Roxie Callahan is a private chef to some of Hollywood's wealthiest — and nastiest — calorie-counting wives. After a dairy disaster implodes her carefully crafted career in one fell swoop, she finds herself back home in upstate New York, bailing out her hippie mother and running the family diner.
When gorgeous local farmer Leo Maxwell delivers her a lovely bunch of organic walnuts, Roxie wonders if a Summer back home isn't such a bad idea after all. Leo is heavily involved in the sustainable slow-food movement, and he likes to take his time.
In all things. Roxie is determined to head back to the West Coast as soon as Summer ends, but will the pull of lazy fireflies and her very own Almanzo Wilder be enough to keep her home for good?
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"Hmm," I said, leaning my head back against the tree and staring up into the canopy. The green overlapped, leaves and limbs weaving together, swaying high in a breeze that didn't make it down to where we were standing. Leo leaned against his tree, I leaned against mine, and we were content to drink in the stillness of being so deep in a forest. I breathed in the smell of the dusty crunchy leaves, the grassy scent of growing things, exhaling in a long slow sigh.
"Was that a 'this place is boring' sigh?" he asked from across the clearing.
I shook my head. "Hell no. That was a 'what a good day this turned out to be' sigh. Perfect weather, perfect temperature, perfect setting. I got to see why chickens cross the road, and see where walnuts come from. Compared to what my days have been like in LA lately, this was exactly what I needed."
"A good-day sigh," he repeated, pushing off from his tree and walking slowly toward me.
"A great-day sigh," I amended.
"An upgrade? Why the change from good to great?" He was close enough now that I could see the bit of faint red in his beard along his jaw, the spot on his T-shirt where it was worn thin from years of washing, the veins on the inside of his tanned forearm, and how strong his hands must be.
"It's on its way from great to awesome," I answered, wrapping my arms around the tree behind me, looking for all the world like a damsel in distress. I gazed up at him through lowered lashes, California Roxie on the case. "Especially if you keep coming this way."
The grin that crept across his face was less friendly neighborhood farmer and more sexy neighborhood pirate. Then he was suddenly there, inside my dance space.
It was time to kick this summer romance into gear. There I was, leaning against a tree in a forest with my arms behind me, my breasts thrust forward in the international signal for kiss me, you fool. I looked like the prow of a ship. And there he was, all slow amble and eyes blazing and forearms temptation, a little bit stranger and a little sexy danger.
And then there it was—a huge bumblebee, bobbing on the unseen flower highway. It buzzed my ear, dive-bombed my neck, laughed in my face, and flew right down between my outthrust boobs.
And just like that, every sense filled with Leo. The scratch of the wooden door against my back as he thrust his hips into mine, grinding and winding me up. The way my skin reacted to his body, goose bumps rising even through the heat of the night. The way the light from the shed lit his profile, showing me hints of cheekbone, and tousled hair, and that sexy, raspy beard. The raspy beard sliding between my breasts, his nose and teeth already shoving my shirt high around my collarbone to allow him access to ravage. The groans from the back of his throat as he licked my belly button.
"You smell like honey and taste like heaven," he murmured, his rough voice reaching my dizzy ears before he rose back up my body to plant kisses over every inch of my neck.
I forgot my name. I forgot his name. I knew only that I had a doorknob in the small of my back, what felt like a doorknob between my thighs, and I was once again climbing Leo like it was exactly what I was put on earth to do.
And then the doorknob between my thighs shifted, felling much more like a door knocker. Like the kind you'd find on a really big church.
And speaking of seeing God, Leo's right hand slid up my thigh, slipped underneath, and pulled it around his hip. That rough, callused hand on my soft inner thigh made me want to weep, it was already so good. While I was still able to speak, I lifted his head from my shoulder looked him in the eye.
"If this happens—and I need this to happen . . ." I paused, because though his lips had stopped, his hips had not, and the slow grind was brain melting. My own hips circled, aching, needing.
"Need is a curious word," he murmured with a slow circle of his hips. "You need food. You need water. You need shelter."
"Sex. Sex is also a need," I panted as his lips moved down to bite my neck. With one hand—one hand!—he tore my camisole from my body. I blinked. The poly/Lycra was now tatters and shreds. I blinked again. Holy shit.
"I was getting to the sex," he replied, using the same hand to flick open the back of my bra and toss that over his shoulder as well. Eyes flaring as he took me in, he now spoke directly to my breasts. "I was thinking that the word need was curious because right now, I needed to see your tits more than almost anything else in the world. Not would have liked to, or gee that'd be great—I need to see your tits."
Laughter bubbled up from inside me, spilling out over him, washing the hot, sticky night with a tiny dose of silly, which was mirrored in his eyes as he raised them from my chest to my face, his mouth lifted slightly in the corner.
I settled into his good, strong hands, which were already so at home on my body. At home? Dangerous.
"I'm glad you're as happy with our arrangement as I am," I said, dodging his gaze. Why did using that term feel strange with Leo? Distant. Detached. Lonely?
I felt his gaze on me and forced mine up to meet it. He held it for a few seconds, looking carefully at me, and I could feel my resolve start to crumble. But then he nodded his head, his mouth returning to my skin, urgent, wanting, and needing. And I gave myself over to it all.
Suddenly we were lying across the threshold, half inside the house and half out on the porch and where did my panties go? Everything was Leo, everything was his hands and his lips and his mouth and how perfectly my heel fit into that dip just above his ass and how insanely amazing his skin felt against mine and where did his shirt go? Everything was my back arching and his tongue moving and my hands grasping and his hands splaying and my hips lifting and his beard scratching and where did his jeans go?
It was an eon. It was five seconds. I have no idea how we came to be on the floor or to be naked, but all I know is he whispered, "I have a condom," and I whispered, "You were awfully presumptuous," and he whispered, "Was that wrong?" and I whispered, "Hell no, I've got one in my purse just in case you wanted to do exactly this," and he whispered, "It's been a long time for me," and I whispered, "That's okay," and he whispered, "I don't know how long I can last," and I whispered, "F*ck me furious, then," and he groaned and I moaned and. He. Pushed. Inside. He was thick and hard and I was wet and warm and he kept his eyes on mine the entire time, not letting me look away, not letting me shrink away from this intimate contact. For an age he pushed inside, as he panted and I gasped, and holy hell, it felt like the world slowed down and then stopped spinning altogether, becoming only the feel of him, pulsing low and deep and I could feel my heart literally beating around him.
Once he was inside, he didn't move. He just rose over me, his strong arms on either side of my head, and gazed down at me, something like relief on his face, something almost sad. But then the corner of his mouth lifted, and lust crowded back into his eyes, and his hips thrust into mine. "F*cking hell, Roxie," he groaned, and he laid back down on me, my legs wrapped firmly around his waist.
It was furious.
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