Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Valentine Quest (Love at the Chocolate Shop Book 5) by Melissa McClone


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Keep your competition close…and your heart even closer.

When Nevada Parker travels to Marietta, Montana, she anticipates enough peace and quiet to finish her PhD dissertation. Cupidville turns out to be anything but quiet. In fact, it looks like Valentine’s Day—her least favorite holiday—exploded all over the small town.

Among the sea of red hearts, “Be Mine” signs, and pink, pink, pink, Nevada spots a flyer for a multi-day race called The Valentine Quest. The grand prize—a luxury tropical vacation—would be the perfect welcome-home gift for her brother who’s leaving the military.

Dustin Decker sure could use a break from giving city slickers sleigh rides. Even with a bum knee from his bull-riding days, the race’s grand prize is as good as his—until he realizes he needs a partner if he wants to win.

As she stood in the chocolate shop, tingles shot from Nevada’s chest to her toes. She swallowed. “Hi.”
She had no idea who the man was, but he was gorgeous. Not in the classical pretty-boy sense, but his ruggedly handsome face could easily grace the pages of a magazine or the big screen. The cut of his coat accentuated wide shoulders. The rest of him tapered to denim-covered legs and cowboy boots.
Maybe the appeal of the cowboy in popular culture had some merit after all.
His grin widened. “Doesn’t look like falling affected you.”
Her lips parted. No wonder his voice sounded familiar. He’d been the one to help her up. A good thing she hadn’t been able to see him or she might have fallen back on her bottom after she stood.
No. I’m fine.” She removed his bandanna from her pocket and held it out to him. “Thanks for your help.”
He hesitated, but then took the red cloth.
When did you fall?” Concern filled Dakota’s voice.
On my way here. Nothing to worry about.” Nevada patted the side of her hip where she knew it wasn’t sore. “I have enough padding to keep from hurting myself.”
Her bottom still stung, but no one needed to know that. Especially him.
The man took a step back. “I’d say you have just the right amount.”
Heat crept up her neck.
Not only sexy, but he was also charming.
She opened her mouth to speak, but her tongue felt like it had gained twenty pounds. A good thing she wasn’t interested in dating or she might be tempted to give this cowboy a second look.
Okay, not really, and not only because he’d never be attracted to a woman like her. Dating was on her “Don’t Do” list. But something about him made her feel gooey inside. A way she wasn’t used to feeling.
Grinning, Dakota shook her head. “This is my sister, Nevada. She’s in town for a few months.”
His gaze traveled from her sister to Nevada. “You’re both named after states?”
She nodded. “Our brother York was named after New York.”
That’s an interesting way to name kids.” The man, whose name she didn’t know, oozed charm and sex appeal. “Were the three of you named after the places you were born or conceived?”
None of us were born in our respective states,” Dakota answered much to Nevada’s relief. “We don’t know about the other part, but our brother thinks so.”
Heat pooled in Nevada’s cheeks. This was not the conversation she wanted to have with a handsome stranger. Especially one who made her want to fan herself and order frozen hot chocolate to cool off. “I never got your name.”
Excuse my manners,” he said politely. “I’m Dustin Decker.”
Nevada silently repeated his name. “Nice alliteration.”
Lines creased his forehead. “Huh?”
Oh, no. Her throat closed. She shouldn’t have said that.
This wasn’t a university setting. Most people didn’t talk about literary devices in their everyday conversations. She wanted to blame it on the class she was teaching, but this was how her brain worked and why people thought she was weird.
Bookworm. Grammar geek. English nerd. Word freak.
She’d been called them all and, truth was, each one fit.
She wasn’t like everyone else. Never had been.
But she didn’t want to call attention to her not fitting in any more than she had to.
Time for a change of subject. “Are you from Marietta?”

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