the swing, taking in the way her hair glinted in the moonlight, spilling over her shoulders. Her slight form shivered in her thin robe, which she clutched tightly with pinched fingers.

“And what way are they, exactly?” Her tone was curt. 

Collin took his time answering. Never had he derived so much pleasure from rattling a woman before. She was this sweet, demure, little thing whose temper could be tripped faster than flipping a switch. A pretty powder keg, to be sure, righteous and noble until you lit the spark that made her blow. And then the fun began. He cocked his head sideways to look up, his lips easing into a knowing smile. 

“Well, I’m not the one who’s keeping her sister from spending time with the man she loves …” He paused for effect, then continued. “Nor am I the one telling Bree Muldoon she’s on the path to hell if she, shall we say, spends time with me?” His smile flattened, replaced by intense scrutiny as his eyes pierced hers. “I’m not sure, but it looks to me like one of two things. You either are the most selfish thing around or … “

Her eyelids flickered and her mouth opened slightly, as if she couldn’t breathe.

“You want me for yourself. So which is it? Tell me, Faith O’Connor, have I gotten to ya?” It grated how his heart hammered in his chest whenever she was near, but he truly relished the effect he obviously had on her. He was glad he could get a bit of his own back. She had possessed his thoughts too much of late, and he wanted her to pay. She had no right to interfere—in his relationship with Charity––or in his thoughts. He watched her now, a frail thing shuddering in the wind, all defenses stripped, and fought the urge to jump up and grab her in his arms. He swore softly under his breath. Why did she make him feel this way?

She looked sick standing there, the frigid wind whipping at her hair. Without a word, she moved to the door, then turned to confront him, her back stiff and her face set. “You know, Collin, I feel sorry for you. You think every woman will collapse under your spell. The charming Collin McGuire, so irresistible to women. Well, you’re wrong. Not every woman chooses to do so, at least not this one. I’m looking for someone I can give my heart to and know it will be safe. Someone strong and good and moral. You––you’re just bent on your own quest of misguided lust, and I doubt if you will ever be satisfied.”

She turned the knob, and in a split second he was there, his face inches from her own. She turned away as if she could smell the liquor on his breath. “Pretty high and mighty, aren’t we, Faith O’Connor? I think you’re lying. I think I have gotten to you, only ya don’t want me to know it. Why don’t we just see?”

He pressed her back against the door, his lips muffling her response. He kissed her long and hard until the fight faded away. Only then did his lips leave her mouth to stray the curve of her chin and nip at her earlobe. She moaned, her passion igniting him like no other woman had ever done. He was breathing hard and fast as his lips smothered her neck, and the ecstasy of it all was so staggering, he thought he would lose his mind. What was he doing? 

The Non-Kiss

Okay, I don’t claim to be real good at scenes without kisses, but I gave it the old college try in Love at Any Cost, which I hope shows that romantic tension can be achieved without a lip lock. Gosh, who knew?! This scene takes place at the heroine’s uncle’s Napa estate during a game of Midnight (nighttime hide and seek).

Jamie ducked behind a massive rhododendron into Cassie’s secret crevice, a narrow corridor created by a deep sun porch on the south side of Logan’s estate. Lips easing into a grin, he inched several feet back to where she hid in the shadows with her back to the brick wall.

Even in the dark, he saw the whites of her eyes expand. “What are you doing here?” she whispered, shooing him away. “This is my hiding place, MacKenna—go!”

“Ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, midnight!” Liddy called.

Jamie chuckled. “Too late,” he whispered, sandwiching himself behind her with his back to the wall. He looped an arm to her waist, tightening his hold to quiet her when a flicker of lamplight indicated someone just passed. Heady scents rose to taunt him—lilac water and Pear’s soap mingling with the loamy scent of moss that never saw the light of day—delicious perfumes all, tingling his skin. His smile tipped at the soft absence of a corset that allowed him to feel the tension in her body along with the race of her pulse, evident in the rapid rise and fall of her chest.

Footsteps faded away, and she tried to whirl around, luring a grin to his lips when she got stuck halfway. “Jamie MacKenna,” she hissed in the dark, “what in tarnation are you doing?”

Nudging her back around, he hooked her from behind once again, grazing her ear with a low chuckle. “This is my hiding place, Cowgirl. Can I help it if you stole it first?”

“Yours?!” she whispered loudly, her voice a near-squeak. “This has been my hiding place since I was knee-high to a grape, you pickle-brained polecat.”

“I know,” he said with a grin in his voice. “Blake told me.”

She grunted and wrestled to get free. “Let-me-go! Have you forgotten our agreement?”

“No, ma’am.” He firmed his grip, careful to brush his nose to the soft flesh of her lobe before he breathed warm in her ear. “No kisses are involved, Miss McClare,” he said softly, taking her hand in his. His thumb teased the inside of her palm. “Hugs and hands only, I believe the fine print said.” His fingers skimmed to her wrist, eyes closed to lose himself in the silky touch of her skin, the chaotic sprint of a pulse racing along with his own.

Her shuddery breaths filled the darkened space between them, matched by his own jagged breathing as he buried his face in her hair. “Cass,” he whispered, unable to stop the heat that shimmered his skin. “I’m in love with you . . .”

The Stake-A-Claim Kiss

In A Passion Most Pure, the second hero, Mitch Dennehy, has been a perfect gentleman with the heroine, Faith O’Connor, until he discovers she still has feelings for another man, which he attempts to dispel with a heated kiss.

When he took her home that night, he had given her his usual gentle kiss. 

“I’ll see you Monday,” she whispered, pushing the door ajar.

Something inside had compelled him to pull her close. “No, you’ll see me tonight, in your dreams, and that’s an order. But just to make sure . . . ” 

Never would he forget the look—eyes blinking wide as he dragged her to him, her soft lips parting in surprise when his mouth took hers with a hunger long suppressed. His hands wandered her back, urging her close while his lips roamed the curve of her neck, returning to reclaim her mouth with a fervor. For one brief, glorious moment, the terms were his, and by thunder, she would feel the heat of his kiss in her bones.

In a raspy gulp of air, she lunged back. “I can’t believe you did that!” she gasped.

“Believe it,” he quipped, his tone nonchalant.

“But, why? After what I told you tonight, why would you do that?”

“Why? Let’s just call it a bit of insurance.”


“Insurance. If the woman I love is going to have memories of passion, it’s going to be with me, not him.”

“I don’t entertain memories of passion.” Her voice was edged with anger. 

“You will tonight,” he said. And turning on his heel, he left her—hopefully with a warmth that defied the coolness of the night.

The Surrogate Kiss

In A Passion Most Pure, the hero, Collin McGuire, has feelings for the heroine, Faith O’Connor, that scare and upset him so much, he tries to drive her from her thoughts by kissing her sister.

“Charity, I made a promise to your parents. I need to win their trust . . .”

She tossed her hair over her shoulder with the degree of defiance he’d always found so attractive. The look in her eyes was hard to miss. “What about my trust, Collin? Win mine!”

He hesitated and then slowly wrapped his arms around her waist. Her lips were warm and moist as he caressed them with his own, and their soft touch should have ignited a fire in him. Instead, a cold wave of fear crawled in his belly as he found himself aching for her sister. He could hear Charity’s breathing, rapid and intense, the way his should have been, and the fear exploded into anger.

No! This was not happening! She was not going to do this to him. He was in control of his destiny. He would choose whom he’d love, not some make-believe god, and certainly not the woman who blindly gave her soul to him. Roughly he drew Charity in, kissing her with enough force to take her breath away. He felt a fire stir deep inside, and he kissed her again, pressing her close until his thoughts were consumed only with her.

Breathless, she leaned against his chest and gazed up at him. “I love you, Collin,” she said, her eyes aglow with passion.

“I love you, too, Charity,” he lied and kissed her again, putting to rest for the moment any doubts she might have had.

Julie’s Two Favorite Kissing Scenes From Her Novels!



Set-up: As a punishment meted out by her father for breaking curfew, Katie O’Connor is forced to volunteer at the Boston Children’s Aid Society, where she has to answer to her childhood nemesis, Luke McGee, in A Hope Undaunted.

     “Katie, are you okay?” Luke loosened his tie and stared, concern creasing his brow as he watched her, her body slumped at the window with a hand to her eyes. She didn’t move, and the tightness in his gut increased. He approached quietly, afraid he would startle her. “Katie?”

     “Oh!” She whirled around, staggering against the sill with a hand to her chest.

     He clutched her arm to steady her, and the color drained from her cheeks. Softening his hold, he absently grazed her skin with his thumb, then ducked his head and smiled, eyes tender as he studied her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. Are you all right?”

     She nodded stiffly, her gaze glued to the massive hand on her arm.

     Worry wrinkled the bridge of his nose and he braced both palms on her shoulders, convinced something was wrong. Her face was white and her breathing labored, and he could swear he felt a hint of a tremble. “No, I can feel it. Something’s bothering you.” He pressed his hand to her forehead. “Are you sick?”

     She jerked back from his hold and butted up against the window, arms crossed and hugging her waist. “No!” she said too quickly to suit him, clearly avoiding his eyes. “I mean maybe a little dizzy, but nothing serious. I just need to go home . . .”

     He shifted, suddenly concerned it had to do with him. He plunged his hands in his pockets and softened his tone. “Katie . . . is it me? Did I say or do something to upset you?”

     She shook her head, gaze bonded to the floor. “No, Luke, really, please, I just need to—”

     He nudged her chin up with his thumb, and her lips parted with a sharp intake of breath. And then he saw it. The gentle rise and fall of her chest, the soft rose in her cheeks, the skittish look in her eyes, flitting to his lips and then quickly away. Comprehension suddenly oozed through him like heated honey purling through his veins. Could it be? Was it possible that cold, callous Katie O’Connor was beginning to warm up? To him, of all people—Cluny McGee, the leper from her past? The thought sent warm ripples of shock through his body, thinning the air in his lungs. His gaze gentled, taking in the vulnerability in her eyes, the fear in her face, and all he wanted to do was hold her, reassure her.

     As if under a spell, his gaze was drawn to her lips, parted and full, and the sound of her shallow breathing filled him with a fierce longing. “Oh, Katie,” he whispered, no power over the pull he was suddenly feeling. In slow motion, he bent toward her, closing his eyes to caress her mouth with his own. A weak gasp escaped her as she stiffened, but he couldn’t relent. The taste of her lips was far more than he bargained for, and he drew her close with a raspy groan. With a fierce hold, he cupped the back of her neck and kissed her deeply, gently, possessive in his touch. His fingers twined in her hair, desperate to explore.

     And then all at once, beyond his comprehension, her body melded to his with an answering groan, and he was shocked when her mouth rivaled his with equal demand. Desire licked through him, searing his body and then his conscience. With a heated shudder, he gripped her arms and pushed her back, his breathing ragged as he held her at bay.

     “We can’t do this,” he whispered. He dropped his hold and exhaled, gouging shaky fingers through disheveled hair. His gaze returned, capturing hers and riddled with regret. “Believe me, Katie, as much as I want to, I’ve learned the hard way to take things slow. I should have never started this, and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

     Forgive him? She stared at him through glazed eyes, her pulse still pumping in her veins at a ridiculous rate. She never wanted this, couldn’t stand the sight of him, and now here she was, tingling from his touch and desperate for more. Addicted to the “King of Misery.” The very thought inflamed both fury and desire at the same time, muddling her mind. Dear Lord, she was torn between welding her lips to his or slapping him silly. With a tight press of her mouth, she opted for the second and smacked him clean across the face.

     His jaw dropped a full inch, complemented nicely by a slash of red across his cheek.

     Her chest was heaving, but at least it wasn’t from his touch. She narrowed her eyes and clutched her fists at her side, not all that sure she wouldn’t slap him again. “So help me, if you ever touch me again, you will be the sorriest person alive.”

     He slowly rubbed his cheek with the side of his hand, exercising his jaw as if to make sure it still worked. His eyes glinted like blue glass, sharp and deadly. Even so, the swaggering smile of old eased across his face. He bent forward, his tall frame looming over her like a bad omen, and his voice held that cocky drawl so reminiscent of his past. “What’s the matter, Katie Rose,” he whispered, “does my touch make you nervous?”

     The heat in her cheeks went straight to her temper. She iced him with a cool gaze. “Nervous? Around you? Hardly. You can dress up in a suit all you like, Luke McGee, but to me you’ll always be the same cocky street brat with a twang in your voice and grime on your face.”

     She knew her words hit their mark when a red blotch crawled up the back of his neck like a rash gone awry. A nerve pulsed in his temple, but his smile never wavered despite the steel edge of his jaw. One blond brow jagged high in challenge. “Is that a fact? Well then, how about a little experiment? Kind of like when you were eleven and I bet you couldn’t be nice?” He leaned close, his voice as hard as his eyes. “What d’ya bet I can make you nervous now?”

     She tried to shove him out of the way. “I’m going home.”

     “Not yet,” he whispered, blocking her in with a push to the wall. His voice, like the dominance of his hold, was a force to be reckoned with. “You always packed a wallop for a little girl, Katydid, but this time you picked the wrong street brat. You can turn your nose up at me all you want, but we both know that slap wasn’t so much about an innocent kiss . . .” He bent close, his eyes on fire and the scent of peppermint hot against her face. “As how it made you feel.”

     His words seemed to vibrate through her, low and thick in the air. She shuddered, and the force of his savage look trapped all protest in her throat.

     “To you I’ll always be riffraff, something vulgar and crude. Well, welcome to my world, Miss O’Connor. And, please, let me show you how we do it on the ‘streets.’ Because if I’m going to take a beating, you can bet your bottom dollar on two things for sure. One—I’m going to get my money’s worth.” A dangerous smile surfaced as his gaze focused on her lips. “And two . . .” His mouth hovered just above hers while his voice trailed to a whisper. “I’m gonna make you real nervous in the process.”

     In a catch of her breath, he took her mouth by force, his late-day beard rough against her skin. A faint moan escaped her lips and all resistance fled, burned away by the heat of his touch, leaving her weak and wanting. His mouth roamed at will, no longer gentle as he devoured her, ravenous against the smooth curve of her throat, the soft flesh of her ear. With a guttural groan, he jerked her close with powerful arms, consuming her mouth with a kiss surely driven by the sheer will to ravage.

     And then in a frantic beat of her heart, he shoved her away. She gasped, numb as she thudded against the wall. His chest was heaving and his eyes were hard, focused on her with cool disregard. “There. Now that makes two of the sorriest people alive.” He grabbed her purse from the floor and threw it on her desk, then rubbed his mouth with the side of his hand. “Better run home, Katydid. God knows the riffraff that roam the street this time of night.”

     He turned and walked into his office, slamming the door hard.

     She stared, her body still quivering from his rage. Closing her eyes, she sagged against the wall, too stunned to move and too shaken to care. She pressed a trembling hand to her mouth, her lips swollen from the taste of him. She was doomed, she realized, and the thought shivered through her like a cold chill. She wanted a man she didn’t really want, and the very notion weakened her at the knees. He had called her one of the sorriest people alive. She grappled for her purse and put a hand to her eyes.

     And God help her, she was.




Set-up: Luke McGee has been trying forever to find a foster home for an incorrigible little-girl orphan named Gabe who has stolen his heart. But he’s crushed when he learns he’s run out of time—Gabe will shipped to the Midwest on an orphan train in a few days. So when Katie O’Connor provides the perfect solution, it unleashes more gratitude than he—or Katie—bargain for.  — A Hope Undaunted 

     His breathing slowed and his gaze jerked up, scanning the heavens. “You said you would never leave us nor forsake us, Lord, but where are you in all of this? Gabe needs you, and I need you. I’ve prayed for months for a good home for her, you know that, and yet there’s been nothing.”

     He sucked in a deep breath and sagged back into his chair, releasing the air in his lungs as thoroughly as he knew he had to release Gabe . . . into God’s hands. “Forgive me, Lord, because I do trust you. You’ve never failed me, not once since I’ve given my life to you. So I believe you have Gabe in the palm of your hand because you’ve proven yourself faithful to me over and over. And one way or the other, you always answer my prayers.”

     A knock sounded, and he spun around, spying Katie at the door. His lips quirked into a half smile. Well, almost always, he thought as her blue eyes peeked in.

     “I’m leaving now, Luke. Is there anything you need before I go?”

     Yeah, Katie, a hug would be nice.

     Heat singed the back of his neck and he coughed, clearing his throat. “No, I’m good. Have fun this weekend.” His brows pinched in a frown. “Oh, sorry—are you still on confinement?”

     She grinned and sidled past the door, closing it carefully behind her with a pretty blush on her cheeks. “Yes, until tomorrow night, that is, when I have my first date with Jack in over two and a half months.”

     Luke forced a smile to cover the scowl in his mind. “Lucky Jack,” he said with a tease in his tone, but truer words had never crossed his lips, and suddenly the thought blackened his mood further. Over the summer, he’d made the startling discovery that Katie O’Connor was everything he wanted in a woman, and somehow he’d known it from the age of fourteen. With little or no effort on her part, she had won his affection—from a cold shoulder at the age of ten, to a teasing smile at the age of eighteen—and Luke would give anything to be more than just friends. But they had a deal, and she had a boyfriend, and Luke was a man of his word. The scowl finally won out as he looked away, intent on shoving papers into a drawer.

     She hesitated. “Are you sure you don’t need anything before I go? You look . . . tense.”

     Tense? Because two people he loved were leaving his life forever? He blew out a sigh of frustration and wheeled in his chair to stare out the window. “No, Katie, go home. I’m just down about Gabe, that’s all. Go on, get out of here and have fun this weekend.”

     Go home to Jack, Katie Rose.

     His stomach tightened at the sudden click of her heels, and shock expanded his eyes when she perched herself on the edge of his window. She crossed silky legs and leaned forward, palms flat on the sill and blue eyes sparkling with excitement. Her mouth twitched with a smile, as if a secret hovered behind those full, sensuous lips, and the tease of her proximity triggered his pulse till he thought he couldn’t breathe. A gentle breeze from the window rustled her silk dress, and the scent of roses drifted in the air, warming his blood.

     “What’s on your mind, Katie?” he asked, heat crawling up his neck at the realization of what was on his.

     “The same thing that’s on yours, apparently,” she said with a mysterious smile. “Gabe.”

     His pulse slowed. “Gabe? What about her?”

     Katie bit her lip and then grinned outright. “I have a foster family for her.”

     He sat up straight in the chair, fingers gripped white on the arm. “W-what? W-where?” His words tripped over his tongue, moving faster than the hammering of his heart.

     Her laughter floated in the air like the sound of hope. “A wonderful family, really—large, well-to-do, and so full of love that Gabe will think she died and went to heaven.”

     He couldn’t help it—tears stung his eyes. “Who?” he whispered.

     Her gaze was tender as she studied him, the wetness in her eyes matching his own. “The O’Connors of Boston,” she said softly, then put a hand to her chest and blinked back her tears. “Goodness, you think she’ll mind sharing a room?”

     He stared, disbelief stealing the air from his lungs. And then in a jolt of comprehension, it whooshed back in, flooding his body with such joy and emotion, he thought he would faint. In one frantic clip of his heart, he swallowed Katie up in his arms and squeezed as if he would never let go, his deep laughter rumbling against her hair. “Woman, I could just kiss you,” he shouted, and then all at once his breathing stilled as he set her back down, suddenly aware of her body pressed against his, the burn of his hand on the small of her back.

     Their gazes met, and heat traveled his bloodstream like alcohol, drowning all inhibition he may have felt. He saw the vulnerability in those wide blue eyes, heard the tremulous breathing drifting from those soft, parted lips, and all reason fled from his brain, disarming all good intent. In slow and careful motion, his hands cupped the sides of her face like a caress, his gaze fixed on her mouth before shifting to lose himself in her eyes. He feathered her lips with the pad of his thumb. “Thank you, Katie Rose,” he whispered, “for giving me so much joy.”

     He wanted to fight it, knew it should only be a kiss on the cheek, but his body seemed drugged with her. His eyelids weighted closed as he moved near like a man in a trance, compelled to graze his lips against hers. Upon touch, their shallow breathing became one as he nuzzled her mouth with his own. And then, in a ragged beat of his heart, she melted into him with a familiarity that destroyed all restraint. He clutched her body to his, deepening the kiss that just cost him a promise he’d made. “God help me, Katie, I want you—”

     Somewhere in the recesses of their minds they heard it, that gruff clearing of a throat that seemed so very far away. And then harsh reality struck, and Katie jerked violently from his arms as if he had thrust her away.

     “I knocked, but I guess you didn’t hear it.” Parker stood with arms crossed in the open door, voice rock hard and jaw even worse.

     An unnatural shade of red bled up Katie’s neck and face like a thermometer registering a fever of a 105. “P-Parker . . . Mr. Riley . . . it’s not what it seems. L-Luke was just thanking me . . .”

     The hard line of Parker’s mouth twisted as his eyes flicked to Luke with a penetrating look. “A simple ‘thank you’ wouldn’t have been enough?”

SUBSCRIBERS, PLEASE NOTE: By submitting your e-mail address freely, this is your consent for me to send you emails that contain news and promotional information about my books.

Disclosure of your e-mail is voluntary and is not stored, except for the purpose for which you provide it.