Read an Excerpt
By Beth Willamson
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Beth Willamson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt had been another incredibly long day in a blizzard that seemed to like the Bounty Ranch so much it didn't want to leave. For the third time that day, or possibly the fourth, Rebecca was out shoveling. She would have boiled in oil before admitting it to Jack, but she had lost all feeling in her feet. She would not fail at her task, though. She understood the importance of keeping the path shoveled to the animals. She didn't even want to contemplate what would happen to them if the humans entrusted with their care decided that numb feet were more important. And she refused to allow Jack and Noah to do all the work when she could contribute, too.
Her back was screaming and her arms felt like jelly. And beneath all the layers, she was sweating. Yes, sweating, not perspiring like a lady. She was sweating like a pig. And, unfortunately, she also smelled like one. Wafts of hot, fragrant air drifted up to her nose with every shovelful. It was not a pleasant scent.
Her nose had long since given up the battle to find a handkerchief and simply ran until it froze on her face. She knew she looked even worse than she felt. But it didn't matter. Nobody was going to get close enough to care.
In a split second, between the shovel up and shovel down, it was taken out of her hands. Off balance and in mid-motion she felt herself falling toward the ground. It felt like a tree limb stopped her descent. But it wasn't a tree limb. It was an arm, a strong arm, attached to an equally strong, hard body pressed up against her.
"Whoa there, Becky. Don't decorate the snow with a bloody nose," came Jack's voice at her ear.
A shiver that had nothing to do with the cold traveled down her body.
"You're freezing!" he said.
As she put her feet down and straightened, his arm slipped away. The loss was palpable, and she didn't even stop to contemplate why. She knew why. There was something between them and it was growing.
"Being out in a snow storm for an hour can make even the heartiest soul long for a fire and a warm blanket, Mr. Malloy," she managed to squeeze out, hating how breathless she sounded.
"Back to 'Mister' are we?" he murmured. "I thought we moved past that."
Rubbing her blistered, mittened hands together, she finally turned to face Jack. He, of course, looked wonderful. Lord above, but his looks alone could make her knees wobble.
"Now, why did you take the shovel?"
He smiled. "Look up!"
Rebecca was surprised to see the stars. Night had fallen and it had finally, thankfully, amazingly stopped snowing. She smiled back at Jack.
"Well, Hallelujah!" she exclaimed. She threw her hands up in the air and twirled, slipping on an icy patch. Jack caught her again, this time in his arms. His smile disappeared and his gaze zeroed in on her mouth. The silence of the cold night was as deep as the snow. He slowly, ever so slowly, lowered his head toward hers.
Holy crow, he's going to kiss me!
The first touch of his lips was cold, but in an instant, it was hot. Boiling hot. Stunned, Rebecca felt herself kiss him back. Her heart stuttered madly and she felt as though she couldn't breathe. He moved his mouth over hers like a gentle caress. After a moment of infinite time, he pulled back.
He shuddered. "God, I am so sorry."
Rebecca blinked but couldn't yet make her voice work. Removing his arms from her like she was a breakable piece of china, he stepped back. Her body cried out from the loss. Nothing had ever felt so right than being in Jack's arms.
He ran a hand down his face. "I can't believe I just did that. I never ..." He looked down at his feet. She recognized his habit when he didn't want to say something.
"We'd better get inside where it's warm," he said, his voice strained.
She cocked her head and looked at him.
"Jesus Christ Becky! Say something! God, I am sorry. You can't imagine how much!"
She licked her lips and tasted the licorice drop he'd apparently been eating, and him, his essence. All that was Jack. Sorry?
"I'm not sorry."
Walking past him, she made her way back to the house, her head high and her back straight. It had been, after all, her first "real" kiss from a man. And it had been wonderful.
Sorry? Not bloody likely.
Excerpted from The Prize by Beth Willamson Copyright © 2006 by Beth Willamson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.