Amanda loves anything that has to do with romance. As long as there’s a happy ending, she’s a happy camper. She loves baseball (Go Twins!) and creating awesome crafts. When she’s not hanging out with her wonderful family, she’s writing a sweet contemporary romance or a romantic suspense that keeps you guessing until the end.
Excerpt from Protecting You (A McCord Family Novel, Book 1)
Ava was sitting on the porch swing the next afternoon when Zane walked out of the house and sat down next to her. She hadn’t yet asked Zane about the manure incident, suddenly afraid what it meant. They had shared stories about Jimmy last night like they always did, but she had stopped herself before the words slipped out of her mouth asking about what happened in the barn. He hadn’t brought it up either.
A slight breeze blew through her hair, creating a mess. A ponytail would easily fix that. It whipped in front of her face again. Before she could tuck it behind her ear as she had been doing the last ten minutes swinging, Zane’s sweet hand did it for her. Maybe a ponytail wouldn’t be necessary.
“Windy day. Sun is shining, though,” Zane said, as he pulled his hand away.
Ava smiled. “It’s beautiful here. You have a wonderful farm, Zane. I can see why you love it so much.”
Zane helped push the swing along with her. “I do love it here. Always have and probably always will. Do you like it here?”
“I do. It’s peaceful. It’s more work than I imagined. It helped me more than I ever realized it could. I’m glad Austin dragged me here.”
Zane never showed affection toward her out in the open during the day, only at night did he grab her in his arms, rub her back lightly, sometimes held hands. Sitting on the swing, the beautiful day surrounding them, for some reason he decided to grab her hand.
“I’m glad he did, too. It’s been good for all of us. You look so much better than when you arrived. I see the old Ava a little more every day.”
Ava glanced at their hands clasped together. “You didn’t know the old Ava, how would you know?”
Zane smiled. “I just do. I saw the fierceness in you when I stormed into your office. I remember some stories Jimmy and Austin said about you. It doesn’t take much to draw a picture.”
“You didn’t like that Ava,” she said tentatively as she looked out into the yard.
Zane pulled her hand to his mouth and lightly kissed it. “No, I didn’t. But I also didn’t give her a chance to see if I would like her.” He paused. She looked at him. “I happen to like her a lot now that I’ve spent some time with her, gotten to know her.”
“Well, that’s good to know. I’ve enjoyed my time too, getting to know you. Jimmy always said good things.”
“Even when I was being a jerk?” Zane asked, laughing lightly.
“Even then.” Ava grinned.
“I’m glad you’ve enjoyed your time here. I guess you’ll want to go back home soon. I bet you miss New York,” Zane said with a slight hesitation.
A small frown formed. “Hmm. New York. Yeah, I suppose I do. I miss my dad and his comforting presence. My friends, too, who probably hate me.”
“Why would they hate you?”
“Well, I wasn’t exactly friendly. I didn’t care about anything then, and now I realize how selfish that was. I was hurting and didn’t care anyone else was, I guess. They lost somebody, too. Jimmy was a great friend to all of us.”
“I imagine they don’t hate you. They’re worried I’m sure because you went through a lot. I lost a brother, but you were there when it happened. I wasn’t. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like. I have a small idea from those nasty nightmares and I wish you never had to experience it. I know I wouldn’t have wanted to.” He squeezed her hand in reassurance. “They will be happy to see you, I’m sure. You can all go to O’Hares and have a drink in Jimmy’s honor. I bet he’d like that.”
Ava smiled. “You know, I think he would like that. I’ll have to call everyone and suggest that.”
“So, you’ll be leaving soon, then?”
Ava glanced at him and couldn’t quite read his expression. “Maybe it’s time. I can’t stay forever. I do feel better, and like you said, I’m starting to look better.”
“What are brothers for, huh?” he said with a lame laugh.
“Brothers?” she asked, surprised.
“Yeah, you know—me and Austin. Like Jimmy was to you.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s right.” Ava looked back out into the yard, defeated inside. Perhaps it was time to leave. Yet, as she sat on the swing next to Zane, him holding her hand, she never wanted to leave this farm for anything.
Zane suddenly let go of her hand and stood up. “Let’s go fishing.”
“Fishing. It’s a nice day out. Little breezy, but the sun is shining and I could eat fish tonight for supper. Have you ever been fishing before?” Zane asked with a grin.
“No. I haven’t,” Ava said, suddenly looking forward to it.
“Great. I’ll go find Austin and we’ll get the boat ready and head down to the lake just right down the road. Why don’t you go inside and see if Eleanor will help get a cooler ready for drinks and some snacks?”
“Down the road? There’s a lake that close?”
Zane smiled wide. “You’re in Minnesota. We have ten thousand of them.”
Ava laughed. “Thanks for pointing out the obvious. I knew that. Just surprised it sounds so close.” Ava stuck her tongue out at him as he laughed. “You go find Austin while I get the drinks and change.”
“What’s wrong with what you’re wearing?” he asked as he glanced at her shorts and t-shirt she had on.
“Come on now, Zane, I’m a girl. We’re going to be out in the open sun, on a lake. I have to put on a tank top and work on my tan a little. Too bad I don’t have a swimsuit with. I could get a great one with that,” Ava said, smiling wide as she walked into the house.
Zane blew out a big breath and walked down the steps. He barely could stand to control himself with her in that outfit. The way it hugged her frame, her breasts tight against her shirt, begging to be touched. He couldn’t imagine what a tank top would do to him. Thank goodness, she had no swimsuit because he surely would’ve dropped to his knees in pain seeing in her something like that. Maybe fishing wasn’t such a good idea.
Thirty minutes later, Austin stopped the motor on the boat as Zane grabbed the fishing poles and handed one to Ava. He also grabbed a container of worms and handed it to her.
“What do you want me to do with those?” Ava asked with a grim expression.
“You have to put a worm on your hook, otherwise the fish won’t bite.” Zane laughed at her grossed out expression.
“You want me to touch that thing?”
“Ava, come on. If you’re going to fish, you have to bait your own hook. Fish won’t bite otherwise,” Austin said with a laugh.
“You can’t do it for me?” Ava asked with innocence.
Zane and Austin shared a look as Austin said, “Nope. You have to do it.”
Ava rolled her eyes. “What are brothers for if you’re not going to bait a hook for me? Jimmy would do it.”
Austin grinned as Zane shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “And we’re both brothers here to you, Ava?” Austin asked with a devilish smile.
Zane glared at him, but Ava looked away when he asked, missing his expression.
“Yeah. Of course.” She grabbed the container of worms forcefully. “Fine. I’ll do it myself.”
Ava pulled the lid off and cautiously picked up a worm as it wiggled in her fingers. She made another funny face and grabbed the hook that was dangling from her fishing rod.
“You look like you’re in complete torture. Didn’t you deal with blood and other disgusting bodily fluids as a crime scene investigator?” Zane asked with a smirk.
Ava looked at him and cringed. “Yes, but this is totally different. That I can handle with ease. This is a worm.”
Austin and Zane busted out laughing at her discomfort. They watched as she tried putting the worm on the hook, but she kept hesitating as it wiggled uncontrollably for her. She finally managed to get it on just a teeny tiny bit, sighing in relief. She looked up at them as they laughed at her again.
“The way you have it on, it’ll probably fall off as you cast it out into the water,” Austin said.
“Then do it for me,” Ava cried as she held the rod out to him.
Austin shook his head no. “Cast away. Good luck fishing.”
Zane couldn’t help it and slid the worm on a little bit more for her. “There you go, honey. Just watch me as I cast my line. Do as I do it.”
Ava smiled at him. Austin rolled his eyes at their obvious attraction and cast his line without another thought.
Zane cast his line to show her and was pleasantly surprised when she did it decently on the first try. They all sat in silence for a while when Ava spoke. “Is this all we do? Sit here with the line in the water?”
Austin grinned. “Relaxing, isn’t it?”
“No, not really. I want a fish to bite my line.”
“Patience. They will,” Zane said.
“If they don’t?” Ava asked.
“We go home hungry. Defeated. Beaten down by the fishies in the water,” Austin said with mock humor.
Ava laughed. “I refuse to be defeated by a fish. We won’t be leaving until I catch at least one.”
“We’ll stay here all night if that’s what it takes,” Zane said with a smile.
Ava grabbed a beer from the cooler and handed them each one as well. She popped it open and took a long drink. “Good. I’m holding you to that.”
She went back to watching her line intensely. Austin leaned over and whispered in Zane’s ear. “You have it so bad for her, it’s not even funny. Did you tell her you love her yet?”
Zane turned his head slowly and whispered as he glared at his brother. “Remember the pig shit I threw at you? I have no problem tossing you into the water and leaving your ass to swim back to shore.”
Austin laughed, but leaned back nonetheless. Because Zane wasn’t kidding.
Zane glanced back at Ava as she sat intently watching her line. She had a happy anticipatory expression on her face, ready for the fish to attack her line. He grinned at her cuteness. She sat with her rod hanging over the side of the boat, her feet lightly resting on the inside. She leaned back in her chair, her eyes not wavering from the bobber floating freely on the lake.
He shifted slightly in his seat as he looked at her. The glorious sight of her body soaking in the hot sun. The way her shorts rode up, showing more of her thighs than he wanted to see, begging him to touch her. Her tank top was tantalizingly too short. Her cleavage peeked out at him, making him wish she had the swimsuit on. He wanted to see more. He knew exactly how they felt against his chest; he ached to feel them against his hands. Her skin shined in the bright sunlight, soft, luscious.
She started tapping her feet to some beat going on in her head. His eyes beamed in on them, taking his sweet time perusing her body as he went from her sweet, succulent breasts to her pink toenails sparkling like the water. He loved every delicious inch of her body. This was going to be the longest fishing trip he had ever been on. He created this torture by suggesting the trip.
“You keep looking at her like that and she’s going to figure out how you feel,” Austin whispered in his ear.
Zane sucked in a quick breath at being caught staring at her, abruptly turning his eyes away and glared at Austin. “How’d you like that swim now?”