By: Eden Summers

Chapter 1

Erin McDonald poured sweet chilli sauce into the large bowl of honey, garlic, soy sauce and lemon juice. She’d made enough marinade to cover the stack of pork ribs for the Renshaws’ family barbecue this afternoon. Across the stainless steel counter her sister Karen chopped the vegetables for the summer salad, both of them working in comfortable silence to get the job done.

The jingle of the bell over the front door broke the quiet.

With her back to the shopfront, Erin glanced up at her sister whose gaze was fixed over Erin’s shoulder. “This one’s for you,” Karen said with a sly smile.

“Can’t you help them?” Erin huffed. She needed to finish the marinade so the meat had time to soak.

“Nope,” Karen made eye contact and grinned. “This customer is definitely for you.”

With a sigh, Erin pasted on a smile and peered over her shoulder, prepared to politely ask the person to wait while she washed her hands.

Oh. Hell. No.

Her friendly expression vanished and her mouth gaped. Jesse Hackett stood just inside the front door, looking smug, self-assured and more handsome than she remembered. His blond hair was cropped close to his head, shorter than the lengths she used to grip when they made love all those years ago. His dark brown eyes surveyed her body with blatant interest and she tried to do the same to him, only she was more discreet.

He was in better shape than his high school football days–muscled arms, a firm chest which stretched his tan polo shirt, strong thighs encased in black cargo shorts and broad, protective shoulders that reminded her of all the times she’d been cradled in their embrace.

Wow. After years dealing with the loss of him moving five hours away to Sydney in search of something better than the farming lifestyle, she would’ve thought her body would no longer hum on his frequency. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be the case. Erin turned her back on the man who left town years ago, breaking her heart into a thousand irreparable pieces and fixed her pleading gaze on her sister. “Get rid of him.”

Karen’s smile widened. “Umm… I think I need to get more eggs from the store,” she spoke loud enough for Jesse to hear.

“What?” Erin hissed under her breath, “We don’t need eggs. Don’t you dare leave me.”

Karen placed her knife on the chopping board and dusted her hands, preparing to go through with her threat.

Glancing over her shoulder, Erin gave Jesse a fake smile. “Excuse us for a moment.” She yanked off her waist apron, threw it on the prep table and stalked around the heavy stainless steel to grab her sister’s wrist. “We need to talk,” she growled and tugged Karen toward the storage room.

Once they were inside, Erin flicked on the light, slid the door shut and glared at her sister. “Do not, for one second, think I won’t tell Mark Devener that you named your vibrator after him if you leave me here with Jesse.”

    Karen’s eyes widened and her mouth gaped momentarily before she schooled her expression and raised her chin. “Fine. I’ll get rid of him, if that’s what you want.” She raised a brow and placed her hand on the door handle, waiting for Erin’s reaction.


Her chest throbbed, knowing it would be robbed of its moment with Jesse. She’d convinced herself she never wanted to see him again. Now it was too late. He was here, his cheeky grin and glinting brown irises intoxicating her from the moment she laid eyes on him.

Damn it.

She couldn’t hide in the storage closet and let Karen shoo him away. No, this was her chance to prove how strong she’d become. To test if her heart truly was the impenetrable stone she’d turned it into.

Placing a hand on Karen’s forearm, she let out a huff. “I hate you,” she mumbled, sliding open the door and pushing past her sister.

Jesse stood still near the entrance, his gaze hitting her head on, rooting her in place. Her blood pounded in appreciation and she diverted her gaze to the ground. What the hell had she been thinking? Her heart would always be vulnerable around this man.

“I’ll be back in twenty.” Karen manoeuvred around her, bumping into her shoulder and kicking her out of her thoughts. “I might get a coffee while I’m out and if you’re lucky I’ll bring you back a chocolate éclair.” Karen untied her apron and threw it on the prep table.