Title THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU
Author Claire Marti
Genre Contemporary Romance
A perfectionistic equine vet. A gorgeous fireman. An unrequited high school crush blazes hot twelve years later.
Reliable Amanda McNeill’s world toppled last summer when Hollywood invaded her family’s horse breeding ranch. Everyone’s moving onward and upward, but she’s in a massive rut. Weary of her label as the dependable older sister, she yearns to throw predictability to the wind and embrace spontaneity. She can be impulsive, even wild, and a hot fling with Jake Cruz might be the sizzle she needs to jumpstart her life.
When firefighter Jake Cruz rescues a dog from a hit-and-run, the nearest vet is none other than his high school tutor, Amanda McNeill. Face to face with his former crush, he finds her to be even more beautiful than he remembers, and her charming blushes and heated glances tell him she notices him this time around. While Jake longs to discover if this Amanda matches the girl who starred in his adolescent fantasies, his desire to become fire captain, and earn his family's pride, requires he focus on work, not passion.
Could his dream woman become his real love or will his professional ambitions extinguish their chances? Once the smoke clears, will Amanda realize Jake isn’t a fling but her hero after all?
A white horse poked her head out of one of the stalls and Amanda immediately stroked her forehead. “Hi, sweet Bianca.”
The mare preened under Amanda’s attention and Jake smiled, observing her obvious bond with her horse. How would it feel to have those long, slender hands stroking him––he stiffened. No, he needed to get to know her before weaving fantasies around those elegant fingers. He swallowed a snort, like he hadn’t been fantasizing about her since he was fifteen.
Amanda was inches away from him, with her beachy scent and sexy body. Would she feel as sweet as she looked? Desperately trying to resist the urge to span her narrow waist in his hands and pull her back against him, he forced himself to gaze down at the dog.
Stoic. Quiet. Self-disciplined.
Three of his top qualities had deserted him, overpowered by her proximity. “Are you bringing your horse out?” There, that was a reasonable question, right?
“Not right now. Then she’d think we were riding. Stella seems fine here in the stables, so that’s great.” Amanda turned, her eyes widened and her pupils dilated, but she didn’t step back from him. All he needed to do was lean down and he could capture her tempting pink mouth with his. Their gazes remained locked and her lips parted.
He shoved his hands into his pockets so he didn’t reach for her. “How do you think fostering is going?”
Amanda laughed. “I know how it goes. We fall in love and that’s the end of the discussion.”
Fall in love? Jake’s chest tightened and he retreated a step. He’d never been in love. Could someone so perfect like Amanda ever fall in love with someone like him?
Oh, she had to be talking about falling for Stella.
He forced a short laugh. “Yeah, that’s how we ended up with my family dog. I found him too and that was the end of the story.”
“So, you’re a rescuer too. Makes sense with your job. You’re a good guy, Jake.” She placed one cool hand on his forearm.
His skin burned where her hand had brushed against him. Damn. “I just like animals, that’s all.”
On the walk back to the house, Jake struggled to act nonchalant. She did seem to genuinely like him and the way her eyes had dilated when she’d looked at him? He wasn’t imagining the chemistry.
Still, it felt premature to ask her out on a date. He’d wait until the next time they got together with the dog.
Somehow fate, in the form of Stella, had brought Amanda McNeill back into his life and he wouldn’t screw it up by acting like an overeager teenager. Like when he’d brought her flowers in high school.
This time around he was a man, not a shy little boy.
Claire Marti started writing stories as soon as she was old enough to pick up pencil and paper. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BA in English Literature, Claire was sidetracked by other careers, including practicing law, selling software for legal publishers, and managing a non-profit animal rescue for a Hollywood actress.
Finally, Claire followed her heart and now focuses on two of her true passions: writing romance and teaching yoga.
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