Excerpt - Almost in Love

Book 1 : Clover Park Studs

Excerpt - Almost in Love Book Cover

Barry led Amber to the nature trails along the saltwater marsh. He stopped at the base of the trail. “You’ll need to move quietly, and don’t make any loud noises—”

“Like this? Ooh, Bare, yeah, right there!”

He went rock hard. All coherent thought left him as he pictured Amber riding him, his name on her lips.

She smacked his arm. “Kidding! I won’t make a sound.”

“Good,” he croaked.

Binoculars in hand, he led her to where he’d spotted the nest of black-capped chickadees the last time he was there. He peered at them through the high-resolution lenses and handed the binoculars to her.

She held them up to her eyes, one eye squinted closed. “What am I looking at?”

“Don’t squint. Just look normally. It’s a nest of black-capped chickadees. A little early this year. An amazing find, really.”

She peered again. “Oh. Yeah, there they are.” She handed back the binoculars. “Got it.”

“That’s it? Don’t you think it’s special?”

“Well…aren’t they supposed to make a nest?”

“Yes, but it’s rare to see one this early and so close to the trail. It’s a fantastic view.”

She nodded, lips drawn in. Barry tamped down his irritation. He thought someone like Amber with an artist’s soul would appreciate the beauty of nature.

“Let’s keep going.” He led her further down the trail. The sunbeams peeked through the tree branches. Birdsong was in the air. A light, salty breeze rustled through the leaves. It was breathtaking, amazing, the best kind of morning for birding.

He stopped suddenly and put a finger to his lips. He peered through the binoculars and smiled. “Look, a red-tailed hawk,” he whispered, handing her the binoculars.

She looked. “Cool.” Only she sounded really bored.

“Do you not like birding?” he asked.

“Birding?” She laughed. “That’s what we’re doing? I didn’t know there was a name for it.”

“It’s a very popular hobby,” he said defensively. “I thought you liked birds.”

She’d said she liked birds. He’d asked her that when he’d first met her in the prequel.

“I like them okay, just not like…as a hobby.”

“Should we go?”

“No, no. I accepted your date. Bring it on.”

“All right,” he said gamely.

They spent the next hour birding, and while Barry was thrilled with some of the birds returning to the area, and especially excited over the rare sighting of a bay-breasted warbler, he sensed Amber wasn’t having any fun. He really thought Amber would be inspired by the beauty of birds. He gave up when he caught her texting just when he turned to her, excited about a bobolink.

“Ready to go?” he asked.

“If you are,” she said.

He nodded, putting the binoculars back on the clip on his belt loop. “I’m ready.”

She took his hand, and his hopes soared. Maybe the date wasn’t going so badly.

“Let’s walk along the beach for a bit,” she said.

“Sure.”

When they reached the sand, she slipped off her heels. She lost four inches without the shoes, reaching the middle of his chest. He was six foot, so most women were shorter than him, but Amber was so petite he just wanted to scoop her up and spin her around for the hell of it. He forced himself to keep his hands in his pockets. He knew he could get carried away sometimes.

He grinned. “You’re a tiny thing without your heels.”

“I’m five foot two.”

“That’s below average for a woman,” he said.

“Gee, thanks. I love being below average. Would you also like to comment on my age or my weight?”

He squinted at her. “Twenty-five and one hundred pounds?”

She shook her head. “Twenty-eight and, yeah, let’s go with that weight.”

“I wasn’t supposed to answer that, was I?”

She laughed. “I forgive you because you guessed in a complimentary direction.”

He wiped his brow dramatically. “Close one. I’ve got you beat by three years and a lot of heavy muscle.” He flexed his biceps, which were nothing to write home about.

She giggled. He loved that she laughed at his jokes. So few did.

They walked along the beach in comfortable silence. Amber stopped, facing the water, and took a deep breath in and out. He watched her more than the sea because she was infinitely more beautiful.

She turned to him suddenly and smiled. “Thanks for bringing me here. It was nice.”

“I wasn’t sure…” He trailed off as she stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek.

She smiled up at him. “What’s next?”

A kiss on the lips was the next natural progression, but did she want a warning before he went for it or—

“You’re thinking awfully hard,” she said with a grin. “Is there more to this date or just the beach?”

He shook his head. “Oh, I thought…yes, there’s more.” He nodded once. “Ready to go?”

“I’m ready.”

He held out his arm and led her back to where he parked, thinking he could get used to the feel of Amber on his arm. Next stop—The Dancing Cow!

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