Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Will her need to do the right thing cost them everything?

Anything But Mine by Linda Winfree
Book Four of the Hearts of the South series.

Public Defender Autry Holton is in a "shunned if she does, disbarred if she doesn't" position—honor-bound to defend an accused serial killer. To complicate matters, she’s pregnant and hasn’t told the father about a baby she’s sure he won’t want.
Sheriff Stanton Reed never believed he was the right man for Autry. He’s already raised one family and suffered a failed marriage. When an attempted break-in at Autry’s home highlights the real danger she faces, at first all he can think of is protecting her. Before long, all he can focus on is how much he loves her and wants her back in his life.
But just as Autry dares to hope there’s a future for them, an act of home-grown terrorism shatters her trust—and threatens their lives.
This had to stop.
Autry put her lotion away and wrapped a towel around her body. Irritation and unfulfilled desire had her nerves jumping and the worst part was she had herself to blame even more than Stanton. Sure, he was clueless about other people’s emotions, let alone his own. She’d known that going in. Now suddenly, she wanted him to change into Mr. Perfectly-in-touch-with-his-feelings? So being pregnant had made her emotional and now completely irrational. Instead of sitting around whining about how blind he was, maybe she needed to show him where to go.
He’d asked for more time. That had to mean something.
They were having a baby together. She wanted to forge a relationship with him. He said the same thing.
What was she accomplishing by holding him away?
Sleeping in the spare room wasn’t getting her any closer to him, wasn’t in any way binding him to her.
So what are you going to do?
Taking a deep breath, she knotted the towel at her breasts. Before her spurt of courage and resolution could desert her, she marched into the bedroom and gathered her things. Her hands full, she slipped down the hall to Stanton’s bedroom. The door stood slightly ajar and the fresh smell of his soap hung in the air.
Her stomach turning slow rolls, she nudged the door open with her knee. The bedside lamp shed soft light in the room. Stanton lay on the bed, arms under his head, clad only in his khaki slacks. At her entrance, he glanced her way, his eyes dark and shuttered.
Her simmering level of irritation, with him and herself, flashed into anger. She tossed her overnight bag on the floor. “Just tell me one thing. What the hell is your problem?”
Surprise flared on his face and he levered up to lean on his elbows. “Which problem are we talking about?”
“What do you really want? Is this all about the baby and your so-called duty? Or do you want me at all?”
He moved to a sitting position, throwing his legs over the side of the bed. He kept his gaze trained on hers. “Of course I want you.”
She clutched the knot between her breasts. “If there were no baby, would we be together?”
He opened his mouth, closed it, swallowed hard enough his Adam’s apple bobbed. “I don’t know.”
Irrationally hurt, she laughed. “What am I saying? The only reason we’re together now is because I got pregnant.”
“It doesn’t really matter how much time I give you.” How could this hurt so much? “Nothing changes the fact that you didn’t really want me.”
His head jerked up. “That’s not true.”
“You dumped me. If that doesn’t say ‘I don’t want you’, I don’t know what does.” Why was she doing this? Hell, why was she even here? What she should do was march back to her room, get dressed and demand he take her to her parents’ house.
Shaking her head, she spun and stalked to the door.
“I was afraid, all right?” The words emerged in a near-hiss, as though he pushed them out between clenched teeth. “What I felt for you scared the hell out of me, and I got as far away as fast as I could. Happy now?”
“Afraid.” She couldn’t quite catch her breath, couldn’t quite believe what he was saying. Holding her breath, she turned.
“Yeah.” He ran both hands through his hair, leaving the short brown strands disheveled.
“Why?” she whispered, still clutching at her towel.
He shook his head. “I’d already failed with Renee, hell, to the point she had an affair. I was scared of screwing everything up with you too, and it just seemed easier to get out, let you find somebody who could be what you needed.”
Renee had cheated on him? He’d never revealed that before, and as badly as she wanted to explore that, see how it related to their relationship, she needed more to make him understand what was most important.
She took a step forward. “I needed you.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m a real prize. An emotionally unavailable ass, as Renee says.”
Unavailable? She wouldn’t say that. Reserved, yes, until she’d managed to get under the layers of professionalism and seriousness. Then she’d glimpsed the real man underneath—honest, compassionate, intuitive, blessed with a wry sense of humor.
She took another step toward him. “I think I’d say more confused than unavailable. Whenever I’ve needed you, you’ve always been there.”
“Autry, you don’t get it.” The words were rough, torn from him. “If I failed again and lost you…”
She closed her eyes, his words thrumming through her. He did care; there was hope. She simply had to reach out and take it, show him the way. They could have so much more than she’d dared dream. If only one of them took the first step.
Opening her eyes, she caught his ravenous gaze. Those eyes whispered of starvation, of a wanting that went far beyond the physical.
She reached for the knot and let the towel fall to the floor.
What did Mrs. Giggles say in her review of Anything But Mine? Find out.


Lori said...

Very happy about this! Just bought it, and am shunning the piles of work to read it tonight :)

Linda Winfree said...

Thanks, Lori! I'm happy to see it release as well. I love this story.

I hope you like it!