Erin Nicholas, June 21st, 2015
Getting It All
Sapphire Falls Book 4
There’s nothing like summertime in Sapphire Falls and Tucker Bennett is looking forward to hosting his best friend’s four young sons for the next three months. This is their first trip to Tuck’s farm since their father’s passing, and he’s fully prepared to step up for the boys. He’s also thrilled by the instant attraction to their aunt Delaney. He’s only ever wanted three things in life—his farm, a wife and kids. He’s already got the farm. Now it looks like Fate has delivered the rest in one complete just-add-dirt-bikes-and-a-new-puppy package.
Delaney Callan is beyond grateful for Tucker’s help while she catches her breath from becoming a sudden surrogate mother to her nephews. And she’s not immune to the sexual tension bouncing between them. But with all her focus on not screwing everything up with her nephews, there’s no time for a relationship, especially with marriage-minded Tucker. Of course, a casual summer fling is something else. After all, it would be a shame to waste a perfectly good barn…
Casual is the last thing Tucker wants. He’s set on taking care of Delaney and the boys, while she’s determined to prove she can go it alone. But she didn’t count on Sapphire Falls, the adorable little town filled with the loving, impossible-to-ignore Bennett family, well-meaning friends and everything four little boys could ever wish for.
What’s Delaney to do when the most impossible-to-ignore Bennett of all shows her the difference between what she needs and what she wants…and he turns out to be both?
If you’re a fan of Booze, bonfires, proposal-inducing pastry and using hay bales as a horizontal surface, this story is for you.
© copyright Erin Nicholas, 2015
Delaney Callan wanted Tucker Bennett more than any man she’d ever met.
No, it went beyond want. She needed him. Bad.
And it had nothing to do with the faded blue jeans that molded to his butt and thighs or the royal-blue T-shirt that stretched over wide shoulders, thick biceps and flat abs.
Or the deep rumbly voice that said, “Hey, Delaney.” Or the grin that he gave her that felt familiar even though she’d only ever seen it in photos.
It had everything to do with how pleased he seemed to see the boys.
And her. That grin was really something. But it was more the boys.
She’d never wanted a guy as much as when Tucker grabbed the back of six-year-old Jack’s pants as he started to climb up one of the wrought iron shelving units to try to reach a coffee cup.
She had been out of her seat and reaching for Jack when Tucker strode through the door, jingling the little bell overhead, and immediately swung the little boy up and over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. A giggling sack of potatoes. Like he had a sixth sense, Tucker then grasped the back of eight-year-old David’s shirt, keeping him in place as David started for the sample tray on the counter—for the fifth time.
He spun David into his chair at the little round table near the window and then dropped into the chair Jack had occupied with the boy in his lap.
Having someone else handle the boys without even blinking, with a big panty-melting grin in place even, was hot. Pure and simple.
She almost cried it was so hot.
Of course, she was completely exhausted, her body was more caffeine than water, and she hadn’t had sex in so long she wasn’t sure she could find all the right parts anymore. But she was pretty sure it was really hot anyway.
In retrospect, Delaney realized that bringing four tired, bored, restless, hungry boys to a quaint bakery and candy shop might have been an error in judgment.
She’d have to add it to the list of those she’d made lately.
She and Tucker had chosen Scott’s Sweets as their meeting spot since it was right along the highway and Delaney had never been to Sapphire Falls before. Not that it was a huge town, but taking the boys to a place with cookies had seemed like a good idea.
It wasn’t like Tucker had kept them waiting either. They’d been there for about ten minutes. It had only taken her nephews three minutes to start trouble.
Her grin must have been a little too enthusiastic, because he blinked at its brightness before nodding. “Good to see you.”
“You too.” He had no idea.
The eight hours on the road today had been tough. Worse than yesterday’s eight hours.
Of course, the past four months had pretty much sucked twenty-four-seven, and Delaney really thought it was possible she would never feel rested and content ever again.
But being here in Sapphire Falls, Nebraska, with Tucker Bennett was a really good start toward that. She thanked God, literally, that her brother-in-law had spent every summer in Sapphire Falls with his boys since the oldest, Henry, had been born twelve years ago.
Summer break had started for the boys three days ago. She’d packed them up and pointed the car toward Sapphire Falls the minute she’d been able.
Tucker knew the boys. They stayed at his house every summer, all summer. Tucker had helped their dad teach them to fish and ride dirt bikes and do chores around the farm. They always talked excitedly about the dirt-bike races and the summer festival and swimming in the pond and driving the tractor. This summer in Sapphire Falls was exactly what the boys needed.
And frankly, what Delaney needed.
The help. From someone who knew the boys so well, someone they were familiar with and liked. Someone their father had trusted implicitly. Someone their father had asked her to bring them to see.
Jack sat on Tucker’s lap, happily picking colored sprinkles off the top of his brownie and putting them in his mouth one by one. As if he was a pro at sitting still and behaving. He barely even wiggled. A miracle in and of itself. Up until that moment, he’d been jumping up every two minutes to reposition the chair, getting on the floor to play with his matchbox cars, getting up to run to the bathroom, going to the bakery display case six times and asking for refills on his water twice.
Of course, if she was on Tucker’s lap, she wouldn’t be inclined to leave it anytime soon either.
Delaney caught herself and shook her head, sitting up straighter.
“Hey, Henry,” Tucker said to Delaney’s oldest nephew.
“Hey, Tucker.” Henry didn’t quite smile, but he looked interested at least.
That was the most positive expression the kid had worn in a month.
“Your dad told me you’d grown a lot this year, so I have a new bike out at my place for you to try.”
Delaney held her breath, watching Henry.
Most people tiptoed around the subject of the boys’ mom and dad. Most adults weren’t sure how to talk to kids after their parents had died.
Delaney didn’t do that. She brought both Rafe and Chelsea up on a regular basis. She said things like, “your mom would have loved this”, or, “that’s how your dad always did it”.
But most people avoided the topic entirely, not wanting to make the boys sad.
She appreciated that Tucker didn’t do that.
She was also grateful that Tucker had assured Rafe that the boys would have their Sapphire Falls summer like always. She knew that included dirt bikes. She didn’t get it. She knew nothing about the bikes or motocross. But the boys loved it and that was enough for her.
“That’s awesome,” Henry said, actually letting a small smile escape.
Delaney’s heart clenched at the sight. There just hadn’t been enough smiles and giggles and excitement from any of the boys over the past three months.
“And hey,” Tucker said, turning to Charlie. “Remember that ramp we built last summer?”
Charlie leaned in, the iPad he’d been playing with forgotten in his hand. Wow, Tucker Bennett continued to impress.
“We put it into the track at my place,” Tucker said. His smile was as wide as any she’d seen around the table, and Delaney thought she felt a little clench in her heart at that as well.
She frowned. That could be a problem.
There were all kinds of reasons to be attracted to Tucker. He was incredibly good-looking for one thing, and while she was in mourning, she wasn’t dead. He was also a hero to the four little boys she loved with all of her heart. He’d been a big part of their lives, their entire childhoods to this point, and that meant she automatically had a soft spot for him. He was also the best friend to the man who had been her best friend for thirteen years—her brother-in-law, Rafael.
Rafe and Tucker had been best friends from fifth grade through twelfth grade right here in Sapphire Falls. Tucker automatically got points just because Rafe had counted Tucker among the people he was closest to.
And Tucker was willing and able to help her out with the boys for the summer while the world stopped spinning quite so fast around them. Chelsea’s sudden death three months ago, then the cancer taking Rafe only two months later, had put Delaney and the boys into a situation none of them could have been prepared for. Every day since had been a challenge. And a blur.
But when she’d driven past the sign that said Welcome to Sapphire Falls, she’d been able to take a deep breath and feel something positive for the first time since…Christmas maybe. She hardly remembered.
She felt terrible about that. The boys needed her, and they needed her to be positive, uplifting, supportive. She’d been all of those things, but frankly, she’d been faking it. Now maybe it could be true.
This was Sapphire Falls. The best place on earth. To the four little boys at the table with her right now, this town even beat Disney World. After all, there were dirt bikes here.
Here, of all places, she could be happy and positive and upbeat. Perky even. She could get things figured out, get a plan together. From what she’d been hearing about Sapphire Falls for the past thirteen years, this was where everything worked out and everyone felt good.
She knew it was crazy to think that just being here would magically fix everything.
But she didn’t have any better ideas.
And the boys really wanted to ride dirt bikes this summer.
“You got the track done?” Charlie asked, handing Delaney his iPad.
Wow, completely giving up possession of it? That was huge.
“Yep, finished about a month ago. My brothers and I have been out on it and it’s great,” Tucker said with a huge grin.
About a month ago. Right around the time Rafe had passed away. Delaney felt a lump in her throat and looked around the table, wondering if that phrase was triggering anything for them and ready to jump in with…something. She never knew what. In spite of the online sites and books, she was never sure what exactly to say.
But the boys looked fine. They were all staring at Tucker, excitement in their eyes.
Delaney sat back in her chair and looked the farmer over again.
Staring at him was no hardship. She might just spend some time doing that now that the boys seemed settled.
Yeah, she was very, very glad to be here.