A Promise at Dawn by Jane Leopold Quinn

A Promise at Dawn by Jane Leopold Quinn

A Promise at Dawn

by Jane Leopold Quinn

Ebook ISBN: B00KX8KGL2

[ Cougar Romance, MF ]

Widow Faye Burke watches the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. Her guilty pleasure is the hunk running along the beach. The lovely woman watching Gil Farrelly gets his creative juices flowing. He’s determined to paint her. Faye fears their age difference will separate them. Gil intends to prove otherwise.

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Chapter One


Autumn on the coast of Maine…

Faye Burke inhaled the rising steam from her morning coffee as she leaned against the corner post on her porch. She loved watching the sun rise from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. For someone who dreaded the days, dreaded the length of them, dreaded the nothingness of them, she loved the beginning of them. Gold and crimson and lavender streaked across the horizon, reflecting off the clouds poised low over the water.

Ten months. Ten months, one week and six days ago her husband’s grand and glorious heart gave out. It wasn’t that they hadn’t had warning. In fact, despite years of warnings, death had still come as a painful shock. It had taken her breath away, made her feel like the loneliest person in the world. Even though, at sixty-five, he’d been decades older than her forty-three, she hadn’t fully prepared herself for this. For the devastation of it.

She’d bought this beach house on the coast of Maine sight unseen except for photos on the real estate firm’s website. Wanting the most picturesque cottage as close to the beach as possible and in the remotest village she could find was her plan because she had a lot of thinking to do. Fortunately, money wasn’t an issue and she didn’t have to continue working at her job in bank marketing. It would have occupied her mind but somewhere along the line she’d lost all interest in her career.

Some people, like her brother and her husband’s sister, accused her of wallowing in self-pity and, by God, she was. That’s why she was here in this small down east village of Roque Bluffs, Maine hiding out until she could see her way out of depression and into the rest of her life.

Besides the sunrise, there was one other reason for stationing herself on the porch every dawn, God forgive her. It was the man. The runner. Simple curiosity had brought her to the window when she’d noticed someone running along the beach. After all, she needed to be aware of her surroundings and the people in them. Then it became habit for her to pull on flannel drawstring pants and a sweater, take her coffee outside and wait for him—every day. She gave a rueful little laugh. After all, she wasn’t…dead.

And didn’t that thought bring on the guilt? For a few months after Ken died, she had no sexual interest. Then, all of a sudden, one night she’d had a few too many cocktails with her girlfriends and her body exploded in erotic desires. It hit her so mercilessly that the minute she got home, she practically ripped her clothes off to get at her aching pussy.

She fantasized that the cute young bartender stroked her clit, smearing it with her cream. God, she needed to put something inside her. She was open and throbbing with an almost painful need. In desperation, she thrust a finger, two fingers, into her vagina. It wasn’t enough. The fingers on her other hand caressed her clit, rubbing along the sides more and more frantically. Thrusting and rubbing in tandem, the pulsations rippled rhythmically up through her belly. Low guttural sounds ground out of her and she came. She rolled, burying her face in the pillow to muffle her groans. But that was hardly necessary. There was no one to hear her. Curled on her side, she rocked and sobbed. It was the most unsatisfactory lonely orgasm ever.

Now, ten months, one week and six days later, reeling in her sad memories, she found herself slumped on the railing of her porch, gazing fixedly into her cup. The coffee had gone cold. Masturbation had never been a help since then. Nothing helped. Her body and her heart were empty and, yes, she wallowed in her misery. And yes, she was sick of it.

“Mornin’.”

Her head jerked up. The man on the beach stood at the bottom of the tall steps leading from the sand to her porch. Her mouth opened on a gasp, then snapped shut. She squinted a little to see him better. “Good morning,” she automatically responded to the most classically handsome face she’d ever seen. His strong chin was gorgeously cleft and his dark eyes contrasted with his pale hair.

He stared up at her, hands on hips, legs spread in sweats cut off just above the knees. It was chilly enough for a sweater for her but he only wore a T-shirt. Even from above, he looked tall and lithe, his chest and shoulders broad, hips lean, legs long and…mouthwateringly long. He gazed steadily up at her, his intensity disconcerting.

It scared her. It had been so long since a man had… He was only looking. It wasn’t sexual, she admonished herself. That thought hurt her heart but she had to be realistic. He looked youthful and she was forty-four now, just last month as a matter of fact. “Bye.” She waved. “Have a nice day.” She fled into the house, coward that she was.

“Sure, you too.”

She slammed the door shut a little too hard, his response echoing in her ears. Leaning back, she sighed, sure that he would think she was just plain rude. Well, that was exciting. It would probably be the most exciting thing that happened all day.

***

“That was strange,” Gil Farrelly muttered. He knew a cold shoulder when he felt one. Well, he couldn’t blame her. A woman had to be careful these days. Two at a time, he took the outside steps to his room on the second floor of the boarding house in town and, when inside, he briskly rubbed his arms. He’d been warm while running but in the crisp morning fall air, he quickly became cold and couldn’t wait to get into a steaming shower.

He wanted to paint her standing at the corner of her porch, leaning on the railing. She wasn’t a girl. It was hard to tell her age from a distance but her features were strong and her hair, chocolate brown and dramatically full around her face, gave her an extremely sensuous look. The theme he had in mind for the painting was a fairly standard one. He’d paint her from the porch level, in silhouette, while she held the coffee cup cradled to her chest. It would be a moody work of art juxtaposing the dazzling dawn background with the luminous woman in the foreground.

Hot water rained down upon him and a thrum of sexual desire hummed through his body, his cock filling in response to the artistic concept. His hand slipped down and he fondled himself, stroking smoothly thanks to the soap. He closed his eyes, leaned back on the tile wall and massaged his cock from tip to base, his firm grip reinforced with his other hand. The stiff friction was like a woman’s tight sheath. He rubbed his length, brushed his fingers over the head, squeezed it, wallowing in the pleasure, prolonging it as long as he could. Doubling over in the euphoria of his ejaculation, he closed his eyes and relished the clear picture of the woman.

His room, the entire second floor of the boarding house, held sleeping quarters, a living room, galley kitchen and art studio. The minute he’d seen the large windows along the north wall, he’d known this place would be perfect for him. After losing everything in the fire two months before, he had to start from scratch to recreate a body of work and she’d be a great subject for the first painting. If she’d agree.

Settling into a big old overstuffed chair with light streaming over his shoulder, he started to sketch a rough outline for the painting. He was taking it for granted she’d sit for him but not having any problem with his ego, he was pretty confident he could charm her into it. His looks, physicality and artistic talent had opened many doors for him and he used every one of those doors to get what he wanted in life. Nothing had ever been denied him. His stomach turned, though, remembering the night of the fire. The night he’d lost everything.

Struck by lightning—that was the cause of the fire which had wiped out his entire studio. He lost everything including blank canvases, paints, finished paintings and works in progress, as well as his home. At dinner with friends in the small Maine town, he’d heard the sirens but never imagined it was his life’s work being destroyed. The only thing he’d found of value to salvage was one singed paintbrush. He kept it in his new studio as a kind of macabre talisman. He hadn’t been raised a quitter and he was looking forward to starting a new phase in his career.

***

Gil made eye contact with her over the bananas in the produce aisle. Her lips parted for a moment then shut tightly, her chin firming up in rejection, her gaze slipping away. Beside the fact he wasn’t used to rejection, it didn’t make sense. She didn’t know him from Adam so why would she scorn him so effectively?

He shortened his grocery shopping in order to get behind her in the check-out line. What he said to her now would be important. She was older. At least ten years, if not more, if the tiny crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes told the tale. Still, she looked fantastic, a little unkempt—no makeup, no lipstick, her eyebrows needed plucking, her hair a wild curly mass—but the basics of good facial bone structure were there.

“Hello again.” He sauntered casually behind her to her car. “I’d like to paint you.”

“Pardon me?” She whirled around and skewered him with an angry look. The grocery bag she’d been putting in her trunk tipped over and items rolled out.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He bent to resettle fresh vegetables and frozen dinners back into the bag.

“Well, when you come up behind a person…”

He barely got his hands out before she shut the trunk lid and hurried toward the driver’s door. Well, that was smooth. This approach had worked several times before but he should have known better than to try it on a mature woman. “I’m sorry, let me introduce myself. I’m Gil Farrelly.” He offered his hand.

She surveyed him up and down and focused on his eyes for a long penetrating moment. When it seemed she’d never make a decision, she gave his hand a brief shake. “Yes, well, nice to meet you.”

Good God, he was losing his touch. “Are you always up so early? I see you nearly every morning.”

She didn’t open the car door, just gripped the handle, then turned to him. “Yeah, pretty much. The sunrise never gets old. It was really beautiful this morning, wasn’t it?” She had a withdrawn private look about her but at the same time, she seemed to want to share observations about the sunrise.

“How about the sunset? Do you watch that too?”

“If I can, although I can only see it from my bedroom window.” She lowered her gaze to his chest and licked her lips.

“You have a lovely porch. A typical New England cottage porch. The flower baskets are well-proportioned to the space.”

“Thank you. When I bought the house in August, the flowers were already there. I’m just trying not to kill them.”

“Would you pose for me on the porch?” Now that she was relaxed a bit, it was time to go for the gold.

“Pose? What do you mean?”

“I’m a painter. I’d love to paint you on the porch looking out over the ocean, at sunrise, just as you were this morning.”

“You really are a painter?” She sounded skeptical.

“Did you think it was just a come on line?” He flashed a smile hoping to win her over.

“A come on? To me?” she scoffed incredulously. Shaking her head, she busied herself rummaging through her purse for her keys. “Believe me, I didn’t think anything like that.”

He took a step closer and rested his arm on the roof of the car. “You’re a beautiful woman.”

“Well, young man,” she said in a peppery old-lady tone of voice. “I’m quite a bit older than you. I’m sure you’re more suited to younger women.”

He leaned in, purposely invading her personal space, enjoying her sudden intake of breath and getting lost in the unexpected blazing focus of her gaze. “You don’t know what interests me in a woman.”

She blushed prettily, the pale rose perfectly complimenting her dark hair and her now clearly revealed eyes, eyes with little golden sprinkles scattered in the turquoise irises. Because of his artistic mind, he’d always been aware of particular colors. His training had given him the specific names. In fact the shade of her hair was a true rich sepia brown with no reddish tones.

Yes, she was very pretty and she seemed fragile, not just in size but in demeanor. Her lovely eyes bore a hint of sadness. She wore a wedding ring and a diamond indicating the probability of a husband. Shit. His disappointment surprised him.

She straightened suddenly, stepping back a bit. “Well, okay, um…it was nice talking to you. Maybe I’ll see you again. At dawn.”

There was that cold shoulder again and a frosty distant smile. He was being dismissed and he couldn’t say he cared for it. Keeping his voice amiable, he asked, “Will you think about my request?”

“Your request?” Her brow furrowed in genuine puzzlement.

“To model for me.”

“You’re serious?” She shook her head and frowned.

“Yes,” he said. “It’s not a come on line. I’d really like to paint you. Will you think about it?”

She still seemed hesitant but she said, “Okay, I will.”

“Good,” he replied quickly so as not to lose her. He fished around in his jeans pocket for his wallet and pulled out his card. Uncurling her fingers from the tense fist she’d made, he placed it in her damp palm. “Please, call me any time. That’s my cell number.”

She looked from him to the card in her hand, becoming a little less wary.

He plowed on, taking advantage of the interest he sensed in her. “I’d like to take you out to dinner before we start so we can talk. Become comfortable with each other.”

Her chin rose abruptly and the question came out as a warble. “You don’t want to do this in the…um…the nude, do you?” She placed a hand on her chest above her breasts.

“Well, no, I’m not usually in the nude when I paint,” he responded dryly. “But that’s your choice.”

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