Door hinges squeaked, and a barefoot Paul clad only in pajama bottoms padded inside. “Carly? Why are you up? Are you okay?”
I swallowed hard as he approached. “I’m kind of freaked out. Put my boots back on for the first time since…since I fell…” My trembling increased. I slammed one of my shaking hands against the walkway. “This is stupid, this is so stupid, they’re just the damn boots for God’s sake. We aren’t even near a mountain, what is wrong with me?”
Paul knelt beside me and gathered my unresisting body into his arms. “It’s trauma. It’d be a miracle if you didn’t suffer from some kind of PTSD after that crash.”
“I’ve been dreaming about it again. I think that’s what triggered this. Shit. I need to find a way to handle it, I need…” I decided that dignity was overrated and curled up against Paul, pressing my cheek against his chest. His sleep-warmed skin smelled of soap and a faint note of pine-scented cologne.
“It’s okay. It’ll be okay, I promise.” Paul reached down and tugged off my boots. “We’ll try again with these later. But right now you need to relax. Jesus, Carly, it’s the middle of the damn night. Stop pushing yourself so hard.” He picked me up and stepped off the walkway into a grassy swath of the garden.
My laugh was tinged with more than a little hysteria, even to my ears. “Stop pushing myself? Have you met me?”
He chuckled and set me down. With deft hands, he pulled the blanket from around my shoulders, spread it out on the ground and repositioned me on top.
I nestled closer to him, drawing real comfort from his proximity.
“We’ll just sit here for a bit, all right? There’s no rush. Can you match my breathing pattern? Nice and deep, okay? Try it with me.” He inhaled slowly, controlling his breath on the exhale. “Like that.” He pitched his voice at a level someone might use on a skittish horse.
Ordinarily I would have bristled at the notion of being handled. But he sounded so soothing, and made me feel safe in ways I hadn’t experienced in ages. It couldn’t hurt to try. After a few false starts, I managed to coordinate my breath in time to his.
“Good. You’re doing great. Keep going.” He stroked my back and whispered encouragement, the steady rhythm of his movements lulling me into a relaxed, meditative state. My rigid muscles softened as the adrenaline gradually receded from my body. The fear faded away as well, replaced by a growing awareness of Paul’s body wrapped around mine.
I couldn’t have said when the mood changed, the shift was so subtle. But little by little, I raised my head, gazing at Paul through wondering eyes, my mouth only a few inches from his. I didn’t move any closer at first, drinking in his half-sleepy, half-sultry expression, reveling in the power of our attraction that clearly held him as captive as it did me. A dreamy tension built up between the two of us, and when I finally leaned in to close the distance, Paul met me halfway.
So soft, so sweet. We kissed as if it were the first time, a tentative exploration that turned heated in a matter of moments.
About the Book
Title: Winner Take All
Author: Mary Rodgers
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hot shot skier and unrepentant party girl Carly Carrington is on top of the world until a disastrous crash destroys her championship dreams. Can she lower her guard long enough to trust the one man who might be able to heal her body…and her heart?
When it comes to sports doctors, buttoned-up Paul Blackburn is the best of the best. But when Carly upends his carefully ordered little world, will Paul fight his one chance at true love, or go for the gold in… WINNER TAKE ALL.
Her first screenplay, Common Ground, was a finalist in the Moondance International Film Festival competition, and she is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild/AFTRA and the New York chapter of Women in Film and Television.
An avid gamer and unrepentant nerd, Mary’s been a fan of romance, science fiction and fantasy novels since she was old enough to hide them between the pages of her textbooks during geometry class in high school. She is delighted to introduce the first book in her new contemporary romance series, Winner Take All.
Twitter – @mb_rodgers
Two lucky winners will win a Kindle Fire loaded with “Winner Take All” and “Project Catchstar”.
a Rafflecopter giveaway