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Page 21 of Third Time's a Charm (Holland Springs 3)

A little sigh left Rose’s mouth before she could stop it.

“Go give him this.” Skye handed her a glass of iced tea, giving her a little push toward the back door. “I’ll listen out for Ivy.”

“Well, I guess he could use something to cool off,” Rose reasoned. “He’s been out there for an hour.”

“He’s chopped enough wood for a dozen fireplaces,” Skye said, a knowing look on her face. “Wonder what kind of frustration he’s working off?”

Rose wasn’t about to answer that question. She started for the door, then stopped and turned to face her sister. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

Skye grinned. “I was visiting a friend and something told me to come by.” She gave Rose another push. “Quit stalling and get out there.”

“I’m going,” she mumbled and opened the door. Unseasonably warm air hit her face and bare arms as she walked outside. Brown grass stabbed the soles of her feet. How could she have forgotten her shoes?

Sasha entered her line of vision. Tanned skin and pierced ni**les gleaming in the sun. His jeans hung low on his hips, making her want to trace the line of hair that she knew dipped out of sight.

Oh, right—he was why she’d forgotten her shoes.

The wind picked up when she was only a few feet away, blowing her hair forward. Sasha paused, then embedded the ax into a piece of wood and turned. “Hullo, Rose.”

“Here.” She thrust the tea at him, misjudged the distance and ended up colliding with his chest. Tea sloshed over the sides, down his chest and her hand.

“Holy hell, that’s cold!” His stomach contracted.

“Oh God, I’m sorry.” She couldn’t stop staring at the liquid as it made its way down his abdomen. Slowly, she wiped her hand on her skirt.

He pulled off one of his gloves, tossing it to the side before taking the glass from her. “Don’t suppose you brought something to get this off of me.”

Rose licked her bottom lip as she thought of licking the sweet liquid from his skin with her tongue. How’d it would taste sweet and…she heard a sharp intake of breath and her eyes flew up to his.

In their mossy depths glinted amusement and desire. “Care to share what you’re thinking?”

Her eyes widened. “No, I mean, I’ll go get you something.”

“I got it, love. No worries.” He drank what was left of the tea and handed her the glass. “My thanks.” Gesturing to the piles of wood, he asked, “This enough for you?”

“Ah...”

He drew his brows together, still not wiping the tea from his skin. Dear God, would he wipe it away? She took a step forward, grabbed his shirt from the top of a stump and toweled him off. His hand came around hers, stopping her maniacal cleaning and taking away his shirt. “It’s a good thing Skye’s the one who wants to be a midwife, because your bedside manner leaves much to be desired.” He shook the material out, making a face at the spots of tea.

“My…you—wait, who told you that?” She tilted her head to one side and gripped the glass. Ice melting made it slightly slippery.

She must have imagined the look of panic that registered in his eyes, because in her next heartbeat he was smooth as the body butter she sold in her store. “Jemma Leigh, who else?”

“Oh.” She shifted from one foot then the other while he stared at her, a small smile on his lips. The sun chose that moment to shine directly on his chest, highlighting his nipple rings. Annoyed, she glanced back at the house, spying her sister in the kitchen window with her hand over her mouth. Skye was laughing at her. Laughing and enjoying Rose’s discomfort.

Rose narrowed her eyes. “Stop it.”

The rod holding the curtain fell sideways, obscuring her sister’s view. A large cloud covered the sun. Rose heard a peal of laughter from the house and frowned.

“Was that Skye?” Sasha asked.

She turned back to him and nodded.

“Don’t you need to check on her? It looks like the curtain rod nearly took her head off.” He stared at the window, his brow furrowed as if he were trying to solve a puzzle.

“I have to go.” She made her way to the forcing house (a structure that most people would call a greenhouse.), entering through the gate and plucking a sprig of lavender. Once inside, she tucked the lavender in her hair and set the glass down on one of the many wooden tables. Like every Poppy Holland before her, Rose forced fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs to grow out of season in order to make ‘potions’ and creams.

Familiar scents of rosemary, lemon verbena, and honeysuckle inundated her, settling her nerves. She took a deep breath and began checking the pots of herbs and flowers for insects, mold and dryness. Time seemed to fall away as she got into a groove of removing dead leaves and flower heads. Mentally, she sorted through the plants she needed to make her next batch of shampoo and conditioner: chamomile, aloe, and—?

She glanced around, deciding on peaches. She picked a few and carefully placed them in a nearby basket before making a snack out of one. Snapping off a couple of mint leaves, she popped them in her mouth and picked up an empty watering can. The lemon verbena felt a little dry, and two containers of sage would have to be replaced soon.

“Is this your hiding place?”

Startled, Rose dropped the can. It bounced on the hard-packed earthen floor, a hollow sound echoing as it came to a stop at Sasha’s feet. He held Ivy in his arms. The baby looked content as she snuggled against him.

Rose swallowed and closed the distance between them to pick up the watering can. “I’m not hiding.”

“Meditation room?”

She bit back a smile as she stood. “Did she just wake up?” After setting the can down, she clapped her hands and held them out to Ivy. The baby smiled and leaned forward, arms waving.

“I fed Ivy after my shower, but Skye took care of the whole diaper-changing affair.” Sasha shuddered. “There’s not enough money in the world to make me touch a diaper—at least not without a hazmat suit, and those aren’t flattering for my physique. Or anyone’s, really.”

This time Rose couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s not that bad.”

He inclined his head to one side and lifted a brow.

“Okay, sometimes it is.” She dug her toes into the dirt and kissed Ivy’s sweet curls. “Did Skye leave?”

“About fifteen minutes ago.”

“What in the world have you and Ivy been doing?” Rose hoisted Ivy up higher on her hip.

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