“Stupid, stupid, stupid.” The clipped words matched her pace as she hurried to the Jeep. Honestly, she wouldn’t have minded Owen walking with her, but then he’d see what she was trying to hide.
Another painting of him.
What is wrong with me? She admonished herself. Twice in the last several weeks—and the only times she’d picked up a paint brush—and she’d ended up painting Owen. Today she painted him with the canyon as a backdrop as he looked through the telescope. She stopped and looked at the canvas and sighed.
It captured him perfectly.
“Ugh…I have to stop doing this!” At the Jeep, she placed her supplies in the trunk and locked it up and quickly headed back toward the campsite. The sun was setting fast and she wasn’t up for walking alone in the dark. As she walked by the public restroom, she stopped in to use it before going back to their site and when she got there, she smiled at the scene before her.
Owen had a fire going and had spread a blanket over the nearby bench and set their dinner up on it. All in all it looked very romantic and if she pushed her unease aside, she could allow herself to enjoy the moment and the effort Owen put in to it.
“It looks like dinner is served,” she said lightly as she walked over and sat down.
His smile was genuine and Brooke was sorry she’d run off a few minutes ago. Maybe he’d be flattered that she’d painted him…it was possible. The problem was that she was trying to wrap her own brain around why it was this man who took her out of every comfort zone she had and why.
They ate in silence for a few minutes. There was just the two of them and the sounds of nature all around. The campground was relatively empty and she wasn’t sure if it was a blessing or a curse just yet.
“So are we going to see anything amazing in the sky tonight?” she asked.
“It’s too early in the month for the Lyrids or any shower but should be able to spot some of the constellations. It’s a perfect night for stargazing.”
She looked over at the tent. “Tom said this tent was made for that specifically –we’ll literally be sleeping under the stars. Do you think that’s true?”
“Technically, we sleep under the stars every night,” he began logically. “But with this particular tent, we’ll be able to see them as we’re lying down. It’s got a seamless mesh roof so there isn’t anything to obstruct our view. Although…on a night like tonight when there isn’t much activity, I’m not sure we’ll see anything impressive, but it’s still going to be a nice view.”
“What if it rains?”
He chuckled. “It’s not in the forecast and it’s pretty rare to get rain in this part of the country. You know…the desert.”
She hung her head and laughed at herself. “Right. Forgot about that. Sorry.” And then she was embarrassed. It was times like this when she was extremely aware of their differences in intellect. He was brilliant—a borderline genius—and she was just…Brooke. Nothing impressive about her at all. Average student. Average artist. Average woman.
“You’re wrong,” he murmured from beside her, his voice huskier than it was a minute ago.
Brooke looked up at him in confusion.
“There’s nothing average about you.”
Crap. Had she said that out loud? “I…I didn’t mean to say that. At least not out loud,” she admitted.
Taking her hand in his, he squeezed. “Why would you even think that about yourself?”
How could she even explain it? “For the most part, I’m okay with who I am. At least…now. I spent a lot of years struggling with it—but that was because my parents had groomed me to be someone I didn’t want to be. I’m finally at a point where I’m comfortable in my own skin, but there’s nothing…remarkable about me.”
“I disagree,” he said fiercely.
“It’s okay. I don’t think everyone has that…that certain something that makes them remarkable. You have a brilliant mind, Owen. That’s remarkable. People want to come and listen to you speak and just…glean something from your wisdom.” She shrugged. “I’m both intimidated and in awe of that. And then I open my mouth and say something that is just completely…stupid,” she groaned, “and I want to just kick myself.”
“You didn’t say anything stupid…”
She made a face as she looked at him. “Seriously? I just asked about rain in the desert. You don’t think that’s stupid?”
He didn’t laugh or even crack a smile. “No, I don’t.”
“Owen…come on. You’re not going to insult me. I need you to be honest with me, just like you always are.”
“You want honest?” he asked, his voice gruff. He released her hand and cupped her cheek. “I love that you’re not sitting here trying to come up with the kind of conversation that you think I want to have. I love listening to you talk about your art and your painting. And as for your comment about the rain, I think it’s an honest concern considering we’re going to sleep in a tent with a mesh roof. There’s nothing stupid about it. And there is nothing average about you.”
He didn’t stop there.
“I look at you, and I see an amazing woman—you’re smart and witty. You make everyone around you feel at ease. You have an amazing laugh, and when you smile, it makes me want to smile.” His thumb stroked her cheek as he spoke. “You move with the grace of a dancer and no matter where we are or what we’re doing, you embrace it. You’re passionate and kind and giving.”
Then he moved closer. Close enough that she could feel his breath on her cheek.
“And you’re someone I feel very honored to know. And someone I want to know better.” He swallowed hard. “And I want you very much.”
Brooke let out a shaky breath. “I want you too. So much it scares me.”
“I told you…you never have to be scared of me, Brooke. Ever.”
“I can’t help it,” she whispered. “You’re…you’re so much more than I expected.”
He rested his forehead against hers and brushed her lips with his. “And you’re everything.”
And then she was lost. Everything in her life seemed to lead her to this moment with this man. It was foolish to deny the attraction or the need for him that was close to consuming her. And she couldn’t think of a more perfect time and place for them than right here and right now.
With a steadying breath, Brooke stood and held out her hand to him. Wordlessly, he took it. It wasn’t smooth or graceful. In fact, it was a little bit awkward. But once they were inside the tent with the door zipped shut, it all changed. She raked a hand up into his thick hair and pulled him down on the padded floor with her. With his weight deliciously on top of her, her arms went around him, and all she could think was…perfect.
This was them.
This was their moment.
Under a sky full of stars.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary romance, Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return in November 2011.
Although she waited until she was in her 40s to publish for the first time, writing has been a lifelong passion. Her motivation to take that step was her students: teaching creative writing to elementary age students all the way up through high school and encouraging those students to follow their writing dreams gave Samantha the confidence to take that step as well.
With almost fifty titles currently to her name, she has no plans to slow down. You won’t find her books with the erotica or paranormal titles, all of her works are pure contemporary romances.
When she’s not working on a new story, she spends her time reading romances, playing way too many games of Scrabble or Solitaire on Facebook, wearing a tiara while playing with her sassy pug Maylene…oh, and spending time with her husband of 25 years and their two sons in North Carolina.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The stars are about to align in the newest Shaughnessy brothers romance!
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
Brilliant astrophysicist Dr. Owen Shaughnessy feels more connected to the cosmos than to people. He’s great with calculations, but when he leads a team of scientists to study a famous meteor shower, he doesn’t factor in his free-spirited artist assistant Brooke Matthews.
LOVE CAN DAZZLE YOU
Polar opposites in personality, the friction between them threatens to derail the project. But the beauty and mystery of the night sky draw Owen and Brooke together—and she’s going to surprise him in ways the stars never could.