Release Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hunter Cross has no regrets. Having left his football prospects behind the day he graduated high school, he’s happy to carry out his legacy on his family’s farm in the foothills of the Shenandoah. But when a shoulder injury puts him face-to-face with the high school sweetheart who abandoned town—and him—twelve years ago, Hunter’s simple life gets a lot more complicated.
Emerson Montgomery has secrets. Refusing to divulge why she left her job as a hotshot physical therapist for a pro football team, she struggles to readjust to life in the hometown she left behind. The more time she spends with Hunter, the more Emerson finds herself wanting to trust him with the diagnosis of MS that has turned her world upside down.
But revealing secrets comes with a price. Can Hunter and Emerson rekindle their past love? Or will the realities of the present—and the trust that goes with them—burn that bridge for good?
“This isn’t potato salad. It’s a metaphysical event.” Emerson moved her fork through the mixture, taking a closer look at the small wedges of red-skinned potatoes, the pretty pop of bi-color sweet corn, and the fresh bright-green parsley in her cup. “When did Harley come up with this recipe?”
“Five, maybe six years ago.” Hunter picked up his fork, digging into his own potato salad with a grin. “He started with fries, but then he decided he wanted the real down-home experience. Mayo doesn’t keep too well in hot weather, so he got a little creative. And opportunistic, I guess, because that’s his homemade honey barbecue sauce in there, along with a bunch of other ingredients he guards like a national secret.”
Emerson took another bite, the smooth, smoky goodness exploding on her tongue. “As long as he doesn’t stop making it, and I do mean ever, I won’t complain.”
“I thought you might like it.”
“Because there’s no mayonnaise?” Her instinct to keep her guard up took yet another direct hit in the face of Hunter’s easy smile.
“Because it’s off the chain.” He paused, his dimple flashing even deeper, and yep, her guard was toast. “Okay, and also maybe because there’s no mayonnaise.” He lifted his sandwich, waiting until they’d each taken a few bites before continuing. “I know you’re not a fan of breakfast, but seriously. Don’t you eat?”
“Not really.” The answer flew out before Emerson had any idea she’d let it, and her cheeks flushed at the admission. “I mean, obviously, I eat enough to survive. But I guess it’s been awhile since I really enjoyed a meal.”
“That’s a shame,” he said with nothing but kindness in his tone. She prayed he wouldn’t follow up by asking her why not—there really was no subtle way to say that between the upheaval of the career she loved and the heavy cocktail of meds she was still getting used to, her appetite had pretty much gone on an extended sabbatical.
Thankfully, he didn’t. They ate in comfortable quiet, punctuated by Emerson’s inevitable food appreciation noises (she tried to restrain herself, she really did, but the honey-mustard coleslaw was as ridiculous as the juicy, butter-soft pulled pork it was piled upon, and she was only human, after all.) The thick umbrella of leaves overhead offered just enough cover to keep the heat at bay, and Emerson turned her face up toward the dappled sunlight as she popped the last bite of potato salad into her mouth.
“You might not want to wait so long next time before you indulge,” Hunter said, folding his burnished forearms over the table with a crooked, sexy smile. “It looks pretty good on you.”
A soft laugh bubbled up from her chest, and God, he’d always known exactly how to put her at ease. “Thanks.”
“I’m just speaking the truth, the same way I was when I said you still belong here.”
Warmth that had nothing to do with the weather flooded Emerson’s body, and all at once, she realized how close he was. The way their knees barely brushed beneath the tabletop, the light sprinkling of stubble covering the angle of his jaw, the slight smudge of barbecue sauce at the corner of his wickedly full lips.
The way she wanted to open up to him without thought.
“Thank you. I mean, not just for lunch.” Ugh, so maybe a little bit of thought would’ve been a decent idea. “But, you know. For letting me help you with your shoulder. And making me feel at home.”
But rather than put her on the spot with some stilted or Hallmark-worthy response, Hunter just grinned. “Is this the part where I get to say I told you so? Because, truly, I’ve been waiting awful patiently, and—”
“Oh my God, fine!” Emerson caved, letting her laughter have its way with her. “You were right. I may have been gone for a while, but I’m not a total stranger.”
“In that case, welcome home, Emerson.” Hunter shifted forward, one hand braced on the table in front of him, the other brushing over her forearm. Heart pounding, she leaned in to meet him out of pure instinct, knowing that he was going to kiss her and, as crazy and impulsive and dangerous as it was, she was going to let him.
About the Author
Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair that she calls “the Pleather Bomber,” she can be found practicing crazy amounts of yoga, whipping up everything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a USA Today bestselling author and a 2016 and 2015 RWA RITA finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra “Food is love.” She resides in Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.