Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Publication Date: June 1, 2017
“People are starting to stare,” his aunt said. “Dance, you two, dance!”
Ian led Maleah to the center of the floor. “Don’t know what gets into her sometimes. Sorry.”
“No apology required. I’d have ended up on all fours if you hadn’t caught me.”
He’d forgotten how good, how right she felt in his arms. If she kept looking up at him that way…
“You look pretty good in an evening gown.”
“And you look good in a tux.”
“Good thing it didn’t snow, like Marty Bass said it would.”
“In his defense, he said might.”
“So he did…”
“But you’re right. If it had snowed, I’d break my neck in these shoes.”
Smalltalk. Ian disliked it almost as much as pretending the inches separating them was okay, when what he really wanted was to draw her so close he could feel her heartbeat, drumming against his chest.
An elderly couple plowed into his back, driving his bearded chin into her forehead.
“Sorry,” he said repeated, then inspected her face. “That’s a relief. No whisker scratches.”
“Any plans to shave it someday? Not that you don’t look handsome, just as you are.”
“It serves a purpose,” he said cautiously.
If hearing why he’d grown it didn’t turn her against him, once and for all, nothing would.
“There was this new guy at Lincoln,” he began. “Skinny li’l fella with thick glasses and buck teeth.”
“What was he in for?”
“Caught his girlfriend in bed with his cousin.”
Maleah gasped. “He killed his cousin?”
“And the girlfriend. Those skinny guys can fool ya. But I digress. He looked crossways at a couple of the tough guys one day, and they started in on him. Three against one wouldn’t have been fair, even if he’d been the size of a linebacker.”
“So you stepped in…”
“Yeah, and one of the guys whipped out a shiv.” Ian took her hand in his, guided her finger along the ropelike scar. Maleah snapped her hand back so fast, he wondered how she kept from punching herself in the jaw.
“Sorry you asked?”
She looked into his eyes. Deep into his eyes.
“I’m sorry that happened to you.”
He waved her sympathy away. “Good crowd tonight,” Ian said, surveying the room. “How much do you think the institute raked in?”
“Why? Are you going to round up your buddies and rob the ticket counter?”
The crack cut to the bone, surprising Ian so badly that he nearly trod on her toes.
“Now I’m the one who’s sorry,” she said, pressing her forehead into his chest. “That was completely uncalled for, and didn’t come out at all like I intended it.”
He couldn’t imagine how she’d intended it, because the only thing Ian could think of was an article he’d read in the Sunday Sun about how that the brutal truth was often hidden behind sarcastic humor. If that’s how she really felt…
If, biggest li’l word in the English language.
If he had a lick of sense, he’d walk away, this time for good. But like it or not, he loved her more now than he had all those years ago.
He’d done his time, paid the price for his crime, and it hurt like crazy hearing her admit, straight out, that she still saw him as capable of armed robbery. He’d never been much good at hiding his feelings. In the off-chance she’d look into his eyes again and see that she had the power to inflict pain, Ian pulled her close, so close she couldn’t see his face at all. With any luck, the song would end soon and he could leave her alone on the dance floor without looking like an inconsiderate jerk.
Eliot hadn’t said it in so many words, but the guy believed that misery was only thing Ian could give Maleah; he probably hadn’t given a thought to the fact that his sweet, innocent sister could mete out her own brand of misery!
She had a good life, a great job, a loving family. The Washburne big shots didn’t mind having Ian around to do the heavy lifting and grunt work, and didn’t complain when his PR contacts brought much-needed attention to the institute’s fundraisers. But their fair-haired girl Maleah, associating with a known felon? That wouldn’t do! The last thing Ian wanted was to jeopardize her credibility with those same big wigs, or cause strain in her family ties.
The song ended, finally. It wasn’t easy letting her go, literally or figuratively. It wouldn’t be easy staying away from her now that he’d admitted he loved her more today than he had all those years ago. He’d just have to learn to take comfort in the fact that it was best for her.
Maybe someday, if he kept living an upright life, it’d be best for him, too.
Following his release from Lincolnwood, Ian—feeling lost and alone—spent hours rebuilding his Harley, piece by piece.
When an Autistic boy goes missing during a camping trip in the Allegheny Mountains, chaperone Maleah joins the search…with Ian and his SAR dog, Cash.
Ian Sylvestry loves his SAR work almost as much as he loves Cash, his trusted SAR dog…and Maleah, the love of his life.
– Terri, Goodreads Reviewer
– Claudia Mossman
2 x $10 Amazon Gift Card
2 x The Man She Knew Paperback Copy (US Winners)
2 x The Man She Knew eBook Copy (International Winners)