Honey and the Squirrel is a serial romance about an heiress running a winery and a SEAL-Single Dad-Mountain Man, complete with jerky ex-boyfriends, insta-lust, and a matchmaking squirrel. This romantic comedy stands alone with no cheating, but is full of cliffhangers as it's being released one chapter at a time. It will eventually end with a beautifully sappy happily ever after.
Honey Wellington (aka a horny billionheiress)
Ten minutes. All I wanted was ten minutes to finish the latest Lucy Score romance in my garden as the sun went down, and the fucking squirrel swooped in and stole my fucking phone. So here I am, in my pajamas and bunny slippers, chasing a furry little asshole through the woods surrounding my winery.
That little rat bastard better not butt dial—claw dial?—anyone. There are world leaders, Hollywood A-listers, and half the All Blacks rugby team on my contacts list, and I’d like to keep them there.
I crash through the underbrush while the squirrel occasionally stops and sniffs at me, my phone in its evil clutches.
“Drop it, cougar bait,” I yell. Cougars eat squirrels, right?
Fuck, do cougars eat bunny slippers? Or the women wearing bunny slippers? Are there cougars on this mountain?
I swear the squirrel laughs at me.
It prances through the treetops. I trip over an exposed root and slide on the freshly-fallen leaves, but I keep running deeper into the forest.
Fuck, those squirrels have stamina.
Also, maybe I should drink less and run more.
I clutch at the stitch in my side while the squirrel leaps from brilliantly-colored treetop to brilliantly-colored treetop. Of course it doesn’t care that we’re heading up the freaking side of a mountain. Glory Ridge Mountain, to be specific.
I bought it.
And I’m evicting that damn squirrel. Just as soon as I catch it.
“Come back here, thief!”
Like the jackass understands me.
I’m losing sight of him in the fading light, and I’d be worried I was getting lost if I didn’t know home was down, but I keep battling my way up that mountain until I suddenly burst into a clearing.
The squirrel snickers—oh, yes, he does, and if you don’t believe me, that’s your problem—and I swear the little fucknugget tosses my phone down the well.
Why is there a well on my mountain?
Why is there a log cabin with smoke curling out the chimney on my mountain?
This wasn’t in the sales packet on this mountain.
I step deeper into the clearing, in my bunny slippers and moose pajamas and all the random leaves sticking to my legs, when a creepy sensation washes over me and makes the hairs raise on the back of my neck.
I’m being watched.
I look at the cabin, but there’s no movement from the cute little log house. No swish of curtains behind the clean windows.
No creak of the door.
No sound other than the evening breeze rustling the pines and hemlocks.
I take a half-step back, and a twig snaps behind me. When I whirl, I come face-to-face with a stranger.
A tall, built, dark-eyed, broody-faced, square-jawed, prominent-browed, thick-chested, slender-hipped, should-be-on-the-cover-of-a-magazine stranger. His dark hair is short. His tight black shirt sleeve is half-hiding a somewhat familiar tattoo. And he has this look about him like he could snap me in half with just his brainwaves if he needed to.
Of all the days to not shove my taser in my pajama pants…
“Who are you?” I demand, because a strong offense is the best defense I have. This is my mountain, but I’m also in bunny slippers, which will totally slow down my tai chi moves.
Which also aren’t very deadly.
“Who are you?” he counters in a deep voice that’s both hypnotic and terrifying. If you bottled his voice and played on loudspeaker during a bank robbery, the criminals would probably lie down and cry for their mommies.
So I really hope he’s one of the good guys.
Even if he is, he still has my heart in my throat.
“I own this mountain,” I inform him. “You’re trespassing. Get off. Or I’ll…”
I’ll sass you to death probably won’t cut it.
One half of his mouth curls in a smirk. “Call for help?” he guesses. There’s something about his posture. Like he might leap on me and cuff me at any minute. “With your phone in the well?”
“Who are you?” I repeat. “Did you train that fucking squirrel? Because if you’re some traveling squirrel-trainer—”
“I own this cabin,” he replies, “and you have three seconds to leave.”
“You can’t own this cabin, because I bought the whole mountain.”
“You couldn’t have bought the whole mountain—” jeez, his impression of me is embarrassingly spot-on “—because my grandfather left me this in his will two years ago. And I didn’t sign any paperwork to sell it.”
“Daddy?” a quiet voice says from the cabin porch.
“Get back inside, sweetheart.” The gravel in his voice softens, but his stance and his expression don’t.
I want to look, but I have this feeling that if I do, he’ll take me out.
And I might or might not wake up afterwards.
This isn’t just some random mountain-squatting hottie.
He’s a mountain-squatting hottie dad.
And somehow, that changes everything.
Sawyer Dean (aka a newly-former SEAL too busy learning how to be a full-time single dad to lick his wounds)
Four-year-olds suck at surveillance.
Not that I’m complaining. I can handle this job without help, and Boo’s a hell of a lot cuter than my normal surveillance partners.
Old surveillance partners, I mean.
“Got ‘em backwards, baby,” I murmur quietly, turning her binoculars around.
“Ooooh,” she says, peering through the lenses again. “I can see a fwuirrel!”
“Softly, or you’ll scare it away.”
“Wike this?” she says in a loud whisper.
“Like that, Boo.”
I train my own binoculars on the photographers with the telephoto lenses hiding in the bushes across the street from the winery at the base of my mountain. I don’t know shit about paparazzi, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet that’s exactly what they are.
Question is, what are they doing there?
“Daddy, fwuirrels eat nuts,” my baby girl whispers.
“That they do,” I agree. I count the photographers. Seven—no, eight. And I don’t trust the guy in the silver Audi pulled over just down the road checking a map either.
The winery’s five miles as the crow flies from the nearest clump of civilization and backs right up to the Blue Ridge mountains. Guessing it gets a lot of traffic from folks looking to get out of Copper Valley for the weekend, but today, on a Thursday, it’s slower than a turtle chasing a snail in molasses.
Which means the photographers either know someone’s coming, or they’re looking for one of the staff.
Like the bunny-slippered firecracker who accused me of squatting on her mountain last night.
Those lips haunted my dreams all night. So did the bunny slippers, but for other reasons.
She had nerve, I’ll give her that. Not many people would try to stare me down that long. Especially dressed in moose pajamas and bunny slippers.
Not many women could make moose pajamas and bunny slippers hot as fuck either, but she managed to pull it off. Might’ve been the color in her cheeks and those wide blue eyes and the way her silky brown hair was mussed just right too.
“Are there bugs here?” Boo asks, pulling me back out of my head.
“I don’t wike bugs. They fwy in my face and bite me.”
“That’s why we put bug spray on.” I readjust the camouflaged netting covering us. “Quiet for just another minute, baby. You see anything else besides the squirrels?”
“I see twees and bushes. Daddy? What’s all those rows of things?”
I glance at where her binoculars are pointing. “Grape vines. Here. Look this way and see if you can find the stray cat.”
“What cowor is it?”
“Just like Grandma’s.”
There’s no cat as far as I’ve seen, but I’d rather have her looking at the trees on the next hilltop over than peering too close at the winery.
I go back to my own surveillance. A black SUV comes flying around the bend of the curvy mountain road, and the paparazzi all turn and track it, even though they’re all positioned at different spots along the road. Based on their expressions, this is what they’ve been waiting for.
My breathing slows while I watch two more identical SUVs come around the bend. The first brakes hard and turns at the winery entrance, and the next two follow suit.
The paparazzi are going bananas, like it’s a prince or a rock star or a celeb who’s supposed to be in rehab. Soon, I lose them under the fiery canopy of maple trees lining the entrance.
I stifle a good fuck, because my daughter’s right beside me in the bushy outcropping about a hundred meters up from the edge of the winery’s back fence. I refocus on the winery entrance, waiting for the SUV to pull up. I want to know who’s inside.
I also want to know who Ms. Bunny Slippers is—know your enemy—but my satellite wifi is dorked up.
What I get for going off-grid, but after what Boo went through in California, a remote mountain cabin across the country is exactly what we need right now.
“Daddy, I gotsa go potty,” Boo announces.
Her brown eyes are big and serious, and she’s fidgeting like it’s an Olympic sport.
“Can you hold it?” I ask.
I glance back once more at the winery. A familiar dude is climbing out of the back of the first car. Looks like he has six security guards and two friends with him.
Where the fuck do I know him from? I mentally flip through all the missions I went on with my SEAL team the last few years, but I’m not placing him anywhere we’d head.
Which means I know him from somewhere else.
“Daddy, I gotsa go bad,” Boo whispers.
I stifle a growl, because it’s not her fault she has bad timing with needing to pee. “All right, let’s go find a bush.”
“No! Wadies don’t pee in bushes. Mama said so. And I don’t want the fwuirrels to see my booty-butt.”
She’s squeezing her legs together now, and her baby cheeks are creasing in concentration. I loop both sets of binoculars around my neck and scoot from under the leaf-covered netting covering us. “It’s twenty minutes back to the cabin, Boo. How about you just go in the bushes? I won’t let the squirrels see your butt, okay?”
“But I’ll pee on my shooooooes,” she wails.
“Sshh! Shh. Daddy won’t let you pee on your shoes.”
“I need a poooooottttyyyyy,” she cries.
The winery’s ten minutes by foot. The cabin’s twenty, but only if I jog.
And I might happen to have a cell phone that I rescued from an old well in my pocket that I could use as a bargaining chip for something.
“All right, Boo. I’ll get you to a potty.” I lift her up, fully aware that she might pee on me instead of her shoes, and make a decision I better not live to regret.
I’m on the phone in my office, ignoring the scampering above me that means squirrels are in the ceiling again and arguing with the cell company about replacing my iPhone when Liliana, my assistant, pops her head in with a wince. “Honey? You have a visitor,” she whispers. “I told him you were having your eyelashes done and your toes waxed, but he’s still here.”
“Uggghh.” I hang up on the cell phone company and make a note to call a friend who’s rich enough to buy the whole damn company.
And anyone who can solve my squirrel problem. “Tell me it’s not Greg,” I say.
Liliana does one of those whole-body, don’t hate me shrugs that makes her shrink three inches that she doesn’t have to spare. “Can you ask me to tell you something else? Anything else? Like maybe that I found squirrel traps on sale at the feed supply store?”
Dammit dammit dammit. I mean, good on the squirrel traps, but dammit that she’s evading the questions. “At least tell me he’s alone.”
“And I heard back from the Goaticorn Donuts guys, and they’re totally into the idea of donuts and wine,” Liliana continues. “We’re setting up a test run of a tasting with them for next month.”
While the donuts are also good news, the fact that Liliana won’t answer my questions is not.
Which means my ex is here. With a posse.
Leave it to Greg Mullins, rising Hollywood Dickweed—oh, excuse me, superstar—to bring a whole crew to make him feel important.
He couldn’t afford it three months ago when we were dating, but since that Roman god-themed remake of Romeo and Juliet that he starred in hit box office gold, he’s doing his best to be all that and a bag of chips.
A crushed, mutilated, more-salt-than-potato bag of chips.
“He’s not going away?” I sigh.
“I can call the cops,” Liliana offers.
I brush her off, because Greg is an annoying little ego mosquito, but he’s not dangerous, and the cops have better things to do.
Not that I haven’t considered calling the cops anyway in the last twenty-four hours. I should’ve. There’s a big scary dude squatting on my mountain.
A big scary dude who has a daughter.
“No, don’t call the police,” I tell Liliana. “I’ll take care of it.”
I hold my head high and practice the debutante walk my grandmother made me master as a teen as I stride through the barrel room. When I get to the tasting room, Greg’s there with four guys who could be stunt doubles for tree trunks and one slender guy in plaid working three cell phones.
Greg himself is in tight jeans, a tight black T-shirt, black wingtips, and Givenchy aviator sunglasses.
He’s wearing sunglasses inside my mood-lit stone-and-wood tasting room.
It’s weird to think I found him attractive just a few months ago, because now, he just seems short, underdeveloped, and more like a squirrel—fucking squirrel—than like a panther.
“Honey, my angel,” he says in that Hollywood Star voice that probably gave a case of the shivers to the worms outside in the dirt. “You haven’t called me back.”
“Because we broke up,” I remind him. “Months ago.”
“You know I love it when you play hard to get.” He’s talking like he’s still on set, delivering lines to Avery Hart, who seemed so adorable in all her interviews that I sent her a gift basket full of wine and chocolate just because she had to put up with Greg during filming.
“I’m not playing hard to get, Greg, because there’s no chance of you winning this game you’re playing. We’re over. Done. We had fun, you showed me your asshole side when you urinated all over my best friend’s car, and if you aren’t here to buy some wine, I’d like you to please leave.”
“I paid for a new paint job.”
It astounds me that people wear sunglasses that don’t hide it when they roll their eyes. Why bother? “Because you were court-ordered to.”
“I could’ve appealed.”
“There were six witnesses, and three of them took video.”
“And I didn’t sue any of them for videotaping my junk.”
“That’s quite magnanimous of you.”
He winks and makes duck lips at me, clearly missing the sarcasm. “Thank you.”
“You’re not welcome. Please leave.”
He takes two swaggery steps toward me, rolling his shoulders wide. “You don’t mean that.”
“When a lady says leave, you leave,” a low, dangerous, unexpected, nipple-puckering voice to my left says.
I think I know that voice.
Ironically, it was telling me to leave somewhere around twelve to eighteen hours ago.
Greg flicks his eyes toward my unexpected visitor, then has to flick his eyes up to see the guy’s face. The four tree trunks with him all go on alert. The guy in plaid with the three phones shrinks back behind everyone else.
And I shift my eyeballs to check out the scene without making it too obvious that my heart might have just gone into hyperdrive.
“Who the fuck are you?” Greg asks.
“Not the fucker she just asked to leave,” Mountain Dad replies.
Greg takes another step toward me. “Honey. Let’s go talk in back.”
Before I finish saying, “No,” Mountain Dad is at my side.
He’s not touching me, but I can feel his body heat radiating off his bicep, which is straining his moss green T-shirt. I think his beard has grown half an inch since last night, and possibly his shoulders got wider and he put lifts in his sturdy boots. His arms are crossed, his legs wide in faded jeans, eyes flat and as serious as the question of who makes the best sweet tea in the county.
The four tree trunks crowd closer.
Mountain Dad doesn’t budge.
“Go away, Greg,” I say quietly.
Do I want to be alone with Mountain Dad? Not so sure.
But if he was going to murder me and dump my body off the side of a cliff, he had better opportunity last night than he does here in what is clearly my winery, with my staff watching us from the doorway to the kitchenette behind the bar.
“Is this guy bothering you?” Greg asks. “You need me to make him leave?”
The tree trunks puff up their chests and glare at Mountain Dad, who merely lifts his lip in a ghost of a smirk.
Like he’s inviting them to try it.
Macho doesn’t usually do it for me—see also, I dated Greg Mullins—but watching one man stare down four for me is making me more than a little pleasantly buzzed in the lady bits.
“Liliana,” I say, “please call the sheriff.”
“Mr. Mullins,” plaid guy hisses, and Greg steps back, lifting his hands.
His bodyguards are trading uneasy glances.
“Call me, Honey,” Greg says. “I’m getting tired of the game, but nice play, trying to make me jealous. Won’t work. I know you like men with brains.”
“Which makes you wonder why she dated you,” Liliana mutters.
Greg’s shoulders go tight, but he doesn’t answer. Instead, he blows me a kiss. “Later, babycakes.”
He takes his time leaving, flicking at one of the winery ornaments we stock year round at a small Christmas tree in the corner and making a point of inspecting everything in the tasting room and gift shop before the doors jingle as he finally steps outside with his tree trunks and assistant.
My body sags, and I reach for my phone.
Which I still don’t have.
“Liliana, call Fernando and tell him to make sure the vines aren’t getting any unexpected visitors,” I ask my assistant.
And then I turn to my unexpected savior. “Thank you, Mr…?”
He looks down at me with a piercing intensity that spikes both my pulse and the heat between my legs, and I don’t know if it’s intrigue or my fight-or-flight instincts, but I do know I’m not inclined to run.
One other thing I know?My life is about to drastically change.
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