Can’t Stop Loving You by Miranda Liasson. Contemporary Romance published December 6, 2016 by Montlake Romance. ISBN: 1503941531
Then, just before Bella’s thirtieth birthday, her first love, Roman Spikonos, returns to Mirror Lake. When he moves next door to her family’s garden-center business to run his grandparents’ orchard, it stirs up gossip—and a tempest of passions—just in time for pumpkin harvest. As Roman and Bella once again get caught up in a swirl of desire and heartache, not to mention her overprotective father’s fury, Mirror Lake will soon find out whether the Italian hometown beauty and her unforgettable Greek god can stand a second chance.
Just then, she saw a man walking toward her from across the square. She looked the other way, pretending to be fascinated by a couple of little kids kicking up leaves. Because she’d know that sweeping, confident gait, that straight-as-a-cornstalk carriage, those big, strong shoulders anywhere. And the way her limbs were going weak, the way her heart had catapulted into her stomach like a basketball and her breaths were coming raggedly, her body knew it, too. All that told her that the man striding quickly toward her was no surfer guy. It was Roman.
She glanced up to find him standing there, wearing jeans and a black sweater. Looking like sin, as usual.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said, trying to sound disappointed, but she couldn’t help smiling a little. “I’m expecting my big, burly, blond Swedish date.” When she showed him the photo on her phone, his response was an emphatic grunt.
He sat next to her on the bench, his leg grazing hers unapologetically. He smelled like woodsy cologne and shaving cream, and it was making her giddy. Like he’d just had a shower and was going out for the night. Maybe he was. An image of him on a date with some gorgeous woman floated through her mind. Him laughing and sipping wine with someone and caressing her hand across the table.
She pushed back that image. It made her uncomfortable. Sad. It was only a matter of time before he met someone. He was too good looking, too funny, too chivalrous. Too everything.
His leg touched hers again, but he didn’t say anything, like excuse me or oops. It seemed . . . intentional. Yet he sat there, focused on watching the sun sink over those gorgeous trees, that New England autumn post-card view . . .
She couldn’t take it anymore. She moved away into her own personal space. “Oh, for the love of God, what are you doing here?”
He sat up a little straighter. Eyeballed her in a way that confused her . . . he seemed hesitant, very unlike him, who usually said what he meant and didn’t play games. Finally he spoke. “Your date’s not showing tonight.”
“Oh.” Great. Apparently she was being stood up based on appearance only, since Jess had told her she’d e-mailed him a photo. That was confidence inspiring. And worse was that Roman knew she was being stood up. Not only knew but came bearing the news. Wait a minute . . . She stopped in the middle of gathering up her purse. “How do you know that?”
He leaned forward on the bench, resting his elbows on his legs, tapping his fingers together. “Trust me, he’s not your type.”
“You interfered with my date? How could you? I thought we talked about this.”
Roman sighed heavily. He turned toward her and spoke. “Your date’s not showing because he doesn’t exist.”
Her heart skipped a beat. Or two. “Did you annihilate him?”
“No, I made him up. I gave Jess a stock photo to show you.”
“To play a joke on me?” Why would he do that? Her throat felt lumpy. Through everything, she thought at least they were friends. “That is the lowest—”
He grabbed her by the shoulders. “Bella,” he said and shook her a little. “Look at me.”
She did, through narrowed eyes. When she saw his face, all the fight whooshed right out of her, like a balloon let loose before it’s tied. There was something different about him tonight. A graveness. The way he looked at her was just different, like he was not joking or being sarcastic. In fact, he looked dead serious, those big brown eyes staring right at her, those long, lovely lashes looking sinfully angelic on such a gorgeous hunk of man.
“I did it because I want to be your date for tonight.” She must have still looked confused, because he said, “I knew you’d never agree to it the regular way.”
All Bella’s critical body parts were humming. She was filled with elation, with hope. Maybe it was wine or desperation or the upcoming birthday, she didn’t know. But she had the distinct feeling she was about to do something reckless, and like it. A lot.