It's our pleasure to feature Caroline Clemmons on our blog with her new book. If you like the excerpt, please leave a comment when you finish reading.
After fleeing an abusive husband six years ago, Beth Jeffers wants nothing more than to protect her son Davey and to help her mother operate a boarding house. The women in her family have had no luck with men, and she has no intention of letting any man influence her son. Not even Matt Petrov, no matter how much her lonely heart urges otherwise.BACK COVER BLURB:
Federal Marshall Matt Petrov, also known as Lone Wolf Peters, fell in love with Beth the first time he saw her. Then she was another man’s wife, so he kept his longing a secret he’s saved his love for her for six horrific years. Now, the lovely widow and he have crossed paths again. This time, he intends to risk all for a chance at happiness. First he must rescue his distant kinsman from an assassin’s clutches. Will Matt succeed before his kin is killed? And will his secrets shatter the love he and Beth share?
Nice.” He held her hand to his chest.
She tugged free. “You need sleep.” She turned out the lamp then came back to pull the sheet over him. Light from a full moon poured in the window to outline her. “I folded the quilt back so that if it turns cool toward morning you only have to pull the edge and it will slide right up.”
“Yes?” She set his boots beside the bed and hung his shirt and jacket on the chair back.
“Please…don’t go yet.” He didn’t deserve it he knew, but he needed her near him. He’d made an error tonight and almost died because of it. Knowing it was mostly his own fault didn’t ease the pain or make the experience any less frightening.
She reached for the chair. “Well, I guess I could sit with you a while.”
“I mean stay.” He patted the bed. “Here. Just for tonight.”
“Matt, what will people think? It’s not proper, even if you’re injured.”
“Who’ll know…or care? I’m wearing my britches and you’re all bundled up. I’m so stove up I can barely move.” He must have lost his mind. Sounded like he begged.
“I-I guess I could sit a bit. Maybe you could tell me about Lionel?”
“Not now. Shut the door and stay beside me.”
Just this once he wanted to experience being in a real home with a good woman. A sample of how life should be, something he could take with him to savor on all the lonely nights to come. He closed his eyes and prayed.
Lord, give me one night and I’ll never ask another thing.
The soft click of the door sent his eyelids open. Had he disgusted or insulted her so she left the room? No, she padded silently around the bed and slid beside him.
Thank you, God.
“Matt? I’m sorry I yelled at you because I thought you’d been drinking.” She laid her hand on his arm.
“S’all right.” He moved her arm to his chest and exhaled. “Good. You’re here, I feel better now.”
She nestled her head against his shoulder. “Then go to sleep.”
She raised her head. The moonlight played across her skin and reflected in shades of silver and gold on her hair. “What now.”
“I always thought you were beautiful, but the moonlight makes you even prettier.” He skimmed his hand up her arm. “Kiss me goodnight.”
“Matt Petrov, you are not only the nerviest man, you’re plain out of your head. Go to sleep.”
He pulled her to him and claimed her lips. Softly, so he didn’t scare her. After her treatment from Jeffers, he figured she’d be skittish. She resisted for an instant then leaned into him. He deepened the kiss and she parted her lips for him.
Sweet heaven, he’d never known a more satisfying kiss. He tugged her until she stretched along his body.
When she broke the kiss, she moved her legs back to the mattress but laid her head on his chest. “Why’d you do that?”
“Needed to. For six years. Can’t say I’m proud of wanting you when you belonged to another man, but I won’t deny I thought about you.”
He felt her shudder with sobs, her tears ran wet on his chest. Caressing her back, he cursed himself for as big a fool as Jeffers. “Beth? Aw, honey, I didn’t aim to make you cry. Forgive me. I’d never willingly do anything to hurt you.”
“You didn’t. Matt, I’m ashamed. I hated the person I was when I knew you before. You saw me weak and abused. Heard Lionel yell awful things at me. When you came here, I was mean to you because you’d known me then. I didn’t want to be reminded of those times.”
She sobbed again. “As if I could ever forget them. Then, when you told me about him being dead, I—I felt relief. I’m sorry, but only what you’d be if you read there’d been a train wreck and people you never knew died. I must be a terrible person not to mourn him.”
“No, you’re a wonderful person and it’s not like you lived with him long or had seen him recently.” What a hell of a position to be in. How could he tell her how Jeffers died? He stroked her silky hair. “I’m sorry you’re upset, but I’m glad I found you. You’re a different person in a way but you were a sweet woman then and you are now. And a good mother and daughter.”
He thanked God he’d given Jeffers the money for her ticket home, but he’d never let her know about that. She’d hate him for sure if she learned her no-good former husband had borrowed the money from Matt to send her away in disgrace. It’d done her a world of good, though, and had probably saved her life.
She sniffed and rubbed her sleeve at her face. “I’m glad you came, too. I-I’d wondered what happened to you and where you were and if-if you’d met someone.”
He couldn’t tell her where he’d been, at least, not right now. “I didn’t meet anyone.”
“I’m glad. I, um, I mean, I’m sorry you’ve been alone all this time, but I’m glad you don’t have a woman waiting for you to come home.”
“Don’t have a home.” He didn’t add that he didn’t deserve one, that he’d had one once and lost it.
“Where will you go when you leave here?” She trailed her hand across his skin to rest it at the base of his ribs. He wondered if she knew how that touch affected him and if his erection showed in the moonlight. He bent a knee to conceal it.
“Don’t know yet. Guess it depends on how this thing with Ivan plays out.” He hoped Ivan was alive and pain free. Dang, maybe it was the sweetened tea, or maybe it was her being next to him. His own pain receded a little and life surged in him.
“I hope he’s all right. He’s a nice man.”
“Beth, I’m not a nice man.” No point in her thinking different or him trying to pretend. “I might have been once, long ago, but no longer.”
“You’re kind to Davey, and Mama, and all the other people here. You’re trying to help Ivan. Sounds pretty nice to me.” She sniffled again, and he wanted to comfort her, but she had to understand.
He pulled her up, so he could see her face in the light from the window. “No. I’m here because I have a job to do, not because of any higher intentions. And I’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
“A job? You mean helping Ivan is like a job?”
She didn’t get it. “No. Beth, listen to me. I’ve been assigned to help Ivan. Paid. It’s not something I chose to do because I have a kind or generous nature.”
“Assigned?” She pulled away and sat up. “You mean it really is your job? Who are you working for?”
“Never mind. I shouldn’t have said that.”
Instead of any reaction he could have imagined, she laughed. “Whatever it is, at least you have a job.” She settled back beside him, her body touching his from her head at his shoulder to her toes at his ankle. “I thought you were up to no good.”
Dang, she made him feel like a man-and-a-half. He laughed in spite of himself. “Guess I am up to no good, but I’m being paid for it. Not much, but enough to get by.” He turned to face her. “You know that kiss?”
“What about it?”
He raised himself on his right elbow and leaned over her. “Let’s try that again.”
She kept her eyes on him until he lowered his head, and then she closed her eyes and parted her lips. Oh, she tasted sweeter than Lena Mae’s tea, but he wanted more.
Ah, heaven. He sank into the kiss and her tongue touched his. His blood fired so he thought steam might pour from his ears any second. Shoulder almost forgotten, he thought only of Beth. He fumbled with the tie of her robe, but his left hand wouldn’t work right. He wanted to cheer when the knot gave way. Shoving aside the outer fabric, he palmed her breast.
She gasped into the kiss, and he lowered his mouth to her breast. Laving the nipple through her nightclothes, he suckled as his fingers moved to the ties. She pushed his hands away and released the ribbons then slid the fabric aside to free her breasts.
Her satin skin was softer than he’d dreamed. He pushed at the shoulders of her robe. “Off, please take this thing off and let me see you.”
“Matt? I’m, um, I’m not a young girl.” In spite of her protests, she threw the robe aside and pushed her gown down her body.
“You’re beautiful, more lovely than I dreamed.” He rained kisses across her stomach.
“You dreamed…of me?” She raked her fingers through his hair, urging him back to her breasts.
“Yes. Since I came here you’ve kept me awake and have been in my dreams when I finally slept. Before that, I’ve thought of you all these years, wondered where you were, how you were, but didn’t think I had any right to find out.” He moved back to her breasts.
She sighed. “That’s wonderful.”
Not understanding whether she meant that he dreamed of her or that he suckled her, he moved to the other breast and slid his fingers to her mound. Her shudder encouraged him, so he inserted a finger in and out in cadence with his tongue on her nipple. He moved his thumb to her most sensitive spot and she went wild.
She writhed on the bed and her hands clasped at his back. When she touched his bandage, she withdrew to slide her hand into his hair.
“Matt…Matt…Matt.” She panted and her breathing grew more rapid. Her dew increased on his finger and he sensed a cry building in her throat.
He claimed her mouth in time to stifle her scream of ecstasy. She clung to him, and then slumped limply against the mattress. Her breathing slowed to ragged gulps.
“What was that?” Her wide eyes stared up at him.
What kind of question was that from a woman who’d been married? “The way it’s supposed to be.”
“I don’t believe you. Nothing like that’s ever happened to me before.” Her soft voice held awe.
He cursed Lionel Jeffers for the bastard he’d been. Wait.
That meant no one but Matt Petrov had ever known Beth’s pleasure. She’d never gone wild for anyone but him. She’d been married and gotten pregnant, but no one had ever made love to Beth Phifer.
He smiled. “Want me to show you again.”
She nodded. “Oh, yes. But aren’t you supposed to be, um, more involved?”
He unfastened his britches. “Darlin’, I plan to be.”
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