Skye looked him over. “If you want to know, try talking to Rose like a normal person. Not like some caveman with his chest all puffed out because he was jealous his woman was being claimed by another man.”

“Would a caveman wear Ferragamo?” he asked, gesturing at his shoes.

“I noticed you didn’t deny being jealous or that she’s your woman,” Skye said with a smirk.

So had he. “What’s a bloke to do?” he growled, sounding exactly like a caveman while rubbing the back of his neck.

Skye groaned. “Are you really going to make me spell it out for you?”

“Never any good at reading between the lines, dear,” he said. Actually, he was exceptionally good at it.

“Men,” she huffed. “Ask her yourself.”

“We’re not talking.”

“Write her a note. Email her. Text her.”

“I don’t have her number,” he mumbled.

Skye rolled her eyes, clearly exasperated by him. “Then get a plane and write it in the sky. Give her gifts, and not man gifts, either. Show her you’re sorry for being an ass.”

He raised a brow at her. “How do you know it was my fault?”

“You’re male, aren’t you?” With that parting shot, Skye joined Rose in the office.

Sasha headed back to his store. The one without a name, but at the moment he didn’t care. He had to make things right with Rose. He had to find that damn spring. He needed to check up on his mum.

All last week, he’d searched Rose’s property under the guise of working out. It wasn’t too much of a deception since running was his favorite form of exercise.

Make that his second favorite. And in five more weeks he could indulge in that form of exercise until he passed out or got arrested for committing illegal carnal acts with a woman or two. Or five. He smiled grimly.

Neatly dodging the UPS guy as he brought in another box, Sasha made his way back to his office. He slumped down in his chair and drummed his fingers on his desk. What did one bring to a woman like Rose? One that when asked if he could do anything for her had requested cheesecake. Cheesecake.

A pop-up ad for a fast food chain blinked at him, its chicken mascot flapping its wings and doing the running man while wearing high-top sneakers. He leaned forward, intent on x-ing the damn thing out when he stopped short. Instead he leaned back and crossed his arms behind his head. He propped up his feet and smiled.

Chapter Ten

Sasha spit out a feather and turned right onto the gravel road leading to Strawberry Grove. Driving covered in feathers hadn’t been how he envisioned showing up at Rose’s front door. As he parked the Mercedes, a loose chicken half jumped and half flew over the back seat and landed in his lap. Beady black eyes looked menacingly up at him and its sharp nails dug into his wool pants.

Apparently, Farmer Johnson had taken Sasha for a fool when he’d given him Rose’s chickens in a large box and assured him that they would stay in it. More feathers floated around him and he sneezed. Apparently, Farmer Johnson would be correct. He was a fool, perhaps love’s fool, but it didn’t signify. He had to get Rose to trust him.

“Don’t even think about ruining my trousers, or you’ll become tonight’s dinner,” he warned.

The chicken pecked his hand and stumbled to the passenger side. The rest of the fowl’s brethren made congratulatory squawking sounds.

“Sorry little buggers,” he growled.

He waved his hand in the air as he looked around. Rose’s Jeep was parked in its usual spot, and he could just make out the faint glow coming from the kitchen through the formal dining room’s windows. Perfect.

Cutting off the engine, he deliberated the best way to get the live cargo out of his car. Finally, he settled for quick dashes to the chicken coop until they were all safely inside. He rolled his head to one side and then the other. He was tired and sore. Chicken wrangling was not an occupation he was cut out for.

He opened the front door, sidestepping Blackbeard, and made a quick stop at the loo to wash up before heading toward the woman that made his heart beat faster in his chest. Tonight he was going to ask her to be his date to the fundraiser at the Collins’ house next week. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. No one would know it was her. Halloween themes tended to bring out masks and naughty costumes, especially in women.

“Hi…” Rose’s mouth dropped open and she stopped mid-plate placement when he ambled in. She quickly lowered her eyes, biting back an obvious smile.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, knowing full well he had at least a hundred feathers sticking to his hair and clothes.

Rose moved the fork and knife closer to the china and adjusted the position of the glass. It looked like a million down pillows had exploded and he’d been in the blast zone.

“Nothing,” she said, sneaking another glance. A tiny feather fell on his nose and his eyes crossed to look at it. She burst out laughing. Looking up at him, she placed a hand over her stomach and pointed to the mirror in the foyer. “Go take a look at yourself.”

He ran a hand through his golden hair and plucked out a couple of feathers. “I’ll have you know that feathers are all the rage.”

“People pay good money for clothes made out of feathers?” she asked, laughing harder. She wasn’t mad at him anymore. For the first time in months she could see the light at the end of the tunnel and her entire soul felt light. The contract from Barbara’s Bugs had seen to that.

The mischievous look in his eyes made her stop laughing and her pulse triple its beat.

“I think this would look better on you,” he said in a rough voice. He took a step forward and then another, and before she knew it, he was chasing her around the table.

“Don’t put that on me. I don’t know where it’s been,” she said, running to the little family room connected to the kitchen and skirting the baby swing that rocked a deeply sleeping Ivy.

“Hush, you’ll wake the baby.” He grinned and feinted left.

She let out a shriek and ran. Just as she rounded the sofa, he tackled her and they pitched forward onto the cushions. “I can’t breathe” she said, trying to buck him off.

A feather tickled her nose and she giggled while he said, “If that were true, you wouldn’t be laughing.”

She managed to elbow him in the gut and this time he tickled her ear. “Stop,” she said, and giggled again.

This was so silly; they were silly. And she loved it. She’d never been able to be silly. To be a teenager or even a woman in her early twenties. For once she gave herself permission to laugh and tease a very attractive man who was pressing his very delicious weight against hers. She could feel every hard muscle of his chest against her back. His powerful thighs against hers. If the sofa hadn’t been in the way, she would have melted into a puddle on the floor.