Title: Twelve Kisses Later
Collection: Sun, Sand & A Ring On My Hand
Author: Sandra Sookoo
Genre: Contemporary Romance; Beach Read
Today we have the release of TWELVE KISSES LATER, part of the Sun, Sand & A Ring On My Hand collection from Blue Tulip Publishing, a collection of 3 standalone novellas. Get a head start on summer with these engaging contemporary romances!
Can you find true love in a kiss? How about a dozen?
Lucy Duckworth is comfortable with her life and in her own skin, and her habit of picking up orphaned cats is charmingly noble. Yet when her roommate asks her to fill in at a kissing booth during the county fair, Lucy’s even-keeled existence suddenly tilts.
Matthew Kincaide is a cowboy with one simple motto: keep your head down, don’t talk a whole lot, and never trust a woman. Divorced and not about to give a woman control over him again, all he wants is to deliver his animals for the petting zoo and get out. Too bad his annoying brother coaxes him into buying tickets for a kissing booth.
Lucy’s first kiss with Matthew ends with a violent sneeze, but she can’t forget that lip-tingling, take-me-away moment. Though Matthew is shocked by his heart-thumping reaction, he lines up for a second chance. Surely lightning can’t strike twice. Summertime fun and a random accident block their path, but if they keep on, they’ll find out how many kisses it takes to fall in love.
The hot, humid air rang with the sounds of laughter and squeals of joy from children obviously immersed in the midway-type games. Far off bells rang whenever a game was won. Mechanical music drifted over from the carousel. The rhythmic hum of the generator that kept the oscillating fan on the floor of her booth running provided another layer of sound to the ambiance. If it weren’t for the actual kissing, the night would be pleasant. She might even consider tracking down a bag of kettle corn or roasted sugared almonds, or maybe attempt eating a funnel cake without dusting herself in powdered sugar. Why had she thought the idea of the county fair was stupid before? There were so many possibilities for eating…
A soft clearing of a male throat brought her attention back to the moment.
Oh, the kissing booth. That’s why.
When Lucy transferred her gaze from the teen who recently vacated the booth to the next man in line, she gave him a welcoming smile, the same as she’d done for countless others. He ambled forward, his face blank, his strong, stubble-covered jaw set and a brown cowboy hat cocked high on his forehead. Her breath caught. The man could have stepped out of a Western romance. Holy cow.
He looked familiar. Maybe she’d seen him around town. He kept walking. Her throat went dry. She couldn’t stop staring. Faded jeans fit like a second skin and hugged lean, muscled thighs in all the right places while a blue-checked button-down shirt screamed cozy weekends laying in the tall grass while watching the stars, maybe making love beneath that velvety midnight sky.
Where did that thought come from? She shook her head slightly and continued her perusal just to see if he was a full-fledged cowboy.
Lucy peeked down. Yup, he wore scuffed cowboy boots too. A real, honest-to-goodness country boy, here at her kissing booth. If all the guys standing in line looked like him… Before she was ready, he stood at her counter and plunked a ticket into the fishbowl.
“I’m Matthew Kincaide.” Uncertainty flickered in his lake-blue eyes.
And I’m about to make a fool of myself. His name sounded familiar, too. Something to do with animals? At the moment, she didn’t much care. All she wanted to do was stare at him and imagine what those toned and muscled arms might feel like around her. Instead, she said, “Okay.” None of the others had introduced themselves. That little bit of humanity made her pay attention. It was nice. Old-timey. She couldn’t help but admire the broad sweep of his shoulders and a chest that she assumed was defined enough to match the rest of him. Hard, like a rock. Did he have a heavy mat of hair or a sprinkling? Just stop it. He’s here for a kiss and that’s it. “Hi, I’m Lucy Duckworth.”
“Seen you around.” His intense gaze held hers. Embarrassment and a touch of resignation warred for dominance there.
She tamped the urge to laugh. He didn’t want to be here any more than she did. At least they had that in common. It made the evening not quite so bad. “I thought you were familiar too.”
“Yeah. So, how should we do this?” His deep, almost smoky, whiskey-smooth voice rippled between them. Awareness of him as a man pricked the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck. At the last second she stopped herself from shivering, but there was still an incredible desire to have him whisper something, to read the list of midway events—the back of a cereal box, anything—in that voice.
“Do what?” She couldn’t remember where she was, not with this fine specimen of a man standing in front of her, looking for all the world like he just stepped out of an action flick.
“Kiss.” His eyes narrowed a fraction, the delicate skin at the corners crinkling, while his sensuous lips thinned as if the idea detested him. “You know, the reason we’re here?”
“Oh.” Reality smacked into her. “Um, however you want.” She glanced behind him. The other guys in line moved about, shifting from foot to foot or murmuring to each other, clearly restless. “I don’t think there’s a protocol, but there are others waiting, so we should be timely.”
Matthew nodded but didn’t make a move to initiate a kiss. Instead, he half-turned. The corner of his mouth still visible to her lifted with a partial grin. The first guy in line made a circular gesture with a hand as if to say, “Get on with it.”
Matthew once more gave her his full attention. “No matter what my brother back there says,” he cocked a thumb over his shoulder. “I’m uncomfortable kissing a girl without getting to know her first. I guess I take after my dad that way.”
“Well, as noble as that sounds, it’s not a prerequisite for a kissing booth.” She appreciated his old-fashioned outlook, but he was holding up the line. “It’s a fundraiser. Manners, though appreciated, aren’t required.”
“That’s too bad.” He rubbed a hand along his jaw.
“Yeah.” Lucy swallowed. How lucky was that hand which touched that jaw…? She shook her head, yanking herself back to the present before her pseudo-Shakespearean moment showed. “Maybe this will help. I have a roommate, I like cats, and I want this fishbowl filled with tickets so the kids at the elementary school can get a new playground. Now you know more about me than you did two seconds ago.”
A ghost of a smile graced his mouth, and she couldn’t help but stare at those manly, sensuous lips. How would they feel like against hers in a real, honest to goodness kiss instead of one bought with a ticket? “Better.”
Thick moments went by as she yanked her attention back to his eyes and fell into those cool pools.
He scratched his forehead. “The guys in line say you’re real experienced in the kissing department. That true?”
Heat jumped into Lucy’s cheeks. Great. They all apparently thought she was Pam, and of course her roommate’s reputation had gone before her. “No, you must be thinking about my roommate, Pam. She’s the kissing queen. She got sick so I’m filling in for her.”
“Good grief, Matt. Just kiss her and move on!” The shout cut into her answer. “It’s not like you’re making a life decision.” The next guy in line rolled his eyes. “If you don’t want to, let me have your turn.”
Lucy grinned. “Must be your brother.” They were almost identical in appearance and posture, except the guy in line was a few inches taller and clean-shaven. “Look, tell you what: If you don’t want to do the whole lip thing, that’s fine. Give me a nice, chaste kiss on the cheek, and we’ll call it a day.” Poor guy. He seemed so discombobulated she’d give him an easy out.
“Nah, I can handle it.” Determination steeled those eyes. “It’s just a little kiss.”
Matthew put a hand on the counter, leaned into her personal space, and pressed his lips to hers. Soft but firm, and with none of the chapped skin or extra slobber that she’d been subjected to during her stint, they were warm against hers, cradling hers as if he knew exactly how to kiss a woman. Lucy relaxed. Her hand brushed his on the counter. An electric charge skated up her arm, and an answering thrill twisted up her back while her heartbeat danced and jumped as if she’d just run around the town—twice.
Wowsa. What in the world?
She pulled away, but not enough to put noticeable distance between them, only enough to break the kiss. Matthew’s breath warmed her lips. His scent wafted around her, enveloped her in a stealthy cloud of leather, animals, and a hint of crisp soap. Lucy breathed deep and sighed. Now that was what a man should smell like… and then she ruined the moment for both their memories by sneezing violently, more like a full-body sneeze wherein her head snapped forward and smacked into his chin.
“I’m so sorry.” Pain throbbed through her brow.
“I’ve never had that reaction before.” Matthew fished a folded white handkerchief out from a pocket and handed it to her.
“Thanks.” She snagged the square and peered at him. “And thanks for the kiss.”
Read all 3 books in the Sun, Sand & A Ring On My Hand collection from Blue Tulip Publishing, a collection of 3 standalone novellas. Get a head start on summer with these engaging contemporary romances!
Sandra Sookoo is a USA Today bestselling author who firmly believes every person deserves acceptance and a happy ending. Most days you can find her creating scandal and mischief in the Regency-era, serendipity and happenstance in Victorian America or snarky, sweet humor in the contemporary world. Most recently she’s moved into infusing her books with mystery and intrigue. Reading is a lot like eating fine chocolates—you can’t just have one. Good thing books don’t have calories!
When she’s not wearing out computer keyboards, Sandra spends time with her real-life Prince Charming in central Indiana where she’s been known to goof off and make moments count because the key to life is laughter. A Disney fan since the age of ten, when her soul gets bogged down and her imagination flags, a trip to Walt Disney World is in order. Nothing fuels her dreams more than the land of eternal happy endings, hope and love stories.