Lina is a tree sage, a gifted person who heals trees, but her duty binds her to one place for her whole life until she marries. Tree sages must marry and birth a daughter by twenty-eight, even if true love is out of the picture. When hot rally winner Brad meets her, he is drawn to her mystical powers. Lina can’t resist the man who represents something she shouldn’t go for, but neither can she turn away his sexy touch. Brad offers to marry her and take her on a world-wide rally tour. She can fulfill her dream of traveling, and he provides a way to meet the demands of her breed, but will that be enough? What about love?
When Lina settles in Paris, loneliness and unfulfilled expectations threaten to pull the shaky relationship apart. Could the barriers between them be caused by an evil greater than they imagined? Soon, they will have to fight for Paris, but will they survive?
She led the way through the darkened nursery to her front door. The fresh breeze from the trees calmed her, and she couldn’t resist stopping by the dwarf coral trees with their scarlet trumpet flowers gathered onto tapered spikes.
“These are one of the most popular choices for gardens.” She sniffed a flower and caressed a silky leaf.
“They’re hardy and grow fast, but don’t take up too much space.”
Her nerves were making her babble. Surprise shook her when his hand caressed the nape of her neck, his touch cool yet sending searing heat through her.
“You’re so gentle with them. Kiss me, Lina.”
She turned to find him inches from her. His breath smelled sweet like the rose or lavender bush, warm and fresh at the same time. She moved closer to kiss him, and as their lips met, shivers ran through her. Closing her eyes, she took in the full sensation of him surrounding her with solid arms. Joy and hunger for more mingled inside her.
If only she could have him.
“Let’s go inside,” he murmured, his voice husky. “I want to see you. The dim light coming from your front door doesn’t illuminate your beauty.”
For a first kiss, it was a little disappointing. Too quick, not enough savoring, little exploration.
“Don’t you want to look around?”
“Do you have a brochure I can look at?”
The trees nattered amongst themselves. Several of them seemed surprised she’d brought a man home. Smiling, she unlocked her front door, snapped on the lights, and directed Brad to her living room.
Immediately, her indoor ferns shimmered, and their leaves plumped up. Brad gaped at them.
No one had ever noticed the big part of her life—the way plants responded to her presence—before. Not even Henk had picked up on it.
“I feel it, too,” he whispered near her ear, sending spasms through her core.
“Feel what?” Her body moved toward unmistakable arousal. The disappointment from the hurried kiss faded in the brightness of his male aura. Could she resist?
“This power, this energy when you come into a room. The trees and plants pick it up. What sort of talent do you have?”
“I’m just like anyone else.” A lie, but she’d wished for normality her whole life.
“Oh, no you’re not. That’s what drives me crazy about you.” He ran sizzling hot fingers down her neck to the dip where her collar bones met. “Every time I see you, I get goose bumps on my arms. Tingles run up and down my legs. I struggle to breathe. It’s more than sexual attraction. I’m drawn to you, to your essence. I don’t think I could ever enjoy life without you.”
She spun around to face Brad, who stood inches from her. Her body chilled then heated in one tumultuous second. “You’re back already?”
“I finished the race.”
Relieved he hadn’t noticed her conversation with the tree or the shakiness of her voice, she drew on every ounce of self-control to appear unaffected by his nearness. He smelled of motor oil, gasoline, sweat, dust, and raw power. She imagined him hovering over her, his stubble grazing her face, his lips locking with hers, his rock-solid arms pinning her down.
She swallowed. “Did you win?”
“I did.” He gave an easy smile as if winning were a given.
“That’s amazing. You must be over the moon.”
“It hasn’t hit me yet. I thought you’d left. I—”
“Don’t you have to go somewhere? I won’t leave. I promised.”
“I’ll wait for the awards ceremony. Nowhere to go yet. My agent’s lapping up all the attention.”
He’d rather be with me? Confusion sent her head into a spin. Her day had been strange, her responses to this man foreign to her. Longings that she’d pushed down for years surfaced. Speak before you do something stupid! “You look tired. Can I get you a drink?”
“I’d like that.”
He fell in beside her while she walked, and another odd sensation assaulted her. He belonged near her, just like she belonged in nature, amongst the trees where sap pulsed more than blood. This man’s veins seemed to pump hot and sexy and oh-so-desirable. Every fiber of her being strove to sense and memorize his movements.
She couldn’t help granting him a huge smile.
“Where do you live?” he asked as they reached the counter of the mini-bar in the clubhouse.
“Not far from here. Moreleta Park.”
“Oh, I’m staying in Centurion.”
A suburb near her. Her heart rippled as if in a breeze, and she became aware of the throbbing pulse in her neck. “Small world.”
“I want to see you again.”
He moved too fast. At the moment, she just wanted to drink a soda with him. “I don’t know.”
The bar lady handed them their drinks, her face rough and uninterested. He gulped his down.
“Another one?” Lina held back a laugh.
“I should be buying you a drink.”
“Nope.” She grinned. “You’re the winner.”
“I can’t believe it. It’s my first official win, and it’s nationals.” He glowed with a sense of achievement—that tired yet pleased feeling of having accomplished something great.
How could she feel this growing respect for him when he’d harmed the trees? “You must have trained hard.”
“I did. My family’s hardly seen me.”
She almost lost her grip on the soda. “I…. Are you married?”
He touched her elbow, guiding her outside. At once, her heart rate eased. She always felt safer outside near trees. She used the opportunity to make her way to the bride’s bush and stood under a branch.
“Nah, not a chance of that happening soon. I’m way too busy for a wife.” Brad leaned on the trunk and gave a relaxed smile.
She almost said good but kept her mouth shut. She didn’t want to appear like the anti-marriage type.
His gaze swept over her. “You like plants?”
Heat flushed her cheeks. “Why?”
“That tree’s practically kissing you.”
“What?” She spun around. The tree’s branch eased away from her head. The synergy and bond she shared with the trees had become so automatic she often forgot how it looked to other people.
“Are you real?” His pupils grew large, with…. What, tenderness, awe, curiosity?
“I am. You can see my ID book.”
“I’ll take your hand instead.” He reached out, grasping hers.
His palm was still moist from the soda can or maybe from driving like a madman, and his fingers were large, encompassing, and muscular. Her pussy tightened in immediate response, and she wished for more than casual sex with him. Wouldn’t a long-term relationship be perfect?
Yanking her hand away, she stumbled back into the tree, knocking a branch onto the ground. For the first time ever, she’d forgotten about one of the creatures and only thought of a human. Ashamed of herself, she edged away, her face flaming. “I-I’d better go.”
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