HAPPY BLOGAVERSARY, MEGAN!!! I know you love ALL things Irish, so I thought it might be appropriate to give you and your readers a sneak peek at my upcoming book, A Love Surrendered, which is the final installment in the saga of the O'Connors, the most PASSIONATE Irish family you will find in Christian Romance! In this scene, the hero--twenty-five-year-old Steven O'Connor--reluctantly drives the heroine Annie Kennedy and her little sister Glory home, hoping to distance himself from this sweet seventeen-year-old who he feels is too “innocent” to get involved with the likes of him.
Signaling a turn, Steven eased onto her street, gliding the car up to the curb in front of Aunt Eleanor's house. He coasted into park before he slipped her a slow grin, allowing the engine to rumble along with the chuckle in his throat. “You make me sound like an ogre, Miss Kennedy.”
“Nope, just a hard-nosed arm of the law whom I'm scared to cross.”
“Good,” he said with a jut of his brow, “then my work here is done.” Fisting his door handle, he glanced down at the angel drooling on his leg and smiled. “Come on, you little piece of heaven,” he whispered. He slipped his hands beneath her fragile arms and draped her over his shoulder before easing out of the car. A smile nudged when her arms curled around his neck, and the scent of Ivory soap and bubble gum caused a sudden ache in his heart. He opened Annie's door and helped her out, and in the flash of a moment, longing invaded his chest. The touch of her hand, the weight of Glory on his shoulder, and he almost felt whole again, as if he deserved the happiness of a good woman, one who would give him children to love …
“Thank you,” Annie whispered, reaching to take Glory.
“No,” he said, unable to resist burying his head in her sweet mass of curls. “I don't mind.” Lump in his throat, he kissed her cheek and followed Annie up the steps.
“I can't thank you enough for bringing us home,” Annie said, slipping her key in the door. She pushed it ajar, then turned and held her arms out for Glory, her smile warm. “You're a very lucky man, Steven O'Connor, to have the kind of family you do.”
He paused, her statement taking him by surprise, as did the realization she was right, something he'd come to learn the hard way when his father almost died. He'd taken his family for granted before that … but never again.
Her smile tipped into a soft grin. “Or maybe 'blessed' would be a better word.”
It was his turn to smile. “That's certainly what my sisters would say, especially Faith. Come on, munchkin,” he whispered in Glory's ear, “time for bed." Gently dislodging Glory's fingers, he leaned forward to pass her to Annie.
“No …” she groaned, her sweet, little voice groggy with sleep as her arms inched back to his neck. “I don't want you to go …”
He paused, his head tucked against hers as emotion thickened his throat.
Annie tugged at her sister. “Glory, Steven has to go home and we have to go to bed ...”
“B-but will I see you a-again?” she said with a whimper.
He swallowed hard. “Sure, kiddo, anytime you want.” His gaze flicked to Annie and back, and suddenly his hopes for distance seemed to be fading.
“We'll see,” Annie said, voice and hold adamant as she tried to pull Glory away.
“Okie-dokie.” Glory loosened her grip, then patted a fat, little palm to his cheek. “You're itchy,” she said with a giggle, then deposited a sweet, tiny kiss on his mouth. “G'night, Steven.”
“G'night, Glory.” He tapped her nose before Annie managed to pry her away.
“Thanks again,” Annie said, inching through the door with Glory in her arms.
“Wait! Aren't you going to kiss her too?” Glory spun around, eyes wide with the innocence of a little girl who had no earthly idea what she was asking him to do.
He blinked, noting the expanse of Annie's eyes.
“Glory, no--” she whispered, turning ten kinds of pale.
“Please?” The little troublemaker stared at him with those wide eyes of an angel.
Heart thudding, he did the only thing he knew to do--he kissed Annie right on the tip of her nose. Clearing his throat, he stepped back. “Well, good-night, ladies.”
“No, silly,” Glory said, “like this …” She demonstrated with a sweet little peck on her sister's lips as if he were too stupid to understand, then tilted her head. “See? It's easy.”
Too easy, he thought with a trip of his pulse. Way, way too easy …
“Stop it, Glory, Steven doesn't want to--”
“Sure I do,” he whispered, his words shocking him as much as Annie. Gaze holding hers, he slowly leaned in, close enough to see the long sweep of her lashes, the pale gold in eyes so green, he felt like he was in Oz, about to be granted a wish. He heard the soft hitch of her breath when she stopped breathing because it coincided with the halt of air in his own lungs. Cupping her face in his hand, his eyelids sheathed closed at the touch of her lips--soft, supple and just a hint of peppermint from the candy she'd offered him in the car. It was meant to be no more than a peck like Glory had given him, but somehow his mouth wanted to linger and explore … He stepped in close, body grazing hers and Glory's till they were one. A little-girl giggle broke the trance, and Annie's lips curved beneath his.
“His whiskers are itchy, aren't they, Annie?” Glory asked, patting his face once again. “Kinda makes you wiggly all over, doesn't it?”
Annie's eyes glowed as she caressed her own cheek. “Very wiggly,” she whispered.
“Well,” Steven said quickly with a clear of his throat. He chucked Glory beneath her dimpled chin. “I suppose that's enough kisses for one night, wouldn't you say, kiddo?”
“No!” Glory giggled with a thrust of her chin.
He hiked a brow. “You know what? You are going to be trouble when you grow up, little girl.” Tapping a finger to her chin, he slid Annie a smile and winked. “Just like your sister.”
“I know.” She looped an arm around Annie with a pixie smile. “G'night, Steven.”
“G'night, Glory.” His eyes trailed to Annie and he nodded. “Annie.” Without another word, he loped to the car, his thoughts as warm as the summer night. He slipped into the front seat with a faint smile and turned the ignition before shifting into gear with a tentative sigh. His gaze lighted on the passenger seat where Annie had been and something warm and deep and full of hope expanded in his chest till he thought he couldn't breathe.
“You're a very lucky man, Steven O'Connor,” she had said.
Fingers clenched tight on the stick, he downshifted hard, all warmth dissipating the farther he rumbled away from her street. Exhaling slowly, his lips inched into a sad smile.
Don't I wish.
Thanks, Megan, for allowing me to be a part of your blogaversary celebration, and I wish you many more years of blogging fun! To celebrate, I will give away a signed copy of any of my books, including A Love Surrendered. Just leave a comment telling me WHICH is your favorite O'Connor book and why. And if you haven't read any, that's okay too--just let me know, and if you win, I will make sure you get the first book in the series. GOOD LUCK!!
I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so they can feel free to contact me through my website at http://www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/. My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there's always a contest featuring signed book giveaways. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots” (http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots1/), which is a very laid-back, Friday journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/), a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.” Chosen as #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Series of the Year in that same poll and #3 Author of the Year, #5 Novel of the Year and #4 Historical Fiction Author of the year.
Julie resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and new granddaughter, and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Her “Winds of Change” series features A Hope Undaunted, which ranked #5 on Booklist's Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010 and is followed by her most recent release, A Heart Revealed. You can contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.
Julie has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of any of her books, including A Love Surrendered! To enter, all you have to do is follow this blog in at least one way, complete the mandatory entry and then complete whichever extra entries you want in the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open internationally!