After nine years of marriage, Erica McCrery fears she's losing her husband. After Kyle's father died and the couple left their affluent lifestyle in Florida to take over the family business in Wisconsin, there has been a tension between them. The nights are as passion-filled as ever, but in the light of day, their relationship no longer seems to work.
For richer, for poorer...
Kyle works long hours, keeps Erica in the dark about financial matters and doesn't seem to believe that she actually enjoys helping out in the woodworking shop. Erica is desperate to spend some time alone with her husband so they can work through their problems, but the situation becomes even more complicated when an old friend, notorious playboy Morgan Shane, invites himself for an extended visit...
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Dressed in a threadbare T-shirt and paint-spattered cutoffs, Erica McCrery blew a strand of strawberry-blond hair from her eyes and rocked back on her heels to survey her project. The oak roll-top desk was an absolutely delicious prize, intricately scrolled and radiating four generations of character
but restoring it was giving her fits. A previous owner had covered the fine oak with a dark mahogany stain, which the customer wanted removeda job that was not easy.
Finally, she had discovered the right stripping agent, and now she took up the cloth again, her concentration total. The day was still hot; the late afternoon May sun dappling a diamond pattern on the back of her kerchiefed head. Her long legs, coiled under her, were gradually beginning to ache from their cramped position. There was a splotch of stain on her turned-up nose and another on her chin, and her slim hands were covered with it.
"Erica? What's for dinner?"
"Ice water," she said absently. "Fresh-baked air and an extremely nutritious casserole of nothing " She turned to the doorway with an impish grin for her husband.
Kyle chuckled. "You know I hate leftovers." Leaning against the doorway with one arm, he used the other to wipe a thin film of perspiration from his forehead. Then, hands on hips, he surveyed first Erica and then her project, with suddenly narrowed eyes. His smile abruptly faded. "What have you taken on now, lady?"
"Just a little desk. It won't take me long."
As he stalked forward, his eyebrows rose expressively at the discrepancy between her definition of little and the massive desk that had taken four men to bring in.
"It's a beauty, isn't it?" Erica insisted.
He nodded, but there was no answering smile, and while he studied her project, she studied him. After six months, Erica was still trying to get used to Kyle in a different working uniform. She used to think that nothing could accent his black-Irish good looks more than a suit and starched shirt. With thick black curly hair and a pair of flashing turquoise eyes, Kyle had projected drive and assurance in business attire, an aura of strength and controlled power tempered with a sense of humor. He had a more casual look now, in his dark, loose sweatshirt, jeans so worn and soft that they molded themselves to his muscular thighs and hips. But the soft texture of his clothes was denied by the new hardness she saw beneath the surface, from the lean, whipcord muscles that had developed with six months of physical work to the grimly determined expression that had replaced the old gleam of laughter in his eyes.
"Honey " He rocked down on his heels next to her. "Oak's a bitch to restore, isn't it?"
She smiled again, radiantly, relieved there would be no argument. "Incredible. But the desk is so gorgeous! There are two secret drawers and a little hidden cubbyhole"
She glanced back at him, only to find a white rag blocking her vision as he gently rubbed at the stain on her nose. His tender touch was a total denial of the harsh quality of his voice.
"You've taken on too much."
"I haven't," she denied.
"You have. We haven't had a decent dinner in three days; you're running exhausted every evening; and it would be different if I couldn't handle the business, Ericabut I know why you're doing it and it's completely unnecessary. If you want to do something, do what you did in Florida. You liked that historical society"
"No more of it," he said flatly.