Chapter One

Finley Norris sighed in frustration as she stared down at her wrist. She’d fallen last evening. It was stupid really, she was in her own house and had tripped over nothing. It was a good thing no one was there to witness her klutzy self, sprawled out on the floor. Her wrist hurt, bad. But luckily, living in a small town had its benefits. She’d called Doc Snow and he’d agreed to see her even though it was technically after office hours.

Her wrist wasn’t broken, merely sprained. But even so, it was an unpleasant surprise to find that it was virtually impossible to do what she needed to get done sooner rather than later.

Every morning, she headed into her bakery, The Sweet Tooth, located on the square downtown. Baking was Finley’s passion, the one place she felt most comfortable in the world. Her culinary creations didn’t judge her for being too shy, too fat, too uncool. And she took great joy in seeing the pleasure her muffins, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and other pastries gave to locals and tourists alike.

But this morning, there would be no treats because of her stupid wrist.

Tears threatened to spill down Finley’s cheeks, but she held them back by sheer force of will. After twenty more minutes of struggling to measure ingredients with her left hand and failing to be able to knead a ball of dough, Finley knew there was no way she’d be able to open today if she didn’t have help.

It wasn’t that she was opposed to asking for help, but it was five-thirty in the morning and most people weren’t early risers like she was. Except maybe Caryn.

Sucking it up, Finley reached for her phone. Taking a deep breath and hoping she wasn’t waking Caryn or Drew, she clicked on her friend’s name.

“What’s wrong?” Caryn asked in lieu of a greeting.

Finley couldn’t help but smile at that. “Why does something have to be wrong?” she asked.

“Because it’s zero-dark-thirty in the morning and you’re calling me. I know you get up early every morning to make those cinnamon rolls I literally can’t resist, but you’ve never called me this early. So, what’s up?”

“I fell yesterday. I’m fine,” she hurried to reassure her friend. “But I sprained my wrist. I’ve been meaning to hire someone to help me in the mornings, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet, and I’m finding it almost impossible to do anything. I was wondering if maybe you could help me this morning? I promise to find someone to hire soon, so this won’t become an everyday thing. I’m sure my wrist will be better in a few days.”

Finley was babbling, but she couldn’t stop herself. She wasn’t good at asking for help and felt bad that it was so early and last-minute.

“Oh, hon, I wish I could,” Caryn said, regret clear in her tone. “But Drew and I are meeting with a group of ten boys and girls from the high school for their first workout as junior firefighters. Otherwise I totally would.”

Finley’s heart sank. “It’s okay,” she said, doing her best not to let any of her disappointment leak through in her voice.

“Do you trust me?” Caryn asked.

“Of course.” Finley didn’t even hesitate in her response. She hadn’t known Caryn all that long, but she was already one of her best friends. Along with Lilly, Elsie, and Bristol. Somehow the five of them—six, if you included Khloe, the librarian who occasionally hung out with them—had clicked even though they were all so different.

“Cool. I’ll get someone there to help you in fifteen minutes or so. Will that be all right? Will you be able to get your goodies out by the time you open?”

Finley closed her eyes in relief. “Yes. I mean, I won’t have as many choices for people as I usually do, but if I can get a batch of cinnamon rolls in the oven, and I’ll do banana nut muffins instead of bread because they’ll be done faster. Oh, and I can make some pumpkin spice cookies with cream cheese frosting since it’s now officially fall.”

“Good Lord, woman, making me hungry this early, and before I work out, and when I have to deal with teenagers, is just cruel,” Caryn bitched.

Finley chuckled, then said, “I appreciate your help so much.”

“That’s what friends are for. I’ll make a call right after we hang up and get you some assistance.”


“You should’ve called when you fell,” Caryn scolded.

“I was all right,” Finley insisted.

“Your wrist is sprained. And I’m guessing you had to go see Doc. You should’ve called,” Caryn repeated.

Finley realized her friend was probably right. But she was used to doing things on her own. It honestly hadn’t occurred to her to contact any of her friends. When bad things happened in her life, she did what she had to in order to keep moving forward. “I’m sorry,” she said, and she was.

“It’s okay. We’ve got your back. I need to go and make that call. I’ll talk to you later.”

Finley opened her mouth to ask who Caryn was calling to help her out, but she didn’t get the chance before she hung up.

Mentally shrugging, Finley clicked off her own phone and turned to the disaster that was her kitchen. Having only one good hand made for a very messy workstation. There was flour spilled everywhere, even on the floor. But since she’d had to use her non-dominant hand to measure and attempt to stir, it was extremely difficult to not make a mess.

Fifteen minutes later, there was a tap on the front door of the bakery. It was still too early for any customers, so Finley knew it had to be whoever Caryn had called to come to her rescue. Smiling, she walked out of the kitchen toward the front.

When she saw who was standing on the other side of the glass door, she almost turned around.

Brock Mabrey was waiting patiently for her to open the door.

Darn Caryn anyway! Finley definitely should’ve asked who she was calling for help.

Brock was the last person in the world she wanted to see. Caryn knew, or at least had an inkling, how much she admired and liked the man…and how shy she always was around him. She probably thought she was doing Finley a favor by forcing the two of them together.

In reality, having him around would be torture. She was utterly tongue tied around Brock, always feeling as if she was so out of his league. He’d been a Customs and Border Protection agent, for goodness sake, and now he owned Old Town Auto, the car shop everyone took their vehicles to when they needed servicing.

And he was so damn beautiful, it was difficult to look at the man.

He had short dark hair, huge muscular arms she just knew would feel amazing wrapped around her, a square jaw, and plump lips that she couldn’t stop staring at every time she saw him. Basically, he could have any woman he wanted, and as nice as he always was to her when all their friends got together, Finley couldn’t fathom Brock ever wanting someone like her for anything beyond friendship.

Sighing, and knowing there was no way she could pretend she didn’t see him, Finley walked toward the front door as if she was on her way to the gallows. She unlocked the door and opened it.

“Hi,” she said shyly, keeping her gaze locked on the center of his chest instead of his eyes.

“Hey. Caryn called and said you could use some help?” Brock asked.

This was her chance to tell him that no, actually, she figured things out and she was good, but since she really did need help if she was going to be able to open in less than an hour, she nodded. “I do. Thanks.”

Brock walked into her shop and just like that, the normally roomy space seemed to shrink. That happened every time he was around. After he’d entered, Finley locked the door behind him, then stood there staring at him a little awkwardly.

“May I?” he asked gently, gesturing to her wrapped wrist.

When she didn’t protest, he reached out. The second his fingers touched her hand, shivers shot up her spine.

He had very manly hands. They were large, calloused, and she could see the oil stains under his fingernails. Which had never turned her off. She’d witnessed him scrubbing his hands in the past, but since he spent so much time working on vehicles, his fingers were basically stained. Seeing his large hand holding hers so carefully and gently made her long once more for something she knew she’d never have.

“What happened?” he asked softly.

Finley shrugged and stared at her wrist. She liked seeing his hands on her. Probably too much. “I tripped over my own feet. Caught myself with my hand.”

Brock winced. “Ouch.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Doc Snow says it’s not broken, just sprained, but I’m right handed, so…”

“I bet that makes stirring difficult. And rotating sheet pans in and out of the oven.”

“It does.”

“Well, I’m at your disposal. Your wish is my command,” he said with a grin.

For just a moment, Finley wondered what he’d do if she pushed him against the counter and kissed the hell out of him. But as soon as the thought formed, she dismissed it. He’d probably be mortified.

She thought back to the day he’d come in and told her what had happened to Caryn. Finley had been so stressed and worried about her friend that she’d forgotten to be timid around him. She’d manhandled the guy, dragging him out the door of her shop and insisting he take her to Caryn right that instant, so she could see for herself that her friend was all right.

Thinking back on it now, Brock didn’t seem to mind her being so demanding.

“It’s a little swollen,” Brock said, fingering her wrist. Finley had wrapped it that morning as the doctor had suggested, but even she could tell that it was bigger than the left wrist.


“Have you taken anything for the pain?”

His concern made her blush with pleasure. Finley nodded. “Just some over-the-counter stuff.”

“Good. So, where do you want me?”

For a second, Finley thought he’d been able to read her mind about shoving him against the counter and kissing him. Her gaze whipped up to his, and as she stared into his chocolate-brown eyes, she swore she could see desire there…for her.

He grinned. “You’re cute in the morning,” he blurted.

Blinking, Finley forced herself to concentrate. She was being ridiculous. Brock was just here to help. Because Caryn called him. He wasn’t flirting.

Was he?

He was still holding her hand, one of his fingers caressing her wrist, and even with the compression bandage, she could feel his touch. He was leaning into her, and the smile on his face was tender. It was…confusing.

So Finley did what she always did—dropped her gaze and did her best to distance herself from her feelings. “I need to get the cinnamon roll dough mixed. And get the muffins started.” She tried to pull her hand from his, but he wouldn’t let go.

Instead, he simply nodded, wrapped his fingers around hers, and turned to head to the kitchen at the back of the store.

Dazed, Finley let herself be led. She kept her gaze on their connected hands, and the sight of his rough fingers intertwined with hers sent butterflies to her belly. When was the last time she’d touched someone so nonchalantly like this? Especially a man? It had been ages.

When Brock got a look at the disaster that was her work space in the kitchen, he let out a deep chuckle. “Right…where do you want to start?”

Finley was very aware that he hadn’t let go of her hand yet. She wasn’t sure if he’d forgotten he was holding it or what. But she didn’t want to embarrass him by pointing it out, and frankly, she was enjoying how it felt. She wanted to prolong the sensation.

“I managed to get everything added to the bowl,” she said, gesturing to the large stainless-steel bowl sitting on the counter. “But I wasn’t able to stir it properly.”

“Right, then that’s what we’ll do first.” He headed for the bowl, and Finley followed docilly behind him.

“I’m awful in the kitchen, but if you tell me what to do, I can probably muddle through. If anyone complains about something tasting off, just blame it on me.”

“Thank you for coming to help,” she blurted, feeling overwhelmed. There would’ve been no way she could’ve opened today if he hadn’t.

Brock stopped in his tracks and turned to her. He lifted his free hand and brushed his fingers against her cheek. “No place I’d rather be,” he said. Then he gently squeezed the hand he was still holding before finally letting go to reach for the large spoon sitting inside the bowl. The one she’d attempted to use to stir before giving up after flour and the other ingredients ended up all over the counter and floor.

Brock’s muscles flexed in his arm as he began to easily mix the ingredients together. It was literally the sexiest thing Finley had ever seen in her life. She wished she could get her phone out and film him right now, but that would be super creepy.

“You want to get the ingredients ready for what we need to do next while I stir?” Brock asked.

Taking a deep breath, trying to get herself together, Finley nodded. They had a lot of work to do if she was going to be ready to open at her usual time. She turned to grab another bowl, and did her best to get her head back into baking mode.

Searching for Finley

New York Times Bestselling Author

They've finally found someone who accepts them as they are, but it could all go up in flames in an instant.

Finley Norris is a woman with curves to spare, a fact she made peace with long ago…but she can’t say the same for everyone else. Ridiculed for her size her whole life, it’s easy for her to assume her huge crush on a certain sexy mechanic will remain unrequited. But her friends have other plans, and when one of them pushes the pair together, no one is more surprised than Finley when attraction blooms—fast.

Brock Mabrey’s as blue collar as they come, and he’s got the grease-stained fingers to prove it. He’s been judged for his rough edges for years…especially by women. That doesn’t stop him from crushing on a certain delectable baker, and when the opportunity to know Finley better presents itself, he doesn’t waste a second. She and Brock go from zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye, their chemistry off the charts. There’s nothing casual about the lust, love, and protection Finley inspires.

And she’ll need plenty of the latter, because Finley’s seen something she shouldn’t. Someone is desperate to discover what she knows…and determined to silence her permanently.