Lone Wolfe – Excerpt

They opened the door of the café and stepped outside with Maggie squinting into the rain She walked next to Koda, comforted by his presence. Then, surprising herself, and probably surprising him too, she slipped her arm in his. He looked down, but she stared straight ahead, not trusting herself to meet his gaze. Instead she moved close, letting his body heat jump the boundaries of her winter clothing.

And then, after a few steps, he covered her chilly hand with his. It was such an uncomplicated gesture, made with no pretense whatsoever, but one that seemed to express everything left unspoken between them. She was safe while she was with him.

When they got back to the inn, they were greeted by a roaring fire and the scent of bacon coming from the kitchen. Ara served breakfast to her guests on the weekends, and despite Maggie's gloom, her stomach rumbled.

"Warm up before you go to your room?" Koda said gently. "It might do you some good."

She followed him into the parlor, their footsteps creaking on the old, wood floor. Maggie held her hands in front of the fire, and Koda leaned against the mantel, his short hair dripping onto his jacket, and watched her.

"Aimee was so fun," she finally said, staring into the licking, popping flames. "You would have liked her."

"I'm sure I would have."

The heat warmed Maggie's face, warmed her chest through the unzipped jacket. Memories, one after another, came rushing back. Riding bikes with Aimee to school, Aimee declaring every Sunday pajama day. Aimee's voice over the phone, Aimee's smile, Aimee's laughter. They were all so vivid, so real, that Maggie had to blink them away.

"It's the not knowing. If she suffered, or if she could still be alive somewhere." She turned and looked up at Koda with months of unshed tears finally beginning to spill down her cheeks. "Some days I don't think I can stand it, I miss her so much."

"I know," he said, stepping close. "I know you do."

Before she realized what was happening, he'd pulled her against his chest. She closed her eyes and breathed him in, feeling his heart thud against her cheek.

She wrapped her arms around his waist. He was warm and solid, not an ounce of fat on his lean frame. He touched her hair, ran his hand down her back, and she shivered in response.

And then he was pulling away, his hands on her shoulders, his breath tickling her face. She looked up. He was beautiful, dark, mysterious. He could have been one of the men in the hotel photographs from long ago. With a faint jolt of surprise she realized that she trusted him more at that moment than anyone else.

And just when had that happened? Overnight maybe? Under the spell of Wolfe Creek's ardent moon? It had certainly been capable of stranger things. At some point Koda Wolfe had stopped being just an acquaintance and had begun to be something else altogether.

He bent slightly, his black eyes fixed on hers. She didn't want to think, didn't want to feel. She just wanted to fall into this moment and let it carry her away like the rush of a swollen river.

When his lips touched hers, they were warm and wet. Salty. She could feel an urgency there, yet he moved deliberately slow, as if not wanting to scare her. She responded by opening her mouth and touching her tongue to his. Everything inside her coiled. She was no longer full of pain, but of a longing so powerful that it threatened to turn her inside out. And she welcomed it.

His strong hands pressed into her back, bringing her even closer. Her breasts rubbed against his chest, her nipples hard and sensitive through her thin, cotton bra. A wild pulse beat at the hollow of her throat, making her lightheaded.

And then a sound. A footstep behind them that coaxed a moan from the old hardwood floor. Maggie sucked in a breath, and Koda broke the kiss.