Run to Her
by Lynn Kellan
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
She avoids men like him. He needs a woman like her. One lie changes everything…
Gabriel Antonov is a mechanic who can fix anything, even a woman’s hesitance. His talents have earned him the well-deserved reputation as a player, but when a routine one-night stand goes wrong, he’s haunted by what he’s done. Nothing can free him from those depraved memories, until he meets Leigh Nelson.
Leigh avoids strong, silent types like Gabe, who is stronger and quieter than most guys. The only man she’s focused on is her father, who is suffering from a devastating health crisis. She’ll do anything to help him, even at the cost of ignoring her own well-being, but the stress is getting to her. Gabe’s strength is tough to resist, and his silence might be hiding a crushing secret only she can understand.
He can’t outrun his gut-deep craving for her. Problem is, she’s running from him. When they’re marooned in his lakeside cabin, he might finally catch her…if he can admit why he’s falling apart without her.
She rose and gave him a smile.
That smile made him want to do pointless, tender things like brush his fingers through the blonde curls hanging down her slim back, but he kept his hands to himself. With her, he had to be careful. Take things slow. If he moved too fast, she’d come up with some reason to leave. He wanted to give her reason to stay.
For one night.
Or a long weekend.
Whatever it took to satisfy his hunger for her.
For the first time in months, he wanted to be with a woman. Not just any woman, though. Just Leigh. He wanted her so badly, every word he spoke came out curt and rough. Winning her trust would be tough if he kept sounding like a horny Neanderthal, so he kept his mouth shut and guided her out of The Crab Trap with a light touch to her back.
A fat raindrop splattered on the porch screen. And another. Tiny fragments of water landed on Leigh’s shoulder like little kisses. A shiver trickled across her back, forcing her to step toward the center of the porch to avoid getting wet.
The carefree humor fled from his expression. His gaze dropped to the tips of her toes and slowly rose up her legs, her body, her face. Gabe locked eyes with her, reached out, and opened his hand.
She gazed at his broad palm and dark memories rose, fueled by a violent incident that flashed through her mind whenever a big man got close…but this man was different. Gabe used his considerable strength to protect, not dominate. Months ago, he’d pulled off the Interstate to help her when no one else had. After that, he’d showed up to run with her when no one else would. And a few minutes ago, he’d tamed his powerful Harley so she’d enjoy the ride when no one else seemed to care if she had any fun. Even tiny things like ladybugs received his special brand of kindness.
She had no reason to believe Gabe would willfully hurt her. Even so, her heart tripped at the sight of the thick rope of muscle along his arm.
“I’m here to speak with the owner of this place. A friend of mine set up the meeting.” Leigh glanced at the clock on the wall, which read half past five. “I’m very early. We’re supposed to meet at six.”
“Hold tight and I’ll get him. He’s in the kitchen.” The waitress strolled across the room, opened a door, and poked her head inside. “Your appointment is here.”
The metallic clank of a spoon against the edge of a bowl echoed into the restaurant, followed by a deep bark of laughter. A man walked out, carrying a heaping plate of fries that would clog the arteries of a lesser mortal.
Leigh’s stomach growled, willing to clog a few arteries for those fries…and that man. He was tall, built like an Olympian, and looked like—whoa, hold the phone. He looked like Gabriel Antonov, which couldn’t be possible. Gabe lived in Philadelphia, a few miles away from her apartment. There was no reason he’d be this far north of the city. He owned a busy auto repair shop that devoured most of his time. An Internet search for ‘brawny workaholics’ would put his name near the top of the results page.
When she’d seen him a few mornings ago, he hadn’t mentioned that he might head into the mountains for the weekend—but he never chatted about his plans.
He didn’t chat about anything.
She took advantage of her semi-hidden position by the cash register to gobble him up with her gaze. Faded blue jeans clung to his long legs like water, rippling with every flex of his muscular thighs. A gray T-shirt hugged a burly torso that could have graced the home page of a fitness website. Thick black whiskers darkened his sturdy jaw, which made him look ferocious in a hold-on-to-your-ovaries kind of way.
His dark eyes landed on her and he slowed to a stop. “Hey, Leigh.”
“Hi.” She gave him a puzzled grin. “What are you doing here?”
One side of his mouth tilted up. “Waiting for you.”
“But I’m supposed to meet the owner of this place.”
“You just did.”
Of course. She ran into Gabe everywhere, so why not here? He smelled like crispy fries and pine forests, two of her new favorite things. If she could fuse those scents into a cologne, she’d call it Spud Stud and sell the fragrance at Christmas. She’d make millions. “I didn’t expect to see you, tonight.”
“I didn’t tell you I’d be here, for good reason.” His deep voice bottomed out to a low murmur. “If you knew I owned this place, you might not show up.”
His square-jawed, Slavic features made him look like he was made of concrete and steel. Immovable. Not going away, even though Leigh had turned him down every time he’d asked for a date. Part of her wanted to hug him for not giving up. The other part wanted to sprint out the door, because she knew he carried a heavy secret. She had one, too. The weight of that burden had driven her into a psychologist’s office two months ago, where she’d bumped into Gabe. Literally. She’d collided face-first into his hard, broad chest. He’d taken one look at her, turned as gray as dishwater, and left.
She’d never mentioned the encounter and neither did he, but she wondered why she kept running into this man. Like now. “There must be a mistake. I’m here to pick up a book. My friend told me to come here.”
“You must be talking about Darlene, right? I saw her a few days ago when she dropped off her car for an oil change. She said you’re looking for a vintage copy of The Twisted Claw. I’ve got one. You can have the book if you’re willing to make a trade.”
“Oh.” Darlene hadn’t mentioned a trade. She hadn’t revealed that Gabe would be here, either. Typical. Darlene loved surprises, especially if they unnerved people. Leigh clasped her hands behind her back and frowned. Usually, she bought the vintage books for a few bucks. She’d never bartered for one. “What do you want in exchange for the book?”
“Dinner with you.” He plucked a menu off the counter.
Lynn Kellan writes contemporary romance about strong men who have a weakness for smart women. She believes men and women aren’t that different, because everyone wants to be with someone who will empty the dishwasher. To prepare for her career as a romance author, she fell in love with bad boys, burly athletes, battle-hardened Marines…and married a chemist. Lynn has won numerous writing contests and served two terms as President of her local Romance Writers of America chapter, but she feels a true sense of accomplishment whenever she doesn’t embarrass her teenaged kids.
For love. For funny. For ever.
Find Lynn at http://LynnKellan.com
RUN TO HER is on sale for $2.99