Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Publication Date: June 1, 2017
– Terri, Goodreads Reviewer
– Claudia Mossman
An Excerpt From The Book
“Ian? Ian Sylvestry?”
He’d hoped for a few minutes to catch his breath, to pull his thoughts together, and find a way to mask his pain. It lessened some when he took stock of the woman who stood before him, snow-dampened blonde curls clinging to her cheeks and forehead, cheeks as rosy as those on the painted cherubic faces of Gladys’s Hummel figurines. If she’d ever looked more beautiful, he couldn’t remember when.
“What’re you doing out in this mess?” he asked.
“Trying to stay half a step ahead of this beastly storm.” She followed the narrow path she’d shoveled and met him at the mailbox. “The better question is, what are you doing here? No…” She held up an ice-encrusted mitten. “The better question is, how did you get here?”
Ian pointed to the plow just up the street, lifting buckets of snow from the road and emptying them onto neighbors’ lawns.
“Hitched a ride with a friend.”
“From Fells Point to Ellicott City. In a snowplow.”
He shrugged. “Uh, yeah.”
“So I could see for myself that you’re all right.”
“And put your own life on the line in the process?”
Ian hadn’t realized until that moment that he’d been massaging his aching thigh. He grinned, trying to make light of it. “I’d hardly call the ride over here life threatening…”
She snorted. “I wonder if your surgeon would agree.”
“Good question.” He snickered. “I have a feeling if I show up at next week’s checkup without a reasonable explanation for this insanity, he might just send me straight to Shephard Pratt…with a prescription for a padded cell and a hug-myself jacket.”
“You look awful,” she said. “Pale, dark circles under your eyes… You arranged for that plow, didn’t you.”
“I might’ve influenced the driver. A little.”
“You’re shivering.” She jammed the shovel into the slip-sliding mound of crumpled snow she’d tossed beside the driveway. “You’re coming inside.”
She punctuated the order with a smile, and linked her arm through his. His heart beat hard. That oughta warm you up, he thought. “But…your grandparents…”
“They’re fast asleep. Have been for hours.”
“So,” he said as she led him to the back steps, “they have no idea you’re out here, alone in the dark, in the middle of a major blizzard.”
“And if you slipped, clunked your head on something—”
“It’s snow, Ian. Snow.”
“With a half inch of frozen stuff on top of it.”
She paused at the bottom of the stairs. “Says the man who traveled miles, on a snowplow, to earn a few brownie points by having my grandparents’ driveway cleared.”
Ian hung his head. “I’m that obvious?”
She blinked up at him through snowflake-dusted lashes, blue eyes glittering in the golden glow of the porch light. Once upon a time, a look like that might precede a passionate kiss. At the very least, a loving hug. Maleah took a step closer. Licked her lips. Exhaled a sweet sigh. Those minutes on the dance floor, holding her close enough to feel her heart thrumming against his chest, had been wondrous and memorable…and woke a yearning in him as nothing before it had. Would she actually take another step forward, and bridge the gap that had separated them for so long?
Rattled, hopeful, and more than a little scared, Ian decided to take that step, instead…
…and lost his balance.
Ian landed on his back in a deep drift, taking her with him, a warm and petite, parka’d blanket that covered him from chin to shins. Instinct made him wrap his arms around her. Instinct…and an aching desire to hold onto the moment for as long as he could.
He’d heard people say “Time froze,” but until now, hadn’t experienced it. What seemed a full minute passed as those incredible eyes bored into his, searched his face, then squeezed shut. When she opened them again, Maleah whispered, “Are you all right?”
“No. I’m not.”
Both eyebrows disappeared under wet bangs. “I’ll get your snowplow friend to help get you up.”
She started to get up, but Ian tightened his arms around her. “The only thing wrong with me,” he grated, “is…is…”
Where to start? By telling her about the self-loathing he’d experienced every hour since that night at the convenience store? With regrets he’d recited like a litany when sleep eluded him? Or the list of “if onlys” he’d tried so hard to bury in his mind?
Maleah lay her head on his chest and patted his shoulder.
“Maybe Shephard Pratt isn’t such a bad idea.”
“Because you are a little crazy.”
Her lyrical voice, soft as the falling snow, touched a long-forgotten place in his heart. Ian didn’t trust himself to speak. Last time she’d brought tears to his eyes had been the day her letter arrived, unopened like the others, demanding that he leave her alone, forever. Eyes burning, he struggled for self-control, and the courage to tell her what he’d come here to say.
“Guess I am a little crazy. Crazy about you,” he ground out. “Still. Always.”
Hands pressed into the snow on either side of his head, she raised up, repeated the mind-numbing, mesmerizing study of his face. The pale yellow glow of the porch light haloed her head, making it impossible to tell if her lashes were still damp from the snow…or if the dream-like mood had moved her to tears, too.
She knew? He held his breath, waiting for her to follow up with “Me, too.” Or “That’s how I feel.” When she didn’t, another old saying came to mind: No one ever died of a broken heart…
Right here, in this moment, he wasn’t so sure about that. Eyes closed, overwhelming sadness washed over him. He was entitled to that, wasn’t he, now that he’d finally accepted the futility of believing they could ever be us, or we again?
Her lips touched his, softly, gently, slowly at first.
But only at first. Where he ended and she began, Ian couldn’t say. Did she realize that as her kisses slid from his mouths to his cheeks, from his forehead to his chin, she’d awakened every hope and dream he’d secreted away, that she’d roused every manly urge he thought had died long ago? It seemed she was reaching into his soul. How would she respond after reading years of unanswered love he’d written there?
Had he thumped his head hard when he flopped onto his back, and rendered himself? Open your eyes; it’s the only way to know for sure. He hesitated, because if this was some sort of weird dream, Ian didn’t want to wake up. Ever.
2 x $10 Amazon Gift Card
2 x The Man She Knew Paperback Copy (US Winners)
2 x The Man She Knew eBook Copy (International Winners)
About Loree Lough