A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman

I love celebrating great books – and this author holds a special place in my heart because she was one of the first authors I read who really inspired me in Christian fiction. Yes, yes, I DO love the fact that her kissing scenes are OUT OF THIS WORLD (#kissingbooksrock), but I also appreciate her depth of story and complexity. Oh…and did I mention the kissing scenes? 😉 To celebrate some of her stories, today I’m reposting my review of her novel, A Hope Undaunted, which is probably one of my FAVORITES for Julie’s books.

About the Book

What happens when the boy she loved to hate becomes the man she hates to love?

The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O’Connor is the epitome of the new woman–smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband–good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and eating out of her hand. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Luke McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face-to-face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?

My Thoughts

An Undaunted Hope.png

(Review originally published September 2010.)

Well, the Kissing Queen is back with her newest novel, A Hope Undaunted, and let me just tell you guys – you will not be disappointed. Cluny McGee (aka Luke) is a FABULOUS hero. Fabulous. Rivals Collin – and that says a lot.

And Katie O’Connor is SUCH an adorable brat. If you’ve followed Julie Lessman’s books at all, you’ll have met most of the characters in A Hope Undaunted – and Julie has a beautiful way of bringing out those stories, keeping them consistent, and giving the reader a feel for the dynamics of a close-knit family.

And let me just tell you – there are so many varied types of love that Julie introduces in the story, the reader gets an opportunity to cringe, laugh, and hope along with the O’Connors – and particularly Katie and Luke McGee.

Two things:

  1. 1. Prepare your heart for a LOOOOONG agonizing journey of conflict.

Did I say long? How about agonizing? The reader is suffering and waiting right along with Katie O’Connor as her heart is pitched, pulled, and pried in various directions without any hope for true love. Or at least the true love her soul craves in Luke McGee. I ended up holding my breath more times than I can count, and endlessly wanted to email Julie Lessman to say – “What ARE you doing to these poor people?!?”

2. (And I CAN’T believe I’m writing this) I could have taken another whopper of a kiss at the end, Jules. I mean, after all that heart trauma of the last 150 pages, another kiss-me-till-I’m –dazed liplocker would have been a generous reward 😉

I COULDN’T put the book down.

 HAD. To. Finish. IT.

An Undaunted Hope2.pngWhich is the hallmark sign of a good book. No surprise there, if Julie Lessman’s name is on the cover. It’s a fabulous story about what true love really looks like and how it can often surprise us – especially those of us who want to have our lives all figured out ahead of time. But it’s also about sacrifices of the heart for the good of others. And sacrifices are painful.

But – as the old adage goes – no pain, no gain.

Read the book for the treasure chest at the end of the marathon journey.

Go Julie. Go Revell. Keep those passion-filled books coming!!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Published September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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About the Author

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 14 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.”

Chosen as the #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Historical Fiction Author of the Year in that same poll and #3 Author of the Year, #4 Novel of the Year and #3 Series of the year. She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series—A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Book 1 in her “Winds of Change” series A Hope Undaunted ranked #5 on Booklist’s Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010.

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Love at First Thought with Julie Lessman

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day!!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!!

Who better to welcome in the Season of Love with the Kissing Queen herself, Julie Lessman.

Julie has been a tremendous encouragement to me over the past year. From praying for me, checking up on me, and giving me words of advice for both writing and living, I am so thankful God gave me the opportunity to get to know this FANTASTIC lady. Her entire personality lights up the first floor of any building. People swarmed around her at ACFW, wanting to glean from the passion for life she exudes. The same passion she pours out onto the page in her beautifully written novels.

Some of you may have heard the ‘behind-the-scenes view of Julie’s first novel, A Passion Most Pure, but for those who haven’t, here’s a sneak peek.

Four life-altering words: Gone With the Wind. From the moment Scarlett seared Rhett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks, I was hooked, and my “romance-writing career” began with a 150 single-spaced manuscript that today is the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. As a young pre-teen girl I knew I wanted an Irish family, a war and a love triangle just like GWTW, so that’s what I did.

Fast forward almost forty years later—I was sitting in a beauty parlor reading a Newsweek magazine July 16, 2001 cover article about Christian entertainment. It said Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. My heart jumped, and something in my spirit said, “It’s time to finish your book.” I started writing A Passion Most Pure one month later, finally selling it to Revell after 4-1/2 years and a total of 45 rejections. 

Can you imagine? This amazing book took 45 hits before Revell saw the possibilities. I’m SOOOO glad they did! Thanks for giving us that reminder to persevere, Jules.

Inspirational Beginning:

2 John 1:1

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

 4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

It’s a choice we make that isn’t always an easy one. Love.

The idea behind the verse above ‘walk in love’ is that love is continually flowing from us, in constant motion throughout our lives. It’s as evident as walking.

The contradictions of this love?

It breaks down walls and it builds them up.

It crushes pride but nurtures hope

It is replenished as it is given away.

It is unending, yet ends all conflict

It binds us, yet sets us free.

It is big enough to change the world, but small enough to fit inside a heart.

Love.

In such a great way, God’s love transforms our lives so that we walk in the knowledge: We are inexhaustably, neverendingly, overwhelmingly, liberatingly, breathtakingly loved beyond our greatest imaginings. Loved through life and eternity by the Bridegroom of Heaven.

Not only has he swept us into his love, but wrapped us in such assurance that our hearts rejoice in Him.

True love?

Jesus

What can you give Him for Valentine’s Day?

Your heart.

 

********************

final picture courtesy of : http://ccesonline.com/devotionals/holidaysseasons/valentines-devotional-2/

ACFW – Revell Author Pics

Okay – so I’m a big Revell Fan. Seriously. I’ve been on the blog tour list for over a year (speaking of which, I need to post A Hope Undaunted’s review). But anyway, I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting two of my favorite Revell authors at ACFW AND the lovely Andrea Doering, editor for Revell.

As many of you know, one of my all-time favorite authors is Julie Lessman – and I’ve been a cyber buddy with her for over a year. Julie’s been a constant encouragement to me. Really. And she has enough energy and enthusiasm to make the entire Hyatt go up in lights. It’s such a  blessing to feel the full brunt of that enthusiasm in person. GREAT hugger,btw. Here’s my pic with Julie.

Jules, I am SOOOOOOOO glad we finally got to meet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (note all the exclamation marks)

Over six months ago, I was introduced to the wonderful writing of Laura Frantz through the Revell Blog Tour. I read her debut novel, The Fronteirsman’s Daughter. BEAUTIFUL story. I emailed her. She replied and from that point on, I’ve been the beneficiary of her kindness and joy. What a blessing.

So recently, when her newest release came out – Courting Morrow Little, I was quick to get my hands on it. I didn’t think it was possible, but she topped her first novel with the second. It was breathtaking.  It was such a joy to give Laura a big ol’ hug in Indy.

Wow!

Other Revell authors showed up. Like Lynette Eason, Jill Eileen Smith, Lorna Sielstad (whose book, Making Waves, I just reviewed) and Dan Walsh.

Dan Walsh won two Carols for his novel, The Unfinished Gift – and he’s a super guy. Humble and kind. And funny! I was so glad to have met him earlier in the conference. He’s the genuine article. Enjoy being a full-time author, Dan!!

And I have MORE pictures for tomorrow. More Seekers, my awesome roomie, and the lovely Patti Lacy. WOOHOO!!

Torturing Your Reader with Julie Lessman

LOL…actually, I didn’t ask Julie’s permission at all to write this, but wanted to fill you guys in. I just finished her new novel, A Hope Undaunted – first in the Winds of Change series, and let me tell you this much:

It was excruciatingly beautiful. (how’s that for a description)

I will write a ‘formal’ review later, but I wanted to just chat about torturing your reader, by torturing your characters. I’m afraid I have a lot to learn in this category, but Julie does is beautifully. My insides were shaking with anticipation by the end of the novel. She didn’t disappoint in the reward, though, so keep that in mind.

Why do we like to read books where the characters (and inevitably the readers) are put through agony? I think it’s because we are a ‘feeling’ people and WANT to feel emotions in an intense and empathetic sort of way. It’s another form of escape.

And there seems to be a formula for doing this in writing.

Make the character really, really want something.

And don’t give it to them.

Actually, you might even want to give them the opposite.

It comes down to something as simple as the old Road Runner and Coyote cartoons. Coyote WANTS Road Runner, and we almost think he’s going to get him, but….he never does. So we keep watching for the next time, because just maybe he’ll catch Road Runner. Nope.

It’s the chase. The uncertainty. The longing.

Oh my, and Julie did it fabulously. I HAD to finish the book. HAD to.

So, make a list. What type of torture can you blast your characters with? What do they want more than anything? Can you take it away? How will they survive?

In inspirational fiction, THAT is the moment where the only true answer (the only TRUE need) comes into play. When we have ‘nothing’, then we realize in our spirits we truly have everything.

Don’t you think that if God didn’t even spare His OWN SON for us, that He’ll take care of us. I love helping my characters learn that because each time it’s a new revelation to me. A new beautiful reminder.

so….

I need to really know my characters, so I can get to the heart of how to make them weep. How are you torturing the characters in your wip? Or if you’re reading a book, how are the characters being tortured?

Sizzling First Encounters with Julie Lessman

Okay, it’s time to ramp up the temperature about 80 degrees.

Everybody ready?

Summer’s here. We know it’s hot outside. But I think today’s guest has a way of moving WAY beyond a sizzle. She tends to stay at…oh…scorching.

Please welcome one of my favorite authors, and so pleased to call her my friend, Julie Lessman. She writes with a Passion Most Pure filled with purely passion 🙂 And not just the loosen-your-collar-and-grab-a-fan type of passion, but the kind that leads you into deeper contemplation about the goodness and mercy of God.

The first book in her newest series is coming out this fall and in celebration of that fact, JULIE IS GIVING AWAY A BOOK. 

READER’S CHOICE. You may choose one of her Daughter’s of Boston series, or…her newest novel, A Hope Undaunted. (which you get a teeny peek at the main characters for that book today- and not just ANY peek, but a deleted scene. Woohoo!)

If you want to peruse the choices and learn more about this wonderful lady, you can check out her website or visit Seekerville (she’s a frequent contributor).

Okay…okay – get on with it you say 🙂

Welcome Jules,

1.)  What is one element of great romantic tension?

 Well, since I’m a drama queen, I like anything with LOTS of head-butting tension, be it anger (my fav!), surprise, sarcasm or just sheer annoyance, which is what I used in this scene from A Passion Denied when Cluny McGee and Katie O’Connor (the hero and heroine of my next release, A Hope Undaunted) have their first “sizzling” encounter.

 Now keep in mind they are kids at the time (Cluny is 14, Katie 11), so “sizzling” is not exactly the right word, but it is their very first “romantic” encounter in which I wanted to sow the seeds of attraction for the next book. But because they were so young, my editor requested I alter this scene to delete “the kiss” and any indication of attraction, which I did in the final book. But I have to tell you that I loved the original SO much (and have fond memories of my own innocent “first kiss” in kindergarten with Johnny Huels in the coatroom), that I wanted to share this scene today since no one has ever read it before as originally written.

 This scene is in Katie O’Connor’s point of view and takes place outside of a hospital waiting room where Cluny McGee has promised to buy her Life Savers. Incidentally, this Life Saver scene also plays a part in the grownup Cluny and Katie’s romance in A Hope Undaunted.

 Cluny nodded to the guard before depositing his money into the machine. He gave Katie a sideways glance. “Life Savers or gum?”

“Did you hear me say anything about gum?”

He grinned and yanked on the lever. “You’re a pistol, Katie Rose. Life Savers it is.” A roll thudded into the open slot while change clinked into the coin return. He retrieved the candy and dropped it in her waiting hand.

She arched a brow, hand still extended. “I believe you said five.”

He pulled his change from the return and tossed in the air. “Nope, said I’d buy you one, but had enough for five.”

She jiggled the roll in her hand. “I want five.”

He grinned. “Kind of hoping you’d say that.”

“You were.”

“Yes, ma’am, I was. And I would dearly love to give you five.”

“You would.”

“For a price.”

“A price?”

“What, are you a parrot?” He redeposited his money and repeated the procedure until five rolls of gold and blue candy gleamed in his palm. She reached and he jerked them away, slipping them into his pocket with an annoying grin. “Yes, ma’am, a price. Kind of an experiment.”

She folded her arms, her eyes slits as he opened a roll and popped one in his mouth. He held another in the air, taunting. “Mmmm … minty.”

She stared, jaws clamped tight, the little white circle an inch from her nose. She could smell the sweet scent of peppermint as he gently prodded it against the tight crack of her lips. Seconds seemed like an eternity before she finally snatched it with her teeth, almost taking his finger in the process. He jerked away.

She smiled. “A bit twitchy, are we?”

“No more than usual when you’re around.” He sucked on his finger as if she’d bitten clean through. “Do we have a deal?”

“What kind of experiment?”

He took her hand and pulled her down the darkened hall, stopping just short of where light shafted through the windows of the waiting-room double doors. Producing four additional rolls of Life Savers, he bounced them in his hand and grinned. “A kissin’ experiment.”

She tried to leave, but he blocked her with a hand to the wall. “One measly, ol’ kiss, Katie Rose, and if Life Savers were money, you’d be a wealthy woman.”

She studied him with a critical eye, deciding for the hundredth time that Cluny McGee was a cocky little brat that grated on her nerves. He had way too much confidence for a boy with a sunken chest and arms no bigger than a willow twig, and enough freckles to make you lose your train of thought. Sweet saints, she hated freckles! Her eyes shifted to the glittering treasure in his hands, shimmering like gold as he rolled them in his palm. Her gaze flicked up to the piercing blue eyes that glinted as if they could read her mind. She firmed her stance and lifted her chin, determined that the blush she felt rising would not reach her cheeks.

“One-measly-kiss,” she enunciated through clenched teeth, “Quick, clean and absolutely no lingering. And for pity’s sake, keep your mouth closed.”

A slow grin traveled his lips. He pocketed the candy with the same unwavering confidence that always got on her nerves. He shot a quick glance down the hall, then pulled her to him with a grip surprisingly strong. “Close your eyes, Katie Rose, the glare is blinding me.”

She broke her own rules and did exactly as he said, although she didn’t really know why. It seemed like he was always giving her ord—

A soft gasp rose in her throat when his mouth moved against hers. Lips that seemed anything but soft when he always yakked her ear off, suddenly felt as silky as the petal of a rose with the fragrance of Pep-o-mint. She had warned him not to linger, but he did, and she found herself shocked that she didn’t care. He stroked the curve of her jaw before he finally pulled away, leaving her lips strangely bereft. She opened her eyes and noted she’d forgotten to breathe.

“That settles it, Katie,” he whispered, his high-pitched voice no longer that of little-boy pest. “You’re the girl I’m gonna marry.”

Her mouth fell open, allowing for shallow breathing that now fluttered in her chest. He took her hand and placed the rolls firmly inside, then pressed her fingers closed. She’d once told Collin she’d never let some sap boy steal her heart. He’d told her she would eat her words. She swallowed hard, the taste of those words—and Cluny’s kiss—still burning her tongue.

 Well Jules, that’s it. I’m going to daydream about Cluny today. After reading a few of the other scenes with him – especially the clips from A Hope Undaunted, I’ve decided my little hero crush might transfer from Collin to Cluny.

Thank you so much for sharing this today. And good luck to all of you who enter the drawing. You CANNOT lose with any of Julie’s books. I have all of the Daughters of Boston and plan to purchase anymore this lady wants to pen.

Inspirational First Encounter

He couldn’t see the faces of the people around him. Had never seen their faces, or anything else. But voices pushed and shoved him through the streets, hands leading him or knocking him away.

Dust, hot and harsh, ground into the holes of his worn out sandals, irritating the sores rubbing against the threadbare leather straps.  There was nothing a poor, blind man could do to earn money for new ones, except beg and wait. But begging felt humiliating and waiting? Well, he’d been waiting for something to happen almost his entire life.

Blind. Yes. Blind from birth. And dependent on the kindness of others.

The swell of voices around him warned him of an incoming crowd. Certainly not a safe place for someone like him. Besides, everyone else seemed as blind to him as he was to them.

A voice, warm as fresh goat’s milk, smoothed through the clamor of voices. What? They were talking about him?

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Someone spat, then all grew silent, except for whir of a sea of whispers.

“Jesus.” They said. Jesus? The very name stirred the embers of hope in his heart. Jesus? The healer from God?

Suddenly, something warm and damp touched his eyes.

“Go,” the voice spoke, as if to the deepest hurt in his heart. “Wash in the pool of Siloam.”

The man half-stumbled and half-ran to the pool, feeling his way around baskets of bread and resting animals. Every step, every fall, increased his faith that this moment would change his life forever.

He nearly fell into the pool, the water washing over him in waves from his splash. It soaked through his clothes, up to his shoulders, and with one deep breath he plunged his face underneath.

The air cooled his face as he pulled his heavy body up from the water and wiped a dripping sleeve across his face. Light poured through his closed eyelids. Light. He blinked. Colors, blurs, movement. He blinked again. The blurs slowly cleared and faces came into view. Faces. Eyes. Smiles.

He could see for the first time in his life. He could see – not only with his eyes, but with his heart. Jesus had made him whole.

Stop by tomorrow and find out who’s visiting next week. Still two more weeks to go of these Sizzling First Encounters, so find out what’s in store.

Blessings

A Kiss to Build a SCENE On with Julie Lessman

“No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.” – Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind

 By someone who knows how?…Hmm…

Maybe this could apply to writers too? “A kiss should be written, and written often, and written by an author who knows how”

  Well, well, an author who knows how is my guest today. Julie Lessman, recently titled Queen of the Kissing Scenes, as I recall from her Seekerville post on Wednesday A Kiss isn’t Just a Kiss – check it out here:

 Now, we all know that there are kisses, and then THERE ARE KISSES! Some kisses bring a flutter, a hint of warmth, a momentary tremble of anticipation – and others waft through your senses like an overheated furnace, branding into your memory for eternity. Oh yes.

 And speaking of kiss branding. Did I mention Julie Lessman is my guest today?  You know, “Romantic tension, thy  name is Julie” Julie Lessman. 😉

And not only is her keyboard hot from writing smokin’ smooches, she’s also offering a HOT option for commenters today. Leave one comment and you’ll be placed in a drawing to win one of Julie’s Daughters of Boston books, or receive her up-and-coming release, A Hope Undaunted. (I’m trying not to have envy here…sigh) Katie’s story looks FANTASTIC and you get a wonderfully alluring sneak peek today. To learn more about Julie and her books visit www.julielessman.com

 As you can see, the theme for today is Gone With the Wind.

 It’s one of Julie’s favorite books – so-…

 Fiddle dee dee, Julie, what do you think makes a good kissing scene?

 Oh, honey, there are SO many things that make a good kissing scene in my opinion, but I think one of my favorites is when there is high drama involved (such as anger, for instance, as in the scene I’ve chosen). I mean, let’s face it, as women we ALL love a man who won’t let a heroine ride roughshod over him, right? My editor likes to refer to it as the “Taming of the Shrew” mentality, which she isn’t overly fond of but I happen to like, so she does let me get away with it every now and then, such as in the scene below from my upcoming novel, A Hope Undaunted. Unfortunately for her, the heroine Katie O’Connor manages to tick off the really nice-guy hero, Luke McGee, and trust me, he does not let her get away with it!

“Katie, are you okay?” Luke loosened his tie and stared, concern creasing his brow as he watched her, her body slumped at the window with a hand to her eyes. She didn’t move, and the tightness in his gut increased. He approached quietly, afraid he would startle her. “Katie?”

“Oh!” She whirled around, staggering against the sill with a hand to her chest.

He clutched her arm to steady her, and the color drained from her cheeks. Softening his hold, he absently grazed her skin with his thumb, then ducked his head and smiled, eyes tender as he studied her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. Are you all right?”

She nodded stiffly, her gaze glued to the massive hand on her arm.

Worry wrinkled the bridge of his nose and he braced both palms on her shoulders, convinced something was wrong. Her face was white and her breathing labored, and he could swear he felt a hint of a tremble. “No, I can feel it. Something’s bothering you.” He pressed his hand to her forehead. “Are you sick?”

She jerked back from his hold and butted up against the window, arms crossed and hugging her waist. “No!” she said too quickly to suit him, clearly avoiding his eyes. “I mean maybe a little dizzy, but nothing serious. I just need to go home …”

He shifted, suddenly concerned it had to do with him. He plunged his hands in his pockets and softened his tone. “Katie … is it me? Did I say or do something to upset you?”

She shook her head, gaze bonded to the floor. “No, Luke, really, please, I just need to—”

He nudged her chin up with his thumb, and her lips parted with a sharp intake of breath. And then he saw it. The gentle rise and fall of her chest, the soft rose in her cheeks, the skittish look in her eyes, flitting to his lips and then quickly away. Comprehension suddenly oozed through him like heated honey purling through his veins. Could it be? Was it possible that cold, callous Katie O’Connor was beginning to warm up? To him, of all people—Cluny McGee, the leper from her past? The thought sent warm ripples of shock through his body, thinning the air in his lungs. His gaze gentled, taking in the vulnerability in her eyes, the fear in her face, and all he wanted to do was hold her, reassure her.

As if under a spell, his gaze was drawn to her lips, parted and full, and the sound of her shallow breathing filled him with a fierce longing. “Oh, Katie,” he whispered, no power over the pull he was suddenly feeling. In slow motion, he bent toward her, closing his eyes to caress her mouth with his own. A weak gasp escaped her as she stiffened, but he couldn’t relent. The taste of her lips was far more than he bargained for, and he drew her close with a raspy groan. With a fierce hold, he cupped the back of her neck and kissed her deeply, gently, possessive in his touch. His fingers twined in her hair, desperate to explore.

And then all at once, beyond his comprehension, her body melded to his with an answering groan, and he was shocked when her mouth rivaled his with equal demand. Desire licked through him, searing his body and then his conscience. With a heated shudder, he gripped her arms and pushed her back, his breathing ragged as he held her at bay. “We can’t do this,” he whispered. He dropped his hold and exhaled, gouging shaky fingers through disheveled hair. His gaze returned, capturing hers and riddled with regret. “Believe me, Katie, as much as I want to, I’ve learned the hard way to take things slow. I should have never started this, and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

                                                                      *************

Forgive him? She stared at him through glazed eyes, her pulse still pumping in her veins at a ridiculous rate. She never wanted this, couldn’t stand the sight of him, and now here she was, tingling from his touch and desperate for more. Addicted to the “King of Misery.” The very thought inflamed both fury and desire at the same time, muddling her mind. Dear Lord, she was torn between welding her lips to his or slapping him silly. With a tight press of her mouth, she opted for the second and smacked him clean across the face.

His jaw dropped a full inch, complemented nicely by a slash of red across his cheek.

Her chest was heaving, but at least it wasn’t from his touch. She narrowed her eyes and clutched her fists at her side, not all that sure she wouldn’t slap him again. “So help me, if you ever touch me again, you will be the sorriest person alive.”

He slowly rubbed his cheek with the side of his hand, exercising his jaw as if to make sure it still worked. His eyes glinted like blue glass, sharp and deadly. Even so, the swaggering smile of old eased across his face. He bent forward, his tall frame looming over her like a bad omen, and his voice held that cocky drawl so reminiscent of his past. “What’s the matter, Katie Rose,” he whispered, “does my touch make you nervous?”

The heat in her cheeks went straight to her temper. She iced him with a cool gaze. “Nervous? Around you? Hardly. You can dress up in a suit all you like, Luke McGee, but to me you’ll always be the same cocky street brat with a twang in your voice and grime on your face.”

She knew her words hit their mark when a red blotch crawled up the back of his neck like a rash gone awry. A nerve pulsed in his temple, but his smile never wavered despite the steel edge of his jaw. One blond brow jagged high in challenge. “Is that a fact? Well then, how about a little experiment? Kind of like when you were eleven and I bet you couldn’t be nice?” He leaned close, his voice as hard as his eyes. “What d’ya bet I can make you nervous now?”

She tried to shove him out of the way. “I’m going home.”

“Not yet,” he whispered, blocking her in with a push to the wall. His voice, like the dominance of his hold, was a force to be reckoned with. “You always packed a wallop for a little girl, Katydid, but this time you picked the wrong street brat. You can turn your nose up at me all you want, but we both know that slap wasn’t so much about an innocent kiss …” He bent close, his eyes on fire and his breath hot against her face. “As how it made you feel.”

His words seemed to vibrate through her, low and thick in the air. She shuddered, and the force of his savage look trapped all protest in her throat.

“To you I’ll always be riff-raff, something vulgar and crude. Well, welcome to my world, Miss O’Connor. And, please, let me show you how we do it on the ‘streets.’ Because if I’m going to take a beating, you can bet your bottom dollar on two things for sure. One—I’m going to get my money’s worth.” A dangerous smile surfaced as his gaze focused on her lips. “And two …” His mouth hovered just above hers while his voice trailed to a whisper. “I’m gonna make you real nervous in the process.”

In a catch of her breath, he took her mouth by force, his late-day beard rough against her skin. A faint moan escaped her lips and all resistance fled, burned away by the heat of his touch, leaving her weak and wanting. His mouth roamed at will, no longer gentle as he devoured her, ravenous against the smooth curve of her throat, the soft flesh of her ear. With a guttural groan, he jerked her close with powerful arms, consuming her mouth with a kiss surely driven by the sheer will to ravage.

And then in a frantic beat of her heart, he shoved her away. She gasped, numb as she thudded against the wall. His chest was heaving and his eyes were hard, focused on her with cool disregard. “There. Now that makes two of the sorriest people alive.” He grabbed her purse from the floor and threw it on her desk, then rubbed his mouth with the side of his hand. “Better run home, Katydid. God knows the riff-raff that roam the street this time of night.”

He turned and walked into his office, slamming the door hard.

She stared, her body still quivering from his rage. Closing her eyes, she sagged against the wall, too stunned to move and too shaken to care. She pressed a trembling hand to her mouth, her lips swollen from the taste of him. She was doomed, she realized, and the thought shivered through her like a cold chill. She wanted a man she didn’t really want, and the very notion weakened her at the knees. He had called her one of the sorriest people alive. She grappled for her purse and put a hand to her eyes.

And God help her, she was.

 Scarlett: Rhett, don’t. I shall faint.
Rhett Butler: I want you to faint. This is what you were meant for. None of the fools you’ve ever know have kissed you like this, have they? Your Charles, or your Frank, or your stupid Ashley

I’ve liked Luke McGee since I first met him as the scraggly tag-along of John Brady – when he was called Cluny. Gee whiz, Julie, he’s grown into a hunk of man, hasn’t he? 😉 And JUST what sassy Katie needs too. Sigh.

 Anyone else hear a sizzling sound somewhere in the direction of the computer? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m in need of a tall glass of ice water and maybe a cloth to wipe the drool from my keyboard. Woohoo. Thank. You. Julie.

 Kissing Quote of the Day:

 “There’s this place in me where your fingerprints still rest, your kisses still linger, and your whispers softly echo. It’s the place where a part of you will forever be a part of me.” – Gretchen Kemp

 Inspirational Kissing Quote:

I want to leave you with one my favorite ‘love’ passages from the Bible, one to meditate on over Valentine’s Day weekend. What is true love? What can two people, united by heart and spirit celebrate this weekend?

 Romans 8:38-39 says it all – Real love. Undeniable love. Unstoppable love. A hero, a bridegroom, a lover and friend who sweeps away all doubt with his all-consuming, neverchanging, forever kind of love.

“Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

   They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
   We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”