Authors: Shelley Munro
A huge thank you to Holly Atkinson, my intrepid editor. She helps me smooth all the rough edges and make my stories shine. I’d also like to thank the Samhain Publishing staff who work behind the scene to get my books to readers. Your efforts are much appreciated.
And last, but not least, to my own hero, Paul. Thanks so much for encouraging me to follow my dreams.
Do not screw up this speed date.
This is your chance to find love. A husband. Everything you want for the future.
“No pressure,” Susan Webb whispered as she navigated the gravel path alongside the grapevines and went
onto the freshly mown grass. Immediately, the heels of her black-and-red sandals sank halfway to China.
The cameraman following her snickered and kept filming while her arms windmilled wildly to maintain her balance. Thank goodness she’d donned a pair of sexy black briefs this morning. The thought raced through her mind as she teetered on the brink of flashing her bottom to the viewers of
Farmer Wants a Wife
“Here, let me help,” a husky voice said.
A muscular forearm curved around her waist, the man’s strength holding her upright. A hit of citrus and leather engulfed her while heat massed in her cheeks.
Slowly, Susan turned her head to study her savior. She recognized his chiseled features immediately. Her chosen farmer—Nolan Penrith—and he was even hotter in the flesh. His light brown sun-streaked hair was neatly trimmed but still flirted with the collar of his cream shirt. He wore jeans and a brown leather jacket. Her gaze skirted down past his hips, lingered on the bulge at his groin and moved lower until her stare hit his brown boots. A soft chuckle dragged her attention northward to meet a crooked smile and brown eyes full of amusement.
“Ah, sorry,” she said, fervently wishing she could have a do-over. She’d ogled his junk, for goodness sake, right after almost flashing the reality show viewers. Time to fix this situation. She
to create the right impression. Her future depended on her actions today. “I’m not usually this clumsy.”
“No problem,” he said. “Let’s get you safely to the meeting spot so we can have a chat.”
Susan nodded, embarrassment quashing her ability to format further sentences. Luckily, her mind was still in working order. She grasped one of his arms and attempted to jerk her right foot free, preferably with her sandal still in place so she didn’t wobble like an undignified stork.
“That’s not the way,” he said, a laugh in his voice, and he tugged her back then scooped her up into his arms, striding away and leaving her sandals embedded in the lawn.
Susan became aware of the breeze at her butt and started to struggle.
No, no, no!
This was not happening.
“Don’t worry, I won’t drop you. A little thing like you doesn’t weigh more than a bale of hay.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Susan said, the chill on her backside confirming her fears.
A bark of laughter escaped the cameraman. Susan froze. She was gonna commit murder—if she didn’t die of mortification first. She glared over Nolan’s shoulder at the man, but all she could see was the blink of light on the side of the camera that indicated everything—including her butt—was being faithfully recorded.
Nolan set her on her feet, and she instantly flicked the back of her red dress down over her panties.
. Sorry about that, darlin’,” Nolan said. “Would you like something to drink?” He gestured to a jug of water and another of juice.
Heck, yeah! A margarita would be good about now.
“W-water will be f-fine.” At least it would be something to do with her hands. Nolan had apologized, so she couldn’t hit him. The cameraman, however, was riding a shaky line.
Aware of the camera, she resisted the urge to snap out an insult or roll the cool glass across her cheeks to dispel her embarrassment. Instead, she took a quick sip and fought to regain her equilibrium.
She needed to flirt, needed to speak intelligently, needed to show herself to best advantage.
She needed to excel.
Nolan helped himself to a glass of juice and gestured to the tartan blanket, spread on the ground not far from the table holding the refreshments.
Susan crouched and placed her glass within easy reach, then she gingerly knelt and curled her legs to the side, taking great care not to flash her panties. Again.
Nolan dropped to the blanket with casual ease. “So you’re looking for a husband?”
Straight away, her hackles rose and an indignant retort sped to her lips. In her peripheral vision, she noted the cameraman shift positions to get another angle for his shot. She bit back her grumpiness and strove for a witty comeback, something to wow.
“A-are you l-looking for a wife?”
Better, but what was with the stuttering?
She didn’t usually stammer. She managed to shape her lips into something resembling a smile. Her friends would see the jagged edges, but it was her best effort when all she could think of was her bottom broadcast on national television.
“It appears so.”
The weird inflection in his tone tugged at her curiosity, and she opened her mouth to ask a question.
Before she could speak, he said, “I’m Nolan, which I’m sure you already know, and you, according to my list, are Susan. Tell me a little about yourself. I believe you work in an office? What do you do in your spare time?”
Oh, heck. Minefield alert.
She hesitated, frantically wondering how to break the news of her career change. “I’m r-really excited to be here, N-Nolan, and it’s great to meet you. Um…I…ah…like to dance. I go out with my f-friends to clubs and r-r-rugby matches. Sometimes we go shopping or to m-movies.” Her heart hammered like the beat in a fast dance, and she caught her bottom lip between her teeth before releasing it to force her features into a happy, confident mask.
“Not many shops out in the country.”
“No, I don’t suppose there are.” Her fixed smile wobbled and tried to slink away to hide. Was he trying to sabotage her? Had he taken an instant dislike to her?
If they were destined to be together, he needed to know she possessed a steel rod of determination in her spine. She added a touch of sweetness to her smile and hoped she didn’t look like a caricature. “The internet works well for shopping. You can buy just about anything online these days from farm equipment to dresses.”
Yay! No stuttering this time
His brown eyes glazed over and he sipped his orange juice.
Heck, she was losing him.
“Do you enjoy your job?” he asked. “If we hit it off with each other, would you miss not working?”
“I don’t work in an office anymore,” Susan blurted.
“Oh?” His dark brows rose to emphasize his surprise. “You gave up your job? You must be very certain of your future.”
“No, I have a new job. One of my friends owns a club, and I work for her now.”
“What sort of club?”
Susan’s heart skipped several beats, leaving her breathless, definitely anxious. “What qualities do you want in a wife?”
“One who answers questions. What sort of club?”
“A burlesque club,” she said in a low voice, mortified heat blooming fiery-hot again in her cheeks. She shot a glance at the camera, saw the man zoom in on her face, recording every bit of the unfolding drama.
“You like to dance.” It sounded like an accusation.
He was judging her, reading between the lines and making mistakes with his edition of the facts.
Susan gave a clipped nod, unhappily aware of the camera. She didn’t intend to lie. That was no way to start a relationship. So she was going to crash at the first interview. Didn’t matter. She’d done her best, and if she was bowing out of the reality show straight away, she might as well give
a shout out and gain some exposure.
“I work at
, a burlesque club on K’ Road in Auckland,” Susan said. “I take care of the accounts and wages and dance on stage several nights a week.”
“You’re a stripper,” Nolan said, eyes narrowing into disparaging slits.
“You need to educate yourself about burlesque.” Susan kept an even tone, refusing to stoop to his level. “Burlesque is not the same as stripping.”
“But you do perform on stage.”
“Yes, and I’m rather good at it.
is a very busy place.” Nothing less than the truth, and even she heard her shimmering pride.
Nolan stared, and his intense gaze ricocheted through her body, frisking every pleasure point during the journey. A pity he’d set himself up as judge of her morals when he held so much sex appeal.
“I wonder if you’d find the countryside a little quiet,” he said. “We don’t have shops or movie theatres or clubs.”
“I’m open to trying new things,” Susan countered. “I’ve never lived in the country, but I’m sure I’ll keep myself amused.”
“What do you envision your wife doing?” Susan made a concerted effort to control the combative note in her voice. “Will she help you on the farm or stay home and bake cookies?”
Nolan flashed a wide grin, and her breath caught at the flash of dimples. A smile took him from handsome to plain stunning. He kept grinning instead of answering her questions, making for a long camera silence.
Susan rolled her eyes, feeling immeasurably older, even though he was two years her senior. “Well?”
“The other girls have flirted with me and fluttered their eyelashes. A couple of the women gave me good views of their best assets.” His gaze dropped to her chest. Tiny wrinkles fanned from the corners of his eyes in another display of humor.
“I flashed my butt at the viewing audience.” Susan shot a glare at the cameraman. “I think I’ve shown more than my fair share of assets.”
“I didn’t see,” he pointed out.
“Not my fault.”
“You have two more minutes,” the cameraman said.
“What do you expect from a wife?” Susan asked again.
“I want a woman who attracts me sexually, someone who enjoys sex. I’d expect my wife to work alongside me, taking an active part in running the farm and socializing within the community. I want someone to share my life. In return, I’ll do my best to make my wife happy too.”
His words were unexpected and warmed her heart. A partner. He wanted someone to stand alongside him.
Be still my heart
. That was exactly what she wanted from a man—someone to share both good times and bad.
“I want a man who is attractive and attentive, one who will treat me as an equal and share life in all its different facets. Our needs are similar.”
He scratched his chin, the faint abrasion of fingertip and the beginnings of stubble a rasp in the expectant pause. “Maybe.”
“Time,” the cameraman said.
Nolan unfolded his long limbs and stood before extending his hand. “I’ll carry you to the gravel.”
“No, it’s fine,” she said hastily. “I’ll go barefoot.” She slid her hand free and offered him a dazzling smile. “Thank you for chatting with me. It was nice to meet you.”
“Don’t I get a goodbye kiss?”
“Sure. Why not?” At least she could tell her friends she’d scored a kiss from a sexy farmer. She lifted her head, expecting a quick, polite peck on the mouth.
Instead, he framed her face with his hands, holding her firmly. He grinned as he lowered his lips. Her heartbeat stalled on seeing his intent. Then he was kissing her, slowly. Thoroughly. Not exactly the kiss for a first meeting, but she guessed the circumstances warranted different. His scent wrapped through her senses, and her knees went weak, only his strength holding her upright.
The loud interruption came from behind Susan.
Nolan pulled back and grinned over her shoulder. “Yeah, I know. Time for the next prospective wife.” He glanced down at her, his expression softening and brushed his fingers over her cheek. “Beneath the quick mind and sass, you’re very sensual. I like it.”
He released her hand and stepped back, leaving her reeling. Only the chuckle of the cameraman—his face once again concealed by his camera—jerked back her composure.