Mystic Creek Series
Harrigan Family Series
Coulter Family Series
Kendrick Family Series
Other Contemporary Romance
Valance Family Series
Coulter Family Series Historical
Other Historical Titles
Discarded Love Scene
As an author writes a book, there are almost always scenes created that are discarded for one reason or another, perfectly great scenes—or not so great ones—that are never published.
DISCARDED LOVE SCENE/STAR BRIGHT
Rainie stirred in her sleep, vaguely aware that she was dreaming but unable to bring herself awake. Shadows shifted like dark, silk curtains around her, but then they suddenly parted to reveal a beautiful, sun-washed meadow. She recognized the place instantly. This was where she and Parker had stopped during their horseback ride for a rest. A smile touched her mouth at the memory. He'd somehow charmed her into lying beside him on a blanket to watch the clouds drift by overhead, and soon he'd had her laughing. That was part of Parker's magic, his ability to make her relax and simply enjoy the moment.
As she stepped out into the light, Rainie wasn't surprised to see him waiting for her. He lay on the blanket, much as he had yesterday, one knee bent, his doffed brown Stetson resting on his chest. As she moved toward him, she wondered yet again how any man could look so deliciously handsome in faded Wrangler jeans and a wash-worn, blue shirt. Lean, tendon-roped legs gave shape to the denim. His well-muscled chest and arms created fascinating mounds of strength under the chambray shirt. Lying there, he looked at ease and unthreatening, yet somehow he managed to unnerve her, especially when his dark gaze met hers. She'd seen that gleam in a man's eyes before and knew what it portended. Even so, she couldn't resist going to him. She felt like a metal shaving, drawn relentlessly by a magnet.
Once at the edge of the blanket, she drank in every detail about him in a way she would never dare to do while awake. She noticed how his firm mouth tipped into a slight grin, slashing his burnished cheeks with deep creases, how his wavy, jet-black hair glistened like polished onyx in the slanting sunbeams, and how the breadth of his shoulders took up more than half the blanket, leaving little room for her to lie with him.
Smiling slightly, he patted the spot beside him. The wordless invitation tugged at her in a way that a demand never could have, and she realized with a bit of a start that she wanted to lie with him. This was only a dream, after all. Nothing bad could happen because all she had to do was wake up in order to end it.
"Trust me," he said huskily. "Just this once, Rainie, trust me."
As if her legs had turned to water, she sank to her knees beside him. His smile deepened, and the gleam in his eyes went warm with tenderness. With a wide, work-hardened hand, he reached up to toy with a tendril of her long, honey-streaked hair, which curled traitorously over her shoulder to touch her breast. As the backs of his knuckles moved lower and lower, following the strands, they grazed her knit top and her skin beneath, making her nerve endings tingle with expectation. Her breath caught. Her heart began slogging in her chest like a marble being shaken in a jar of cold honey. This seemed so real, not like a dream at all, but as if it were actually happening.
"It's okay, sweetheart," he said, his voice, deep and vibrant, curling around her like wisps of warm smoke. "I'd never hurt you. Surely you know that about me by now."
He looped a hard arm around her waist and drew her down beside him. Rainie wasn't sure what she expected next, only that it wasn't for him to bury his face in her hair and breathe in the scent of her. As his arms tightened around her, she felt cherished, and a fabulous bone-melting warmth filled her. Parker. How many times had she fantasized about how it might feel to be caught in his embrace like this? She pressed her face against his shirt and intoxicated herself with the smell of him, a heady and purely masculine blend of leather, clean cotton, pine needles, alfalfa, and shaving cologne that worked on her reeling senses like a balm. Parker. She wanted to sink into him, be absorbed by him. He felt so sturdy and strong and safe. No one could harm her when this man's arms were locked around her, no one, not even Peter. When she turned her cheek to his chest, she heard the steady, reassuring beat of his heart.
When he caught her chin with the crook of his finger and lifted her face, she knew he meant to kiss her—and more. Crazy, so crazy. What was she thinking to allow this? But it seemed so right, so completely and beautifully right. The kiss, when it came, was light and tentative, a soft hello that disarmed her. When he deepened the kiss, thrusting his tongue past her lips to taste the recesses of her mouth, she allowed him entry without protest. Parker. She trusted him as she'd never trusted anyone, save her father. When had that happened? More important, how it had happened? She had no answers; she only knew that he had worked his way past all her defenses and cajoled her into believing in him.
Rainie never saw him remove his shirt, but suddenly it was gone, revealing his torso. He knelt over her, and she feasted her eyes on the powerful contours of his chest, shoulders, and arms, honed to a steely hardness by a lifetime of grueling physical labor. The sunlight made his skin gleam like melted caramel, one of her favorite treats, and she wanted to have a taste.
Knowing in a corner of her mind that this was only a dream, she gathered her courage and sat up to trail kisses along his clavicle, the tip of her tongue tracing its shape from his left shoulder to the base of his throat. He tasted even better than caramel, she discovered with surprised delight, his skin warm, silken, and slightly salty. A need she'd never before experienced built within her until her body began to tremble. When she closed her mouth over the V of his collarbone, he jerked and sucked in a harsh breath.
This truly did seem so real, she thought dizzily. Incredibly real. If only she could be this brave while she was awake. The thought was promptly wiped from her mind when she felt his calloused palms cup her breasts. Her bare breasts. It wasn't only his clothing that had somehow disappeared. For just an instant, she froze, a cold, frightening sense of dread filling her. Losing control, giving another man power over her—she'd sworn never to let it happen again. But then his mouth was nibbling at the sensitive place just under her ear, and she forgot everything¬—everything but him and the sensations he so effortlessly aroused in her. Somehow they went from upright to prone, and his touch was everywhere on her body, his hands drifting lightly over her skin, hers knotted in the cool strands of his black hair. Parker. Oh, how she wanted him. Her senses reacted to his every touch like dry tinder to a flame. She arched against him, telling him of her longing in a language as old as womankind. She closed her eyes against the rush of desire, lost to sensation, surrendering herself to him, utterly mesmerized by his touch, his weight, his mouth. This was Parker, and for this little while, she wanted to lose herself in him.
When she lifted her lashes, the sky and grass seemed to whirl crazily around her, as if the world had tipped off its axis. As her passion mounted, Rainie's mind spun away, her thoughts lost in a spiraling rush of brilliance, making her feel like a tiny fragment of color in an ever-changing kaleidoscope.
Just as Rainie felt him about to enter her, her mind suddenly cleared. Is this really happening, or is it only a dream? She could no longer tell, and the realization terrified her. I'm not ready for this. Not yet. I'm losing control, giving him power over me. Did my time with Peter teach me nothing?
She jerked awake as if she'd been doused with ice water, her body trembling, her nightshirt damp with sweat, the sheets twisted like ropes around her legs. With a choked cry, she jackknifed to a sitting position and locked her quivering arms around her waist. She held her breath for a moment, listening to the silence, half expecting to hear Parker's deep, husky voice whisper her name. When all she heard was the muffled rumbling of her tomcat, Thomas, purring in his sleep, her spine slumped and she bent her head, grabbing for breath as if she'd just run a mile.
Oh, God. What on earth had prompted her to dream such a thing? Granted, she found Parker Harrigan attractive. What woman wouldn't? But while awake, she never allowed herself to think about him in a sexual way. He was her boss. He was becoming her friend. She even trusted him, to a point. But she'd never toyed with the thought of making love with him.
The question stuck in her mind like a jagged shard of glass. She thought of all the many times when her heart had tripped a beat merely because he smiled at her¬—how an odd warmth moved through her at the sound of his rich laughter—how something deep within her quickened when he said her name. Maybe she hadn't actually thought about making love with him, but she'd had all the feelings that normally led up to such musings.
Disentangling herself from the sheets, Rainie got out of bed and went to the bathroom. After splashing her face with cold water, she grabbed a towel, being careful to avoid looking at her reflection in the mirror as she dried off. Only a dream, she assured herself. It hadn't been real. But she needed to pay attention, nevertheless. The dream had revealed a great deal about her true state of mind, and she shouldn't ignore the warning. By relaxing her defenses around Parker, she was playing with fire, teetering on the edge of an emotional abyss. All that it would take to push her over that edge would be a gentle nudge from him.
The man was dangerous. If she allowed herself to forget that, even for an instant, there might be no turning back.
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