Who can we count on? The family we’re born into, or the one we create for ourselves?
Renowned chef Laina Ming walked away from the culinary spotlight and an unhealthy relationship—one that still haunts her a year later. She’s trying to start fresh in the Rocky Mountains, opening a concept restaurant on the banks of the Roaring Fork River, where she hopes she’ll be able to express her passion for food and bury her heartache.
Horse rancher Logan Matthews moved to Aspen to be near his sister and her husband, grateful for his newfound family. Since a chance meeting with Laina the previous summer, Logan’s been enchanted. But she doesn’t want anything to do with him—which makes her all the more appealing.
Despite Laina’s efforts to protect her heart, Logan has been on her mind, too—and he has a way of turning up in the most unexpected places. Can they learn to trust one another and finally find the sense of belonging they’ve both been searching for?
Laina turned to fix herself a vodka and soda, and as she was squeezing a lemon wedge she felt someone ease up next to her. She knew who it was before she turned to face him.
“You know, you really should open a restaurant. That was some dinner you served up tonight.” Logan smiled at her, that same cheeky look he’d given her during the ceremony. “Just a shame you weren’t out here to enjoy it with us.”
He reached around her to grab the bottle of vodka to make himself a drink, brushing up against her ever so slightly in the process. The effect was as if someone had run a feather across her bare neck and shoulders, and Laina involuntarily shivered at the intrusion of her personal space.
Logan noticed her stiffen, and he stifled a smile. “Sorry, I just figured I’d need something a little stronger if I was going to get up the courage to ask you to dance. I mean, a guy can only handle so much rejection from one person, so go easy on me if the answer is no.”
He’d added ice cubes and a splash of Pellegrino to the vodka in his glass while he spoke, and now he was stirring his drink and trying to gauge her response to his offer while he did so. This was the closest he’d been to her in weeks, so he took the opportunity to study her while he awaited her answer.
Logan felt that, with her flawless skin and jet-black hair, Laina was the most exotic woman he’d ever laid eyes on. Her last name spoke of an Asian heritage, but he knew from a quick Google search that she had Italian roots too. He didn’t think she looked like she belonged to either ethnicity. No, she was definitely one of a kind. She studied him curiously with eyes that were somewhere between brown and green. He couldn’t decide which.
“Here you are. I knew you’d try to wriggle away when I turned my back.” Van had sidled up next to Laina, sliding his left arm around her waist protectively. He reached for a sip of her drink before handing it back to her with a wink.
Laina watched in amusement as Logan’s face fell just for a moment before he regained his composure. Van wasn’t through with him yet. “Who’s this, Laina?” He looked squarely at Logan. “Friend of the bride or groom?”
Logan steeled himself with a sip of his drink before extending his right hand in greeting. “Logan Matthews. I’m a friend to both actually, but I’m also the brother of the bride. And you are . . . ?”
Logan knew exactly who this man was. Chef Donovan Laird had been the talk of his dinner table, at least among the ladies, but Logan wasn’t going to give the man the pleasure of divulging that awareness. He’d heard his sister and India giggling about the handsome Scot and pondering whether there was anything going on between him and their mysterious girlfriend.
Apparently, there was.
Van just laughed, extending his own hand to meet Logan’s. “I’m Van. Nice to meet you. Your sister and brother-in-law are good people.”
Van turned his attention back to Laina. “Now, you promised me a dance, lass, and a dance we’ll have.”
He nodded at Logan, who mumbled something unintelligible as Van ushered Laina out toward the pulsating mob of revelers. They hit the dance floor in time for a song that Laina loved, so they jumped right in.
Laina leaned forward to shout over the music into Van’s ear. “You enjoyed that, didn’t you?” She pulled back to watch the grin bloom across Van’s handsome face, and there was her answer.
He moved closer to respond. “I predicted that coming a mile away. I’ve seen the way he looks at you, and I know you’ve been doing your best to get him to bugger off since last summer. So I thought I’d help drive the point home.”
They laughed together, enjoying the freedom of cutting loose after such a long and stressful night of cooking. From all outward appearances, anyone would have thought they were a couple, thanks to their comfortable way with each other.
Logan was still watching from the edge of the dance floor, wondering how he’d read her so wrong. He knew Laina had been doing her best to avoid him, but he also thought he’d felt chemistry when she’d caught him staring at her during the ceremony.
He hadn’t been able to help himself.