( Hands Heart – Depositphotos )

It’s February, so you know what that means? Valentine’s Day, the official day of sweethearts everywhere. I enjoy Valentine’s Day as much as the next person, but I’m a romantic, so I feel like love shouldn’t only be celebrated one day a year. I’m sure I’m not alone in that belief–look how many romance readers and writers there are out in the world.

Rather than lecture about not celebrating love all year long, I’m going to skip ahead to the part of my weekly post where we have the story excerpt. This week, it comes from the first story in my tiger shifter series.

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Even the next day, Harley’s words stuck with her. She ignored his calls to her cell phone late in the morning and shortly after lunch while she sorted through old files. Finally, when he called a third time, she gathered up her purse and headed out, telling Amy she needed to run some errands.

She needed a distraction from the circling of her thoughts and from work, and it just so happened she was out of food at her house. A trip into the village was just as good a way as any to distract her.

She drove from work into town, making a mental list as she went and deliberately not thinking about Harley or Ezra. Finding a good parking space along one of the main streets, she put her purse strap over her shoulder and set off. She took her time, pausing to look in store windows as she went. She detoured into the tiny flower shop when some bright daisies and gladiolus caught her eye. The arrangement would brighten up her very empty home. She apologized when she bumped into a tall, blondish man in a black t-shirt on her way to the exit. He murmured something unintelligible and went back to looking at the roses in the cooler.

Next, she headed to the grocery store for some soda and a piece of fish to broil for dinner. After that, she continued on her leisurely way, admiring some hanging plant pots outside the hardware store, browsing the magazines at the bookstore, and then heading to the market. She picked up a basket, intent on finding some fresh vegetables to go with her fish for supper. Maybe some squash and tomatoes. She added both to her basket and picked her way along the row of bins, admiring the selection. Someday, she’d have a garden of her own to grow these things in. She smiled to herself, imagining that for a moment.

Tessa glanced up when she caught some small motion from the corner of her eye and realized that the big, rangy man with the dirty blond hair that she’d seen in the flower shop was picking his way along the produce bins in her direction, casually. A little too casually.

Her heart started to beat faster. The flower shop was several blocks away, and she’d left the car parked on that side of the square.

Maybe she was being paranoid.

The man stopped, picking up some oranges and very determinedly not looking in her direction.

She set down the basket she’d filled, and she walked away from the produce bins to the street corner. From the corner of her eye, she saw him look up and take a step toward her.

This was bad.

Without waiting for the stoplight to change, she ran out into the street, glancing back to find him striding after her confidently. Several cars honked their horns at her, but she didn’t stop running and heard the squeal of brakes. A loud thump sounded somewhere behind her, but she didn’t turn to see what had caused it. Her chest ached already, but she kept going, pushing her way through other pedestrians. When she reached the end of the next block, she dared a glance back over her shoulder. She didn’t see him, but she didn’t slow down, panting as she whipped around the corner and started to backtrack toward her car, her flowers flapping and her grocery bag thumping along her hip.

By the time she reached the car, she was lagging, her breath coming much too quickly, and sweat rolled down the back of her neck, soaking her shirt beneath the strap of her purse. She fumbled in the pocket on the outside of her purse for the car keys, glancing back over her shoulder to be sure the big man hadn’t figured out the direction she’d taken. Evidently, he had not. She jammed the key in the lock and yanked the door open. As she slid into the driver’s seat, her breath caught.

He had found her.

She jerked the door shut as he pounded toward the car from the opposite direction she’d just taken. She fumbled to get the key in the ignition, aware that her panting was growing faster again.

He was getting closer.

She hit the button to lock the doors on the car and finally slid the key into the ignition, turning it hard. The engine turned over, and she whimpered in relief.

But he was there now, grabbing for her door handle. And he looked as if he might have had a collision with one of those cars she’d dodged a few blocks away. Blood oozed down the side of his face, and his black shirt was torn across the back.

She yanked the gear shift into drive and stomped on the gas pedal.

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Now I’m going to go have dinner with my husband, but I’d love to hear your thoughts this week about the whole Valentine’s Day phenomenon: do you rely on the holiday or spread the joy all year?

 

 

 

 

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