He searched her face, as if weighing her words for sincerity. “I already have.”


Lowering his head to hers, he breathed deeply and then pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Thank you, darling.”

Her eyes closed. He held her or rather she held him, their bodies pressed tight once more,so tight that she actually felt his cell phone vibrate against her stomach.

Finally, she opened her eyes and looked up at him. Pale blue greeted her. He smiled. An honest-to-goodness smile. His cell phone vibrated again. Her amazing response, “Don’t you need to answer that?”

The mask returned, hard and cold, and she wanted to kick herself. Why couldn’t she have kept her mouth shut and enjoyed the moment?

His hands dropped and he fished his cell phone out of his pocket, reading the screen. Without another word, he pivoted and walked out her front door. Enormous, burly bodyguards followed close behind, their matching black coats swirling around them as they disappeared from her sight.

“Oh my mercy,” she whispered, legs going shaky as she stumbled to a chair and plopped down in it.

Her door jerked open again. Sebastian was back. Her heart jumped up and down in her chest as he drew closer. Wordlessly, he held out his hand and she took it.

He pulled her to him and said, “If I could spend New Year’s with you, I would. I want you to know that.”

“What’s stopping you?” she asked, her knees shaking. This wasn’t what she expected him to say. Honestly, she didn’t know what she expected him to say.

He dipped his head, forehead resting on hers. “Because I don’t deserve to.” Then he kissed her. Softly. Sweetly—so achingly sweet. Breaking their kiss, he turned away from her and left, for good this time, leaving her standing there, staring at empty space.

Chapter Three

Music blared, lights danced, and the drinks flowed freely at Poor Boys, Holland Springs most popular (and only) country music bar.

Daisy sat with her two closest friends, Haven Crawford and Isabella Edwards, at a high table, waiting on another round of drinks.

“Found anyone yet?” Haven asked. She twirled a long lock of pink hair around her finger.

Isabella made a face. “You really expect us to go through with it?”

Haven snorted. “Either it’s one of these jokers or each other.”

Daisy raised a hand. “I vote each other.”

“Oh come on! It’s New Year’s Eve. We have to find someone to kiss,” Haven said. “It’s a like a rule.”

For a moment, the image of Sebastian Romanov filled her head, all tall and lean, with his serious eyes and sexy mouth.

“Oooh, who are you thinking about, Daisy?” Isabella asked.

“Uh, no one.” She’d never told her friends about that really strange encounter with Sebastian. Or the fact she’d had dreams about the man. Erotic dreams that involved him, her, and a bowl of warm chocolate.

“Sure you’re not,” Haven said with a little laugh.

Searching for a way out of revealing all, Daisy grinned as a familiar face caught her attention. She waved enthusiastically at her cousin, Heath Ambrose. He waved back, and then ambled up to the bar.

“Let’s talk about you instead, Haven. Heath could be the one kissing you at—”

Haven shook her head, her silver eyes narrowing. “Not happening. Ever.”

Isabella placed a comforting hand over Haven’s. “It wouldn’t bother me if you did.”

“Seriously, Haven. Bella and Heath never dated. They kissed once, like in tenth grade or something. So, you’re in the clear,” Daisy pointed out.

“Exactly,” Isabella said. “And since I actually have date tonight—”

“Who hasn’t bothered to show up.” Haven tapped her phone’s screen. “He’s got fifteen minutes, lady.”

Isabella made a tsking noise. “Stop trying to change the subject. Besides, Peter’s on his way. He’ll be here in five minutes. So…”

The waitress dropped off their drinks, and Daisy picked up her bottle of beer, tipping it in Haven’s direction. “Looks like it’s just you and me, baby girl.”

But Haven wasn’t paying her any mind. She was too busy burning holes in the back of Heath’s shirt.

“Go ask him,” Daisy said, giving her friend’s shoulder a little shove. “You know you want to.” She motioned for Heath to come to their table.

Heath raised a glass in their direction and they all raised theirs right back. Well, everyone but Haven raised their glass. She turned up her nose and rolled her eyes.

“He has such an ego,” she griped as Heath started in their direction.

Daisy and Isabella exchanged glances, and then they both said, “Hello pot.”

Haven made a face, huffing as Heath joined him. “Don’t you have other things to do, like knitting a brain for the empty space between your ears?”

Heath smiled, slow and easy. “Knitting club’s on Wednesday nights, after church service. You interested in coming, baby doll?”

Haven flicked her eyes over him. “There’s nothing I’m interested in.” Then she stood, grabbed her phone, and walked away.

Heath sucked in some air through his teeth. “Ouch.”

Isabella gave him a sympathetic smile. “You know you shouldn’t have called her baby doll.”

“Yeah, I know it.” He shrugged. “But I figured I’d give her an actual reason to be rude to me.”

Daisy had no idea why Haven had a problem with Heath. Heath was a down-to-earth, nice guy, and she wasn’t just saying that because he was her cousin. He hadn’t let his fame as a major league catcher go to his head. Every chance he got, he came home and helped his parents on their farm. He volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club, funded a camp for kids whose parents couldn’t afford to send them, and a whole bunch of other projects.

Thing was—Heath was like that growing up too. Sure, he’d been a little cocky at times about his abilities, but Haven could hardly complain about that. The woman was practically a genius, who had no problem showing off her intelligence to anyone and everyone. She had been class valedictorian and had graduated from Duke with a degree in economics. Yet she had chosen to come home to run her grandparents’ Bed and Breakfast when their failing health had prevented them from keeping it up properly.

Not something anyone had expected from the girl who’d proclaimed Holland Springs wasn’t big enough for her. Maybe being around Heath forced Haven to eat crow, more often than she already did.

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