From Breaking the Rules, a fast-paced, sexy, adventure-romance originally published by Intimate Moments. I love the escapist aspects of it, and love both Zeke and Mattie’s need to protect themselves, and hide their pasts, even as they are falling in love. And just for the record, if you want a brand-new first edition of the paperback, it will be a tiny bit pricy–lowest price is $152.
Luckily, it is free for the next five days on Kindle. Grab it while you can.
It was Zeke’s habit to rise early, one born in childhood when he’d awakened to help his mother weed the garden, knowing it would be the only time he could have her to himself in a day.
So even now, when his work was in the evenings and sometimes ran very late, he found himself wide-awake as dawn broke the night sky. Over the past months, he’d developed a habit of going to the canyon, knowing that if he got there early enough, as with his mother, he’d have it to himself.
Of all the flyspecks on the map he’d blown through the past eighteen months, Kismet would be the hardest for him to leave behind, a thought that bothered him this morning – just a little. He had a rule about getting attached to things. When you got attached, you got in trouble. People, animals, places – he didn’t let himself get too comfortable with any of them. Probably time to move on.
But this morning, he was here, and that was good. He stripped at the edge of the river, taking deep pleasure in the brush of cool morning air against his skin. Overhead, a tangle of larks and sparrows sang to the light, as if it were a unique event. He smiled at them, standing on the bank for a moment to brace himself . Taking a deep breath, he touched his stomach in preparation, and with a whoop, jumped into a deep pool.
The water was a biting, icy shock – exhilarating as it stabbed through his hair and needled his flesh. He touched bottom and pushed himself back up, then lazily paddled in the broad pool, admiring the colors around him.
Back in Mississippi, rivers were wide and muddy and slow, as if the heat sucked their energy from them. Their banks were covered with cattails and grass. This river was crystal clear and mountain-cold and ran fast through the canyon it had carved from red sandstone. There was no mud to speak of, because the streambed was the rock itself.
The beauty of it was that the water had played capricious games with the soft rock, creating slides and carving pools and ignoring little flats, with no rhyme or reason. Later in the day, it would be crowded with tourists, come from the campgrounds nearby to enjoy the miracle.
He kicked out and submerged himself again, now used to the invigorating cold. He looked at the sky, vividly blue above the red of the rocks, and wondered that such color could exist.
It was only then that he became aware of a prickling uneasiness. With a flush of embarrassment, he wondered if some campers had wandered over. He’d been coming here since summer started and had never been discovered. After a few weeks, he’d shed his cutoffs in favor of skinny-dipping just because it seemed natural to do so in such a place. Keeping himself covered to the shoulders, he spun around slowly, peering into the trees at one side of the water. Nothing moved but a squirrel, who chattered in some irritation at Zeke’s gall invading the quiet so early. He grinned to himself, relieved, and splashed backward to lean on a rock in the warming sunlight.
It was only then he caught sight of her, standing at the foot of a path that probably led straight back to her little cabin.
Mary. He wiped water from his face and straightened. “Well, well, well,” he said. “I’m just runnin” into you all over the place.”
She carried a small paper bag and a thermos. “I come here every morning to eat my breakfast,” she said, and pointed to a small outcropping of rocks on the other side of the stream. A natural staircase led to the perch. “I won’t bother you.”
“Maybe I’ll bother you.”
“I doubt it.” He saw that it took some effort, but she resolutely headed toward the perch, leaving her sandals at the edge of the stream to splash through the shallows to the stairs. When she reached the top, she settled herself primly with her bag in her lap. “You mind your business and I’ll mind mine.”
Zeke half smiled. She probably had no idea he’d left his clothes in a pile at the edge of the water, or she wouldn’t be quite so calm. The pool he stood in was deep enough to cloak his nakedness, but if he moved at all, the clear water wouldn’t hide much. “Nice sentiment,” he said, “but we’ve got a little problem.”
“Well, Miss Mary, all my clothes are over there on the bank.”
A flash of something crossed her face – satisfaction? She raised her eyebrows. “I guess you’ll have to wait until I’m finished with my breakfast
The original cover
to finish your swim, then, won’t you?”
Zeke licked his bottom lip. It had been a mistake to underestimate this woman. She might look young and naive, but there was something hard as barbed wire running beneath it all. If he hadn’t been so rattled by that mouth yesterday, he would have realized it, too.
She shrugged, cracking open a peanut. Her composure was utterly unrattled this morning, and he wondered what had brought about the change.
“I think you’re pretty mad at me, aren’t you?”
“Why would I be mad? You deliberately tried to embarrass me at the restaurant, then you followed me home, dropped all these innuendos, then made it sound like I was the one who initiated things.” A blaze of color touched her cheeks. “Not to mention the fact you stuck your nose in where it didn’t belong.”
“All right, all right.” He raised a hand. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Sunlight angled through the high trees and over the canyon wall to strike her face. “I’ll turn around if you want to get out.” Continue reading Two people pretending they don’t need anybody at all….