By Caroline Clemmons
I have such a great deal for you today in celebration of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day! How about a FREE e-book? March 12-16, SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME is free!
As I grew up (with my nose stuck in a book), my mom thought too much reading damaged a person's eyesight. The fact I had to start wearing glasses at age nine only cemented her opinion. She wasn’t a reader until she retired, but then she fell in love with books. The first book she read was one her sister loaned her, THE THORNE BIRDS. Later, Mother said she was so sorry she’d missed all those years of reading.
This was before I was published. When I began writing and publishing books, she was thrilled. One day I decided it would be fun to use my mom’s name in a book. Her maiden name was Lena Mae Phifer and her family and my dad called her Mae. I wanted her being the heroine's mom in my book to be a surprise, so I didn’t mention my plan.
Sadly, before I could finish SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME, my mom passed from a heart attack. I never thought of myself as a ‘mommy’s baby.’ Even though she had told me that she was prepared to die, I was devastated without her. So, I had to put away that story and work on other things for quite a while. I’m sure she knows and she and my dad laugh about my writing. Daddy taught me to read and always wanted me to write. Unfortunately, he had died before I sold my first book. Mother was a super fan of my books.
She had moved near me, and we were close. I talked to her at least once a day, saw her several times during the week, and Hero and I attended church with her on Sundays. There are still occasions when I catch myself thinking, “I’ll bet Mother would think that’s funny,” or “Mother would know.” I don’t actually try to phone her, but the thought crosses my mind.
Be warned that unlike many of my books, this one is lightly sensual. I love this story because it does remind me of my sweet mother. Also, I just like the story. What can I say? Authors find some of our stories please us more than others.
If you haven’t read SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME, I hope you’ll read it now. If you have read it, please leave a review!
“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.”
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In case you're not familiar with my books, here's a bit about me:
Through a crazy twist of fate, Caroline Clemmons was not born on a Texas ranch. To compensate for this illogical error, she writes about handsome cowboys, feisty ranch women, and scheming villains in a small office her family calls her pink cave. She and her Hero live in North Central Texas cowboy country where they ride herd on their two indoor rescued cats and a dog as well as providing nourishment outdoors for critters who visit.
The books she creates in her pink cave have made her an Amazon bestselling author and won several awards. She writes sweet to sensual romances about the West, both historical and contemporary as well as time travel and mystery. Her series include the Kincaids, McClintocks, Stone Mountain Texas, Bride Brigade, Texas Time Travel, Texas Caprock Tales, Pearson Grove, and Loving A Rancher as well as numerous single title and contributions to multi-author sets. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading her friends’ books, lunching with friends, browsing antique malls, checking Facebook, and taking an occasional nap. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.
Click on her Amazon Author Page for a complete list of her books and follow her there.
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Have a great St. Patrick’s Day!