by Natalie J. Damschroder
Featuring the main characters from Under the Moon.
Valentine's Day was one of the bar's busiest nights, and since Quinn hadn't decided how to replace Sam as manager, it all fell to her, for the first time in six years, to run the place. Unlike most nights, when transient and local bikers, lonely regulars, and good-time Charlies filled the place, tonight the majority of her patrons were couples.
In the past, that had bothered her, way down deep in that gigantic box of emotion she wouldn't acknowledge. But this year, the guy behind the bar with her was her soulmate, her protector...Nick Jarrett.
She watched him out of the corner of her eye while she pulled a pitcher of the night's special draft—Samuel Adams Brick Red, in honor of the holiday. Nick wore his usual flannel button-down open over a soft, worn T-shirt, the long sleeves rolled up over his strong forearms. He raised one eyebrow as he handed an Irish whiskey across the bar, then laughed at whatever the customer said. Mid-grin, his head turned, gaze tracking in a familiar movement. But instead of scanning the bar for whatever threats might be lurking, his eyes landed squarely on Quinn. The smile changed, and it was the one he reserved just for her.
Quinn sighed. Yep, she sighed, a 38-year-old teenager getting a smile from the guy she'd crushed on for 15 years.
And she didn't care. Because it was about time.
Nick slid between Quinn and the cash register behind her. His hands burned on her waist, and he nuzzled her ear. "Happy Valentine's Day."
Quinn chuckled and squirmed away from the scrape of stubble on her neck. "You said that already. About six times." He'd started as soon as they woke up late this morning. After an hour of...cuddling in the big, soft, comfortable bed he'd insisted they buy when he moved in with her, he'd taken her out for brunch and a very short shopping trip. Neither one of them liked shopping much. They were both the get in, get what they needed, and get out type, which made things a lot easier. The foil hearts and cupids they'd bought hung from the ceiling now.
"I'm making up for lost time." His murmur sent a shiver down her spine. She glanced at the clock over the bar, knowing damned well it wasn't even past ten o'clock. They had hours before they could close down and be alone.
"Come on." Nick moved away, his hand catching hers, fingers threading tightly. The shivers erupted into a cascade of sensation down her body, not just from the promise his touch made, but joy from the freedom they had to do something as simple as hold hands.
She resisted his tug toward the end of the bar. "I have beer to pour."
He pulled harder, wrapping his free arm around her waist when she stepped closer. "Robin will take care of it."
Sure enough, the waitress had already moved in and taken over the order Quinn had been filling. Katie and the rest of the staff maneuvered through the crowd, obviously having everything in complete control. Katie winked at Quinn and aimed her chin at the bar's front door.
Quinn frowned up at Nick. "What's going on?"
"You'll see. Come on." He led her out of the bar and across the parking lot, not to his vintage Charger sitting way off to one side, away from the main parking area, but toward the street and...
...a freaking limo parked near the rutted entrance.
Quinn stopped short. "Nick."
He didn't flash his cocky grin. In the yellowy-orange light from the sodium vapor lamps overhead, he actually looked worried. "What?"
"I'm in jeans and beer-soaked sneakers. I can't get in...that." She motioned lamely.
Nick's expression relaxed. "Don't worry about it. No one will see."
"Where are we going?" But of course he didn't answer.
The back of the limo glowed with hidden lighting, stars dotting the black velvet ceiling. Quinn settled onto the leather seat, wishing she was at least wearing a dress. She accepted the glass of champagne Nick put in her hand, bit the strawberry he fed her, and sipped the liquid that was more expensive than anything she stocked in the bar. When he handed her a bouquet of white and pink roses wrapped in satin ribbon, she burst out laughing.
"Nick, what on earth is going on?" This was so not his thing, and he had to know by now she didn't need it.
He pulled her close and leaned into the corner, sighing. "I know it's corny and cliché. I don't care. I've thought of doing this with you every Valentine's Day since we met."
Quinn's heart melted, and she turned her head into his chest, absorbing his warmth, the steady beat of his heart under her ear, and the deep, rich, familiar scent that used to haunt her. "I love you, Nick Jarrett."
"I love you too." He tilted her chin up and kissed her, a slow kiss full of promise and too much regret. Quinn hated that part, hated that either of them ever let the decisions of the past get in their way. She slid her hand into his hair and deepened the kiss, her bossy nature demanding he feel only the love. He smiled against her mouth.
A few minutes later, when the flowers had fallen to the floor and Quinn had climbed into Nick's lap, determined to give him the full limo experience, the vehicle glided to a stop.
Quinn squinted at the tinted window, but could see only darkness. "Where are we?"
"Someplace hopefully not cliché." Nick shifted her away and reached across the car for a pile of black wool that turned out to be a long, warm coat he wrapped her in.
"This isn't mine," she said, rubbing her cheek against the fluffy lining.
"It is now." Nick opened the door and helped her out. Quinn slid her hands into the coat's pockets while he buttoned it. They were lined with the same fluff. She'd never felt anything so soft.
"I love it. Thank you." She wished she had his present with her, a heavy silver watch that had been his father's and that she'd had repaired. But then she realized where they were, and her heart thumped hard against her ribs. "Nick."
They walked hand in hand across the grass, not needing more than the three-quarter moon to light their way across the cemetery. Quinn didn't need guidance. She knew exactly where to go. She came here four times a year, on her parents' birthdays and the anniversaries of their death. Never on Valentine's Day.
After a few moments of silence punctuated by their breath misting in the cold air around them, Nick cleared his throat.
"I just wanted to thank you," he said to the grave markers at their feet. "For your daughter. She's the best thing that ever happened to me."
Quinn wasn't a crier. But tears stung her eyes, chilling in her lashes as Nick turned to face her and took her hands in his hot, rough ones.
"We started late. It took us longer than it took them to recognize that there are more important things than jobs—"
"Legacies," Quinn corrected. "Callings."
"Obligations." He raised her hands to breathe on them, to keep them warm. "For a long time, I hid behind that job, let it keep me from you because of fear. I don't know if this is appropriate for Valentine's Day." He glanced down at the graves. February 14th wasn't marked on them, but Nick obviously knew its importance nonetheless. "It just felt right to tell you this here." He looked back at her, his eyes glinting in the dark, his love so strong, so powerful, that it filled Quinn until she thought she'd burst from trying to contain it.
"I know," she whispered.
But he continued anyway. "It felt right to tell you on your parents' anniversary, in their presence—so to speak—that I will spend the rest of my life making it up to you. Cherishing you. Loving you."
"Oh, Nick." She pulled her hands free and threw her arms around him. "Me, too. I love you. So much."
"I love you, too."
Quinn didn't want to get married on Valentine's Day, and Nick hadn't exactly proposed. But there, standing on the crisp, frosted grass next to the grave markers declaring her parents' undying, everlasting love, she and Nick made a silent, heart-searing vow to each other that could never be broken.
Not by anything.
Title: Under the Moon : Goddesses Rising Book 1
Author: Natalie J. Damschroder
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance
Ebook Release Date: November 15, 2011
Print Book Release Date: December 6, 2011
ePub ISBN: 978-1-937044-54-1
Print ISBN: 978-1-937044-55-8
GODDESSES RISING - Book One - by Natalie J. Damschroder
Their power gives them strength…and makes them targets.
Quinn Caldwell is the epitome of a modern goddess. Her power source is the moon, her abilities restricted only by physical resources and lunar phase. She runs a consulting business and her father’s bar, serves on the board of the ancient Society for Goddess Education and Defense, and yearns for Nick Jarrett, professional goddess protector and the soul mate she can never have.
But someone has developed the rare and difficult ability to drain a goddess of her powers, and Quinn is a target. With the world thinking Nick has gone rogue (whatever that means) and that Quinn is influenced by “family ties” she didn’t know she had, keeping themselves safe while working to find the enemy proves harder each day.
But not as hard as denying their hearts…
Available at Amazon Paperback, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble
Natalie J. Damschroder came to writing the hard way—by avoiding it. Though she wrote her first book at age six (My Very Own Reading Book) and received accolades for her academic writing (Ruth Davies Award for Excellence in Writing for a paper on deforestation her senior year in college), she hated doing it. Colonial food and the habits of the European Starling just weren’t her thing.
She found her niche—romantic fiction—shortly after college graduation. After an internship with the National Geographic Society, customer service for a phone company just wasn’t that exciting. So she began learning how to write the books she’d loved to read all her life. Now she struggles to balance her frenetic writing life with her family, the most supportive husband in the world and two beautiful, intelligent, stubborn, independent daughters (the oldest of whom has become a writer). She somehow also fits in a day job and various volunteer positions in and out of the writing industry.
Learn more about her at her website, www.nataliedamschroder.com, follow her on Twitter @NJDamschroder, or friend her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nataliedamschroder
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