Home > Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)

Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)
Author: Lucy Lennox








Everything was going fine until I saw the bumblebee. It was the third day of my road trip from Houston to Aster Valley, and I’d finally arrived. It was as picturesque as any other ski town in Colorado was in late spring, but smaller and with noticeably fewer tourists since there wasn’t any actual skiing here anymore. Considering I’d never heard of Aster Valley before my best friend, Mikey Vining, and his very rich, very good-looking, very adoring football player boyfriend, Tiller Raine, had left me behind in Houston and bought themselves a giant ski lodge in town earlier this year, I wasn’t surprised.

But I was surprised when I saw the teen-sized bumblebee being chased through a large patch of wildflowers on the side of the highway by a man who looked at least twice his size. The last thing I wanted was to get involved in someone else’s drama—hell, I’d left Houston specifically to get away from my own—but if there was one thing I couldn’t abide, it was bullying. I’d gotten enough of that myself as a kid from my own father.

I wrenched my bike over to the side so fast I almost crashed into an old, half-broken-down billboard advertising a ski resort that must have been just the thing in the 1980s.

“Let go of him,” I shouted. “Leave him the hell alone.”

My friends teased me for my deep growl, saying I sounded annoyed at the least and angry at best, but in times like these, it came in handy.

The bigger man stopped and stared at me, and the bespectacled guy in the ridiculous bee costume froze like a squirrel caught stealing from the bird feeder. “Mind your own damned business, asshole,” the bully said.

I glanced at the bee. “You okay?”

His eyes were wide with fear, and his antennae were trembling. Despite both of those things, he was trying very hard to smile as if everything was normal. “Um, I’m fine.”

He was clearly not fine. I pulled out my phone and pretended to dial. “How about I call the police just in case?”

“Yeah, good luck with that.” The bully shoved the bee until he fell on his fluffy yellow ass. “This isn’t over, Truman.” He shoulder checked me hard on the way past and disappeared around a bend in the road. I noticed a heavy trace of alcohol coming off him.

I reached out for the bee’s hand and realized he was an adult and not the teen I’d first assumed him to be. “Let me help you up,” I grunted, suddenly feeling oddly attracted to the little bee. He had a pretty face with delicate features and cherry-red lips almost hidden under a crazy tumble of dark brown curls.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” he said in a soft voice, getting to his feet. “You could have just kept on going. He probably wasn’t going to hurt me very badly. And, really, everyone has their issues, you know?”

Just then, a tricked-up truck with a heavy metal push bar on the front came careening around the corner from the direction the bully had gone. It deliberately headed straight for my bike, pushing it into the stone base of the town sign with a sickening crunch. The asshole shot me the bird, called me a few choice names, and then did a three-point turn before hauling ass away from us.

I looked back at the bee, who simply stared after the pickup. “Oh no,” he said faintly. “No, no. He wasn’t supposed to do that. He… that wasn’t fair. You were just trying to help.”

“Who the hell was that guy, and what the hell’s his problem?”

“That’s Patrick Stanner,” he said, like that should mean something to me. When I shrugged uncomprehendingly, he added, “Brother of Craig Stanner? Son of Kimber and Gene Stanner? Nephew of Erland Stanner? Still no?”

He must have noticed the blank look on my face, because he cleared his throat and continued. “Huh. Well, anyway, his family fell upon some hard times and lost everything to the banks. And it was kind of because of me, so whenever he gets in a certain kind of mood… he finds me and gives me what for. Usually it’s not so bad.”

I opened my mouth to ask him why the hell he thought any of this was his fault, but he let out a nervous laugh and said, “I can’t believe I just told you that. Please forget I said anything. It’s not… it’s… it’s fine.”

He looked everywhere but at me, and I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed or nervous. I knew my large frame and stern face, not to mention the bike, could give off the wrong impression of me, so I stuck out my hand. “Sam Rigby.”

The bee’s eyes widened even more behind a pair of dark-framed glasses when he slid his hand into mine. “Oh, uh… Truman Sweet.” Suddenly, a pink blush appeared on his cheeks and his dark eyelashes flitted softly as his nerves got the better of him. My throat suddenly felt dry.

His skin was cool and smooth, and his slender fingers disappeared into my beefy grip. I was almost afraid of breaking the poor guy like a twig.

I shifted on my feet and forced myself to let his hand go. “I’d offer you a ride into town, but I’m not sure if my bike is up for it.”

I wanted to beat the shit out of the asshole who wrecked my bike and hassled this little man, but I’d do the right thing and report him to the cops instead.

Truman glanced around as if trying to remember where he was. “We’re only a half mile from town. It’s a little hilly, but walkable. Plus, it’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

I nodded absently while looking him up and down, trying to find some reason a grown man would be alone in a field of wildflowers in a bee costume. I opened my mouth to ask him but quickly snapped it closed. The whole point of this vacation road trip—after a quick stop here in Aster Valley to visit Mikey and Tiller—was to relax and unwind before I had to return to my responsibilities in Texas. Truman Sweet and his problems were none of my business.

“Guess I’d better get moving, then,” I said gruffly before stretching my head side to side and grabbing the backpack out of my saddlebags. I hadn’t brought much with me, but I didn’t want to leave my laptop and what little clothes I had to whoever might come along.

When I turned back to head toward the little town, I caught Truman staring at me. He blushed a deeper pink and looked away. The antennae bounced adorably on the headband he wore.

“There a good bike mechanic in town?” I asked, trying to ignore the way his pink cheeks tightened my gut.

“Oh! Yes, sir. Of course. Mr. Browning at the Chop Shop.” His eyes widened. “I mean, it’s not an actual chop shop, like with criminals. It’s just called Chop Shop. I think it stands for something like Chopper. Is that a thing? Like, a kind of bike? They do cars and trucks, too.”

I nodded and bit my lip against a smile. “Yes, a chopper is a style of bike with a long fork and…” He looked lost, so I stopped there. “Thank you.”

“Anytime, Mr. Rigby. Happy to help.”

I tilted my head at him. Had I misjudged this guy? “How old are you?”

“Twenty-four. Why?”

“I’m thirty. Why are you calling me sir and mister? Do I look that much older?”

He blushed again. “Oh no, S-S-Sam. I just know that some men demand respect, and I don’t ever like to make assumptions. Besides, one can never go wrong with good etiquette. At least that’s what they say. Although… I’ve never really understood who ‘they’ are in this scenario.”

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