When Zach Mason, former army sergeant turned veterinarian for war-wounded animals, returns home, the decision to stay is easy. But convincing the only other vet in town to hire him is a good deal harder. It doesn’t help that the beautiful, intelligent, and stubborn Stella Lane is determined to make his life hell.
Stella doesn’t take outside help easily—she’s been let down in the past, most recently by her ex, just as she’d begun to plan their wedding. Trusting Zach with her animals is one thing, but trusting him with more is a hard pass. Too bad the handsome vet is nothing but temptation. And her new roommate…
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Taking a deep breath, he saw that crease in her forehead that meant she was overthinking things. “Zach. What happened earlier can’t happen again ,” she said. Her voice was clear and calm, like crystal in the quiet of the forest.
He knew that. They worked together and though he didn’t know her story, he knew enough about life to know mixing business and pleasure, especially a very tiny business where they’d be glued at the hip, had the potential to end poorly. He tried to joke his way out of having a conversation he didn’t want to have. “You mean you getting jealous of my kissing another woman?”
Her mouth dropped open like she couldn’t believe he’d said that. Then she rolled her eyes and huffed out a half-laugh, half-breath. “The kissing in general.”
Zach nodded. She was right. Didn’t mean he had to like it.
“I know. I get it. I didn’t mean for it to happen today. I’d like to think I’m not the only one who’s been fighting whatever this is between us. But I also know that we want different things. My main priority is making you see what we could have together. Professionally.”
She continued to stare at him and he wasn’t sure what to make of her expression. Would she admit that she was pushing down her own feelings?
“What are we doing here, Zach?”
Of course not. Stella Lane, admit weakness? “I’ll tell you if you come here and trust me for five seconds.” He didn’t want to be pissed that the only thing she had to say about the kiss that had rocked his world, was ‘never again.” He didn’t think either of them believed it, but he’d leave it alone for now. This is what you want. Stop being a jackass. You don’t want this complication.
Stella walked to the front of her vehicle like she was on a plank over an alligator-filled body of water.
When she was in front of him, he reached for her and paused. “I’m going to lift you onto the hood of the jeep. Then I’ll climb up beside you. Don’t argue.”
She started to, but he did as he said, putting his hands on her hips, loving the feel of them, and boosted her up. Her hands came to his shoulders, gripped there, and then she was on the hood. He jumped up beside her so they were sitting side by side.
“We going to stare at the stars? I’m not making out with you.”
He pushed back, leaned on the windshield and grinned. “Again. You mean you’re not making out with me again.”
She looked up at the sky. “I’m pretending you didn’t say that.”
“Mature,” he said, liking the way her lips curved up as he stared at her profile. “We could look at the stars if we wait for it to get darker. You ever sit still long enough to do something so peaceful?”
He wouldn’t admit, not out loud, that she was the kind of woman who made a man want to look at the stars. Maybe even wish on them.
She was perpetual motion in human form. Part of him wondered if that was because standing still, stopping, hurt. He knew the feeling. After Travis had died, he couldn’t stop to breathe or it crushed him. So, he’d packed up, run off, and put every angry, hurt feeling away in a box and focused on the future. On moving forward. Over time, he’d had to unpack those feelings, sort through them, and give himself time to fall apart.
He looked over at Stella where she sat, breathing in the fresh air, her hair loose around her shoulders. Had she ever given herself the luxury of falling apart? It hadn’t been that long since her father died. Those kind of cracks in someone’s heart didn’t fade quickly, if ever.
“How you feeling, Doc?”
Stella turned her head to look at him. “Tired.”
He feigned shock. “I thought superheroes didn’t get tired.”
She turned her head and smiled at him and that smile felt almost as intimate as their kiss. Fuck. He was in big trouble if a couple stars, a gorgeous woman, and a smile were turning him inside out and making him forget the reason he was here.
Meet the Author:
Jody Holford is a multi-published author who has a soft spot for happily ever after. So much so, she tattooed the words on her arm. She’s a mom and a wife, a friend, sister, daughter, teacher, and book-lover. Her stories have a little heat and a lot of heart. And maybe, some swoon-worthy moments that will make you smile.