For those still counting down the days until Bountiful, the next True North book from Sarina Bowen, falls into our laps, here’s an exclusive excerpt!
There is so much to love about the world of the True North books, as there’s never a dull moment when the Shipley family is involved. The latest in this incredible series about a Vermont orchard and the people surrounding the family who owns it is Bountiful, which also features a bit of a crossover from the Brooklyn Bruisers. Who’s ready for Zara and Dave?
Once upon a time a cocky, copper-haired tourist sauntered into Zara’s bar. And even though she knew better, Zara indulged in a cure for the small-town blues. It was supposed to be an uncomplicated fling—a few sizzling weeks before he went back to his life, and she moved on.
Until an accidental pregnancy changed her life.
Two years later, she’s made peace with the notion that Dave From Brooklyn will never be found. Until one summer day when he walks into her coffee shop, leveling her with the same hot smile that always renders her defenseless.
Hockey star Dave Beringer has never forgotten the intense month he spent with prickly Zara. Their nights together were the first true intimacy he’d ever experienced. But the discovery of his child is the shock of a lifetime, and his ugly past puts relationships and family out of reach.
Or does it? Vermont’s countryside has a way of nurturing even tortured souls. The fields and the orchards—and hard won love—are Bountiful.
Exclusive excerpt from ‘Bountiful
It was a Wednesday, and as I took a seat on a stool, I noticed the crowd was a little thin. As usual, Zara took her time coming over to greet me. “Evening,” she said eventually, placing a coaster onto the polished wood in front of me. “What can I get you?” The lack of familiarity in this greeting made me bite back a smile. Even though we’d spent a lot of time together these past few weeks, Zara always kept my ego in check.
If this was how she wanted to play it, then so would I. “What do you have on tap?” I asked, as if I didn’t already know. I’d spent many summer nights sitting on this very stool, drinking my way through the Vermont craft-beer selection.
She jerked a thumb over her shoulder, indicating the signboard which made it painfully clear to anyone with eyes which beers were on tap.
“Right.” Point for Zara. “Pour me an Allagash, pretty girl.”
And that’s when I got my first smile of the evening. It was so quick another man would have missed it. But I have sharp eyes. Ask anyone.
She grabbed a pint glass and pulled my beer while her other hand was busy opening a bottle for someone else. Zara was always crazy busy back there, even on a slow night. She did so many laps around the bar that I swear she’d covered more miles than I did during a championship hockey game. I enjoyed watching her move. She had an economy of motion as she wiped down a table or rang up a check. It turned me on almost as much as the cleavage I could see every time she leaned down to clear a glass off a table. And she had a long, regal neck that begged to be traced with my tongue.
When she set the beer down in front of me, I didn’t get my a wink. Not even a quick one. But this was our dance, our tentative association. Maybe it wasn’t how normal people behaved. But I’d discovered these past couple of weeks that neither Zara nor I had any taste for normal.
I took a sip of my excellent beer and settled in to watch her work the last hour of the night. Zara didn’t remind me of any other woman I knew. Or any other bartender, for that matter. She was like a storm front on the move—always two steps ahead of the customers. Those busy hands. Those long, elegant limbs. I admired all the parts of Zara I could see. But her cool demeanor always suggested the important stuff was still hidden from view.
I’d seen it, though. And I didn’t mean this in a crude way. I’d seen the expression on her
face when she truly let go, and I’d heard the laugh she unfurled when she thought nobody was
But even in my arms she kept a tighter lid on herself than any other woman I’d met. Sometimes when I looked at her, she seemed to be focused somewhere else—as if her soul was tuned in to a back channel that none of us mere mortals could hear.
The Milky Way and Zara. My favorite two exotic things about Vermont.
A Green Day song came over the sound system, and I saw her move her shoulders in time with the beat, not for anyone’s benefit but her own. “Last call,” she said to no one in particular.
After that, Wednesday’s crowd died out in a hurry. I didn’t have long to wait. Soon enough she was walking around, stacking the chairs upside down on the tables. Ignoring me. Once I’d tried to help her with this task and gotten snapped at for my trouble.
I finished my beer instead.
Eventually I was the only man left in the bar. Without a glance in my direction, she counted the cash in the register, then disappeared into the back, presumably to lock it in the safe.
I got up off the stool, anticipation humming in my veins. I walked to the door and then slipped outside, where the stars were waiting. Leaning against the clapboards, I tipped my head back until I saw Jupiter in the sky, where it had just risen. And then I heard an owl hoot. A real owl. Herr-herr- herrrrrr, it said.
Where I grew up, owls were only in storybooks.
The door opened beside me, and Zara stepped out. I held my breath while she locked up. The second the key was retrieved from the lock, I stepped out of the shadows and grabbed her wrist.
Dark eyes darted to mine. But she didn’t say a word.
“Hi,” I said, my voice husky. “You didn’t have a lot to say to me tonight.”
“When do I ever?”
I laughed, and the sound seemed loud in the quiet night air. “Good point, gorgeous.” She took her wrist back. “You want to stand here and converse now? Is that your plan?”
As if. I stepped into her personal space and stole my first kiss of the evening. Had to. Watching her move for an hour made me crazy. And hell. Every time, I felt a jolt of energy when we came together. The heat of the stars and sun were inside me when she was nearby.
Zara sighed in a way that sounded as if she didn’t approve, even as she softened under my mouth. I deepened the kiss, treating myself to a taste, but just a quick one. “Come out with me tonight,” I said, breaking it off. “Just this once.” Usually we went upstairs to her place.
She stepped back and raised those dark eyes to mine. “Out where?”
“Outside. Not far. I only get one more night to look at the stars. Want you to come with
Zara considered this, her hands wandering up to land on my pecs. She had a thing for my
chest. And I was smart enough never to point that out, because I was pretty sure she’d never
touch me the same way again if she knew I’d noticed.
My favorite girl was a prickly one. But that only made us more compatible, I supposed.
“We don’t go places together,” she reminded me.
“Only because there’s nothing open after you get off work,” I pointed out. “But the stars are open. And I want one last, good look at them. You won’t come?”
She looked at my rental truck standing by itself in the lot. “You’re breaking the rules.”
“Nah,” I said softly. Zara loved her rules. Sex only. No sleepovers—she’d kicked me out every single time. We talked more now, though. I was going to miss her irreverent sense of humor. “You’re not afraid of me, though, right? If I thought I was making you nervous, I wouldn’t be a dick about it.”
She lifted an eyebrow. “What if I’m not scared of you, but I have other objections?”
“Then I will be a dick about it.”
She laughed suddenly. Zara’s laughter was a rare and perfect thing—a husky burst of joy that tapered off quickly and was over practically before it began. “Fine,” she said, her face already serious again. “Let’s go see some stars.” She sidestepped me and walked toward my truck with her typical efficiency.
As usual, her mind had turned on a dime, leaving me to catch up and follow her.