Rhys wrapped his hands around Jamie’s wrists, gently lowering her hands. “Look at all you’ve accomplished in just a few weeks. Promotions for Paige’s restaurant, marketing plans for Main Street, winning over Bart Caine when Dana couldn’t. You even faced down Sam with nothing more than a blueberry muffin.”
An unexpected giggle bubbled in her throat. Logic and humor. With those two weapons, Rhys vanquished her demons for the moment. He saw a truth she couldn’t view through her own eyes. All those things he’d mentioned had been driven by her natural instincts.
She rubbed the dragonfly between her fingers, drawing strength from the tiny charm.
“Does that have a special meaning?” Rhys asked, nodding toward the necklace. “I noticed you wear it a lot.”
“It’s my spirit totem. Like the hummingbird seems to be for Dana. Silly, huh?”
“Not at all. Dana bought that hummingbird statue for good luck, and it saved her life.”
They stopped at the edge of the blanket.
“This necklace was the last Christmas gift I received from my father before he died.” She took a deep breath, thinking back, then told Rhys what her father had said.
“It’s more than a piece of jewelry, sweetheart. I picked the dragonfly especially for you.”
“What does it mean?” She held the chain in front of her. The dragonfly danced as sparkling rubies—her birthstone—glistened down its back.
“It represents joy—and you are my joy. But it also represents transformation.”
“What does that mean?”
“Change. Not letting yourself be held captive to someone else’s vision. Allowing yourself to grow and be the person you are meant to be.” He touched a fingertip to the charm, sending it dancing again. “Believe in yourself.”
She’d never forgotten those words. Throughout the years, she’d replayed them again and again in her mind, but in her heart, she’d never truly trusted them. She’d allowed the critical words of others to overrule her father’s wisdom and lost herself in self-doubt.
Dana. Nick. Paige. Rhys. All of them believed in her, and she couldn’t doubt the overwhelming trust they’d given her. Most important of all, she had to believe in herself because Rhys needed her.
“Thank you for sharing that story.” He stroked a thumb across her cheek. “I wish I could have met your dad.”
“He would have liked you.” She wiped the remaining dampness from her face. “I needed to get that out. I’m sorry I had to ruin our date doing that.”
“Well, it was your turn.” He opened his arms to her.
“Oh, Rhys!” This time, tears mixed with laughter, and she fell into his embrace.
He cupped her neck. She lifted her face. They tumbled onto the rumpled blanket.
From the instant their lips touched, the connection that had sparked when they’d first met erupted into an inferno. If their first kiss had held a sweet promise, this one burned with fiery intent.
His mouth traced across her cheek, to her jaw, down the gentle curve from shoulder to neck. Roughened fingertips glided over the length of her arm. Her body tightened. Her senses burned. The soft cotton of his shirt was cool against her fingers. She slipped her hands under the fabric, sliding them up the hard planes of sinew and muscle.
A low growl followed, and Rhys pulled away long enough to jerk the garment over his head, tossing it aside. She rolled onto her back, and he followed. The coarse denim of his jeans razed along her bare legs as she hooked one ankle around his calf. Tenderness and desire came together, blessing each kiss and every touch. The smell of the ocean dissipated as the scent of his shampoo and soap and her own perfume surrounded them.
She raked her nails across his shoulders and down his neck. His body moved in tandem with hers. A drop of water struck her face, drizzling down her cheek. A tear? Sweat? A second drop, then a third, struck her hands and legs.
Rhys pushed onto his elbows, laughter highlighting his handsome face. His green eyes widened with boyish delight. “Rain!”
The pitter-patter turned into a shower. He rolled up on his knees, arms outstretched, face uplifted to the raindrops glittering in the waning daylight. “I love this!”
His body shimmered with moisture. He was all masculine perfection, but it was the unfettered joy on his face that enraptured her the most. She’d never seen him so uninhibited and free and wished she could capture that moment.
A light breeze brushed over her. The temperature cooled, and she shivered in her dampened clothing.
Rhys lowered his arms, resting his hands on both thighs and watching her for a silent moment. He shifted onto one knee and held out his hand. “Come home with me.”
Home. Not “my place” or “stay the night.” He wouldn’t have used that word so carelessly. Any lingering doubts she had were swept away. She wanted a lifetime with this man, and perhaps this night would be the beginning of finding her way to that home she’d always craved. To the one he deserved as well.
Jamie clasped his hand and rose to stand beside him. His lips curved into a smile, tenderness mixed with a wicked boldness, a touch of feral passion in his dark green eyes.
She felt a little wicked as well. She cupped his face, kissed his mouth. “Take me home.”
Excerpted from Towne Square by Dianna Wilkes. Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reprinted or reproduced without permission in writingReturn to Towne Square