Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Callie's Honor by Kathleen Lawless Excerpt

Callie's Honor by Kathleen Lawless

After the unmourned death of her brutal husband, Callie Lambert looks forward to peaceful years of hard work on her isolated Oregon ranch doing things her way. All too soon a handsome stranger shows up, a man who slowly chips away at her strong fa├žade and turns her dreams of solitude upside down. A drifter with a mission, Rafe Millar seeks only revenge for his brother's murder, and then he will move on. But something about Callie's proud, defiant green eyes makes him care more than he wants to, or should. Despite their wariness, neither can resist reaching out toward the promise of sharing a precious, golden love.


Rafe angled her chair around till they faced each other
and he had one knee on either side of her. "You don't
trust me, Callie. Now just why exactly is that'?"

Callie averted her gaze.

His free hand snaked between them. Thumb and fore- finger pinched her chin, turning her face back around to
his. "I expect an honest answer now."

Eyes steely, chin thrust forward, Callie met his gaze.

Her skin burned every place Rafe held her; "I don't trust
any man."

She expected him to release her like a hot rock.

Instead, he took his time about it. Slowly his fingers
uncurled from around her wrist. Slower yet the fingers
imprisoning her face gentled, till their touch bordered on
a caress. "Why's that?"

Feeling her hands tremble slightly, she reknotted them
in her lap, away from his gaze. "Never met a man yet who
gave me any reason to trust him. Including my pa and my
older brother."

"I see." Rafe sat back in his chair and crossed his arms
over his chest. "In that case, apology accepted." He
extended his right hand toward her, leaving Callie little
choice but to slide her hand inside his. She was conscious
of the warmth of his skin, the callused, leathery feel of his
palm and fingertips. The sensations chased clear up her
arm in the most unsettling of ways.

He didn't let her go right away. Instead, he raised her
hand to his lips and pressed a kiss on the spot where he'd
removed the sliver. Then he did something that caught
Callie totally off guard. He guided her wounded thumb
slowly to outline the contour of his lips, bottom and top.

Callie felt as if melted wax spilled through her limbs in
a heated rush. His lips were indescribably soft, contrasted

with the bristles of his mustache. Opening his lips he pulled

her thumb just inside the hot moist cavity of his mouth and

gave a slow gentle suck that she felt clear down to her toes.

Then, ever so slowly, he returned her hand to its mate in her lap.

"I see you had a bath."

Callie bit back a self-conscious smile. "You too."
"I like your hair that way."

Callie felt her blush deepen. She didn't want him to
think she'd taken special pains solely for his benefit. "If
you want, I could give you a shave before you go."

Rafe fingered the dark growth stubbIing his jaw. "I'm
getting kind of used to it. You don't like it?"

Callie tried for a careless shrug. "It doesn't matter to
me one way or the other."

His eyes held undisguised laughter as they met hers,
silently challenging her words. Callie's gaze slid from his,
lighting with sudden fascination on the pie safe.

"You smell real good."

Her blush intensified. The cabin felt stifling. She
jumped to her feet and fumbled in her skirt pocket. "Since
you're leaving early, I wanted to pay you." She placed a
handful of coins on the table before him. "Is that a fair
amount for your labors?"

Rafe nodded, but didn't take the money, which lay
between them, winking in the candlelight. Callie all but
held her breath as he lazily made his way to his feet. Once
again she was aware of the way he dwarfed the small
cabin. Not just his physical size and strength, but some-
thing harder to define. Something linked to the air of
power and control he managed to exude. He was a man in
charge of every situation. Capable of meeting and mastering

whatever life flung at him.

It was that same sense of control that Callie felt keenly
lacking in her life. Something she needed to reclaim for
herself, especially with Rafe Millar catching her off guard
ever since he'd shown up at her doorstep.

Even now, days later, her scalp tingled at the memory

of him braiding her hair. Her limbs went weak when she
recalled the way he'd stripped off her stockings and bandaged

her sprained ankle. In a few short days he'd made a
tremendous impact on her life. Come tomorrow she'd be
glad to see the back of him. More than glad.

As if reading her mind he took a step toward her.

Followed by a second. Callie's heart rate increased as they
stood chest to chest, belly to belly, with scarcely an inch
between them.

"Since you don't trust me, anyway," Rafe said, his
breath touching her forehead like steam rising from hot
water. "I guess it won't make much difference if I kiss

"Don't." The word barely escaped from the tightened
muscles of her throat.

With one finger beneath her chin he tilted her face up
toward his. "Any woman smells this good, she needs kissing
if only as a thank you from the lucky man close
enough to notice. "

Callie trembled clear down inside her boots as he lowered
his head to hers.

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