Harmony Meyer arrives in Mill Pond focused on one thing—finishing her novel in peace and quiet while her apartment building undergoes renovations. A month at her friend Tessa McGregor’s rural resort is exactly what she needs—until she discovers that Tessa’s
brother-in-law, Brody McGregor, is another guest. Tall, dark, and handsome is a distraction she can’t afford. Especially when it’s clear from the start they have nothing in common…
Brody’s a rugged yet polished and punctual businessman. Harmony’s a sassy, down-to-earth artist who makes her own hours. He likes kids, she doesn’t even want a pet. Still, when circumstances conspire to throw them together in Tessa’s warm kitchen every evening, the heat between them begins to simmer. Is there a future for two such opposites? Harmony’s not sure, but the more time she spends with Brody, the easier it is to cast him in the role of her romantic hero—and to wonder if love might be the perfect exception to every one of her rules…
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A Mill Pond Romance
By Judi Lynn
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Judi Lynn
All rights reserved.
Harmony Meyer listened to the pleasing male voice on her GPS. She was getting close to Lakeview Stables, Ian and Tessa's resort. Fields blanketed with snow spread out on both sides of the highway, the banks close to two feet high, but the road was plowed and decent to travel. The weather had been mild all through December, but once January shook its wintry head, the snow had started. At least she didn't have to fight ice, or she'd have stayed home rather than risk life and limb.
At a stop sign in the middle of nowhere, she noticed two horses in a fenced-in pasture. One of them looked satiny and honey-colored. The other had brown spots on white, just like her neighbor's rat terrier back home in New York. Mist billowed from the horses' nostrils, and Harmony smiled when they turned to race to a nearby barn. A man crossed a driveway toward the big, red building. Their owner? Her thoughts wandered until the sharp sound of a horn jerked her gaze behind her. A forbidding, dark SUV with tinted windows lurked close to her bumper. Damn, when did he get there?
With a casual wave to the driver behind her, Harmony returned her attention to the road and followed the route her nice GPS man told her. She frowned when the black SUV took every turn she did. Should she be concerned? What if the driver was a serial killer who followed innocent, young women on Indiana back roads to scare them half to death? She snickered. She was far from innocent. Besides, she'd taken a self-defense class and carried pepper spray. Too bad for him.
When she turned into the wide lane that led to the main lodge, the big, black beast of an SUV did the same. The hairs prickled on the back of her neck. What were the odds two people would arrive at a nearly deserted resort at the same time on the same day? It was the middle of January, the resort's dead time. Her friend, Tessa Lawrence, had guaranteed she'd mostly have the place to herself. She parked near the front door and hurried toward its entrance. Before she could reach it, Tessa stepped outside to greet her.
"Harmony!" Tessa's tangle of copper hair glowed in the sunlight. Her lips curved in a smile. A tall, gorgeous man with black hair and a lean build stood beside her. Must be the new hubby.
Harmony looked him over and gave a low laugh. Scrumptious. She shook her head at her friend. "No wonder you ditched your single days."
Tessa made the introductions. "Harmony, my husband, Ian. Ian, my writer buddy, Harmony. We always go to the same writers' conferences and room together. Then we stay over a few days for sightseeing."
Ian grinned. Major heartthrob. "So, you're the one who writes about witches and werewolves. Tess says you write romances like hers, but scarier."
"And a hell of a lot sexier." Harmony gave Tessa a considering look. "But that might change now that she's married."
A car door slammed and Ian turned his gaze to the dark SUV. A hulk of a man — maybe a body builder — carting two heavy suitcases with ease, walked toward them. Ian grinned. "Brody!"
Tessa opened her arms to greet him. "Harmony, this is Ian's big brother. He owns a construction company, but since business is slow this time of year, he came to help Ian divide the west wing of the inn into four more rooms."
Brody's hair was as dark as his brother's, but his eyes were a cool, smoky-gray instead of warm brown, and his build bulged with muscle. Intimidating.
She straightened her shoulders. No one would intimidate her ever again. Brody studied her quickly and dismissed her. Must not like blondes with blue eyes ... and attitude.
Harmony raised her chin. To each his own. Probably just as well, though. She didn't come here to flirt. If she didn't write like a mad woman, she'd miss her deadline. Unthinkable. She'd work twenty-four hours a day if she had to.
Damn the landlord of her building. He'd taken it into his head to get rid of the old boiler and redo the entire heating system. In January. Go figure. Lots of dust and noise. Not conducive to concentrating and letting her subconscious untangle plot lines. She tried going to a coffee house to work on her laptop, but she was too nosey, got distracted by watching people come and go. So Tessa had suggested she come here. For free. Tessa wrote during the winter months, too. They'd eat together every night and yak like they did at conferences. How could Harmony refuse?
Brody shrugged broad shoulders. "You guys can make small talk out here in the cold if you want to, but I'd rather go inside where it's warm." He stalked away.
Ian turned to her. "Sorry. I should have offered to get your bags while you and Tess wait in the lobby. I'll be there soon." He stretched out his hand for her keys and strode toward her Jeep. His boots crunched on the salted drive.
Harmony stopped to admire the lodge — a flagstone house with white trim and a red tin roof. It stood three stories high in the center with a wing off each end and red double doors in its center. "No wonder Ian loved this place the minute he saw it."
A golf course stretched to the east of the parking lot, and stables and paddocks to the west. The lake lay in back with log cabins dotted along the east shore.
Tessa glowed with pride. "Sam, the previous owner, kept the exterior in great shape, but nothing had been done inside for over a decade. It needed lots of work. We're pretty proud of how it turned out." She led Harmony into the warm, comfortable lobby with gleaming maple floors and high, beamed ceilings.
Harmony glanced upward with a grin. "No bats?" Tessa had told her the story of Ian and his nocturnal visitor.
Tessa laughed and shook her head. "Only the one, and that was enough." She pointed to hooks along the inside wall. "If you want to leave your coat here, you can. Then it's handy."
Brody had dropped his suitcases on the floor near the front desk, tossed his wool coat on a hook, and sat on one of the plush, brown leather sofas in front of the fireplace. He stretched his long legs before him. His gaze fastened on Tessa and he smiled. "How's life with my brother?"
She went to perch on a forest-green chair across from him and motioned for Harmony to take the seat next to hers. "I still kinda like the guy."
Brody laughed. "That's good. The family signed you up for life. We don't take returns."
When Ian draped his jacket over the back of the couch and sat next to his brother, Harmony had a chance to study them more thoroughly. Both men would turn heads. Tall and dark-haired, they exuded maleness.
Ian motioned toward her suitcases. "When you're ready, I'll show you to your room. I put you on the top floor, far enough from our project that we shouldn't disturb you."
Brody turned his attention on her again. "I noticed your license plate. You're from New York?"
She nodded. "The Finger Lakes region. That's why I drive a Jeep. Winters can get serious there."
"I live near Ithaca, too."
She frowned. How odd that they'd both traveled to the same spot in Indiana from the same area in New York. Fate? Nah. No stars were stupid enough to throw her and Brody together. He already made her nervous, he was so intense.
The dark brow rose again. "If Ian had told me you were coming here, I could have offered you a ride." He sounded as appalled by the idea as she felt. She grinned. He could have, but it wouldn't have happened.
She gave her head a quick shake and crossed her fingers. "I'm staying a month until my apartment building's finished. You probably won't be here that long."
He stared. "Actually, I am. Ian's project is going to take a while. This is the only time I can help him. I go to our parents' place for Christmas and the holidays, and then business picks up in March."
She didn't hide her lack of enthusiasm that well. Why should she? He wasn't exactly doing somersaults about enduring her company. "We probably won't see that much of each other. I'll be at my laptop all day."
Tessa beamed at the two of them. "Actually, you two will be coming to our house for supper most nights. That way, we'll get to spend some time with you."
Harmony's shoulders sagged; Brody's stiffened.
Oh, goodie! She stifled her sarcasm. If only she were as nice as Tessa. She'd make an effort. She'd be the epitome of charm. They'd eat together, then Ian would drag Brody off to talk about guy things, and she and Tessa would cozy up somewhere to yak. Harmony was fully capable of civilized behavior when the need arose.
The front door opened and a woman with two children interrupted their conversation. Harmony stared, surprised. The woman had dyed black hair pulled up in a clip, a nose ring, and more tattoos than Harmony could count. She looked out of place in this rustic setting.
"Hi, I'm Paula, Ian's cook."
Before Harmony could respond, the little girl — maybe five, with black hair like her mother's — ran straight to her and wrapped her in a hug. "You look just like Princess Elsa in Frozen."
"Frozen?" Harmony blinked.
Paula laughed. "You must not hit kids' Disney movies. Bailey's in love with all things about Arendelle and the two princesses."
Bailey plopped on Harmony's lap and said, "This is so cool! You look like Elsa and Tessa looks like Merida from Brave."
Harmony made a mental note to look up both of the movies on her laptop. Merida must have wild, red hair if she looked like Tessa.
"Move it, kid!" Paula motioned for her daughter to scoot toward their apartment in the inn's east wing. Harmony had heard a lot about Paula and her kids from Tessa — all good. When Paula's son, maybe ten, got close to Harmony, he stopped to look her up and down, too.
"Do you like kids?" he asked.
Oh, lord, what was she getting herself into at this resort? She gave him a level stare. "Why? You aren't going to put a toad in my coffee cup, are you?"
His eyes went wide, surprised by her answer. "Mom would ground me."
Harmony smiled. "Then we'll get along great."
"Mom says you write books. You must like them."
Okay, she hadn't seen that coming. "I have a few favorites."
"Would you read to us?"
"My books?" Her voice rose. Her vampires tended to be a bit horny, not good reading material for kids.
She pursed her lips, considering. She'd never cracked one of those books. Probably missed out on a cultural milestone. "What time? I have to hit my page quotas every day before I do anything." But after she wrote for five or six hours, her brain went to hell. She was lucky if she could think of two-syllable words. A break would be good for her.
"Before supper?" He narrowed his eyes, waiting for her answer.
She'd be shot by then, brain dead. "Hell, why not?"
The boy smiled. "I'm Aiden. The book has long chapters."
"Tough luck. I can give you thirty to forty minutes. I have a short attention span." Especially when it came to kids. Harmony looked at Paula. "Is that all right with you?"
Paula's grin widened. Mimicking her, she said, "Hell, why not?"
Ian laughed. "I have a feeling you guys are going to get along fine."
"Just come up and knock on my door when you're ready," Harmony said. "That will help keep me on a schedule. When I start writing, I lose track of time."
Paula herded her kids to their apartment, and Harmony let out a sigh. She turned to see Brody studying her once again. She grimaced. "I know. I probably shouldn't cuss in front of kids."
"You made that kid a promise. You're going to keep it, right?" His voice sounded flinty, judgmental.
Harmony struggled with her temper, but didn't tamp it down completely. She gave him a look, her voice equally sharp. "I don't make promises I don't keep ... to anyone. Why do you think I came here? I'm trying to keep my promise to my editor and get my damned book to him on time."
He raised his eyebrows. "You should have red hair like Tessa. It sounds like you have a temper."
"It's different. Blondes only hiss when we're provoked."
"If you say so. The blondes I've met are frivolous."
"Then you meet the wrong ones," she snapped.
A smile tugged at his lips. "I'll have to remedy that."
Oh, crap. What had she done?CHAPTER 2
Ian carried Harmony's bags to the third floor and opened the door to her room. "Tessa insisted you have this one because she said it was your favorite color."
Harmony raised a hand to her lips. The room took her breath away. "It's beautiful." The walls were painted a soft apricot and the gleaming wood floors were dotted with braided rugs. A mini-fridge nestled under a small counter with a coffee pot. White curtains framed a wide window that looked out over the lake at the back of the property. Right now, a layer of ice covered it. In the distance, she could see small specks of people ice fishing. A desk sat before the window, and two overstuffed chairs in the corner invited settling in with a book. A fluffy, white bedspread was made even cozier with a peach-colored throw angled over the footboard.
Ian grinned. "I'm glad you like it. Tessa thought you'd want to get settled. Brody will drive you to our house for dinner at six."
"He's staying in the inn? Tessa said he was staying at your house."
"We invited him to. He didn't think that was right when Tessa invited you and you were staying here."
"Does he always do what he thinks is right? He never bends the rules, even to spend more time with you guys?"
Ian laughed. "Brody's the oldest kid of our brood. I have two older sisters, Bridget and Maeve. I was the baby. Brody felt it was his duty to keep us in line."
"The authoritarian. I get it."
"We made his life hell." Ian turned to leave. "Tessa said to tell you that she made gumbo. Said that was guaranteed to get you there on time."
Harmony licked her lips. "One of my favorites. Tessa and I were on panels together at a romance conference in New Orleans. I came away craving Creole, Cajun, and all things spicy."
When Ian left, she reached for the case that held her laptop. She could put her clothes away later, but while she had an hour or two and her mind was fresh, she could slip in a little writing time. She kicked off her shoes and wiggled her stockinged feet. Time to get comfortable and settle in.
She'd written the book's hook and the first six chapters, but hadn't taken the time to edit them. She'd introduced Serifina, the witch protagonist, and her future romantic interest, Luxar — a vampire. They'd each been fighting an unknown enemy in their city. The reader knew that they both battled Torrid, a powerful vampire with ruthless ambition, and soon, they'd collide to work together to save Portside.
She was wading through rewrites when a knock on her door interrupted her. She glanced at the clock. Holy shit. Five thirty. She pushed the save button on her computer and went to see who was there. Aiden wouldn't show up for story time the first day she got here, would he?
Brody glowered down at her. "Looks like Tessa was right and you got lost in your writing world. She phoned and asked me to check on you."
He made it sound like an accusation. She shrugged. "It's what I do. I don't usually stop until my stomach growls. I'm not used to a schedule."
"But you do try to be considerate of friends and hostesses?"
This guy could be a real dick. She crossed her arms. "I had my phone alarm set for five forty."
She barely got the words out when the alarm went off. "Oh, baby, baby, my baby, baby" sang through the room.
Brody raised his eyebrows. "Whatever gets your attention."
She ground her teeth, then frowned at him. "You cleaned up." He still wore his worn, comfortable jeans, but he'd changed into a button-down shirt and sweater. He'd be yummy if he weren't such a sourpuss.
He looked her up and down. "I guess I didn't need to bother." She hadn't changed out of her driving clothes — faded jeans with a few rips in the right thigh area and a baggy sweater. Her hair was still pulled back in a low ponytail.
"I didn't know gumbo meant a formal dinner." She yanked at the scrunchie that held her hair, letting loose waves cascade past her shoulders.
Brody stared, then shook his head. "No matter. Shall we? It's time to go." In the lobby, he waited for her to shrug into her winter coat and then walked with her to his SUV. She wasn't short, but the step-up to get into the passenger seat was more exertion than she was used to. He gave a grim smile, enjoying her effort. He'd be surprised to know how much she walked back home. She was in good shape, whether he thought so or not, damn the man!
Excerpted from Opposites Distract by Judi Lynn. Copyright © 2016 Judi Lynn. 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.
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