An ill wind is brewing up a storm and as usual, Rachael Jones is in the middle of the fray. If the local banker succeeds in bulldozing the Victorian houses she's trying to save, she’s in for yet another rough time before the skies clear. The only bright spots on the horizon are her friendship with Luke... and her secret rendezvous with Mac...
Is Rachael meant to weather the storm with Luke, who touches her heart and soul so intimately, or with Mac, who knows each sweet secret of her body?
STORMY WEATHER... Stay tuned for the latest forecast!
“They’re predicting an inch of rain before dawn.” Luke’s voice sounded at ease now that they were back on neutral ground.STORMY WEATHER
“It’s getting colder by the minute.” Rachael fumbled in the cupboard for the fondue pot. “I hope we don’t get sleet.”
He followed her to the dining room. She sensed Luke was starting to warm up to the topic at hand, so she said nothing.
He swung his lanky legs under the table and sat forward in his chair. “I’m not exactly sure how to say this, Rae.” He cleared his throat. “There have been some pretty drastic changes in my life over the past few years. My whole perspective on life has changed since I moved back to Iowa.”
Rae leaned an elbow on the table and steadied her chin with one hand. A shiver of anticipation ran down her spine.
“I’ve been thinking about this for several weeks but I was hesitant to bring it up earlier for fear of jeopardizing our friendship.” Luke’s Adam’s apple rose and fell with his swallow. “I know you think I’m teasing when I call you My Little Ray of Sunshine but you really have been the bright spot of my existence since I met you last year.” Luke leaned forward and clasped Rae’s free hand. “I want you to know that whatever else we become to each other, I cherish our friendship more than anything else on earth.”
Luke’s hand was hot and smooth except for a sprinkling of hair and a callus at the base of his thumb. She smiled. It made perfect sense that if Luke wanted to have a more intimate relationship with her, he would want to be absolutely sure that she felt the same way before he did anything to put their friendship at risk.
“It’s not that I’ve been unhappy being back in Iowa or taking care of the farm,” Luke said. “I miss Colorado, but I’m glad I came home. Maybe it’s because my dad is gone. When you lose a parent you start to realize for the first time how short life is, and that you only have a limited time to accomplish the things you’re destined for.”
Rae squeezed his fingers and caressed the top of his hand with her thumb. Her imagination had rehearsed this scenario so many times it almost felt like deja’ vu.
The older she got, the clearer it became that she had been designed to love, nurture, and procreate. Her desire to be loved was as strong and instinctual as eating or breathing. Much as she’d tried to concentrate on her career and friends, she knew that there was nothing, absolutely nothing that would fill the longing in her soul but to share the rest of her life with someone she loved.
“What I'm going to ask will change both of our lives – I believe for the better – if you agree to my proposition.”
Her heart started to pound and her emotions rose to a crescendo. For a second she thought he’d said proposal. Maybe he had. No wonder he looked so nervous. Oh, my God, she thought. He’s going to ask me to...
Luke swallowed. “I know you’ve structured your business and your life the way you want them, and I don’t want to intrude on your dreams, but I think my idea could benefit both of us.”
Her mind churned frantically. Of course there would be benefits if she and Luke took their friendship to the next stage. Romance. Companionship. Orgasms. Hopefully a lot of them. But benefits? You got sex when you started a relationship. You got benefits when you started a new job.
She leaned back a fraction of an inch and looked at Luke. This had to be the strangest proposal she’d ever heard – and she didn’t understand why he was nervous. She’d certainly given him enough encouragement over the past few months. She looked up at him and smiled. The look on Luke's face mingled eagerness and tenderness, the loose, honey blond curls tucked behind his ears shone like gold. His eyes looked almost indigo in the crystal-diffused light of the chandelier. It was all so perfect. He was perfect. So why couldn’t she shake the feeling that she was a firefly in the hands of a little boy she didn’t quite trust?
“I want to come to work for you, Rae,” Luke blurted out. “I’d like to get my real estate license as quickly as I can, but in the meantime I’d be happy to be your assistant or do anything that needs to be done around the office. I know you want to continue to focus on vintage properties and that’s why I believe I could provide a whole new perspective to your business if I came on board and specialized in farmland and acreages.”
Disappointment clutched at her heart. This couldn’t be happening. She’d been so sure things were finally going to work out the way they were supposed to.
She frantically tried to maintain her composure. The last thing she wanted was to let on that she had thought Luke was about to suggest they get married, or at the very least, begin to explore the romantic side of their relationship.
“I don’t want to give up farming, but I have a lot of extra time on my hands now that I’m not playing with a band," Luke said, as though testing the idea. “I’d need a little time off for spring planting and fall harvest, but I wouldn’t have brought it up if I didn’t think I could handle both.” He leaned forward in his chair. He was serious, his eyes earnest and full of passion for the wrong thing... “If you have any worries about the arrangement that I’m proposing...”
There it was. That word again. She hadn’t dreamed it this time. He’d really said it. She stared at Luke blankly and stifled a moan. What was God thinking? All she had ever wanted was to be special to someone, to feel the joy and contentment that comes from being loved. She’d moved to Iowa in the first place believing that for some unfathomable reason she was meant to be here – call it her own brand of faith, but she had come to believe Luke Zimmerman was that reason.
Rae stared across the table at Luke’s serene-looking face. “I’m sure we can work something out,” she said. “I’ve always thought we would make a great... team.”
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