In RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, first book in my Rainbow Rock series, Meg Taylor returns to the town where she, her friend Sally, and their buddy Little Jimmy McAllister were high school buddies. She finds much has changed in ten years. This scene occurs at a local community fair, which Meg attends with Sally and her family, when she spots a man she has seen (she thinks) only once before.
She looked up...and saw him again.
He was in the dunk tank, his back to her, his impressive body bare except for swimming trunks and speckled by the spotty, late-afternoon light that filtered through the cottonwoods, his lion's mane wet and dripping behind him. Meg immediately recognized the man from the bluff; her breath caught in her throat as she turned in his direction. His golden skin was damp and glistening, his hair dark with moisture. Walking without feeling her feet, Meg approached from behind the cage, drawn inexplicably forward as if she knew him, as if she had always known him. Her lips parted and one hand rose involuntarily, as if to touch that warm, damp flesh.
"Meg!" Frank's voice startled her out of her spell. He was in the crowd just to the side of the tank.
Reluctantly Meg looked up.
"I thought we'd lost you!" Frank called, adding, "We're having some watermelon before we leave. Meet us there when you're ready."
Meg nodded as Frank disappeared into the crush. She looked quickly back at the golden man, fearing that Frank's shouted conversation had attracted his attention, fearing even more that he had simply vanished, a figment of her imagination. As she turned, he did vanish. She gasped, and then realized that the boy in front of the booth had struck a bull's-eye.
The crowd roared as the man's perfect form dropped from sight, raising a plume of water that overflowed the tank. He came up sputtering, taunting the crowd, and Meg caught a glimpse of his profile as he turned. I have to see his face. It was more a drive than a thought, and it propelled her between the booths to the front of the tank. She arrived just as he climbed out, his back to her, a towel thrown across his broad shoulders.
"Ya done good, Jim!" someone called.
"Thanks, Tom," he answered. The sound of his voice caused a warm curling in her belly. Astonished at herself, Meg pushed through the crowd, drawing near. Then there he was, an arm's reach away.
He was tall, with a face just as fascinating as the rest of him--a strong jawline, boldly chiseled cheekbones, and a straight, patrician nose leading to a shy, slightly crooked grin. His features were also strangely familiar, almost as if she did know him, and yet she couldn't--could she? And yet there was something about his eyes...
He looked up as she approached, smiling tentatively, then paused, studying her. "Peggy? Peggy Taylor?"
The man stepped toward her. "Peggy?" he asked again. "It is you, isn't it?"
She stared, sure she should know the face, but unable to fit it to the body, or the name. Then she knew.
"Jimmy? Little Jimmy McAllister?" She barely recognized her own voice as it poured out like honey.
He stepped forward, reaching as if to embrace her, but then he let his hands drop to his sides. "It's great to see you."
"I, uh . . ." Words eluded her. "You are Little Jimmy, aren't you?"
He grinned, absently toweling his splendid chest. "Yeah, but no one calls me little anymore."
"No." She couldn't stop her eyes from doing a thorough, appreciative inventory. "I can see why not. What happened?"
"I grew." He shrugged. "We McAllisters are late bloomers." He returned the scrutiny. "The years have been good to you, too." The moment thickened as the one-time friends studied each other. "What are you doing back in Rainbow Rock?" Jim asked as he toweled his arms, hands, and throat.
Meg followed his hands with her eyes, suddenly imagining the feel of that warm skin. She flushed. "I, uh, I came to help Sally with her babies. I'm staying with the Garcias."
"That's good," Jim said. "Sally can use the help. I can't understand why she didn't mention you, though."
Meg was wondering the same thing. "My plans were only certain a couple of days ago. I asked her not to tell anyone I was coming."
"Not even the third musketeer?" His look sizzled through her, warmer than the July afternoon.
Meg gulped to catch her breath. "I didn't realize you'd still be around. Didn't you go away to school?"
"Arizona State," he answered, nodding. "Tempe isn't that far away."
"Then you came back?" Meg looked around her. "To here?"
Jim's grin straightened. "I came home."
Moments and years yawned between them, reminders of differences too wide to span. Meg sighed. "So you're working on the farm again?"
Jim's features tensed, an expression so brief Meg wasn't sure she'd seen it. "No. I help out occasionally, but my brother Chris is the farmer, and Kurt helps too. I'm more into commerce, myself. And you? What are you up to these days?"
"Management training, a consultant with Montgomery Adams Seminars."
"Now that sounds like the Peggy Taylor I remember."
"I'm called Meg now."
"Meg?" He tasted the name. "That doesn't sound like you."
She smiled indulgently. "It's all that sounds like me anymore--to me, anyway."
Again the silence stretched. "Say, are you busy this evening?"
RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME is now available as an e-boook for Kindle, Nook, Apple, Smashwords and scribd.com.