Flirting with Forever By Sara Ohlin
Book 3 in the Graciella series
General Release Date: 11th May 2021
Word Count: 60,211
Book Length: NOVEL
COWBOYS AND WESTERN
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What would you give up to make forever come true?
Adam Brockman has been working the land and the horses in Graciella since he can remember, and the new Brockman Farms business ventures are all blossoming. Adam’s always believed in the farm, in family, and he’s convinced he’ll find the perfect love in the perfect moment.
Widowed Cassandra Dorsey hopes her stay at a Brockman Farm cottage will help find peace and get her life back on track after losing her dream job as the food editor of The San Francisco Chronicle and being reckless with men in order to feel again have done nothing but leave her numb.
Tumbling headfirst into love, Adam sets out to woo Cass into staying in Graciella and becoming his forever. Although initially convinced she needs to get her old job back, the land and love revive Cass’s senses and she starts to imagine new dreams that include a gorgeous farm and her sexy cowboy.
But a bombshell flips their world upside down and shakes the foundation of their fledgling relationship. Will the shock of a lifetime tear them apart…or grant Adam and Cass their chance at forever?
It wasn’t every day a man got to stand in the most perfect, spectacular place on earth. Lush farmland, rows of apple trees, green hills rolling off into the Pacific Ocean. A fantasy map drawn to perfection. Exactly what dreams were made of. Adam Brockman got to live it.
Gonna be another scorcher. Adam shielded his eyes from the blinding sun and took in the farm spread out below him. This land had never looked better. Full to bursting with things growing and thriving, crops, trees, animals, his family. The back of his pickup stood open and he shoveled farm compost, or good old-fashioned manure, whose ripe and humid scent wafted around him, beside the new walkways strewn throughout the farm.
First week of November and summer temperatures still beat relentlessly at the land. Long rays streaked across the colored leaves and toyed with the dirt drifting across the ground. But he wasn’t fooled. Fall beckoned right around the corner, despite the heat.
With the trees exposing their reds and yellows and the sun sinking earlier, the land was preparing for hibernation. The knowledge tightened in his bones. It charged through him, the change in the air. But for a few more dreamy days he subscribed to the mirage. He would be perfectly fine if they had summer’s sunshine and warmth all year long.
But damn, he hadn’t planned on planting hundreds of perennials in ninety-degree heat. He’d already added tulip and daffodil bulbs. Come spring, the hard, monotonous work he’d put in would pay off, with gorgeous blooms lining the paths. Although Adam preferred working with the horses, beautifying his family farm was important to him, to all his brothers now. The threat of old ghosts was finally demolished, allowing them to make Brockman Farms shine again. They’d spent months cleaning her up, nurturing her. Lily was nearly finished with all the cottages. Yes, come spring this place would be brilliant.
“Shit!” Adam yelled as his puppy, Bullet, streaked by in a wisp of golden fur chasing something, probably imaginary, and tripping Adam in the process. He lost his footing on the slippery ground, his bucket and shovel flying from his hands, and found himself butt down in the pile of compost he’d just finished mounding over the sedum. Being surrounded by manure, as a farmer, was nothing new, but marinating in it wasn’t on his agenda. “It’s a good thing you’re cute, you menace!” Christ, now the scent did more that waft around him, it oozed into his skin.
“What…what the hell?” A throaty, indignant voice interrupted his predicament. To his side stood a woman, bathed in the dusty glow of lazy sunlight, and compost. Well, shit is right. It was mostly at her feet, covering her shoes and ankles, and splattered on her jeans. A few globs clung to her cute T-shirt she had tied at her waist. Adam closed his eyes, banishing his clusterfuck, then risked peeking. There was even shit in her long hair, brown streaks of it splotched on her honey-blonde waves.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She tried to stomp her foot, but with the wet pile of poop, her boot made more of a squelching sound. “Shit!”
Adam couldn’t help the laugh that exploded out of him.
“This is not funny.” Eyes narrowed, she skewered him with a look.
“It isn’t?” Adam tried to keep the question out of his voice. He took in his body splayed in a pile of cow shit, raised his head and grinned at her. He couldn’t tell from his spectacularly awkward spot on the ground if she wanted to scream at him or demand help. She’d just been assaulted with manure. Okay, okay, maybe it wasn’t funny on her end.
Swallowing back his laughter, he said, “I’m so sorry, gorgeous.” Dragging himself up, he tossed the shovel out of her way and offered his hand to help her out of her stuck situation.
“Gorgeous?” She huffed at him.
“Uh…” She doesn’t think she’s gorgeous or she doesn’t want me to tell her she’s gorgeous?
Deep chestnut eyes held more than disbelief or anger. Stories lingered there, buried deep. People always said so much more with their eyes than they realized. A smear of super-organic plain old manure stuck to her cheek. He reached for the bandana in his back pocket, then barely stopped himself from laughing again when he realized there was no way his compost-soaked cloth would do her any good now.
“A bit clumsy today, darlin’. I’d offer you my bandana”—Adam gestured to the disaster he now was—“but I’d get compost all over you, or more over you.” He made to wipe his hands on his jeans, but he was covered in shit.
“Don’t,” she said and shoved her hands up.
“Look, you’re stuck in…well, you don’t want to stay there, do you?”
“It’s cow poop! You flung it at me. I’m literally covered in shit. Why is it all over the place, anyway?” She reached up to pull a piece of hair away from her cheek. “Ugh!”
“I’m planting,” Adam said. “Didn’t expect my dog to toss me over. Or a beautiful stranger to come traipsing through and be caught in the shitstorm.” He couldn’t help it. His inner ten-year-old self found all the jokes and puns about this hilarious.
This hardened the indignant freeze in her eyes and shuttered all her hidden tales. Shame. He could wade in and happily discover each one.
“What is it with you people?” Wow, he was amazed at how angry she could make her words sound with her lips so tight and rigid. Sure has pretty lips, though.
“People?” He put his hands on his hips and got ready to face off with this gorgeous but prissy lady. He wasn’t mad—it took a lot to anger him—but he did take pride in his work. Plus, if she wanted an argument, he was happy to provide one. Bantering with a pretty lady was much more fun than digging in the dirt.
She wiped the spot on her cheek but all it did was smear it across her flushed skin.
“Oh.” Adam relaxed and smiled at her. “I thought it was farmers that ruffled your feathers. It’s men you don’t like.”
“Yes, arrogant jerks with your swaggers and winks, tossing ‘gorgeous’ and ‘darlin’’ around thinking all women lap that up. And I do not have feathers! Ugh!”
Laughter bubbled out of him again. “You do know what a figure of speech is, though, right?” He checked his surroundings. I’m still on the farm. Haven’t stepped into an alternate dimension or anything. “This is all my fault and I’m sincerely sorry. Here, please take my hand and step out of that mess.”
“No…I…” She shooed his arm away. “This is unbelievable and yet so fitting at the same time.”
Are we having two separate conversations? “Are you mad because of the sh—compost? Or because I like to use the correct words to address something? Do you not like people calling you gorgeous?”
“Ugh, men always thinking a woman’s worth is only through her appearance.”
“That’s not what I said or meant. Don’t go putting extra thoughts in my head.”
She nodded and gave him a fake smile that did not match the rest of her expression. “Right. Of course. Is your head overloaded already?”
Points for sarcasm. Probably wise not to laugh this time. Oh yeah, she’s ready to spar. It was entertaining watching her try to insult him. Adam’s defenses were a steel vault. Her insults were nothing compared to what he and his brothers threw at each other. Even so, she still confused the hell out of him. “Why…go to all that trouble—” He swore as he rubbed the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. He probably had a nice streak of manure on his face now too.
“What was that?”
“Now you want to hear my thoughts?” he drawled as he peeled his work gloves off and tossed them aside.
“It’s not polite to mumble at people.”
“I said, why do women go to all the trouble in the world to appear gorgeous, with your sparkly makeup to highlight the gold flecks in your stunning eyes and hair products to entice seductively soft locks, but prance around like a snobby cat the minute we dumb men comment on it?” He intended to provoke her a bit, tangle her up, but damn he sank into the shimmering depths of her eyes.
“How I dress or wear makeup does not give you the right to hit on me. It’s polite to address people by their names, not stereotypical monikers perpetuated by society’s gender biases.”
“Oh.” Adam barked out a laugh. There was no sense trying to hide his humor, since she was zapping him left and right. “I wasn’t hitting on you, but I get it now. You’re giving the poor dumb farmer lessons in politesse.” He stepped closer. Dang! Prickly and stuck-up though she is, she sure smells pretty, like wildflowers in a sunny field. It obliterated everything else, like a shot of adrenaline. He wanted to lie down in a meadow with her and explore her scent. They could argue and kiss and learn each other’s bodies. Whoa, slow down, slim.
“Wha-what?” She blinked. “No—”
He didn’t give her a chance to finish because what had started out as enjoyable banter had turned into a confusing tumbleweed blowing around inside him. What is that feeling? Annoyance, frustration, agitation? There was a whole lot of agitation going on in his chest and other places right now and he needed to get the heck away from her. But first he put his large hands on her waist, lifted her out of the shit pile and placed her gently back on the path that wasn’t covered in manure.
“Oh,” she gasped but placed her hands on his shoulders to steady herself, stretching her body closer to his.
Her touch annihilated any lingering lightheartedness of this situation. Instinct and manners warred in his body, heart and head, with instinct wanting him to tug her tight into his body. They’d fit in all the right places. His head ordered him to flee immediately. Is that my head issuing orders? His synapses were all jammed up. Her eyes fluttered closed and he wanted to shake her gently, make her open them back up when he kissed her.
WTF? Red warning lights flashed. He ripped his hands off her soft hips. “Sorry I ruined your boots, miss.” He tipped his cowboy hat to her in one last stupid flourish and headed toward his north star, the barns. “Maybe stay away from us idiots,” he yelled over his shoulder. “I guarantee you’ll enjoy your stay better.”
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