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Excerpts

HEART OF THE WILD BEAST

David looked deeply into Andie’s eyes. “I love you. I have loved you through all time and will love you until time ends. I will protect you with my life. If it were up to me, we would be as one, forever, eternally.”

He paused and sighed, as if barely able to continue. “My heart, mind, and soul are open to you at this moment. Reach into me with your soul and understand at your instinctive level all I feel for you, and all you are to me. Do it now, because I can’t maintain it for long.”

“What should I do?”

“Just close your eyes and let me lead you.”

David felt something tugging at her, carrying her away from her body and into his. At the same time, he was merging with her. “Do you feel it, Andie?” Neither body stirred. Only their essences moved, flowing into each other effortlessly. It was as though they were no longer two people, but had become one, fusing at the molecular level and beyond. There was a split second of impossibly dazzling light before David led her back beside the campfire.

“Remember what occurred here and never doubt it will always be the same between us, no matter what happens.”

“That sounds like a warning.”

“Perhaps it is. What we have is powerful, but there are other forces at work that may be even more powerful.”

RED, WHITE, AND YOU

“Jan, it isn’t straight. You have to raise it more on the left side,” Cherry Franklin called. She put up her left arm to demonstrate as she backed up to get a better view of the bunting her colleague was attempting to drape from the eaves of the snack bar.

“Is this better? I’m too close to tell,” Jan said.

Cherry nodded. “It looks about right. Let me get it in the viewfinder.” She lifted her digital camera.

“If it’s still off, just tilt the darned camera. At least it will straighten out the picture for the newspaper.”

“Hold on,” Cherry said. She looked at the picture and backed up some more. “I’ve got it!” She pushed a button and snapped the photo. At the same time, her back hit something big and solid.

She whirled around and gasped at the tall man staring at her. Her startled gaze went to his tricorn hat, then to his royal blue coat with its gold lapels and cuffs. She briefly thought the narrow green ribbon that ran from his left shoulder, across his midriff to his right hip, clashed with his coat. She skimmed over his tan breeches and white stockings to his shiny black shoes with large silver buckles. He looked like George Washington or Paul Revere, but must be a lesser character in the pageant, Cherry guessed, since the front of the uniform was dirty.

“You scared me to death. I didn’t know you were there.”

He frowned slightly. “I just arrived.”

She stared at him. “Do I know you?”

He gazed back. “I was about to ask you the same thing.”

His voice was deep and rich, and his eyes were the color of ebony as they met hers.

She watched his gaze travel south, taking in her bright red tank top, her blue-and-white striped shorts, stopping briefly on her long, bare legs, and ending at her white sandals. His eyebrows lifted at the sight of her red, white, and blue toenails. He had a smear of dirt on his forehead and she had a sudden urge to wipe it off for him. She told herself to get a grip.

“Where am I?” he said, as his eyes once again looked into hers.

“You’re on the football field of Benjamin Franklin High School. You must not be from around here.” Yet, he seemed so familiar.

FOR THE LOVE OF LAUREL

“Okay, continuing where we left off, who are the bad guys?”

The expression on his face was meant to convey that he wasn’t going to give her an advantage. He heaved himself off the couch and stood in front of her, trying to be as intimidating as possible. She smirked. She knows exactly what I’m doing.

“I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you,” he said.

She groaned. “How cliché. Okay. How about this. You do martial arts?”

“Several.”

“Tae Kwon Do?”

He nodded.

Her face lit up. “Black belt? I’m a second degree.”

“Sixth degree.”

“I challenge you to a match. If I win, you tell all.”

Dylan raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “Can’t do it.”

“Why not? Scared?”

“Quaking in my boots.”

“I can tell. The real reason, please.”

“You’re only a second degree.”

“So? I have a size advantage. Smaller is faster. You’ll have to do better than that.”

He sighed. “For one, you aren’t dressed for it. Neither am I, come to that. Two, I don’t fight with women. Three, you haven’t told me what I get if I win.”

Now she stood. “One, I can fight in any clothes. Two, that’s a sexist remark, and three, you won’t, but you’re free to think of something.”

He roared with laughter. “There’s just no arguing with you.”

“You’d better believe it. So? What do you say?”

“One, I’ve never seen anyone do Tae Kwon Do in a dress, so it’s an intriguing idea. Two, sorry, it won’t happen again. Three, if I win I will think of something.”

Without warning, she spun around and aimed a kick at his midsection. His hand snaked out and grabbed her ankle. In an instant, she was prone on the plush white carpet and he saw the surprise in her eyes.

For a moment, she couldn’t catch her breath. By the time she did, he had put his hand out to help her up. After a moment of hesitation, she put her hand in his. He pulled and as she stood, before she could get her balance, his arms went around her.

“I thought of something.” He pulled her toward him and captured her lips.