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Fairfield Orchard #2
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A Spiced Apple Winter
by Emma Cane
Welcome back to Fairfield Orchard,
Actor Tyler Fairfield is Spencer Hollow’s only
home-grown celebrity. To Brianna MacDougall, he’s a friend who became a lover
over the course of one wild night in New York City. They both agreed it was a
mistake—so why can’t Bri forget? Maybe because Tyler makes her feel like the
only person in a crowded room. Or because his kisses melt her like warm caramel
over ice cream. Tyler back in town means temptation 24/7. Bri has more than
enough on her plate producing a holiday play and running her family business,
but this new secret fling can’t last (right?) so she intends to enjoy every
minute of it...
Bri’s like no woman Tyler’s known—including Gabrielle, his former costar. Fairfield Orchard and Tyler himself are part of the plan to rehabilitate Gabrielle’s image, but scorching encounters and tender moments with Bri make Tyler wish he hadn’t signed on. He’d trust Bri with anything; she’s his heart and his home. But proving it to her may bring more drama than either of them bargained for . . .
"Tender, spicy, and witty, this heartwarming
story sweeps readers from the fall glory of October to the merriment of the
holidays with a tried-and-true friends-to-lovers romance."
"Tyler and Brianna have enough heat in a shared
glance to melt any snow on the ground for miles! Their chemistry is off the
charts, and their history as friends simply adds to the sizzle."
"A Spiced Apple Winter is a
warm and cheery romance that is an endearing love story that leaves you with a
smile on your face."
"A sweet romance which develops slowly and
naturally, built on the bedrock of an already strong friendship."
"A Spiced Apple Winter definitely put a smile on
"With a cast of characters, primary and
secondary, that fill out the story and give a sense of richness that is
palpable, this is becoming a favorite series for me."
"Charming and sweet, it
brings healing to more than an orchard."
"A fun, heartfelt romance that focused on the
complications of being stuck somewhere between friendship and love...
Brianna MacDougall sat at the wood and stone bar in the new tasting room at Fairfield Orchard and tried not to look at her host, Tyler Fairfield. It should be easy to be distracted by the beauty all around her. The tasting room was a remodeled one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old barn, with one wall totally replaced by a glass window crisscrossed by the barn’s original beams. The center of that wall was a gorgeous stone fireplace, and beyond it, from the orchard’s perch in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she could see the autumn brilliance that was the central Virginia countryside stretching out below them. The view was breathtaking beneath the bright blue sky of a crisp October day. The tasting room bustled with the Friday throng, who crowded the two long bars that were the center of the barn. The opening of the tasting room and the introduction of hard cider last month had certainly lured a new crop of tourists and locals alike.
Brianna should be enjoying it, delighted for the good fortune of one of her best friends, Amy Fairfield. If only the host today wasn’t Amy’s twin brother, Tyler, gorgeous and charismatic, an actor come home with his sister to help save the family orchard—and the man she’d drunkenly slept with six months ago.
She’d never done anything so shocking in her life, and it still felt as if it had been someone else in her body, doing reckless, wild, forbidden things. She was mortified, because surely women threw themselves at Tyler all the time, and now he probably thought she was just like the rest of them.
She barely kept herself from knocking her forehead into the bar at her stupidity. Such a bad decision on her part—and here she thought it had been her sister’s job in the family to make them. Brianna was the sober, sensible daughter, after all, the one who could be counted on to exercise and read books rather than hang out and party. Someday she’d find a man who shared those same interests, who appreciated small towns and quiet evenings by the fire. But Tyler wasn’t that man.
She took a deep sip of her cider and tried not to look at him, a feeling she was getting far too familiar with. But she didn’t need to look to see him in her mind: his short, sandy brown hair styled with a disheveled neglect that inspired women to think of the bedroom, his deep blue eyes that evoked warmth and sensuality, the handsome, chiseled contours of his face that had made millions of fans swoon when they watched him play neurosurgeon Dr. Lake on the canceled soap opera Doctors and Nurses. He was six feet of studliness with the broad shoulders and lithe muscles of an athlete. Those muscles had not too long ago been pressed to her body, had risen over her, and moved under her. She shivered and tried not to clench her thighs together.
She and Tyler had always been friends, but there’d also been an unspoken connection they’d never discussed. She’d been dazzled by his looks and charm, but had learned to do a good job hiding it. After all, she’d been a pudgy geek in high school, one of the stage crew before Tyler had even been interested in acting, a straight-A student with her laser focus on attending the nearby University of Virginia to bring a business degree back to her family’s MacDougall General Store. Tyler had coasted through high school on his wit and personality, a basketball star and homecoming king. He’d always had a date, and another girl just waiting to take that one’s place. Brianna had never assumed she could be one of them, as if the thought were from a fanciful realm of unreality.
His reality was fame and celebrity, and all the good fortune, complications, and women that went with it. Since he’d returned home from New York City last May—a temporary move, she constantly reminded herself—she’d seen women come to a complete stop on the street when he passed by. They’d point and whisper to their friends, and either a) beg him for an autograph, b) follow him down the street taking pictures, or c) boldly ask him out. He always responded with good grace and that wide smile that charmed everyone from babies to grandmas. Brianna didn’t want to be like one of those women.
Yet something was going on behind that mask he so easily donned; she just wasn’t sure what. He’d seemed different to her on this temporary stay back home, wearing an occasional sober expression that quickly evaporated when he thought anyone was looking. And she had no right to question him. After all, they’d only had sex, mind-incinerating, body-rocking, glorious sex. Even though she’d been drunk, she remembered every exquisite detail—but he didn’t. When she’d realized that, she claimed not to remember much either, and they’d both agreed to pretend it hadn’t happened.
But it had happened, and she hadn’t dated anyone since, because frankly, who could compare to Tyler Fairfield? She needed the memories to fade, so she could go back to her regular life. They had nothing in common but their hometown roots, friends, and family; everything she felt for him was physical, ephemeral. Things should be going back to normal, right? Back to the safe little dance they always did around each other. They wanted different things in life—and he was leaving. But things weren’t normal. He seemed a little more distant with her, more polite, as if she was an acquaintance rather than a friend. She’d practically asked for such treatment, she reminded herself. She’d wanted to forget what had happened between them, but her behavior had obviously changed something for him.
Sometimes he’d give her a glimpse she couldn’t read, and she’d feel that sizzle of awareness, of skin-to-skin memory of what had happened between them. Just a few months ago, he’d asked her to dance when they’d gone out in a group to a Charlottesville bar. Though she’d been shocked, she’d pretended they were just two friends, had looked anywhere but in his face. Cowardly, she knew, but safe. They were supposed to forget everything, and looking too deeply into those knowing eyes was risky.
She was too afraid of what could happen if he did remember everything about that one night together—their friendship would be lost. It had already suffered a blow that made her sad. She’d had no idea how much she counted on seeing his encouraging smile when things were tough, how much his friendship, even from a distance, meant to her. He’d always respected her and her accomplishments, but after the way she’d behaved last spring . . . she shuddered and looked down.
Brianna noticed her glass was empty just as Tyler did, too. He ambled down the long bar toward her, giving smiles and quick answers as eager customers talked to him along the way. She wished someone would hold his attention, distract him, but no one did, although plenty of women looked longingly at him as he passed by. He’d always been able to work a crowd, because he had a gift with people. And then he was in front of her, folding his bare forearms on the gleaming wood bar top as he leaned toward her. His skin was tan from the outdoor life of working at an orchard, and she could see prominent veins like a raised highway map of sexiness. When he looked at her with those deep blue eyes, she swallowed hard. But his smile, oh, the smile she’d once treasured, had a polite, distant edge that had never been there before. All because of her.
An hour into their hike, where they’d reluctantly decided to turn and head back to the car, Tyler and Brianna stopped to sit on a fallen log and eat their snacks. He had brought all kinds of packaged goods from the orchard: Rodriguez Goat Milk Company cheese, bottled water, dried fruit, even some chocolates.
“We carry all this in the store,” Tyler reminded her.
“Good thing I’m hiking to work these off,” Brianna said, eyes closed, as she bit into the sinful candy.
Tyler didn’t say anything, and when she opened her eyes to glance at him, he was staring at her, specifically staring at her lips.
“Did I miss a chocolate smear?” she asked.
He gave a strained smile. “You are such an innocent.”
Rising excitement made her skin feel flushed and dried her mouth. She cleared her throat, but still sounded strained as she spoke. “What do you mean?”
She knew what he meant. She’d seen his eyes go a darker blue once before; she’d seen the still way he held himself when he was trying to keep control of what he was feeling. She understood deep inside her, because she was always fighting those same feelings when she was with him. The need to touch him felt almost overpowering.
He leaned toward her, the backpack slipping from his hands. She didn’t even hear it land on the forest floor. She was frozen in place, head tipping back to see his face as it neared. With the sun hidden beneath the trees, his face became a mask of shadows, with only the gleam of those penetrating eyes.
She was barely breathing now, and when he brought his hand up and gently cupped her cheek, she gave a faint, breathy moan.
“I can’t stop thinking about you,” he whispered.
Her eyelids fluttered, and she wanted to lean against him.
His thumb slowly caressed her skin. “I know you said to forget what happened between us, but I can’t.”
The husky tension of his voice made her bones seem to melt. “You . . . you said you didn’t remember.”
Brianna couldn’t help the little gasp that escaped her.
“I was upset that I’d taken advantage of you,” he said. “I didn’t want to make you feel any worse.”
“Tyler, no!” She bit her lip. “You could never take advantage of me. I was bewildered because I’d never done anything wild before. I felt that . . . you must think I’m like all the other women who come on to you.”
“God, no,” he rasped. “You’re nothing like them.”
His admiration was a balm to her soul after months of the uncertainty she only ever felt about him. She’d always been attracted to Tyler himself, not his fame, not his acting persona. He’d always made her feel included and important as a kid, and then as an adult. But she couldn’t afford to say that to him, or reveal more of herself than was wise.
His other hand came up to her face, and it felt so good, so warm, to be cradled by him.
She swallowed and tried to concentrate on the words. “We’d always been friends, and we were drunk, and I didn’t want things to be awkward when you came home.”
“I wanted you to feel better, so I tried to forget, but . . . I can’t.” He leaned closer.
“Me, neither,” were just a breath of words.
And then he was kissing her. For a moment, it was the only place they touched, and they were both greedy and demanding. Everything inside her seemed to turn upside down with confusion and desire and uncertainty and need. She felt the rasp of his faintly stubbled chin, gave him the taste of salt from her chips, inhaled the scent of soap that was Tyler.
He pulled her hard against him, flattening her breasts against his chest, making her groan into his mouth. They slanted their open mouths, took and tasted. She got to run her hands greedily all over his arms and back, then shuddered when his big hands slid down and cupped her rear, bringing her even harder against him. My God, he wanted her, and wanted her to know.
At last he lifted his head, but she kept clinging to him like a burr.
“I honestly meant this hiking trip to be a friendly way to get you to have some fun,” he said, his breath still coming fast.
She could barely catch hers. “I know,” she managed. “And I’m having fun.”
He lowered his head to kiss her again, softly, experimentally, before straightening away. “Okay, this was a discussion we needed to have. Now that we’ve gotten it out of the way, things should be more normal between us.”
She took a deep breath for courage. “Tyler, ever since our encounter in New York, I’ve been hoping we could be ‘normal’ again, but I think we’re fooling ourselves.”
His jaw clenched, but before he could say anything, she hurried on.
“So we have a new normal—what’s wrong with that? You wanted to show me how to have fun again, and frankly, kissing you is more fun than I’ve had in a long time. Why can’t we just accept that and go with it?”
“Because I don’t want to mislead you,” he said tightly. “You’re a woman who deserves more than some casual fooling around.”
“Don’t you think that’s up to me to decide? I want to have fun again, Tyler, and I want to have it with you.”
|Copyright © Emma Cane|