Cate had known a lot of things about her husband before he died three years ago in a car accident, but how much debt he’d gotten them into wasn’t one of them. She needs her job at Cross Creek, even if her boss is both gruff and gorgeous. But Owen’s a family man, through and through, and the last thing Cate is interested in is anything—or anyone—with strings attached.
As Owen and Cate join forces to right the farm, they discover there’s more to the other than the surfaces shows, and that passion can be found in unexpected places. Can Cate heal from the loss of one family to gain the love of her life? Or will the past prove too much for the promise of the future?
This is my favorite Cross Creek story. A unique decision had Owen and Cate making a vow of honesty from the start, and I didn’t realize how refreshing that would be in a romance. They made such a lovely couple; easily working together to broaden the other’s view on life, the future, and family. I would like to say that Cate’s stand on “family” at the end of the book, was one that I can relate to and respect. It was another refreshing bit of real-life that was handled wonderfully. This sweet and sexy novel was a pleasure to read.
Cate ditched the napkins she hadn’t really needed in favor of doing her job, loading up a tray with Owen and Lane’s order and making her way back to their table.
“Oatmeal raisin cookies without walnuts are an abomination,” she overheard Lane say, but Owen, whose back was to her, simply snorted.
“You’re cracked. Simple is better. Plus, they’re not called oatmeal raisin walnut cookies. Still—” A soft thunk sounded off from beneath the table, followed by a less-than-polite hiss from Owen. “Ow, dude! What the…oh, hell.” He snapped to attention, his coffee mug meeting the Formica with enough force to slosh some of its contents over the rim. “Cate. Hi.”
She thought of the walnuts that had been in every single one of the cookies she’d baked at oh-dark-thirty this morning and arched a brow. “Still hungry, I take it?”
“Sure. I mean”—he closed his eyes. Exhaled. Damn, eyelashes like that were honestly unjust on a man. Also, really freaking hot—“the cookies were great, and I’ve got room for breakfast, too.”
“Glad to hear it. Two breakfast specials, one with scrambled eggs, one with eggs over easy, extra home fries, and extra bacon.” She delivered their respective plates. “Can I get you anything else?”
“Just the check, if you have a minute,” Owen said, and shit. She might be a little light in the filter department (okay, fine, so she didn’t really have one. Potato, potahto), but the last thing she wanted was to piss off one of Clementine’s customers. Not to mention lose her tip.
“You don’t have to rush,” Cate started, and jeez, those eyelashes were even more lethal when they framed his wide, gray stare.
“Unfortunately, I do. Got a date with the invoices and books at the farm, and it’s gonna take me all day if I’m lucky.”
Confusion kicked in, good and hard. “But it’s Sunday.”
“Yes ma’am,” he agreed.
A prickle worked its way through her, half irritation at the politeness that bordered on poor-Cate sympathy, half something else that headed decidedly south.
She tried again. “You’re working all day?”
Most everybody around here held Sundays pretty sacred out of self-preservation. Working the land seven days a week was brutal, even for the most well-practiced farmers. And from the look of Owen’s biceps, he was extremely well-practiced.
He dropped his chin but not his stare. “Don’t really have a choice. Cross Creek’s books aren’t going to balance themselves.”
“You don’t have a bookkeeper?” She shifted back on the linoleum, her confusion turning to outright shock.
“If we did, I don’t reckon I’d be working the books on a Sunday.”
Huh. Looked like she wasn’t the only one who was a little light in the filter department. “Okay, fair,” she said. “But Cross Creek is the largest farm in Millhaven. I just figured you’d have someone who handles that for you full-time.”
“Believe me, I wish we did,” Owen said, and her mouth opened of its own volition.
Cate heard the non-question before she even knew she’d spring it past her lips, but oh, how she wished to have it back. This was a bad idea. No, check that. This was an epically shitastic idea, with don’t-you-even-think-it sprinkles on top. A full-time job was more commitment than she’d had in three years. The thought of something so regular, so permanent, gave her the shakes.
But then Owen was looking at her with a not-small amount of curiosity, and backpedaling was as impossible as catching smoke in her bare hands. “As a matter of fact, yeah,” he said, straightening against the booth. “I’d love to hire a full-time bookkeeper. Why? Do you know someone who’s interested?”
No. Nope. Sorry, buddy, I sure don’t. These were all things her brain instructed her mouth to say, but her mouth—which liked to eat—betrayed her by going with, “Actually, I am.”
The stunned silence that followed told her she’d better start making her case before he dismissed the idea as downright nutters. “I mean, I don’t have a degree or any formal training, but I’m really good with numbers, and I’m not afraid of hard work. I can start as soon as you like, tomorrow, even, and—”
“—I don’t need…wait, what?” Cate asked as his answer caught up with her verbal landslide.
“You said you’re good with numbers and you can start tomorrow, right?” Owen’s piercing gray stare was as tough to decipher as the rest of his expression.
She managed to nod. “Yes.” She was only on evenings and weekends at the diner and The Bar. Time would be tight, but she could swing it. She had to. “I can.”
“Great. Then you’ve got yourself a job.”