This is Valentine’s week, and Valentine’s Day is thought of as the most romantic day of the year. Now romance means different things to different people. Some find roses and chocolates romantic. Others enjoy a romantic getaway to a B & B. If you have young children, you may prefer an evening away from the kids. But based on books and movies, I think we can agree on a few generalities.
I write about romance. In my Christie Craig romantic suspense books, I put in a lot of romance. In my C.C. Hunter YA books, I tone it down a bit, but it’s definitely always there.
This is one of my favorite romantic moments from Don’t Breathe a Word, the second book in my Texas Justice series.
Juan returned with Sweetie in his backyard and Vicki called the dog. The dog barked and mere seconds later she ducked under some fencing and raced at her. Almost immediately, she heard her gate open and glanced back. Juan walking toward her, wore a navy T-shirt just snug enough to showcase his hard chest, flat stomach, and tight muscles.
Holding two cups of coffee, he smiled and kept coming. His gait was slow. Sexy. Steam lifted from the cups, but she wasn’t sure which was hotter, the coffee, or the man. He looked a little morning mussed, still slightly sleepy as if he just rolled out of bed.
She missed waking up with someone. Missed sleeping with someone. Not just the sex, but the company. That first early morning look at someone when nothing is between you and him but a smile, the sheets, and a promise of new day.
She and Dan had stayed at each other’s place at least three times a week. Knowing that someone had taken her place stung. But not as much as it should have. Maybe it’d have changed into something deeper. As crazy as it felt, she mourned not so much what they had, but what she’d hoped it would’ve become. Her relationship with Dan had been comfortable, because they’d known each other so well.
But Juan was different. She barely knew this guy. And yet somehow she did. She knew he’d lost a wife he loved. She’d seen the remnants of grief in his eyes. She knew his heart was big enough, soft enough to love a fluffy and frilly dog. And she knew he bolted over her fence that first night to protect her for no reason other than it was the right thing to do.
“Hope it has enough cream.” His hand brushed hers as she pulled away.
“I’m sure it’s fine,” she said, again feeling the tingle of his touch. “So you saw where she got through?”
“Yeah. She’s turning into a regular little escape artist.” He walked over to the fence with Sweetie at his heels, prancing as if proud of her accomplishment.
“You were a bad dog,” he told her, but the scolding came with a scratch behind her ears.
“Seriously, she wasn’t doing this until you guys moved in. I’ll fill it.” He felt around on the ground. “I might have to come over here and fill it on this side as well.”
He stood up, and she was aware of how she felt small beside him. Most of the time, she disliked that feeling. But Juan’s size didn’t intimidate her. He made her feel feminine. Aware of all the differences in a man and a woman.
“Sure. Just let me know.”
“Oh, I will.” He smiled as if teasing her about their first meeting. “I’m a quick learner.”
She remembered the novel she’d been reading. The shared smiles, whispered secrets, soft kisses, and. . . Stop.
She’d thought reading about romance would have satisfied her craving for intimacy, but instead it just made her hungrier. Maybe she should go back to boring biographies.
She sipped the coffee and moaned. “This is good.”
“I’m not much of a wine connoisseur, but I know good coffee.”
“You used real cream, didn’t you?”
“Of course. That’s the way I drink it. But don’t kid yourself. It’s the coffee that’s special.” His gaze fell on her.
When he lifted his cup to his lips, she noticed the bandage on his hand. “What happened?”
He looked down. “Just work.”
“Tell me you didn’t get shot?”
He grinned. “No.”
“Not nearly as exciting. There was a scuffle is all.”
“Stiches?” She made a face as if she felt his pain.
“What kind of police are you?” A little voice inside her said asking questions could lead to questions, but with the butterflies in her stomach fluttering, talking calmed her nerves.
“Detective. I work in the cold case unit.”
She lifted a brow. “You’re one of the three musketeers?”
His forehead wrinkled. “You’ve heard of us?”
“When I first moved here there was some news coverage on the case you guys had just solved.”
“Yeah.” He sounded sheepish.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
He brought his mug up for another sip, before speaking. “We’re trying to do our job. The press gets in the way most of the time.”
“Did you catch the man last night? Did you solve the case?” She was worried she sounded overly inquisitive, but she was genuinely interested in hearing more about his work. And maybe if she kept asking him questions, he wouldn’t have time to ask her any.
“We caught the guy, but no. The case is still open. We just picked up a piece of the puzzle and are still trying to figure out if it fits.”
“So being a cop is about putting puzzles together?”
“Yeah. In some ways.”
Did he see her as a puzzle? She sure as hell hoped not. She sipped the coffee again. The dark roast flavor lingered on her tongue. It was better than the fancy coffee that she used to buy when money wasn’t an issue. One of the luxuries she’d given up when she walked away from her life. “So what kind of coffee is this?”
He smiled. “I order it online. Grind the beans myself.”
“You have good taste.”
“I know what I like.” Innuendo flavored his tone.
He was flirting. She tried hard not to enjoy it, not to let the perceived compliment slide like a warm touch over soft places. But it did feel that way.
She held the cup closer, trying to rein in the conversation and her emotions. “There was just a story on the news about specialty coffees. One about a coffee bean that is processed after being digested by some Asian cat-like creature.”
He lifted a brow and stared at her over the rim of his cup. “You mean, Kopi Luwak coffee? The beans are fed to an Asian palm civet. And yes, it does kind of look like a cat.”
“This isn’t. . .?”
His brow stayed raised.
“Seriously?” She handed him his cup back.
He laughed. The sound, pure tease, came out deep, masculine, hypnotic, and rusty. Why did she think it had been a while since he laughed? His dark eyes brightened with humor. “No. It’s Four Barrel. But I saw the same show. I would never drink anything that came out of the rear end of a cat-like creature.” His smile tightened his eyes. “I’m definitely more of a dog person.”
She laughed and realized she hadn’t laughed like this in a long time either. It felt good.
Right then a light hiss filled the air. Before she realized what it was, the sprinkler system sprayed her from behind. The cold spritz hit her legs. Releasing a squeal, she jumped out of the way. Right as she danced to the right she saw him catch the spray directly in his face.
He darted to the side. They collided. The coffee in her cup splashed out and just like the wine from a couple of nights ago, it found its way to his shirt.
She bit down on her lip and tried not to laugh. But as she lifted her eyes, the sound escaped.
Water dripped from a dark strip of hair hanging down his brow.
“First wine and now coffee. Sorry.”
It wasn’t until she breathed and she felt her breasts against his chest did she realize how close they stood. It wasn’t until she saw his lips that she realized how badly she wanted to be kissed. It wasn’t until he dipped his head that she realized it was actually going to happen.
She knew this could only lead to trouble, but found herself leaning into him anyway. His lips tasted like the coffee, and his tongue, warm from the brew, swept across her bottom lip. For one second, two, maybe even three she kissed him right back. She wanted it.
Every time I read that scene I get butterflies in my stomach, and I remember that falling in love feeling. That feeling when you’re unsure, but you know there’s a major attraction going on. I like to think I help my readers relive those moments in my books.
So this Valentine’s Day, don’t worry if you don’t have plans. Just find yourself a good, romantic book—and fall in love.
What’s your idea of a romantic evening?