Cover of the new book "Love Me Tender"

Love Me Tender

 

Excerpt from Love Me Tender

Chapter 1

At five-thirty A.M., Dave Cousins eased open his daughter’s door to check that all was well. Eleven-year-old Robin didn’t stir from what he’d be willing to bet was a horsy dream. Merlin, their black poodle, raised his head from where he lay curled on the rug beside the bed. At Dave’s silent gesture, his head went back down. Robin would take the dog out once she rose. Until then, it was Merlin’s job to guard her while Dave, the owner of the Wild Rose Inn, went downstairs to do some work.

He cast one more loving glance at her face, so sweet and relaxed in sleep, and the tumbled chestnut hair that by day was always pony-tailed. He sure did like the days Robin stayed with him, rather than with Jessie and Evan. His ex-wife and her new husband lived outside town, surrounded by horses. In many ways, they had so much more to offer Robin. So far, luckily, that fact didn’t seem to trouble the girl. Dave loved her to pieces, and she seemed to reciprocate.

When Robin wasn’t around, his life, no matter how busy, felt empty. Lonely.

If Anita hadn’t died, things would be so different.

The thought brought a surge of pain, anger, guilt, and desolation, that nasty thundercloud of emotions. He swallowed against the ache that choked his throat, and forced back the feelings.

This was why he tried not to think of the fiancée who had been the love of his life.

Briskly he walked to the door of the two-bedroom owner’s suite on the top floor of the Wild Rose and pulled on his cowboy boots, then let himself out. As he ran down the four flights of stairs, he was already looking forward to returning in a couple of hours to have breakfast with Robin.

When he entered the lobby, lit by early morning sun, the Wild Rose worked her—he always thought of the inn as “her”—magic on him, and he felt a sense of peace and satisfaction. He had rescued a lovely but ramshackle historic building that was destined for destruction and restored her, creating a haven for travelers and a gathering place for locals.

The décor featured rustic yet comfortable Western furniture accented with photographs and antiques honoring Caribou Crossing’s gold rush history. Behind the front desk, Sam, the retired RCMP officer who handled the inn overnight, frowned into space through his horn-rims.

“Morning,” Dave greeted him. “Words not flowing?” Sam was writing a mystery novel and it came in fits and starts.

“Got distracted.” Sam scratched his balding head. “By the woman in twenty-two.”

“Someone who checked in last night?” Twenty-two had been one of only three empty rooms at the beginning of the man’s shift. “I take it she’s pretty?” Sam had never married and had an eye for the ladies, which translated into a rough charm that suited the Wild Rose’s ambience.

“For sure. Once she got some color back in her cheeks.” Sam paused, a born storyteller confident that he’d hooked his audience.

“Go on.”

The night manager leaned forward, his pale gray eyes bright even after a night awake. “It’s past eleven when she staggers into the lobby. Mid- to late twenties, slim build, some Latina blood. Jeans and a top that’s too light for the nights this time of year.” June in Caribou Crossing featured warm, sunny days but the temperature cooled when the sun went down.

“Staggers?” Pale and staggering; that didn’t sound good.

“Those white cheeks of hers, they weren’t just from the cold. It’s more like she’s done in, on her last legs. She stumbles across to the desk, backpack weighing her down. I get up to go take her pack, but before I reach her, what does she up and do?” His shaggy gray eyebrows lifted.

“What does she up and do?”

“Faints dead away.”

Dave frowned, worried. “Did you call nine-one-one?”

The storyteller was probably incapable of giving a simple yes-or-no answer. “I bend down, make sure she has a pulse, and by then she’s stirring. So I whip into the bar and fetch a shot of rye. The Caribou Crossing Single Barrel. Figure if our hometown drink doesn’t fix her up, I’ll call for help.”

Dave didn’t know whether to groan or grin. “Did she drink it?”

“I wave it under the gal’s nose, and she snorts and jumps back like a horse when it sees a snake. She sits up, grabs the glass, downs it in one swallow, and says, ‘Damn, that’s good.’ ”

Surprised and relieved, Dave laughed and Sam joined in.

“I did offer to call a doc,” Sam assured him, “but she says no, she’s just exhausted and hungry. Been hitchhiking all day, up from Vancouver, hasn’t had much to eat. Says she came in to ask if there’s a hostel in town. That whisky put some color back in her cheeks and she’s trying to be all bright and cheery. But under all that, she looks like a nag that’s been rode hard and put up wet. I tell her she’ll stay here; she starts to argue; I tell her I won’t take no guff. Give her a key, carry her pack up to twenty-two, then I heat up some beef stew and biscuits from the kitchen and take it up.” He shrugged. “After that, I don’t hear another peep out of her.”

“Hmm.” Dave glanced at the ceiling, still concerned. “I’d feel better if a doctor had taken a look at her.” A few of the doctors had an arrangement through an answering service: one was always on call, and they made house calls.

“She said she wasn’t going to waste a doctor’s time. The gal was pretty damned firm about it.” He gave his balding head a shake. “Put me in mind of old Ms. Haldenby. You know?”

The retired schoolteacher was a fine—and intimidating—woman who definitely knew her own mind. “There’s no arguing with someone like that,” Dave agreed. “It sounds like you did all you could. Good work, Sam.”

“See if you still say that when I tell you I didn’t get a credit card or even a name. Figured it could wait till she was feeling better.”

“Yeah. Even if she skips, it’s no big loss.” Dave was more worried about the woman’s health. But Sam was a smart, observant guy. If he’d thought their visitor really was sick, he’d have overridden her objections, as he had when he’d given her a room.

“Anyhow,” Sam said, “the damned woman took my mind right out of my book. Got me thinking about her story, and I bet it’s a good one.”

Dave rolled his eyes. “You and your overactive imagination. She’s a hitchhiker who didn’t have the sense to rest when she needed to. She’ll be up and on the road, hopefully paying her bill before she goes.”

* * *

Around eleven, Dave was at the front desk relieving Deepta, the receptionist who worked week days from six-thirty to two-thirty. He was trying to book opera tickets in Vancouver for guests who were heading there tomorrow, but the online system kept glitching. Frustrated, he took a deep breath, unsnapped the cuffs of his Western shirt and rolled them up his forearms, and gave the system another go. It stalled again.

“Hi there,” a cheerful female voice said. “Anywhere around here I can get a good capooch?”

He looked up and his eyes widened in appreciation. This had to be the guest in twenty-two, and yeah, she sure was pretty. Medium height, slim, nice curves shown off by shorts and a purple tank worn over something that had pink straps. He saw the Latina in her olive-toned skin and the shiny black hair cut in a short, elfin cap. Her black-lashed eyes were blue-gray and sparkling, matching her white smile. She was the picture of health, he was relieved to see.

And that smile was irresistible. He smiled back. “That translate to cappuccino?”

Humor warmed her eyes. “What else?”

“Thought maybe you were talking about some weird mixed-breed dog,” he drawled.

Her burble of laughter was musical and infectious. “No, it’s caffeine I need right now.” She yawned widely without covering her mouth.

It should have been unattractive but he had trouble imagining that anything this woman did would be unattractive. Something stirred inside him, a warm ripple through his blood. “Caffeine does come in handy now and then.”

“A double-shot capooch sure would.” She stuck a hand out. “I’m Cassidy. Cassidy Esperanza.”

With guests, he aimed for the personal touch, so he came out from behind the desk and extended his hand. “Dave Cousins.”

He spotted a tattoo on the cap of her right shoulder: a Canada goose flying across the moon. Striking, almost haunting.

Cassidy’s hand was like the rest of her: light brown, slender, attractive. Her shake was full of vitality. He shook a lot of hands in the course of a day, but this one felt particularly good in his—and now the ripple in his veins was a tingle of awareness. No, more than awareness; he was aware of lots of appealing women. This was attraction.

His heart—the part of it that could fall in love—had died three years ago. His body hadn’t, but he had zero desire to follow up on any hormonal stirrings.

So why was it so difficult to free his hand from his guest’s? “Best coffee in town’s right here.” A couple of the coffee shops did a fine job too, but for some reason he wanted to keep Cassidy Esperanza at the Wild Rose. “Good food too, if you’re hungry.”

“Cool.” She gave another of those huge yawns, stretched her arms up, and raked her fingers through that cap of hair, ruffling it. Normally, he preferred long hair on women, but the pixie cap suited Cassidy’s slightly exotic face.

“I’m awake,” she said with a quick laugh, eyes dancing as she studied his face. “I swear I am. Got a good sleep too. Don’t know why I’m yawning.” Her face sobered. “Before I do anything, I need to have a talk with the manager.”

“Let me guess, you’re twenty-two.”

“Twenty-two?” She shook her head slightly, looking confused. “No, I’m twenty-seven. What a weird question.”

“Sorry, I mean room twenty-two. The woman who came in last night and . . .” He paused, curious to see what she’d say.

“Did a face plant?” She raised her brows ruefully. “You heard about that? Yeah, that’s me. Totally embarrassing. But the guy on the desk was great. Only problem is . . .” She pressed her full, pink lips together, then released them. “Can I confide in you? Maybe you can give me some advice.”

He dragged his gaze from her lips. “Uh, sure.”

“The nice guy gave me a room last night, and food, but the thing is, I don’t have the money to pay. I came in to get warm and see if someone could point me toward a hostel, and next thing I knew I was on the floor and this guy was”—she broke off and grinned with the memory—“waking me up with a whiff of whisky. Which tasted delicious, and I guess I owe for that too, now that I think of it.”

“Look—”

“No, I realize I owe for the room and everything, and this is a classy place so it won’t be cheap. But the thing is, I’m pretty much broke.”

Oh, great.

He opened his mouth, but she rushed on again. “I swear I won’t cut out on you. I was going to look for a job in Caribou Crossing anyway, and as soon as I get one and have some money, I’ll pay up. But it might take a few days and I’d sure understand if the manager was mad. So if you could give me any tips on how to deal with him, I’d really appreciate it.”

As best he could tell, she was sincere. “Tell him the truth. And you did. I’m the owner of the Wild Rose.”

“Oh! My gosh, I didn’t realize. Wow. You don’t look old enough.”

He’d heard that before. “Just turned thirty.”

She studied him again, lips curving. “Gotta love a hotel where the owner wears jeans and cowboy boots.”

“It’s part of our ambience.”

She glanced around the lobby. “Yeah, it’s kind of a cool blend of Old West and Santa Fe. That room—twenty-two—is awesome. That four-poster canopy bed with all the ruffles and flounces, the stool to climb up into it. I worried when I saw the chamber pot, but then I realized it was for decoration and there was a real bathroom. Claw-foot tub and all.”

Canopy bed. Claw-foot tub. Slim, vibrant, sexy Cassidy. Physical stirrings below the belt had him giving a mental head-shake. He would never fool around with an inn guest. In the past three years, he’d pretty much figured he’d never fool around again. If he wanted female companionship, he had platonic friends. Casual sex wasn’t his thing, and love wasn’t going to happen. Anita had been the love of his life. His heart belonged to her, and always would.

And there he went, thinking of her again. The familiar sense of desolation threatened, but somehow the grin Cassidy tilted toward him countered it.

“So, Dave Cousins, Mr. Owner, want to have breakfast with me? I’ll run my tab even higher and you can tell me where I might find work.”

Though he liked being friendly and informal with guests, he kept it professional. Occasionally, he joined them for a drink or a coffee, but not often. This time he was tempted—against his better judgment. There was something about Cassidy that made him feel . . . lighter.

Chapter 2

Cassidy studied the man in front of her. He was handsome in a way that snuck up on you. At first, he’d just been a tall, rangy guy with regular features. But the longer she looked, the more she took in. The leanness of hip and length of leg in nicely faded jeans belted with braided leather. The flex of muscles in his tanned forearms and beneath the gentle drape of his sage green Western-style shirt. The way his thick sandy brown hair framed the strong lines of his face and flopped engagingly over his forehead; the direct gaze of hazel eyes flecked with green and gold; the tiniest suggestion, when he smiled, that a dimple might want to break through.

Easy on the eyes. The expression had been made for Dave Cousins.

“Easy” wasn’t the word to describe his effect on other parts of her body. He most definitely sent a tingle through all her girly parts. It had been a while since she’d felt so attracted.

Unfortunately, Dave was shaking his head. “Sorry, I need to stay on the desk until the receptionist gets back.”

Cassidy was about to respond when her attention was caught by a Native Canadian woman striding into the lobby. She looked to be twenty or so, and was striking with long, shining black hair falling past the shoulders of a crisp white Western shirt. Cassidy checked the footwear below her slim-fitting dark jeans: red cowboy boots that gave her a rare case of shoe envy.

“Hey,” Dave greeted her. “Madisun, this is Cassidy Esperanza, one of our guests. Cassidy, Madisun Joe is my assistant manager.”

And young for such responsibility. Clearly, Madisun had career ambitions and drive. Unlike Cassidy, who was all about new places, new people, new experiences.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Cassidy said.

“Welcome to the Wild Rose, Cassidy,” Madisun said. She turned to Dave, setting silver feather-shaped earrings dancing against her neck. “I have the final plans for Karen and Jamal’s wedding reception, whenever you want to take a look.”

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“Thanks.” He glanced at Cassidy, then back to Madisun. “Would you mind taking the desk until Deepta comes back?”

“No problem.”

Excellent! Thank you, Madisun.

“Great,” Dave said. “And could you book two tickets for the Vancouver Opera’s Carmen at the Queen Elizabeth, Wednesday night, for Mr. and Mrs. Grunewald? The online system kept glitching, so you may have to make a call.”

“Sure.”

“If you need me, I’ll be in the restaurant with Cassidy.”

Madisun’s brown eyes widened slightly. “Okay.”

Smiling, Cassidy crossed the lobby at Dave’s side. As they were about to enter the dining room, a female instinct made her dart a glance over her shoulder. Madisun stood rooted to the spot, staring after them. Hmm. What was up with that?

Inside the restaurant, Dave said hello to a female server. The young blonde’s long burgundy velvet dress was flattering, but the style was old-fashioned, as was her upswept hairdo held in place with sparkly combs. Glancing past her, Cassidy noted a male server in a buttoned vest, bow tie, and brimmed hat. The servers and the décor, featuring dark wood and gleaming brass, had the feel of a classy saloon from a Western movie set back in the 1800s.

The Wild Rose Inn was impressive, and so was its owner. Cassidy peeked at Dave’s ring finger, which was bare. If he was single, a hot guy like him, a business owner, had to be one of the most eligible bachelors in this small town. Which meant that, if he was still single, he likely wasn’t marriage minded. And that meant he and Cassidy had something important in common. Marriage was a crap shoot, the odds of failure higher than those of success. She’d learned that from her parents. And when marriages failed, families were torn apart. Hearts got broken.

Even if she felt an occasional twinge of envy for couples and families who did seem happy, she always reminded herself that their odds of staying that way were slim. Seemed to her, it was crazy to set yourself up for heartbreak. Much better to have a little short-term fun, both partners knowing exactly what they were doing, then move on. Not that she was a slut or anything. Fun was great, but the guy had to be special, and she had to feel not just lust but a real sense of connection. That hadn’t happened for eight or nine months, but already she sensed potential in Dave Cousins.

She’d come to Caribou Crossing for riding, fresh air, a healthy lifestyle. Add a sexy guy with potential, and life didn’t get much better.

The server seated them in a window booth. After Cassidy had ordered her capooch and Dave had asked for plain black coffee, she grinned at the man seated across from her. “Nice place you’ve got here. It’s like a saloon in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—which, by the way, I’m not named after.”

“Who are you named after?”

“My gramps. James Cassidy. He was the best guy in the world.”

“Nice.” He nodded approvingly. “Anyhow, yes, the dining room is modeled on an upscale gold rush saloon.”

“Oh yeah, this must have been a gold rush town, right? I saw those old pictures in the lobby.” She’d noticed sepia photos of miners and cowboys.

“Yup. Caribou Crossing was on the Cariboo Wagon Road. A couple of miners struck gold in a big way in the early 1860s and a town sprang up. When the gold ran out, a few enterprising miners decided not to follow the lure of gold elsewhere, but to start ranching. The land was ideal for it. And now Caribou Crossing is also a tourist town, playing up both our gold rush history and the Western ranching theme.”

“That’s why I came. For the horses.”

“I’m curious. But you’re hungry.” He gestured to the menu lying on the table. “Order some food; then tell me what brings you here.”

Confident that she’d find a job and pay Dave back, she wouldn’t choose the cheapest meal. Miners’ flapjacks served with bacon, maple syrup, and strawberries sounded delicious.

She gratefully accepted the cappuccino the server brought her, then placed her order. “Fuel for job hunting,” she said cheerfully.

While Dave added his order for a side of biscuits, she savored the first hot, frothy, delicious sips of coffee and glanced out the window. Last night, the town had been dark and she’d been too dog-tired to take in any details. She’d honed in on the light coming from the Wild Rose’s windows and stumbled toward it, with that stupid bum leg going numb on her.

Now, in late morning sunlight, she saw what a picturesque town it was. Across the street were small shops: a toy store, a women’s clothing boutique, an arts and crafts shop, a drugstore. Attractive and well maintained, each had its own style, yet they fit together comfortably.

The people on the street were like that, too. A woman in a business suit, carrying a briefcase, strode briskly past a family of four who’d stopped to peer in the window of the toy store. A striking brunette in an RCMP uniform chatted with a middle-aged couple in Caribou Crossing T-shirts bearing a logo similar to a pedestrian-crossing sign but with a stylized caribou.

“What do you think?” Dave asked.

She turned from one appealing view to another and saw curiosity in those gorgeous eyes of his. “Nice town you have here.”

“Thanks. We like it.” He gave a rather smug grin that she found enormously sexy.

Actually, pretty much everything he did, from the easy, athletic way he moved, to the relaxed way he chatted with his staff, to the way he raised his coffee mug with his strong hand, was sexy. Her body hadn’t felt so alert and alive in a long time—and it wasn’t from the caffeine.

He went on. “So you were saying you came here for the horses? You’re a rider?”

“Kind of.” She savored another sip of coffee, closing her eyes to enhance the pleasure. When her lashes drifted upward, she caught him gazing at her with obvious male interest.

Quickly, he glanced away. “Go on.”

“I was waitressing at a sports bar in Vancouver and the job itself was fun, especially when Canucks games were playing on the wide screen.” She grinned, remembering the cheers when the home team scored, not to mention the good tips.

“But the manager kept coming on to me, wouldn’t take no for an answer.” The memory sent a sour twinge through her stomach. “Sunday night, he crossed the line. I got away from him, but it was totally obvious I couldn’t keep working there.”

Dave frowned. “That’s terrible. You should report the jerk.”

“Yeah, well . . .” It was easier to just move on. “I also wasn’t getting along with my roommate. I’d moved into her place and was paying half the rent, but I sure didn’t get equal rights. She filled the fridge with her crap, hogged the bathroom, always had her friends in the living room, even stored some of her stuff in my bedroom. We fought all the time.”

Their food arrived. Dave’s steaming biscuits were the same kind she’d savored last night along with that rich beef stew. This morning they came with butter, honey, and strawberry jam. Her own flapjacks formed a golden-brown stack surrounded by crisp bacon and sliced strawberries. The server placed a ceramic jug of maple syrup on the table.

“Mmm, thank you.” Cassidy’s nose twitched at the delicious scent of bacon.

For a few minutes, she ate happily. Dave tackled his biscuits, apparently content to wait for her to pick up her story when she was ready. She liked that. Most guys filled any silence with talk about their jobs, their cars, their favorite sports teams.

She also liked the intentness with which he’d listened to her, and the indignation in his eyes when she’d told him about her former boss. A nice guy, this Dave Cousins, on top of being a hottie. She got a vibe that he was attracted to her too, but it was a subdued one, as if he had reservations. Or perhaps a wife or girl friend, which made him total taboo for her.

After downing half her meal, she carried on. “I was tired of Vancouver. I love cities and it’s a great one, but I was ready for something different. I’d been there four months and I rarely stay anywhere much longer than that.”

His brow furrowed as if he wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly. Lots of people didn’t relate to her gypsy lifestyle. For her, “a new day, a new adventure” was a much more rewarding way to live than all that planning, saving, thinking about the future stuff that so many people invested themselves in. For God’s sake, who knew if you were even going to have a future? Look at her mom’s mom, who fell down the steps and broke her neck at the age of twenty-eight.

Cassidy went on with her story. “This woman I met when I was getting my hair cut, she was saying how much fun she had last summer at a resort ranch near Caribou Crossing.”

“The Crazy Horse?”

“Right.” She accepted the server’s offer of a second cappuccino, then told Dave, “I’ve done a little riding and I have a craving to do it again. And to breathe nice fresh country air.” City days were long and demanding, what with work, friends, partying. She was only twenty-seven, but she’d been feeling run-down. And then there was that stupid thing with her left leg. She must have strained it, because a week or so ago it had gone tingly, then numb. The numbness went away after two or three days, though since then she still got occasional pins and needles and numbness. Like last night, when that crazy-long day had culminated in her embarrassing face plant.

She’d strained her leg, and she was run-down. That’s all it was. It was nothing like what had happened to her great-grandmother. GG had ended up unable to walk, unable to speak properly, incontinent—

No, she wasn’t going to think about her mom’s grandmother. No way did she have GG’s debilitating disease.

“So,” Cassidy resumed the story, “yesterday morning I told my roomie I was leaving. She said I owed rent because I wasn’t giving notice, so I gave her the few hundred dollars I had and kept twenty for myself. I should’ve kept at least a hundred, but she was yelling and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I tossed my belongings in my backpack and hit the road.”

Dave frowned, like she wasn’t making sense. “You must have money in the bank, though.”

Must? Like it was some kind of rule? She shook her head. “I’ve never been big on saving. Life’s for living, right?”

“But you have to think about tomorrow, next month, next year.”

All those strings people wove around themselves, tying them down like they were in prison. “Not me. Tomorrow comes, I’ll decide what I want to do. Next month, I’ll decide where to go. Next year”—she shrugged—“I could be in India, Albuquerque, or Cuba.”

Now he was looking at her like she’d descended from outer space. “Where’s your home?”

She was tempted to say Alpha Centauri but figured the truth would freak him out enough. “Wherever I hang my backpack.”

“But you must come from somewhere.”

“Born in Victoria, but I haven’t lived there since I was seventeen.”

“Your parents are there?”

“No, they’re in Acapulco right now. But that won’t last.” Marriage number three—to each other—was as doomed to failure as the previous two. Her parents never learned.

“Why not?”

“Long story.” Talking about her parents was depressing. She polished off the last of her late breakfast. “That was delicious.”

“You have no home, no savings, and everything you own is in your backpack?” His face bore a glazed expression, like she’d laid too much on him too quickly. The guy probably lived in the same town he’d been born in, next door to his parents. Hard to believe a man like that wouldn’t be married. Why not find out?

“That’s me. Now how about you? You own the Wild Rose, you were probably born in Caribou Crossing . . .” She paused, collected his nod. “Married to your high school sweetheart?”

He blinked. “Uh, kind of. We’re divorced.”

“Ah.” He didn’t go on to say he was engaged or dating someone seriously. Chances were, a smart guy like Dave had figured out, as she had, that it was crazy to invest your heart in a relationship that would likely crash and burn.

The server began to clear their empty plates. Cassidy said, “Bring me the bill for both of us, please.”

The woman whipped it out of the small ruffled apron she wore over her velvet dress. It was a typical hotel bill with space to put your room number. Cassidy added a 25 percent tip and wrote “22” for the room number.

Dave glanced at the bill. “You’re a generous tipper.”

“Good service deserves it.”

“It does. Thought you didn’t have any money.” He eyed her quizzically.

“I’ll pay the hotel bill the moment I get my first paycheck.”

“Uh-huh.”

Okay, he wasn’t convinced. But she was telling the truth. She hated being in anyone’s debt. “I need to pick your brain about where I might find work. You think the Crazy Horse might be hiring?”

“I doubt it, but I’ll give you Kathy and Will’s phone number. What kind of job are you looking for?”

“Whatever. Server, bartender, salesclerk, cashier. Receptionist, clerk, admin person. Nanny, companion, housekeeper, chambermaid. Flag girl, shelf stocker, dishwasher. Basically, anything that doesn’t call for a degree, I can do. Oh, and I have up-to-date first aid certification.”

Again seeing skepticism on his face, she said, “I swear I’m good. And I don’t just up and leave jobs—I give fair notice. Unless the boss harasses me, like at the sports bar.”

“Mmm.”

Clearly, she still hadn’t convinced him. And she needed to, not only so he’d help her find work, but because his opinion mattered. She was fine with him not “getting” the whole gypsy lifestyle thing, but she didn’t want him thinking she was some irresponsible flake. “It’s summer and you said this is a tourist town. Businesses must be taking on extra staff, right?”

“You have references?”

“Sure. On my flash drive. I need to find a place to print the file.”

He studied her, his brow furrowed. “You really are good at all those things? Waiting tables, bartending, cashier, receptionist, chambermaid?”

She nodded eagerly. “I’ve worked across Canada, the States, Europe, Asia. I speak fluent Spanish—learned from my dad—and a bit of French, German, and Italian.”

“Huh.” His eyes had an inward look.

She tilted her head. “Huh?”

That almost-dimple flickered. God, he was so cute. She’d love to coax that dimple out of hiding. A ripple of sexual desire quivered through her body.

“The Wild Rose could use a fill-in person. For when the receptionist takes a break, or we need to turn over a bunch of rooms fast, or a server or bartender is on holiday or calls in sick.”

“Oh!” She hadn’t expected that. “A jill-of-all-trades?” She leaned forward. “You bet! I’m totally flexible about what hours I work. How about I run upstairs and get my flash drive? I should check out anyhow so I’ll grab my backpack. Then we can print out my resume and references and you can take a look.”

Cassidy liked everything she’d seen of the Wild Rose. Plus, Dave Cousins didn’t seem like the kind of boss who’d sexually harass anyone. More likely the female staff came on to him.

Would he date an employee? She sure hoped that wasn’t against his rules, because the more she got to know him, the more potential she saw for the two of them having a lot of fun.