Every heart has a forever home.
Megan Anderson loves the animals at her no-kill shelter. She’ll do anything for them—even go toe-to-toe with a handsome man who’s in way over his head. She’ll help him sort out his troubles, but getting too close to an adorable puppy’s human counterpart? Been there, done that, got burned.
When Craig Williams arrived at the local shelter for help, he didn’t expect a fiery young woman to blaze into his life. But the more time they spend together, the more he realizes it’s not just animals Megan is adept at saving—she could be the one to rescue his heart.
Soon, Craig and Megan find that the magic of unconditional love can do anything…even lead to their forever home.
Check out our exclusive excerpt below!
Working to suppress the shivers traversing her spine, Megan switched the travel mug of sweet-scented mocha to her free hand and tucked her half-frozen one into her coat pocket. She tried not to focus on how much warmer the shoulder was that was rubbing against Craig’s upper arm as they meandered the darkened streets of Webster Groves.
“I wish it were still Christmas so you could see it,” she said. “I always feel like I’m in a snow globe because the houses are done up so cute.”
“It’d be colder if it were Christmas. It’s mid-March, and I can’t feel my toes.”
“I told you that you needed a jacket.”
“Wearing your ex-fiancé’s left-behind and heavily sentimental hoodie didn’t have the right energy to it.”
“So now you’re freezing.”
“I’m still too drunk to be that cold.”
“Thus the walk and the coffee.” She wrinkled her nose at him, then grabbed his elbow to pull him to a stop. “We almost missed it.” She pointed through the darkness to a big house with white-painted brick, tall gables, glowing lamps in the windows, and a small porch lined with black rockers and big pots of seasonal greenery. “It’s one of my favorites. They decorate just right and never overdo it.”
Craig said nothing as he took it in, then nodded appreciatively. “You’re right. It’s well done. Want to knock on the door and introduce ourselves?”
“It’s almost ten o’clock, goober.”
He laughed. “I can’t remember being called a goober before. Ever.”
“There’s a first time for everything.”
“So,” he said, sipping his coffee as they started walking again, “did you grow up around here?”
“No. I grew up in the sticks. My house looked like a double-wide, like almost every other one in a ten-mile radius. Except that we were among the lucky ones and had a basement. And a tire swing.”
From her coat pocket, her phone chirped. She pulled it out and felt unease wash over her. “It’s Sophie,” she said. “I’m talking to her class tomorrow about the shelter.”
She stepped away to answer it, trying to sound chipper and sober and not out walking with Sophie’s dad. After assuring Sophie she wasn’t in bed yet, she listed the dogs she was bringing and reviewed the highlights of what Sophie wanted her to talk about. Once she hung up, Megan pulled in a breath before turning back to Craig, who was looking at her in a way she couldn’t decipher.
“When I’m with you, I keep forgetting about your relationship with her.”
“It’s weird. I know.” Megan dropped her phone back into her pocket and fell into step beside him again. “She’s a great kid. I really adore her.”
Craig’s arm brushed against her shoulder again. “You mean a lot to her. In fact, I’m pretty sure she idolizes you.”
“Well, I’m honored to be idolized, especially by someone like her. I want you to know I’m not… Well, I haven’t been…you know…”
“Leading her along to get on my good side?”
She nodded, pointing a finger his way. “Yeah, that.”
“There’s no need to state the obvious. But I’m honored you’re acknowledging I have a good side.”
Megan gave him her best mock-glower. “Now you’ve taken it too far.” With her attention off the sidewalk, she tripped on an uneven slab and went sprawling forward, splashing a stream of coffee over herself and slamming her knees and palms into the rough concrete. “Ouch.”
“You okay?” Craig’s hands closed over her sides as he helped her up. As soon as she was standing, he moved in front of her, reaching for her hands and turning them palms up. Nearby, her upturned coffee made gurgling sounds as it drained onto the sidewalk. Neither of them moved for it.
“I’m fine. And you’re supposed to be the drunk one.” Her hands stung like fire, but that paled in comparison to the fact he was so close, cupping them in his, the aroma of her spilled mocha heavy in the air.
What would he do if she slipped her arms around him and pressed her lips against his? Push her away? Pull her close? The urge to experience the pleasure of his mouth made her empty of everything but want.
One of his hands left hers, and he brushed a splash of coffee off her cheek. His fingertips traced the side of her face, traveling along her chin and down her neck until they were blocked by her coat collar.
He was so close. Twelve little inches separated them. That and a canyon between two different lives, one more in limbo than the other. His thumb circled the hollow of her neck, and he released a slow, controlled breath that washed against her forehead, smelling of wine and mocha. Would one kiss—one night—be enough? Why did it feel like moving on from anything with Craig would hurt more than her split with Paul had? That it’d be like being thirteen again and learning to live without the one person closest to her in all the world?
His other hand released hers and closed around her hip, claiming it and his desire for her in one fluid motion. He pulled her inward until their bodies pressed together. Megan’s pulse raced from the feel of his muscles taut against her. A groan filled the small space between them, but she wasn’t sure who it had come from. She knew the choice was to jump in and be engulfed, or step back and wither away from want.
Then, from inside her pocket, her phone chirped. She knew the answer before the phone chirped a second time, loud and demanding. It was Sophie, calling with something she’d forgotten to say or ask. Megan knew this even before pulling the phone out to check caller ID. Tonight wasn’t going to happen. They would come to their senses and wither away. It couldn’t hurt forever though. Losing something you never had. Could it?
Debbie Burn resides in St. Louis, Missouri. Shelter is her first contemporary romance and has finaled in multiple contests. Her writing commendations include first place awards for short stories, flash fiction, and longer selections from the Missouri RWA and the Missouri Writers’ Guild. You can find her on Twitter or on her website!
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