Heart's Desire (Healing Harts #1)
by T.J. Kline
Coming April 28, 2015
If you could have anything, do anything… what would it be?
Jessie Hart has a soft spot for healing the broken, especially horses and children, but her business is failing and bankruptcy is looming. The one man who can save Heart Fire Ranch is the last man she wants to take advice from - financial expert Nathan Kerrington - the same man who broke her heart eight years ago.
Nathan Kerrington has it all, except the one thing he’d wanted most - Jessie. Now that he’s finally freed himself from his corrupt family, he wants to make amends. When he’s called in to save Jessie’s ranch, he sees his chance to win her back - if only he can prove to her that she can trust him with her heart…
A slight click, like something dropping behind him, made him jump and turn. “What was that?”
She leaned back on the blanket, staring up at the stars, and folded her arms under her head, as if she didn’t have a care in the world. “Probably a squirrel—or a mouse.” She tipped her chin, glancing back to where he stood, still staring into the darkness where the horses relaxed. “Calm down, Wall Street. This is where you unwind and see what the city can’t offer you. The horses will alert us if it’s anything worth worrying about.”
He watched the woman lying prone on the blanket, staring up the night sky. “Like what? A mountain lion ready to pounce?”
The sound of her laughter was rich and sweet as he edged toward the blanket, still listening for wildlife behind them. Just the throaty sound made him think of those full lips of hers again, and heat pooled, deep and unwelcome, in the pit of his loins.
He needed to put some distance between them emotionally as well. He was in trouble if getting mauled by a wild animal sounded preferable to the longing he was feeling for her again. He lay down on the blanket next her, trying to keep as much room between them as the small blanket allowed. He clasped his hands over his abs to keep from touching her again, reminding himself that he’d made the right decision for everyone when he’d cut ties with her. His family, the world he lived in, would rip her to shreds, and he couldn’t do that to her, no matter how much he wanted her. Loving Jessie was a youthful fantasy he needed to bury again.
She turned her face toward him and smiled before looking back at the sky. “Bet you can’t find something like this in the city.”
His brows arched on his forehead. “No, I have to agree with you on that. It’s definitely beautiful.” His eyes never left her face, but she wasn’t looking at him.
Jessie pointed up at the stars. “Somewhere . . . there. Right there is the Big Dipper.”
He followed her gaze into the night sky, awed at how brilliant the stars were. It was an amazing sight. Pinpoints of light dotted the sky, more than he’d ever seen before. The inky sky looked like it went on forever.
“You’re away from any other lights so there’s nothing to dim them.” She turned her head toward him and he realized he’d spoken aloud.
“If you watch, you’ll see lots of shooting stars, too. You don’t see many in the city.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever noticed any.”
“I told you, I wasn’t exactly raised in a family that spent a lot of time outdoors.” He frowned as he thought about his father and his relentless pursuit of financial success, no matter what the cost. “Or together, for that matter. My father would call this frivolous.”
“Huh.” Jessie sounded surprised by his admission.
Nathan turned to face her. “What?”
Jessie shrugged and raised her brows. “I would have thought you’d have it all. The house, the car, the money, the education. But you don’t sound like . . . never mind, I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“What were you going to say?” he urged.
“You just sounded nostalgic. Like you would have given it all up for something else.”
Nathan felt the twist of pain in his stomach as he looked back at the sky with an acerbic laugh. “You have no idea.”
She looked up at the sky again. “You never talked about your family much.”
“There’s not a lot to talk about.” That wasn’t really true. He could tell her about the various crimes his father had been charged with over the years, how his mother and sister were both stuck in marriages of convenience rather than love. Love. He’d come to wonder if the word even really meant anything. It seemed more like trite expression. Suddenly, a burst of blue light flashed across the sky, fizzling out quickly.
“Did you make a wish?” she asked, excitedly.
She turned to face him, rolling onto her side, bracing her cheek on her palm. “You’re supposed to make a wish when you see a shooting star. You really did miss out growing up, didn’t you?”
A sad smile slipped over her lips, and Nathan Kerrington, financial analyst to millionaire CEOs, a man used to riding in limos, eating caviar, drinking Cristal champagne, and addressing boardrooms, was struck speechless as her thick-lashed, deep blue eyes filled with innocent wonder met his. His years of business success, each dollar in his bank account and every rung he’d climbed up the corporate ladder seemed worthless compared to the unadulterated sorrow he saw in her face for his pitiful childhood. She knew a contentment and security, just in being a Hart, he’d never be able to comprehend. She had shared her pride in her family, something he’d never understood existed. Until now.
“Make a wish, Nathan.” Her voice was sweet, tender, and mildly amused.
Suddenly, the only thing he could think about was Jessie and the mistake he’d made eight years ago. The cold logic that seemed to rule his every decision, in business and relationships, failed him, evaporating into the night sky by way of a shooting star. His hand found the silken curve of her neck as the inches between them disappeared. Rolling to hover over her, Nathan dipped his head, his lips finally finding hers, taking her mouth hostage as he’d thought about doing all day. He forgot the differences between them, his father’s threats, the reasons this couldn’t work, and the excuses he wanted to make to keep from touching her. All he knew was the uncontrollable need, held prison for the last eight years, finally set free to course through his veins.
His entire life had been ruled by self-control, logic, and order. Jessie scattered all three to the wind, making him wonder if all the things his discipline had gained him over the years weren’t simply cheap imitations, his family’s impressions of what his life should be. She opened under him, soft and warm, her kiss vibrant and filled with life, like a lightning storm, so very much like the woman in his memories. Jessie held nothing back, as if every second was a celebration of life, and her fingers curled into the flesh of his triceps. His hands slid over her shoulder, down her arm bared by her short sleeves, feeling goosebumps break out over her flesh, and filling him with yearning to see what other reactions he could cause in her. She sighed softly into his mouth and arched against him.
Nathan had never known a woman to respond with such abandon. He realized he shouldn’t have expected anything less. It was how Jessie did everything.
And it scared him.
Connect with T.J. Kline