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“How do you get the honey out?”


“By pulling the frames. Then slicing the wax caps off.”


He frowned. “Still don’t get it.”


“I can go into explicit detail of honey production and harvesting or give you an overview.”


“I’m more the explicit type.”


I’m sure you are.


Rielle detailed the process. Inside her honey house, she modeled her beekeeper suit and showed the smoker used to calm the bees before she opened the hive to check them. Then she showed him the spinning extractor that used centrifugal force to separate the honey from the wax comb. Lastly she pointed out the big buckets with spigots for bottling the honey.


“What do you do with the bees in the winter?”


She glanced at him. His eyes hadn’t glazed over yet. She tended to be enthusiastic about beekeeping, especially to the uninitiated. “Keep them in their hives.”


Gavin looked skeptical. “They don’t freeze up here in the arctic north?”


“There’s always some loss. But honeybees winter well when they’re properly protected will have enough honey to survive. I leave about seventy pounds of honey in each hive.”


“That much? Does that give you much of a harvest?”


She smiled. “Oh, I get at least that. Last year I ended up with ninety pounds from each hive. And with twelve hives…”


“Honey, that’s a whole lot of honey.”


“Yep. I bottle it, sell it locally, and send some to stores across the state that specialize in Wyoming-made items. Skylar at Sky Blue buys a lot to use in her beauty products. Honey production is my most profitable business. I do the least amount of work. It’s a sweet deal.”


Gavin groaned at her pun.


“Thanks for listening to me blather.”


“My pleasure. I’m interested in your life and livelihood, Ree, but I haven’t forgotten about that almost kiss.” He started to move closer, but stopped to pull his buzzing cell phone from his pocket. “It’s time to get Sierra from the bus stop. We’ll pick this up later.”


Break over, Rielle returned to work.


Chapter Nine


October…


Rielle knocked on Gavin’s office door.


He answered with a terse, “What?”


She poked her head inside. “Is it safe to come in? You sound grumpy.”


“I am. Where the hell have you been the last four days?”


“Honey harvest time, remember? What’s put the wrinkle in your brow?”


“A lot of stuff. I’m in a lousy mood. You’d best trot your little self back downstairs.”


Wow. Little self? Was he trying to start a fight with her? “What happened that’s got you locked in your office on a Saturday?”


“The idiot running one of my new properties somehow lost all the property maintenance records for the last three years.”


“Lost? Don’t you have a backup copy?”


Gavin paced behind his desk. “You’d think so. But no one can find a backup. I’ve had to walk him through every single step of searching programs and documents, which he should know how to do. I finally told him to take the tower to my computer guru to see if there’s anything on the hard drive. But instead of taking it where I told him, he dropped it off at Best Buy because it was closer to his house. Now I suspect he purposely erased all the records because he knows I’ll see shit hasn’t been done on the property for a long time. I’ve had nothing but problems with him.”


“Why keep him on if he’s such an idiot?”


“Some sob story from the previous owner about the guy trying to get custody of his kids from his ex-wife.”


“Which would be a trigger for you to give him a chance,” Rielle said.


“And speaking of triggers…” He made an exasperated noise. “Sierra pushed all my buttons today. Every. Single. One. Which hasn’t happened for a while so I guess she decided we were overdue for a fight.”


She watched him beat a path across the carpet. He looked damn fine in workout clothes; a gray sleeveless T-shirt that showed off his defined shoulders and biceps and navy-colored boxing shorts that hung off his lean hips. She imagined his back muscles bunching up and his biceps rippling when he smacked the heavy bag. His sweat-dampened shirt clung to his pectorals. Would his sweat carry the clean scent she associated with him? Or something more raw and masculine?


“Rielle?”


She snapped back to attention. “Ah, yeah?”


“Why are you here?”


I missed you. “Chet and Remy need to talk to you about something.”


“Great. Maybe they’ll tell me why this garage project is stalled.”


She sauntered behind his desk. “After seeing you so aggravated, I’m offering you the ideal way to work off some of that frustration.”


Gavin tilted his head. “I’m listening.”


She fought a shiver at his very sexual once-over. “You offered your harvesting services. I’m here to collect. It’ll be fun. It’s a gorgeous day. Not many more left. The fresh air and sunshine will help you forget about your problems, if only for a few hours.” She poked him in the sternum. “And if you prove to be a good worker bee, I’ll even fix you lunch.”


He snatched her finger. “First, don’t poke me because I poke back. Second, thanks for giving me the chance to do your heavy labor so I feel better.” He smiled. “But you know what? I accept. I will expect dessert with my lunch. Something really sweet. Think you can handle that?”


“With one hand tied behind my back.” She poked him again and ducked out of his reach. “When you’re done dealing with Chet and Remy, trot your little self down to the gardens.”


After three hours of laboring in the dirt, Gavin sighed heavily. “How many acres of root vegetables did you plant?”


“Acres?” she repeated.


“Can’t you harvest these with a tractor or something? This digging them up by hand shit really sucks.”


Rielle leaned on her shovel. “A tractor? Really?”


“Tractor, plow, rake, combine, whatever. I’m tired. Aren’t you tired?”


“Nope. And when did you turn into Sierra, complaining this sucks and that sucks?”


Gavin threw down his spade, tore off his gloves and said, “That’s it. I can take you making fun of my lack of vegetable ranching knowledge, but when you compare my attitude to that of a sixteen-year-old girl? Well, honey, it’s on. Because I am all man.”


“Yeah?”


“Oh yeah.”


“Prove it.”


Flashing his teeth, he jumped over the spade handle and made a beeline for her.


She started to run but the soft, overturned dirt slowed her down. When she glanced over her shoulder, Gavin was gaining on her. She put on a burst of speed but it was too little, too late. His arms came around her waist, and he jerked her to a stop.


Rielle shrieked. She shrieked louder when he lifted her off the ground. “Gavin! Put me down!”


“No. You’re my captive.” His warm breath teased her ear. “What should I do with you? Turn you over my knee and spank you?”


“Don’t you dare.”


His nose drifted along her neck. “Damn, Rielle, you smell great.”


“It’s, ah…” Shit. She couldn’t think straight when his mouth was on her skin.


“It’s what?” he murmured.


“Honeysuckle.”


“That fits.” He pressed a kiss on her neck. “I’d like to suckle some of your honey.”


The words should’ve sounded corny, but they were beyond sexy murmured in Gavin’s throaty rasp.


He set her down and turned her around. He brushed something out of her hair and used the backs of his knuckles to outline her jaw. “Know something?”


“What?”


“I’ve been thinking about you. Missing you the last few days. A little pissy about it if you want to know the truth. Wondering if you missed me at all.”


“I did.”


“Good.”


He kept stroking her face.


“What?”


“I’m a lousy worker bee. I kept looking over at you, trying to draw you into conversation and now that you’re right in front of me…I can’t think of a damn thing to say. These wide green eyes of yours draw me right in.”


She blinked at him.


“And then there’s your mouth…”


“My mouth what?” she managed to whisper.


“Your mouth is so lush. I could sink into it for days.”


Rielle licked her lips.


He groaned. “You tempting me? Or challenging me?”


“Both.” She snaked her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss.


The move caught him by surprise but it didn’t take long for him to haul her against his body and sink into the kiss like he’d warned. Opening his mouth to consume hers in a teasing, hot tangle of tongues. A kiss that changed from hungry to seductive to sweet and back to hungry.


Her head buzzed. If Gavin didn’t have such a tight hold on her, she’d have a hard time standing, he kissed her with such ferocity. Like she was air, water and light.


Gavin ripped his mouth from hers and said, “Holy fuck.”


That made her smile because she’d been thinking the same thing.


His hands were on her face, tilting her head back. His burning gaze moved to her mouth. Then his lips were on hers again, giving her the sweetest, gentlest kiss. The wet glide of his lips and the possessive way his hand slid down to the back of her neck, holding her in place, was undeniably sexy.


Rielle didn’t know how long they stayed like that, body to body, mouth to mouth. By the time he released her, her panties were damp, her breathing was choppy and she considered tearing off her clothes so they could go at it, right there in the dirt.


She rested her face on his chest and heard his heart beating beneath her ear. His shirt was damp and she breathed in his scent.

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