Authors: Kathleen O'Reilly
|Just Let Go…|
|Harlequin Blaze (2011)|
Gillian smiled, slow and a little unsteady herself. “Is it working?”
Gently he lowered her to the ground, and his mouth took hers. It was a long and hungry kiss that involved grinding tongues and grinding hips, and when his hands touched her breasts, they weren’t so gentle, weren’t so tender. This was pain, the most beautiful sort of pain.
She caught her lip between her teeth, silencing her cries, silencing her moans.
Gillian had waited years for this, dreamed of it, imagined it a hundred different ways—being with Austen. But this surpassed any image, any idea she’d ever had. He was here. With her. He was finally here…and would he stay? Would she want him to?
Bon Jovi has a very cool song, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” As I wrote this story, the melody and lyrics kept playing in my head. Austen Hart ran away to his namesake (sort of) town, Austin, Texas, trying to erase his heritage, but no matter how fast he ran, it still haunted him. The image of who we are as we grow up is a powerful thing, not easily forgotten, and it wasn’t until Austen found love that he made peace with who he was—partly thanks to our heroine, local girl Gillian Wanamaker.
Writing about Texas is always fun for me. I get to use
and all those great phrases that I grew up with when I was just a young whippersnapper. Whenever I get on the phone and use the word
people stop, and then I explain and it always cracks me up, because there are no good substitutes for
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the second book in the Harts of Texas miniseries. In September, y’all come back for Brooke’s story. You hear?
Kathleen O’Reilly wrote her first romance at the age of eleven, which to her undying embarrassment was read aloud to her class. After taking more than twenty years to recover from the profound distress, she is now proud to finally announce her career—romance author. Now she is an award-winning author of nearly twenty romances published in countries all over the world. Kathleen lives in New York with her husband and their two children, who outwit her daily.
382—SHAKEN AND STIRRED
388—SEX, STRAIGHT UP
485—HOT UNDER PRESSURE
541—LONG SUMMER NIGHTS
To Texans everywhere, near and far, because
when you’re a Texan, you can always come home.
HE’D BOUGHT THE DRESS
six months ago. The perfect halter-tied prom dress in candlelight blue and silver. It had taken her four shopping trips to Midland to find it, but when she saw it, she knew. When she walked, the flounce billowed like a cloud. The sleek bodice accentuated her chest before sliding smooth as silk over her hips. There it clung just enough to show the entire senior class just what hours of exercise could do. Lovingly her fingers had glided over the material, imagining his face when he saw her. She loved the hungry way he looked at her sometimes, as if she was more than a mere mortal, as if she was a queen.
By the ripe old age of seventeen, Gillian was accustomed to men taking a second glance, or whistling when she wore the extra short shorts, which she did on occasion because she liked the whistling, even though her Momma said it wasn’t exactly proper behavior. In West Texas, the girls weren’t supposed to be fast, like in Houston or Dallas, but boredom and hot nights were a fertile combination, and sometimes nature ruled. Nonetheless, Gillian had a strict code of conduct, which she’d never been tempted to break…
The sun was long gone, the moon high in a starless night. During the summer, when the dust kicked up beyond the heavens, the whole Texas sky glowed pink. Like a dream. It was nights like this that Gillian felt she was living her dreams.
He emerged from the horizon, his shoulders slumped low, until he saw her. Gillian leaned back on her elbows, breasts to the sky, posing like the pictorials in
, even though she’d never admit to studying the sultry photos.
When he saw her, she noticed his effort to act cool, but he picked up the pace. Anxious, she could tell. As he strode toward her, her heart skipped a beat, because there was no boy that was better looking, no boy that kicked up her pulse, no boy that made her ache between her thighs like he did—not even Jeffrey Campbell Maxwell III, who was the star quarterback of the Lions. Everybody expected Gillian to go to the senior prom with Jeff Junior—except for Gillian. Gillian’s heart was set in a different direction. His.
He was long and rangy, not as bulked up as some of the jocks, but there was something different about him. His muscles were crafted from hard work instead of blocking linebackers. His hands were rough from metal rather than free weights.
“What took you so long?” she asked, wondering if he noticed that she wasn’t wearing a bra under her shirt. In her mind, there might as well have been a big neon arrow pointing at her tight nipples.
When he looked at her, his eyes landed somewhere between her shoulders and her belly, and she noticed the quick, nervous bob in his throat.
“Got held up at the garage,” he said.
Gillian smiled and held out a hand in invitation. “I’m glad you’re here.”
He sat down on the ground next to her, long legs outstretched in front of him. His once-white T-shirt was stained with dirt and grease from the shop, but there were men who were sexy even in grime, and apparently, he was one. And at least for tonight, he was hers.
She shot him one hot look from beneath her lashes, and he wiped his palms on his jeans, once, twice, and then his mouth was on hers, devouring, and demanding a response. He never kissed her like the others, not like Jeff Junior, not like Roger, not like Sonny. Gillian had never truly appreciated the art of kissing until the first time she’d touched his lips with her own.
It had been fire.
After she finally caught her breath, his hot mouth tracked her slim neck, following the line of her collarbone, down to where the pulse was drumming at her throat. She wound their hands together, her rose-tipped nails in sharp contrast to the dirt beneath his. But she didn’t mind. She loved the way his big hands touched her, hesitantly, reverently like she were his altar. God would probably strike her dead for comparing the carnal arts—or nearly carnal arts, she corrected—to a place of holy worship, but Gillian knew her biology and if God didn’t want teenagers running amok, he wouldn’t have juiced them with roller-coaster hormones, like hers.
Not willing to wait any longer, she pulled him on top of her, feeling the rangy strength, the tensile bunching of muscles that seemed poised like a cougar ready to spring. Gillian knew she was playing fast and loose, but tonight the iron-clad Gillian Wanamaker will was noticeably absent. For once, she wanted to nibble at the apple, but not just with any man. Only him.
“I’ve made up my mind,” she whispered in his ear, feathering kisses along the jaw.
“About what?” he whispered back, his hand sliding slyly down her blouse, touching her with that same nervous intensity. “About this?” he asked, his fingers tip-toeing across her nipples, touching them, then falling away. She drew in a breath at the exquisite sensations, the burst of heat, the feeling that she was about to explode.
“You shouldn’t do that,” she protested without a lick of sincerity, pushing her breasts farther into his hand, marveling at the fit. Gillian worked very hard at most things, being good included, but when she was near him, it was like summer lightning. Surprising, beautiful and dangerous. Gillian loved herself some summer lightning.
He smiled at her then, surprising, beautiful, dangerous. Then his hands worked the buttons on her shirt with both speed and dexterity that proved he was a boy who knew his way around a bra. She liked that about him, that confidence he kept stored away.
At school, his shoulders were always down, his eyes somewhere beyond the horizon. She knew he was whip-smart, but he’d never asked to be called on in class, he never opted to read aloud. In gym, he was fast, his movements quicker than most, but wasn’t on any team. In fact, most people didn’t give him the time of day—except for “those girls.” Those girls gave him everything he wanted…or so everyone said.
Tramps, that was her momma’s description, and before you could say, “Gillian is a tramp,” her blouse was open and he was staring at her bare chest with lusty-eyed awe. In the face of such absolute adoration, it was hard to be shameful. Besides, Gillian believed that adoration was meant to be graciously acknowledged, not ignored. The moon winked down on them, the buffalo grass tickling the backs of her bare knees, and she watched the sharp lines of hunger in his face. He wasn’t a boy who openly showed need, and she loved that it was her who made him want.
Carefully his hands traced the circles of her nipples, the outlines where rosy pink met baby’s-butt white. At first, she assumed this was part of the adoration ritual, but soon she realized the delicious truth of the matter. These little touches were invading her from the outside in, zipping through her skin, her nerves. In their wake, a wave of pressure was building in her belly, growing stronger, dropping lower until she could feel the tight heartbeat between her thighs.
“Take me to the prom.” She spoke urgently, not the sophisticated invitation that she’d rehearsed in her mind. But right this second, her mind was preoccupied with those tight little circles he was drawing on her, the way he caught his lip between his teeth in what had to be a painful manner.
As if sensing her difficulties, his fingers stilled over her breast, resting there possessively. “Hell, no. Nobody’s ever going to see me in some stupid prom duds. Not even for you, Gilly.”
The words kick-started her brain. Rejection is what some might call it. Others, notably of Gillian’s persuasion, considered such talk a challenge, and one to be welcomed—before being clobbered, of course. Pride and prudence battled it out in her head, but prudence never stood a chance. “Go with me,” she urged, putting her hand over his, inviting him to prom, inviting him to more.
There was a moment when his fingers tightened on her own aching skin, when his eyes darkened with the secrets she wanted to know, but then everything stopped.
“No way, Gillian. Let’s drive to Austin. Find a hotel. Stay all weekend. Maybe longer. Maybe forever.” He looked away as he spoke, his face turned to the line of mesquite trees, not appreciating anything, the lurid nakedness of her breasts, the genius of her plans, and if Gillian hadn’t put so much time and effort into both, she probably would have been a little more reasonable.
“Austin? I don’t know anybody there. I want to be here. Home. At my senior prom. It’ll be fun watching all the faces when we walk in.”
He pulled away, leaving her alone on the ground. “I can tell you about the faces.” His voice was almost angry. “The boys will be drooling, their dicks in their eyes. The girls will pretend they don’t care, but they do.” Still not looking at her, he plucked a blade of grass, and put it to his lips and blew. The breathy whistle cut through the silence, as if he didn’t care what anyone thought, but Gillian knew better. Everybody cared, some just buried it deeper than others.
“You think the girls won’t be jealous of me?” she asked, in her best girlfriend’s voice. “You don’t ever notice the crowd that gathers at Dot’s when you’re working at the shop with your shirt off?”
A dark flush rose on his cheeks. “Maybe.”
Pleased with his reaction, she drew closer, until the strong tendons of his arm were hard against her breast, until the warmth of his body filled her with electricity, like she was touching the live wire and feeling the shock. She liked that touch. She needed that touch. “Come with me.”
He sat motionless, unmoved by her plea, and silently she swore. There was a very precise list of things that Gillian wanted with a white-hot passion: a summer job at the bank, class salutatorian, the gold tiara at the senior prom and this boy.
So what price was she willing to pay? It was an age-old question that women had battled since the dawn of time.
Never one to hesitate, she closed her eyes, and threw caution to the wind, although technically there was no wind, not even a courage-bolstering breeze. Slowly she pulled her blouse from her shoulders, letting it fall to the ground. His gaze lifted to her bare chest and stayed there. The dangerous hunger returned and somewhere in her mind, summer lightning flashed, dazzling her. Just like magic, the breeze began to blow, tossing her caution even further afield.
“You trying to bribe me?” he asked in an unsteady voice.
She smiled, slow and a little unsteady herself. “Is it working?”
Gently he lowered her to the ground, and his mouth took her own. It was a long and hungry kiss that involved grinding tongues and grinding hips, and when his hands touched her brazen nipples, they weren’t so gentle, weren’t so tender. This was pain, the most beautiful sort of pain.
She squeezed her lips shut, silencing her cries, silencing her moans.
He was heavy on top of her, and she could feel him, all of him, thick and throbbing and full of baby-making sperm. Before she could contemplate the consequences even further, he put his mouth to her breast and suckled, pulling hard. Wickedly hard. Her eyes drifted closed, trying not to be too slutty and give away the entire farm, but Gillian was no tease, neither. “Take me.”
His fingers moved lower, resting at the zip of her shorts, waiting. “Here?” he said, and there was a dark sin in his eyes that boiled her insides. There were girls who got pregnant, girls who threw away everything for the thrill. Not Gillian.
She laid her hand over his, not in invitation this time.
“Take me to prom,” she clarified, not exactly denying the other, but not committing herself to it, either. At least not yet.
Furiously he rolled off her, scrubbing his lean face with his hands. “Goddammit, Gillian. You don’t know jack-shit about men. I could die from this sort of pain.” Clearly, he was miserable, furious even…so breathcatchingly cute.
Unable to help herself, she started to laugh, embarrassed, awkward, because this was all new to her. Then he started to laugh, and then, thankfully, all the hard anger fell away. Mission accomplished. She wanted to be the temptress. There were few things she couldn’t master, but a lifetime of warnings were ringing in her ears, still, there were too many dreams she wanted to live. He made her feel crazy, wild, and while she loved being like that, she knew it wasn’t smart.
Feeling better, a little more in control, Gillian pulled on her shirt, and she noticed that he looked relieved, as well. Relieved and much more cooperative, which was a plus since she wasn’t ready to give up on her original target just yet.
“You’ll take me to the prom? We’re seniors and after this, we gotta be mature with checking accounts and crappy jobs.”
At her words, his gaze cooled a bit, because while her great life would be over, his great life was about to start. Maybe after graduation wouldn’t be great for him, but it had to be better than life with his father, Frank Hart. She knew Austen was capable of more than working on cars, and tonight, when the pre-graduation clock was ticking, she wanted to know about his post-graduation dreams.
“What are you going to do after May?” she asked, keeping her tone casual.
When he held her in his gaze, she saw something that was a lot more than a car mechanic. Ambition, determination, and she was glad his father hadn’t ruined everything for him. “I’m going to go to Austin and then build myself the world’s fastest Mustang.”
His answer made her smile. “It’s the perfect spot for you.”
But while she was smiling, he didn’t and slowly it dawned on her that he was leaving. Leaving for good and soon. Not that she shouldn’t be surprised, not that she shouldn’t be expecting it. Still, she wasn’t. “Oh.”
He moved closer, reaching out and pushing the hair from her eyes. “Come with me. I’m serious. We can leave this dump and go someplace where there’s more excitement than Two-For-One Chicken Fried Steak Night.”
Gillian felt a hard rock in her gut. The same sort when she got a B-plus on a test, or when she flubbed her jump during the State cheerleading competition. Exactly the same sort as when a boy told her (as she was sitting there, only moments before trying to be a temptress), that she wasn’t worth sticking around for. “Glad to know where I rate.”