Title: In the Moment
Author: Jennifer Wilck
Genre: 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?
Leaning against the boulder, he took a slug. There was plenty of light left to the June day. It felt wrong to relax when there was still work to do. But Cassie didn’t seem to want to rush through dinner either. Although they didn’t speak as much as last night, the silence was easy. He enjoyed having her near. He spotted some rocks about halfway between the carriage house and Cassie’s house.
“What are those?” He pointed with his beer bottle.
“That’s an old well that’s fallen apart. I wanted to talk to you about covering it up.”
He put down his plate and bottle, reached to help Cassie stand, and walked toward the well. His hand tingled from contact with hers. He opened and closed it several times while deciding whether to savor or forget the sensation.
He knelt by the well and moved the rocks to the side.
“Is that something you can do?” She knelt next to him.
He smelled lilacs in her hair. Up close, it looked even softer and silkier. He cleared his throat, which was suddenly tight from her nearness. “Well, I can clean it up a bit and put a cover on it. More than that, though, and you’d have to hire a specialist.”
“I think a cover would be fine.” She stretched. He heard popping noises, and frowned. “Are you okay?”
She flipped her hair from her face and rolled her eyes. “I sound old, don’t I? Just a little stiff from working today. Nothing a hot soak in the tub won’t fix.”
He swallowed, the image of her naked, skin pink and wet, burning into his brain.
“Thanks for dinner.” She returned to the blanket, stacked the plates, and took them into the carriage house. She ran hot water into the sink.
“I can do that.” He followed with the salad bowl.
“You cooked, remember?” She swatted him away with the dishtowel. “My turn.”
A moment later, he returned with the blanket folded over his arm.
“I didn’t expect you to invite me to dinner tonight.” She ran the water as she soaped the plates.
He’d wondered if she’d bring that up. “I didn’t want you to feel obligated to cook for me. Last night I just expressed that badly.”
She paused. Her blue eyes searched his. For a moment, he wondered what she saw.
“I just thought since you don’t really have anywhere to cook in here, other than the barbeque, it would make more sense for you to have dinner with me at the house. But we don’t have to share meals all the time. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable...”
He shouldn’t spend time with her. He had a promise to keep to his friend. What he would do afterward, he had no idea, but it didn’t involve a romantic relationship. He’d only end up hurting her. But he’d enjoyed their dinners together. Even grocery shopping hadn’t been bad. She hadn’t said anything about his asking to drive, and he didn’t want to contemplate whether or not she would in the future. She was pretty. It had been a long time since pretty had been in his life.
“It’s easier to talk about what has to get done around the house over a meal.”
She handed him the dishtowel and took her blanket from him. “You look tired.”
He shrugged. “I don’t sleep much.”
He cursed inwardly for opening the door to her questions. Yet, she’d told him she was a foster child. He suspected the admission hadn’t been easy. “When I said I was a photographer? I was a war photographer.” He clenched his jaw. He hadn’t told anyone that. Not since he’d returned. But she made him feel comfortable. He hadn’t realized what he’d said until the words fell out.
“That must have been an amazing experience.”
He couldn’t read the expression in her eyes. He wasn’t sure he wanted to anyway. “It’s been a long day, Cassie. I’m exhausted.”
She turned toward the house. “Good night, Rayne.”
She walked across the yard. The sun hadn’t yet set but, somehow, without her next to him, the day seemed dimmer. If things continued this way, she was going to make it hard for him to keep his promise. And promises made to dead friends couldn’t be broken.
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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. 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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