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An Excerpt from McShannon’s Heart

I promised excerpts from Heart a while ago…sorry it’s taken so long. Five or six more chapters and the first draft of the book should be done!

Here’s a tidbit from Chapter Two. Chelle is about to say goodbye to her brother and her home, but first she has to say goodbye to Rory MacAfee. Rory is determined to make sure she doesn’t forget him, if he can’t convince her to stay and marry him. He certainly knows how to go about it.

Chelle turned down her lamp, pulled her quilts close against the chill of the spring night and closed her eyes, hoping sleep would come quickly. Her head buzzed with the stress of the four days since the funeral. Sorting through her mother’s things, receiving goodbye calls from neighbors, packing, seeing the sadness on her father and brother’s faces as they prepared to leave the farm they both loved, had left her exhausted and empty.

Chelle hadn’t heard from Rory since the funeral. She couldn’t deny that his staying away was probably wise. It seemed to her that Mrs. McAfee had been a shade cooler than usual when she and her husband dropped by. Had she heard something?

The silent house seemed to reproach her, as if it knew it was about to be abandoned. Chelle turned on her side and curled up, trying to block out her sadness. She heard small sound, like rain being driven against glass by a strong wind – but it wasn’t raining. Then she heard it again. Holding her quilt around her, she rose to her knees on the bed just as something hit her window.

Gravel. She looked down at the lawn and saw Rory crouching by one of the azaleas, grinning up at her.

The fool. If her father or Trey heard him there would be the devil to pay, but it would be ten times worse if he’d been seen by anyone on the road. Chelle scrambled out of bed, opened the window and beckoned him closer.

“For heaven’s sake, Rory, what are you doing here? Go home before you wake the whole house.”

He showed her another handful of gravel and hissed back, “I’m not leaving till I talk to you.”

She rolled her eyes, but she knew he meant it. “All right, all right, I’m coming out.” Skin tingling with apprehension and another kind of tension she couldn’t name, Chelle drew the curtains and pulled off her nightgown. She grabbed the first dress in her wardrobe and fumbled with the buttons. The stairs creaked under her bare feet, but no one heard her. After a breathless wait at the bottom Chelle let out a sigh of relief, slipped outside and eased the front door shut behind her.

The cool moonlight cast crisp shadows in the empty yard, silent except for the rustling of the ivy over the door. Good, he’d had the sense to hide. Chelle knew she should be ashamed of herself, knew she was flirting with disaster, but something stronger than common sense drove her. This might be the last time she’d see Rory before leaving, and they needed to settle things between them. She wasn’t afraid of him. She knew nothing would happen that she didn’t want to happen. It didn’t occur to her to be afraid of herself. She only wanted to forget her grief for a while.

The ground stinging cold under her bare feet, Chelle started down the lane, looking for Rory in the shadows. When a hand covered her mouth and a strong arm wrapped around her waist, she wrenched herself away.

“Rory, I swear, the next time you scare me like that I’ll kick you as hard as I can.”

He lost his grin, but mischief still lurked in his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m just trying to cheer you up, love.” Rory captured her hand and held it warmly in both of his. “How’s your father today?”

Chelle shook her head. Between nerves and his nearness, it took her a moment to find her voice. “He’s about the same. Rory, have you lost your senses? If Dad or Trey sees us – ”

He released her hand and slipped his arm around her. “They haven’t, and anyway, they wouldn’t kill me. They’d just insist that we get married. Would that be so bad?”

Chelle couldn’t stay as angry as she knew she should be, not with Rory’s arm around her. He felt so solid, so comforting. If only she could stop time, right now, and never have to leave him. “Don’t be too sure of that. They already know you proposed, and they weren’t impressed by your timing. I told them I’d said no for now. It’ll be bad if they see us, but worse if Mrs. Palmer saw you turn in here. You know she stays awake half the night. Your mother would hate me for the rest of her days if she heard about this from that busybody. Where’s your horse? If you put him in the barn, Cloud will raise the roof.”

The devil-may-care gleam came back to Rory’s eyes as he squeezed her. “He’s in behind your chicken house. Cloud won’t catch scent of him from there, and Mrs. Palmer’s lights were out. Stop worrying, Chelle, no one saw me.”

Chelle pulled away from him and glanced down the lane. “Don’t tell me to stop worrying. Come on, we can be seen from the road.”

She took Rory’s hand and led him in behind the house, following a path down to the creek that ran behind the McShannons’ cow pasture. A lopsided moon hung above them, giving the dew on the grass a chilly sparkle and turning the slow-moving creek to shimmering ripples. Near the bank they came to a sorry-looking structure, made of old boards and branches, leaning against a pair of poplars.

“Come in here.”

A wicked grin spread across Rory’s face. “Were you expecting me?”

Chelle dropped his hand. “Idiot, this has been here for years. Trey and I and the Sinclairs used to play down here all the time. I fixed it up a bit one day this winter. I guess I was in a sentimental mood. No one will see us here.”

She ducked under the low roof, with Rory right behind her. A mossy log served as a seat inside. Rory sat and pulled her onto his lap.

“I hope you’re in a sentimental mood tonight.”

Chelle wanted to hold on to her irritation, but it vanished, blown away by Rory’s warmth, his familiar scent, the feel of his arms around her. Chelle answered by reaching for his mouth. It fused to hers, harder and more demanding than ever before. She couldn’t deny him, whatever tomorrow might bring.

As he deepened the kiss, she felt Rory’s fingers working the buttons at the front of her dress. His warm hand slid under the fabric to cup her breast, teasing her hardened nipple. His touch went straight to Chelle’s core, burning the chill out of the night with a fire she’d never felt before. She gasped into Rory’s mouth with the pleasure of it before he shifted to nip at her neck. “God, your skin’s like warm satin…here… and here…”

Bold with desire, Chelle threaded her fingers into his hair and turned his face back to hers for another scorching kiss. Rory shifted her so she was straddling him and buried his mouth in the hollow between her breasts. His hand crept under her skirt, moving along her leg, leaving a hot trail on her skin. His breath caught when he reached the juncture of her thighs and found her bare.

Chelle nearly jumped out of her skin at the need he awakened in her. This was what they’d been edging towards for months now. She curled her fingers into Rory’s hair and held on for dear life as he teased her, stroking between her folds, creating a fierce ache inside her. His lips formed words against her breast, his voice a harsh whisper.

“Marry me, Chelle. I’ll speak to my family and your father tomorrow. It’ll work out for the best, I promise. I love you.”

She heard him through a haze of passion, but a shred of reason still remained to her. It told her this was wrong. She couldn’t do this to her father and Trey.

She couldn’t do this to herself.

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