by Maggie McConnell
GENRE: contemporary romance (romantic comedy)
Her mango chutney is exquisite; her blueberry sauce to die for. But Chef de Cuisine Daisy Moon is a woman without a kitchen after a "bit of trouble" at her last job. Now blacklisted from Seattle to San Francisco, Daisy's sole job offer is from Wild Man Lodge in Otter Bite, Alaska, where the end of the road is just the beginning.
His laugh was immediate. Daisy realized how ridiculous her allegation was. Max Kendall's particular brand of woman didn't need lies to motivate her into his bed. His women were fun and adventurous and, unlike Daisy, didn't have impossible expectations.
"I thought we were talking about you," he said with a dying chuckle. "But if you think you're helping the enemy..." With his good leg bearing the brunt of his weight, he rose from the bed. Grabbing the handles on his duffle bag, he slowly stepped toward the bathroom.
"If the lights were dim and the music soft and the wine expensive."
Max turned at the door. "And?"
"I don't believe for one second that you, Daisy, would be undermined by lights, music, and wine."
"And… if I thought you were...special."
"And what makes a man special?"
Daisy hesitated at the fork in her road. She could give Max an honest answer or… "Well, for one thing, he's very forgiving--"
His eyes crinkled as his grin returned.
"--And he would never use all the hot water just to prove some ridiculous point."
"I guess I'm not the only one who has trouble giving a straight answer. See you when the water runs cold." The bathroom door clicked shut.
"And he makes me smile," Daisy murmured, smiling.
"I had apple strudel. I never have apple strudel. It's not my usual."
"You came here to tell me you had apple strudel?"
"The thing is...I liked it. For a change, I mean. Once. Not every day, of course."
"The truth is..." He stepped toward her. "The truth is...I feel bad about giving you such a hard time at breakfast."
"Ohhhh. This is an apology."
"No, absolutely not." Max retracted the step he'd just taken. "This is absolutely NOT an apology."
Daisy huffed. Normally, she'd take great satisfaction in Max's guilt and take equal pleasure in the banter that would surely follow. However, she was a woman on a mission, and she didn't have the time, not with Otter Bite hanging by a manila envelope. "Fine. Thank you for coming here NOT to apologize and for that apple strudel thing. And--" She momentarily softened. "--the money. But I just don't have the time for whatever this is."
Once again he stepped toward her. "You're making this extremely difficult."
"This? This what? What am I making--"
"This." The word melted into her mouth.
The two hundreds floated from her hand to the floor. Then, her arms wrapped Max's neck, his body pressed hers, and Daisy was lost in a kiss she never expected to own.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Golden Heart nominee Maggie McConnell spent her childhood overseas as the daughter of US diplomats. Attending college in Illinois, she earned a BA in Art and an MBA while working at the local humane shelter. At 26, she packed her dog and cat into a Ford truck and drove the Alcan Highway to Alaska, where she spent 23 years exploring The Last Frontier in a single-engine Cessna. A vegan and animal rights advocate, Maggie provides a sanctuary on her Arizona ranch for all creatures great and small, but her immediate family includes dog Molly, cat Sara, horses Quinn and Teena, and an ever-growing dynasty of chipmunks. Every year, like the Gray Whale, Maggie returns to Alaska.
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