He’d always managed to best her…
Jodi Chapman will do whatever it takes to get top care for her autistic son. If that means going home and convincing local farmers to sell their land, so be it. Even if her biggest opponent, childhood rival Daniel Gleason, is equally determined to convince farmers to buy into his co-op plan. And he’s not playing fair.
Facing off against Daniel is the last thing Jodi wants. The attraction that’s always fueled their competitiveness is as strong as ever and just as distracting. But with both their futures on the line, and years of distrust between them, how can they ever be on the same side?
The sliding doors opened with a hiss and they stepped out into the cool, midmorning drizzle. Daniel breathed in the smell of exhaust and couldn’t wait to get home, away from all this concrete. He needed to strategize. Regroup and think about how he’d handle this new, unflappable Jodi.
She raised an eyebrow and gave him a measured look. “Where are you parked?” Her stroller’s plastic wheels swerved along the parking lot’s asphalt.
So she was letting his accusation go, her self-possession unnerving him. Gone was the girl whose passion had once swept him away from his everyday life, her white-hot temper later imploding it. How things had changed. At least the temporary cease-fire meant he could find out her plans. Stop them before she put them in place. For that matter, the drive home might soften her up with a tour down memory lane.
“I’ve got a ground-level spot,” he said, raising his voice so it’d be heard over a plane’s roar.
“Great. The sooner Tyler gets his nap the better.”
“Are you working right away or having some R & R first? I’ll show you some of the old sights.”
“I have to check in with my boss, then I plan to—” She stopped and shoved wet, frizzing hair from her face. “Why am I telling you this?” Her eyes roamed over him, mystified. Suddenly she looked like the girl he’d known years ago, the one who’d once worn her heart on her sleeve and had captured his.
“Because we used to be friends, Jodi Lynn.”
“Friends?” She snorted and shook off the water collecting on the stroller’s canopy. “And don’t call me Jodi Lynn.”
“Would you prefer ‘ma’am’? Is that what country folks are supposed to say when a city girl comes to town?”
“Knock it off, Daniel.” She nudged him, and the warmth of her bare shoulder through his thin shirt nearly burned.
“That’s Mr. Gleason to you,” he joked to hide the response her touch ignited. Careful, he warned himself.
Jodi shot him a level look, then picked up speed when her son started to kick again, his voice sounding like a teakettle about to boil. No wonder. Daniel would scream, too, if he was strapped in when he could walk instead. Parking lots were unpredictable, but with a firm hand and a sharp eye the little guy could have had his freedom.
“So why are you here instead of one of my aunt’s neighbors?” she asked once they halted beside his muddy blue pickup. The misting rain had only streaked the dirt.
“We’re all neighbors, and neighbors help each other.” He tossed her expensive-looking suitcases into the open bed, an echoing thunk sounding when plastic met metal. “In case you forgot.”
“I haven’t. I’m helping my old hometown get a fair deal that will improve their lives.” She spoke without looking up at him, her movements practiced and efficient as she swept up her thrashing son and secured him in the child seat she’d detached from the stroller, buckling him into the center of the truck’s continuous front seat.
“If you want something, use your words, Tyler,” she told her son.
The boy screamed and pounded his fists against the dashboard, but Jodi slid in beside him, looking as if it was any other day. And for her, maybe it was.
Daniel felt his resistance weaken until he caught himself. Her “fair deal” would only benefit Midland, not her former community. They’d either have to abandon their land or become corporate drones, working for a Midland paycheck. No. Jodi was the enemy. No matter that she made him remember good times he’d rather forget.
If he couldn’t convince her that this was personal, not business, remind her of the good times she’d had here and the people she’d cared about, then he needed her gone before she wrecked havoc on his home and his heart.
She’d done the latter the last time she’d left town. He’d be a fool to let her do it again. He wouldn’t let himself, or his town, fall for Jodi Lynn Chapman.
Karen Rock has adored romance since receiving Harlequin Presents books from her grandmother each summer. She formed her Young Adult writing partnership, J.K. Rock- pseudonym for the CAMP BOYFRIEND series, with her sister-in-law and Blaze author, Joanne Rock in 2011. When Karen heard of a call for submissions to Heartwarming, Harlequin’s latest line, she was inspired by the possibilities of writing unforgettable, deeply romantic, tender love stories that mothers would feel comfortable sharing with their daughters. When she’s not writing, Karen loves scouring estate sales for vintage books, cooking her grandmother’s family recipes, hiking the ‘high peaks’, and redesigning her gardens. She lives in the Adirondack Mountain region with her husband, daughter, and two Cavalier King cocker spaniels who have yet to understand the concept of “fetch” though they know a lot about love.
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