Today we have a smooch from Kandy Shepherd but first
... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Nicole Kirsche Stoll
Nicole, can you please contact Annie West on annie(at)annie(hyphen)west(dot)com
to receive your Kindle copy of The Italian's Marriage Bargain
And now for today's Sunday Smooch from HIRED BY THE BROODING BILLIONAIRE
Two of my favourite stories I've written for Harlequin Mills & Boon are Hired by the Brooding Billionaire and From Paradise to Pregnant. You can imagine how delighted I am to see them together in an Australian Favourites edition published this month in both print and e-book formats by Mills & Boon Australia. I believe this particular edition is only on sale in Australia and New Zealand, however the original editions are still available from on-line retailers. I chose an excerpt from HIRED BY THE BROODING BILLIONAIRE for this week's smooch.
Beauty and the reclusive billionaire...
When billionaire Declan Grant decides his estate’s enormous garden needs taming, he hires idealistic horticulturalist Shelley Fairhill to take on the challenge. Since losing his wife, Declan has adjusted to a life of self-imposed isolation—he wants Shelley to tackle the weeds, then leave.
But as Shelley gradually restores order and unexpected beauty to his garden, her caring nature also begins to thaw the ice encasing Declan’s heart. Can he let Shelley’s light in and finally let his second chance at love blossom?”
Brilliant, wounded recluse Declan Grant denies himself a second chance at love because of tragedy in his past. He refuses to have anything but minimal contact with strong, beautiful Shelley while she works in his garden. Shelley has past heartbreak of her own to overcome and the last thing she wants is to find herself attracted to her grumpy, if gorgeous, boss. But funny, sometimes awkward Shelley, starts to cut down not only the overgrown garden but the barriers Declan has put up around his emotions. In this scene, Shelley and Declan are alone at night in the kitchen of his mansion, sitting on bar stools at the counter. Shelley has baked him an apple pie in gratitude for letting her stay in the staff apartment when she’d been made homeless. For the first time they’ve opened up to each other and talked about their private lives, breaching the barrier between boss and employee.
Declan realised he was still holding her hand—and he didn’t want to let it go. She seemed in no rush to relinquish his grip either.
‘Tell me the type of treats you like so I can keep you in mind when I’m baking,’ she said with her generous smile, leaning closer, so close he breathed in her sweet, flowery scent.
It was a thoughtful offer. But right now there was only one treat that was tempting him. Before he could rustle up a reason why he shouldn’t, he leaned across and kissed her. Her lush, lovely mouth was soft and full under his.
She stilled at first, startled, then relaxed against him, her lips parting for his with a soft murmur as he traced their warm softness with his tongue
He had not kissed a woman other than Lisa [his deceased wife] since he was nineteen. The feel of Shelley’s mouth under his was both familiar and different at the same time. The thought of Lisa was both poignant and fleeting—then his mind was filled only with Shelley and how much he wanted to keep on kissing her. She tasted of cinnamon and apple with a fresh tang of mint as her tongue tangled with his.
As she kissed him back this kiss became unique, special like nothing he had ever experienced. Shelley. Beautiful Shelley. It was all about her.
Her mouth was soft and warm and generous, their hands still linked on the table between them. It started as a gentle, exploratory kiss but very soon escalated into something more passionate as she kissed him back with equal ardour.
They strained towards each other—awkward on bar stools but she didn’t seem to care and he certainly didn’t—he just wanted to be as close to her as he could possibly be.
But she was the one to break the kiss, her face flushed, her eyes bright.
‘That was a surprise, Declan,’ she said. He could see a pulse beating rapidly at the base of her throat. ‘Of the nice kind. Very nice, actually.’
He took a deep breath in an attempt to steady his breathing.‘Much more than nice,’ he said.
His thoughts were filled with Shelley. But he wasn’t ready to move on to someone else—might not ever be ready.
‘You know this can’t lead to anywhere,’ he said, his voice husky. ‘I have nothing to give you. It...it all drained away when—’
Shelley put her finger on his mouth to silence him.Her face was flushed, her voice throaty when she finally spoke. ‘It was just a kiss. A very nice kiss but just a kiss. Does it have to lead anywhere?’
‘I guess not,’ he said, somewhat taken aback. Shelley was so different from the predatory women on the hunt for the wealthy widower.
It hadn’t entered his head that Shelley might not be interested in him.
‘Men are more trouble than they’re worth. ’Her earlier words echoed through his brain.
‘I’m aware you might not be ready for...for anything serious.’ Her stumble made him realise that perhaps she wasn’t as indifferent to him as it might appear. ‘And I don’t want to risk opening myself to...heartbreak. I’ve just got over an almighty dose of that.’
He hadn’t been planning on heartbreak. In fact that was just what he wanted to avoid. Not just for himself but for her too.
‘So, you see, you’re a grieving widower—and I totally understand that, I can’t imagine how dreadful it’s been for you—and I don’t do meaningless flings.’
She leaned across and kissed him lightly on the mouth. Even it had impact, sending want coursing through him.
‘So, lovely as that kiss was, I don’t think we should do it again.’
Declan was too speechless to respond.
She strolled out, and suddenly the room seemed very, very empty indeed.
Shelley stood outside the house near the fountain. She hoped the cool evening air would bring her to her senses. Her mouth ached from both the effort of continual smiling and appearing nonchalant—and the unaccustomed dissembling. She wasn’t a liar. Yet she had lied and lied and lied to Declan.
‘It was just a kiss’ was the first lie. She touched her fingers to her mouth, shuddering as she remembered the powerful effect of his lips on hers, his tongue exploring the soft recesses of her mouth, the desire that had ignited and raced through her body. It was so much more than a mere pressing of two mouths together. Of awakened passion.
But the biggest lie of all was that she didn’t want him kissing her again.
Shelley is an endearing character, very tall and strong and prone to blurt out comments without first thinking about what she's saying. This actually makes Declan laugh and goes a long way towards melting his heart. It's typical that their first kiss is sitting on bar stools and reaching somewhat clumsily towards each other.
Have you ever kissed someone in less than ideal circumstances? Witnessed a funny kiss in either real life or in a movie? Wished you'd thought twice before you said something to a person you were trying to impress? Do you remember your first kiss? Does humour appeal to you in a love interest? I'd love to read your thoughts!
Leave a comment on this week's smooch to be put in the draw for a print copy of Australian Favourites featuring Hired by the Brooding Billionaire sent anywhere in the world.
Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a new smooch will be posted!
Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver