Hank Halsey believes he’s found the perfect logging crew—complete with cooks—until he discovers Kelda Nielson would rather swing an axe than flip eggs. As he sets out to prove women belong in the kitchen, he’s the one in danger of getting burned.
Strong and stubborn, Kelda Nielsen grew up falling trees, and resents any man who believes she’s not capable, until Hank. He treats her like a lady and has her questioning what that means.
As Kelda and Hank’s attraction builds, she hires a cook so she can sneak out and work in the woods. But will her deceit ruin her chance at love or will hardheaded Hank realize it’s more than his love that puts a sparkle in Kelda’s eye?
Kelda stood by the door, a man’s black wool coat buttoned up to her neck and a wool scarf wrapped around her head. Her flushed cheeks shone in the lantern light. Her gaze met his solid and unflappable.
To appease Karl, Hank said as he pulled on his coat, “If Kelda isn’t back in here in fifteen minutes you can come looking for us.”
The door hadn’t fully closed when Dag’s voice cleared the threshold, “I don’t know what you’re worrying about. No man is going to think of Kelda in the way you’re talking.”
Kelda’s shoulders drooped proving she’d heard her brother’s comment. She walked around the corner of the cookhouse to a fallen log at the backside of the building. Hank wanted to catch up to her and wrap an arm around her shoulders. She was a fine woman. Any man would be dang lucky to have her for a wife. He stood in front of her as she sat on the log, her face pointed toward the men’s logging boots on her feet.
Hank crouched in front of Kelda, tipping her face up to read her emotions. “Your brother sees you only as his sister. You’re a woman any man would be lucky to marry.”
Tears glistened in her eyes. “I’m the size and body of a man. Men want a small delicate woman.” She wiped at the tears and her hands clutched his. “Don’t make Far keep me out of the woods. It’s all I have to make me happy.”
Pleading in her eyes and voice sucker punched Hank. “Why would you want to work alongside men in the woods? Women belong in the home.”
“I don’t care to work inside. I love the outdoors and the labor of logging. Don’t keep me out of the woods. It’s the one thing I can do well.”
The strong grip of her fingers on his proved her strength. He had no doubt she was a skilled woodsman…woman. He pried her fingers from his hands and held them between his palms. “I’m sorry, but I can’t allow you in the woods. It isn’t proper for a woman to work like that. And what if you prove too weak to handle a job and someone else gets hurt?”
“Ooooo!” Her hands ripped from his grasp and rammed him in the chest. He started tipping backwards and grabbed the first thing in reach—Kelda’s arms.
He fell back into the snow dragging Kelda on top of him.
The surprise in her eyes quickly turned to interest as she gazed down into his face. Her body sprawled across Hank, pressing him into the snow. Even with the heavy clothing, her curves were evident as her relaxed body molded over his.
Hank pushed the scarf back from her face and stared into amazing eyes that glistened from the moonlight bouncing off the snow. Her gaze searched his. The rise and fall of her chest quickened. She licked her lips…
He held her head in his hands. Inch by inch, Hank drew her lips closer, wondering if the heat and passion he’d witnessed in her eyes would be in her kiss.
The male voice broke through the insanity of his actions. Hank rolled, rose to his feet, and pulled Kelda up with him.