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Return to Liora Blake’s Grand Valley series with Second Chance Season, in which an avowed country boy with a family duty meets an ambitious city girl with even bigger goals and who shows him just what he’s been missing.
Garrett Strickland is unapologetically country, fiercely loyal, and perfectly happy with his job at the Hotchkiss Co-op. Garrett is all about living in the present and not dwelling in the past—even if he was once on his way to a lofty agricultural sciences degree that would guarantee the brightest of futures, only to end up back home when his old man died, leaving behind a debt-ridden family farm that was impossible to keep afloat. After that, it was easy to see why dreaming big wasn’t worth the heartache. And until he crosses paths with a city girl who’s hell-bent on kick-starting her own future, he’s sure that good enough is just that.
Cara Cavanaugh is ready for more from life, even if that means changing everything; including dumping her boyfriend of ten years, turning down a lucrative job at a major newspaper, and leaving behind the upscale suburbs of Chicago where she grew up. Now, she just has to pray that temporarily relocating to the middle of nowhere in Colorado will be the first step in building a career as a freelance journalist—all she has to do is prove she’s got what it takes to make a name for herself. Unfortunately, her tony country day school is as close to “country” as she’s ever been. But when a goodhearted guy who looks like he just stumbled out of a country music video offers to help, she ends up falling hard…and discovering that the perfect story is a love story. And it’s theirs.
Second Chance Season, book two in the Grand Valley series, is a charming, feel-good romance, perfect for fans of Jennifer Probst and Kristan Higgins.
Another pasture, another herd of cows. While it goes without saying that I can’t tell the diff erence, Garrett explains that this group is all fi rst-calf heifers, as in fi rst-time moms. Given that, they’re kept separate from the other cows, graze on the best-quality pasture, and get a little extra attention—and a few bonus calories.
Garrett is ambling through the herd, carrying a tub fi lled with feed pellets. Evidently, these protein-packed bits are the bovine equivalent of a Twinkie to a pothead. Because the moment they figure out what he has, they come running—well, not running, as much as clomping and plodding. But with a slobbering, unwavering gait and a penetrating gleam in their big cow eyes. It’s hilarious and terrifying at the same time.
Garrett, however, isn’t the least bit scared, and is able to avoid losing a hand or a fi nger to the more overzealous gals of the group. I can see his mouth moving, but with all the mooing and the fact I’ve stayed back by the truck while he works, I can’t hear what he’s saying. Chances are it’s the cow translation of fl irting. Because Garrett.
At the edge of the herd, he manages to turn my way and lifts the tub high in the air. “Cara! Bring me that other tub of pellets, will you? The girls are hungry.”
Oh, time to be helpful. Watch this city girl slay. I push off the dropped tailgate of his truck and haul forward the second pail sitting in the bed, but it’s heavier than expected, so I have to brace my hips and use both hands. Once I swing it down, I start Garrett’s way while avoiding the largest mud puddles. Garrett meets me halfway and immediately swoops in to take the pail. I turn around to head back to the truck, but I’m in the middle of the herd now, gazing out into a sea of bobbing cow heads. I try to stay cool and collected, even when I now have a close-up view to the size of their mouths and the bottom row of big, flat teeth working away inside those mouths—while knowing the only tool available for swatting or shooing is my scotch cap.
Speaking of swatting, my body goes rigid when I feel a nudge of something against my lower back. I can’t quite identify what’s at play here, but whatever it is starts to move southward.
Is that . . . ? No. Can’t be.
This gentle pressure, now squarely centered on the back pocket of my jeans, cannot be Garrett. He is not copping a feel. Not here, not now. Not absent of any attempt at seduction. Like, by way of dinner and a movie, some excuse to end up on the couch together when he drives me home, then using that to lean in for a kiss. Only after that would he go for the ass grab, right? He’s a raised-right country guy. Those rural roots alone must trend toward slower courtships.
And slow courtships would not involve descending his touch from my jean pockets to a place lower and more . . . between my legs.
Must. Set. Boundaries.
That’s what I need to do. Quickly. I don’t care if he does bring about lust-itis symptoms I can’t quite keep in check. This is not my speed—the fast-forward, skip-a-few-chapters, here’s-the-moneyshot speed. I take a deep breath and turn, fully prepared to lock eyes with Garrett and spell out my boundaries. Clearly and firmly.
Except Garrett isn’t next to me. I spot him fifteen feet away, carrying on another one-sided conversation with the cows. Most important, his hands are occupied—one gripping the pail handle and the other scooping out pellets.
A snort emerges from behind me, followed by my mind freight-training through the essentials of what’s happening right now.
Garrett is way over there.
I’m in the middle of a herd of cows. And something is touching me in a far-too-familiar way. All this is followed by a not-so-subtle poke in the ass—by a cow that either really likes me or really doesn’t.
Followed by me screaming.
My screaming does two things: elicits a very wet-sounding grunt from my cow paramour and prompts Garrett to whip his head our direction. He freezes, all except for his jaw dropping open. Another poke in the butt and I’m off, with only one objective in mind: to make it back to the truck so I can barricade myself inside. Whether cows lack opposable thumbs or not and locking the doors might be unnecessary, I don’t care. I barely register the mud bogs in my path because my feet are working at a squirrelly Flintstones pace, so what happens next is pretty much inevitable. Because when I plop a foot down in what looks like another shallow puddle, I find it’s actually a gully. A swamp-sized bog. A quagmire of epic proportions. Large enough to obscure the rock lying in wait to turn my ankle and fling me face-first into a pond of mud.
The fall and the cold and the mud take my breath away. Wet dirt seeps between my splayed fingers, splashes onto my face, and begins to soak the front of my clothes. And it doesn’t smell as if it’s composed entirely of dirt. Other stuff is mixed up in here. Other, more odorous stuff.
Garrett appears, sweeping to a stop in front of me before crouching down. Then he poses an obvious question. The inevitable, stupid, rhetorical question nearly anyone would feel compelled to ask in this situation. And he asks it with a look on his face like he’s dying to burst out laughing, but knows that wouldn’t be wise on his part, which makes the whole thing even worse.
“City. Whoa there. Are you OK?”
Point proven. The obvious answer to this obvious question would be to claim that I’m fine.
But I’m not.
My clothes are soaked through with sludge, my already tiny chest feels as if the impact may send me back into a training bra, and my face—where it isn’t covered in mud—is hot from humiliation. I push myself up and onto my knees. After a deep, shuddering breath, I stand up, take two steps to the right, where drier ground lies, then give my form a once-over to assess the situation.
Verdict is in. The situation sucks.
“Cara, answer me. Are you OK?”
I flick my gaze over to him and pin it there, biting my tongue both literally and figuratively, hard enough that tears are welling in my eyes. Garrett’s face falls, all traces of his stifled laughter having temporarily dissipated. He puts his hands to my upper arms, grips them gently.
“Fuck. Don’t cry, OK? Don’t cry, don’t cry. Just nod so I know you aren’t hurt.”
Just nod. This fucking guy. Mr. Rational Instructions Guy. Dreamy or not, he’s within striking distance, and I’m pissed at everything.
I take another deep breath and lay it on him good. “No! Of course I’m not OK! I’m covered in mud and cow shit!” I jab a finger in the air toward him. “And you’re trying not to laugh, I know it. Just laugh; you know you want to.”
Then I stamp my foot. Because I’m mature like that. More mud sloshes and lands on the backs of my hands.
And that’s all it takes. Garrett starts to howl, laughing so hard he doubles over, bracing his hands on his knees—and he doesn’t even have the decency to hold back his cackling, just lets it all out for what feels like a good ten minutes. When he’s finally able to breathe and stand upright again, his still annoyingly pretty hazel eyes are watering with gleeful tears. He wipes them away with the heel of one hand.
Garrett cups my face with his hands. “You’re fucking adorable.”
“You’re not,” I huff .
He tugs his hoodie sleeves down over his hands and starts to wipe the mud off of my face.
“If it makes you feel better, you wouldn’t believe how jealous I was of that heifer. That was a bold move she pulled. Knew what she wanted and went for it. Not the girl-on-girl action I usually go for, but still.”
He grins, a few residual laughs escaping him, and I groan. Garrett scans the front of my body, then takes my hand, leading us to the truck. After rustling around in the back, he extracts a stack of clothing from under the driver seat. Garrett holds up a pair of jeans, swinging a look between me and the pants. He drapes them over his forearm, tosses a T-shirt and a hooded camo sweatshirt onto the pile, and extends it my way.
“Redneck shenanigans often involve mud. This means always being prepared with a change of clothes. Come on, we’ll find a place for you to change.”
“Tell me what you need, then.” Cara gives a jerky nod toward the entrance of the restaurant. I swallow hard. “Yeah? You sure?”
She teases the center of her upper lip with the tip of her tongue, whispers that she’s so sure. I follow up with a question that makes it clear I need to get out of this restaurant as soon as possible, because the fact that I even consider it means this place is getting to my brain.
“What about the soufflés?”
Cara undoes another button. “They take forever, trust me. No one will even notice. Where’s your truck?”
“Out back. In the lot where I’m pretty sure the kitchen staff parks. It looked like it belonged there more than it did out front between a Tesla and a Range Rover.”
“Tell me you parked in a dark corner of the lot.”
I grin at her. “The darkest.”
Stupid fucking dress.
It might show off the beautiful lines of Cara’s body, and the fabric might feel good under my hands as I trace her form, but it’s also a terrible design if you want a quick fuck in your truck before the souffl és make it to the table.
Cara makes a grunting noise that might not sound hot if it weren’t because she was trying to, yet again, hike up her dress far enough to straddle my lap. She’s up on her knees, the top of her head brushing the headliner, perched on the bench seat next to me, where I’m struggling to keep from latching my hands on to the bottom of her dress and splitting a seam open to fix the problem at hand. I can imagine the sound of the fabric tearing and my dick hardens even more when I do.
This was so much easier the night we ate barbeque and she was wearing her shirt-looking dress thingy. If she had that dress on right now, we’d both be coming down off the high of an orgasm already.
“I hate this dress.” Another tug, combined with a shimmy of her hips, attempting to work the fabric up from where it’s stuck a few too many inches down from where we both want it.
I try not to laugh but can’t stop when she thrusts her hands into little fists and then basically pratfalls backward to the bench seat. Thankfully, she lands on a down coat tossed there, which protects her head from whacking the door trim panel. She gives a frustrated wiggle to stretch her legs out on top of mine.
“Is it rude to say I agree with you?” I place one hand to the inside of her legs and say a silent goodbye to any hope for more here. “Because I hate the dress, too. I’d like to rip it into a hundred little scraps of expensive fabric. Then it would just be you in whatever you have on underneath. And the shoes. I’d like you to keep the shoes on.”
She groans. “Not helping. In retaliation, I feel compelled to tell you I’m not wearing anything underneath.”
I choke out my own groan. “Stop. I’m begging you.”
Cara lets out a devious but teasing hum. “It was a practical decision. This dress is so tight that even my slinkiest things were showing. Although I did debate putting on a bra for a bit. Mostly because I was worried about seeing you and my rowdy nipples saying, Hi, Garrett, we missed you, please touch us, the second you entered the room.”
With a smile into the darkness, I drop my head to meet the seat back. The cab is barely illuminated by a stream of light off a tall lamppost in the far corner of the lot where my truck is parked. From here the rear entrance to the restaurant is visible, a few of the kitchen staff milling around out back for a smoke break. The lot is full of trucks like mine and cheap beater cars, the opposite of everything Cara and I just escaped inside the restaurant. Here in my truck, we’re just us. The us that exists already, even after so few weeks knowing each other. The us that understands how we don’t make sense, but somehow we also do.
My hand slips higher, tracing the skin of her inner thigh until my wrist hits the bottom edge of her skirt. Cara murmurs some- thing sweet but impatient, and with the heat of her near my fingers, I know exactly what she needs to turn that sound into sweet satisfaction. She needs a release, a few minutes where she’s less in her head and more in her body, when she doesn’t have to think or worry she’s anything less than perfect.
I know if we stumble out of this truck to go back inside and her mom says something cutting again or her dad’s lips are loosened even more by another scotch, shit’s going to get stupid in there. Cara will end up screaming or crying—or both. I sure as hell don’t want that.
I decide to reassess our situation here. While her skirt might not make it up to her waist so that she can straddle me, I think there’s enough room to give her what she needs with my hands. A little creativity and I might even be able to get my face down there. I slip my hand straight forward until the tip of my middle finger grazes the place where all her heat is centered. Cara makes a whimpering noise, then slaps one of her hands over my mine.
“Garrett, please. I’ll die if you start something we can’t finish.”
“Who says I’m not planning to finish?” Another tease, this time higher. “Pull your dress up as far it’ll go. I can make this work.”
Cara doesn’t protest or pause, just uses both hands to do what she can. We only gain an inch or so, but anything feels like a victory. I adjust so that I’m half leaning, my weight on one forearm so that my other is free to reach for her. Cara drops her legs open a bit more, and I slide my hand forward.
And at first I’m too focused on positioning myself to notice anything else, but when I ease my hand up, I realize something’s different. She’s smooth, but even more so than what I’ve come to expect.
“Christ, you feel different. Did you . . . You’re so smooth. It’s like fucking silk down here.”
I emphasize my point by running my fingertips over her mound, then down both sides, and then use my full hand, fingers spread wide, to cup her pussy with my hand. Cara twists her hips, letting out an appreciative sound.
“I got waxed yesterday. Brazilian. I didn’t know if you like this sort of thing; maybe it’s too porn star for your taste.” I slip my hand out, pressing my fingers to her lips to quiet her from speaking such nonsense, and she sucks on the tips. My dick rears up when she tongues the flats of my fingers in the same way she does when she’s doing other porn-star-type things.
“Do you like it? ’Cause you didn’t need to do it for me. I appreciate your pussy no matter how it’s landscaped. Trimmed, edged, bonsai, whatever.”
A soft laugh from her. “Thank you, that’s good to know. But yes, I do like it. This is my usual look, actually.”
“Yeah? You haven’t . . . I mean, I haven’t seen you this way since you’ve been here. Again, not complaining—observation only. A complimentary, grateful, worshipping observation.”
“Tell me if I’ve missed it, but I haven’t seen a waxing studio in Hotchkiss. Is it near the co-op?”
I slip two fingers inside her just as she finishes her smart-ass comment and the last few syllables break down into a long groan. That’s what I like to hear. My thumb comes to her clit, gentle to start, slow strokes and circles.
“Well, I’m a fan of this look, so you know. And if you let me turn on the cab light, I’ll let you watch me prove it.”
She grabs a fistful of my hair. “Don’t you dare turn that light on.” Her hips shove up an inch or two, chasing the feel of my fingers inside her. “Because as much as I’d love to watch you prove it, I will kill you if you do.”
I move around to slide back and do my best to lie close to her, and then adjust her legs to accommodate the new position. Keeping my face up, I press my chin and mouth below the edge of her skirt. The hem is digging into my nose, but I don’t care. My tongue finds her, circling twice before centering all my attentions where Cara needs it most—and when I do, she lets out a wild moan.
I continue with my fingers, shorter strokes now, a pulsing rhythm I know she likes, then use my tongue to lick and suck as best I can. Cara starts to pant, her hips shoving toward my mouth when I suck her clit tight. Her taste covers my tongue, my chin, and her thighs are bracketing my head, keeping me where she wants. I turn every move deeper, faster, and more until she gives up a gasp that wants to be a scream but can’t be, not here. I soak up the feel of her, the way she’s letting go, even if it’s only for a moment, because I’m the one who gave her what she needs. And I love knowing that I did.
I kiss her there once more, until she’s completely spent and entirely limp, telling me thank you, and mumbling that she’s ready for her soufflé now.
*R E V I E W*
There is something about small town romance that always gets to me. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the story or the feel good vibes but whatever it is, I adore reading stories that are built and centered around this. And in Liora Blake’s latest installment to the Grand Valley Series, we are reunited with Garrett Strickland, whom we met in the first book and this time Garrett may have found a woman to steal his country boy heart.
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