Lost Creek

She had nev­er been kissed in a park­ing lot.

And it felt glorious… 

Harp­er leaned in as her lips met Braden’s. The feel of his fin­gers on her shoul­ders brought a rush of pow­er­ful emo­tions. She hadn’t known what to expect today when she had invit­ed him to come to Austin with her. She had sensed the strong con­nec­tion between them and had tried to ignore it—and then decid­ed to pur­sue it.

He didn’t rush the kiss, which she appre­ci­at­ed. His kiss was delib­er­ate, like the man him­self, full of pur­pose. Slow­ly, his mouth moved over hers, get­ting to know it. She clasped his waist to steady her­self because she felt her­self go lightheaded.

He increased the pres­sure slight­ly in response. She inhaled the clean, mas­cu­line scent of his soap and his essence, glad not to be over­whelmed by cologne. She feared he would break the kiss and tell her it had been a mis­take, so she moved her hands to his back and pressed the front of her body against his incred­i­bly hard one.

His lips left hers, and she sensed defeat until his tongue slow­ly swept back and forth across her bot­tom lip, send­ing deli­cious tin­gles up and down her spine. He took his time, using the tip of his tongue to out­line the shape of her mouth, ratch­et­ing up the desire build­ing with­in her. When his mouth returned to hers in a firm, com­mit­ted kiss, Harp­er opened to him.

And the magic…

Why aren’t you play­ing and singing for a liv­ing?” Ivy demand­ed. “You have a rare gift, Dax. You should be shar­ing it with the world.”

For now, my world is Lost Creek,” he explained. “Find­ing my place in this com­mu­ni­ty. Serv­ing cof­fee and giv­ing res­i­dents a com­fort­able, clean, friend­ly place to come to. If I can also enter­tain them a bit, I’ll do that, as well.”

Your song was tender—and full of life. Can I hear more?”

If you want to.”

Her smile made his heart beat rapid­ly. “I def­i­nite­ly want to hear more. I feel like I’m Colonel Park­er, hear­ing Elvis for the first time, know­ing the world is not going to know what hit them.”

He shook his head. “I’m not that good, Ivy.”

Your voice has a beau­ti­ful tone to it, and you also have a won­der­ful way in phras­ing your lyrics. I can’t believe I know some­one who wrote a song that good.”

He met her gaze. “It’s the first one I ever wrote.”

She looked incred­u­lous. “The first? I wouldn’t change a word. Not one note.” Smil­ing, she told him, I’m ready to hear more music from you.”

In that moment, Dax decid­ed to wait to play the song he’d writ­ten for Ivy. It was too ear­ly in their rela­tion­ship to let her hear Forever’s Embrace. He would know when the time was right.

This is one I call Dreams Turn to Dust.”

But Dax knew the new dreams which had tak­en hold of him—those of build­ing a life in Lost Creek with this woman—were just start­ing to take shape.

Nerves rat­tled through Fin­ley as she climbed from the truck and moved toward her front door. She hadn’t brought a guy home in… forever.

Hold­en Scott wasn’t just any guy, though. He was a famous nov­el­ist. He trav­eled in cir­cles she read about in Peo­ple. No way was he inter­est­ed in her. She doubt­ed he’d felt the same spark she had when they’d shak­en hands. And when he’d guid­ed her through the cof­fee­house, his hand at the small of her back, she’d almost passed out.

Get a grip,” she mut­tered under her breath as she dug in her purse for her keys.

I’m sor­ry?” he asked, once again rest­ing his hand on her back as she pro­duced her key ring.

Noth­ing. Just talk­ing to myself,” she said, shrug­ging, embarrassed.

He smiled. An aching­ly beau­ti­ful, won­der­ful, impos­si­ble smile. “And here I thought only writ­ers did that kind of thing. Maybe it’s all cre­ative peo­ple who do so.”

Insert­ing the key into the lock, Fin­ley said, “I wouldn’t put myself in that category.”

She start­ed through the door, but he grabbed her elbow, imped­ing her progress. It caused her to look up at him. His gaze pierced her, seem­ing as if he saw into her soul.

You have tal­ent. Don’t ever doubt your­self, Finley.”

He released his hold on her. Shak­i­ly, she turned back to the door, step­ping in and slip­ping off her coat. She hung it on the coat tree.

Can I take yours?” she asked as he shrugged out of his.

He hand­ed it to her, their fin­gers brushing.



Emerson’s cell rang, and Ivy’s pic­ture popped up. “Hey, Ivy. What’s up?”

Could you do me a huge favor? I was sup­posed to pick up Ry and take him to the win­ery at five-thirty.”

Sure. Is every­thing okay?”

It’s fine. I just need to take a call from Clive about my show. I didn’t want to be yack­ing with him and leave Ry twid­dling his thumbs in the car.”

Will do. I’ll leave now.”

Thanks, Em. You’re a lifesaver.”

She reached Harp­er and Braden’s house a few min­utes lat­er and pulled into the dri­ve­way, going to the front door and ring­ing the bell, hop­ing it wouldn’t be awk­ward, talk­ing to a stranger as they drove to Lost Creek Win­ery. She’d nev­er been good at throw­ing her­self out there and told her­self it took less than ten min­utes to reach the win­ery. Even she could sur­vive that long.

The door opened— and sud­den­ly she couldn’t breathe.

The man stand­ing in front of her was dev­as­tat­ing­ly hand­some. Prob­a­bly six-two, almost a foot taller than she was. He had black hair, laugh­ing blue eyes, and a killer body.

Swal­low­ing— and try­ing to be as non­cha­lant as pos­si­ble —she said, “Hi, I’m Emer­son. Ivy asked if I could stop by and pick you up and bring you to the win­ery for the sur­prise party.”

His voice was low as he rum­bled, “I can’t think of a bet­ter wel­com­ing com­mit­tee.” He thrust a hand in her direc­tion. “I’m Ry Blackwood.”

She took it, a surge of elec­tric­i­ty zip­ping through her. This had nev­er hap­pened before. Nev­er. Ever. She looked at him wordlessly.

Some­thing told her things had tak­en an inter­est­ing turn— and that Ry Black­wood might become some­one impor­tant in her life.

Tuck­er sighed. “Maybe I roman­ti­cized Lost Creek, but this place always has felt like home. Even if I’ve been gone a real­ly long time from it.”

Sound­ing board speak­ing here,” she said. “This is the place you were hap­pi­est. I know you’re suf­fer­ing because you lost Josie and feel guilty you sur­vived the crash. But I think Lost Creek could be the place you might heal, Tucker.”

His gaze pinned her. “Sounds to me as if you have also had some nice times here your­self. Maybe this is the place you need to wind up, as well.”

Tucker’s free hand caught her chin. Slow­ly, he moved his head toward her, his lips com­ing clos­er. Her heart sped up. Her mouth grew dry.

Then he gave her a soft, sweet kiss.

It wasn’t a lover’s kiss. It didn’t have the pas­sion and fire of that. It was more a kiss of friend­ship. Of two lost souls com­ing togeth­er as friends. Two peo­ple who had expe­ri­enced hard­ships in life and by shar­ing some of their bur­dens, found those bur­dens begin to lift.

He broke the kiss, his lips hov­er­ing just above hers.

I hope that wasn’t too forward.”

It wasn’t,” she told him.

Tuck­er moved away, releas­ing her hand. “I want you as a friend, Rea­gan, but I’m feel­ing an attrac­tion to you.” He smiled wry­ly. “And it’s con­fus­ing the hell out of me.”