A spoiled social media disaster butts heads with a small town closeted B&B owner in Felice Stevens’ new slow burning romance, and I have an excerpt for you.
Blinking awake, he found Bryce pressed to his side, eyes wild, clutching his arm, not in a passionate embrace, but from sheer terror. “Wha—”
“Don’t move.” Hard fingers dug into his arm. “Snake,” Bryce croaked out. “Help me.” He shook with fear and burrowed his face into Matty’s neck.
Over in the corner of the blanket, a long brown snake with yellow stripes lay across Bryce’s bare ankles. Beady eyes stared back at him while a small tongue darted in and out.
“Bryce. It’s okay.”
“N-no. It’s not. It’s going to bite me, and I’m going to die.”
“Shh. It’s okay. I’ll take care of it. But you have to let go of me.” Was it wrong of him to enjoy Bryce’s chest pressed up against him even though the man was shaking with fear?
“I don’t want you to get bitten.”
His arm was going numb, so Matty slipped out of his grasp. “I’ll be okay. You’ll see. Watch.”
He wriggled away from Bryce’s side and circled the blanket, peering at the ground until he found what he was searching for. With careful steps, he approached the snake from the rear, and with a quick flick of his wrist, slid the broken-off tree branch under its belly and flipped it up and off Bryce.
“Ahh, get me out of here.” Moving faster than anyone he’d ever seen, Bryce sprang off the blanket and ran to the shelter of trees. “Where did it go?” As if expecting the snake to jump on him, Bryce climbed into the hammock and clutched the sides.
“I’m sure it’s in the bushes now. It’s gone.”
“I can’t believe a snake was on me.” He shuddered. “You’re so brave. It could’ve bitten you. Thanks for risking your life.”
Much as he’d love to have Bryce continue to puff him up, Matty also wanted to set Bryce at ease. “It was a harmless garter snake. They might bite if threatened, but there’s no poison or anything like that.”
“Still…” Bryce gazed around, doubt written all over his face. “I need a full-body scrub after that. I can still feel its cold, slimy body on my ankles. This is way too much nature for me. Would you mind if we went back to the house? I’m not in the mood to explore anymore.”
Disappointed but not surprised, Matty tossed the branch aside. “Nope. It’s fine. I’ve got things to do anyway.” He sat on the blanket, rolled down his jeans, and put on his socks and sneakers. There was no use trying to explain to Bryce that the snake wasn’t a threat and they could continue on. “I’ll walk you to the house so you don’t lose your way.”
Bryce slid his fingers through that sun-streaked mop of hair. “Thanks. You must think I’m an idiot, but I grew up in the city. I never had a dog or a cat, and the most nature I’ve ever seen was at the zoo.”
“That’s a shame. I hope you won’t let this keep you from enjoying the rest of your time here.”
Matty gathered their things, and they started toward the house.
When they rounded the path and the wide veranda of the B and B came into view, Bryce huffed out a sigh. “Is it funny that I’m incredibly relieved to see the house, considering I didn’t know it existed until two days ago?”
The flowers Matty planted every year as a tribute to his mother bloomed brightly, a riot of color, and his heart squeezed tight. “My mother used to say that if you couldn’t find happiness here, it didn’t exist.”
“Except for the snakes.”
Matty chuckled. “Okay, except for the snakes.”
“I think maybe your mother was right.” Bryce grinned, and Matty couldn’t help returning the smile.