Copyright© 2006 Diane Craver
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
She smelled oil.
She opened her eyes for a second, trying to remember what woke her. It was such a nice dream. She wanted to dream again about her handsome husband and adorable baby. She drifted back to sleep.
Jennifer looked down to see why Christopher had stopped nursing. “Look at this baby smiling.”
“Hey, he’s a smart boy and knows he’d better grin at the lady who has the two delicious jugs of milk.” Brad laughed as he looked at his son. “I need to see my mother before she flies home. I thought I’d go see her and my great-aunt tonight.”
“Tell your mom I hope her cold’s better.”
“I might be a little late. I’ll take the cycle in case you need the car.” He bent down and kissed Christopher and Jennifer. His eyes filled with deep tenderness, and he said, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Jennifer and Brad kissed passionately.
She squirmed under the covers, shifting to her side, and threw her arm on top of the bedspread.
Brad roared off into the rainy night on his motorcycle with his hair blowing in the wind.
“Jennifer,” he screamed when he crossed the center line and hit the oncoming car.
“Jennifer, wake up.” Luke shook her, trying to get her to respond.
She opened her eyes, surprised to see him. “What’s wrong?”
“You overslept for one thing, but I smell oil. I’m going to go outside and check the oil line.”
She sat up. “I guess I forgot to set my alarm last night. I thought in my dream I smelled smoke. I remember vaguely that I woke up, but I must have gone back to sleep.”
“Must have been some dream.”
“Anytime, ma’am. Brunsman Construction gives twenty-four hour service.” He headed for the door, but turned to look at her again. “I did knock, but when you didn’t answer, I used the key you gave me.”
“That’s good.” She’d given him a key last night since he wanted to get started on her house as soon as possible.
While he checked the outdoor oil tank and line, she took a quick shower. As she stepped out of the stall, she grabbed a towel. Why had she forgotten to check her clock last night? Waking up to Luke in her bedroom had been a shock. Dressing in a pair of black pants, red pullover top and black jacket, she decided breakfast would have to wait. She couldn’t believe she’d forgotten to set her alarm.
Downstairs in the bathroom, she was putting the finishing touches on her hair when she heard Luke say, “The oil line froze. I guess from the freezing rain and cold temperatures. There’s special antifreeze you can add to the oil in cold weather.”
She walked into the living room carrying her briefcase. “I wish there was enough space to install the tank in the cellar.”
“The tank could be buried underground.” He smiled and winked. “Ready, Sleeping Beauty?”
Jennifer nodded, noticing that he seemed very pleased with himself…like he knew something she didn’t. She wondered if he’d woken her with a kiss. Surely she would realize it if he had. She remembered kissing Brad in her dream, but when she opened her eyes, Luke’s face was close to hers. If he had kissed her, she knew one thing for sure—it was a lover’s kiss. No doubt about the type. Her anxiety level rose. They were just friends, not lovers. Then why did she remember enjoying the kiss?
Once in the car and driving on State Route 50, she asked Luke to stop at Harry’s Market. On Mondays, Harry’s wife, Donna, baked blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls.
When they opened the store door, the aroma of freshly baked goods and coffee was in the air. Luke went instantly to the coffeepot.
“Good morning, Harry. It smells wonderful in here,” Jennifer said.
“Where have you been all weekend?” Harry demanded.
“Did you miss me?”
“Yeah, I saved a DVD for you that I knew you wanted to see. You usually stop in on Saturday night.”
She held up her bandaged hand. “I cut my hand when I tried to open the fireplace. Luke came to my rescue and took me to the hospital. I had to get stitches.”
Harry glanced at Luke carrying two cups of coffee and said, “I guess I gave you good directions to Jennifer’s house.”
Luke set the coffee on the counter. “It only takes me six minutes to drive to her house.” With a bright smile, he said, “Jennifer even let me cook her dinner at my place Saturday night, and yesterday she rooted for the Wolfhounds with some powerful whistling.”
Harry crossed his arms. “Glad you weren’t living like an old lady for once.”
She put her hand on her hip. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Holed up in that old house every weekend all by yourself just isn’t healthy. Shoot, senior citizens have more fun than you.”
“Harry, you’re one to talk. You practically live in this store. You never get out.”
“That’s different.” He took a deep breath and clasped her hand. “Doc, you’re a great psychologist but you need to have your own personal life, too. I think you live too much by your head and not your heart. I’m just telling you because I love you like a daughter.”
“You’re an interfering man, Harry Jones, but you have the biggest heart in the world and I know what you’re saying. Sometimes you do what you need to do to survive in life. And giving totally to my patients is what I have to do.” She leaned over the counter and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “And I love you, too.”
Luke and Jennifer munched on muffins as they drove through the small town of Newtown on the way to Cincinnati. He glanced at Jennifer for a second. “It’s great having company while I drive to work.”
She chewed on her lip. Was it a good time to mention his kiss? Or should she ignore what had happened in her bedroom.
After a few minutes of silence, Luke glanced at Jennifer. “What’s wrong?”
She didn’t answer. Should she ask him?
“Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind about me doing the remodeling.”
“Of course not. You’re the man I want for the job.” She folded her muffin wrapper and pressed it with her fingers before throwing it in a bag. “Before you woke me this morning, did you kiss me? And I don’t mean a little peck on the cheek type of kiss.”
Luke ignored the question.
Keeping her eyes on him, she asked again, “Did you kiss me this morning?”
He turned into the parking lot behind her office building and gave her a direct look. “Guilty on both counts.”
“I kissed you and it was definitely not a brotherly kiss.” He grinned. “Enjoyable is how I’d describe it.”
Jennifer clenched her fists in her lap. “Luke, I need to keep our relationship strictly on a friendly business basis.”
“If I kiss you, I cross the line of a business working relationship.” He gently held her hand. “If I hold your hand, do I also cross the line?”
“I just know kissing makes me uncomfortable.”
“Are hugs acceptable?”
“Kissing, touching, and et cetera leads to deeper feelings…more intimacy.” The warmth of his hand soaked into her skin, but she didn’t want to pull away.
“You kissed me back.”
“I thought I was kissing Brad. In my dream we kissed, he left on his cycle, and he called my name before he crashed. I think he actually did call my name before he died. I woke close to two a.m. and heard him calling me.” She closed her eyes for a second, remembering. “I learned later that was around the time the car hit him.”
“I’m sorry.” Luke squeezed her hand. “At least you know his last thought was of you.”
She was quiet. She’d always wondered if, in his final moments, Brad might have been depressed about all the surgeries Christopher would require. Brad hadn’t liked to be around ill people, and he’d been worried about Christopher suffering. Her head felt heavy so she rubbed her forehead. After several seconds, she glanced at Luke and unfastened her seat belt. “I better go.”
“I’d like to see your office.”
“Sure.” She grabbed her briefcase, wanting to ask him something but afraid to.
He ran his fingers through his hair. “Okay, Doc. I can tell by your face, you want to say something else.”
“Why did you kiss me?”
“It’s the appropriate way to wake up a Sleeping Beauty.”
His answer didn’t relieve her anxiety. “I know you’re grieving, and I thought maybe you were remembering Cassie.”
He brushed his index finger across her bottom lip. “I wasn’t thinking of Cassie when I kissed you.”
She exhaled a deep breath and decided to get off the kissing topic. “Come on. I’ll show you my office.”
No Greater Loss
- Romance, Contemporary
Can a new love heal a wounded heart?
Dr. Jennifer Hunter is so stunned by her past that she’s unable to move on with her life. After losing her young husband and baby son fifteen years ago she’s determined never to marry again. Losing loved ones is just too painful.
A friend introduces Jennifer to Luke Brunsman and suggests she hire him to renovate her antique farmhouse. Instantly attracted to Luke, she refuses the widowed contractor’s help. But after she gets injured working on a fireplace, she gives in.
Luke clearly wants more than a business relationship, and Jennifer guards her heart. His kisses make her yearn for a future once denied her. Luke falls in love with her but finds tearing down the walls in Jennifer’s house is easier than breaking through her protective shell.
When Dr. Hunter’s radio talk show catches the attention of a vengeful arsonist, Luke and Jennifer must overcome the shadows of the past and find the courage to love again.