Dedicated kindergarten teacher Erin MacDonald isn’t the type to make the first move on a man—especially gorgeous David McCay, her secret crush. But when a crisis involving one of her pupils offers a chance to help the pro baseballer turned local brewery owner, Erin goes way out of her comfort zone. So way out she makes a shocking suggestion!
David moved to the Colorado mountain town to look after his sister and her son. Now he’s a stand-in parent to his nephew, trying to fight his attraction to Erin…who just propositioned him. David is nobody’s hero. So why can’t he convince the sweet, kindhearted beauty that she deserves better than him? Is it because they’re the perfect imperfect match?
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“Stop staring at the hottie brewmaster’s butt.”
Erin MacDonald choked on the gulp of strawberry daiquiri she’d just swallowed. “I’m not staring at anyone’s butt,” she said as she grabbed a wad of napkins and dabbed at her chin and shirtfront. “And don’t talk so loud.”
Melody Cross, one of the second-grade teachers at Crimson Elementary, snorted. “It’s a crowded bar on a busy Thursday night. No one can hear me.”
But Melody had the kind of booming voice that could quiet a room full of squirming eight-year-olds the afternoon before summer break. The tall table they stood at was a good five feet from the bar, but Erin swore she saw the man’s broad shoulders stiffen.
“Want me to take a picture of him?” Suzie Vitale, her fellow kindergarten teacher, offered with a tipsy smile. “It lasts longer.”
Before Erin could stop her, the curvy blonde aimed her phone at the backside of the gorgeous guy who not only worked the bar but also owned Elevation Brewery. The brewpub had opened a little over a year ago and had become a popular hangout for both locals and tourists in the quaint mountain town of Crimson, Colorado.
Erin had noticed David McCay, the brewery’s owner, the first time she’d stepped into the nouveau rustic—and very on-trend for Colorado—space. He was tall and lean, with dark blond hair that curled around the collars of the flannel shirts he favored. David McCay was as handsome as a movie star and built like he spent endless hours tossing huge sacks of barley—or whatever it was beer brewers did.
Erin, who was built like she spent her days sitting cross-legged on a reading rug, had surreptitiously watched him each time she came into the bar with friends or coworkers for a random happy hour or birthday celebration. He was often tending bar or sometimes she’d spot him coming out from the back, wearing the heavy rubber boots and backward ball cap that she’d quickly learned were his uniform when actually brewing beer.
Colorado was known for its craft brews, and the fact that Elevation had made a name for itself so quickly was a testament to his hard work and talent at running a business.
At least that’s what Erin wanted to believe. Her mother liked to remind Erin that she too often assumed the best about people, which allowed them to regularly take advantage of her.
But David McCay hadn’t taken advantage of her, even though it was the stuff of her fantasies. Even though his nephew, Rhett, was now in her kindergarten class and David had been with the boy and his mother for back-to-school night. Erin had barely been able to put a sentence together with David towering over the other adults in the back of her classroom, but he hadn’t bothered to acknowledge her. Heck, it was doubtful he even knew she existed.
Except when she blinked and looked up, he was staring straight at her. Sparks of awareness flamed through her body, setting every inch of her skin on fire. He lifted one thick brow as if he could read her thoughts. Which might be impossible since it felt like all of her brain cells had spontaneously combusted under the weight of his stare.
She heard Melody giggle behind her, and Suzie gave her a little shove forward. David now stood at the edge of the bar, only a short distance from her, with movement all around him. Customers in groups laughed and talked. A waitress set her tray on the rich wood bar top. A group of women at near the edge of the bar vied for his attention. But his focus remained on Erin.
Then something—someone—suddenly blocked her vision. Cole Bennett, Crimson’s recently elected sheriff, was talking to David. Cole was also tall and broad, and to use one of her mom’s favorite expressions, made a better door than a window.
Erin shifted to the right as she overheard Cole mention Rhett, David’s nephew. David’s gaze hardened and his jaw clenched. Unable to stop herself, she moved forward, sidestepping a couple heading toward the back of the bar and a group of twentysomething guys who looked like they’d just come off a hiking trail, until she stood directly behind the sheriff.
She was five feet four inches tall in the clogs she favored for work, so both men towered over her and were completely unaware she was listening to their conversation. Invisibility was Erin’s unintentional superpower. She knew much more than she should about her coworkers and neighbors, simply because people didn’t notice she was there.
“Rhett is safe,” Cole told David. “But they can’t get him to come out.”
“What the hell was Jenna thinking?” David asked, then scrubbed a hand over his jaw. “No, don’t answer that.”
“She’s in trouble, David. The crowd she’s running with—”
“I’ll handle it.” He pulled a set of keys out of one of the pockets in his tan cargo pants. “I just need to tell Tracie I’m leaving for the night. I’ll be over for Rhett.”
“I have to call Social Services,” Cole said softly, and Erin felt the tension ratchet up a notch.
“Give me some time with him first, okay?”
“I’ll handle it,” David repeated. He moved behind the bar and spoke to the woman filling two pint glasses from the tap.
The sheriff walked out of the bar, patrons instinctively clearing a path for him although he wasn’t in uniform tonight.
When she looked up, David McCay stood toe-to-toe with her. She realized she’d moved forward to block his path from behind the bar.
In her daydreams, she’d compared his eyes to the brilliant summer sky above the ragged peak of Crimson Mountain or the iridescent cobalt of a tropical lagoon. But now his frosty stare was more like the ice blue of a glacier, so cold a shiver passed through her.
“I don’t have time for this, sweetheart. You and your friends are going to have to play your liquid courage bar games with someone else.”
“It’s not a game,” Erin said.
“Darlin’, you ordered a froofy drink in my bar. It’s either a game or a joke.”
This close to David, the heat and frustration radiating off him made her feel different from the woman she knew herself to be. She was aware of her body in a way that was new and exhilarating. She wanted more. She wanted…something she couldn’t name. Still, the promise of it made her weak with longing.
Also braver than she’d ever been. Or maybe crazy was a better word, because when he moved to step around her, she placed a hand on his arm.
“I can help with your nephew.”
Michelle Major grew up in Ohio but dreamed of living in the mountains. Soon after graduating with a degree in Journalism, she pointed her car west and settled in Colorado. Her life and house are filled with one great husband, two beautiful kids, a few furry pets and several well-behaved reptiles. She’s grateful to have found her passion writing stories with happy endings. Michelle loves to hear from her readers at www.michellemajor.com.