A Lonesome Way Novel
He'd come out of nowhere. Protected her from getting knocked down, perhaps seriously hurt. She still felt shaken, thinking about what could have happened.
"You all right, Sophie?"
"I'm fine. He never touched me. I..." She couldn't help the tiny shiver of reaction that swept over her now that it was over. "Thank you."
It was a miracle she got the words out without stammering. Rafe Tanner could have that effect on a woman.
He was standing so close to her she could see the black irises of his midnight blue eyes, the solid outline of his jaw. In his charcoal T-shirt and jeans, with a sexy bit of five o'clock shadow across his chin, he was enough to make a woman swoon.
How was it possible he could look even sexier now than the last time she'd seen him when she was a fifteen year old in shorts and a tank top, shocking the hell out of him by kissing him in his pickup truck?
The intervening years had hardened him. An aura of toughness clung to his muscular six foot three inch frame. But there was something more than sinewy strength and magnetism now. A quiet maturity. Confidence. Very different from the cocky recklessness of the boy she'd daydreamed about night and day when she was twelve.
The next moment she noticed that his mouth -- oh, God, that firm, sensual mouth -- was curved upward in a hint of a smile.
And what was so amusing? As embarrassment swept through her, she wondered if he was remembering the last time he'd come to her rescue? That day on Squirrel Road. That stupid kiss.
She felt heat rush into her cheeks and hoped she wasn't blushing. Her chin lifted. "I don't usually need rescuing these days," she said tightly.
Rafe's smile widened. Now it reached his eyes. Damn it. He remembered. Or if he didn't, she'd just reminded him.
"I'm just glad I was in the right place at the right time," Rafe said, his voice easy. "We'd better move out of the way before we get trampled."
He snagged her arm, and a jolt of electricity quivered through her skin where his hand touched it. He eased her back a few steps as a family of tourists barreled past them.
"Nothing like a little excitement to welcome you back to town, Sophie," Deck said heartily beside them.
She hadn't even noticed Lissie's cousin before now, but once he spoke she immediately recognized him.
"I wouldn't exactly call what just happened a welcome," she replied with a rueful smile.
So he gets a smile, I get nothing. Rafe was partly amused and partly irritated. He heard Deck say something about going on ahead to hunt up a booth, but he couldn't seem to tear his gaze or his attention away from Sophie McPhee long enough to respond.
The annoying little pest had transformed into a gorgeously sexy woman. Beneath the leather jacket she was wearing a silky coral tank top and low-cut jeans. Rafe had to quell an impulse to stare at her breasts and those enticingly rounded hips. The top of her head didn't even reach his chin, but her face was upturned to his and he felt himself getting lost in smoky natural beauty, the tilt of a shapely nose, the glimmer of cool green eyes. He'd have bet a dozen of his best quarter horses that the strands of her honey-colored hair would feel like a silken river flowing through his fingers.
Good thing he'd given up his old ways, dedicated himself these days to being Ivy's father. Because for the life of him, at the moment, his mind was a blank and he couldn't come up with a single smooth, funny, seductively charming thing to say to her.
"Ivy told me about her shopping trip today," he heard himself saying. Lame. "She said you were a big help."
"Not really. Ivy didn't need any help, she knew exactly what she wanted."
"She's a Tanner. We usually do."
Sophie felt the pull of that slow, engaging grin. Was Rafe Tanner flirting with her?
No, that was crazy. It was all in her imagination.
Get a grip. After everything that's happened the last thing you need is to think about a man. Any man.
But especially this man.
Not that she was thinking about Rafe. She was so over him. Still, no sane woman could help feeling a little light-headed when he was standing this close in all his handsome cowboy hotness...