SO today I’m giving you a little something from my 3rd book in the MacQuire Women series, FIRST IMPRESSIONS. I have to admit, this is my favorite book in the series. I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite – it’s like your kids: you love them all equally, but in truth, this book was a joy for me to write. Pat Cleary was the first fully formed male character that ever came into my mind. I didn’t need to think about him at all – one day he just stood in front of me, fully formed. Love that. Anyway. Here’s a little scene between him and the woman he’s rapidly losing his heart to, Clarissa Rogers.
“Clarissa? Follow my voice to the treatment rooms,” Pat called.
She found him standing at an exam table, a wide box on top of it. His white lab coat stretched taut against his substantial shoulders, giving her a full view of their width along with his trim waist. The coat grazed the back of his knees. His back was to her and he appeared to be holding something in his hands, close to his chest. He was speaking softly, the soothing timbre in his voice reminding her of how he’d sounded when he’d spoken with her after Teeny died: gentle, calm, reassuring. The sound of his deep voice shot a bullet of desire straight to her core.
“Are you all alone here?” she asked, as she came into the spacious workroom.
“My evening staff went to get something to eat. They’ll be back in a few minutes.”
He turned to her and she saw what was cradled in his hands.
“Oh.” She all but flew across the room.
His grin was so boyish, so rakish, she physically had to tear her gaze from his face back to the tiny kitten resting in his arms.
“Cute, isn’t she?” Pat held her up by the scruff of her neck to show Clarissa. “She and her sibs were brought in this afternoon by one of my clients.”
“Why?” Clarissa’s fingertips longed to hold the little darling.
As if reading her mind, Pat said, “Here, take her.” He placed the squirming little bundle gently into her outstretched hands. Immediately, Clarissa pulled the kitten to her chest and began stroking its chin. A motorboat of purring churned from within the tiny creature, bringing an instant smile to both humans in the room.
“To answer your question,” Pat said, watching them, “he was out driving and saw a box on the side of the road. When he stopped, he found eight of them, four males, four females, abandoned. The mother was nowhere in sight. He knows we board and foster strays until homes can be found, so he brought them to me.”
“How could someone leave them on the side of the road?” Clarissa asked, her fingers never stopping their gentle caresses of the kitten’s neck. “They could have been hit by a car. Or worse.”
Pat shrugged. “Happens all the time. A cat has a litter and the owners can’t, or won’t, take care of them. It’s the reason we foster. And why I asked you to come down here.”
When she looked back to him, she could see a question in his eyes. “Pat?”
“Hear me out,” he said, putting his hands on her upper arms. Like a bolt of lightning striking, his touch zoomed all the way through her. “The kittens are too young right now to adopt. We need to get them hydrated, nourished and neutered. My guess is they’re about three weeks old. Four, tops. Without a mother to socialize them, they need extra care here first. Then they’ll need to be acclimated. This is where I’m hoping you’ll come in.” He removed his hands and stroked a finger down the cat’s neck.
“What do you mean?”
“When they’re ready to go, I’m hoping you’ll take this one to foster. You don’t need to adopt her, and I’m not asking you to. But we’ve found when animals are placed in good homes during developing periods, they adapt better when they’re adopted out. I can’t think of a better person to socialize and foster a kitten then you, Clarissa.”
Touched more than she could ever have thought to be by a statement with such thoughtfulness, Clarissa found herself tightening her hold on the kitten and loosening the grip on her heart.
Without a thought to what it would entail by having a new kitten in her life, the time consumption, the routine kitten messes she’d need to clean, Clarissa followed her heart and said, “Yes.”
Pat’s smile widened. “I was really hoping you’d agree.”
“How can I not?” She pulled the kitten to face level and planted a sweet kiss to its nose. Striking gray-blue eyes, peered at her from barely-opened lids. A tiny yowl burst from her and morphed into a wide, mouth- broadening yawn. The kitten shook its head back and forth a few times, its entire body going with the motion and then stretched its front and back paws wide. Clarissa laughed, looked up at Pat and her heart stopped. His pupils had dilated to the point where she could barely make out the ripe color in the irises. His mouth was slightly parted, and she could see his chest rising underneath his lab coat. With his fingers still scratching at the kitten’s neck, he bent his head toward her.
Every nerve in her body went on high alert. She knew he was going to kiss her and all she could think was: Yes, please.
With the kitten buffering their bodies, Pat brought his head down, stopping for the merest of moments to gaze across her face. She didn’t know what he was looking for, but whatever it was, must have pleased him because he put his lips to hers. It was the briefest of touches, his mouth sliding along hers in a gentle caress. His breath, moist and warm, drifted over her as he let it out. Neither closed their eyes, as if not to miss a moment of the encounter. On a whisper, he said her name. His hands rose up her arms, wound around her neck and rested on either side of her face. Cupping her cheeks, he rubbed her mouth with the pad of his thumb. Clarissa’s tongue grazed across it and his breath whistled out between his lips. In the next second his mouth came back to hers and took it again. This time there was no hesitation.
His fingers gently turned her head. With a tiny tug on her chin he swiped at her bottom lip with his tongue, waiting for her response. She needed no further request. Her own lips parted, and when his tongue entered her mouth she tilted her head backward giving him free access.
He tasted like nothing she’d ever tasted before. Spicy. Bold. Vibrant. His tongue pulled hers into his mouth as he expertly twined it with his own. If she hadn’t been leaning up against him, Clarissa knew she would have dropped to her knees from the jolt pounding through her at his touch.
His lips pressed against hers, the tantalizing way his fingers rubbed across her cheeks, the sound of his breathing as it grew more rapid and coarse when he deepened the kiss, was almost too much for her to wrap her analytical mind around.
So she didn’t. She simply kissed him back.
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