Fighting Love

Fighting Love

by Melissa West

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601839893
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 01/24/2017
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)

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Fighting Love


By Melissa West

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2017 Melissa West
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60183-989-3


CHAPTER 1

"Shit."

Zac Littleton stopped walking, balanced the two boxes he was carrying on his strong thigh, and peered over at his brother. Already he was on edge. Littleton Farms sold at the market every other Saturday during spring and summer, and yet every other Saturday, it was a damn three-ring circus to get everyone here and everything set up. So far that morning, they'd locked themselves out of a supply closet, broken two baskets, and Zac had snapped at the mayor, which was never a good idea. But Mr. Mayor refused to let them park without their vendor parking pass — somehow forgotten in the other delivery truck. "What now?"

Brady nodded his shaved blond head forward, his skin tanned from hours on the farm. Cargo shorts and a green Littleton Farms T-shirt completed his look. The market helped the farm meet its monthly goals, and without those Saturday sales, Zac wasn't sure the family farm would survive. Which wasn't an option.

The Littleton boys hadn't always run things. Zac and his brothers had used the little bit of savings they each had to open up Southern Dive, their dream dive shop, five years ago. But then their father had a massive heart attack, followed by another, and suddenly the brothers had to juggle both jobs — their dream and their obligation to the family. And for the most part, everything had been fine, business was good. The town supported them no matter what, and that loyalty was the only thing keeping the farm in the black. Despite the fact that Littleton hadn't made the expensive but ever popular switch to organic.

New age hippies pushed organic foods like it was gold and everything else was crap, and while Zac loved the idea of converting the farm, now wasn't the time. They didn't have the resources. Plus, it was easier to keep things moving than toss the lot and redo everything. And no one in town seemed to care anyway. They knew the Littletons went as natural as possible, and they respected what the farm produced. No one said a word. Well, no one except —

"Shit."

"That's what I said."

Zac's gaze fixed on the booth directly across from the Littleton Farms booth, the pink and orange and green sign for Fresh Foods Organics bright and visible for all to see. Who the hell made butterflies part of a food logo? No one, that's who.

"Ah, hell. Y'all didn't tell me we were in for a fight today." Charlie, Zac's middle brother, paused beside him and baby brother Brady, all of them staring at the vixen behind the Fresh Foods table.

Unsure what to do now and more than a little pissed that Mayor Collins hadn't warned them about this crap, Zac nodded toward their booth. "Just ignore her."

"Like that's possible," Brady said with another glare in her direction. "She's like one of those damn ladybugs that slip into your house, acting all pretty and ladybug-like, but really the thing's still a damn bug."

Charlie licked his lips and stared. "Still, she's a fine-looking ladybug if you ask me."

"No one did," Zac said, dropping the boxes he'd been carrying onto the long, rectangular table in their booth, his back to the person determined to destroy his family's image and convince years' worth of loyal customers to buy from her new, fancy, organic, non-GMO, eat-my-apple-and-you-will-fly farm. She'd already weaseled her way into Rick's Grocery, securing an organic section in the back of produce that was almost always empty when Zac went by. Not that he was checking.

"Well, well, look what the antibiotic-infused cow dragged in."

Zac shook his head and pivoted slowly to face her like he was the hero in a Marvel movie and she was the evil villain, eager to destroy the world one gluten-free muffin at a time. "Sophie."

"Zac."

"Glad you can remember my name. Now how about you use that memory of yours to pull up our agreement. You know, the one that says you'll position your booth at the other side of the market. Far, far away from mine."

Sophie's red lips curved into a Cheshire cat smile that would have earned her a role in Alice in Wonderland. She leaned forward, causing her blond waves to fall over her shoulders and drop down, barely brushing the table. She wore a basic white tank top with the Fresh Foods logo stretched across her perky breasts. Which Zac bet were fake, just like the rest of her.

"You know as well as I do that Mayor Collins chooses where each booth will be located."

"And you know as well as I do that he'd sell his right arm for one of your cherry yum yums."

The cat smile spread, the glint in her eyes sparkling like something out of a soap opera — right before the woman threw her glass of water or wine or whatever the hell she had in her hand on the poor, unsuspecting man who was stupid enough to talk to her.

"Now, now. That's not a very nice assumption. Why would I do a thing like that?"

Brady huffed. "Because you're a torturous wi —"

Zac threw up a hand to stop his brother from saying what the rest of them were thinking — and what would surely cause the other market vendors to choose Sophie's side over theirs. The Littletons were already in jeopardy of losing the male population every time she wore one of those flowy dresses of hers and handed out handmade, all-organic and gluten-free for Christ's sake apple pie samples.

"Let's just get set up," Zac said in an effort to rein in his brothers before one of them said something they'd regret. After all, the Littleton brothers had never had to watch what they said before. They had run the high school and taken Crestler's Key High's football team to the state title game, winning every year that one of the Littletons was on the team. And the year that all three had been in high school at the same time — Zac a senior, Charlie a junior, and Brady a freshman — they'd won every single game and shut out the Sunnyville Packers in the state championship. Add to that all three brothers being All-American in baseball, and basically, the town worshipped the brothers when they were young, and the brothers' devotion to the town only amplified that praise.

Then Zac moved away, a part of him glad to build a name for himself outside of the small town. He began his career coaching a high school team in Texas, where football might be more important than breathing good air, and married Lora. She was pregnant a year and a half later. When the nurse placed his beautiful baby girl in his arms, Zac understood real love for the first time in his life. The baby was named Carrie-Anne after his and Lora's grandmothers — his Carrie and Lora's Anne — and they were happier than he thought possible. Until they weren't. Or more specifically, she wasn't.

Lora battled depression on and off after giving birth, constantly accusing Zac of cheating. It wasn't until he discovered her with her OB-GYN that he realized her accusations were a means of freeing her own conscience. Lora left Zac and Carrie-Anne the next day, never to be seen or heard from again. From that moment on, Zac vowed to focus on no one else but his little girl. Women were evil, confusing liars who couldn't be trusted.

Exhibit A: Sophie Marsh.

"Yes, please, set up. I'd love to compare my apples to yours. Natural to pesticide-ridden, cancer-causing ones." She cocked her head, and Zac's spine stiffened, anger rising up, but he wouldn't let her get the best of him.

"What is it, Sophie? Jealous that my stock is twice as plentiful as yours?"

Her brow furrowed, the only hint that she had any expression beyond that blinding, condescending smile. "We'll see."

"Yeah, we will see. In fact ... care to make a little wager? Hundred bucks to whoever sells the most today."

The woman beside Sophie stood then and reached for Sophie's arm to stop her, clear worry on her face. Now it was Zac's turn to smile, sure Sophie would step back and avoid getting beaten, which was sure to happen. Zac and Littleton Farms had twice as much produce to sell today and twice as many customers. She didn't stand a chance. But instead of backing away like a good girl, she stuck out her hand, poised for action.

"It's a bet."


* * *

Sophie Marsh smoothed back her long hair and adjusted her tank top, her eyes narrowing as Zac's gaze dropped to her chest and lingered there, no hint of humility in sight.

He flashed her a grin. "Just checkin' out your logo."

Her focus dropped from his green eyes and tan skin, which made her light golden skin look albino-esque, to his fitted dark gray T-shirt, a tribal tattoo peeking out from his left sleeve and climbing down his forearm, and then finally to his low-hung jeans. "Hmm, I don't see your logo." She stared pointedly at his crotch. "Must not be big enough."

Glenda choked beside her, and Sophie spun around before Zac could reply and — okay — before she revealed what she really thought of Zac and his impossibly ripped, partially tattooed, one-hundred-percent-man physique. The thought of his biceps bulging against his T-shirt sleeves as he crossed his arms flashed through her mind, and she wished she had a fan so she could temper the flush creeping up her neck.

Jerks shouldn't be allowed to be hot. There should be some universal law that Mother Nature was required to abide by. Jerks should have missing teeth and consider showers optional and think wings are a superfood. But no matter what, they shouldn't be allowed to look like Zac Littleton. Hell, or even Charlie and Brady for that matter. But the other two Littleton brothers didn't cause that traitorous flurry in her stomach the way Zac did. Something about the way he defended his family to the bone made her almost like him.

Almost.

Glenda took another sip of water, set it down, and turned around and leaned into Sophie, who took to sorting the already sorted goods behind them. "Did you just bring the enemy's parts into the conversation?"

Grimacing, Sophie peered over her shoulder to see a crowd already forming around the Littleton Farms table. "Somehow I don't think it hurt his ego too badly. God Almighty, why do people flock to them like that?" The crowd was three thick now, Zac laughing as he took orders and looking like her worst nightmare. And okay, hottest fantasy. But she was ignoring that little fact.

"Have you noticed the demographic?" Glenda pointed at the crowd Sophie was studying like a rare scientific discovery that she needed to uncover and identify. "They're all women, all in their twenties to forties, all staring at three men with muscles and tattoos. And then that hair."

"Right?" Sophie tossed her hands at her best friend in agreement. Glenda worked these events with her on weekends, despite Sophie begging her to join Fresh Foods full time. Of course, Glenda refused. The librarian hated to admit it, but she loved her day job too much to leave. Still, she helped at Fresh Foods every free chance she had, which was often. "I mean, what? Did their mama put expensive hair gel in her prenatals or something?"

"Something, for sure."

The two women stared at the brothers. Brady's hair was buzzed short, which must have broken the hearts of half the women in town. A month before, he'd had chin-length hair as wild as he was, never in place, and always looking like someone had just run her fingers through it. But then he cut it off. Honestly, it didn't hurt him or the rumors that surrounded him one bit.

Charlie had shaggy, brown hair with caramel streaks in it. And then there was Zac, whose hair veered more on the dark blond–light brown–don't know what color it wants to be spectrum. It stuck off his head in spikes that were less hair gel and more freshly showered and roughly styled in that I-don't-have-time-for-this kind of way.

Sophie had just narrowed her gaze to the tips of his hair to see if they were blond or brown when his gaze flicked to hers, catching her in her epic stare. His lips twitched, his whole face seconds away from laughter. He winked before returning his attention to the busty woman leaning toward him, an apple in each hand like she wanted to poison him with her ways like the witch had poisoned Snow White.

"Ugh."

"Let's focus. Maybe you should push your boobs up a little. Show off those D cups."

"You know I'm not that kind of lady," Sophie said even as she adjusted her hair and set her sights on the family making its way to her. The Littletons could take their business to all the women in this town, but Sophie would appeal to the families who wanted the best for their children. She'd be admirable about her approach ... so long as begging still counted as admirable.

"Want to take our taste test?" Sophie asked the little boys as the family approached. "See if you can tell which is organic and which isn't. I bet you're both scientists in the making, right? Let this be your first experiment."

The boys jumped with excitement, and the mom and dad quickly followed suit, and soon the mom was coming closer. "Wow. I had no idea there was such a difference. It's ..."

"Juicier, right?" Sophie asked. "The natural way produces smaller fruit, sure, but the fruit is better quality. It tastes better. Fresher."

"It does." The mom reached for a sample from the apple tray. "May I?"

A smile tipped Sophie's lips. "Of course. Everything is all natural, and here's a brochure that details all the research that's been conducted on GMOs and pesticides and the harmful ways they impact our next generation."

The mom glanced at her sons, and Sophie could almost hear the wheels in her brain turning, mommy mode taking over. "Hmm, I had no idea."

"Most don't, but it's time we change that. If not for ourselves, then for them." Sophie ruffled one of the boys' hair. "Don't you think?"

The woman took a bite from an apple slice and closed her eyes in satisfaction. "These are amazing."

"You should try them in my apple pie." Sophie motioned to her baked goods, and soon the family was loaded up with fresh fruit and veggies and two pies, one on the house because they'd hit the spending threshold that warranted a free dessert. And there was Sophie's angle — taste over size. Freshness over quantity.

The sweet Cartee family told their friends as they passed them, pointing toward Fresh Foods, while Sophie waved hello. She cut more pies into sample bites, more fruit into slices.

An hour passed this way before Sophie realized she was out of the crappy, nonorganic fruit so necessary to prove her point and complete the sale.

"Watch this," Sophie whispered to Glenda, who shot her that same concerned look she had given her when Sophie had said she wanted to buy the old Rochester farm and convert it to Fresh Foods. Like Sophie had drunk a gallon of trouble and was headed to the store for another.

"What are you doing?"

"Just watch."

Sophie walked around her booth, careful to smile at the crowd that now surrounded her station, to hug a little girl with pigtails who wanted to try the peach cobbler and give a brochure to a family who wanted to know the names of the things that were killing their children.

Then she strutted directly to the booth across from hers and waited patiently in line. There was still a fine crowd around the Littletons, and Sophie couldn't for the life of her figure out why. Why would these people choose lesser quality food just because it was a little cheaper?

Her eyes fell on the basket of apples in view from where she stood, the price shining out for all to see, and she stumbled on her heels. Okay, so maybe a lot cheaper. Man, how did they manage those sorts of prices?

Finally, the woman in front of her finished deciding between the two pieces of fruit in her hand, one speaking to her more than the other apparently, and Sophie dropped her arms to her side and slipped on her trademark grin.

Zac was ducked down, grabbing more fruit to replenish the depleted stock, so he hadn't seen her yet, but Charlie and Brady had, and their eyes were now locked on her. Finally, Zac straightened, caught the expression on his brothers' faces, and cocked his brow before he turned to follow their glare and fix his own firmly on Sophie.

"What are you doing over here? Already throwing in the towel and offering up that hundred?"

The market was bustling now, people filing in as fast as they left, the day a perfect seventy with a light breeze in the air. Sophie loved days like this and how they reminded her of life when she was little. Long before her parents died and Nana took over raising her. Back when nothing made her happier than a blanket and sunshine and puffy clouds that made shapes. She and her daddy used to lay outside, a clothesline full of clothes around them, and stare into the sky at the magical clouds that formed and moved and told stories she'd never heard. But then everything changed.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Fighting Love by Melissa West. Copyright © 2017 Melissa West. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Fighting Love 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good storyline.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very cute story with a great plot. I enjoyed the writing of the author, Melissa West. I look forward to reading other stories by her. LA-TXN
Rhondaz More than 1 year ago
Fighting Love by Melissa West.....Looking for a fantastic book with Southern Charm, fun bantering and great characters, get your glass of lemonade, because here it is. This is the first book in the new Littleton Brothers series. I have found my new book boyfriend Zac, a single dad with tattoos and sexy as all getup. Sophie is a Southern Belle gorgeous, sweet and so feisty. I loved watching the story unfold between these two and there were some twists and turns in this Book. Melissa West is one of my all time favorite author, I know it will be a 5 star read every time. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.
AmyBosica More than 1 year ago
I absolutely adore Melissa West and her sweet contemporary romances. Her second chance romances not only leave me with a smile on my face, but have me swooning like it’s nobody’s business!! So, of course when I heard about Fighting Love, wild horses couldn’t have stopped me from getting my hands on it. Fighting Love is a fantastic enemies to lovers, second chance romance. I adored the slow building romance between Zac and Sophie. The tension and chemistry between these two was through the roof. I couldn’t get enough of their banter and interactions. I found myself quickly turning the pages to see what would happen next. One of the things that I loved about Fighting Love was that it was a bit of a departure from the stories that we normally see from this author. Yes, this story is sweet, with a dash of sexy. But, it also had a suspense and mystery element to it that led to a really exciting twist. This story exceeded my expectations and kept me captivated the entire time. I think this new series is off to a wonderful start and I am super excited to see where it will go next!
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
I've enjoyed several of Melissa's other books, so I requested this without fully reading the synopsis until I was about to read the book. I really liked Sophie and Zac. They're both good people and I adored their banter. I was rooting for them to work out right from the beginning. My main downfall was one particular plot point. It seemed so glossed over in the description and I definitely didn't expect "Sophie's past" to be something so serious. I did have other issues...it seemed like every single character from previous books needed to be mentioned and that felt really jumbled to me. And lastly, I was quite irritated at all of the incorrect MINI references. I won't bother getting into those here, but it was a constant itch in the back of my brain whole reading. I know it sounds like I'm complaining a lot, but, I did like this book {mostly because of Sophie and Zac} and I'll be sure to look for others in the series. **Huge thanks to Lyrical Shine and NetGalley for providing the arc free of charge**
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
I loved this first installment in the new Crestler's Key series. This series is a spin off of the Hamilton Stable's series. While it's not necessary to have read the prior books to enjoy this one, but if you have read them you'll love seeing some of the characters we've come to love. These books feature the Littleton's and first up is Zac's story. Zac is a hardworking single dad that really hadn't realized how lonely his life had gotten until his new neighbor brings her own brand of sass and energy to town. Sophie Marsh owns the neighboring farm and is producing organic fruits and working to compete with hometown Littleton Farms. At first glance you would swear Zac and Sophie hate each other but as time goes on you can see them crossing that fine line between love and hate. This one is very well done and it's a great small town romance read. I highly recommend it to everyone.