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Fairfield Orchard #1
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At Fairfield Orchard
by Emma Cane
Emma Cane welcomes you to Fairfield Orchard, where new love blooms and romance is always in season.
For Amy Fairfield, the family orchard is more than a business. With its blossom-scented air and rows of trees framed by the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s her heritage and her future. But right now, it’s also a headache. Putting a painful breakup behind her, Amy has come home to help revitalize Fairfield Orchard. She doesn’t have time for the handsome—distracting—professor who wants to dig into her family’s history for his research.
Jonathan Gebhart knows he needs the Fairfields’ cooperation to make his new book a success. As for Amy—nothing in his years of academia could have prepared him for their sudden and intense attraction. He doesn’t want to complicate her life further, especially since she seems uneasy about his poking around in the past and he knows he’s not the sort of man built for forever. But some sparks can’t help but grow, and Jonathan and Amy may just learn that unexpected love can be the sweetest of all.~~~~~
"The only thing sweeter than the apples is the love.
Delight in the warm, toe-tingling romances of Emma Cane."
Maggie Shayne, NY Times bestselling author
"Charming, sweet and full of
spice, Emma Cane’s latest book excels in both characters and setting. Amy
Fairfield and Jonathan Gebhart have compelling stories individually, and their
chemistry together is delicious. The author elevates this book beyond the
average cute romance by addressing tough issues."
"I could practically feel the
emotion radiating off the pages."
"At Fairfield Orchard has it all, there's beauty,
unconditional love, and friendship and there are strong family bonds,
unexpected twists and turns and plenty of endearing situations. I loved
this amazing book."
"I adore stories with big families. Ms. Cane
has written a wonderful tale
"If you enjoy a walk through
our country's history with a side of sexy you'll enjoy Emma Cane's At Fairfield
"With the balance of history, romance and a
touch of mystery from both, the story flies…a perfect start to a new series."
"At Fairfield Orchard is very sweet –
"Now that I've read At Fairfield Orchard, I'm
hooked! I'll definitely be reading Emma Cane's other books."
"I can honestly say I was surprised by this story
and thought it was an excellent start to this new series."
"History, family drama, and complicated
relationships were abundant in At Fairfield Orchard, making this a quick
Romancing the Readers
"Throughout the book we’re treated to history,
romance, laughs, healing past heartache…a sweet book that you look forward to
reading over a long weekend."
"Jonathan is a geek-hero...The
connection between him and Amy is sparkling. They light up the pages as they
get to know each other.
"Amy and Jonathan have a sweet and sexy chemistry
that simmered before it kicked up the heat."
"Loved the small town feel of
this book, the sense of community, the neighbors, friends and family—and the
heartfelt romance between Amy and Jonathan! Looking forward to the next book in
Excerpt 1, Excerpt 2, Excerpt 3
Jonathan Gebhart got out of his car and breathed in the crisp air of Fairfield Orchard, ripe with the sweet scent of apple blossoms. In the distance, the Blue Ridge Mountains undulated into the disappearing mists of midmorning, their haze the mysterious blue they were named for. But everywhere else he looked, surrounding this oasis of buildings and a barn, the foothills were covered in the pink and white of blossoming trees, following long lines like the teeth on a comb. Had Thomas Jefferson known what would become of the land when he’d sold it almost two hundred years ago? Jonathan intended to prove it wasn’t what other historians said it was.
He’d driven the half hour west from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Fairfield Orchard, rehearsing his most persuasive speech over and over. He wasn’t known as the most outgoing of guys, but he was passionate about history and hoped that would be enough. But strangely, he didn’t see a soul. A huge old barn that looked well over a hundred years old stood open and deserted. It had a lower level made of stone with its own entrance in the back, and the soaring upper level framed in weathered gray boards was stacked with crates and bins for the autumn harvest. A food shack and small store were obviously closed. There were picnic tables and benches, all positioned to take in the beautiful view of central Virginia during the harvest season. But in the spring, the public grounds were deserted.
Past a copse of towering oak and hickory trees was a dirt lane, which he followed around a curve until he saw a big house with white siding, blue shutters, and a wraparound porch around the original building. A two-story addition had been added to the right side. A battered blue pickup truck was parked nearby. He climbed the front steps, but no one answered the door. Jonathan hadn’t called in advance, assuming that a request like his was better handled in person, but that had obviously been a mistake. There must be a business office or warehouse somewhere else on the grounds.
And then in the first row of apple trees next to the house, he saw a ladder disappearing up inside, and a pair of work boots perched on a rung, their owner partially hidden by branches and blossoms and bright green leaves. He’d done his research, knew that the owner was Bruce Fairfield, a Vietnam vet in his sixties.
“Mr. Fairfield?” Jonathan called as he approached the tree. “Bruce Fairfield?”
Sudden barking startled him, and a dog came up out of the straggly grass growing through a dark loam of what looked like fertilizer around the base of the tree. The medium-sized dog resembled a cross between a German shepherd and a coyote, its pointy ears alert.
“What’s up, Uma?”
The voice from within the tree was far more feminine than “Bruce” should have. The dog sat down and regarded Jonathan, her spotted tongue visible as she panted, her head cocked to the side.
A woman pushed aside a branch and peered down, wreathed in pink and white blossoms, her sandy brown hair pulled into a ponytail beneath a ragged ball cap with the Virginia Cavaliers logo. She had a delicate face with a pointed chin, and a nose splattered with freckles. She was already tan from working outdoors, with eyes clear and deep blue and narrowed with curiosity. She wore a battered winter vest over a plaid shirt with a t-shirt beneath, and a faded pair of jeans with a tear at the knee. She held clippers in one hand.
“What can I do for you?” she asked, then added apologetically, “We’re still closed for the off-season.”
“I know. I’ve come from Charlottesville to speak with the owner.”
Brightly, she said, “I’m one of them.”
That rearranged his conclusion that she was just an employee.
“Hope you don’t mind if I keep working while we talk,” she added.
He blinked as her face disappeared behind the branch she released. Soon, he could hear occasional snipping, and saw a branch drop to the ground. She seemed like she was examining, more than pruning. He was used to talking to students who tried to hide their texting during a lecture, but he couldn’t force this woman to pay attention to him. At least the dog watched him with expectation.
“My name is Dr. Jonathan Gebhart, and I’m an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia, with a specialty in colonial history, particularly Thomas Jefferson.”
She gave a snort of laughter. “Of course.”
He stiffened. “Of course?”
“Thomas Jefferson founded the university, right?”
Did anyone from the area not know that?
“I hear he might as well still be alive,” she continued, “the way some people refer to him. I guess you’re one of the worshippers.”
“If you consider historians worshippers,” he said dryly.
She peeked out from behind a branch and gave him an amused smile. “I didn’t mean to offend, but you caught me on a bad day. I’m trying to remember my pruning skills. It’s been a while, and it’s not exactly the season for it.”
“May I ask to whom I’m speaking?”
Her smile widened. “My, don’t you have a pretty way of talking. I’m Amy Fairfield.”
“Daughter of the owner?”
“Technically one of the new owners, remember?”
She disappeared behind a branch again and continued pruning. Bees buzzed about her, alighting delicately on blossoms, but she ignored them.
“It’s all a mess right now, of course,” she continued. “My parents have just retired and left to have the time of their lives in the RV they always dreamed of.” She peeked at him again. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them, but they caught the whole family off guard, and now everyone has to decide who’s coming back when, taking leaves of absence or quitting their jobs altogether, so we can keep the orchard going. And though I always worked weekends in the fall, it’s been a long time since I was involved in the spring.” She wrinkled her nose. “Way more than you wanted to hear, sorry.”
And then she became silent as she examined her work critically. Her family problems were none of his business, though his curiosity began to formulate questions that he tamped back down.
“I’m here to ask a favor of you.” He paused, but she didn’t reappear. Taking a deep breath, he said, “I’m writing a book on the land Thomas Jefferson owned, and how selling it changed the course of Albemarle County and Virginia itself. As you know, your ancestors purchased this land from him.”
“You have an incredible inheritance here. One of our founding fathers walked this very land.”
“I know that, too. But he walked a lot of land around here. I spent the last thirteen years in Charlottesville, sometimes running campus trails. I’m sure I walked lots of places TJ walked.”
TJ? Though he corrected his students when they were so disrespectful, he found himself amused by Amy’s irreverence. He well knew that Jefferson wasn’t a saint, simply a flawed, though brilliant man.
But there were more important things on the line, like the book he needed to finish for his tenure portfolio. Without tenure, he could lose the career he’d worked so hard for, be let go from UVA. But even more important was his big hypothesis, the one that could turn his book into a bestseller and give him the prestigious career he’d always dreamed of.
“So what do I have to do with TJ?” Amy asked.
“I’d like your family’s permission to interview them and look through the historical records you’ve kept through the years.”
“Historical records?” she echoed. “Don’t you find that stuff at courthouses or online?”
“You cannot find family Bibles or original land deeds so easily, not to mention family stories passed down through generations.” He glanced at the house again, knowing it was far too recently built, and hoping Google hadn’t misled him. “I believe there’s an older house than this?”
“Yep, but we’ve closed it up to keep people from getting hurt.”
A headache started to form. “Is it in disrepair?” He hoped Amy Fairfield and her family appreciated their own history.
“Not really, but no one is living there now, and we don’t want vandals disturbing it.”
The pressure between his eyes eased. “You get many vandals out here?”
“I didn’t think so, but I’m not the one who made the decision. My father was. And then he left, leaving it to my siblings and me to continue family tradition—whether some of us wanted to or not,” she added dryly.
He wasn’t sure where she fit in on that spectrum, but it wasn’t his concern. “Can I reach your father by phone or email?”
“Sure, but maybe you’d rather talk to my grandfather.”
He smiled with relief. The elderly had a better grasp of the importance of the past. “Do you think he’d speak with me?”
Amy spread the branches and gave him a long look from head to toe. He felt an odd connection, her gaze almost a physical touch. He was baffled to experience an awareness of her as a woman, when he could barely tell she was one beneath her farmer’s garb. Those vivid blue eyes studied him as if judging him. He’d been judged and found wanting before, and he wouldn’t go through that again.
“I can’t speak for Grandpa, Jon, but—”
“Jonathan.” He withheld a grimace, knowing that he shouldn’t be correcting her when he needed her help.
“Sorry. I don’t know if now’s the best time to be stirring things up. The orchard … well, we have a lot of work to do this summer, and it’ll be time for the harvest before you know it. I just started working here again a couple days ago. How about next winter?”
“I can’t wait until next winter,” he said patiently. “This is the last section of the book, and I have to submit it by this fall to even have it ready in time for my tenure review next year. You do know what tenure is.”
Those dark blue eyes narrowed, and she cocked her head. “Gee, maybe you better spell the word for me.”
He briefly closed his eyes, knowing he was making things worse. “Forgive me.”
He took a step toward her, trying to find the right words. He startled the dog, who jumped up and hit the ladder, which began to fall sideways. Amy let out a yelp and grabbed a branch even as the ladder crashed through several branches and hit the ground. Her feet struggled to find a thick enough branch to support her, and Jonathan reached for her. She was still too high to grab around the waist, but when he ducked under a thin branch and stepped beneath her, her toes brushed his shoulders.
“Step right on me,” he urged.
For a moment, he thought she would refuse, but at last she let herself drop a bit, and her big muddy work boots settled on his shoulders. She wasn’t even that heavy, and he realized she was probably smaller than he’d imagined, being half-hidden by the tree and wearing layers of warm clothing.
“If I was still a cheerleader,” she said, “I’d have a spotter to help me jump.”
At least she didn’t sound upset with him. He needed her goodwill. “I’ll squat, and you should be able to jump easily.”
“You forget, I’m still in between all these branches.”
“I’ll go straight down, and you be careful.” He sank slowly onto his haunches.
Using the tree for balance, she swung away from him and landed lightly on the ground. Still bent over, he came out from beneath the tree and practically ran right into her. Straightening, he stared down at her and she stared up, not six inches away from each other.
“You’re taller than I thought,” she said.
“And you’re shorter.”
“I am,” she said ruefully.
Though smiling, she backed away as if he was contagious. To his surprise, he regretted that.
“I made a mess of your jacket,” she pointed out.
He looked down at his shoulders. “It’s just dirt. It’ll come clean.”
She flashed that teasing smile again, and he realized she might be flirting with him. The thought was surprising, a little disorienting.
“You’d say anything to get my cooperation,” she said.
He looked into those intelligent blue eyes, and imagined many a man would. He would, too—for his research. Right now, it had to come before anything else. “Your cooperation is crucial. I have a theory that Jefferson might have escaped to here during the American Revolution, instead of to his land to the south.”
She tilted her head. “But he didn’t have a house here.”
He widened his eyes in surprise. “No, he didn’t. You know more about TJ than you let on.”
He’d thought to put her at ease with a lighthearted tone, but those intriguing eyes suddenly seemed to shutter. He decided right then that going into detail about his research might put her off.
“No, I don’t know all that much,” she said, looking away.
“I’ll be conducting research at the library at Monticello, and also here, if you’ll permit it. I need to find proof that I’m right. Can I count on your cooperation?”
“I’ll think about it.”
She was already retrieving the clippers and righting the ladder. He tried to help, but she gave him a distracted smile.
“I can do it. This is my job now, you know.”
“What did you do before?”
He could see her as a friendly, outgoing saleswoman. “Did you always mean to come back to the orchard?” he asked, curious.
“Interesting question. I don’t really know. As for your request, why don’t you come back tomorrow, and I’ll give you my answer.”
And she maneuvered the ladder back into the tree and climbed up, disappearing within the spring blossoms until he could only see those muddy boots. He turned and strode back to his car.
Amy heard the crunch of gravel beneath Jonathan Gebhart’s feet, and she ducked her head until she could watch him walk away. He’d been an interesting man, all sober and serious, and seemed a little taken aback when she’d teased him. She could still see his short, wavy black hair that looked difficult to tame. It was hard to forget his eyes, green as spring in the orchard—and that moment when he’d really looked at her as a woman. That had been surprising and unsettling. He didn’t have laughing eyes—she imagined he didn’t laugh much at all, which was a shame, when he looked so gorgeous.
Would he be one of those boring professors who droned on and on about something that no longer mattered to anyone? No, he’d sounded too passionate about his request. Maybe he brought that focus to kids who only needed his course as an elective, who stared out the window on a gorgeous day and wished to be anywhere else. That had been her, once upon a time…
But not where history was concerned. That was an interest she had once had in common with the professor. But she’d let it all go, pushed it from her mind just as she’d pushed her family and friends away. She was surprised how much the amateur genealogist inside her had tried to come creaking back to life when he’d told her his hypothesis about Jefferson and her family land. But she wouldn’t let it.
When the professor reached his car, Amy saw that his broad shoulders were squared, and he moved like a man who always knew exactly what he was doing, had everything planned out. She always found confidence sexy. He’d been professionally attired in a buttoned-down shirt and chinos beneath the jacket she’d ruined, while she was grubby, with torn jeans and old shirts. He’d been dignified and educated, and she’d dropped out of college to spend her time with a man who hadn’t proven worthy of the sacrifice. It hadn’t been a sacrifice at the time, of course; she’d been giddy with what she thought was love. Amy knocked her forehead into the nearest branch, as if that could knock some sense into her. It had taken far too long for that sense to take hold, and it had proven costly.
She heard his car start, and then he was gone, dirt rising up behind as he traveled at a respectful speed down toward Spencer Hollow, the little village between the orchard and Crozet, the nearest small town. She used to take the quiet dirt road as an invitation to speed, roaring down the hill, the rolling countryside stretched out below her, rows of apple trees rising and falling as far as the eye could see. Life had been full of excitement and possibilities then—full of the promise of foolish mistakes, too, but she hadn’t known that. Otherwise, she would have stayed holed up in her childhood bedroom forever.
She was back there now, in that same bedroom, her cheerleading trophies and school certificates still on the wall. She’d chosen this path, of course. When she’d gotten the call that her parents had wanted to retire, she’d been only too glad to run home for a fresh start. She’d been so excited to help her family, to spend more time with her siblings, to prove that they were all so important to her. But underneath all those good reasons she had to admit that coming home also meant pretending she hadn’t let her life get so horribly, humiliatingly out of control as she’d spent years with a man who’d developed the same issues with alcohol that her dad had once had.
No one knew, of course, not even her twin brother—which Amy worried was causing a certain distance between them these last few years. But no one was ever going to know how foolish she had been. Her ex-boyfriend, Rob, certainly wouldn’t tell; he’d moved on to the next woman, one even more malleable than she’d been. Amy had quit college for that idiot, she thought, groaning aloud. But at the time, it had seemed like a great move. Her grades had suffered because all she’d wanted was to begin a life with Rob, to live with him and make a home.
It was Rob who’d introduced her to real estate, his family business. She’d started learning the ropes while still in college, helping out agents part-time. She discovered she loved working with people, and had a knack for knowing how to find the most important reason why someone looked for a home, and then delivering on it. She didn’t need college for that, so she’d dropped out. Gradually, as things with Rob got worse, it was harder and harder to be a part of his family business. Breaking up with him had meant eventually quitting her job, and it was almost a relief to be done with anything to do with him.
Now she was facing a new future, and she didn’t want to look back, to see again the mistakes she’d made.
But the professor wanted to talk about the past—her family’s past, and the memories weren’t always pleasant. Did she really want such a reminder? And, of course, there was the fact that she was always so quick to help a guy out, she thought with dismay. But she wouldn’t let her own hang-ups interfere with her promise to give his request some thought. He was right about her family’s link to Thomas Jefferson. If he had discovered new information, how could she deprive him of finding out the truth?
To clear her head, Amy took a deep breath of the apple blossoms all around her. This was the scent of springtime, fragrant and lush, of her childhood, of her family obsession for generations. She’d been molded by the rhythm of the seasons, of planting baby trees with her father in the spring, of morning walks through the orchard in the fall, examining apples to predict when each variety would be at peak ripeness. There definitely was a history here, the good kind—and the bad. She just didn’t know if she wanted to talk about it with a stranger, for there were dark episodes, like her father’s drinking, that warped some of her memories.
Amy came to a stop and gaped, all rational thought leaving her brain. Jonathan stood in her hallway, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans. Above the open snap—she swallowed heavily—his abs were a line of ridges sweeping up toward those broad shoulders she’d already drooled over, and impressive pecs scattered with hair. The muscles of his arms were lean but defined. Everything glistened with moisture, and his wet hair was slicked back from his face. For a man who spent hours with his face buried in books or computers, damn, he looked good.
“I’m sorry,” they both said at once.
Amy covered her mouth and the laugh that almost escaped. Jonathan reddened, but his lips turned up on one side.
“This is awkward,” she said.
“I’ve been in the attic in the old house for hours getting all sweaty, and Tyler told me to use the shower.”
“I’m not complaining.”
Their startled, shocked reaction was now changing, and Amy couldn’t stop herself from letting her gaze meander back down his chest. The air was suddenly vibrating with the tension of two people who were thinking about sex. Amy didn’t know about Jonathan, but on her part, she hadn’t indulged in many months, and her body was coming awake, her breasts way too alert, her inner thighs suddenly hot.
She should duck into her room and slam the door, but she couldn’t move.
Why didn’t he move?
“Tyler said I should borrow a shirt.” Jonathan’s voice was low and husky.
Amy shivered. He sounded incredible and sexy and—was she thinking these things about the professor? Then she realized she was standing right in front of her brother’s door.
“Oh, sorry.” She reached for the doorknob and pushed it open, then stepped back. “Are you meeting us downtown?” she asked as Jonathan moved past her.
The width of his back compared to his hips made her breath catch. She wanted to touch him, perhaps even lick that line of moisture right up his spine. She jumped when he stopped in the doorway to glance at her over his shoulder.
“Yes. If you’re sure you don’t mind.”
She wet her lips, feeling suddenly very dry. Or as if her moisture had all gone south. And that erotic thought made her blush. She’d even forgotten what she’d asked him. “If I don’t mind what?”
His smile widened, his eyelids lowered in an actual smolder—the professor smoldered!
“That I meet you downtown,” he said.
“Oh, right, yes, of course.” And her face got even hotter. “I’ll see you there.” She escaped into her bedroom and closed the door. Leaning against it, she covered her face with both hands and gave a quiet groan. He was going to think—he was going to know—damn.
Snap out of it, she told herself. This attraction wasn’t news to him. But this charged meeting was certainly going to make it harder to ignore. And it didn’t help when a half hour later she was in the same shower he’d used, imagining his naked body up against hers...
And suddenly the music turned slow, Amy’s friends left the dance floor, chatting as they looked for their drinks, and Amy and Jonathan faced each other.
He leaned down to speak near her ear. “It’s okay. We can go back to our seats.”
“Are you backing down from a challenge?”
They looked at each for a long moment, and it was as if she was back in the hallway, staring at the water highlighting the contours of his chest.
And then Jonathan drew her into his arms, against the body that seemed burned into her memory. He stared down into her eyes, his green ones half-closed. Their hips touched, their thighs brushed, and she could feel the heat of his palm against the small of her back. He took her right hand in his left, and it took everything in Amy not to tuck her head beneath his chin and snuggle her cheek against his chest. As it was, they were so close that her breasts brushed against him, and the friction began a slow burn that worked its way through her body, centering deep between her thighs.
Looking out at the bar, at the tables, anywhere but up into his eyes, she forced herself to speak loud enough to carry over the music. “For someone who claims not to dance, you’re pretty good at this.”
“This doesn’t require too much coordination.”
His voice rumbled out of his chest.
They stepped side to side, and every touch of his thighs against her made her want to tremble. This was surely the longest dance of her life—but she wasn’t hating it. Oh, no, she wasn’t hating it at all. This was the closest she’d gotten to sex in months, and even with all her clothes on, it felt way too good.
And this was the professor, a man she’d initially thought of as a stick-in-the-mud.
“I can hear you laughing,” he said.
She could feel the movement of his jaw against her hair.
She looked up at him and raised her voice. “I can’t believe you can hear anything in here.”
“ ‘Hear’ was probably the wrong word. I can feel it.”
And she saw his gaze on her breasts, which were pressed to his chest. She should move away, but she didn’t. It felt too good. “I wasn’t laughing at you, but at our situation.”
“I don’t know. I guess you’re proving different than I imagined, and I’m laughing at my earlier assumptions.”
“You’re probably not wrong. I’m far too much of a nerd to dance well if the beat picks up.”
“All I had to do was get a look at you today to know that if you’re a nerd, you don’t sit around most of the day.”
“Amy Fairfield, are you complimenting my fitness regimen?”
“I think I’m complimenting something.”
She smiled up at him. His own smile was fading, and he was watching her mouth with an intensity that gave her a little shiver.
He dropped his voice to a husky baritone. “If your brother weren’t here, I think I’d kiss you right now.”
Her mouth was dry, but she managed a response. “You kiss women in public bars, where any of your students might see you?”
“I’ve never actually kissed a woman in a public bar, but I’m feeling buzzed, and I’m remembering standing there in your hallway, looking at you.”
She looked down to the top button of his shirt, knowing what it hid. She wanted to unbutton it. “I can’t forget it either, though I should.” And she didn’t like thinking that only alcohol might make him want her. That was ridiculous, she knew, but she was far too sensitive on the subject.
His hands dropped to her hips and he pulled her tighter against him. “Why should you forget it?”
The music was loud, there were people all around them, but his bent head felt like a tent that surrounded her, kept their words and their deeds private. She felt his erection against her stomach, and he made no move to hide it from her. His bold, arousing behavior was changing everything she’d thought she knew about him. Apparently the strong, silent type of guy had hidden depths.
After their dance was over, he continued to glance at her, his gaze was full of appreciation. She was just starting to think about asking him to dance again when she saw him shaking hands with Tyler. He made his way up the table, saying good-bye to her friends, and then at last he got to her.
He leaned down to say something to her, but the song playing seemed twice the volume level.
“I’ll walk you outside,” she said, standing on tiptoes to reach his ear.
He went first, threading his way through a crowd on the dance floor, and she didn’t protest when he took her hand to guide her. He didn’t let her go when they left the building, and the cool early-summer air made her shiver after all the heat built up from dancing.
To her surprise, he put her back up against the building in a shadowy corner and leaned into her.
“I’ve wanted to do this all night,” he said in a hoarse voice.
And then he was kissing her, and it was no gentle kiss of tentative exploration. He slanted his mouth over hers with the force of a man who knew what he wanted. She met him eagerly, opening to him, tasting him, clutching the open collar of his shirt as if she didn’t want him to get away. The taste of beer was a heady symbol of the evening; it reminded her of watching him, talking to him, rubbing against him on the dance floor. She rubbed against him now, and he put his thigh between her legs and pressed.
She moaned into his mouth, then gasped, head arching back. Then he was nibbling behind her ear, pressing openmouthed kisses down her neck, then licking his way back up.
“God, you taste good,” he whispered.
“I’m all hot from dancing.”
“I like it. Salty.”
She held his face to hers and kissed him again, and for a long moment they just enjoyed each other. From somewhere in the distance, they heard voices, and a door slamming.
Jonathan straightened, his palms still cupping her face, his thumbs tracing her cheeks. “I should go. Your brother will be missing you.”
“We’ve lived apart for over ten years. I don’t think he’ll even remember I’m gone.” She hesitated. “And I don’t think you should drive home.”
Arching a brow, Jonathan released her.
“No, really. You don’t live far away, right? Let’s walk.”
“You’re walking me home?”
“I can protect you—I used to be able to beat up Tyler when I wanted to. Of course, he wasn’t taller than me until he was thirteen.”
“I don’t think I can resist such an offer. Will I see you in action?”
“Only if someone dares to stop us.”
He took her hand again, and side by side, they left the Downtown Mall and headed south, where the streets gradually grew more and more quiet. Just as Amy was remembering she’d left her sweater in the bar, Jonathan put his arm around her shoulders. After a brief hesitation, she slid her arm around his waist. They walked silently for several blocks into the Belmont neighborhood.
Amy wasn’t sure where her impulses were leading her, and she didn’t think about it too closely. She was having a fun night, except for a little hiccup of a disagreement in the middle. And she didn’t like to think of Jonathan tipsy and walking home alone, even though it was a pretty safe section of the city.
He turned up the walkway in front of a two-story house with a flower-decorated porch. It had historic character, with lovely arches between the front porch columns, and a stained-glass window over the front door.
“This is it,” he said.
“Nice. It has a turn-of-the-century feel. Perfect for a professor.” Now she was babbling. She accompanied him onto the porch, then shone her cell phone on his keys as he tried to find the right one. When he slid it in and opened the door, she backed up a step. “Have a good night.”
“Wait a minute—you’re not going to kiss me good-night?”
She felt a shock of eager excitement, but teased, “I thought we already—”
He drew her into his arms on the dark porch, and she wrapped herself around him. She slid her hands up the contours of his back and groaned her appreciation. His lips were warm and demanding, and she couldn’t deny herself even though some distant part of her knew this might be a mistake. It was a kiss, a really good, throbbing kiss, and it had been too long. When he cupped her butt and held her hard against him, she felt light-headed with pleasure.
“You’re not going back alone,” he said against her mouth.
She kissed him again, then gasped, “That was the deal.”
Cradling her face with his big hands, he found her eyes and chin and cheeks with his kisses, whispering in between, “I thought your offer … to walk me home … was cute, but it wasn’t the deal … Come on in and we’ll … tell your brother where to pick you up.”
She got her own nip on his neck. “I’m the designated driver.”
“Then we’ll call Uber to get you back there.”
He explored her lower lip with his tongue, then sucked it gently into his mouth. Her thighs clenched. She couldn’t even remember what he was saying.
“But the car can wait,” he murmured. “Come inside.”
This was a bad idea.
“Yes,” she gasped.
|Copyright © Emma Cane|