Benjamin Emerson is determined to honor the dying Mrs. Brody’s last wish—for her granddaughter not to spend Valentine’s Day alone. But as the special day closes in, he still doesn’t know how to reach the stiff, correct librarian.
Broken by her narcissistic former fiancé, Leonore Brody returns to her empty childhood home in Barnesville, numbly taking one day at a time. When Ben asks her to help his daughter, she can’t refuse, knowing how much he’d meant to her grandmother.
Caught at the Emerson farm by a snow storm, Leonore is drawn to the charismatic Ben. But the scars from her past are deep—how can she ever trust a man again?
“What?” Leonore squeaked, losing her normally soft-spoken, stiff, prim persona for a moment. “Is the storm coming now? I thought you said it wouldn’t be here until tonight!” She glared at Ben, feeling he somehow had misled her, and to her surprise his ears turned a deeper shade of red.
“You knew the storm was coming earlier?”
He nodded, again looking like that damn, irresistible puppy. “Sorry.”
Leonore took a deep breath, not wanting to lash out in front of his big-eyed daughter, who was interestedly following their conversation. “Drive me home. Now.”
“I can’t. Too much snow already. Sorry.”
He didn’t look like he was very sorry. Instead he looked almost too pleased with himself, as if his well-laid plan had worked. Now he had her here, he could put her in the dungeon with his other women prisoners.
He didn’t wait for her to answer his apology. “Kelly, this is Miss Brody, Mrs. Brody’s granddaughter I’ve been talking about.”
Kelly mumbled something inaudible, which Leonore interpreted as some sort of greeting.
“Nice to meet you, Kelly,” she offered stiffly, with chattering teeth.
“You are freezing,” Ben said, compassionately. “Let’s go inside.”
With an arm around his daughter, he walked out into the increasing snowfall, heading toward the house. With an anguished groan, Leonore slammed the truck door shut before following them, unable to tell if her uneasiness came from being unwillingly trapped here at the Emerson farm or the fact that she felt reluctantly exhilarated about it.
In the small entrance hall, dirty coveralls hung on both walls, allowing a small path between them. Not wanting to get her coat dirty, she had to go sideways into the house so she wouldn’t accidentally touch anything. Too busy avoiding the coveralls, she completely missed Ben’s still very dirty rubber boots, which lay where he had removed them—in the middle of the small floor of the hall—and they sent her flying headfirst into the house.
Both father and daughter looked up as she tumbled into the kitchen, in panic trying to grasp anything which would stop her from falling to the floor in a most embarrassing style. Kelly giggled behind her hand, whereas Ben tried to hide his smile by turning away. But she could tell by his shaking shoulders that he laughed.
The coldhearted, cluttered bastard.
The house was clearly not inhabited by a grown female. It could have been a very nice home. She could sense a detail or two here and there that told her it had once been a very nice and comfortable house. But that time was long gone. Now it was just a place to rest between workdays. Or a place to work on something that needed repair. There was clutter everywhere.
The living room was a nice room. Or would have been if it hadn’t been filled with—guess what? Yup, clutter. There were two armchairs in front of a cold fireplace, where father and daughter now stood, which were free of things. Probably that was where the two Emerson men spent their evenings, discussing farm things. She thought there was a sofa behind the two chairs, but it was hard to tell, as it seemed more a huge pile of blankets. And by the smell of them, probably horse blankets. Used ones.