Sharon Timmons picked herself up
from a rough childhood, making a new life for herself. Dumped by her cop
boyfriend, his partner rescued her, heart and soul. No one had ever really
needed Pete Rayne until Sharon came along. A knockout with insecurities, Pete
scooped her up in his arms–literally–and didn’t plan to let her go. He’s
determined to prove he’s the one man who’ll love her forever. Sharon finally
realizes her intense, honest relationship with Pete is true, and that he is The
Reviews for The Keeper
5 Hearts from The Romance Studio
Blue - "It's great to watch the author build this story into something
really special. It's a wonderful reinforcement to a belief that people should
never give up on love."
4 Nymphs from Literary Nymphs
Reviews - "An impressive read."
4 Cherries from Whipped Cream -
"The way Sharon survived, learned to trust and eventually love again was
very moving and touched my heart."
A sequel to Home to Stay
Jane Leopold Quinn
revised 2012 by Jane Leopold Quinn
Cover design by Heidi
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Pete Rayne didn't run from the
thought of getting married. He just hadn't met the right woman. Yet. He always
figured, not to sound incestuous, that he'd marry a girl like his sisters.
Blonde, blue-eyed, sweet and innocent looking. He never, in a million years,
believed he'd seriously fall for the exact opposite.
Sharon Timmons was someone else's
girlfriend, though. His partner's, to be exact. Off limits, untouchable, taboo.
So, he didn't touch. He just occasionally fantasized about her. However, the
night his partner, Hank Crossman, followed the new woman in town, Nickie Grace,
out of Nook's, Pete knew it was time to make his move on Sharon.
"Well," he said to
Sharon. "I guess it's just you and me. Do you want to go home or stay a
She concentrated on drawing circles
in the wet rings on the bar. "Like I didn't see that coming a mile
He couldn't stand the dejected look
on her beautiful face. "Dance with me, Share?"
"Oh, that's all right."
Her brows drew together in a frown. "You don't need to…"
"Don't think about it right
now, honey. Let's just dance." He brushed her jaw, raised his hand to her
hair, and twisted his finger into the curls around her ear, his gaze following
the movement. Pure silk, soft as clouds, he had to clench his fist to keep from
clutching the strands and burying his face in her hair.
Instead, he escorted her to the
dance floor and wrapped her in his arms. He couldn't believe it. This was just
like his fantasies, except they'd involved being naked in bed with her on top.
She folded into his embrace as if she was well familiar with him. Her delicate
body with its high, firm breasts, felt like heaven against his chest.
Unbelievably, his arms shook more than they should have, so he tightened them
and hunched over as if protecting her.
He rested his cheek against her
hair and pulled her even closer, one hand around her waist, the other cupping
her nape. She must have just washed her hair because even in the smoky bar, the
scent of it was fresh and lemony. Every delicious inch of her—breasts, belly,
and thighs—crushed against him as they swayed to the music. There was no way
she could mistake his sexual interest since his cock had grown hard and heated,
but he tried his damnedest not to grind it into the cushion of her body.
"Sharon, look at me," he
commanded in a husky, none too steady whisper, pulling gently on her hair to
tip up her chin. "Share?" He tugged again.
Crap. She's shivering.
Is she crying?
She finally lifted her eyes to his.
"No, no, I'm all right."
He could barely hear her over the
"You don't have to do
"I don't have to do anything,
Share, but I
to kiss you." Hank was an asshole for dumping her
publicly like this. For so many reasons, some he didn't quite understand, he
wanted to make it better for her. They swayed to the beat of a Joe Nichols
ballad. His chest expanded against her breasts.
He lowered his head and murmured
into her ear. "But, if you want, I'll wait."
"Wait?" She tensed,
pulled her arms from around his neck, and grasped his forearms.
Her small hands on his arms made
him feel strong and protective. "Until tomorrow night. How about we go to
a movie tomorrow night?" He held back from taking advantage of how close
his lips were to her ear. He really wanted to kiss the pretty little shell,
and, oh fuck, he wanted to suck her earlobe between his teeth and bite.
She clung to him. The noise and
smoke of the bar disappeared, and it was as if they were alone. Some singer a
long time ago said dancing was like making love standing up.
Man, was he
Maybe she'd like to dance naked. He groaned, the sound reverberating
in his chest.
When the song ended, and he
reluctantly came to his senses, he steered her to the door and out into the
steamy night. He was all heat, hot from the night and hot from Sharon.
Extremely aroused, he stood very close to her at her car door, balancing one
hand on the roof of the car, resting the other on her waist. She toyed with the
buttons on his shirt. He held his breath when she pressed her palms against his
chest, then lost it when she brushed her knuckles on his belly, just above his
Her expression was surprisingly
shy, which seemed odd for the experienced woman he thought she was.
Her fingers resting on his belt,
she whispered, "Do we have to wait for tomorrow night for the kiss?"
Her lips parted and pursed, her
gaze focused on his mouth, and that was all she wrote. Instantly, his mouth
connected full on with hers. Lightly—intense but delicate—he brushed his lips
back and forth, learning her, tasting her. He fought his desire for more. He
wanted to plunder, but the softness of her response kept him in check. He let
her lead the way and narrowed his eyes to watch her expression.
Hers popped open.
With a shivering sigh, her breasts
rose against his chest. The kiss ended. They separated, both gasping raggedly.
wrong with me?
He'd been turned on before, but he'd never had this much
She cupped his cheek, scraping her
nails in his late night whiskers. "Wow," she said.
"Yeah," he responded,
feeling distinctly off kilter.
She smiled at him. "I'll see
you tomorrow night?"
"You bet," he replied
huskily. "I'll call you." Bracing his legs, he watched her pull out
of the parking lot and drive down the street. "Holy shit," he
muttered under his breath. "I gotta talk to Hank." There was no way
he was going to let his partner have her back. Not after that kiss.
"Hey, Rayne, it sure looked
like you were gettin' some last night."
Pete was barely in the door of the
sheriff's station before fellow Deputy Ron Zayboh opened his big mouth. He
motioned the other man down the hallway toward the john. Zayboh followed,
probably thinking he was going to get some juicy details.
"If I'd known Hank was dumping
the beautiful Ms. Timmons, I might ha…"
Pete didn't raise his voice, didn't
put a hand on Ron, but gave him a shoulder butt into the concrete block wall.
"I'm not real fond of hearing that kind of talk, Zayboh," he growled
sotto voce. "So, shut the fuck up about Sharon."
"Hey, man, calm down."
Ron held his hands up, palms out in surrender. "It's all right."
"No, it's not all right. I
don't know what you and Hank talked about, but around me, she's off limits to you.
All of you, for that matter. Got it?"
"Yeah, sure, man. I'm sorry. I
was just jokin' around."
Ron wasn't a bad guy. In fact, Pete
had also thought Sharon was easy. Any woman with a body like hers, a gorgeous
face, and who dated a lot just had to be easy. The question was why he was
getting all bent out of shape about it.
Because now she's dating me,
If the guys didn't treat her with respect, well, then he'd beat
them to a bloody pulp. "Okay. No more joking. Treat her
respectfully." He shot Ron a final glare.
"Hey, no problem, Pete."
"Okay," he grumbled in
turned on his heel and hooked his thumbs in his gun belt in a show of
nonchalance as he strolled back to the squad room.
Zayboh had the last word, but since
, Pete let it go. Now he wondered how many of the guys had
she slept with. Hank, for sure. Well, he wasn't going to ask her. Whom she'd
been with before they hooked up was none of his business. Not that he liked it.
It just was none of his business.
Nevertheless, Hank had better not
think he's getting her back.
Speaking of Hank, where the hell
They had rats to deal with. The night before, after Sharon drove
off, the sheriff's dispatcher had sent Pete to Nickie Grace's house. Someone
had peppered her porch with dead rats. She'd given in and spent the night at
Hank's house. Maybe he'd gotten lucky.
Warm chocolate drizzled on her
lips, the sweet, thick fudge sliding over her tongue and down her throat. She
licked her lips and moaned at the rich, luscious scent that brought back
memories of the bittersweet times of her childhood. Wriggling between the
sheets, she burrowed deeper into her pillow, cocooned and safe in her little
world of delicious chocolate delicacies. They'd never let her down. She didn't
want to open her eyes, didn't want to spoil the moment.
Rolling over, she hugged the pillow
to her chest and fought coming awake to the real world. In her dream, she'd
been the chubby ten-year-old girl, stuffing herself full of hot fudge sundaes
after school, hoping to erase the pain of her loneliness.
Very early in life, Sharon had
separated her reality into two parts. When other kids made fun of her weight,
when she couldn't catch her breath in gym class, when her fat jiggled as she
ran around the track at school, she let chocolate—cookies, cupcakes, and candy
bars—lessen her pain. She would recite her litany of eating pleasures, and the
sounds of laughter and taunts melted away; much like fudge melting in her
mouth. Therefore, reality number one was the pain. Reality number two was the
pleasure that kept reality number one at bay, at least temporarily.
She woke up very slowly this
morning, memories from the night before drifting back to her. The pain and the
pleasure, just like her childhood. The extreme rejection of Hank walking out on
her in front of everybody, and the unbelievable pleasure Pete showed her.
that pleasure last longer than chocolate had?
Sharon was so happy to be outside
in the fresh air after her shift was over. Her job as a dental assistant
started at eight, the shift was over at three, and she usually grabbed only a
quick yogurt for lunch in order to keep the appointments going. Wanting a
normal career even if it wasn't something glamorous, she'd worked hard for the
specialized training in a steady job. One she could hold with pride. After her
chaotic childhood, normalcy in her adulthood was of paramount importance.
Glancing across the street, she
spotted Pete talking to Hank, Nickie Grace, and another woman who was
practically standing on top of him. It was like a punch to the gut. He was nice
to her just last night, carried her away and kissed her as if he meant it. That
was all right. She wasn't invested in a relationship with Pete any more than
she'd been with Hank. Guys were like that. You couldn't trust them.
"Hey, Share, wait up!"
Pete shouted as he steadied his equipment belt and bounded across the street,
totally abandoning the three people in the park. "You look great."
She couldn't help smiling at his
enthusiastic greeting, but she demurred, "I'm sure I look like hell after
a full day at work, but thank you anyway."
"I'm not kidding. You look so
cute. Your knees are adorable." With his infectious smile, his gaze roamed
appreciatively over her.
She ate up his compliments.
"Well, I hate baggy scrubs."
"I've never seen anyone else
wear them as well as you do." He placed both hands around her waist.
Her body heated, and her expression
turned serious. All she could do was grip his arms, her hands around his elbows
to steady herself. After years of being thin, she still couldn't see herself as
anything other than the chubby young girl. She thrilled at the feel of a big,
strong man's hands around her waist. It made her feel delicate and dainty.