Levi Dawson works hard on the farm for Clay Thatcher, doing his best he can to make an honest living. But when the farmer's daughter moves back home unexpectedly, his world is rocked in more ways than one. Long gone is the little girl of the past, and in her place, is a woman who tests every limit of his control.
Emma Thatcher has given up the city life to move back home to help her father run the family business. Reluctant at first, her situation becomes much more enticing after seeing one farmhand in particular. The reunion catches her off guard, rekindling old feelings for the man who was once off limits.
When her father lands in financial trouble, a battle with the bank complicates life for all of them, but is it all what it seems? What happens when the past is never really left, in the past?
Dust motes floated in the sun streaks streaming through the nail holes in the barn roof as Levi Dawson tossed another hay bale onto the stack in the loft. For three days they had been baling the hay fields around the Thatcher farm, stocking up for winter. Just like every other summer, baling always seemed to coincide with the hottest days of the year, and there was no reprieve from the heat in the upper level of the barn. The stifling air was thick, suffocating.
Sweat rolled down Levi’s face and back, soaking his thin white T-shirt until it clung to his body like a second skin. His back ached, and his arms throbbed with every toss. Thank God this was the last rack of the day. What he needed was a cold drink and an equally cold shower.
“Stack that last wall eight high, and tomorrow we can finish up. We’re running out of room in this barn.” Clay grunted, hefting a bale against his hip before shoving it up onto the pile with the rest.
Clayton Thatcher was a man Levi was proud to look up to. He was hard working, kind and had excellent business sense. At forty-five, he was in good shape from working long hours on the farm, looking years younger than he was. The slight graying of hair at his temples was the only hint of his age. His operation housed close to a thousand head of cattle, sprawling over nearly eleven hundred acres. Levi had been working for Clay for eight years as his main hired hand, and the arrangement had worked out fine so far. He lived in the guesthouse across the road from the farm, taking over the everyday running of the farm when Clay left to transport cattle out of town. It was an honor to be trusted with such responsibility, and Levi gave one hundred percent every day.
Levi dusted his gloved hands off and wiped his face on the sleeve of his shirt. “Sounds good. I think we’ve only got about two hundred bales in the field yet. Shouldn’t take us but a few hours tomorrow. That’ll give us a few weeks until it needs cutting again.”
Clay nodded and pulled his gloves off, slapping them against his thigh to rid them of debris. “I’m gonna need you to take the lead tomorrow.”
“No problem. You hauling cattle?” He hadn’t seen anything about sorting cattle on the schedule, but sometimes Clay flew by the seat of his pants if the price of beef was up.
“Nah, figured I’d take the day off,” he said, descending the ladder to the main level of the barn. “Emma should be here any minute.”
Little Emma Lynn Thatcher had been a fixture around the farm, helping out with what Clay would allow when she was young. She worked her ass off, and was a good kid to boot, but she rarely made it back home since leaving left for college. That departure came just in time, however. She had learned the art of flirting the summer after she graduated, and Clay had lost more than one farm hand who returned the favor. She was Daddy’s little girl, and nothing was going to change that, Levi was sure of it.
“Just visiting?” he questioned as they moved through the space.
Clay shook his head and stabbed his bale hook into the wooden bench near the chicken coop before pushing through the heavy wood door. “Nope. She’s taking over the books for me since Carla retired and moved to Georgia. I don’t have time to mess with that shit, and she’s good with numbers.”
Levi could only imagine it had taken some persuading to get her to come home to stay. Last he’d heard, she liked the city life in Montgomery, only making it home for Christmas and other major holidays. “Well good, I’m glad to hear you’ll have help again.”
Clay hummed an agreement, adjusting his Stetson back on his head as they crossed the lawn. “She’ll probably be mean as a snake for a few days. She was a little reluctant to move back home.”
The sound of tires on gravel had both of their heads turning toward the end of the driveway. A small white sedan pulled in, crunching on the rocks as it came to a stop in front of the house.
A broad grin lit Clay’s face. “There she is.”
Levi remembered Emma as a fresh-faced teen. A tough-as-nails tomboy through and through. Always dressed in jeans and oversized T-shirts. As a kid she’d been wild and carefree, and everyone had called her firefly. She’s given shit right back to the guys when they teased her, and had a mean streak that would sear a man’s ass from a mile away if he were unfortunate enough to incite it.
The woman who stepped out of the vehicle now, however, was not the little girl that left four years ago.
This beautiful creature was a goddess.
Long tanned legs that seemed to go on for miles led up to distressed, frayed cut-offs that barely covered an ass that could only be described as perfection; firm and round. The glimpse of bare midriff over the low-rise shorts had his dick jumping to life in his jeans. She wore a little blue tank top that showed off the swells of her firm breasts over the lace edging. Long, honey-colored locks flowed half way down her slender back as she rounded the back of her car, swaying her hips in a way that made him wonder what it would be like to grip them hard and drive into her from behind.
Levi clenched his jaw tight, praying his arousal wasn’t too obvious. A welcome home hard-on was probably not on her list of events. She was stunning, there was no other word for it, and she was dangerous. Young, beautiful—innocent. He had no business thinking the things that were bouncing around his depraved brain, but damned if he could stop them. It took him a minute to realize he was standing there with his mouth hanging open like a letch.
“Hey, Daddy, Levi…” she mumbled as she popped the trunk and started pulling bags out.
Levi nodded, still in shock. “Emma Lynn.”
“Hey, sweetheart, good to have you home.” Clay wasted no time grabbing boxes and bags, grinning from ear to ear as he started for the house. “I’ll get this stuff put up in your bedroom. It’s all ready for you.”
Emma tucked her hair behind her ear and leaned into the trunk again. “Greeeeat.” Her tone dripped with sarcasm, making the corners of Levi’s mouth twitch. She was still a little hellcat.
Unable to help it, his gaze trailed down over her ass and those sinful legs again. It was going to be interesting to have Emma around the farm every day if she was going to be dressed like this. Clay would be looking for new workers in no time, and there was a good possibility that if he didn’t rein it in, he’d be the first dumbass to go.
The door slammed, prompting Levi to rip his gaze away from her curves. The business end of Clay’s shotgun wasn’t any place he wanted to be. Grabbing the nearest pile of belongings, careful not to squish anything delicate, Levi waited while Emma retrieved a few more things from the trunk.
He tried. Damn it, he tried, but no matter what he did, his gaze kept finding its way back to Emma’s tempting backside. It had only been four years since the night he’d almost lost his head and kissed her on the tailgate of his truck. He’d known then that if he’d given in and tasted her sweet, soft lips, he’d have been addicted. She would have ended up in his bed, and he would have done things to her that her father would have shot him for even thinking about. He’d had to walk away, and walking away from her big blue eyes, glistening with tears and flashing with anger, had ripped him apart. She left for college shortly after that, and he hadn’t seen her since. He’d avoided her every holiday she returned, for good reason obviously.
Letting her take the lead, he followed her inside. As she passed, her hair was lifted in the wind, causing it to brush against his cheek. He stifled a groan. Peaches and honeysuckle. The scent was inherently feminine, making his head swim, and for a moment he wondered if she tasted as good as she smelled.
He wanted to find out.
He was a dead man.
He pushed that thought from his mind, but his dick missed the memo, growing even harder. Shit, this was Emma Lynn. How could he think such things of her?
He was reminded how a moment later as she ascended the stairs in front of him, putting him at eye level with her backside that had him drooling. It had been a long time since he’d reacted in such a way to a woman. All he did was work and sleep. There wasn’t much time for dating or anything else but damn, she had him tied in knots.
“My room’s the first one on the right,” she said as they reached the landing. She sounded exhausted.
When they reached her bedroom, Emma unceremoniously dumped her load onto the bed and sat down next to it. She looked tired, rubbing her hands down her face. Carefully setting what he was carrying on the floor next to the closet, he nodded and turned to leave the room, needing to clear her tempting scent from his head.
“Have you lost weight, Levi?” Her voice was low, sultry.
He stopped at the doorway, turning back slowly. “Yes, ma’am. A little.” Truth was he’d lost about sixty pounds after deciding it was time for a change. He’d started eating healthier shortly after she had left, and the pounds melted off.
His fingers dug into the wood of the doorjamb as she flopped back on the bed, exposing more of her bronzed belly and parting her legs slightly. It had him wondering what color her panties were. Or if she was wearing any at all. Biting back a noise that he was certain would sound like a buck in rut, he watched as she smoothed her hand over the inviting flesh and up to the side of her breast.
“You look good,” she muttered, her voice going husky.
The way her eyes twinkled spelled disaster. She was teasing him, just like she had when she was eighteen. Back then he hadn’t thought of her in a sexual way...until that one night. She was just a kid back then. Hell, she was still practically a kid.
Glancing down at his dusty, sweat-stained clothes, he laughed, trying to lighten the mood. “I’m filthy, but thank you, ma’am.”
“Stop calling me ma’am. I’m not an old hag,” she scolded, wrinkling her pert little nose. Her gaze dropped to where his traitorous cock pushed at his jeans before returning to his face, a slow sultry grin curling her lips. “I see nothing wrong with the filth. Dirt looks good on you.”
Fuck, fuck, fuck! She was dangerous.
Thankfully, Clay appeared at the top of the steps, carrying a laundry basket filled with girly looking things, breaking the tension that sizzled like electricity in the room. “This is the last of it, baby girl. Go ahead and get settled. We’re going out for supper tonight.”
Emma sat up grinning, all signs of the temptress he’d seen moments ago gone. “Can I get ice cream at Joe’s afterward too?”
Clay chuckled and placed the basket on the small white dresser near the window. “Sure can. It really is good to have you home.” He kissed her on the cheek and clapped Levi on the shoulder as he passed. “Let’s get the cattle fed before they bust out lookin’ for it.”
“Yes, sir,” Levi laughed. They’d learned the hard way that the cattle got impatient when they were made to wait on feeding time.
Clay left the room, but as Levi turned for the stairs, Emma’s voice drifted across the space, the sound a soft, sultry purr. “Thank you for your help, Levi. It’s great to see you again.”
Okay, maybe dangerous was an understatement.