Grant Sullivan comes home from war to divorce papers, not his wife. Two years later, he’s made himself a virtual hermit, trying to ignore all the sympathy—and gossip—of his small town.
Jennifer Riley rebelled against her minister father’s expectations and acted out, but after finishing college, she heads to a new town for a fresh start. She’s searching for something, but doesn’t know what it is until she meets Grant, the slightly sad, sinfully sexy farmer who steals her heart.
Can Grant trust again and let himself love, or is he bound to live, forever alone, with his nightmares of war?
Jennifer Riley hummed the last song that had played on the jukebox as she wiped the shiny wood of the bar with a rag. Taking a deep breath, she tossed it in the bucket under the register and walked around the end of the bar before heading to the table filled with college boys home for the summer.
The same eight guys came into the bar every Friday and Saturday night, and every Friday and Saturday night they tried to hit on her. She, however, was not interested in dating boys. She was tired of boys who wanted nothing but drinking with their buddies, playing video games, spending her money, and fucking her.
When they’d returned from college and started hitting on her, she vowed she would not date any of them. None. Nada. If they looked young enough to be carded, she wasn’t interested.
“What can I get you, boys?” she asked as she stood at their table, their gazes on her breasts, and hating the tight T-shirt Walt, the owner, insisted every waitress wear.
“You can get your pretty boobies in my face, angel,” one of the boys told her then giggled like a girl.
“Yeah, why don’t we get outta here and you come over to our place and let us men take care of you?” another chimed in.
“Listen, guys. We’ve been through this enough times you should get it by now. I’m not going home with you, and I’m not interested in sitting on your face or anything else. Do you want beers all around, or are you just going to sit here and stare at my breasts?”
The boys mumbled and groaned but nodded that they wanted whatever was on tap. When Jennifer walked away, they commented that maybe she wasn’t into boys but liked girls, and they obviously got off at the thought of a little girl-on-girl fantasy if their comments were any indication.
Jennifer was just filling the drafts for the asshole college boys when the door opened and she looked up. Her breath lodged in her throat, and her hand jerked, spilling beer suds over her hand.
He was sex on legs, all tall and muscular. When he turned from the door to head to a table in the corner, she caught sight of the best ass she’d ever seen, hugged so perfectly by faded and worn jeans. The clean white T-shirt tucked into the waistband pulled tight across his broad chest and thick arms. His hair was short, brown, and looked soft to the touch, and sexy stubble covered his jaw and cheeks.
Jennifer almost dropped the tray holding the eight mugs of beer and she quickly handed them out to the table of rowdy boys so she could hurry over to Mr. Sexy before Stephanie, her co-worker, got to him. Stephanie was the town’s go-to girl when a guy was horny but didn’t have anyone else to fuck. But even she wasn’t interested in the college boys.
Jennifer had seen this guy around town, but he had never come into the bar. Of course, there were rumors about him floating around. Some of them were sad, about his wife leaving him while he was in Afghanistan. Others would make a person want to stay away from him, that he had PTSD. All Jennifer knew for sure was that he was hot.
“Hi, what can I get you?” she asked over the music playing from the jukebox in the opposite corner.
“Do you have Sam Adams?”
“Sure. Boston Lager and Summer Ale.” God, he was even more handsome up close. His eyes were deep brown and surrounded by long lashes. His lips were full, and when he talked, Jennifer could see his straight white teeth. Best of all, his focus was on her face, not her breasts.
“Summer Ale, please.”
Deciding that the only way she was going to get what she wanted, which was to get this guy’s name and hope he asked her out, was to flirt a little. “Do I need to see your ID?” she teased.
The right side of his mouth lifted in a small smile. “I think I’m way past that, sweetheart,” he told her but lifted his butt cheek from the chair and pulled out his wallet. “But if you want to make sure, here you go.” He pulled an Iowa driver’s license out and handed it to her.
Quickly she scanned his name, Grant Sullivan, and his date of birth, December 9, 1983, and his address, Dogwood Lane, Remfield, Iowa. Smiling, she thanked him and walked across the room to the bar.
He was thirty-two years of age and lived right there in Remfield. Bingo, finally a man she was attracted to who was an adult, not a man with a little boy’s mind.
Putting the bottle and a glass down on the table in front of him, Jennifer asked, “Have I seen you playing softball on Thursday nights?”
“Yeah, I play. I’ve seen you there,” he commented then kicked himself for sounding so stupid. The only reason Grant was in Walt’s was because he had seen Jennifer in town and thought she was beautiful. He asked around and found out that the locals thought she was nice, worked at Walt’s, and even though she was pleasant to everyone, she was a loner.
He’d been attracted to her from the first time he saw her sitting in the town square, eating a sandwich and reading from her electronic reader. Being attracted to a woman wasn’t something he usually acted upon, but this woman was in his head a lot, and he finally decided he needed to do something about it.
“Well, is there anything else I can get for you?” she asked, leaning her weight on one leg as she tapped her hand on her hip.
“No, thank you. I’m good.” Again, he chastised himself for his riveting conversation skills. Granted, it had been a while since he’d talked to the opposite sex other than his mom and sisters, but he wasn’t a complete idiot.
He watched her walk away, noting the gentle sway of her hips in the tight shorts. Her waist was tiny, but her breasts were perfect in the skin-tight T-shirt she had on. His mind drifted to the last time he’d been with a woman then realized it had been his ex-wife before his deployment, so that was three years. Damn it, he should have become a priest as his grandmother had wanted him to.
He nursed his beer then ordered another, vowing to try to sound intelligent when she brought the next drink to his table. It was sad enough that he was drinking alone on a Friday night, but trying to come up with things to say to a beautiful woman other than, “Hey, you’re sexy. Wanna fuck?”
“Thanks,” he said as she placed the fresh bottle of Sam Adams in front of him and picked up the empty. “So you saw my ID and know my name. Tell me yours?” He knew her name was Jennifer and that she lived above Hazel’s Hair. Every man in town was half in love with her, and they talked about her a lot, but Grant wanted to see if she was interested enough in him to tell him her name, or if she was just smiling at him to get a good tip.
“Jennifer Riley. Nice name. Are you new in town?”
Nodding, she smiled. “Yeah, about a three months now. I really like it here. It’s simple.”
“Well, that’s what most people say about Iowa. It’s simple.” Before he could ask her any more about herself, Walt called for last call, and the table of college rowdies yelled for her to get them one last round.
“Talk to you later.” She smiled at him before heading to the bar where Walt was filling the tray for her. Promptly at two, Walt stood at the front door, holding it open as everyone filed out. Grant was the last one to exit, but not before he looked over his shoulder at the beautiful Jennifer as she cleaned tables. She smiled and waved at him, making him feel like he was nineteen and a college stud again.
The parking lot had cleared and the only vehicle left was his Chevy Silverado, which made him wonder what Jennifer drove. He supposed it was only a block to her apartment above Hazel’s. Remfield was a safe little town, but it wasn’t without its troublemakers. Deciding he would stick around to see if she did walk and maybe walk with her, he leaned his butt against the front grill of his truck, crossing his arms.
Jennifer finished wiping down the long bar then tucked the stools neatly under the padded lip. Tossing her cleaning rag in the dirty bin, she asked Walt if there was anything else she needed to do before she clocked out. When he shook his head no, she picked up her purse from the shelf under the cash register and walked out with Walt closing and locking the door behind her. The full moon lit her way as she walked carefully over the gravel parking lot to her car. The tall muscular body of the man she was hoping to see was leaning up against the front of a truck parked a few feet from the building. Smiling, she walked over and stopped in front of him.
Looking up, she smiled. “Truck won’t start?”
“It’ll start. I was just concerned that you walked since I didn’t see another car parked in the lot and was worried about you crossing through the town square in the dark.
“That’s so nice, but I parked on the side of the building,” she said, pointing over her shoulder to the bar. “Walt doesn’t want us to take up parking spaces in the front.”
Straightening, he lifted his butt from the truck and took her elbow, leading her toward the side of the building. It was dark and secluded, with no light on the side lot except for the glow from the moon.
“There’s my car,” Jennifer said, pointing to the Bug.
“It’s pretty dark back here. Why doesn’t Walt walk you to your car to make sure you get there safely? Some of those college boys were pretty rough when they talked to you.”
Reaching her car, she turned and leaned back against the driver’s side door. There was an instant attraction to the rugged man she had seen playing softball, and in Linda’s diner eating breakfast when she ran by in the early mornings on her daily run. Now was her chance to spend some time with him. He seemed interested in her, so she would make the most of it.
“I’ve let them know that I’m not interested in boys, so they just flirt. I think they’re probably harmless.”
Grant took a step closer, “how old are you?”
“I’m quite a bit older than you. Are you sure you want this?”
Lifting her hands to his chest, she fisted the material of his T-shirt and pulled him to her. Now that he was leaning against her, sandwiching her between her car and his muscular body, she lifted her head and kissed the stubble on his jaw. “I know exactly what I want,” she murmured against his skin that smelled like outdoors and expensive cologne.