THE SECOND CHANCE CAFE released on Tuesday. On Tuesday, I was busy playing Grammy to a couple of pancake-loving munchkins and didn’t have time to post. I didn’t have time to do much of anything, really, but feed and listen and entertain and supervise and referee and enjoy. (There’s a reason I had my first kid at 21. I had the energy then to keep up with his nonstop days.) Anyhow, Kaylie and Ten’s book is out in the wild. Here on the book page are links to buy it at several retailers. Only Amazon has it available digitally, but you can get a Kindle app for your tablet or smartphone or pc, meaning anyone can take advantage of the $4.99 price tag! It’s been great fun watching the Kindle rankings on this one (even though I’m banned by a group of friends from looking at reviews and rankings, heh). It’s published by Amazon’s Montlake imprint, so having the publisher also be the retailer offers a lot of perks. Also, Montlake sends flowers for first releases. How cool is that?
The book is getting some really nice reviews, and I’m so excited about this. I’ve been writing faster-paced and sexier romances for so long, I wasn’t sure how readers would receive a softer sort of story from me. So far so good. I really loved this recap at Heroes and Heartbreakers which talks about the second chances everyone in the story – including Magoo, Kaylie’s dog – receives. It’s also nice to see comparisons to Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series as VIRGIN RIVER was the book that made me want to try my hand at a story of this tone. Originally, the second book was scheduled for September, but it’s been pushed back. I don’t yet have a new release date for BENEATH THE PATCHWORK MOON or one for the third book, THE SWEETNESS OF HONEY, but I can tell you that these two books tell Luna’s and Indiana’s stories.
After the cut, there’s an excerpt showing that even in a softer romance, there can still be plenty of steam. And I’m going to pick five commenters to this post to receive a Kindle copy. Deadline to comment is noon CST tomorrow, Friday, March 8, 2013. Just leave a comment telling me how you feel about soft romances and steamy romances, and if you prefer one over the other, or if you read anything as long as the book is enjoyable.
He backed her into the wall beside the door, against the space where the refrigerator would go. The big commercial refrigerator, with half-glass doors and shelves for industrial casserole pans and bushels of lettuce and crates of tomatoes.
The spot was tall and wide and there was plenty of room for both of them to fit. He laced their fingers and raised her hands to her shoulders, anchoring her with his body, his feet on either side of hers, his thighs, too, as he lowered his head, his eyes bright, his nostrils flaring as he breathed.
She was frightened, but not of him as much as herself and the things she didn’t know. She’d been here before with boys who thought themselves men, but not with these feelings, her belly, her heart, and not with Tennessee Keller. He smelled of a day’s work and sawdust and worn cotton and a woodsy spice she’d noticed before in passing. It was subtle and she wanted to close her eyes and savor it, to remember it later when he wasn’t so near. But closing them meant not seeing him and she wanted that most of all.
His lashes were long, the same turned-earth brown as the stubble of his beard. She wondered about the hair on his chest, on his legs, in private places. His lips parted, smiling, inviting, she didn’t know. Before she could figure it out, time jumped forward and his mouth was there covering hers. He moved gently against her, soft and coaxing, the pressure of his lips imploring more than demanding, and at odds with the shackles of his hands.
The heels of his palms pushed against her, pushed her wrists against the drywall, pushed her knuckles, too. But his mouth didn’t push. It begged, and she breathed deeply and parted her lips the way she knew he wanted. The way she instinctively wanted as well.
He slipped his tongue into her mouth, softly at first then more boldly, going deeper, then sweeping harder as he learned her, coaxing her to follow his lead, to mate her tongue with his, to come with him into his mouth, to stay. She curled her fingers into her palms, her nails digging into her skin with her need to hold him, to grip his shoulders, to cup his nape and thread her hands through his hair.
She wanted more than this and her chest ached and her eyes, closed now, grew heavy with tears because she had no other outlet for the feelings bursting inside of her. Ten was here, touching her, his hands, his thighs, his chest when he leaned into her, his tongue and his lips as he loved her mouth with his.
Reality fell away leaving magic, Ten’s magic, here in her kitchen, the only sounds in the room their breathing, the tiny moans of the house, the wind through the breezeway stirring the bamboo chimes, a clutch of a whimper in her throat when he rubbed his thumbs over the heels of her palms.
He caught at her bottom lip, holding it, slicking it with tongue then finding hers and slicking it, too. He tasted of the coffee he’d last drank, and he tasted of salt, and he was warm, hot even, his lips softer than she’d thought they would be, the stubble of his beard as it rasped over her chin arousing. Her nipples pebbled, and the whimper in her throat clawed loose in desperation. The sound, barely audible, was enough.
Ten stopped, his mouth a hair’s width from hers, his breathing ragged, the brush of air as he exhaled like a furnace at her cheek. And then he released her, backing away, holding up both of his hands as if to show her she was free and he was… Sorry? Displeased with what they’d done? Regretting the way he’d pushed her and held her and taken her as if giving her no choice? Except that wasn’t how the kiss had happened at all. She’d been completely willing and involved.
Another moment, and he spun away, crossing the room to return to packing away his things. She shook off the daze keeping her pinned in place, scraped the loose hair from around her face, touching her fingertips to her mouth, still feeling him. Still wanting him. Not knowing how to tell him that when he’d been the one to walk away. She was so tired of people walking away.
“Look. I didn’t mean for that to happen—”
“Don’t.” She bit off the word so sharply, he stopped in the act of locking his toolbox and turned. Her chest was heaving. She tried to stop it, to control her breathing, but everything around her had changed and she didn’t know how. “Just don’t.”
“Don’t apologize. Don’t say you didn’t want that to happen.”
“That’s not what I said. I said I didn’t mean for it to.”
“Is that different than you didn’t mean it?”
“I meant every second.”
“Then why did you stop?”
“I don’t know.”
She didn’t believe him. She was certain he knew exactly why, but that he wasn’t comfortable telling her. Or comfortable with admitting it to himself. And as much as she didn’t want to accept the truth, he’d been right to stop. She’d been angry. He’d been reacting to that, not to her. Yes, her experience with men was limited, but she knew the heat of the moment did not lend itself to rational thought.
Still, she couldn’t let it go so easily. “If you want to kiss me, then kiss me. Don’t work out your frustrations with your family or use me—”
“I’m not using you, Kaylie. This… It has, had, nothing to do with my family.”
“But you stopped anyway.”
“I stopped because things were about to get out of hand, and this isn’t the time or the place…” He rubbed at his eyes. “I’m not going to take you up against a wall in an empty house. You deserve better than that.”
“You kissed me because you were angry.”
His head came up at that. “I wasn’t angry. I was…aroused.”
“Oh, I thought…” She stopped, because she wasn’t sure what she’d been thinking. Or if she’d been thinking at all. It had become habit, assuming the worst. She knew better, but old habits died hard. “I think I’m embarrassed now.”
“We kissed. I got hard. It’s what happens. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
“No. I mean I’m embarrassed that I didn’t realize why you backed off. I thought…” And here she went again. “I thought you didn’t want to kiss me.”
“How could you get that out of what just happened?”
“Because you stopped. You walked away. Because you’re over there packing your tools and I’m just standing here.” Like a fool, she wanted to add, but didn’t. The words she’d already spoken had said it loudly enough.
He dropped the roll of tape he’d been holding, watched it bounce from the toolbox lid to the floor. Then he walked to the sink and planted both hands on either side, leaning into them and staring out the window.
From her vantage point, Kaylie could see Magoo sprawled out asleep in the driveway, but didn’t think Ten was looking at her dog. She pushed off the wall, waved a hand distractedly. “I’m just going to go make sure I didn’t leave anything in the Jeep. Maybe throw a ball with Magoo for a bit.”
“You’re going to walk away? And leave me standing here?”
A flush climbed from her chest up her throat, heating her skin and no doubt turning her the color of a watermelon. “Ten—”
“No, Kaylie. We’re going to finish this.”
“I thought we did.”
He bit off a sharp curse, slammed a fist against the countertop. “No, sweetheart. We were just getting started. I don’t want you walking outside thinking anything else. Or thinking I don’t want you. Or thinking if you said the word, I wouldn’t be dragging you upstairs by the hair.”
She tried to laugh, but her heart wouldn’t let her, thumping all the air from her chest. “That sounds rather caveman.”
“I can be caveman. But I’m trying to be nice.”
At that, she swallowed, her throat working around unfamiliar emotions. Among them, a terribly unseemly longing that he show her the side of him that wasn’t nice. “I’m…not very good at this. At reading signals. Usually when I’ve had someone walk away it’s meant they’re not coming back.”
Another curse and he straightened, facing the window as he shoved both hands through his hair. Frustration poured off him in waves, and in many flavors, and she wanted to go to him but held herself back, waiting, curious. Anxiously desperate to know what happened next.
“When I kiss a woman,” he said, “or when…things get intimate, I’m there for more than what’s happening physically. That means I’m not going to walk away afterward. Unless it’s to slow things down. And sometimes that means—” he gestured toward his toolbox “—cleaning up at the end of the day. That’s all this is. I promise.”
“I was worried that I was the only one having a good time.”
He held her gaze, the line of his jaw taut, his pulse a tic in his temple, the sun through the window glinting like fire in his eyes. She thought he might be trying to frighten her off, or see that she kept her distance because he couldn’t be trusted to keep his. But she wasn’t frightened. She was full of something big and grand, and thought if she didn’t escape, she’d explode with it.
And because she was done with picking up pieces, and because he was obviously done with trying to explain, she pushed open the screen door and left him there, knowing without looking back that he watched her all the way to her Jeep, then as far as he could as she headed to the front of the house.
From there, he wouldn’t be able to see her. It was the best place for her to be until she settled the feelings he’d whipped up inside her like tornado winds.