Barefoot by The Sea by Roxanne St.ClaireRead an excerpt
When you think you know your heart's desire . . .Tessa Galloway is a gifted nurturer-her verdant garden at Barefoot Bay's new resort is living proof. If only the woman who can grow anything could grow what she wants most: a baby. Her friends think the right guy will come along, but Tessa doesn't want to wait. All she needs is the perfect donor to make her dream come true. Then John Brown is hired at the resort. If anyone could make beautiful babies, it's this gorgeous, mysterious man. So why does Tessa suddenly find herself wanting so much more?Can you give up all your dreams for love?It's been three long years since John Brown had to leave his old life. Forced into the witness protection program, he's desperate to be reunited with his toddler twins. When he gets that chance, there's a catch-he must prove he's got a steady job and a new wife. Landing a gig as a chef in Barefoot Bay is easy enough. And falling for lovely Tessa is even easier. The hard part? Can he win the heart of a woman who prizes honesty-when the truth may shatter it?
“Prosciutto eggs Benedict?” she asked, finally tearing her gaze from him to Lacey Walker, who’d been interviewing him while he cooked in the kitchen for the last hour.“That’s not on our menu.”“It could be. John, this is Tessa Galloway, but…I be- lieve you two have already met.” Lacey could barely hide the amusement in her voice, but Tessa didn’t look too amused.“Hello again, Tessa.”“Hi.” She gave him a not-too-friendly smile, brushing some hair off her face that revealed a smudge of dirt on her cheekbone. She crossed her arms as if she didn’t want to be forced to shake his hand. Or maybe she was covering up more dirt on her shirt. Woman needed a shower. And just the thought of that made him need one, too. Ice-cold.“Um, Tess.” Lacey gave a quick brush to her own cheek to silently tell her friend about the dirt.“Oh, oh.” Tessa wiped her face, then glanced down self-consciously, giving him a chance to check out her long, tanned legs and clunky work boots. Damn if they weren’t cute as hell on her. “I didn’t know we were interviewing.”He shrugged. “No big deal.”An unreadable response crossed her face as she took a step closer, the light of the kitchen hall catching the golden threads woven into her chestnut-colored hair and highlighting the rise of color under her sun-warmed complexion.“No, it’s not,” she agreed quickly. “Absolutely no big deal.”Except, by the look on her face, it was a huge fucking deal and no doubt his disappearing act in the bar would cost him the job. Damn it.“Tessa runs our on-site farmette,” Lacey said quickly, trying to fill the gaping silence between them. “So she’s always involved with what goes on in the kitchen.”Which meant she could put a freeze on his hire right this minute. Unless he won her over,which might take some doing, but he needed this job.Lacey nudged her closer, and he silently thanked this enabler who was on his side.“So you can consider me a supplier,” Tessa said, her color returning to normal and her voice finally finding somevolume. “For the kitchen. And food. And…stuff.”More nervous than normal, then, which he’d use to his advantage. As she came closer, he dipped his head slightly. “I love working directly with a supplier.”“Good, that’s good.” Lacey put a hand on her friend’s shoulder and urged her even closer. “That’s why I’ve asked Tessa to be part of this hiring decision.”“I don’t remember you saying you were a chef,” she said.“I didn’t,” he admitted. “But I can cook.”“He’s being modest,” Lacey said. “He can more than cook and you’ll never guess who sent him our way.”Tessa raised an eyebrow that said she had lots of ideas—the devil, perhaps?—but didn’t answer.“Charity Grambling,” Lacey said.“Really?” Tessa seemed surprised, a smile pulling.“Then maybe you’re a spy or planning to poison our guests.”He shook his head. “Neither. Is the local shopkeep an enemy of the state?”“She didn’t want me to build this resort,” Lacey said as they all walked toward the kitchen. “She thought it wascompetition for her daughter’s motel, the Fourway.”He snorted. “Hardly. And I say that as a paying guest.”“You’re at the Fourway?” Tessa asked.“We’ll have to do something about that,” Lacey said confidently.He turned in time to catch Tessa give a wide-eyed “What the hell” look to Lacey, who shook her head quickly.Screw it, he didn’t have time to dick around. If he couldn’t work here, he needed to move on. “Excuse me, ladies,” he said, pausing at the kitchen door. “But if you’re going to kick me to the curb, then let’s not waste anyone’s time.” “Okay,” Tessa said.“No way,” Lacey countered.After an uncomfortable beat, they all laughed, Lacey and Ian more than Tessa.“So, which is it?” he asked.“Let her taste your food,” Lacey said.“I will,” Tessa replied. “But first I need to talk to you in your office, Lacey.” She gave her friend a gentle push in the opposite direction. “Can you excuse us for a second?”“Of course.” He paused at the kitchen door, watching them walk away. No doubt they’d stroll back in to tell him he was out of the running.Unless…“Hey, Tess,” he called.She turned, slowing enough for him to see something in her eyes. Surprise, humor, a hint of hope. He winked and waited for a quick laugh at the unsubtle flirt.Instead she raised one eyebrow and kept walking. Bollocks. He’d lost that round.
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