MG Carmody never figured her musical dreams would crash against the reality of Nashville. Now the only thing she has going for her is her late-grandfather’s chicken farm, which comes with a slew of problems and a huge mortgage held by a ruthless opponent—her Great Aunt Nedda.
MG needs extra money, fast. Even if it means carving out time for a job as a prep cook at The Rose—and resisting her attraction to its sexy head chef.
Joe LeBlanc has problems of his own. He’s got a kitchen full of temperamental cooks, a demanding cooking competition to prepare for, and an attraction to MG that could easily boil over into something tasty. If he could figure out the cause of the shy beauty’s lack of self-confidence.
Each book in the Konigsburg series is STANDALONE:
* Venus in Blue Jeans
* Wedding Bell Blues
* Be My Baby
* Long Time Gone
* Brand New Me
* Don’t Forget Me
* Fearless Love
* Hungry Heart
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"I'm not afraid of you," MG said.
Saying it would probably have been more effective if she could have kept that slight tremor out of her voice. They both knew she was lying.
Robespierre regarded her with a malevolent black gaze, his head slightly to the side, as if he were weighing how best to approach her. Slowly, he stalked toward her across the expanse of dirt, his eyes fixed on hers.
"You're a bully," MG said, slightly louder. "Everybody knows that bullies are cowards deep down." She managed to hold her ground, but she rested one hand protectively on the wire fence.
Robespierre took another two stiff steps in her direction, black eyes glittering. He raised his head slightly.
"You think you can lead some kind of freaking rebellion here." She dropped her hands to her sides. "You know damn well I'm going to win. For one thing I'm three times bigger than you are."
Robespierre looked unimpressed. He continued his straight-legged prowl in her direction. In the wooden building behind him, the clucking seemed to increase. She could swear the damn hens were expressing solidarity with the nasty little twerp. Well, they'd probably rather have solidarity with him than with her — at least he didn't steal their eggs.
Hell, maybe he really was inspiring rebellion. Like a true revolutionary.
"Knock it off, you stupid chickens," she snapped, glancing briefly toward the few white shapes moving around the hen yard. "You know you don't really want to keep those eggs."
Robespierre gave a flick of his black tail feathers, his eyes glowing with malice. According to what she'd been able to glean from the Internet, leghorn roosters were more likely to attack other chickens than the people who approached them. Robespierre, however, had developed a deep loathing for her the first moment he'd seen her. For all she knew he'd had the same deep loathing for her grandfather, but frankly she doubted it. If Robespierre had tried pecking Harmon Carmody, the rooster would have been served up the following Sunday with browned potatoes and carrots.
Too bad she hadn't yet developed her grandfather's ability to dispatch a troublesome bird with a minimum of fuss.
"It's because you know I'm not good at this," she muttered. "You're taking advantage of me, you glorified feather duster."
The hens were still clucking in the background, scratching in the dirt around the entrance to the hen house. In all honesty, she wouldn't have known the difference between everyday sounds and chicken cheers for Robespierre. Either way, she was stalling and they both knew it. She had to start raiding the nest boxes in the hen house, or she'd end up with poopy eggs, broken eggs, or a new set of chicks, none of which she wanted.
"Beat it, fricassee," she snapped and advanced toward the hen house, leaving the back of her legs open to rooster attack. If she managed to move quickly, he might not have a clear shot.
In the yard, the hens were still making vaguely distressed sounds. Or vaguely disgruntled sounds. Vague sounds, anyway. Who the hell knew what constituted chicken emotions? They moved out of her way as she approached the door to the house.
The first few hens — Hens One through Eight, troopers all — had already moved off the nest boxes and out into the yard where they were industriously scratching in the dirt. MG moved quickly into the hen house. Some of the other hens were still on the roosts, but at least they'd moved off the boxes. She picked up the eggs and placed them in her basket, feeling, as she always did, like something out of Little House On the Prairie. As she reached for the next nest box, Hen Nine turned her head, clucking ominously.
MG sighed. She might not have been anywhere close to a chicken expert, but she knew exactly what that cluck signified. Just try it, smartass.
She moved closer to the nest box. Never show fear. Never show that you don't know what you're doing. Never show that you wish — oh, how you wish — that Grandpa was still waiting back in the house.
Hen Nine made a few decidedly threatening noises. MG took a deep breath and slid her hand under the plump, feathered body.
The pecks felt like somebody was jabbing at her with a not-particularly-sharp nail. "You stupid fowl," she muttered between her teeth. "You'd make great pillow stuffing. Keep that in mind." She jerked her hand back, careful to hold onto the egg as she did. Hen Nine rose halfway out of the box, flapping her wings as if she could take off.
MG staggered back, dropping the egg into her basket, then moved on to the next row of nest boxes. At least the hens were prolific. She'd managed to collect over two dozen eggs during the last few days. And she'd managed to sell most of them at the battered stand Grandpa had set up near the road in front, which gave her almost enough money to eat something other than eggs herself.
She glanced down at her arm. Fortunately, Hen Nine hadn't managed to break the skin, although she could see a few red dots where she'd apparently done her best. "Pillow stuffing," she muttered again as she stepped back through the hen house door.
Something squawked on her right and she glanced over her shoulder to see Robespierre advancing across the hen yard in her direction at a brisk clip, head down, wings flapping.
"Shit." She began to trot toward the gate to the chicken yard, careful not to trip with her basket of eggs. She could hear Robespierre's squawks issuing from somewhere to the left and increased her pace. "Come on, MG, move it," she muttered to herself. "If you're not faster than a freaking chicken, you deserve to have your legs pecked."
The rooster gave a cackle of triumph as she dove for the gate, fiddling frantically with the latch. Already she could feel the air from his wings. Any second, it would be accompanied by pecks around the ankles and, if she was really unlucky, a few scratches from those talons on his feet. "Shit, shit, shit."
"Allow me." The voice at her side was close to basso profundo.
MG started so violently she almost dropped the basket, which would have been a victory for Robespierre even if he hadn't caused it.
The man standing on the other side of the fence was massive. Or maybe he only seemed massive because he was blocking her path to freedom. His bald head shone with perspiration, along with his forehead and his biceps. Even his short beard and moustache looked damp. Now that she got a good look at him, she could see the sweat marks on his T-shirt stretching down his broad chest. Running shorts. New Balance shoes. Okay, that at least explained what the hell he was doing up and around this early in the morning, although how he came to be standing outside her chicken yard was still a bit of a mystery.
"Who are you?" she blurted.
He gave her a lazy grin. "Darlin' you're being attacked by a rooster. Does it really matter who's getting you out of there?"
Something sharp hit the back of her leg. She glanced over her shoulder to see the enraged Robespierre dancing around behind her.
"Ready?" the man asked, his hand on the latch.
MG nodded, dodging around Robespierre's forays. "Don't let the rooster out, okay?"
"No, ma'am," he rumbled, then pulled up the latch and opened the gate slightly. MG darted through, then turned to see him pull the gate closed behind her before Robespierre could adjust, flipping the latch across.
"Got yourself a mean one there." He gave her another slow grin that made her toes feel like curling.
She nodded. "He's got attitude."
"Joe LeBlanc." He extended his hand in her direction.
MG blinked. "Pardon me?"
The grin became slightly dry. "My name. Which you requested."
"Oh. I'm sorry." She wiped her hand on her shirt tail, then allowed her fingers to be engulfed in his palm. "I'm MG Carmody. Thanks for rescuing me."
"You ever tried showing him who's boss?" LeBlanc's eyes were a strange shade of dark blue, almost navy. He arched one black eyebrow.
MG recollected herself long enough to shrug. "I've tried to point it out. I'm bigger than he is, but that doesn't seem to faze him much."
He leaned back against a fence post. "Darlin', some roosters always figure size is relative. If they can make you run, they win."
"Yeah, well, I'm not sure what else to do about him. He doesn't seem to scare easily." She shifted her basket to the other arm, trying for nonchalance that she really didn't feel.
He folded his arms across his chest. His quite broad chest. Now that she had a moment to look at him she realized he really was as big as he'd seemed at first glance. "That's actually a good thing. You don't want him to scare easily — his job is to protect his harem over there." He pointed his thumb at the hen house. "You letting him in there to do his business or you trying to keep them apart?"
She tried to place his accent — not Texan, subtle, sort of southern. She shook her head to clear it. "I'd like to keep them separate, but I haven't yet. I figure if I get the eggs out right after they're laid, it won't matter if they're fertilized. I'm not set up right now to raise more chickens than I've got."
"So you're just an egg operation?" The eyebrow arched again.
She nodded. "For now."
"What's your production?"
MG shrugged. "Around eighteen a day. I've got twenty-five hens and they're doing a decent job."
LeBlanc frowned. "How many times a day do you check?"
"Once early, like now. Once around noon."
"And you shut them in for the morning?"
MG grimaced. "It's easier if they go outside. That way I can get to the eggs without having to fight with the hens."
"Yeah, but if you leave them inside, they're more likely to keep laying. Hens love to lay in the morning."
Don't we all. She managed not to say it, though. LeBlanc's grin was already sensual enough. "I'll keep that in mind. You have any tips for getting Robespierre to chill out?"
"Robespierre?" One black eyebrow shot up again.
She felt her cheeks flush. "The rooster. My grandpa named him."
He nodded slowly, still grinning. Really annoying, that grin. Also sort of, well, hot. "Chances are right now he thinks you're another rooster. A really big rooster. And you're messing with his hens, which he doesn't like. If you start giving him a handful of corn when you come in to get the eggs, that might confuse him enough that he'll leave you alone. Not many roosters give each other corn."
"Okay. Seems easy enough. Maybe I'll give it a try. You raise chickens?" He didn't look like a chicken farmer, but then the only chicken farmer she'd ever known was her grandfather. And it almost went without saying that LeBlanc looked nothing whatsoever like Grandpa Harmon.
He shook his head. "My folks did when I was a kid. Spent a lot of time taking care of them."
"Oh." There didn't seem to be much more to say to that, and she really wanted to get back inside to clean up. She was almost as sweaty as he was after her run away from Robespierre, and she had a feeling she probably smelled like chicken poop. She shifted her basket to the other arm. "I'd better get these inside so I can clean them off and get them out to the stand."
LeBlanc narrowed his eyes. "You're not washing them, are you?"
She shook her head. "They're not that dirty. I just brush them off if they need it." At least that was one thing Grandpa had been able to teach her — no water to avoid getting bacteria inside the shell.
"How much are you selling them for?"
She blew out a breath. A sale first thing in the morning would be a nice start to the day. "Five dollars a dozen, three dollars a half dozen."
He gave her a long look. "How much if we take your whole production?"
MG blinked. "You mean everything I've got?"
His lips curved up. "Yes, ma'am. That's usually what 'whole production' means."
She bit back her automatic smartass reply. It had been a pretty dumb question, and having somebody buy up her entire stock would mean she wouldn't have to open the stand. "Who is we?"
He sighed. "We is the Rose restaurant. I'm the head chef. We make breakfast for the guests and run a Sunday brunch."
MG blinked again. the Rose was part of the Woodrose Inn, an imposing luxury bed and breakfast at the end of the road that ran by the farm. She didn't know how many guests it held, but she was guessing it was more than a dozen. "But my whole production wouldn't feed all your guests."
"No, that it wouldn't." LeBlanc shrugged. "We're already buying from some of the other farms around here. But we need a steady supply of fresh eggs, and you're close. So how much?"
MG pursed her lips. Produce negotiations weren't exactly her forte since she had no idea what to ask. "Four dollars a dozen?"
LeBlanc's brow arched. "Two dollars."
"Three. Which would be four fifty for what I've got on hand now."
He grinned. "Make it five. That way we don't have to mess with change."
"Sold," she said quickly. "You want me to clean these off for you?"
"Nah, they're not that dirty. If we find any muck, we can just brush it off in the kitchen." His lips turned up again. "Looks like you're doing a good job keeping stuff clean around here."
"Thanks." Yet another thing she'd learned from Grandpa. And since she'd cleaned the nest boxes and roosts when she was a kid, it hadn't taken her long to get reacquainted with the way things worked.
LeBlanc's smile started that thing with her toes again. Steady, MG. Her cheeks suddenly felt warm. "Hang on a minute and I'll get you a carton."
She trotted toward the storage shed, trying to get her pulse rate to slow down. He's just a guy. And this ain't your first rodeo. It's not like you haven't run into charmers before. Of course, a lot of those charmers had turned out to be snakes. She grabbed two of the cardboard cartons and headed back.
LeBlanc took them from her and started fitting the eggs into the depressions. Then he glanced up at her again, his blue gaze roaming lazily over her body. "Looks like you got around fourteen eggs here. You got any more inside?"
She blew out a breath. "Right, yes. Stay right here." She ducked onto the back porch, then grabbed the last remaining eggs from yesterday from the cooler. She handed the carton to LeBlanc. "That makes eighteen."
"Right. What time can you bring the next bunch over tomorrow? We'll need them as early as you can get there."
"Tomorrow?" She frowned. "I don't understand."
He shrugged. "I bought your entire production, darlin'. That means everything your hens turn out, seven days a week. Beginning tomorrow."
"Oh." Her cheeks burned again. "Okay. That's ... great."
He nodded, tucking the cartons of eggs under his arm. "Bring them around to the kitchen. Seven's okay. Six is better."
Better? In what universe? She managed not to grimace. "I'll see what I can do. I may have to come back again later if the hens haven't finished laying yet."
"That's okay. Bring the first load for breakfast, and then whatever you get later on we can use for the next day."
She nodded. "Okay. I can do that." Maybe Robespierre would be asleep, but given that he was the earliest riser around the place, she doubted it.
LeBlanc glanced around the yard. "You got anything else here?"
"Anything ...?" She frowned.
"Vegetables. Fruit. Like that."
She shrugged. "Well, there are four or five peach trees, but it's not the right season for peaches yet. I don't know what's in the garden exactly."
He narrowed his eyes. "Didn't you plant it?"
"No. My grandpa planted it last year." There was an unexpected twinge somewhere around her heart. Grandpa had planted it before that stroke that had laid him out on the living room couch for the last three months of his life.
LeBlanc shifted the eggs to a more comfortable position. "How long have you lived here?"
"About four months or so."
That eyebrow went up again. "You brought the chickens with you?"
"No, they're my grandfather's chickens. I started taking care of them after he got sick. He died a couple of weeks ago."
"So you're running the farm on your own?" LeBlanc didn't really look incredulous, but she felt slightly annoyed all the same.
"I used to stay with Grandpa part of the time in the summer. He taught me how to take care of the chickens. I know what I'm doing." Sort of.
"Well, we'll take the eggs," LeBlanc said, turning back toward the road. "If it turns out you have any fresh vegetables for sale, we can maybe take them too, depending on quality. Nice doing business with you."
Excerpted from "Fearless Love"
Copyright © 2012 Meg Benjamin.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good story, great characters. Love the whole series. But the author over uses certain words to the point of irratation. "Superlative". ;-)
Fearless Love by Meg Benjamin is the kind of story that puts a smile on your face. There's a sweet couple overcoming past disappointments worthy of love who find mutual support in one another with not many roadblocks that they have to overcome. Their attraction starts out slowly and progresses at a believable pace towards some super steamy sexual encounters that are perfectly spaced throughout the story for maximum reader satisfaction. MG is a spunky and personable heroine doing all she can to keep the family farm. Instead of relying on a man she relies on herself to make ends meet by working her fingers to the bone. She's lost her self-confidence after trying to be a country star in Nashville and is slowly gaining it back through the satisfaction of hard work and the appreciation of small town fans. Joe too is trying to get his life back in order after being on top of the world and losing it all because of cocaine. He's now clean and sober with the author not glossing over his past. His redemption is fully embraced and it makes for an admirable character, as well as sexy. Though his looks aren't typical for a hero, he's bald with a beard and a bear-like body, I fell for him hook, line, and sinker! With a slew of secondary characters that leave a lasting impression as they seamlessly incorporate the terms and actions of running a restaurant I found myself totally enthralled with the events befalling the characters. Though the obstacles created by both sets of villains are stereotypical and could be seen from a mile away it didn't take away from my enjoyment of this story. Small town living has never felt so good in this heartwarming story with a nice bit of steam and I look forward to revisiting the citizens of this town again soon!