Read An Excerpt

THE APPLE ORCHARD
by Susan Wiggs

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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“Someone is here to see you,” Brooks announced from behind her, gesturing at a lone figure in the foyer.

Shoot, he was early.

Tess turned to look at her visitor. He stood backlit by a floor-to-ceiling window, his form outlined by the soft, foggy light from outside. His features were in shadow; she could only make out his silhouette—broad shoulders, a well-cut suit, imposing height, definitely over six feet.

He stepped into the light, and she caught her breath. He was that good-looking. Unfortunately, the startled gasp made her inhale the powdered sugar from the donut between her teeth, and an enormous sneeze erupted. The donut flew out of her mouth, dusting her clothes and the carpet at her feet with a sprinkling of white.

Both Brooks and Mr. Sheffield hurried to her aid, setting aside the hot coffee before it could do more damage, patting her on the back.

“She’ll be all right,” Brooks assured their visitor. “Unfortunately, this is normal for Tess. She takes multitasking to the extreme, and, as you can see, it’s not working out so well for her.”

“I’m fine,” she assured them, sending a warning glare at Brooks.

With an excess of fussiness, Brooks covered the donut with a paper towel as if it were a dead mouse, carefully scooped it up and deposited it in the trash. She tried to act as composed as possible as she faced the stranger. “My apologies,” she said with as much dignity as she could muster. “I’m Tess Delaney. How do you do, Mr. Sheffield?” He didn’t look anything like his profile picture on the company website. Not even close.

“I’m Dominic. Dominic Rossi.” He held out his hand. He had a slow smile, she noticed. Slow and devastating.

Tess had to regroup as she took in the man before her. “I was expecting someone else.”

Brooks stepped in and wiped the remaining powdered sugar off her fingers before she shook the man’s hand.

“Mr. Sheffield just called,” said Brooks. “He’s running late and pushed the meeting back an hour.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Rossi.” Tess tried to hide her sinking disappointment that this amazing-looking person was not her employer.

“Call me Dominic, please.” He had the kind of deep, sonorous voice that drew attention, even though he spoke in low tones. Tess could practically feel everyone within earshot tuning in to eavesdrop.

“All right, then,” she said. “Dominic.” Of course his name would be Dominic. It meant “gift from God.” Aka a life-support system for an ego. Still, that didn’t mean he wasn’t fun to stare at. Dominic Rossi looked like a dream, the kind of dream no woman in her right mind would want to wake from.

She had always been susceptible to male beauty, ever since the age of ten, when her mother had taken her to see Michelangelo’s David in Florence. She recalled staring at that huge stone behemoth, all lithe muscles and gorgeous symmetry, indifferent about his nudity, his member inspiring a dozen questions her mother brushed aside.

Now, with utmost reluctance, she folded her arms across her chest, walling herself off from the charms of Mr. Tall, Dark and Devastating. “So…how can I help you?”

“Shall I send out for more coffee?” asked Brooks. “Or maybe just disaster cleanup?”

“Very funny.”