Back to School
By Cynthia Owens
Whenever I think of “Back to School,” so many images come to mind. Walks to school through crisply crunching autumn leaves. New teachers, classmates. New books in the school library. Pencils, pens and notebooks. New challenges.
This year, back-to-school will be a little bit different. This year my beautiful daughter will take the first step into adulthood when she starts college on August 21.
So many firsts, and all of them heart-wrenching. On her first day of pre-school, I’m not sure who shed more tears, me or her! When she started kindergarten, I was a little bit more prepared…though not much. By the time she got to high school, she and I were both looking forward to it…okay, well, she more than I, but I think we were both ready for the new adventure.
And now she’s a lovely young woman embarking on a new phase in her life. I’m grateful she’s going to be commuting every day…I’m definitely not ready for her to move out on her own, though I know that day will eventually come, and sooner than I’m prepared for it.
Many people think of autumn and the back-to-school season as the end of things. The dying of the year, the end of the summer. But I’ve always thought of it as an exciting time, and yes, even a romantic time. Cooler air is just made for cuddling by a sweet-smelling fire, and I love the smell and the sound of fallen leaves, especially at night, when the moon is a glorious golden orb hanging low in the sky.
Lydia Daniels and Shane MacDermott think autumn is a pretty romantic time, too. In fact, they had their very first kiss on a bright autumn day under a canopy of watermelon-red, lemon-yellow and pumpkin orange leaves.
Her breath caught in her throat, making her feel dizzy and faint. The blazing canopy of leaves above her whirled crazily. “Please,” she whispered, wondering what she begged for. “Oh, don’t…”
In an instant he was beside her, his arm sliding around her shoulders. The heat of his body seared her to her very soul as she sank into the depths of his obsidian eyes. She felt the strength in his arm, in his hand. But he wasn’t threatening or intimidating. Instead he emanated a quiet, gentle, strength, almost caring, almost…tender.
“Are you all right, lass?”
His voice! Slightly gravelly, mellow, filled with concern. She stared up at him, and felt as if she were falling. Falling from some incredible height, knowing he’d be there to catch her. Falling into a soft web of gentleness, of caring, that she’d never known before.
“I-I am so sorry.”
“Ah, you needn’t be.” Humor laced his tone, and suddenly he smiled again, an endearing glint of mischief dancing in his eyes. “What man doesn’t want to play the hero to such a lovely lass as yourself?”
He thought her lovely! She despised herself for the little thrill that trembled in her heart, but she couldn’t help it. He was so compelling, so warm, so utterly masculine. He was gentle. She knew better than to trust such a man, she knew she did.
“And what man doesn’t want to hold a beautiful woman in his arms?” His voice roughened, one hand reaching out to touch her cheek.
Despite herself, she flinched.
His hand paused in mid-air. “Don’t be afraid.” His voice flowed over and around her, making the sun filtering through the leaves of the trees seem brighter, the blue October sky seem bluer, the crisp, smoky air sweeter. “I mean you no harm, Lydia, I swear I don’t.”
He’d caught her up in his spell. “Then what do you mean, Shane MacDermott?”
He moved closer, closer, until she could feel the warm, moist whisper of his breath on her cheek. “This.”
He lowered his mouth to hers, capturing her lips in a kiss so sweet and so gentle that it stole her breath, filled her with warmth, and chased away her fears. His hand came up to stroke her cheek, his touch feather-light against her skin. His callused fingers scraped her flesh, thrillingly abrasive. Her heart pounded against her chest.
And she felt no fear at all. There was no harshness in Shane’s touch, no brutal invasion of her mouth, her body, her very soul. This…why this was comfort. This was warmth and tenderness and caring.
He raised his mouth. “Lydia,” he muttered, his breathing unsteady. “You’re so sweet. Sweeter than ripe strawberries. Sweeter than honey. Your hair…” He ran his fingers through the locks she’d allowed to escape, making her wish she’d loosed it all. “’Tis like the finest silk. Your skin…” He stroked her cheek, and she shuddered with pleasure. “’Tis the softest velvet. Your taste…” His tongue licked over her skin, sending lightning bolts of heat dancing through her. “I want to devour you.” His lips moved to caress her cheek, nuzzle her hair, skate over her collarbone, sending shivers of delight through her entire being.
This was insane. It was folly to allow her hands to slide up the strong, corded muscles of his arms. It was absolute madness to sink her fingers into the rough, dark curls at his nape, to press closer to him, absorb the warmth of his body with her own.
But she did. She breathed in his spicy scent, lost herself in his strength. She stroked the back of his neck and gloried in the harsh groan that rumbled through him. His hands slid around her waist, bunching in the fabric of her gown, pulling her closer, and closer still.
“Shane…” Her body trembled with desire, her entire being in thrall to his magic. “Shane…”
As if the sound of her voice had poured a bucket of cold water over him, Shane jerked away from her, his face accusing. Jumping up from the bench, he stalked a few paces away, his breathing harsh. “It seems you’ve a way of turnin’ a man’s thoughts from his purpose, so you have.”
I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there. My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII. A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond. The first three books in The Claddagh Series, In Sunshine or in Shadow, Coming Home, and Playing For Keeps, are all available from Highland Press. Deceptive Hearts, the first book in The Wild Geese Series, has just been released, and Book II, Keeper of the Light,will soon be published by Highland Press. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two teenaged children.
You can find Cynthia and her books on her webpage, and most online book retailers:
**Thank you so much to Cynthia for sharing her life with us. Please take the time to leave a comment for her. All comments will be entered to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card! Happy September!!**
Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.