MYSTERY ANGEL ROMANCE SERIES by PETIE McCARTY
Official Genre: Contemporary Paranormal Romance
NO GOING BACK (Book 1)
The trees loomed ahead, and Kellen raced toward the water. The smell of the river rose up to greet her, and she slowed to maneuver down a low spot in the riverbank. Grinning like a child on Christmas, she untied her sneakers and stepped into the frigid water with a gasp.
Squatting just above the water’s surface, she reached up under the overhanging bank and felt around. Something skittered across her fingers. She tracked the vibration until she could snatch the small critter from its hiding spot. Pulling her hand from the water, she proudly held up a medium–sized crawfish, his pincers stabbing wildly in the air and his abdominal swimmerets pedaling madly as though he still raced upstream.
The soft nicker of a horse sounded behind her. With a yelp, she whipped around and dropped the tiny invertebrate in the process. Luke Kenyon leaned over the neck of the magnificent black stallion and watched her. Same sexy cowboy attire as the day before — dark flannel shirt, worn jeans, though no Stetson today to hide his handsome features or his expression.
“You scared me,” she wheezed.
“Sorry,” he said, though he didn’t look it. “You’ve done that before.”
The slow smile curved across his cheeks, and his eyes darkened. Kellen felt the slow flush start at her chest where her heart pounded out a rhythm, and she prayed her neck and cheeks wouldn’t turn pink.
She wiped her hands on her shorts and winced. “A few, when I was younger.”
“Where?” He shifted a bit in the saddle, and the black horse side-stepped.
Her turn to smile. “Where was I younger, or where did I catch crawfish?”
He stared for a moment, and his eyes narrowed. A long moment passed, and he suddenly laughed out loud. Dismounting, he stepped to the edge of the bank and extended a hand to help her out of the water.
“I don’t bite. I’m harmless.” His voice rumbled low, and a shiver vibrated her spine.
I doubt that.
She watched him, but didn’t move. He looked and acted like a man used to getting his own way.
“The name’s Kenyon, Luke Kenyon.” He kept his hand outstretched, waiting for her to make the next move.
He was only being polite, after all. She grabbed hold of his hand, and he pulled her up the bank as though she had the weight of a feather. He kept pulling until she was close enough to feel his body heat. His dark eyes locked on hers, and she couldn’t turn away.
Oh good Lord, was he still holding her hand?
She should pull her hand back — she really should — but she liked the warmth and security of his firm grip, the connection. No words were spoken yet the silence felt comfortable.
Step back now. He isn’t going to move.
But she didn’t, couldn’t. She just mutely stared up into his warm, chocolate-dark eyes. And darn it, her finger tips tingled when her mind imagined the texture of his shirt were she to reach out and touch him, his chest , his arm, somewhere to complete that electric connection.
“We didn’t get introduced yesterday,” he said, his deep voice sounding huskier now.
Another shiver vibrated the base of her spine. The edge of his sensual mouth twitched just enough that the tiny hint of a smile set her heart galloping so hard she felt the pulses beat against her throat and prayed he couldn’t tell.
She pulled in a deep — and hopefully unnoticeable — breath. “I’m Kellen Brand.”
He moved now. His jaw dropped, and he nodded toward her farm. “Of those Brands?”
“Well, I’ll be.”
Unsure what he meant by that, she waited.
“Have you come back here to live?”
Instinct said not to share her plans with a complete stranger, no matter how handsome. “Why?”
His slow smile made her heart flutter. “I never thought I’d find someone so beautiful living here in Riverside.”
She wished desperately for a snappy comeback, but her lips wouldn’t move. His smile kept her mesmerized.
“So? Are you staying or just visiting?”
She willed her lungs to take in a silent and hopefully unnoticeable breath. “Just visiting.”
“Sorry to hear that.” His smile faded slightly, which delighted her. He paused a moment. “Why the visit then?”
“You sure ask a lot of questions.” She leaned down to brush off her knees and to sneak a deep breath or two without him seeing. She was embarrassed this stranger so easily made her heart race — the heart she had kept under lock and key until she found someone good enough, strong enough, and smart enough. Certainly not some cowboy from West Virginia.
“I’m a curious kind of guy.”
She glanced up. He winked. Her heart raced off again.
She needed to escape before he noticed the effect he had on her. Head down, she collected her sneakers and marched past the stallion, forcing Kenyon to ease the animal back a few steps. She kept walking past the tree line and felt the horse moving behind her. At the edge of the field, she stopped and whipped around. The stallion jerked his head up at the sudden movement, and Kenyon worked to steady him.
“Are you following me?”
“Yup.” His eyes twinkled.
He’s mimicking me. Her hands went to her hips, and his eyebrows rose high. Unable to keep a straight face, she broke into laughter, and he joined right along.
“You didn’t think I was just going to let the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in Riverside just walk away, did you?” His eyes darkened to almost black. His deep voice tantalized.
How had he gotten so close? She could reach out and touch him. Her fingertips tingled again at the possibility. She’d better watch her step.
She tilted her head. “What is it you want to know?”
“Why you’re here, and why you’re not staying.”
“This is my mother’s farm. She died a short time ago.”
The smile vanished. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay. Mom never sold the old homestead though I’m not sure why. But I’m here to get it ready to sell.”
“Not to the developer!”
Taken aback, she stiffened. “Yes, how did you know?”
“Because he needs my land, too — my grandfather’s ranch.” Kenyon’s expression turned dark and formidable. “You don’t have enough property for the resort he has planned.”
“I-I had no idea,” she fibbed nervously. “My mother’s attorney just said there was a buyer who would be in touch once I got here.”
“That resort won’t be any good for Riverside.” He remounted and sat back in his saddle, stiff and condescending.
“How can you say that? It will bring jobs here, and from the look of this town, Riverside could use a few jobs.”
His frown didn’t flinch. “It will also bring the hangers on you usually find at resorts. People who won’t care about the area or the environment.”
The stallion tried to lean down to eat, but Kenyon yanked the reins taut. “Riverside will be overrun with tourists, and the people around here won’t be able to cope with that much of the outside world. Folks don’t lock their doors in this town. That resort would change everything. You’re not selling.”
“You heard me. I said you can’t sell. At least not to the developer.”
“Listen here, Mr. Kenyon.”
“It’s Luke,” he growled.
“Listen here, Mr. Kenyon,” she snapped. “You don’t tell me what to do. I decide about my mother’s property. No one else. I decide.”
He pulled the stallion up hard, and the animal’s front hoofs lifted off the ground. “We’ll just see about that,” he said and took off across the field.
“Why you arrogant jerk,” Kellen snarled and stomped her foot. Her heel came down hard on a stubble of wiregrass, and she winced in pain, instantly mad as a hornet. “You just watch me sell this place!” she hollered after him and limped back to the house.
ANGEL TO THE RESCUE (Book 2)
Rachel slid into the Publix parking lot on her way home from work. She’d picked the store close to her office rather than the one near the cottage, anxious to get the chore over with as soon as possible. She pulled out her list and collected the items on it in regimented fashion, aisle by aisle, doubling back only twice.
She checked her voicemails while waiting patiently in the long line at the checkout counter. Breathing a sigh of relief when the bag boy put the last sack in her cart, she wheeled toward the exit and froze.
Jake stood right next to the exit, plastic bag in hand and staring at her with nary a smile.
There were dark circles beneath his eyes. Hadn’t he been sleeping? His hair looked tousled like he’d just run his fingers through it, and his clothes had a five-o’clock-mussed look to them.
He looked spectacular to Rachel.
His eyebrows rose. He was waiting for her.
She pushed her cart slowly forward, taking deep breaths to steady her heart rate.
“Since this isn’t our Publix, I’m assuming you stopped on your way home from work,” he said when she reached his side.
Our Publix? Had he even realized he’d said that?
“You’re right,” she replied. “So why are you here?”
“My apartment’s just around the corner.”
That simple statement shouldn’t hurt — she knew he had an apartment around here — but it did. She nodded.
“I’ll help you out.” He gently nudged her hands off the cart handle and took over, setting his own bag on top of her stack.
Rachel paced alongside the grocery cart as they moved through the electronic door and was suddenly thankful for her parking spot at the end of the far row. She would have a few extra moments to be with him. How pitiful was that? She eased a step closer, anxious to inhale his unique scent of soap, aftershave, and pure Jake.
He glanced over and caught her staring. She felt her cheeks flush and hoped he didn’t notice.
“Jake, look out!” She grabbed the cart to stop it just short of a car backing out.
He smiled his sexy crooked Jake-smile. “Guess I should keep my eyes on the road.”
Her heart ka-thumped inside her chest. “At least till we get to the car.”
Had she just flirted with him? Had it been that easy to get past the trauma for a few brief minutes?
Sooner than she would have liked, he pulled the grocery cart up at her Honda and helped stow her bags in the trunk, leaving his in the cart.
“Thanks for helping me,” Rachel said.
“I’m glad you decided to stop at this Publix tonight.”
“Yeah, I’m glad I got to see you.” Jake brushed a knuckle gently across her cheek leaving a streak of tingly nerve endings in its wake.
“But I thought you wanted… I mean, I haven’t heard from you in…” She cleared her throat. “…a long time. I thought you might’ve… “
Why couldn’t she manage to finish a sentence tonight? Bad enough she felt pathetic, now she sounded pathetic.
“You thought I might’ve what?”
She swallowed hard. “Might’ve found someone else by now.”
He stared intently for a long moment. “After all we meant to each other, you thought I’d go right out and grab a new girlfriend, just like that?” His mouth hardened to a thin line.
She hadn’t meant to rile him. The last thing she wanted to do was fight with him. Without thinking, she reached up and brushed two fingers gently across his lips, wanting that sensuous mouth to smile at her again.
She startled him, and he jerked at her touch. She whisked her fingers away. “Sorry, I didn’t want you to be mad.”
His gaze trapped hers, his pupils expanding until little of the brilliant green remained. “There’s no new girlfriend, Rachel,” he said gruffly.
He slowly shook his head, his now-dark eyes tracking hers. He seemed closer than he’d been a minute earlier.
She exhaled hard. “Not yet anyway.”
Why had she said that?
“No, not yet,” he said flatly.
“I’m glad,” she said quickly.
He was definitely closer now. If she eased forward just a few inches, she could press her lips to his, feel that certain sizzle that always flared when they touched. But Jake had walked out on her. His move — though she ached with the want to hold him, if only for a second.
“Yes. Very glad. I don’t want you to find someone else–“
His lips brushed hers into silence, sweeping gently across as though seeking permission, the touch just light enough to make her lean in for more. He didn’t miss the movement and kissed her again, his lips settling against hers and nibbling at her lower lip.
The sensuous teasing had her knees growing weak, and she grabbed the placket of his dress shirt to steady herself.
He didn’t miss that movement either, and he put his palms to her cheeks to deepen the kiss.
Rachel felt dizzy and twisted her knuckles into his shirt to keep him close. She didn’t care if they were kissing in front of God and everybody. If Jake wanted to throw her down here in the middle of the Publix parking lot, she was ready. She could always shop at Winn-Dixie.
Suddenly, he pulled back. She tugged on his shirt, but she couldn’t budge him. He was breathing hard. Heck, she was panting.
There was heat in his eyes and something else. Something dark. “You don’t want me,” he said hoarsely, “and you don’t want anyone else to have me. Is that it?” He peeled her fingers free of his shirt. “Well, you can’t have it both ways, Rachel.”
But he was already gone, striding across the rows of cars, the cart and his bag forgotten.
“No, I choose you,” she whispered.
She watched him climb into his BMW several rows away and pull out of the parking lot. His small sack of groceries lay forgotten in her cart. She lifted the bag out and peeked inside.
Razors and coffee. No condoms.
She let out the breath she’d been holding. Jake had said there was no new girlfriend, but she’d’ve been devastated if he’d been prepared.
He had to care. You couldn’t kiss like that and not care. He hadn’t asked about the mortgage papers either. She certainly wasn’t going to bring them up. Once she signed them, a period would be placed on their relationship. Maybe Jake realized that, too.
And now she had groceries to take to him. She just had to decide what she would tell him when she delivered them.
Petie earned a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Central Florida, which was no help at all when she decided to write romance novels as a second career. Her particular background did afford her the luxury of many unique assignments during her career as an aquatic biologist, including aquatic plant surveys in Florida lakes and streams by airboat. Many of those off-the-wall assignments provided background for her stories.
Petie spent most of her career working as a biologist at the Walt Disney World Resort, “The Most Magical Place on Earth.” What could be more magical than driving by Cinderella’s Castle on your way to work every day? Living in the heart of the theme park entertainment industry constantly tweaked her imagination and made her want to write. She had the fun of working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night. She eventually said good-bye to her wonderful “day” job to write her stories full-time.
These days, Petie shares her home on the beautiful Cumberland Plateau with her horticulturist husband, a spoiled-rotten English springer spaniel addicted to green olives stuffed with pimento, and a talkative Nanday conure named Sassy who makes a cameo appearance in Angel to the Rescue. She loves golf, running, and reads voraciously. That’s Petie, not the conure.