I love small town romances…if they take place in New England even better. Kendra Leigh Castle’s Harvest Cove series has everything I love about those two things add in an uptight heroine and a Veteran looking for a place that doesn’t have a lot of action and you have a book that will keep you turning the pages. This is one book you won’t want to miss…so we’re extra excited to be able to share an excerpt with you. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Emma woke up slowly, the way she always did. She breathed in deeply as her body adjusted to the light streaming in the window and hitting her closed eyelids, becoming aware of the sensation of her limbs sunken into the soft mattress, the soft sounds of birds chirping outside.
The taste in her mouth like the floor of a truck stop.
She opened her eyes slowly. Her eyelids were sore. As a matter of fact, her entire body was sore. And her head . . .
“Oh. God.” It took an obscene amount of effort just to lift a hand to her throbbing head. The strands of hair that caught between her fingers were hopelessly tangled. Her thoughtless bliss upon waking vanished, to be replaced by memories of the night before. Hazy memories, but they were enough. The part where she’d driven to Aaron’s was clear. The champagne at his house was clear—obviously a bad idea, but she remembered it just fine. Then they’d headed to the Harvest Cove Tavern, and that was where things got a little scattered. There’d been beer. And . . . tequila. And—
“Dancing. Oh God.”
Her voice was little more than a croak, and her throat felt like she’d been gargling with razor blades. Emma gingerly raised herself to a sitting position, though that made her throbbing head a thousand times worse. She squinted around her room, which looked perfectly normal. That was great, except she had no idea how she’d gotten here.
No . . . wait. . . . There was a guy. A cop, I think. Was he at the party?
That’s right. There had been a cop. Somehow, she didn’t think he’d been an invited guest, though she was pretty sure they’d had a lengthy conversation. And she was more than pretty sure that her ride home had been in a squad car. A fragment of that ride returned to her.
“Okay, Emma, you look really green. We’re almost to your place. Can you hang on just a few minutes longer?”
“If you drive faster, maybe.”
He hadn’t just driven her home. He’d come in. To help. Because she’d been a complete disaster. Dread curled in the pit of her much-abused stomach. Emma’s eyes shifted to her nightstand, upon which sat a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin. On the floor was her wastebasket, helpfully lined with a plastic bag. It was blessedly empty.
Whoever this guy was, he’d taken care of her. She was deeply grateful and deeply embarrassed all at once. She didn’t like owing people for things. And she didn’t like making a spectacle of herself. It looked like this time around she’d managed to do both.
A familiar feline form wound around the corner of her half-shut door and sauntered in, greeting her with a soft, high-pitched meow utterly at odds with his size. His tail was curved into a furry question mark, as though he was wondering what on earth she’d been thinking last night, too.
“Hey, Boof,” she rasped. He quivered his tail at the sound of his unusual name, which her sister’s fiancé had invented for him. Jake had gotten a kick out of the big kitten’s penchant for headbutting, and he enjoyed adding sound effects when he was around to watch. “Boof” was used frequently. As it turned out, it was also the only thing resembling a name that the cat would answer to. Emma had fought it, but Boof, in true feline fashion, had seemed determined to thwart her.
She was pretty sure that Jake was still gloating.
It was a surprise to see her cat up and about. He usually slept with her. Then again, she wouldn’t have wanted to sleep with herself last night, either. Boof gave another squeaky meow, then sat looking expectantly up at her. Looking for breakfast, no doubt. He loved her, but for the feline, food came first.
She slid her legs over the edge of the bed, steeled herself, and stood. Her legs were wobbly, but functional. Though her feet were bare, she was still wearing last night’s clothes, the scent of which now wafted up to her and had her feeling sick all over again.
Stale beer. Mmm.
At least her shirt was dry now. And her hair. The way they had gotten wet in the first place was a part of the evening she wished she didn’t remember, but she did. Not with perfect clarity, but well enough.
Emma tottered to her dresser, stripped off the offending clothes, and dumped them in a fragrant pile. Then she pulled one of her worn old sweatshirts and a pair of flannel pants out of her drawers, sighing with relief when she put them on. Better.
She walked slowly out of the bedroom, feeling more like an old woman than someone standing on the cusp of thirty. As much as she wanted to stay in bed and hide beneath the covers, something told her she needed to check the rest of the apartment . . . just in case. The bedroom across the hall, the one she used as an office, was empty, as was the bathroom. Everything was neat and organized, exactly the way she liked it. Nothing seemed dangerous except for the big brown medium-haired tabby winding between her legs as she walked. But something nagged at her, though it took her a few seconds to identify what. Then it hit her.
It was a new smell.
She paused right before heading into the open living area when she caught it, faint but recognizable even through the still-unpleasant scent of her hair. She’d always had a sensitive nose, a thing sometimes useful and occasionally annoying. Right now, it was simply . . . illuminating. And mortifying. Because that smell, a subtle, clean, slightly woodsy scent, was the cop’s cologne. The first whiff of it reminded her how much she’d enjoyed breathing it in as he’d carried her to his car. Then from his car. Then up the stairs. And she knew, just knew, that she’d told him how amazing he smelled. At length.
I’m never going out again. Ever.
Emma closed her eyes and mouthed several epithets before starting forward again. There was a brief moment of relief when her quick, initial glance around the room showed her nothing. Then she heard the deep, sleepy sigh from her couch, only the back of which was visible from where she stood.
Her feet propelled her forward even though her angrily throbbing brain was screaming at her to go back to bed before it was too late. Still, in a matter of seconds, Emma found herself standing at the corner of her big comfy couch, staring down at the semifamiliar figure of last night’s savior. Her hero.
Perfect. I need a hero like I need a hole in the head.
And yet here he was, looking every inch the white knight she didn’t need. Emma had remembered his scent, his uniform, and a vague sense that he was cute. Apparently, the booze had clouded her vision as well as her thoughts, because in the harsh and sober light of morning, “cute” didn’t even begin to cover it. Not even the hangover from hell could do much to dull her appreciation of this particular sight.
The man was hotness incarnate.
He was still in uniform, stretched out with one arm bent across his chest and the other tucked behind his head, giving her a full-length view of a long, lean body that she could tell was in excellent shape just from the way his clothes fit. He’d untucked his shirt, and the top couple of buttons were undone, so she could see the white neck of his undershirt, a marked contrast to his olive skin. His face, relaxed in sleep, was a study in angles—sharp cheekbones, square jaw, a slim, sharp blade of a nose. His mouth was wide, generous, with soft-looking lips that were parted gently. Thickly lashed eyes tilted slightly down at the corners, closed beneath dark, heavy brows. His short, dark-brown hair was tousled, probably from sleep, and it just made him that much more beautiful.
He was absolutely, completely, horrifyingly gorgeous. And while she stared, trying to figure out whether it was possible to get him out of her apartment without him actually seeing her, the feline in her life decided to indulge one of his favorite—and her least favorite—habits.
If she liked, needed, or was working on something, Boof would inevitably park his big furry butt on it. Too late, Emma realized that she’d stared at the cop long enough for the cat to decide he was of some import to her. In the blink of an eye, Boof was sitting on him.
Emma’s eyes widened. “No!” she hissed, her voice a ridiculous stage whisper. “Damn it, Boof, no!”
The cat looked at her placidly from the center of the cop’s chest, seemed to consider her for a moment, and then bunched himself up to lie down. Emma was positive that if he’d had a middle finger, Boof would have given her one.
“Boof!” she whispered again, a harsh rush of air that the cat had plainly decided to ignore. He gave her the slow, sleepy blink that her sister, Sam, assured her was feline for “I love you.” Emma thought it was probably more like “Screw you, stupid human.” Especially right now.
The cop woke up just as Boof started to knead his chest, purring loudly.
He hissed in a breath. “Ouch!”
Emma stiffened, ready to shout as his hand moved to, presumably, swat at her cat. Instead, he settled it gently on Boof’s back, then rubbed the cat’s soft fur with his fingers.
“Hey, big guy. Watch the claws.” Big warm eyes the color of her morning coffee opened, hazy with sleep. And of course, they found her right away.
“Hey,” he said again, easily, as though it was the most natural thing in the world that he was here, a stranger who’d cared for her through a bout of epic vomiting and then slept on her couch. When she said nothing, he breathed in deeply, stifled a yawn, and pushed himself up into a half-sitting position while steadying Boof with one hand. He kept the hand beneath the cat to cradle him against his chest, then used his fingers to begin rubbing underneath Boof’s chin, against his cheeks, behind his ears. All the favorite places.
Her treacherous cat was immediately in heaven. The cop, on the other hand, quickly returned his focus to her. She wished she could remember his name. She wished she could think of something, anything that wouldn’t make this worse than it already was. Her hair was probably making it worse already.
“You feeling better this morning?” he asked. “Sorry I didn’t split before you got up. I was waiting to make sure you were, um . . . finished,” he said, gesturing vaguely toward the bathroom, “before I left. Guess I dozed off.”
His voice was low, with just a hint of roughness that buzzed along her ragged nerve endings. She fought off a shiver, irritated that she was having any kind of a reaction at all to this guy. He didn’t belong here. He shouldn’t still be here. The need to have him gone was so strong that she would have scooped him up and carried him over the threshold, reverse bridegroom style, and then run back inside to lock the door if she could have managed it. He looked pretty solid, though. And he’d probably struggle.
Please let him not try to make small talk. Please.
Emma crossed her arms over her chest and tried to give him her best intimidating glare. The cop just looked back at her, his dark eyes far more serious than his words had been. The quiet intensity she saw in them messed with her resolve, threw her off balance.
Event planner Emma Henry is used to focusing all her attention on reaching her goals and letting romance fall by the wayside. But when her sister Sam’s bachelorette party prompts the most tightly-wound Henry to let her hair down, Emma’s night ends with the entire town linking her to a man who could lay waste to anyone’s best-laid plans.
Army vet Seth Andersen thought that joining the police department in sleepy Harvest Cove would offer a quiet, normal life. But when he finds himself responsible for uptight Emma Henry at the end of her wildest night ever, his world turns unexpectedly complicated—and he’s surprised to discover he doesn’t mind at all…