Just One Kiss, Volume 12

Front Cover
HQN Books, May 28, 2013 - Fiction - 384 pages
15 Reviews
He won't hesitate to put his life on the line…but will he ever risk his heart?

Falling for Justice Garrett was a high point in Patience McGraw's otherwise awkward adolescence. Even after he disappeared, Patience never forgot the boy who captured her heart. Now he's back in Fool's Gold, California, and her passion for him is as strong as ever. But how can she trust that he won't abandon her again—and her daughter, too?

When bodyguard Justice Garrett was a young man, witness protection brought him to this idyllic town and he never forgot its warmth, or the sweet beauty of his childhood friend. He's returned to open a defense academy, and the Patience he once knew is all grown up. He can't resist her smile, or her curves. But Justice's past doesn't make him husband, or father, material.

Patience and Justice think they'll succumb to just one kiss… Then one more… Okay, just one night together. But they might learn that falling in love is beyond anyone's control.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rolsjunie - LibraryThing

I definitely like some of Susan Mallery's books better than others. This one was engaging until the last chapter or so. I'm not so fond of how Mallery concludes her works. Usually one or both of the ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Bette_Hansen - LibraryThing

Good story fun characters. After being gone for fifteen years Justice is back in Fools Gold and the girl he left behind is still there. Recommended read. Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
9
Section 2
15
Section 3
30
Section 4
46
Section 5
65
Section 6
87
Section 7
110
Section 8
126
Section 13
216
Section 14
236
Section 15
253
Section 16
272
Section 17
290
Section 18
309
Section 19
330
Section 20
345

Section 9
143
Section 10
162
Section 11
176
Section 12
197
Section 21
358
Section 22
377
Section 23
378
Copyright

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About the author (2013)

Trim up my eyebrows," Alfred said, wiggling his white, bushy brows as he spoke. "I want to look sexy."

Patience McGraw held in a smile. "Big night planned with the missus?"

"You know it."

A concept that would be romantic, if Alfred and his lovely wife were a tad younger than, say, ninety-five. Patience had to keep herself from blurting out a warning that, at their age, they should be careful. She supposed the more important lesson was that true love and passion could last a lifetime.

"I'm jealous," she told her client as she carefully trimmed his brows.

"You picked a piss-poor excuse of a man," Albert told her, then shrugged. "Excuse my French."

"I can't complain about you telling the truth," Patience said, wondering what it would be like to live in a bigger city. Where everyone didn't know every detail of your personal life. But she'd been born in Fool's Gold and had grown up with the idea that there were very few secrets between friends and neighbors.

Which meant the whole town knew that she'd gotten pregnant when she was eighteen and the "piss-poor excuse for a man" who'd been her baby's father had walked out on her and her daughter less than a year later.

"You'll find someone," Alfred told her, gently patting her arm. "A pretty girl like you should have them lined up for miles."

She smiled. "You're very sweet. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were flirting with me."

Alfred gave her a wink.

Despite his compliments, she managed to find herself amazingly man free. Fool's Gold wasn't exactly swimming with prospects, and as a single mother, she had to be especially careful. There was also the fact that most of the men she met weren't interested in other men's kids.

As Patience picked up the scissors to clip a couple of errant hairs, she told herself that she was very comfortable with her life. Given the choice, she would rather open her own business than fall in love. But every now and then, she found herself longing for someone to lean on. A man to care about, who would be there for her.

She stood back and studied Albert's reflection. "You're even more handsome than before," she said, putting down her tools and unfastening his cape.

"Hard to believe," Albert said with a grin.

She laughed.

"Patience?"

She didn't recognize the male voice, but turned anyway. A man stood in the entrance of the shop.

Her mind registered several things at once. Albert was her last appointment of the day. If the guy was a walk-in, he wouldn't call her by name. The man was tall, with dark gold-blond hair and deep blue eyes. His shoulders were broad and he had the kind of face that would be happy up on a movie screen. Nice, but she had no idea who he...

She felt the cape flutter to the floor as she really looked at the man moving toward her. He was a few inches taller, a lot more muscular, but his eyes... They were exactly the same. They even crinkled when he smiled at her.

"Hello, Patience."

She was fourteen again, standing in that empty house, more scared than she'd ever been in her life. There hadn't been any answers. Not then or since. No solution to the mystery. Just questions and a gnawing sense that something had gone terribly wrong.

"Justice?" she asked, her voice more breath than sound. "Justice?"

He gave her a slight shrug. The familiar gesture was enough to send her flying across the shop. She flung herself at him, determined to hang on this time.

He caught her against him and held on to her nearly as tightly as she held on to him. He was warm and solid and real. She pressed her head against his shoulder and inhaled the scent of him. A clean, masculine smell that had nothing to do with the boy she remembered. This wasn't happening, she thought, still dazed. Justice couldn't be back.

Yet he was. But the man was very different from the boy, and the moment got awkward quickly. She stepped away and put her hands on her hips.

"What happened? You left me! Where on earth did you go? I was so scared. The whole town was worried. I called the police and everything."

He glanced around the salon. Patience didn't have to follow his gaze to know they were the center of attention. She was used to the friendly interest of the shop, but Justice might find the attention uncomfortable.

"When can you take a break?" he asked.

"Five minutes. Alfred is my last client of the day."

"I'll be outside."

He was gone before she could stop him, moving with a combination of power and purpose. The second the door closed behind him, the other stylists and half the clients descended.

"Who is he?" Julia, her boss, demanded. "What a handsome man."

"I've seen him around town before," another woman said. "With that ballet dancer. He was her bodyguard."

"Has he moved here?"

"Is he an old boyfriend?"

Alfred cleared his throat. "Back away, ladies. Give Patience some room to breathe."

Patience smiled at him gratefully. He paid her for the cut and gave her a fifty-cent tip. She was so not getting rich working here, she thought as she walked him to the door and kissed his cheek.

With Alfred gone, she returned to her station and quickly cleaned up. Julia watched with unconcealed interest.

"You'll have details tomorrow?" she asked. "Of course."

Sharing was as much a part of the culture of Fool's Gold as showing up with a casserole when there was a birth, death or serious illness. She might not want to reveal every detail of her upcoming encounter with a man from her past, but that wasn't her decision.

Patience made a quick stop in the restroom to make sure she hadn't spilled anything on her black T-shirt. She released her long brown hair from its ponytail, thought briefly that she should have gotten highlights, and worn makeup and hey, maybe been something more exciting than ordinary, then shrugged. She was who she was, and nothing short of serious plastic surgery and/or a makeover was going to change her now.

She applied lip gloss and brushed the front of her "Chez Julia" T-shirt one last time. Two minutes later she had her purse and was walking out onto the sidewalk.

Justice was still there. All six-two of him. He wore a dark suit, blinding white shirt and a smoky-gray tie.

"You weren't this stylish a dresser fifteen years ago," she said.

"Occupational hazard."

"Which begs the question, what occupation? But that can wait." She looked at him, trying to reconcile the man with the teenager she'd known and loved. Well, maybe not loved, but liked a lot. He'd been her first crush. She'd wanted to tell him, to have him for her boyfriend and then he'd been gone. "What happened?"

He glanced around. "Can I buy you a cup of coffee?"

"Sure." She pointed down the street. "There's a Starbucks this way."

They started down the sidewalk. A thousand questions filled her mind, but she couldn't seem to grab any one to ask it. She was both curious and shy--a combination that didn't make for easy conversation.

"How long have you--"

"I would have thought you'd--"

They spoke at the same time.

She sighed. "We've lost our rhythm. That's just so sad."

"It'll come back," he assured her. "Give it a minute." They reached the Starbucks and he held open the door. She paused before stepping past him.

"You're here for good?" she asked. "Or at least a while?"

"Yes."

"No disappearing in the night?"

"No."

She nodded. "I didn't know what to think. I was so scared."

His dark blue gaze settled on her face. "I'm sorry. I knew you'd be worried. I wanted to say something, but I couldn't."

She saw a couple of older women approaching and ducked into the store. As she walked to the counter, she pulled out her Starbucks card, but Justice waved it away.

"I'm buying," he told her. "It's the least I can do after what happened."

"Ha. Sure, bring me out for coffee instead of a steak when you're doing apology buying."

He flashed her a smile that was so familiar she felt her heart constrict. At the same time, she experienced a very distinct "wow--handsome guy" tingle in the area just south of her belly button. It had been so long it took her a second to recognize sexual attraction.

She was pathetic, she thought as she ordered her usual grande skinny vanilla latte. This was the closest she'd come to dating in the past five or six years. She really needed to get out more. And just as soon as she had a little free time, she would work on that.

"Tall drip," Justice told the girl.

Patience rolled her eyes. "Very masculine. I'm not even surprised."

He flashed her another smile. "I don't stri

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