Read An Excerpt

by Julie Ann Walker

Genre: General Romantic Suspense, Romantic Suspense

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Pushing Jake away was one of the hardest things she’d ever done, even harder when she glanced up to see him raking in breaths like he’d just completed a hundred yard dash. Oh, man, his eyes…They were so green, so fierce and bright, and when he looked at her like that—

“Shell, I—”

“It’s over,” she interrupted and took another step back, scrubbing a shaky fist over her kiss-moistened lips. Her heart felt like she’d popped it in her pressure-cooker and set the temperature to high. “It’s been over for a very long time.”

“It’s not,” he insisted, crossing his arms and grinding his jaw until his cheek muscles twitched. “You kissed me back just now.”

He wasn’t as big a man as her brother, not as thick or muscle-bound. He was elegantly built, with a quintessential surfer's body. Still, at 6’4” he managed to stand nearly a head above her. The disparity in their heights, particularly when she wasn’t used to having to look up at many men, drove home the main reason she couldn’t just save herself the headache and heartache and immediately insist he leave.

Because there he stood. Tall, strong, steady. Ready and willing to lay his life on the line. And, dang it!, she needed the protection he offered. Her son needed his protection.

And, as if on cue... “Mama, I'm thirsty!”

“I’ll be right up!” she shouted, before turning back to Jake. “If it weren’t for my son, I’d throw you straight out the door for that stunt you just pulled.”

“You did just kiss me back. Try to deny it.”

She couldn’t. “I kissed you back. And it was just as big a mistake now as it was four years ago. I’m going to bed. I suggest you do the same. We have an early morning tomorrow.”

“Shell, I—”

She turned then, waving off whatever else he might think to say as she calmly strode across the living room, careful not to trip over the toy car lying on its side on the rug. She forced herself not to take the stairs two at a time—even though every instinct she had screamed at her to run, because she could feel his eyes burning into her, trying to see into her soul. But she carefully climbed each and every step, refusing to give him the satisfaction of watching her flee the scene.

When she reached the landing, she slowly turned toward the bathroom and filled a glass from the pitcher of filtered water she kept on hand for just such occasions. Sedately crossing the hall to her son’s room, she watched him gulp it sleepily before once more grabbing his Elmo and settling into slumber. After softly closing his door, she managed to calmly stroll into her own room.

And it was there she let go.

Sinking down on her bed, she dropped her head into her hands, her pulse pounding in her temples as a little eep that was one part terror and two parts heartache escaped through her trembling lips.

What am I going to do?

Because Jake was right. No matter what she said, no matter the impossibility of it all, no matter how hard she tried to convince herself otherwise, it wasn’t over.

It’d never truly be over. At least not for her.