Enjoy this excerpt from ASPEN CROSSROADS by Janine Rosche and be sure to grab a copy! It’s out now and available everywhere.
“Excuse me, miss. I have a question for you. Are you planning to buy that Ameraucana?”
Instinctively, Haven drew the chick close, holding her against her chest. The other chicks now peeked out of a cardboard box, their heads bopping about in time with their chirps. Beyond the box, a pair of legs donning work boots and jeans rose vertically until the light over the baby pool washed out the rest.
“Because if you aren’t, I’d like to.” The voice was masculine enough to stir up a few flutters in her belly. Then the owner of the voice bent down into a crouch. The light caught the striking lines of his face. A strong jaw and straight nose played against the tuft of sandy hair peeking out from his backward baseball cap, creating a playful combo of boyish and manly. He wasn’t from around here. Haven would remember him.
“I . . .” Haven started, peering down at the chick in her hands. “I hadn’t thought about it.” She had no coop. She had no house, either. At least not one of her own. With all Dad had going on, the last thing he needed to worry about was a pet chicken. “I guess not.”
The cute guy watched her for a long moment. If he was in a rush, he wasn’t showing it. The chick wiggled against her palms.
“She has an injured foot.”
His brow furrowed, and his lips dipped into a frown. He rose, then stepped around the pool to join Haven. When she stood, the man towered a good half foot above her. For some reason, she thought of the hickory armoire in her childhood bedroom at her dad’s house. “It’s sturdy,” Dad had said the day he gifted it to her. Now as she stood in a darkened tent with this handsome stranger, all she could think about was that dumb piece of furniture.
“What?” he asked.
“Um, the chick. I don’t know how sturdy she’ll be as she grows.” Haven opened her hands to give him a view of the animal.
Yet the man waited two feet away. “May I?”
It took a second for Haven to realize what he wanted permission for. A gentleman? Now she was sure he wasn’t from Whisper Canyon. Haven gave a quick nod, and he moved in to inspect the chick. He allowed the warped toes to wrap his fingertip. He was gentle as he thumbed the tiny bones and talons. With his other hand, he stroked the chick’s head. With each movement, he brushed Haven’s hand, forcing her to train her thoughts on the animal— not the man whose ocean-clean scent threatened to buckle her knees.
No wedding ring. So much for training those thoughts. But she’d learned that was the most attractive trait a man could exhibit. Well, that and a habit of honesty, which was rare these days.
“I can try to splint those.” His voice dove to a deep, lulling timbre. Was he trying to soothe the bird? Or her? “Hopefully, it’s only cosmetic. If so, she’ll still be plenty useful to me.”
Haven closed her hands and twisted away from him.
“Are you planning to eat her?” His smile cracked. “Ameraucanas aren’t meat birds. But I do plan to eat her eggs. Is that all right with you?”
The panic eased out on a breath. “I suppose.”
He held out his hands. They were calloused but clean, and Haven liked the look of them. Sturdy.
Again, with that word. Haven placed the chick in his hands, his rough skin catching slightly on hers. Following her father’s advice, she looked the man straight in the eye to let him know she could hold her own. Not that the guidance had worked for her so far. Here she was, unemployed with no job prospects, covered in salmonella, and debating custody arrangements for a chicken.
“Thanks, miss. I’ll take good care of her.”
His forehead wrinkled. “Thanks, Audrey.”
“No, I’m not Audrey. The chick is Audrey. Hepburn.” Confusion turned to amusement. “How about Audrey Henburn?” His eyes pierced hers. She couldn’t tell their color in this light, but they crinkled at the corners and warmed her straight through. An image of the two of them sitting beneath a tree as the chicks hopped around their legs appeared in her head, but she quickly dismissed it. Her judgment, or lack thereof, was troublesome these days. A man, especially one like this, was the last thing she needed.
From ASPEN CROSSROADS published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Janine Rosche.
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date published : August 24, 2021
pages : 352
narrator : Emily Ellet
length : 10 hrs, 37 min
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