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MOUNTAIN Man Candy
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Clive is the local man candy in his mountain town. But after tragedy struck years ago, he’s closed himself off to the idea of love.
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Cocking a brow at this broad, I decide to give it to her straight.
“Look, I don’t do solo trips,” I tell her. “I suggest you book a private rafting trip with Charlie if that’s what you’re looking for.” I lean over the counter and hand her my buddy’s card. “Call him—or better yet, FaceTime him. I can guarantee he’ll answer that call.”
“But you are the one I want… the one every woman wants. At least that’s what everyone was saying at the bar last night.”
I scowl, hating her reference to me being the local man candy. A nickname I can’t seem to shake. Before I’m forced to say anything more, Charlie walks into the office.
“What’s going on in here?” Charlie asks, his eyes darting between Tanya and me. I step away from the counter, raising my hands. Not wanting anyone to think I am even slightly interested in this woman who is coming on way too strong.
I refrain from saying she wants a booty-call, even though that is exactly what she wants. “Tanya here is looking to book a private rafting trip. Thought you might be able to take her.”
Charlie’s eye rake over Tanya and her too-tight shorts and barely-there top. I know Charlie likes what he sees. And the truth is, he’d never turn down a few days in the woods with a willing woman.
Linesworth is a vacation destination—a small Bavarian village in the valley of the Washington State Forest. And our company, Forest Expeditions, is busy most of the year with tourists. At least, I call them tourists; Charlie calls them hook-ups. Mostly though, we take out families or older couples on trips. I know he’ll see a woman like Tanya as a treat.
I push away from the counter as Charlie takes over booking his fling. Sitting at my desk, I pull up a web browser and go to the real-estate listings I’m constantly scouring. This town is getting crowded, and I want to buy more property on the outskirts before some developer swoops in and buys up everything that’s good about these mountains.
As I run my hand over my beard, I see more of the same. A few places to lease locally, a few ridiculous McMansions, but nothing like I want. A big piece of land where I can build a home. A property large enough for a garage that could hold all my outdoor gear. I was about to buy something a few years ago, but then my brother-in-law, Luke, had his accident and well, things changed. Being close to town for my sister became more important than my dreams of getting away from the crowds. Moving into her guest house was the right thing to do. God knows, Luke would’ve done the same for me.
Not that I have a family. Not that I ever will. Hell, no. I saw firsthand what his death did to my sister and her kids, No way in hell would I risk doing that to a woman. My job is dangerous and I don’t want to live any other way, but no woman deserves to get the call that a trek went wrong and now she’s a widow.
So I keep my head down. And no matter how many women ask for my number, I refuse to give it to them. It’s not because I’m an asshole—it’s because I never want to put myself in a position where I might break someone’s heart by dying way too soon. Hell, I’m no virgin, but it’s been a long-ass time.
But now I’m itching to carve out a space of my own. Maybe not move there full-time, but at least put down a foundation for a house.
My phone buzzes. It’s a text from my sister Greta.
Can you watch the kids for a few hours? Maggie can’t help and I’ve got to finish an order.
I look up, seeing Charlie with his arms wrapped around Tanya. He’d better not charge her for their weekend together. I text Greta back right away, knowing if our sister Maggie can’t help, I need to step in. And hell, I want to—those kids mean the world to me.
I text back. Of course, drop them off at the office.
Ten minutes later, my apron-clad, covered-in-flour sister is waving goodbye and jumping back into her Subaru.
Charlie pulls away from Tanya when he notices my niece and nephew are about ten feet away.
“Lucy! Milo! What are you doing here?” he asks, a big smile on his face. He may be a manwhore, but he loved Luke like a brother too. Hell, the three of us started this business together.
“Mama has to work.” Lucy crosses her arms. “So Uncle Clive is watching us. Although I think I’m big enough to watch myself.”
Giving her a serious look, I bend down to her level. “You may be big enough, but Milo’s only four. He needs us. And we need him.” These two kids are the only people on this planet that can turn me into a softie and I’m proud of that.