Excerpt from Kentucky Woman...

Heart pounding and breathless, she swept open the door. She had no idea what to expect, but whatever happened, she knew it would be a new experience. Part of her looked forward to it. The other part felt pure terror.

Billy burst into the room and swept her up in his arms, swinging her around in a circle. He plunged his face into her neck and growled like a mountain lion. A curious fit of giggles burst from her mouth, shocking her. She'd never giggled in her entire life, not even when her father had tickled her as a child. Tickling annoyed her, and her father had received one or two kicks for trying to tickle her into a good mood. He learned fast that when Jessie Travers got into a bad mood, she stayed there until she was ready to come out.

“Oh, Jessie, I waited and waited, and you never came,” Billy crooned into her neck.

“I was just on--”

“And you smell heavenly. What is that glorious aroma?”

“Just me.”

“Just Me? Is that a new French perfume? It's perfect for you.”

He dipped her downward, locked his lips on her throat and shook his head like a big cat with prey, growling and purring. She threw back her head and laughed and, from her upside-down vantage point, saw a very stoic Cutter Raines plodding over the threshold, holding his book.

Billy continued to prattle, dropping her feet to the ground and holding her at arm's length. “And you look positively ravishing in that dress. Pink suits you. Doesn't it, Cutter?” He lifted her arm above her head and twirled her around, as though they danced at a ball.

Raines grunted and tossed his book down on the table, throwing himself into a chair. He pulled off his hat and slammed it down. “The bastard woke me up. Had just drifted off.”

Billy reached out and ruffled the dark mat of hair on top of Raines' head, making it stick up in black spikes. Raines swatted his hand away and raked his hands through the strands.

“Well, we had a rendezvous, Cutter. Wouldn't want to miss the charming Mrs. McGee in this beautiful dress, now, would you?”

“No, wouldn't want that.” Raines pulled the book toward him and flipped it open to a page. “You two play house or whatever it is you plan to do. If I doze off, leave me the fuck alone.”

Billy reached for his hair again, and Raines jerked away.

“Christ, Billy, lay off!”

Billy leaned down and whispered loudly in her ear. “He gets a might touchy when he's tired. He's worse than a child. But that doesn't have to interfere with our fun. May I have this dance, Mrs. McGee?” He bowed, sweeping his arm across his waist and bending his leg.

Jessie laughed, spread out her dress, and curtsied. Billy began to hum and pulled her into his arms. He sang a rather complicated tune, complete with sweeping crescendos and low soft melodies, filling in words he didn't remember with la-das and da-dums, guiding her around the room with a skill she'd never seen in any of the local men. He twirled her, spun her, moved her from corner to corner and around the table. She found herself caught in his enthusiasm and simply moved with him, enjoying his fluid grace. When he reached the end of his tune, he twirled her twice, making her dizzy, then gave her a little nudge. She dropped straight into Raines' lap, draping across him like a rag doll.

He grunted, and the chair tilted backwards. His arms wrapped around her as he struggled to control his balance. Her head fell against his shoulder when he pushed the chair upright, and the legs thumped against the floor. He gave Billy a scathing look.

Billy winked. “You weren't sleeping yet, Cutter. Just smell her.” He nodded at Jessie.

Playing along, Jessie swept the hair away from her neck and tilted her head. Raines leaned forward and sniffed tentatively.