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Spring Fever

The Lake House

Cobblestone Press LLC

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 16,000
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Debbie, the sexy mother of twins, is tall, blonde, tough as nails, and scares the hell out of Bob, the retired Top Gun pilot, though he's helplessly in lust with her. But experience tells him that women want to clip his wings, and he won't give up flying for anyone.

Debbie's had the hots for Bob since the day they met, and it's time to make her move. She didn't expect a tender heart under that big, gorgeous body, but since she found it, she's determined to make that heart hers no matter how hard he tries to resist her.

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Excerpt

Chapter One

Bob Livingston sipped his San Pellegrino and lime, leaning back in his chair to watch the bride and groom on the dance floor. Everyone around him had paired up in the last few months, from the big boss who’d taken Kara as his beautiful bride tonight, to Darren, the free-spirited playboy, to Neil.

Bob shook his head and looked over to where Neil stood leaning against redheaded Jamie. Best damn cook employed by Smith Resorts. And Bob knew all the chefs of all the resorts. He knew just about everyone in the Smith Resorts family.

The boys were settled and happy. Bob might have been with the company for only the last two years, but he’d spent a lot of time getting to know Jack, Darren, and Neil. Not so much when he was flying them—there wasn’t much time to chat when he was at controls of the company jet—but after hours, sitting and bullshitting during downtime.

Bob spent way more time in the luxurious rooms of Smith Resorts than he did in his tiny basement apartment in New York. But there was something uniquely different about The Lake House, different from the dozen other Smith properties around North America. When he was here, he didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t that his room was better than any other—some of the places Jack owned were even more opulent than this. It wasn’t that there were more amenities here than elsewhere, though he couldn’t deny the fun he’d had yesterday when Frannie took him out for a snowmobile ride in the backcountry.

It was the people at The Lake House.

Jack, Darren and Neil were already close with him—as close as he let anyone get—but here there were Kara and Frannie and Jamie and Marcia and Stephen, and the list went on. There was so much warmth and…and love in this place. It made him feel warm and welcomed, yet at the same time old and lonely and…a little worn out.

His gaze skipped across the room to Debbie, sitting in front of the wall of windows that overlooked the lake. She was by herself, sipping her glass of red wine as the ferry lights brought out the highlights in her golden hair.

With a sigh, he took another sip of his sparkling water. He didn’t drink alcohol, ever. He never knew when one of the boys would call on him to fly somewhere at the last moment.

Deborah Schlesinger. The Lake House’s head groundskeeper. He’d never seen her looking as gorgeous as she did tonight in a forest green sheath and high-heeled sandals. Her long hair was down around her shoulders, falling to the middle of her back in shiny waves, and she wore makeup. Just the sight of her had his cock jumping in his pants.

He had no business lusting after the woman. She was the mother of twins who were only six months old. He had no idea what her story was, but she’d been pregnant the first time he met her last summer, directing her staff with cool efficiency, wearing faded overalls, her hair in a ponytail, her fair skin just barely kissed by the sun. Her blue eyes had sparkled with laughter when Darren had introduced them, referring to Bob as “the most punctual man on earth.” She’d been beautiful then, but there’d been no hiding the bump of babies in her belly, and he’d kicked himself for some very impure thoughts. He’d never been attracted to a pregnant woman before, so he didn’t understand why, at that moment, he had been.

All he knew was that she was a single mother with a degree in landscape architecture. She’d designed the grounds for The Lake House, and she’d taken Jack’s offer to stay on as head groundskeeper. Bob couldn’t imagine what Jack paid someone with a degree to be a mere groundskeeper, but Jack could afford it. One thing he’d learned about his boss in the last two years was that Jack Smith usually got what he wanted, and he’d wanted Debbie at The Lake House permanently.

Her kids were as cute as kittens and spent their days at the in-house day care while their mother worked. One boy and one girl, both blond and blue-eyed like their mother.

Debbie’s gaze connected with his, and he let a little smile curve his lips. She was drop-dead gorgeous tonight, but a woman with babies was so far off his radar it was almost laughable.

She smiled back, small and sweet, and gave a little wave.

“Hey there, gorgeous,” came a voice he knew well, as fingers ran through his hair and sweet perfume wafted from well-endowed cleavage. Marcia leaned over him and kissed his forehead. “You’re looking a little lonely over here.”

“Hi, beautiful,” he responded. He and Marcia had spent…a little time together over the last few months. She was young, beautiful, playful and sweet. And she wasn’t looking for anything permanent, which was just fine by him. She ran the housekeeping staff with an iron fist, but she liked to play in her off time.

“You okay?” she asked. She reached for his drink then made a face when she tasted it. “It’s a party and you’re not drinking?”

He chuckled. “I don’t party, darlin’, if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” She winked her false eyelashes at him.

He shook his head at her and smiled. Yes, he’d partied a little with her. They’d had a couple of heavy petting sessions, but it hadn’t gone any further. He hadn’t let it. Maybe if he’d had a few drinks it would have. Just another reason—among many—why he didn’t drink. But she wasn’t the woman waking him from hot, illicit dreams for the last nine months, and he wasn’t a man to use a surrogate for what he really wanted.

“What’s wrong? You’re not usually this sullen.”

“Nothing’s wrong. Just enjoying the night.” Which he was. The music was good, Jamie’s menu had been superb, family and friends of the bride and groom were there, along with a lot of other family members of the staff… Jack had outdone himself for this party. Or rather, Neil had. Everyone knew he was the mastermind behind it all.

Marcia propped her chin on her hand and batted those long lashes at him. “You want to come to my room for a while?”

He sighed, pressed his lips together, and said carefully, “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, darlin’. You know that.”

She pouted oh-so-prettily, which made him chuckle. She wasn’t upset. She knew the score. They’d been over it a couple of times. He had a feeling she offered because maybe he was looking a little sullen—lonely—tonight.

“Thank you for the offer. It means a lot you care about this old man.”

She scoffed and sat up straight. “Old man. Right.” She patted his thigh and stood up, then leaned over, giving him a good view of that abundant cleavage when she kissed his cheek. “If you change your mind, you know where I am.”

At the bar, he guessed, where some of the younger single men were hanging out. He’d seen her eyeing one of the maintenance guys’ brother a while ago. She liked to play, but at least she was fairly discreet.

He gave her a little pat on the bottom, which made her giggle. Okay, so he was a bit of a lecher. She had a great ass, and he admired it as she sauntered away.

* * * * *

Debbie pressed her lips together as she watched Marcia drool all over Bob. And Bob smiled and flirted right back. Couldn’t he see he was way too old for the girl, for Christ’s sake?

Damn, her feet hurt, and it was making her cranky. She looked good tonight, she couldn’t deny that, having gained some much-needed curves after going through pregnancy with twins, but she never, ever wore heels. Or a dress, for that matter.

She silently growled as Marcia batted those fake eyelashes at Bob, but then she took a deep breath and turned her attention back to the dance floor, where the bride and groom had been swaying together non-stop for the last hour. Debbie figured they just couldn’t keep their hands off each other, and that it was only acceptable if they were dancing.

She looked at her watch. Almost nine. She’d told the babysitter she’d be back by ten, hoping that was a respectable amount of time to stay. She didn’t know about weddings here, but every other reception she’d attended started getting rowdy by ten. She was too old to deal with drunk young people.

This didn’t seem like a real rowdy bunch, though. The Lake House’s staff respected Jack and Kara too much to do anything untoward, and all of the other guests were family and close friends of the bride and groom. A very, very nice bunch of people, she admitted. It was why she’d taken the job Jack offered her, even though it was a substantial pay cut from what she’d charged as a freelance landscape architect.

She’d wanted to stay here. And when Jack promised her in-house day care, paid vacation, paid maternity leave, and a medical plan above what was already covered by the BC government, she’d leapt without a second thought. A week into her new job as head groundskeeper, Darren had introduced her to Bob, the company pilot.

Sigh.

She’d made it to the ripe old age of thirty-eight and had never been in love. Never in love, in love. Never head-over-heels, spend-the-rest-of-her-life-with-a-guy love. Sure, she’d had affairs—she was far from frigid—but no one had ever made her sigh.

But Captain Robert Charles Livingston made her sigh, and tingle all over. She could swear she knew when he entered the area, even if her back was turned. She felt him. A tingle down her spine. A hardening of her nipples.

Of course, she’d originally blamed it on pregnancy hormones. She’d been warned about those, and the first time she met him she’d been almost six months pregnant. When he’d shaken her hand, she’d damn near had a small orgasm.

But since she gave birth, those feelings hadn’t changed one bit. Every time he looked at her with eyes the color of milk chocolate, or spoke to her in a voice made for the bedroom, she melted like warm syrup. And one time, when she’d come in to check on the babies during her lunch hour, she’d found big, bad, ex-navy pilot Bob in the day care, playing with the kids. Often Sarah and Seth were the only babies there because Debbie was the only full-time employee with kids. But that day there’d been a few guests’ children aged from one to four years, and Bob had been sitting on the floor holding Seth in one arm, someone’s toddler in his other, and Sarah had been propped up on his lap.

Debbie was not a woman who teared up easily. She sparked more toward anger than pity or pain of any kind, but seeing that big man on the floor surrounded by kids—her kids—had damn near brought her to her knees.

He’d looked up at her with a shit-eating grin on his face and informed her that Sara needed a diaper change. He’d been covering for the day care attendant while she ran to the bathroom.

But one-on-one? He was polite to her, visited with her if they met over the breakfast coffeepot in the Lakeview Café, but he always seemed a little…detached. Aloof. And it made her a lot crazy because sometimes when he didn’t think she would notice, she caught him staring at her. And tonight, when their eyes had met across the room, her heart skipped a beat and her skin sizzled. Then Marcia had leaned her giant boobs in his face and kissed him like she owned him.

Debbie liked Marcia. She was a sweet girl who had perfected the art of keeping the guests happy and the housekeeping staff in line. But if it came down to it, big-boobed Marcia had better watch out because Debbie was six feet in bare feet and had been hauling manure, dirt, and plants around for the last twenty years.

Oh, God. She was acting like a hormonal teen ready to fight over the affections of a boy. What was happening to her?

She glanced toward Bob’s table again, just in time to see Marcia stand up, waggle her breasts in Bob’s face again, kiss him, and walk off, her hips swaying and Bob’s attention firmly fixed on the butt he’d just patted.

That did it. It was time to take this situation into her own hands. If she sat around waiting for Bob to make the first move, it obviously would never happen, so she’d just have to get in his face. With these heels, even he wouldn’t be too much taller than her. He was one of the few men she’d ever met that made her feel a little petite. Just a little. He stood a good six-four or -five with shoulders as wide as a redwood. He was muscled and had a deep chest. He was big—damn big—and that definitely added to the physical attraction for her. She bet he could pick her up if he wanted, and she’d never dated a guy who could do that. Hell, most of the men she’d dated were shorter than her.

She pushed to her feet, hid the cringe her damned shoes caused, tossed back the rest of her wine, and headed across the room. She had forty-five minutes before she had to be home to the kids. That should be enough time to figure out if there was anything—anything at all—that she could do to turn the man’s head.