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Valentine Valley #5
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Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley
by Emma Cane
Return to Valentine Valley, where Christmas lights are twinkling and first love burns brighter the second time around . . .
When Tony De Luca's ex, Kate Fenelli, waltzes through the door of his tavern and pulls up a bar stool, she turns his balanced world on end. Once they'd been each other's first love, first everything. But then life happened, and they walked away with broken hearts. Now Kate is back in Valentine, and they can't seem to stay out of each other's way. When Tony begins wondering what would happen if they rekindled the sparks, he knows he's in big trouble.
Kate can't believe she's sitting at Tony's bar spilling her life-changing problems to him. He's as gorgeous as ever, and she can't seem to forget how incredible he always made her feel. Still, the door on that chapter of their lives closed long ago. Yet with Christmas buzzing in the air, Kate can't help wondering if anything is possible—even a second chance with the only man she's ever loved.
"Strong families, deep
friendships and sexy heroes abound in Valentine Valley. I'd love to
"The wonder of first love is
captured beautifully, as is the devotion and courage it takes to keep
knows how to draw at the old heartstrings. She is a genius at creating
her emotional and caring characters that are oh, so hard not to love."
"A very cute story and
perfect to get in the right mood for Christmas."
"A wonderful story full of
possibility and potential and lots of the homespun Christmas spirit
that is so
fun to find and experience."
"Sleigh Bells in
Valentine Valley is a
heartwarming story of second chances...If you haven't
yet read the the Valentine Valley
Series, make sure to add it to your Christmas list. "
"Ms. Cane is back with a
sweet, engaging second chance romance
"Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley was such a
sweet romance...sometimes a great love takes
time and for these two, it was definitely worth the wait."
"Emma Cane has written another heartwarming story
to her Valentine Valley series. "
"A beautiful holiday story...one for the keeper shelves."
"I didn't want this book to end."
(Story setup: Kate is a lawyer forced into a two-month sabbatical after a disagreement with her firm. At loose ends, she comes home to Valentine Valley, where her ex-husband Tony still lives, telling herself she’ll be glad to spend lots more time with their thirteen-year-old son. But Kate is bored and restless and upset by this blow to the career that’s always driven her.)
Excerpt #1 ~ Excerpt #2
Excerpt #1 ~ Excerpt #2
By the Monday after Thanksgiving, Kate thought she’d go out of her mind. Everyone went back to work and school, and she was alone but for dog Barney, who kept her company at home, since the old guy couldn’t exactly go for long runs anymore. She read a book. She baked the simplest cookies for Ethan after school like he was six, and he humored her, good son that he was. But she caught his worried looks just the same.
She called her lawyer friend Michelle again—no answer. The partners would never reveal details about her sabbatical, but she still felt paranoid. She kept thinking of that report she wasn’t supposed to have seen, and she wished she could talk to someone about it. But obviously her firm didn’t want to listen.
Tuesday, on her late-morning run, she passed by Tony’s Tavern. Without planning it, she turned around and went inside. Compared to Friday night, it was pretty empty, just a couple people starting an early lunch. No one sat at the bar, behind which her ex-husband Tony stood at the POS computer, his back to her, his head bent, unruly brown hair touching the creased collar of his black polo shirt. She felt a momentary need to straighten it. The thought was so shocking that she was about to leave, when he looked up and saw her. She froze, wondering if she’d overstepped her bounds.
He frowned, but he seemed puzzled, not annoyed. It made her feel braver, so she sat down at the bar and pulled off her winter hat and gloves. She casually ran her hands through her hair to straighten it, and he watched her without saying a word.
“Is something wrong?” When his voice emerged with a husky tone, he cleared his throat.
“May I have a glass of water?” she asked lamely. Dammit, why had she come here?
He poured her one from the tap. “Tough workout?”
She nodded. “They always are. I hate running.”
“Then why do you do it?”
“Quick and convenient, keeps me healthy, and holds down the weight.” She held up a hand. “I know, I know, there are ways to have fun and exercise. But this works for me.”
“Do you have any fun, Kate?” he asked softly.
For a moment, she didn’t know how to answer that. “Every weekend when Ethan is with me.”
“No grown-up fun?”
And then she blushed, though she assumed he didn’t mean sex. “I had a pretty good time in here Friday night. I date occasionally at home, too. That’s fun.”
He nodded slowly, almost as if he didn’t believe her. So she added defensiveness to her feelings of panic and desperation.
“I don’t have anything to do,” she finally said in a hushed whisper, her throat tight. “I feel…lost. The thing I’m best at—they won’t let me do, won’t trust my judgment. I’m not even the homemaker type, and I’m cleaning my mother’s house every day. I’m running out of stuff to do. I think I’m driving Ethan nuts—and I don’t mean to! And now here I am driving you nuts. I’m sorry, I should go.”
He looked at her for a long minute, eyes narrowed in thought, but not anger. Still she didn’t go; she only took a long swig of her water.
Then he reached beneath the counter and slid a crumpled apron across to her. “My lunch server, Rhonda—her kid had his appendix out. There’s complications, poor little guy, but he’ll be okay. She’s going to be out a while. Wait tables if you’re so bored.”
She stared at him in shock. There was a faint smirk twisting his lips, as if he expected her to turn him down. He knew she hated serving. It was hard, demanding work, and people were difficult to satisfy.
But…she was alone all day, with not enough to do. She lifted her head and met his gaze with a challenging one of her own. “Are you offering me a job?”
“A temporary one,” he amended, then crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t think you’ll last.”
She straightened her shoulders. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. I’ve never left a job unfinished.” And then she felt a spasm of worry as she remembered her law career, her marriage—the unfinished things in her life. He started to pull the apron back, and she suddenly grabbed it, looking him fiercely in the eyes. “You’re on.” She heard the words coming out of her mouth and couldn’t regret them, although she wasn’t sure why.
After years in a courtroom, Kate wasn’t nervous talking to people, so she had no problem chatting up the young couple who’d just come from a winter hiking excursion. She seated them at a two-top (she remembered the lingo!), brought them ice water and menus, and felt Tony watching her the whole time. Well, at least he wasn’t looking at her like he had on Friday night, with his eyes all hot and half-lidded. The memory of those eyes had made sleeping difficult that night, and she’d told herself she was going too long between dates. Obviously Tony was, too.
After getting Tony’s table another beer and soda refill, she hung out near the wait station, wiping down bottles of ketchup and mustard, until her new customers seemed ready to order. She thought about Tony dating—obviously she knew he did. Ethan even mentioned it occasionally. She hoped their failed marriage hadn’t ruined the way he focused on a woman without pressuring her, letting her know with his gaze and his manners that he was into her. Back in the day, he used to make her feel like the sexiest girl alive, the only one he wanted. After victorious football games, he’d take off his helmet, and their eyes would meet as he grinned at her like only she understood how fun a victory was. Because that’s all sports had been to him—fun—and she’d had a hard time understanding that. He liked to win, but he was laid-back enough that he didn’t take losses personally. He was so…different from her in every way, and she recognized that was once part of his appeal. Unlike her, he’d never talked about his future career or what he wanted to do—he’d just assumed it would occur to him eventually. That had shocked her, especially since she’d joined some clubs simply because she’d known they’d look good on her college applications. More and more during their marriage, his lack of ambition had gnawed at her. And now he was running his own successful business, making her rethink her old assumptions.
Her two-top looked ready to order, and she bluffed her way through the menu, writing everything down—unlike the expert, Tony. He was there when she entered the order, looking over her shoulder, guiding her when she needed help. She fumbled a lot, with him standing so near, and let out her breath in a rush when he finally stepped away to prepare her drink order.
The flare-up of her old physical attraction to him was going to be damned inconvenient.
Kate was just about to start putting the chairs upside down on the tables when someone knocked on the front door. She looked up and saw Tony.
Smiling, she unlocked and let him in. “So how did it go?”
And then she saw the small bandage oozing blood on his right cheek.
She gasped. “Tony!”
He shrugged and dropped his hockey bag near the door. “It looks worse than it is.”
“But it’s bleeding through the bandage! Weren’t you wearing a helmet, a face mask?”
“Of course I was—I don’t want to lose my teeth. But we were warming up, and someone on the other team was hitting too hard, and I’d taken off my helmet to adjust…never mind the details.”
She followed him into his office. “You could have lost an eye!”
“I know, I know.”
“And you need a new bandage.”
“This was a new bandage after the game, and I ripped off the scab that had formed.” He rummaged through his shelves until he found the medicine kit.
“Maybe you need stitches?”
“Naw, I’m fine. I have antiseptic things in here somewhere.”
She pushed his big hands out of the way, found the little packet, and opened it. “Sit down on the desk so I can reach you.”
With a sigh he complied, sitting on the edge of the desk. That put his face a little above hers, and she had to stand between his knees. She bit her lip as she tried to be gentle peeling off the bandage.
“Just rip it away,” he said with amusement.
So she did, and she was the only one who winced. The cut wasn’t too long, nor was it an open gash or oozing blood too badly. Using the damp antiseptic wipe, she gently cleansed it, then looked for a bigger, square bandage. After applying it, she stood still, admiring her work.
“There,” she murmured with satisfaction.
Tony wasn’t smiling anymore. Those chocolate brown eyes were staring at her as if out of the past, back when he’d desired her, needed her.
And she realized she was standing between his thighs. The shock of awareness and heat that moved through her body was swift and overwhelming. He put his hands on her waist, as if he knew she was suddenly weak with longing.
“What are we doing?” she whispered.
But she didn’t move away.
“I think I’m kissing you,” he said, leaning closer.
Their breaths merged, the heat of him seared her.
“Stop me now,” he warned in a hoarse voice.
Their lips almost, almost touched.
And she couldn’t speak, didn’t want to deny him, found herself deep in the past, where Tony had been the only boy, then the only man, who’d drawn her, who’d made her desperate for his touch, who’d made her lose herself.
He kissed her, openmouthed and hungrily, no gentle exploration but inspiring a renewal of a desperation that she’d buried within her for over nine years. He pulled her against him, her hips into the openness of his, her aching breasts flattening against his broad chest, her head turning until it practically rested on his shoulder. She felt greedy with the need of him, desperate for the taste of his tongue. And then his hands slid to cup her backside, pressing her even harder against the erection outlined by his jeans. She let her hands roam him, remembering his biceps and shoulders, the broad planes supporting his collarbones, the lean pillar of his neck. His hair was thick and warm, and so good to touch.
Their mouths explored as if in homecoming, as memories swamped her of laughing kisses, tender kisses, urgent kisses. Tony was still all of that for her, and no one had ever made her feel like this but him.
That made her break off the kiss and stare at him, wide-eyed. His eyes smoldered as they watched her mouth. He didn’t look like he could stop, and for a moment, she wondered if she could, if Tony once again could create a passion that made her forget everything but him.
|Copyright © Emma Cane|