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.
*Excerpt coming in 2024!