A Hearing Heart

A Hearing Heart is available now at Liquid Silver Books. It's a very special story with an isolated hero who earns the love of a woman brave enough to accept his differences.

The heart conveys messages beyond what ears can hear.

After the death of her fiancé, Catherine Johnson, a New York schoolteacher in 1902, travels to Nebraska to teach in a one-room school and escape her sad memories. One afternoon, violence erupts in the sleepy town. Catherine saves deaf stable hand, Jim Kinney from torture by drunken thugs.

As she takes charge of his education, teaching him to read and sign, attraction grows between them. The warmth and humor in this silent man transcends the need for speech and his eyes tell her all she needs to know about his feelings for her. But the obstacles of class difference and the stigma of his handicap are almost insurmountable barriers to their growing attachment.

Will Catherine flaunt society’s rules and allow herself to love again? Can Jim make his way out of poverty as a deaf man in a hearing world? And together will they beat the corrupt robber baron who has a stranglehold on the town? Romance, love and sensuality abound in this jam-packed, old-fashioned tale with plenty of heart and some steaming hot sex.

King was restive, sensing Jim’s tension as he stroked the currycomb over the horse’s sweaty side. The animal whickered and shifted away from the rough brushing, rolling an eye as he looked back at his groomer.

Jim moved in front of him, patting King’s nose and staring into his eyes, letting him know everything was all right. Nothing’s wrong. Good boy. He mentally soothed the horse, then went to fetch him a measure of oats.

Tossing the currycomb into the tack box, he stood for a moment, staring out the stable doors, trying to get his temper back under control. He was a fool to have imagined something blossoming between Miss Johnson and him. Seeing her in Van Hausen’s buggy reminded him that a beautiful woman like her could choose a suitor from among all the eligible bachelors in town. But a stab of pure rage had twisted his gut as he watched Van Hausen help her from the seat, her hand clasped in his.

Jim’s jaw tightened now as he envisioned plowing his fist into the man’s prissy face. His hands clenched from imagining the satisfying feel of flesh and bone under his knuckles and blood spraying from Van Hausen’s split lip. Then what? Catherine would smile, step over Van Hausen’s unconscious body, and walk into Jim’s arms, lifting her face for a kiss? Hah!

Striding to the grain bin to get King’s feed, he berated himself for his stupid fantasies. It was one thing to save money and plan for a better life, a future in which he might be part or even sole owner of a livery stable. It was another to add a wife and family into the picture. That could never happen for him. Especially not with a woman like Catherine Johnson, who was so far above him he’d need a ladder to face her eye to eye. He’d been stupid letting himself dream of it. Now he’d better corral his emotions with reason, keep them under control and locked deep inside him.

His fingers were stiff as they gripped the handle of the scoop and plunged it into the oats. Days of picking and husking corn had swollen the joints of his fingers, and his skin was cracked and sore.

A flicker of movement caught his attention and Jim looked toward the stable doors. Catherine stood silhouetted against the orange glow of the late afternoon sun. The light turned her golden hair into a halo around her head and shone through the thin fabric of her blouse so he could see her arms under the big, puffed sleeves. The sight of the actual shape of her body sent desire stabbing through him. Every bit of him yearned to touch her. For a second, Jim froze with the oat scoop halfway from the bin, then he dropped it and walked toward her.

She smiled a greeting and spoke, but he couldn’t read her lips with her face in shadow against the dazzling sun. He stopped in front of her, his head full of the things he wanted to say to her, but all he could do was return her smile.

Walking out of the light and into the dimness of the stable, she stared past him at the stalls. “That’s not the truth. I’m not just out for a walk. I wanted to see you to apologize.”

Jim waited for her to explain.

She met his gaze again. “I should have said hello to you. I’m sorry. Charles Van Hausen merely took me riding today, but it didn’t mean anything. I’m not interested ... that is, I don’t...” Her cheeks were bright pink. She rubbed her hand over one of them and said something else he couldn’t catch although his attention was riveted on her lips. She was speaking too fast and he couldn’t concentrate on her words because of his fascination with her mouth.

“Anyway, I really missed our lessons this week. How are you doing? Have you been able to study at all?”

He’d barely had time to sleep over the past week let alone open one of the textbooks. Shaking his head, he gestured at the horses, then mimed the act of corn husking.

When she saw the state of his hands, her eyes widened. She captured one of them in her own soft hands. Her mouth made a round “O” of exclamation and she frowned.

Jim held perfectly still while she stroked her fingers over his callused palms and the half-healed cuts on his swollen fingers. She seized his other hand, holding them both. His breath stopped.

“You need ointment on these. Do you have any?”

He hesitated, then nodded. The liniment he applied to the horses’ sore joints would have to serve because there was no way he was going to pass up the chance to have her treat his hands.

She followed him to the tack room at the back of the building and accepted the bottle he offered. “This?” She frowned as she read the label. “You don’t have any corn huskers’ lotion?”

He shook his head.

Uncapping the bottle, she poured a measure of the thick liquid into her cupped palm and rubbed her hands together before reaching for his. The warm ointment soaked into his rough flesh as she rubbed it into his hands. The alcohol burned on the open wounds, but he didn’t flinch, not wanting her to quit. The pads of her thumbs massaged his palm and each finger, sending lines of fire from his hand straight to his groin. His cock stiffened. His breathing was shallow and his body tense. He mustn’t let her know how her touch affected him or she’d stop what she was doing. Keeping his eyes trained on her moving hands, he willed his erection to stop filling the front of his trousers with a telltale bulge.

Catherine continued to work the slick ointment into every chapped bit of skin. She reached for his other hand and did the same. After a bit, her fingers slowed and stopped until she was just holding his hand.

He accepted that for a moment, happy simply to have his hands cradled in hers, but then he dared to curl his fingers around hers. He ran his index finger up and down her thumb, a light, teasing stroke over her soft skin.

She didn’t pull away.

Jim looked from their joined hands to her eyes. They were wide, the pupils big and black, ringed with just a hint of blue. Her lips parted and her cheeks were flushed.

Gripping her hand more tightly, he leaned toward her. Only a foot of space separated them. Heat radiated from her body and her warm breath brushed his face. He paused a few inches away, eyes trained on her lips, giving her time to reject his advance. When she didn’t, he inclined his head and covered her mouth with his.

Her lips were yielding and warm, so warm he wanted to sigh in relief. This was what he’d been waiting for, the thing he’d craved for so long. Just this, a kiss, something most people took for granted, but which was a milestone in his life. Having sex with Shirley was nothing compared to his mouth moving gently against Catherine’s soft lips. His eyes were closed, but he felt her murmur against his mouth.

Afraid it was an objection and she’d pull away, he slid his hands around her back, holding her close. He angled his head to kiss her harder, dared to sweep his tongue across her lips. Catherine’s mouth opened wider, perhaps to gasp in protest, and he took advantage of the opening to kiss her more deeply.

He slid his hands up her back, ensuring himself of the solid reality of her body. Beneath the smooth texture of her blouse was her heated flesh. How he wished he could feel her skin naked. His heart thundered when her tongue tentatively moved against his and her hands slid up his chest and gripped his shirt. She wasn’t pulling away, but reaching out for him too.

Catherine’s warm, supple body filling his arms and pressing against his was the most wonderful thing he’d ever felt. With his eyes closed, he could concentrate all his senses on the smell and feel of her. Jim breathed in her sweet fragrance and tasted mint on her tongue. He needed to breathe, but was afraid to stop kissing her for even a second. She might come to her senses and stop this.

Stroking the length of her back, he cupped her neck and fingered the curls at her nape. The strands were as silky as he’d imagined they would be, as soft and delicate as milkweed fluff. He longed to plunge his fingers into her hair and pull it from its pins. How would she look with her hair tumbled long and lustrous in a golden waterfall down her back?

Jim abandoned her mouth to kiss the curve of her cheek and her jawbone. Her high collar stopped him from nuzzling her neck or throat. He had to be content with grazing along the line of her jaw then returning to her lips.

Between their bodies, his cock strained toward her. He felt the warmth of her body against his erection even through all the layers of fabric--his pants, her skirt and petticoats. She must feel the unyielding bulge of his cock pressing into her, but she gave no sign nor did she move away. Instead, she moved even closer, kissing and kissing him in the quiet, dimness of the tack room. The scent of leather and lilacs filled the air.

Hands touching and caressing, lips and tongues searching and exploring, hot bodies pressed close together, it was more than he’d dreamed possible ... and it wasn’t nearly enough.

He wanted to be inside her so badly, he thrust against her. His body begged for hers even while his mind told him it could never happen. Catherine was not Shirley. She was a proper young woman who would never lie with some poor stable hand and destroy her virtue. He couldn’t have her, but he could hold her as long as she’d let him.

A tremor ran through her body. Her hands left his back, moving to his chest and pushing. He broke off the kiss. His eyes opened and searched hers.

She gazed back at him, her mouth open, gasping for air. Her white blouse rose and fell with each panting breath. She shook her head. “No. We can’t. I’m sorry.”

His gut twisted. He wanted to shout, “Why? Why can I never have what I want--just once?” Jim stepped forward, denying her words or pretending not to understand. He pulled her against him again, wrapping her in his arms and covering her mouth. He’d kiss her until she forgot her protests.

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS