Both units were connected to the middle unit with glass-roofed boardwalks. The middle container was the larger of the two and, save for the wall at the back, boasted of floor-to-ceiling glass doors at all sides, and it was here he finally found his pretty little assistant, hair bundled up in a careless chignon as she meticulously set the table for dinner.


Blake’s head lifted right away, and it was a sublime pleasure to see her lovely face light up with a smile of unconcealed happiness the moment she saw him coming in. She was dressed in shirt and jeans, and its very wholesomeness was a major turn-on. He liked the way the cotton gently molded over the fullness of her breasts and the way her skinny jeans emphasized the slim length of her legs.

“Welcome back!” Blake couldn’t help gobbling her boss up with her eyes as she spoke. Oh sweet baby Jesus, but Thornton Blackwood just seemed to get sexier every day. He was dressed in his typical cowboy attire, with his plaid buttoned-up shirt and sleeves rolled up to his elbows, faded denim jeans that did an extremely great job at emphasizing the muscular tightness of his butt and the towering, hard length of his build.

Mouthwatering in other words, she thought helplessly.

Blake volunteered to say grace as they took their seats, and Thornton simply nodded. The first time she had asked this of him, he had simply stared at her, to the point that she had started squirming and asked if perhaps he had a different religion. But it hadn’t been that really. What had taken him aback was that she had the guts to ask anything of him in the first place.

Most women – and some men, too – were typically afraid to even look at him in the eye in their first few encounters with him. And yet this girl…

Blake had no problems cheerfully taking up the bulk of the conversation over dinner. She loved, like truly loved to talk, and the nicest thing about Thornton was how keen he always appeared to listen to her. Once, she had tried to see if he was merely pretending and asked him a question whose detailed answer he would only know if he had truly lent her an ear.

‘Mr. Blackwood, do you remember about yesterday’s incident…’ She had deliberately trailed off, hoping he would take over and show her what he did remember.

And he had, she recalled dreamily, and oh so wonderfully, too. The incident she had been referring to was a service complaint from an online customer, and Thornton not only recalled the whole incident down to the smallest detail, but he had also informed her afterwards that he had his people take care of the issue on their behalf.

While his choice of words (his people???) had been rather bewildering, she had just been so happy, knowing that he truly did listen to everything she said, that Blake shrugged the matter off. Maybe it was just a Hartland thing…

Thornton’s lips slowly pressed together in an effort to suppress his smile. How incredibly easy it was for this woman to get lost in daydreams. It was practically a talent, and he found her ability to fly to la-la land whenever wherever genuinely impressive.

The first time it happened, they had been at a weekend fair Blake had somehow convinced him to accompany her to. At one particular store, a next-town artisan was selling handmade necklaces. Blake had immediately gravitated towards the one with a heart-shaped lapis lazuli, and one moment she had been gushing over its craftmanship, and the next moment…nothing. A full minute had passed, and when Thornton had glanced down at her in sheer bafflement, he had seen Blake staring at the necklace like it had just transported her to Narnia.

The expression on her face then…was pretty much what she had on her face now.


Thornton’s warm breath caressed her ear at his sudden whisper, and Blake came crashing back into earth with a squeal of shock. She almost fell out of her chair, too, and by the time she righted herself, it was to see her boss’ dark eyes gleaming with amusement.

“Mr. Blackwood, that’s not nice!”

Thornton almost laughed. The words were obviously an admonishment, but Blake actually ended up making them sound like gushing praise, with her breathless tone and the pink flush of her cheeks.

“You were daydreaming again,” he drawled.

Blake just shrugged. It was obvious she considered her daydreaming as normal as breathing, and Thornton had a harder time keeping a smile off his lips.

After dinner, Thornton insisted on doing the dishes and had to remind Blake for the nth time that it was all part of their bargain, ever since she practically begged to take over cooking.

“But are you really sure?” Blake asked worriedly. “Because if you’re already tired or anything, I could totally—”

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