Raising the Stakes
By Karen Rock
Age category: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 1 April, 2015
Hiding from the world…
Tucking herself away in the Adirondack woods was supposed to keep Vivienne Harris safe. From dark memories of the Bronx, from danger, from entanglements. But when an orphaned bear cub raids her pantry and conservation officer Liam Walsh appears with news of poachers nearby, her private, peaceful world is turned upside down!
Suddenly two forces are drawing her out—Button, the cub who needs her help, and Liam, the man who's dead set against her rehabilitating the bear. If she can just win Liam's support, Vivie knows she can give Button a good life. And maybe find the courage to embrace a future
He lifted her chin with a gentle finger and gazed down at her. “You’re always safe with me.”
For some odd reason, her eyes welled and a tear clung to her lashes.
He brushed the wetness away with his thumb, his hands lingering and cupping her face.
“I’m never safe,” she whispered, her voice so low he had to bend closer to hear.
“I’ll protect you,” he found himself saying, a gallant and reckless offer considering his planned move. Still, a fierce urge to reassure her filled him. A need to kiss her full lips followed.
He captured them with his own, tasting berries, and something sweeter still. He buried his hands in her silky hair and brought her close, an insatiable hunger taking hold. The wildflower smell of her enveloped him and her mouth tantalized his. He nibbled on her lower lip, loving her soft exclamation of pleasure. Or was it surprise? She was early spring sunshine, a spring-fed pond, a mountain peak and everything that’d ever made him glad to be alive.
Without warning, she jerked away and sprang to her feet, backing away until her legs brushed the bushes.
Her face had lost all color and she looked as if she might faint. She shook her head, her hand rising to cover her mouth.
Regret snuffed out his elation. He shouldn’t have moved so fast. Or at all, darn it. “Did I offend you? I’m sorry. Blame it on a beautiful day. A lonely bachelor. A stupid one.”
Button appeared at Vivie’s feet. She stretched up on her hind legs, put her paws on Vivie’s sides and pressed her face against her caregiver’s stomach. If Button wasn’t a wild animal, he’d think the young bear sensed Vivie’s mood. Was trying to console her. He’d comfort Vivie, too, if she didn’t seem ready to bolt.
“I’m an idiot, Vivie.” He got to his feet, feeling like a consummate jerk for kissing her without any signs she’d welcome it. But for a moment, when she’d kissed him back, it’d seemed as though…
He shook his head. Women had the final say when it came to what they wanted. He should have been more sensitive. Not given in to impulses. “Please. It won’t happen again.” And he meant it. She was upset. Had a right to be. If he had any sense, he’d know kissing her was wrong for him, as well. Soon he’d be across the country. His attraction to Vivie was irrational.
“Vivie, talk to me.”
She stumbled away, Button stuck by her side, the cub’s turtle dangling from her mouth.
He ducked in front of her, unwilling to let the moment end badly. “What can I do?”
She wiped her nose and met his gaze. “Just stay away.” Without another word, she returned to the trail.
It took all of his willpower not to chase after her. He’d follow at a distance instead, staying far enough behind to ensure she got home safely. But it wasn’t enough. He wanted things back to normal again. If that was possible.
Strange that she’d said the same words he repeated to himself whenever Vivie came to mind—stay away.
Yet the more time he spent with her, the harder that became. His emotions for this complicated woman deepened every day. He could deny it all he wanted, but he cared about her.
The job in Yellowstone came to mind. He wouldn’t put off his decision any longer. As soon as he got home, he’d let them know. Escape before his feelings lashed him down forever.
Vivie was right.
Except when it came to Button, he’d stay away.
"Raising the Stakes" by Karen Rock. Two people, both running scared with emotional baggage, are brought together by an adorable bear cub, Button. Liam, a wildlife officer, is sweet and caring yet hides from his past by never staying put. I liked Liam -he loves his family and loves animals. I felt for him and the guilt he feels over his past. Vivie, moves to the mountains to escape her past. At times, I couldn't stand her - she was so stubborn to the point of making stupid decisions. However, as time progressed, I felt for her and was rooting for her and stood in her corner. Her love of animals was also a big plus. Can these two help each other overcome their fears and guilts of the past? Or will they both live life running from these feelings and not truly living? I enjoyed this book -the scenes with Button were the cutest! This is a fairly quick read so if you're looking for a quick, somewhat light read (despite the baggage, it's not over done or super depressing), I would recommend checking out "Raising the Stakes". (received copy for honest review).
Karen Rock is an award-winning YA and adult contemporary romance author. She holds a master’s degree in English and worked as an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time writer. Currently she writes for Harlequin Heartwarming and her first novel for the line, WISH ME TOMORROW, has won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the 2014 Golden Quill Contest and a finalist in the Published Maggie Awards. The first novel in her co-authored YA series, CAMP BOYFRIEND, has been a finalist in the Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards.
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