Authors: Kim Amos
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And Then He Kissed Me
A White Pine Romance
NEW YORK BOSTON
For Rhonda, my cheerleader. No one can top that.
Many thanks, once again, to the numerous people who continue to help breathe life into White Pine, Minnesota. I’m especially grateful to my editor, Michele Bidelspach, and my agent, Susanna Einstein—both tireless supporters. Huge thanks as well to Alex Kourvo, who read the early drafts and provided so much insight and help. And a gigantic Harley-sized thanks to Stephanie Smith, who patiently answered all my questions about motorcycles and Harley culture. I’m so glad the book gave us a chance to reconnect!
I’d also like to give a shout-out to the delightful, magical town of Empire, Michigan, which hosts an annual asparagus festival and provided the inspiration for White Pine’s quirky tradition. There really is such a thing as asparagus beer, and it really is delicious. Right Brain Brewery out of Traverse City, Michigan, makes it and you can taste it the third week in May every year.
udrey Tanner suddenly understood why people hated Mondays. Sure, she’d dreaded them sometimes, maybe even been frustrated by them. But now she fully grasped the sheer loathing of them.
She stretched, savoring the warmth of the covers, and thought to heck with the day job. Eyes closed, ignoring the daylight streaming against her lids, she debated calling in. Faking sick. Telling the high school that she was under the weather and they should call a substitute. They could feed the kids in her gym classes chips and soda and chocolate for all she cared.
She never used her sick days, but then again she never used her body like she had last night, twisting it around Kieran Callaghan in such a way that their cries of pleasure rattled the windowpanes. She smiled to herself, hoping the neighbors hadn’t heard. Then thinking she didn’t care if they had.
Reaching out, she felt across the bed for Kieran. For the body she’d only just discovered but felt like she’d known for years. Her fingers spread, anticipating the hard planes of his muscled flesh, every valley and contour both new and achingly familiar at the same time. How was it that they’d only just met two weeks ago? Kieran was a jumble of contrasts that should have left her reeling and confused, but instead everything about him only made perfect sense. Being with him created an incomprehensible rightness that her affordable house and her steady job and her sensible grocery list had never come close to.
She smiled sleepily, anticipating his touch all over again, even though they’d been up long enough the night before to see the stars fade. Even though she had to go to work. Even though she was supposed to be helping with the Good Shepherd Walk later that afternoon.
Oh, but she’d throw it all into the Birch River for him. She’d shed every part of her practical life to feel this much excitement—this much love, if she was honest—every day.
But when her hand reached his side of the bed, all she came up with were cold sheets.
The fog of sleep dissipated instantly. Audrey opened her eyes and squinted against the bright May sunshine streaming through her curtains. There was a dent in the pillow where Kieran’s head had been resting next to hers. The thought of his dark red hair flaming in color against her plain sheets made her smile. She strained, listening for the sound of him making coffee. Brushing his teeth. Cooking them eggs.
But the house was quiet.
Throwing back the sheets, she padded quietly to the bathroom and peeked out the window, figuring she’d find him outside tinkering with his Harley. Maybe they’d even go for a ride. She smiled, thinking about the wind in her hair, the sun on her skin, and how wild and alive she felt pressed up against Kieran on the open road.
Then again, maybe she’d just beckon him back to bed instead. She’d pull his workman’s hand away from the engine and lace her fingers with his. “Ride me instead,” she might whisper.
An unthinkable phrase from her lips two weeks ago. Now, double entendres seemed a natural part of her vocabulary.
Her naked skin prickled in the morning air; her muscles ached in the most delicious way possible. You didn’t get this feeling after a typical workout, she thought.
Of course, last night had been anything but typical.
She belted the cotton robe she’d left hanging behind the bathroom door and wondered about getting something silky. Something naughty. She pictured lace and leather and the way Kieran would undress her with his eyes when she wore it. She shivered, savoring the thrill of emotions he churned up inside of her. He ignited an electric current, as if a part of her that had been shut off was suddenly thrown on, casting white-hot light on everything.
Like the narrow table in her hallway, for example. She could picture him lifting her on top of it, slamming it into the cream-colored walls with the force of their bodies coming together.
Or the white stools around the small island in her kitchen. She studied them as she entered the room. He could sit her on top of one and spread her wide, doing unspeakable things that pulled her apart and put her together again so she felt like a Picasso painting. Altered and magical and beautiful.
Or the kitchen counter, where—
She stopped. A small yellow Post-it was stuck next to the coffeemaker. She smiled, wondering at his thoughtfulness. How was it possible that a man clad in so much leather, who rode the biggest motorcycle she’d ever seen, could know the words that would open up her heart? He’d been leaving scraps of poetry around the house all week.
Bright star! Would I were as steadfast as thou art!
She’d had to google the line. John Keats, as it turned out.
The fullness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
She’d googled that one, too. William Wordsworth.
She pulled the Post-it off the counter, musing whether he’d left her Shakespeare or John Donne. Instead, her vision rippled as she took in the two words he’d penned.
She blinked, then blinked again.
Sorry for what?
She looked around. Kieran was of course here and would explain all this momentarily. She called his name in the quiet house, but there was no answer.
Her heart pounded. Adrenaline surged.
Sorry for what?
Walking quickly to the front door, she threw it open just as Kieran’s motorcycle rumbled to life. The noise was deafening on the quiet street. A distant, practical part of her wondered if the neighbors would be angry.
The most present part of her wondered what in the world Kieran was doing. He was astride his bike and had it pointed down the street, away from the house. His saddlebags were zipped and buckled, his chin thrust forward.
“Kieran!” she called. His head turned sharply toward her. He revved the throttle like he was going to speed away, and her stomach lurched.
What are you doing?
She wanted to kick herself for the crazy way she was acting, running down the sidewalk in her robe like some madwoman. Except that her fear wouldn’t relent. Not when Kieran’s pale green eyes stayed so far away as he looked at her, and not when his body went stiff under all that leather.
Dirty jeans. Scuffed boots. Rugged and wild. She thought she’d harnessed his attentions, the same way he’d brought out some of the wild girl in her, itching to break free. They’d balanced each other perfectly.
“Where—where are you going?” she managed, raising her voice slightly above the engine’s purr.