Slate Claybourne, a sniper and former Navy SEAL, returns to his bucolic hometown on Pieberry Island, desperate for the mundane, everyday routines he once wanted to escape.
A soul-dead man unable to be around people, his body still a lethal weapon when his night terrors wake him from sleep, Slate’s failed to keep the promise he made to the commander who died in his arms: to look after the older man’s baby girl.
But animated Holly Harper is not the pigtailed tot Slate expected her to be. She shocks him to the core when she lands on the island to take over the decrepit Pieberry House, determined to turn it into an inn for summer tourists…and even more determined to yank Slate back into the land of the living.
First she crashes into him at the island’s Winter Festival, dumping a towering stack of pies at his feet, then she drags him off to a fortune teller against his better judgment.
He's a Capricorn. She's an Aries. Except for the sizzling attraction smoldering between them, they’re incompatible in every way.
But when a furious December nor’easter traps Slate and Holly together at Pieberry House, will love be in the signs?
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“I like the tousled look on you,” she confided.
“I like the tousled look on you,” she confided.
“Jesus. You really have no boundaries, do you?” He raked her with a glare and rested the cartons on the hood of a nearby car then brushed a hand through his disheveled hair. His attempt to restore some semblance of order failed miserably when a wayward lock flopped over his forehead. Growling, he flipped the stray curl away with an irritated gesture.
“I think not,” she responded. “I’m never going to have them where you’re concerned.”
“We’ve just met, Holly.”
“But I don’t feel like we’re strangers, really. Didn’t my dad ever mention me? He talked about you. Besides, I’m an Aries. Get used to it.”
With his now-straggled hair and a puzzled air reorganizing his features, he appeared almost boyish, or might have if it hadn’t been for the wave of pure, unadulterated lust smacking her like a two-by-four every time she gazed at him.
“You have no idea what Aries is, do you?”
“It’s a constellation. I’m a sailor.”
“It’s also a zodiac sign. You know, like in horoscopes? And it’s not actually aligned with the constellation anymore because of the way the equinoxes have caused a shift.”
His eyes glazed over a little.
“Aries are impulsive, impetuous, impatient, and daring,” she nattered on, surprised at her breathlessness but not her need to babble. “I’m guessing that’s everything you’re not.”
He frowned. “I can be impatient,” he said as if that was a good thing. The look he shot her indicated his nerves might, in fact, be wearing a little thin at the moment.
“And, I suspect, given your last employment, daring, too.”
“Maybe that,” he conceded. “Not by inclination or choice.” He shrugged. “Anyway, I’m a lobsterman now. And I run the ferry when needed.”
“But still mainly serious, driven, hard-working, and wise, fiercely loyal, tough, and unapproachable on the outside, but with a soft, warm, and squishy nougat center. I have you pegged for a total Capricorn. I’ll bet you’re a secret romantic at heart although you never show the world that side. When’s your birthday?”
“Do we have to play this idiotic game?”
“We do. And it’s not idiotic. You’d be surprised how telling astrology can be. Was I wrong about you?”
“Well….” He paused, and the silence between them lengthened.
“I’ll take that as a no.” She grinned at him.
“All right.” Again, he said nothing more, and she wanted to shake him until a confession fell out of his mouth.
“Chatty, too.” She tapped her foot and crossed her arms over her chest, drawing his gaze to her breasts. But he still didn’t take the hint. She groaned. Such a man. “Eyes up, sailor.” She flicked a finger in the vicinity of his chin until he raised his focus. “Birthday?” she demanded again.
“In a couple of weeks,” he said at last, the admission apparently so difficult it might have been wrung from him on pain of torture.
She snapped her fingers. “Knew it. Do I have you sussed or not?”
“I mean we’re completely incompatible. Like oil and water. The tortoise and the hare.”
He shot her another incendiary look and then glanced at the exit as if contemplating how fast he could make his getaway.
“Oh, wait. So I ruffled your feathers a little, and you’re not going to help me now?”
Instead of replying, he seized her fiercely by the arm and spun her around, dragging her into him until he’d caught her up against his rock-hard chest. Then his mouth came down on hers, hard, harsh, and demanding. Giving absolutely no quarter. Shocking her into utter and complete silence.
Whoa! I thought this man lacked spontaneity? Holy simmering cinnamon buns!