Larkspur Road Excerpt
When the door behind her whooshed open she spun back, an apologetic smile on her lips. "Please tell me I didn't wake ...."
The words turned to dust in her throat.
It wasn't Sophie or even Rafe who stepped out onto the porch.
It was Travis.
A towering six feet, one inch of rough, hard-bodied male.
And he was naked from the waist up.
This is so not fair, Mia thought desperately as every word in her vocabulary seemed to erase itself from her brain.
Fate was playing a nasty trick on her. Not only was Travis in town -- and why the hell hadn't Sophie told her that? -- but she'd obviously interrupted him in the midst of a shower. His dark hair glistened with water and small droplets of it clung to the hair on his very broad, very ripped chest. He smelled deliciously of soap and leather and man.
She felt her breath catching in her throat. He was wearing jeans. And nothing else.
Unless you counted that sexy, oh-so-male smile tipping up the corners of his mouth. A mouth whose taste and shape and texture was embedded in her memories, even after all these years.....
"I...dragged you out of the shower, didn't I?" she heard herself mutter inanely as if from a great distance.
"What was your first clue?" Travis grinned.
Don’t you grin at me, Travis Tanner. Not now. Not ever.
That’s dirty pool.
Whenever he'd come to town over the past years, she'd reminded herself that she wasn't attracted to him anymore. That he was history. Old, buried, irrelevant history.
It was so much easier to believe that when she didn't actually have to see him. Up until now, she'd managed to avoid him just fine.
But now, here he was right in front of her. Tall and tough-looking, with the brawny build of a lumberjack, his jet black hair glinting in the sun, his eyes keen and intent on hers.
And he isn’t wearing a shirt.
It took all of her willpower not to drink in the sight of that lean, tanned torso, or to stare at the bulge of muscles in his arms and chest.
Don’t look at his body. Look at his face.
Under normal circumstances that would be a pleasure. Except that looking into Travis's face was every bit as dangerous as looking at his body. The man was hands-down gorgeous. He'd been handsome even as a boy, but he'd grown into a man with the kind of ruggedly dark good looks that could make a woman forget what day of the week it was, where she lived, and even her middle name. That strong jaw, the dark brows, and intelligent, penetrating eyes the color of gun smoke drew you in. Against your will.
For most women, staring into Travis Tanner's face would be a pleasure. But for Mia, it was torture.
She couldn't possibly still have feelings for him -- not after all this time. It was just that when Travis looked at her, something seemed to quake inside her.
It’s only some crazy reflex, she told herself. It had been that way since the first time he'd spoken to her in the hallway of Lonesome Way High School. She was wandering around lost, searching for her locker, a shy freshman, bewildered and a little intimidated, when in the rush of students stampeding down the crowded corridor, a pack of girls had bumped into her and accidentally sent her tumbling into a wall. She'd nearly lost her balance and had dropped her algebra book and her backpack.
Travis had appeared out of nowhere at her side, asking her if she was all right. He'd handed her the book, lifted up her backpack, grinned at her in a slow, easy way, a way he’d never had when she and Lissie were little girls playing with their Barbies at Sage Ranch.
The same way he was grinning at her right now. And she felt her heart trembling.
Come on. You’re so over him, she reminded herself. You’re hardly sixteen anymore.
But she felt the pull. And a deep, buried hurt stirred inside her.
Damn it, no. Get a grip.
"How've you been, Mia?"
"Great. Never better. You?"
Travis fought the urge to step closer to her. She looked a whole lot better than great. She looked as beautiful as the first day of spring. And every bit as sexy as an exotic dancer in those tight-fitting jeans and that skimpy little tank top that hugged her breasts.
But her tone was cool. Just this side of sarcastic. Actually, it was in danger of sliding over the edge.
The teenaged girl he'd known long ago had always been warm, honest, and as sweet as his grandmother's ginger cookies.
Well, what do you expect? he asked himself impatiently. Especially after the way you treated her. She’s different now. And so are you.
But at least, he told himself grimly, unlike at Rafe and Sophie's wedding, she was speaking to him.
“I'm terrific now that I'm home," he told her, and saw the flicker of surprise in those luminous amber eyes that had continued to haunt him over the years. "Looks like I'm going to be sticking around for a while."
"Sticking around?" Her petite, insanely curvy body went rigid, further accentuating the swell of her breasts beneath that pale blue tank top. Her eyes were locked on his. But not in a good way.
"You're...moving back here?" She said it as if he'd told her he was planning to rob a bank.
"Don't look so thrilled. It might go to my head."
Instead of earning him the smile he'd hoped for, she frowned. For some reason he couldn't explain, this irritated the hell out of him.
And the federal agent known for keeping his cool under the most extreme pressure couldn't contain the words that came out next.
"Worried you might have to actually talk to me now and again if we run into each other in town?"
"I'm not worried about anything. And I don't know what you mean by that."
"You avoided me at Rafe and Sophie's wedding. I tried to talk to you, to catch your eye, but you pretended not to see me."
"You were at Rafe and Sophie's wedding? I'm afraid I didn't notice."
Bemused, he stuck his hands in his pockets. "Well, I noticed you."
She had changed. The girl he'd loved years ago had worn her heart on her sleeve. This woman, all grown up, was meticulously self-possessed and kept hers under wraps.
Maybe that was partly his fault. From the little he'd heard from Lissie over the years, he knew he wasn't the only man who'd let her down. Still, that didn't let him off the hook.
"A man would have to be dead not to notice you," he said quietly and for a moment, a breath, he thought he saw something in her eyes. She looked startled, open and vulnerable, and he had the almost overpowering urge to take her in his arms.