Welcome back to Austen Promises!
I wrote no new words on this story this week, because I was editing Darcy’s Predicament. Hopefully, by the time this post goes live, I’ll be back at it. 🙂
I have Chapter 8 for you today. Part of this will change, because I wrote last week’s bowling date after I wrote the part of this chapter that’s at Coach’s house.
Oh, grab a fan. There’s a smokin’ hot kiss in here! 😉 <3
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The couple chatted all the way to Will and Liz’s house. When they pulled up to the garage and shut the truck off, two of the guards were immediately at their doors, as always happened. After identifying Mary and Declan, the guards turned away to resume their monitoring activities and Declan walked Mary up onto the porch and to the door. He turned to face her, holding her hands.
“I had a great time. Can we do this again?” Declan’s voice was, as always, gruff, but this time was pitched low.
“I’d love to.” Mary gazed up at her date.
The familiar urge to kiss Mary overcame Declan, and this time, he didn’t fight it. He lowered his head, his gaze centered on her lips. He brushed them with his own and drew slightly away. It was not enough. He caressed them again, then pressed his lips to Mary’s. His arms went around her waist, drawing her tightly to his chest. When he felt her respond, he deepened the kiss, his tongue stroking closed lips, urging them to open to him. She did, and he lost himself in the feel of her for several long minutes.
Mary had never been kissed like this before. She felt herself melt into Declan’s chest, all thoughts removed from her mind. He and his kiss were all there was. She clung to him, a lifeline that kept her standing.
Declan had lost all track of time. Eventually, a thought niggled at the back of his brain and he slowed the kiss, finally bringing it to a stop. He leaned his head against Mary’s as he gasped for breath, his eyes closed. “You never told me you were a good kisser.” His voice was now a whisper.
“I never knew. I’ve not been kissed before.”
Satisfaction rose in Declan’s mind. To be Mary’s first in anything made that primal part of him rejoice. He wanted to kiss her again in celebration, but knew if he didn’t stop now and put space between them, he might not be able to stop. “Now you do.” With a deep breath, he loosened his hold and stood straight. “Good night, Mary.” He brushed her cheek with the fingers of his right hand. “I’ll call you tomorrow. He let go and turned, walking awkwardly away.
“Good night,” Mary whispered. She let herself into the house, knowing Declan would sit in his truck and wait to leave until she was inside. She watched through the window as he started the truck and drove away, then leaned against the door, her fingers pressed to her lips. “Oh, my.” It would be a long time before she fell asleep.
Coach’s House, The next day
Will opened the door of his truck to help Liz out. They were attending a picnic at Coach’s house, and he was juggling a casserole dish in one hand with a bag of chips and dip hanging off his elbow.
“Easy now.” Will leaned down to kiss his wife after she stumbled.
“Goodness!” Liz clutched her husband’s arm. “I got a little dizzy there. Thanks for catching me.” She lifted her face for another kiss.
“Who knew pregnancy would leave you so off-kilter.” Will wrapped his arm around Liz’s waist and pulled her close to his side. Hearing the rumble of a motorcycle, he looked over his shoulder. “Deck’s here.”
Liz twisted her head to look over her husband’s shoulder. “Is Mary with him?”
“No, Mary is pulling in behind him. How’s that relationship going?” Will stopped and watched his sister-in-law and her friend.
Liz shrugged. “I don’t know. Mary hasn’t told me much other than she had a great time on their date.”
“Maybe she’ll open up while she’s relaxing today.” Will cocked a brow at Liz, who grimaced.
“Maybe.” She turned back to her sister and Declan. “Did you have a hard time finding the place, Mare?”
“No, your directions were excellent.” Mary blushed as Declan came to a stop beside her and put his hand on the small of her back.
“Mary’s right. The directions were detailed enough to make it easy to find this place. I’d have missed the end of that driveway completely without them.” Declan removed his hand from Mary’s back to shake Will’s and give Liz a hug.
“Liz is very good with giving directions.” Will’s wry tone and wink made his wife roll her eyes while Mary and Declan chuckled.
“Come on, Mr. Smart Mouth, let’s go in.” Liz turned on her heel and stomped away, but her wink when Will pulled the screen door open gave away that she wasn’t really angry. She stepped into the mud room then through to the kitchen, Will, Mary, and Declan on her heels.
“Liz!” Edie Reynolds greeted Liz with a hug. “How are you feeling? Have you seen the doctor? What did he say?”
Will laughed. “Give her time to get in the door, Mrs. R.” He kissed the housekeeper’s cheek.
Mrs. Reynolds grinned and patted Will’s cheek. “If I must.”
Liz’s eyes twinkled to match her bright smile. “Mrs. R, do you remember my sister, Mary? She was at our wedding.”
“I do!” Edie’s face lit up as she reached for Mary’s hands. “It is so good to see you again, my dear. Coach tells me you have become a permanent North Carolina resident.”
Mary smiled as her face brightened with Mrs. Reynolds’ warm greeting. “I have. I moved in with Liz and Will a couple weeks ago, and Coach gave me a job at the shop.”
“Excellent news!” Edie leaned forward and kissed Mary’s cheek. “Welcome to the family.” She let go of Mary’s hands and looked past her at Declan. “And who is this fine looking fellow?”
“This is Declan Paisley.” Will moved to Edie’s side. “This is the man who found Liz.”
Edie’s eyes filled with tears at the reminder of the family’s recent trauma. As she did with Mary, she stepped toward Declan and took his hands. The burly biker turned beet red and looked to the floor, shuffling his boot-clad feet. “Thank you for saving our Liz. You are an angel.” She stood on tiptoed and brushed his bearded cheek with a kiss.
“It was nothing, ma’am.” Declan swallowed. “I’m glad I was able to help.” When Edie let go of his hands, he immediately shoved them into his pockets.
“Nothing to you, maybe, but everything to us.” Edie stepped to Declan’s side and tucked her arm in the crook of his elbow. “Come on out to the deck.” She looked at the rest of the young people. “Coach and Georgie are out there and the steaks are on the grill.” With Declan at her side, she led the group outside.
A short time later, after the steaks had been eaten and dessert served, group conversation diminished and more intimate ones began. Liz turned to her sister, eager for information about Mary and Declan.
“You had a second date last night, didn’t you?” Liz tilted her head as she watched her sister eat.
Mary swallowed and took a swig of lemonade out of her plastic cup. “We did.” She scooped up another spoonful of chocolate mousse.
“Where did you go?” Liz leaned forward.
“We went bowling.” Mary shrugged. “I’m not all that fond of putting my feet in other peoples’ shoes, but we had a good time.”
Liz nodded. “Okay, that’s good. Have you asked him questions like we talked about? You must still like him if you went out with him again.”
Mary took her time responding, keeping her eyes on her plate. “I do like him. Very much. He’s been a total gentleman every time we’ve been out.” Her cheeks pinked. “I haven’t asked him a lot of questions yet.” She shrugged. “I’m not sure I can without sounding judgmental.”
“Hmm, yeah, I understand how that might worry you. All I know to say is pray for the words you need. If you want to practice, I’m willing to help.”
“Thanks, I might take you up on that.” Mary looked across the yard to where Declan stood with Will in front of the quarter-mile dirt track Coach had built when his son was small. “I was thinking about inviting him to church tomorrow.”
Liz smiled. “That’s a great idea. Will and I don’t always go like we should when we’re home. Have you chosen a church yet?”
“There’s a small one a few miles down the road from your house I want to try.” She shrugged. “This is the hardest part of moving, this finding a new church thing. If I don’t like this one, I’ll have to try another.”
Liz nodded. “That’s smart, but then, I expect nothing less from my most faithful sister.” She nudged Mary and grinned, then giggled when her sister rolled her eyes.
“Such a tease, Lizzy.” Mary looked across the yard at the gorgeous biker who she liked so much. “I wonder what they’re talking about down there?”
Will grinned as he described for Declan the races he and his cousins, Rick and ___ had staged on the small dirt oval his father had created. “Anyway,” he said as he finished his tale, “Rick totaled his Bandalero and Uncle Henry refused to buy him another one. Coach suggested he make the three of us fix it, and we spent an entire winter making repairs to the body and engine.” He shook his head. “To this day, I hate working with bondo.”
Declan laughed at the images Will had painted. “Yeah, that stuff can be tricky. Too bad you weren’t able to just fabricate new parts.”
“Oh, yeah. That would have saved us a ton of time and headache.” Will laughed. “Come into the garage and I’ll show you the cars.”
Declan’s brows rose. “You still have them?”
“Oh, yes. Dad kept everything my sister and I did, including school papers, until one day Mrs. R made him go through them all and toss a bunch.” Will opened the garages’ side door and stepped in, reaching to his left and flipping some switches.
As the lights began to come on, Declan whistled. “Wow. You had a lot of cars.”
“Some are my grandfather’s, a couple are dad’s, but the majority are mine from before I reached the national level. Feel free to get up close and personal with them.” Will gestured to the line of cars, then followed as Declan took him up on his offer.
“Did you want to race because your dad did?” Declan squatted down to look inside Will’s first Legends car.
“At first, I think so, but I’ve always had wheels of some sort. Dad has a picture of me in one of those toddler cars. I had a go-kart, as well. So, I knew how to drive and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until I raced the first time that I truly got bitten by the bug.”
“One of the foster families I lived with took us go-karting a lot in the summer. I enjoyed it, but was more interested in the motor and body than the actual racing.” Declan shrugged as he stood up. “I wasn’t with them very long, maybe six months.”
Will wasn’t sure what to say. “That must have been rough.”
“Looking back now, I can say that, yes, it was. Back then, I didn’t know any different.” Declan looked around at the evidence of pride a father had in his son sighed. “I intend for life to be different for my kids, if I have any.” He looked Will in the eye. “The club has been my family for nearly a decade. We’ve had each other’s backs and made sure no one went without. Every single one of us has had our wild days, but a lot of the guys have begun settling down.” He looked away, toward the wall that faced the house, where Mary sat. “I’m ready to settle down, and I hope I’ve found the woman to do it with.”
Will was quiet. “Honestly, I hope you have, too. I don’t know either you or Mary very well, but I can tell you that she’s sincere in her beliefs and her desire to do what’s right. And, I know that you are a good man, solid and true. I watched the two of you out there.” Will tipped his head toward the house. “And I think I see two people in love. Be gentle with her whatever you do.” Will paused. “I don’t know much about the biker lifestyle, but what I’ve heard isn’t all good. I suspect you’re going to have a lot of proving to do before Mary lets you in. I know I did with Liz.”
Declan’s brows rose and his eyes widened. “Really? But, you’re a clean cut guy.”
Will snorted. “That didn’t matter a bit to Liz. She’d been hurt before, badly, and wasn’t about to give her heart away again. It took months of demonstrating my faithfulness and devotion before she finally gave me her heart.”
“Wow.” Declan looked over Will’s shoulder, his gaze unfocused. Finally, he spoke, bringing his eyes back to his friend’s. “I’d never have known if you hadn’t told me.” He stuck his hand out toward Will. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.”
Will shook Declan’s hand and clapped him on the shoulder. “Let’s go back to the house and see if the girls left any dessert.”
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