Hamish picked his way across Kate’s yard with a bowl of kitchen scraps in hand. His feet swam in Ewan’s boots, borrowed from the boot tray by the back door.
Chickens. Kate Pease keeping chickens. It boggled the mind. He had to admit the eggs were fantastic. He opened the chain link gate and stepped inside the large fenced in enclosure. The hens’ prison yard was adorned with hanging bouquets of fresh herbs from Kate’s greenhouse and arranged with branches and logs for her flock to explore. Per Kate’s instruction, he tipped the bowl’s contents in the center of the pen and backed away as the birds rushed the treats.
What did you do in Vermont, love? his mother would ask.
Fed chickens. Took a beautiful woman on a sleigh ride.
He’d made an olive and rosemary focaccia to work through his nerves, wrapping up half of it along with Juliet’s scones. The floral displays in town looked lovely, but he didn’t like to begin in a way he didn’t mean to go on. He was a man who brought a woman baked goods.
And he did mean to go on, if Juliet was game. He’d talked it through with Fiona’s memory, on a long walk through Kate and Ewan’s woods, taking the mild afternoon sunshine and rollicking winter stream as a sign of approval.
He parked outside the book store and reached for his phone to let Juliet know he was outside. She met him at the front door, looking like a page from a winter fashion magazine.
“I’m almost ready. Do you want to come in while I lace up my boots?”
Hamish held out the foil wrapped packages from Kate’s kitchen. “I brought you some bread and your scones.”
She took the packets and pressed her nose to the foil, inhaling deeply. There was a sparkle in her eyes when she looked back at him.
“Should they go in the fridge?” Juliet set the bread and scones on the counter to pull on snow boots with a soft fringe of faux fur peeking out. “I’m sure I can make some room.”
“No. They’ll keep on the counter just fine.”
She straightened and gave a little twirl, wobbling as she came to a stop. “Will I be warm enough?”
Hamish reached out to steady her, catching her hands in his. “I think so.”
The moment froze for him, a tableau: Still Life With Besotted Male. Juliet was laughing from her near spill, her fingers warm in his palms. Her lips parted, ever so slightly, and the pulse under his jaw skipped.
“Shall we?” He didn’t release her hands yet, only too late realizing he wasn’t asking if it was time to leave.
Juliet withdrew her hands, but slowly, letting the parting linger between them. Her answering gaze was unflinching. “I think so.”