~ EMMA LANG ~
Even in the darkest of shadows, love can light the way.
Nicholas Graham is caught in the middle: of his family, of his desires, of his own unhappiness. After he meets Winnie Watson, his self-imposed curmudgeonly existence pales in comparison to spending time with her. He wants to be with her, to get to know her. She is a beacon to all the secret cravings he has controlled. Until now.
Winnie Watson endured, and survived, a horrendous childhood that would give others nightmares. She started over, a new name, a new goal in life. Then she met the Grahams and everything went sideways. She’s done the unthinkable and struggles to accept it. She wants to forget it all again, but the specter of Nicholas Graham, physical and in her dreams, won’t let her move on.
Caught between their needs, their wants, and what the world will allow them, Nick and Winnie are doomed from the moment they met. However, love will teach them that even the biggest obstacles can be overcome if you believe in love.
Coming February 25, 2014
Winnie slammed the coffee pot down onto the stove with a definitive clang! It felt so satisfying she did it again.
She was annoyed and frustrated. Nicholas had refused to sleep in the same house with her. What did he think she was going to do, seduce him while he slept? While not a bad idea, it was something she wouldn’t appreciate herself, therefore would never consider it. The man was stubborn as the day was long. He made her angry and, at the same time, sad for the tight box he kept himself locked in.
She should be more patient but her emotions were wound up tighter than the cogs of a clock. Ticking away inside her second by second.
Her anger wasn’t solely targeted at Nicholas. Her anxiety more about searching for Grace, of starting down a path she had been afraid to follow for ten years. The sad fact was she had no earthly reason not to look for Grace except her own fear. She’d given away her own child. No matter that she was sixteen years old and recovering from childbirth. She should have fought her own helplessness.
Regrets were useless. They left a bad taste in her mouth. She ought to kick them out of her mind for good. Easier said than done. Her world had been inundated with regrets for so long, she didn’t know how to purge them.
Nicholas had pushed her, and for that she would be grateful for the rest of her life. She didn’t want to hope too hard they would find her daughter. If they didn’t, or found out something Winnie couldn’t bear to hear, it would break her heart all over again.
The coffee burbled merrily in the pot and she poured cool water from a pitcher to settle the grounds. As she reached for a cup, a masculine voice sounded from behind her.
“Ah, can I help with breakfast?” He surprised her at every turn. She’d heard from Elizabeth that her family had grown up with everyone knowing how to do all household chores. An unusual arrangement but one Winnie respected.
She poured a cup of coffee and turned to hand it to him. His brown hair curled in damp waves at the edges while his freshly shaven jaw gleamed in the sunlight coming through the window over the sink. Heat rushed through her at the sight. The man was handsome as sin.
“I don’t have much here. I usually have a local farmer who delivers eggs and milk. Plus Consuela cooks when I have boarders. She also makes the bread twice a week for me.” She winced at the meager offering in the larder.
“I don’t think I could eat anyway.” Nicholas’s expression was tight with tension, mirrored on her own face, she was sure.
“Coffee?” She held up a cup.
“Fine. Then I’ve got to get that rig back to whatever idiot rented it to you.”
“Old man Sylvester is quite nice. I’m sure he didn’t realize the conveyance needed repair.” Winnie had always rented from him. The elderly livery owner had lost much of his clientele. She felt sorry for him and wanted to be sure he ate and had enough money to survive.
Nicholas snorted. “Like hell he didn’t know.”
She scowled at him. “You make judgments too quickly.”
“And you trust too easily.”
It was her turn to snort. “Me? I very rarely trust anyone. My circle of trust extends to three people right now.” She couldn’t trust people. Not after all she’d been through in her life. Too many disappointments and pain.
“I’m not one of them.” His glanced out the window, the sun’s rays highlighting the beautiful blue-green eyes and the pain within them.
Winnie wanted to lie to him but couldn’t. It wouldn’t e right or fair to him. She had feelings for him but their relationship was too new, too fresh, to consider trusting him. “Not yet.”
“Yet.” He shook his head. “You trust me with your body.”
She inwardly winced at his bald speaking. The Grahams definitely didn’t believe in dissembling.
“I suppose that’s true. Nicholas, Nick, we don’t know what will happen between us. Until we know, I, well, I can’t.” Her hands itched to take his, touch him.
“Uh-huh. I’ll take that coffee now.” His jaw was tight enough she thought she heard his teeth crack.
She refused to feel guilty. If he stayed at her side and showed her that he could be trusted, then she would trust him. For now, however. The tension between them had to break. They wouldn’t be successful at their journey to find Grace if they couldn’t have a civil conversation.
“No?” His brows rose. “Pardon me?”
Winnie gritted her own teeth. “No. I’m done with this anger and your foolish inclination to always be unpleasant.”
If possible, his brows went up farther. “Unpleasant?”
“And repeating what I said is annoying.” She banged the coffee pot down once more and then strode toward him. He watched with surprise until she grabbed his collar and yanked him toward her.
The moment her lips touched his, fire licked at her skin and her clothes were entirely too constrictive. He reared back and stared at her, this time with an intensity that made her shiver.
“You kissed me.”
“Do you have an issue with my actions?” She trembled with the need to touch him again. Even her voice shook. It was madness. Sheer madness.
He didn’t answer and her heart dropped to her feet. Instead, he pulled her back against him, breast to chest, hard to soft. She wrapped her arms around his neck and sank into his kiss. Sweet, wet heat swept across her skin.
The man was like a strong drink, bracing and enough to make her mind malfunction. Winnie held onto him, anchored by the strength of his muscles honed by years of ranching. It was like embracing a living, breathing, hot oak tree.
Her nipples hardened to aching points, needing more than to feel her underclothes. She yanked at his shirt until it popped free of his trousers. He grunted when she reached down to find the soft skin of his back. She slid her fingers lower and grasped the top of his buttocks, then squeezed.
“Do you think this is a good idea?” he murmured against her mouth.
“No, but we’re going to do it anyway.”
“Damn right we are.”