Title: A Reckless Heart
Author: Jennifer Wilck
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Meg Thurgood, former society girl, took the blame for her friend and paid a steep price. Now all she wants is solitude and a chance to rebuild her life. She thinks she's found that in an isolated house she rents from a mysterious stranger. Simon McAlter has hidden in his house on the coast of Maine since a fire left him scarred. A successful landscape architect who conducts his business and teaches his classes remotely, he's lost his inspiration and is trying to pretend he's not lonely. Simon's new neighbor is more than he bargained for. When he learns Meg's secret, will he retreat into the shadows or will he learn to see past the surface and trust in Meg's love?
Her hand was on his elbow. If he turned, he could take her in his arms... And she’d stopped talking, which meant she waited for an answer. He replayed her conversation in his mind, which he’d heard but not listened to due to the distraction of her lovely fingers. Right, board games.
“Most of the games are unused since I never have people over. Although I do play Scrabble online.” He froze. Scrabble online didn’t require dexterity. The board game version did.
She removed her hand. He wanted to pull it back. “Ah, so you’re good?” she said. Her voice regained the cadence he noticed today. If he were optimistic, he might think she was comfortable with him.
He closed the dishwasher and wiped the counter. “Not bad.”
“Let’s play...” She paused. When he turned to look, her gaze was focused on his hands.
Bracing himself on the counter, he took a deep breath. There was only one solution. “We can, if you don’t mind helping me with the tiles.” The words were easier to utter than he expected, but they still left a bitter taste in his mouth.
She moved closer. “Like the nails, but without the hammer.” Her voice was gentle, and his skin warmed.
“I promise not to whack you with the tile holders.”
She bumped against him, and he smiled. “I’ll hold you to it,” she said. She cleared her throat. “My grandma taught me. I haven’t played in years, though.”
“They’re words. English. I doubt you forgot.” She laughed. His insides warmed. “I’ll take a quick shower,” he said. “The game’s under the window seat you love.” Simon raced through his shower and made it downstairs in less than ten minutes. Normally, he’d have brushed his hair away from his face to dry and keep it out of his way, but with her here, he let it fall forward, and the wet strands dripped on his T-shirt. He dimmed the lights in the living room, sat across from her, and arranged the board. It was tricky keeping his face from her. He focused on his tiles instead. He was a sloppy player. Unable to grasp an individual tile, he dragged them around and scooped them. He’d be lucky if he didn’t knock over his rack twelve times. Meg reached over and helped with his tiles. Their fingers touched and sent zings of attraction along his arms. It added a whole new challenge to the game.
“So, your grandma taught you to play?” He seized on the first question he could think of, his voice raspy.
“Yeah. She used it to learn English, and it became her favorite game. She taught it to me as soon as I could read.” She made quick work of setting his tiles in the tray, taking care not to look at them.
“Where did she come from?”
“And you? Where do you come from?” She knocked over her tiles. This was new.
“I was curious where you’re from.”
She fisted her hand and moved it to her lap. The unexpected motion drew his attention to her discomfort.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to pry.” He sighed. He’d ruined the easy mood.
She was quiet for a little, and he focused on his tiles. When it was his turn, he indicated to Meg the tiles he wanted to use. Her hands brushed his. He wanted to grab them to his lips and kiss them. He refrained. She removed the tiles from the tray, and he pushed them onto the board. B-R-A-V-E.
Her hands stilled. “So Claire told me you were raised here,” she said. “Have you lived here your entire life?”
His heartbeat raced. Why did Claire talk about him? She knew he didn’t discuss his past. Maybe it was why she mentioned it to Meg. “No.”
She played with her tiles before she put them on the board. A-V-O-I-D.
He wanted to laugh at the irony. Instead, he shook his head. He thought he heard her huff, but he couldn’t be sure.
“I can see we’re great conversationalists.” Her voice was quiet.
“Well, maybe we should start with the easy stuff first,” he said. “Like, what’s your favorite color?”
She pulled away in disbelief. “Just one? Pfft. The color of the ocean in the morning. A gray-blue with gold highlights from the sun.”
He pictured the image she painted, but added her to the mix. With her hair color, it would be stunning. They repeated their tile selection process, and he pushed his tiles onto the board. P-R-E-T-T-Y. He risked a glance her way—would she think he flirted with her? And would she like it?
She blushed. A small smile curved her lips, and he did an imaginary fist pump.
“What’s your favorite thing to do?” she asked.
He rested his hands on top of each other as he thought about her question. “Ever or during a specific time?”
His stomach tightened. Spend time with you. He shoved the thought aside. “Swim in the ocean, listen to music, create things of beauty.”
“Those are three things. I only asked for one.”
He shrugged. “You didn’t limit me.”
She added her tiles to the board. C-H-E-A-T.
He chuckled, and a weight lifted inside his chest. “Your turn,” he said.
“I displayed my tiles, and you haven’t asked me a question,” she said.
“What’s your biggest regret?”
She settled into her seat. “Wow, you’re deep, aren’t you?”
“Is it a problem?”
She paused, then shook her head. “Not telling the truth.”
“You only get one question at a time.” Her hands were fisted on the table.
He wanted to reach for them and soothe her. “Says who?”
“I do. It’s your turn.” She pointed at the board, and he switched focus to his tiles. Her proximity killed him. D-E-E-P. But he wanted to know more about her answer. “Why did you lie?”
“I didn’t have a choice, and you need to wait your turn.”
“My house, my rules.”
She stood, her body stiff, and her gaze shuttered. “I should get to bed.”
He rose from his chair. “No, wait. I didn’t mean to push you. Stay.”
She paused, her knuckles white as she grabbed onto the chair. He could almost see her try to make a decision. The seconds stretched, and when he didn’t think he could take anymore, she returned to her seat. “Fine, I’ll answer your questions. But you have to answer mine.”
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Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.
In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. When she’s not writing, she loves to laugh with her family and friends, is a pro at finding whatever her kids lost in plain sight, and spends way too much time closing doors that should never have been left open in the first place. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.
She writes contemporary romance, some of which are mainstream and some of which involve Jewish characters. She’s published with The Wild Rose Press and all her books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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