Still working away at bringing this story to life. No date to offer yet, but in the meantime, here’s a sample! As always – unedited, subject to change. Enjoy!
Maple served a good breakfast, but it was more popular with the guests than the locals. Most of these people weren’t from Sugar Valley, and as such, saw no need to strike up conversation with a stranger.
It meant I was able to tuck myself into a quiet corner and order my breakfast in peace.
At least for a little while.
“Ms. James… does that sling mean you ended up taking yourself to the doctor?”
I would’ve been annoyed by the intrusion if it didn’t mean I got to look into Luke’s handsome face, currently twisted into a sympathetic smile.
“Uh… yeah,” I replied, as he invited himself into the seat across from me at my booth.
“Damn,” he cringed. “ Guessing it means you might be grounded for a bit with the property.”
Almost immediately, my eyes watered, and I nodded. “A little bit,” I confirmed, my voice cracking with a sudden surge of emotion I couldn’t tamp down in time.
“Shit,” Luke muttered. “Don’t do that…”
“I know. I know,” I insisted, snatching my napkin up from the table to dry my face and catch the abrupt tears. “It’s silly.”
“It’s not silly.”
Luke reached across the table, grabbing my hand to give my fingers a squeeze. “Tell me how I can help. What can I do?”
“Nothing,” I huffed, shaking my head. “It just… is what it is. And honestly, I can’t even… I don’t even want to think about it.”
He gave me another – greatly appreciated – squeeze. “That’s understandable. But hey… I know something that would cheer you up. Well… probably. Maybe. Fifty-fifty.”
I shook my head, pulling my hand away. “The way I’m feeling right now, I doubt it. But… I’m listening.”
“Okay,” he said, with a slow, sexy grin that made me forget I was in pain for a moment. “Have you seen Sugar Valley from above yet?”
My eyebrows shot up. “Huh?”
“The view,” he explained, “from over the town. The mountain, the forest, all that?”
“Please explain this to me like I’m five, because I don’t understand.”
Luke chuckled. “Okay… I am a helicopter pilot, remember? My job here, is giving helicopter tours – and occasional firefighting, but we’re not on that right now.”
“Let’s explore that, though – you, in the overalls, and nothing else. Except the hat.”
“What?” I asked. “The thought is making me feel better.”
“But I think a tour would make you feel even better.”
“You seem sure.”
“I’m not. I just think so.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “And what if it doesn’t? You’ll take your shirt off for me?”
“I… yes, Eva,” he laughed. “If the helicopter tour doesn’t make you feel better, I will take my shirt off for you.”
“Sold. When do we leave?” I asked, reaching into my purse for my wallet.
Luke slid out of the booth. “Now. And, you’re already covered – tip and all.”
“Okay now… first you bought me pork chops and pound cake, now here you go with the eggs and hashbrowns,” I teased, as he helped me out of my seat. “You keep it up, you’re gonna mess around and reveal yourself as the man of my dreams.”
He grinned. “I gotta be honest with you – you wouldn’t be the first woman to think so.”
“Is that a warning?” I asked, as he led me through Maple, through the private opening into the main lodge. “You trying to scare me off or something?”
“Just making you aware.”
“That you’re a heartbreaker,” I guessed, as he brought me through yet another doorway, out to the helipad where his chariot awaited.
“I didn’t say all that.”
I smirked. “Oh please. Tell me with a straight face that you haven’t left a trail of women who wanted a whole lot more of you in your wake.”
He wanted to deny it, I could tell – but his damn integrity wouldn’t let him.
“Yep. Just as I thought,” I quipped, then followed his directions to “my side” of the helicopter so I could board.
“It’s not polite to brag, Ms. James.”
A grin spread across my lips as he carefully clipped me into the security belts, then fit a helmet over my head.
“Not bragging, Mr. Freeman. Just stating the obvious.”