Monday, February 12, 2018

A Collection of Kisses + a Giveaway!

Today we have a treat for Valentines! Author Robin Bayne is here celebrating the release of her novel, Hearts on the Harbor.

One lucky commenter will win a free ebook copy of the entire Cooking Up Kisses collection! Just answer the question in the Rafflecopter link below...Thank you, Robin!

Here is a short exerpt:

Chapter One

“Don’t look now, Car, but your ex is here.”

Cara Peyton stiffened in her seat. Jackson? Here? Why?  A shiver ran through her as she willed her head not to swivel. Around her the clink of silverware and diners chatting faded into the background.

“He’s really hot,” Jill observed, leaning forward over her iced tea. “Hotter, really. He looks more like a man now than a teenager. How long has it been?”

Cara didn’t need to think. “Seven and half years. Seven and three quarters, actually.”

“Wow.” Jill turned her chair slightly. “Doesn’t look like he’s with anyone. Female, that is. Doesn’t he have a brother?”

“Yes, a younger one. Why?”

“The guy with him looks like him. You know, I should go over and—"

 “Please don’t make a scene.” Cara gripped her water glass, the beads of water pooling on it cooled her palms. It had taken years to get over Jack, if she ever really had. She couldn’t get emotional now. She gazed out the wall length windows onto the cobblestone street. A white van marked “Charm City Cabinetry” partially blocked her view of the harbor. A little Christian fish magnet, slightly crooked, was stuck to its side door. She sighed.

“Don’t freak out, I won’t do anything.” Jill picked up her tuna sandwich. “So how late do you need me to stick around tonight? I have a date.”

“Oh you do? Who with?” Cara took a bite of her Caesar salad and half listened to her partner’s description of some guy she’d just met.

The other half of her attention was focused on not looking at the table behind them, not listening for any whisper of the voice she remembered. What would Jackson be like now? Would he be married? She knew he’d be childless, either way. Didn’t want kids. Did he regret, or even remember, leaving her like that? It has all been about his music.  Did he remember the last time they’d been together? Did he—

“Hey!” Jill waved her hand in front of Cara’s face. “Have you heard anything I’ve said?”

Cara blinked. “Um, no, sorry.”

“That’s okay,” Jill said, staring at her friend. “I know where you were.”

Her face warming, Cara wiped her mouth with a paper napkin. “I’m back.”

“Uh-huh, sure.  So who am I seeing tonight?”

Could she come up with some name from her subconscious? She snapped her fingers. “Oh, I know, Greg from that accounting firm we interviewed.” That was it. Cara smiled, proud of herself.

“Um, no. Wanna try again?”

“Not really.” Cara smoothed the napkin with her hand. “I’m sorry, it’s just that—"

“Just that your mind is full of Jackson Bridger right now. I get it.” Jill sighed and brushed the crumbs from her sandwich onto the floor, regarding Cara with the smug smile of a friend who knew too much.

“Can I get you ladies anything else?” Tom their waiter flashed a smile and presented a coffee carafe.

“Just the check,” Cara said. “Thanks. We have to get back to work.”

“Nice working right next door, huh?” Tom grinned before bowing his head to total the check.

Cara stood, prepared to head for the ladies room so she could finally see if it really was Jack.

“Don’t move,” Jill hissed. “He’s coming over.”

“No.” Cara’s pulse raced and her hand shook as she grabbed her purse.

“Oh, yes.”

Silence followed for several long seconds, three, four. . .

“Hey, Jill. Cara.” Jackson’s deep voice held confidence and a bit of amusement.

She finally let herself turn to find her former boyfriend towering over her. His wavy brown hair was cut short now, his face as lean but a bit more weathered than she remembered. Reminding herself to breath, she forced a smile. “Jack, hey, you’re looking good.” She sent up mental thanks that her voice didn’t quiver. “You too, Luke,” she said to the other man who joined them.

“Hi Cara.” Luke glanced at his brother, probably wondering why Jack just stood there staring. Luke leaned forward and gave her a loose hug.

“How are you, Luke? What are you up to these days? It’s been a couple years since we e-mailed.” Cara turned to face Luke, but still felt Jackson’s gaze on her.

“Great, thanks. Got a job with an insurance company, have a girlfriend. We go to the same church. Getting ready for the holidays. Life is good. What are you doing? You look fantastic, by the way.” With that he elbow-jabbed his brother in the gut.

Cara felt her face warming. “Thank you. And I’m happy you’re doing well.” She turned back to Jackson, who glared at his brother now. “And how about you? It’s been a long time.”

“Seven years, nine months,” he said without hesitation.

Cara’s jaw dropped, and she forced her mouth closed. She had been unsure if he’d even acknowledge her. A twinge of anger ran through her. Why was she feeling this way, like a schoolgirl getting a glimpse of a forbidden love? He’d been the one who left. To get famous.

“Why don’t you guys join us for a minute? I could order us coffee.” Jill spoke up in a chipper voice, obviously enjoying the awkward show. Before Cara knew what was happening, the men had slid into chairs across from them.

Tom told them to take their time, no one was waiting for the table, and he’d bring four coffees.

“We only have a few minutes,” Cara told him. “I have to be back at work for an appointment at one-thirty.” Tom nodded and headed for another table.

“So,” Jack began, his voice a caress. “Cara. How have you been?”

Cara’s tongue felt swollen, and suddenly, she had no idea how she was.

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