Title: In the Moment
Author: Jennifer Wilck
Genre: Small-Town Contemporary Romance
Cassie Edwards, a former foster child, purchases an 1870s Victorian mansion, the one home from her childhood where she felt like part of a family. She’s spending her summer lovingly restoring it, with dreams of one day raising a family of her own here. Rayne Tucket, a photojournalist, is haunted by the death of his best friend in Afghanistan, a death he thinks is his fault. He survives day to day. Forever is not in his vocabulary. Swearing off photography, he answers an ad for a handyman—mindless, no emotion involved. As the two of them renovate her house, can Cassie show Rayne that love is strong enough to heal all wounds?
The rest of the way to the waterfall, Rayne held Cassie’s hand. Warmth spread up and down her arm, but it wasn’t from the sticky July heat. His fingers curled around hers. While she debated whether or not he should be holding her hand, she was loath to pull away. It felt right. He pulled her up the bank of the shore, held branches out of the way and spread the towels on the ground in an open spot.
“Race you back into the water!” She pulled off her cover-up and jumped into the water. It was a lot deeper than it looked, but Cassie swam here for years as a child and knew her way around the pool. She sank to the bottom, relishing the icy water against her skin. When she came up for air, Rayne was in the water too. Water droplets trickled over his bare, muscular shoulders. Cassie wanted to trace their path with her fingers.
He swam toward her. “That wasn’t fair.”
She splashed at him.
“You asked for it!” He attacked her with water.
She shrieked and dropped below the surface, eyes closed. He met her when she rose above the water and continued splashing. This time, when she dove under, she grabbed his leg. He sank like a stone, and she hooted when she broke the surface.
Like a dolphin leaping out of the water, he rose. Cassie gasped. He was naked—gloriously, sexily naked. She swam backward, not taking her focus off of his sculpted muscles that gleamed in the sunlight, but afraid to get too close.
“What’s wrong, Cassie-girl?” He swam toward her. Was it her imagination, or was the Jaws music playing in the background?
His body was tanned to a golden brown. His muscles bulged in all the right places, without looking like an overbuilt steroid junky. The water glistened on his skin. It created a sheen highlighting every sinewy curve of his chest, stomach, and waist.
She retreated until her back was to the waterfall. Ducking underneath, she came up inside of it. It provided a flowing curtain between her and Rayne, and Cassie took a deep breath. Before she had the chance to exhale, he was there, cutting through the falling water, entering her hidden space.
“You’re not wearing a bathing suit,” she said.
“I told you I don’t have one.”
Their eyes met. She could drown in the molten gold. He swam closer until their legs entwined. His hand cupped her face, his thumb tracing her jawline. He brought her face closer and leaned in until their noses touched. His breath was hot against her skin. His finger was rough as he sketched the arch of her lips. Her knees rested against the sides of his thighs, hard and lean beneath the water. The intimate closeness made her stomach flutter. The proximity of their bodies, the rush of the water, and his feathering touch on her lips made her dizzy. She gripped his arms for support. He grasped her waist, staring deep in her eyes.
He was going to kiss her. She knew it. His pupils dilated. Time slowed. The rushing water pounded around her. She opened her mouth, as much to drink in air as to get ready to kiss him back. His eyes narrowed, focused on her lips. She leaned toward him. Their wet bodies pressed against each other. Her breasts tingled and her stomach heated at the contact. She wanted this to go on forever, but at the same time, she wanted him to hurry up and kiss her so their lips could finally meet. At the last possible second, he pushed away.
She stood there, confused and aching.
“I’m not the staying kind, Cassie.”
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“A woman like you needs a man who’ll stay forever. My time here has an expiration date.”
She ducked under the water. When she came up, she pushed her hair out of her face. “I know you’re leaving. You don’t have to, though.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Because I have a promise to keep.”
“What kind of promise?”
“The unbreakable kind.”
“Couldn’t you come back?”
He ducked under the falling water, and Cassie followed him out of the waterfall. They squinted in the light. With a few strokes, Rayne reached the clothes he’d shed on the bank. Cassie turned around before he dressed, unwilling to replace the image of his naked body so soon.
“We should go, Cassie. Those look like thunderclouds.”
Through the trees, big gray thunderclouds rolled in the distance, but could be close in a moment. She got out of the water and toweled off. They walked back to the house in silence, bodies close, but not touching.
Only when she’d gone into her bedroom to change did she realize he’d never answered her.
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What’s your favorite thing about the Fall season:
I love the cooler weather, the colourful leaves, and the comfort food.
What inspired you to write this story:
There was a Victorian mansion for sale in a nearby town. They had an open house and my daughters and I visited it and fell in love with the place. We couldn’t buy it, so I decided to set my next book in it.
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Runs September 1 – 30.
Drawing will be held on October 1.
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. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.
She writes contemporary romance, many of which feature Jewish characters in non-religious settings (#ownvoices). She’s published with The Wild Rose Press and all her books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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