About the Book:
Darby Malone has trouble saying no. Hosting a children’s Valentine party
at her recently renovated gallery is the last straw, and the last time
she intends to say yes to anything. That is, until she meets Ben, a
well-known Cape Cod artist with eyes as deep and blue as the ocean. He
stirs feelings in her that have been dormant for too long. Can she
afford to say yes to him?
Ben Phillips needs this gallery show.
His life has been empty since his wife died four years ago, his
paintings the only thing giving him solace. But his style has changed,
his art completely different than the breezy shore paintings he staked
his reputation on. Can he convince Darby to give him a chance – and to
consider him for more than just a place on her gallery walls? Will she
give him a place in her heart as well?
She let out a sigh, tipping her
chin up at him. “You know, Ben Phillips, for an artist, you’re actually a nice guy.
And you have one of the sexiest smiles I’ve ever seen.” Bright spots of pink
appeared on her cheeks as she laughed at herself. “There I go again, unable to
filter that brain-to-mouth connection. I’d blame the scorpion bowl, but it’s
really just me.”
He chuckled. “I like you
unfiltered, Darby Malone.”
“Mmhmm.” He reached across the
table again, taking her hand and twining his fingers with her. “I like you,
Her lips formed the cutest little O
of surprise, those hazel eyes dawning with comprehension and maybe a pinch of
worry. He was beginning to understand the fascinating creature on the other
side of the red vinyl booth, her fears and dreams. And he realized if he pushed
too hard she might slip away. He dialed back on the emotion, returning to the
light and slightly flirty tone that’d been working so well. “Hey, we both have
a busy week ahead. Maybe it’s best if we get the check and call it a night.
That way you won’t overdose on scorpion bowls, or my company.”
She grinned and agreed. He released
her hand and signaled the waitress for the bill, worried he’d made a mistake by
declaring his feelings. The smart move would be to let her settle into the idea
slowly, wrap her head around the fact he wanted more than a one-day show. He’d
take friendship, if that was all she could offer, but it didn’t stop him from
wanting it all.
They walked to the parking lot side
by side, his hands shoved deep into coat pockets, clutching at the lining to
keep his fingers from reaching for her. Fat snowflakes drifted silently, a
light coating of white already dusting the ground. The still air felt laced
with magic, the swirling snow like pixie dust sparkling all around them. Her
car sat next to his pickup truck under the streetlamp, the last two vehicles in
the lot. He stopped next to her door as she unlocked the car. “This was fun,”
she said, sounding sincere. “It’s my turn to pay next time.”
“I’ll hold you to that. And maybe I’ll
pick a more expensive place.” He laughed when her eyes widened, her smile
turning into more of a smirk. There’s that spunk. “Actually, I hear
there’s a new Middle Eastern place opening on the other side of town with a
fancy prix fixe menu we could try.”
She laughed out loud, shoving his
shoulder playfully. “Why stop there? Let’s go all out for the hundred-dollar
lobster at the Chatham Inn.”
Unable to resist, he grabbed her
wrist before she could pull away and drew her in for a friendly hug, rocking
her from side to side. “Only kidding. Scorpion bowls again soon?”
“Yeah, I’d like that.” Her warm
breath tickled his neck, making him suddenly aware of every soft curve pressed
against him. Need stirred deep inside. She stared into his face, her eyes
reflecting the same longing.
Before he could stop to think, he
bent his head and captured those soft lips with his own, gently tasting the sweetness
he’d been dreaming about since their first meeting. Her whole body stiffened,
like she might pull away, before she relaxed into the kiss, tentative, tasting,
taking his breath away. He teased her lips with his tongue until she opened for
him, giving herself more fully. He fell headlong into her softness, the rest of
the world fading to nothingness. All that existed was her mouth, this kiss, and
the feel of her body molded to his.
He slid one hand from her waist to
tangle in the mess of curls above her scarf, pulling her closer, fully claiming
her mouth. He felt her hand on his cheek, cupping it gently, holding him in
place as her thumb stroked a trail of fire along his jawline. The pleasure intensified
as she shifted against him, every nerve ending in his body hyperaware of her
touch. He had no sense of time passing until the snow fell harder, melting on
his cheeks, dripping down the back of his neck.
When their lips finally broke
apart, both were breathless. It took him a moment to orient himself and
remember where they were.
Alone in a dark parking lot, lost
in a kiss.
“Wow,” she whispered, her hazel
eyes shiny, tiny snowflakes sticking to her lashes and dotting her dark curls,
covering her shoulders with a fine layer of white.
She looks like an
My own little snow angel. He cleared his throat, trying to
get a handle on the turmoil churning within, hoping she felt at least a fraction
of what he experienced. His voice came out rougher than he expected, full of
emotion. “Darby, I…”
She put a gentle finger across his
lips, a small smile playing on those luscious lips. Her voice sounded as husky
as his. “Don’t you dare apologize. I know I said it isn’t a date, but that was
the most delicious kiss ever, so don’t ruin it.”
Ben’s hand still tangled in her
hair, his fingers playing with the silky curls at the nape of her neck. He chuckled.
“No way I’m apologizing. I’m only sorry if you’re uncomfortable with this new
twist in our relationship.” He feathered light kisses along the edge of her
forehead. She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch.
“Twist?” Her soft murmur sent his
He swallowed hard and pulled back
to look in her face, memorizing each curve and angle. “I thought I could do
this, but obviously I can’t. We can’t be friends any more, Darby.”
Her eyes widened, her voice a
“Because I want more. I want more
dates, more kisses, more time with you in my arms. I can’t go back to being
your friend when I want to move forward.” Her cheeks flushed, but since she
didn’t pull away or run screaming, it gave Ben hope that maybe there was a chance.
When she started to smile, the knot in his chest tightened. So beautiful.
“With kisses like that, how can I
say no?” Her words teased, and her smile invited. He couldn’t resist claiming
her mouth for another intoxicating kiss. A little moan rose from deep in her
throat, and the knot twisted tighter still, his heart aching with need, his
mouth hot on hers. Again they were breathless when they came up for air.
She inhaled deeply, opening her
eyes. “But like I said earlier, I don’t have much luck dating artists.”
Her words were like tiny daggers
stabbing at his hopes. Even though she hadn’t moved, he felt her slipping away,
convincing herself to stop before they even started. He pressed his case,
pulling her closer.
“I’m not like the other artists you
dated. I’m not interested in fame or the trappings of success. I’ve already
been on that rollercoaster. I want something real, and I want someone to share
it with. I’ve been lonely for too long. I think you have, too.”
Her eyes glistened under the
streetlight, her face filled with uncertainty. The snow continued to swirl around
them. “Ben, I don’t know…”
He silenced her objections with
another kiss, warm and gentle, filled with the same hope and longing as his words.
Her resistance melted and she kissed him back, becoming more insistent, her
hands clutching his shoulders to pull him tight. She ended the kiss and pushed
him away, wriggling out of his embrace, her face looked more confused than
ever. She kept her hands on his shoulders, her elbows locked while she
held him at arm’s length. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I can’t kiss
you and think clearly at the same time.”
He knew just what she meant, his
head still spinning from that last kiss. The chemistry between them felt irresistible—so
why was she still trying to deny it? “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
The grimace on her face told him
the answer. “Not thinking is what gets me into trouble. Every time.”
* * *
Grab a copy today - on sale now at the publisher's website for $1.19 or at Amazon for $1.99. Less than that afternoon latte, and so much more satisfying to the soul...