Claudia Burgoa has a swoony new frenemies to lovers romance out this week, and I have a little sneak peek for you.
When I pull up to the address, however, there’s a large sign out front that reads “Harris Orchard.” My shoulders slump in frustration and confusion. Where is my grandmother’s house? Did my father send me on some kind of wild goose chase? I’m beginning to think this won’t be as straightforward as I’d hoped.
I follow the signs and park in the visitor area, then head into the small gift shop.
“Good afternoon. Welcome to Harris Orchard,” a cheery female voice calls out. “I’ll be right with you.”
A moment later, a young woman in her early twenties with funky purple hair and colorful tattoos covering her arms bounces up to greet me.
“Hi there, I was wondering …” I glance around with uncertainty. “Do you happen to know where McFolley’s farm is located?”
She tilts her head, brow furrowing. “McFolley’s? I don’t know that place, sorry.”
I sigh. “My dad said it was around here somewhere.”
“I wouldn’t know.” She gives an apologetic shrug. “I’m sorta new around the area and just started working here a few weeks ago. I’m going to college in the next town over, but I’m originally from Nebraska.”
I nod, pressing my lips together anxiously. “You’re a bit far east,” I try to joke, not showing my disappointment. I was really hoping someone local would be able to point me in the right direction.
“Yeah, I’m a little far from home,” she confirms with an easy laugh. “But it’s such a small town, I don’t miss my family too much.”
She glances around the shop. “Can I interest you in some fresh cider or maple candy? We’ve also got t-shirts and other souvenirs.” She gestures to the wall displaying an array of logo merchandise.
“Maybe on my way out, after I’ve finished my … business,” I reply evasively, sighing.
“I wish Mr. Harris were here, he would be able to help you.” She taps her chin in thought. “Actually, he might be in the brewery. Let me send him a message.”
She pulls out her phone, fingers flying across the screen. After a few moments, she says, “Yep, he’s back there. Just head over to the next building and slide the door open. He’ll probably know where you’re trying to go. You’re sure it’s not the Harris farm that you’re looking for?”
“Positive,” I confirm with a nod.
I follow her directions to the brewery building. As I approach, a tall, ruggedly handsome guy with broad shoulders and muscular arms comes through the door. His tight t-shirt clings to his chiseled chest and ripples with each movement, showing off his gym-honed physique. His five o’clock shadow accentuates a strong, square jawline that could cut glass. A baseball cap sits casually atop his thick dark hair.
“Oh, what a pleasant surprise,” he says with a heart-melting grin, his deep, velvety voice sending shivers down my spine.
I freeze, eyes widening. “Excuse me?”
Then it hits me—I’m pretty sure this Greek god of a man is the charming guy I met in Boston. The bar guy with the panty-dropping smile who heard all about my pathetic week and my grandmother. But I could be mistaken though, right?
“Um, I know you, don’t I?” I ask hesitantly, taking an instinctive step back.
“I thought we agreed you’d be heading west and leaving your poor grandmother alone,” he says in an accusatory tone.
I scratch the back of my neck awkwardly. “So … how much did I tell you when we met at the bar on Saturday?”
“Enough to know that Genie doesn’t need you barging in here,” he replies sternly.
“Genie?” I ask, furrowing my brows in confusion. “Her name is Eugenia.”
“We, the people who actually care about her, call her Genie. You should go back home and leave her in peace.”
I shake my head. “Somehow I remember you being nicer that night …” I trail off, unsure how to finish that sentence.
“Well, I would be, if you weren’t here to take advantage of your grandmother,” he retorts.
I hold up my phone defensively. “According to my dad, her farm is supposed to be here. But this is Harris Orchard. Know anything about that?”
“Plenty,” he says vaguely with a careless shrug.
I roll my eyes in frustration. “Do you know another word that’s not plenty?”
“Probably,” he replies sarcastically.
“Listen,” I explain, holding my hands up placatingly, “I just came here to meet my grandmother and maybe understand why her son turned out the way he did. After that, I’ll be on my way.”
He crosses his arms over his broad chest. “What if she doesn’t want to talk to you?”
I mirror his stance defensively. “Is that why she didn’t answer when I went to her house earlier?”
He cocks an eyebrow. “How do you know where she lives?”
“Knightly at the bed and breakfast gave me the address,” I say, meeting his scrutinizing gaze.
He drags a hand down his face with a groan. “Of course she told you. That’s my sister for you.”
“Your sister?” I ask in surprise.
“Yeah, Knightly Miller is my sister,” he grumbles.
I consider this new information. “Well, if you’re so protective of my grandmother, she can’t be as bad as my dad. Otherwise, you wouldn’t care so much.”
He narrows his eyes. “How would you know?”
“You seem like the kind of guy who fights for what’s right,” I reply evenly.
“Can I strongly suggest you leave town?” he asks pointedly, jaw clenched.
I cross my arms. “As soon as I speak to my grandmother, I’ll be gone.”