The moment I crack open a new book, I always rush through the beginning, the budding relationship between the hero and heroine, and anticipate that spontaneous moment when one of them makes their move. The First Kiss. The first turning point in every story.
Every week here on the blog, I’ll be sharing First Kisses from my books and those of other authors.
Bring Me Luck by Julie Lence
“I severed our relationship!” Jess kicked aside the quilts and lunged to his feet. “You ran out on me.”
Anger sprang into her eyes. “I did not. You shunned me on the boardwalk and then you ceased all contact with me.”
“The hell I did.”
“Oh?” She fisted her hands on her hips. “You didn’t shun me?”
Heat crept up his neck, spread to his cheeks. “That I did do, because I didn’t have a choice. Carl was with me. You and I had agreed to not give our families reason to suspect we favored each other until we were ready to tell them.”
“I would’ve accepted your explanation, except…” Her brow furrowed. “What are you doing on your feet? Lie back down before you do more damage to your back.”
“My back’s fine.”
Her gaze rapidly filled with damnation. “You lied about your health?”
“How the hell else was I going to convince you to let me stay?” he groused. “And don’t change the subject. Finish what you were going to say.”
“You know the rest.” She pivoted on her heel and strode toward the kitchen.
“You’re not getting away this time.” He went after her, gently grasped her arm and turned her to face him. “I’ve waited twenty-two years to hear your side of the matter. I’m not waiting any longer. Spill it.”
“My, my, what a tyrant you’ve become.”
Jess rolled his eyes. “I’ve been called worse. Now talk.”
“I’m sure you have.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste before pulling free from his grasp. “I saw Alexandra and Cynthia at the dress shop before I saw you and Carl. Alexandra told Cynthia you didn’t favor relations of any kind. I didn’t believe her, but then, you shunned me and stopped meeting me.” She squared her shoulders. “I waited for you, but you never came.”
“I came. You were nowhere to be found.”
“You’re a liar! I was at your pa’s lineshack every day for a week.” Her gaze narrowed. “Where were you?”
“For a week? What the hell for? Everyone knew Carl and I were in the calaboose.”
“You were not. I would’ve known if Sheriff Crumb had locked you in his jail cell. The gossips’ would’ve talked about nothing else the whole time you were there.”
“I wasn’t in the Coyote jail. I was in the Pueblo jail.”
At the stunned expression on her face, his blood turned cold. Brawling with his brother. Shattered glass. Ten days of miserable hell. He’d always assumed she’d known. Pa had said everyone knew. But she hadn’t, and he swallowed hard, felt the regret for what should have been burn his gut. “I didn’t abandon you,” he said quietly before taking her hand and leading her to the table. “Sit. Let me explain.”
“I have the noon meal to set out.”
“It won’t. Vincent-Bodean will be in shortly and―”
“Rachael, this is important. Please?” He held a breath while she assessed him.
“Very well.” She sat.
Jess plopped his weight onto the chair next to hers. “After I shunned you, Carl and I got into a row at home. We broke the parlor window. Ma was ready to box our ears, she was so mad. Pa stepped in and saved our hides. He bade us to go to Pueblo the next day and get a new one.”
“And?” She raised a brow.
“Carl and I got into another fight down there and busted up a saloon. The sheriff hauled us off to jail and sent word to Pa. Pa sent one of our ranch hands to Pueblo with word he’d come and get us when he was damn good and ready.” Jess shook his head in fond remembrance. Pa always did manage to get the upper hand on him and Carl. “He made us stay in the calaboose for ten days, and was damn proud of that decision. He told us he bragged to all of Coyote his new method for teaching us a good lesson.”
“Did it teach you a lesson?”
He grinned, amused. “No. We broke another window.” He sobered. “I imagined your brothers laughing all the way to Wooded Acres to tell your family what had happened.”
“If they knew, they didn’t say,” she said softly, her tone laced with pain and surprisingly, a belief in his words.
“We lost twenty years because of misunderstandings. Please, don’t make us lose another twenty. Let me stay and make things right between us.”
“We lost twenty years because…” Abruptly, she snapped her mouth shut and pushed back her chair, stood and went to the stove along the west wall. “The meal will be ready soon.”
Jess noted her hands quivered as she stirred the stew. Wordlessly, he crossed the floor and rested his palm on her shoulder. “There’s more to the story. Tell me what causes you to tremble,” he gently requested.
She shook off his hand. “It’s nothing.”
“It’s something.” He slid his arms around her waist and eased her back against his chest. “I can’t make things right if you won’t talk to me.”
For a long moment, she stood in his embrace, her fingers covering his and caressing his skin. Hope flared in his gut her silence meant she was warming to him, to the idea of them rekindling their relationship.
“What we shared is in the past,” she said, disheartened. “The past isn’t a foundation to build a future.”
“The hell it isn’t,” he gritted between clenched teeth. “I spent twenty years searching for someone else to love. I didn’t find her. Did you find someone else to love?”
“That’s not the same. He’s your son.”
“Love is love.” She moved away, opened the top door on the hutch. And about damn near caused his heart to cease beating with her next words. “We could start over. Learn to trust each other again. Our families aren’t here to interfere.”
His pulse sped up. “We could.” He went to her, waited for her to set the bowls on the counter before whirling her to face him. “What made you believe me?”
“The anger in your voice. You once hated being blamed for something you didn’t do. Or being labeled a liar when you spoke the truth.”
“Still do.” He swept her into his embrace. “I’m forty-four years old. Reckon I got about ten good years left, maybe more.” He caressed her cheek. “I won’t give you cause to doubt me again.” He lowered his head and touched his lips to hers, gently so as not to scare her. She was still tense and he wouldn’t give her a reason to rescind her words. “I can begin with helping Stephen get his cows back.”
“You can begin with setting the table.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He grinned before releasing her and stepping aside, only to have her grasp his arm.
“Jess, I need for you to trust me, too. Now and later.”
He cupped her cheek, caressed her skin. “Whatever troubles you, you’ll tell me when you’re ready.”
“You’ll hate me.”
“Doubt it. If twenty years separation didn’t banish you from my heart, nothing you say will.”
Bring Me Luck by Julie Lence
A chance encounter with the woman who ran out on him leads Jess Jansen to gamble on love one last time.
For Jess Jansen, grief and guilt are as much a part of him as riding herd. Twenty-two years he’s longed for the woman who ran out on him, and now his luck is about to change. Needing a place to hole up during a thunderstorm, the Lazy K looks to be a safe haven. There’s a barn―and a body with soft curves and sapphire eyes he’d know anywhere.
Rachael Weston is a bundle of nerves when Jess suddenly appears at her door. He shunned her once and will again if she foolishly welcomes him back into her life. But when Jess proves innocent of wrongdoing, Rachael fears revealing to him the one truth that just might cause him to turn his back on her―for good.
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About Julie Lence
Julie was born and raised in upstate New York. She married her high school sweetheart and accompanied him on his twenty-year career with the United States Air Force. Presently, she resides in the Pikes Peak region, where she’s a stay-at-home mom enjoying a career writing western historical romance.
Throughout her school years, Julie enjoyed reading and writing. A friend introduced her to the romance genre in the late 80’s and she was instantly hooked, crediting Judith McNaught and Johanna Lindsey as her inspirations to pen her own novels. As she puts it, Ms. McNaught’s voice is flawless and Ms. Lindsey’s Malory family is endearing and addictive. Combining her fondness for horses, John Wayne and the television series, Dallas, Julie settled into writing about cowboys, outlaws and the ‘old west’ early in her career.
As a self-published author, Julie enjoys crafting covers as much as she does writing the story, something she never thought possible since she was terrible in school art classes. Most days she can be found at her computer working on her latest book. She enjoys taking care of her family and home, exploring the Rocky Mountains and meeting fans of the romance genre.
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