4.5 STARS: "I have been reading Dalton’s books this month and her normal stories involve BDSM. This one does not, so its dynamic is quite different. It’s a love story, as all of hers are, but it’s one where the kink is a ménage relationship, without any BDSM elements. I liked the book, and loved the viciously evil villain. It takes a particular author to portray a nasty villain and I thought this one was quite well done. Sarah leaves New York with her young son Jason, and moves back to Florida to live with her widowed father. There are lots of comic moments in this book, mostly involving her dad’s menagerie of farm animals. Sarah meets the two boys next door, Sam and Pete, who are only too glad to help her get rid of the villain, forget the memories of her dead husband, and help her out with a mischievous six-year-old boy. Hope Heals is a quick read for a warm day at the beach, or a cool summer’s evening in the mountains. I think you’ll like it, as more of a sweet romance than her usual fare." -- Alberta, Manic Readers
With Jason happily nestled in front of the TV and watching Nickelodeon cartoons, Sarah went to get the eggs gathered. She walked out the back door and grabbed the basket from the back porch where her dad had showed her. Then she headed toward the chicken coop.
As she neared it, a large, brown, slow-moving bulk off to her right caught her eye through the trees. As she approached, she realized what it was.
Big Mac. He stood in the shade of one of the oaks while lazily munching on the grass. Apparently her dad had replaced the tennis balls since yesterday, because now he sported two orange ones.
“Oh, holy crap. How the hell did you get out the pasture?”
Big Mac lifted his head and stared at her before he slowly began plodding across the yard toward the driveway. She dropped the basket.
“No, nonono! Good cow! Nice Big Mac. Here, boy!” She whistled as she hurried after him.
The steer, apparently enjoying this game, sped up.
Unfortunately, Sarah saw her dad had left the gate at the end of the driveway open.
“Crap! No, bad cow. Come!”
Big Mac looked at her over his shoulder and continued plodding down the driveway.
She’d swear the damn thing was smiling at her.
She picked up her pace, and halfway down the driveway she was moving at a jog with the bovine a few steps ahead, an odd slow-speed, cross-species pursuit.
“Big Mac, come here!” Fortunately, the road they lived on wasn’t a busy highway. She tried putting on more speed, to see if she could outrun the steer and make it to the gate first, but no luck. He simply swiveled his head, saw that she was gaining on him, and picked up his pace as well.
Nearly in tears, she followed the steer out the gate, where he promptly stopped in the middle of the road and began chewing his cud.
She walked up to him and grabbed the base of one of his horns. “Come on, stupid. Back into the driveway, at least.”
He simply looked at her. Since he outweighed her by a good eight hundred pounds or more, he apparently recognized he had the tactical advantage.
She walked around him and tried pushing on his side to urge him back to the gate. He turned his head and nosed her, sliming her side.
Fortunately, there weren’t any cars coming yet. She spent the next couple of minutes begging, pleading, bargaining, pushing, pulling, and swearing at the steer, who remained unmoved and firmly planted on the center yellow line. Even slapping him on the rump didn’t get her anything but a dour look from the animal.
Nearly in tears, she spotted a pick-up truck pulling out of the driveway just to their south. She frantically waved and yelled to get their attention. At first she didn’t think they saw her when they’d started to pull out and head south, but then they made a wide, sweeping turn across the road and slowly drove her way.
She spotted two men in the cab. They pulled up and parked diagonally across the road and put their emergency blinkers on.
When they got out, despite the situation, she wasn’t so upset she didn’t notice the brown-haired, hazel-eyed driver was as hunky as the black-haired, brown-eyed passenger. They looked vaguely familiar, although she couldn’t place them.
Both men smiled and laughed as they walked over.
“Hey, Big Mac,” the driver said as he reached out and scratched the steer between the eyes. “I see Walt replaced your tennis balls this morning.”
“Can you help me? Please? I don’t know how he got out and my dad left the front gate open.”
The passenger also reached out and petted the steer. “You’re Walt’s daughter, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Yes, Sarah. Please?”
The men smiled. The driver held out his hand to her. “Peter Hope. Call me Pete.” They shook. “This is Sam.”
“Oh!” Now she could place them. “We went to school together. You guys live next door.” She fought the urge to blush. Back then, she’d thought the two cousins were cute, but hadn’t had the courage to talk to them.
They’d turned their good looks into great ones. Either one of these men were three times as handsome as Michael had been. And in better shape, too.
Sam shook with her next. “Yep. Been a long time.”
“I’d really like to thank you for the job and everything, but… Please?” She indicated Big Mac.
Sam laughed. “Did you try feed?”
“A can of feed. He’ll follow it. He’s like a big dog.”
“Oh.” She felt completely stupid. “I don’t even know where Dad keeps it. We haven’t got that far yet. I’m still trying to get unpacked.”
“I’ll go get it,” Pete said to his cousin. “You stay here with her in case any cars come along.” He got back into the truck and slowly drove around them and up the Heckmans’ driveway.
That left her standing with a recalcitrant steer and a really hunky guy who was now one of her employers.
He reached out, put a hand on Big Mac’s shoulder, and leaned against the steer. “So, how’s your son doing? Walt said he was hurt pretty bad. Is he healing up okay?”
This felt surreal even by Salvador Dali standards. “He’s doing better, thank you. I took him to the pediatrician before we left. He’s healing up from the surgery and they said he can probably get his cast off in a couple of weeks. My cousin is getting us in to see her pediatrician down here.”
She realized she was babbling. Not knowing what else to do, she crossed her arms over her chest and tried not to ogle the hunk. She’d just said more to him than she had during their entire four years of high school together.
“You need to live for you now,” Pete said. “You’ve got a lot of life left. And Jason needs his mom to be happy.”
She looked up into Pete’s sweet brown eyes. They looked nothing like Michael’s blue eyes. When she’d first met Michael, she thought his eyes were beautiful. It wasn’t until now she realized how cold they looked compared to Pete’s eyes.
And to Sam’s. She glanced at him to find his hazel gaze intense on her.
Parts of her felt warm in a way she knew had nothing to do with the beer.
And considering that, before Michael died, it had been over a month since he’d touched her, and she damn sure hadn’t felt like pleasuring herself since then, she suddenly realized she was more than a little horny.
In fact, she was a lot horny.
The warmth spread, her clit beginning to throb a little.
“Why are you two single again?” she asked. “I mean, besides being divorced.”
The men shared a glance. “We hadn’t found anyone worth giving up our bachelorhood to,” Pete said.
“Until now,” Sam added.
Now she felt more than just warm. It felt like an inferno had flared to life inside her.
Both men nodded.
Reality tried to intrude. “What are you saying?” she whispered, unable to trust her voice.
Sam laced his fingers through hers, brought her hand up to his mouth, and began tracing the contours of her flesh with his lips. “We’re saying we’re not interested in anyone but you. And, whenever you’re ready, we’d like to be here for you.”
She looked at Pete. He smiled. “Don’t look so shocked. You couldn’t tell we were attracted to you?”
“Both of you?” she asked.
“Both of us,” Sam confirmed.
“And,” Pete added, “if you say no, that’s fine. This has nothing to do with you working for us.” He reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Or we try something, and if at any time you say stop, we stop.”
They were hunks. They were sweet.
They’re my bosses.
She took another swallow of her beer, aware her hand trembled.
Anger washed over her. That bastard cheated on me with at least two different women.
Hell, two that she knew about. How many more were there?
Fuck it. She had a right to be happy, dammit. It didn’t matter he was dead. If she’d left his ass, she would have felt justified in sleeping with someone else if she’d met the right guy.
So what if it was two hunky guys she was already attracted to?
It’d been over fourteen years since she’d been with anyone except Michael.
Dammit, they’re right. Itis time I live for myself and be happy.
She finished her beer. “I…I haven’t been to a doctor yet,” she softly admitted. “It’s not in my budget. And I don’t have any condoms.”
The men exchanged a glance. Pete shook his head, and for a moment, she thought her sudden confidence was going to transform to despair that she wouldn’t be able to do anything with them after all.
Sam screwed up his face in thought. “Hold on.” He got up and ran for his bedroom. A couple of minutes later he returned, a triumphant look on his face and a strip of three condoms in his hand.
He dropped back down to the comforter. “They haven’t even expired yet,” he said with a grin.
She handed Sam her beer. “Good.” She reached up, grabbed Pete’s head, and pulled him down for a kiss before her courage could flee.
Sarah might have caught Pete by surprise at first, but it didn’t take him more than a moment to throw himself into it. He also took over, his tongue softly caressing her lips until they parted for him. Then he wrapped his arms around her and lowered her to the comforter, exploring and tasting and teasing.
Sam moved, apparently to put their beers down. She was aware of him stretching out next to her on the comforter. When Pete finally lifted his lips from hers, Sam gently grabbed her chin and turned her face to his, capturing her lips in an equally scorching kiss.
Yep, places inside her sprang to life like a Hallelujah chorus blasting at rock-concert levels in a deserted church. Her clit, for starters, asking for a little attention.
Scratch that, begging for them to do to it with their tongues what their tongues had done to hers.
And her nipples, as they peaked under her shirt, the light friction rubbing against them and turning up the amplifier on the chorus inside her body.
Maybe it was the beer, or the anger, or the self-pity.
She didn’t care.
All she knew was she had two hunky guys, who each put Michael to shame much less when taken together, who apparently wanted her.
I’m no idiot. Not anymore, at least.
The movie played on, forgotten, as the men took turns kissing her. Slowly, teasingly, exploring. Neither seemed in a hurry.
A huge difference from Michael, who’d always made it a personal challenge to see how fast he could get her off. In retrospect, while she’d always thought he was a good lover before, now with a little hindsight it felt like sex with him had always been hurried, in a way. Like he was determined to get her off, and wouldn’t let himself get off before she did.
In the past, she’d thought that was courteous, silently snickering to herself when listening to friends bitch about how their husbands and boyfriends were sometimes inconsiderate in the sack.
This felt relaxed, comforting. The men were definitely taking their time with her.
Shoving thoughts about Michael out of her head, she closed her eyes and fully tossed herself into the experience. The way Sam smelled a little different than Pete, likely from his soap or shampoo. How when she slipped her hand under Pete’s shirt, her palm skimmed over toned abs and soft, silky hair dusting his chest.
He let her pull his shirt off and she turned to Sam. Equally toned and in shape, she ran her fingers through the brown curls on his chest.
The men reached down to the hem of her shirt. She raised her arms over her head so they could pull it off her. Now she was glad she’d opted to go braless that morning. Both men leaned in, their mouths encasing her nipples and drawing even more heat from her core and spreading it throughout her body.
She let out a soft moan as her hands plunged into their hair. This was unlike anything she’d ever dreamed of, ever imagined possible.
Even better than any of the books she’d read.
Sam worked his way down her body while Pete reached over and palmed her other breast, his fingers rolling her nipple and keeping it tightly peaked as he sucked on her other one. Sam’s lips blazed a hot trail down her belly, past her navel, to where he began working on her shorts. A moment later, he had her lying naked between them on the comforter.
She closed her eyes as he pushed her thighs apart and felt his hot breath brush over her pussy. Then his hands spread her open, exposing her clit.
“We’re not letting you go until we show you what you do to us, baby,” he hoarsely promised before his lips settled over her throbbing clit.