Book 1: Mystic Island
Cole said nothing, his dark gaze searching hers. “I swear I know you,” he said softly, lifting a hand to trail it along her jaw. “I remember those eyes. Your voice. It’s like…” His finger traced across her skin, sending chills racing down her spine.
She closed her eyes, drinking in the feel of his touch, so light, so sensual, it made her entire body long for more. He was dangerous and mysterious, strong and protective, so erotic that he made her want to embrace her femininity and allow it to flourish, instead of hiding it away.
He moved closer, and she felt his breath against her ear. “Who are you, Kate Smith?” he asked, his voice sending chills down her spine. “Who are you, to me?”
Willow shook her head. “No,” she said. “Let me be Kate.” She opened her eyes and caught her breath. His face was so close to hers that all he’d have to do was move an inch to kiss her. Adrenaline raced through her. He was so incredibly sexy, in the rough, rugged way of a man bound to the land, a man who lived with honor. “Kiss me,” she said suddenly, the words bursting out before she’d even articulated them.
His eyes widened, and she felt her cheeks heat up. “Oh, God,” she said, pulling back. “I didn’t mean to say that. I don’t even know you.” She scrambled out from under his arm and lunged to her feet, horrified. Was she that desperate to feel alive that she’d actually asked a complete stranger to kiss her just because he called to her in a way that she hadn’t felt in so long? She hadn’t felt this kind of connection to anyone for years. The last time she’d felt like this had been the only other time she’d been on the island. It had been only one night, one evening, but she’d never forgotten how she’d felt that night. That was why she was coming back…to find that moment that she’d failed to hold onto so long ago. She was not here to beg for kisses from a man she didn’t even know. “Never mind—”
Cole stood up, grabbing her wrist as she started to walk away. His dark eyes were burning into her, his jaw hard and angled. He was so male, so intense, so powerful, as if he were carrying the burdens of a thousand civilizations on his shoulders. Was this the man who had confessed his guilt over someone’s death only minutes ago? Where was the vulnerability he’d let her see when he’d told her he didn’t believe in love. Had she imagined it? She searched his face, looking past the rigidity of his jaw and the taut lines of his mouth, looking for the softness. She tried to imagine his mouth turning up in a smile, his eyes crinkling with laughter…
Recognition suddenly flashed through her mind, and she froze. Dear heavens. She’d seen him smile before. She’d heard him laugh. She *did* know him. He was the boy, the boy from that night so many years ago when she’d been on the island. Her first kiss, in the moonlight, on the beach that had felt endless and beautiful. *It was him.* “Cole?” she whispered in shock. She’d forgotten his name. She’d forgotten what he looked like. All she’d remembered was how he’d made her feel. But it was him.
She knew it was.
“Kate.” He whispered her fake name, the name she suddenly didn’t want to be. Then he pulled her against him, his hand sliding up into her hair as he lowered his head. Her heart hammered when she realized what he was doing. He was giving her what she’d asked for. He was going to kiss her.
Suddenly, all the stakes had changed. He wasn’t a safe, random stranger in a storm. He was real, someone she knew, someone who had mattered to her so long ago. She grabbed his wrist, intending to stop him, but before she could, his lips touched hers, and he kissed her, sweeping her up into the most romantic, most seductive, most dangerous kiss of her life.
She had no chance to stop him, or to keep herself from responding.