I read a lot of books throughout the year and this year is no exception. With that being said there are all sorts of heroes that come across my kindle and my lap (print books). This year one hero simply stood out among all those I read and that was Mike Marsden from this book. So I HAD to post an excerpt of him. I hope you love him as much as I do.
“What are you drinking?”
He cocked an eyebrow. Strong with a hint of sweetness, just like her, though he opted not to point that out. Instead he gestured to Joe to refill Cara’s and give him his usual. “So what’s got you needing a strong drink?”
Cara pivoted in her chair until their knees touched. “What is this?” She pointed back and forth between them.
“What are you talking about?”
“Me. You. Real conversation. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” She settled her blue eyes on him as she turned the tables.
He’d prodded her much the same way when he’d shown up at her house to visit his brother, so maybe he deserved it, Mike thought. He hadn’t exactly been a decent guy since his return.
“Since we have to work closely together now it makes sense, doesn’t it?” He didn’t want to give away too much of what he was feeling. Hell, he couldn’t define it for himself let alone verbalize his emotions.
She narrowed her gaze, studying him. “I suppose.”
“Here you go. A Manhattan for you.” Joe placed a new cocktail glass in front of Cara. “And a whiskey neat for the chief,” he said with a grin.
“Thanks,” Mike said.
“How’s Annie doing?” Cara asked the other man.
The bartender’s eyes lit up at the mention of his fiancee. “She’s great. We’re great. You got the wedding invitation, right?” he asked.
She smiled brightly. “You bet. I RSVP’d right away.”
Mike merely nodded.
Joe waved in dismissal. “I don’t pay attention to things like that. Who’s coming is Annie’s job. I just want to marry the woman.”
Cara’s pleased laugh expressed how she felt about that sentiment. “Well I’ll be there. I wouldn’t miss it.”
“And not a minute too soon,” Joe said.
A happy couple, Mike thought and took a drink, enjoying the first burn as the liquor slid down his throat.
“I knew you two would be good for each other.” Cara smiled and warmth seeped through Mike’s veins.
He tried to tell himself it was the alcohol hitting his system and not her mega watt grin.
“Is Annie feeling well too?” Cara asked.
“No M.S. episodes for awhile now,” Joe said, then glanced towards the sound of his name. “Gotta go. I’m being summoned at the other end of the bar.”
“Put it all on my tab,” Mike called out to the bartender before he made his escape.
“That’s not necessary,” Cara said.
He’d expected her protest. “Maybe not but I’m doing it anyway.”
She shrugged. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Now … what’s wrong?” he asked, bringing the subject back to where they were before Joe had interrupted.
She frowned at him and he discovered or should he say rediscovered her dimples. “I had a rough day.” She took a long sip of her drink. “No, that’s wrong. I have it good. Someone else is going through a bad time.”
The pain in her voice bothered him. “Anyone I know?”
She shook her head. “I volunteer at Havensbridge.”
“The women’s shelter.” At her surprised look, he said, “I know we refer domestic violence victims there.”
“One of the women … she’s so demoralized and I’m afraid she won’t hold out long enough to get help, that she’ll go back to her ex.”
He met her gaze. “You can’t make her choices for her.” Despite knowing better, he placed his hand over hers on the bar.
Cara visibly stiffened but he didn’t remove his hand. “All you can do is give her your advice.”
“Sometimes words aren’t enough. I ought to know.”
It was a small enough town that Mike knew her parents’ didn’t have the best marriage. Her father wasn’t the nicest person around, especially when he’d been drinking. What Mike didn’t know was if Cara had ever been on the receiving end of his abuse. The thought made Mike want to hit something or someone himself.
He wanted to ask if her father had ever hurt her. More, he wanted to protect her from anyone else harming her either. But she didn’t need his help any more than Mike knew what to do with these crazy feelings she inspired.
“Do you want to dance?” he heard himself ask instead. Not bright, Buddy, Mike thought to himself.
She paused a beat before answering. “Why not,” she said at last.
They wound their way through the morass of people and onto the crowded dance floor, the jukebox playing Adele. No sooner had they reached a comfortable spot than a slow, crooning song came on and Mike had to wonder why the universe liked to toy with him this way. Still, he’d asked her to dance, and lord knew he wanted her in his arms, so he held out his hand.
She placed her smaller palm in his.
He thought he’d been prepared for the crackle of electricity but the zing that went through his body was stronger than he’d remembered or anticipated. He pulled her into his embrace, hoping like hell he could control his body’s reaction because in this tight space, with her flush against him, there was no way she wouldn’t notice.
She got to him.
Cara didn’t talk and neither did he. Somehow the ease with which she fit into his arms and the relaxed way they swayed to the music spoke for them.
He ought to feel that uncomfortable itching sensation now, like the one he’d always used to experience when Tiffany tried to make plans in advance, or like the one he got when he approached his parents house and he felt like home and expectations were closing in on him. Yet he experienced none of those things, only the feeling of comfort along with the ever-present arousal she inspired.
Cara sighed, then. A small sound shuddered through her body and as she laid her head against his chest, something he’d been holding tight inside him seemed to ease. Her hair smelled fruity and delicious and déjà vu returned full force.
Last time, she’d been as eager to leave the bar as he. As willing to indulge in hot, needy sex without discussion or questions of what the act might mean. And she’d satisfied the needs not just of his body but of something more. So much so that he hadn’t slept with a woman since. He’d tried not to think about that but now he couldn’t focus on anything else. He had the one woman he wanted in his arms. Again.
He wondered what she’d say to picking up where they’d left off. A no strings affair, one with a definite ending when he left town. But Cara knew that about him already. She’d said as much herself and though her jab about knowing not to expect much from him grated, it was the truth.
The one thing he didn’t question was his sudden turnaround. It was as clear as his need for her, and his admission that for now, no one else would do.
Always feeling like the odd man out in his family, Michael Marsden wanted to make it on his own. So he escaped Serendipity to become an undercover cop in Manhattan, where the Marsden name wasn’t known. But Michael’s independence is compromised when he returns home to replace his sick father as chief of police. Back in the shadow of his family, he’s as lost and restless as ever, until he’s challenged by someone he never anticipated.
Cara Hartley is the Serendipity cop with whom Mike had a one night stand three months earlier. Neither expected anything more but fate has other things in store. When Mike returns as Cara’s boss, the sexual tension between them is impossible to ignore – and the unexpected emotional connection continues to grow. But Cara’s a small town girl while Mike has a wanderer’s blood in his veins.
Together their chemistry explodes but …
Both are convinced a future together is impossible. Until Mike’s real father’s secrets come back to haunt him and he realizes there are some things worth staying and fighting for. Including Cara.