Eric’s heart slipped.
The words came from a gully to the left of the trail, he thought. She was definitely crying. Crying and cursing at the same time. That was never good.
“Come on, Jackson.”
They wound their way along the rocky ground and suddenly, there she was, huddled against a mossy rock.
He was on his knees beside her before he knew what he was doing. “What’s wrong, honey? Are you hurt?”
She was shivering. He shucked off his jacket and set it on her shoulders, where it hung like a tablecloth.
“I don’t need you,” she said, her voice hitching.
Jackson pressed against her side, nudging her with his muzzle. She put her arm around him and he crept halfway onto her lap. Good. The dog would help warm her up.
Eric sat down on her other side. The rock was still warm from the sun but the ground beneath them was cool. He lifted his face to the sky and took a deep breath.
“Nice out here, isn’t it?” he said.
He could feel her body beside his, her slender thigh running alongside his own leg. She was vibrating.
He adjusted his position and casually slung his arm across her shoulders. He felt like the kid in a movie theater, pretending to stretch so he could get closer to his date. Only this time, he was doing it to keep her warm.
And maybe keep her from bolting.
“The sky. The air. Smells good. And look at those colors.”
“I came out here to be alone, you know.”
“I don’t know. I’m only here because of Jackson.”
She put her face down and kissed the dog’s head. “Sweetie boy. Come here, Blue-Girl. You’re a good girl, too.”
“Oh sure,” said Eric. “The dogs get kissed. I on the other hand, don’t get so much as a civil word. That hurts my feelings.”
She sniffed, but some of the tension left her body.
“You sounded like a pack of coyotes.”
At that, Leda lifted her head. She turned to face him, which put her once more well within kissing range. Inches away, it seemed. Her eyes shone in the light of the setting sun, her lashes damp, her lips swollen.
All very kissable.
“Coyotes, huh?” One eyebrow lifted, as did one corner of her mouth, but she didn’t move away.
“Rabid ones, maybe.”
He moved closer. It would be a shame to waste an opportunity like this, after all. She needed comforting. It would be a comforting kiss, nothing more.
“That might have been safer,” she murmured. Her eyes dropped to his mouth. “For you.”
The dogs squirmed then and knocked against Leda’s shoulder. Her face collided with his, in a cheek-bumping, tooth-clattering connection that was nothing like a kiss.
“Ow!” Leda sat back, and put her hand to her mouth. “You bit my lip!”
“I most certainly did not!” He ran his tongue over his bottom lip and tasted salt. “You bit mine.”
Heat ran through Eric like an electrical current, the touch of her mouth on his like lightning, leaving him smoking and shaken. If that’s what an accidental kiss felt like, what would a real, full-on kiss feel like?
Jackson lifted his head and with one swipe of his enormous tongue, French-kissed them both.
He reared away and the moment was broken.
A bloody lip will do that.
End of Excerpt