Accounting for Love
SWEET Long Valley Romance Novel - Book 1
He’s a farmer, darn it, not a bookkeeper
When Stetson Miller inherits his father’s farm in Idaho, he’s too focused on crops and yields to pay attention to the financial side of things. The next thing he knows, he’s got a stack of unpaid bills, the bank is threatening to foreclose … and the auditor who’s come to examine his accounts is the sexiest thing he’s ever laid eyes on.
But she’s a city girl, just like the last one who left him at the altar. He'll guard his heart – but he can't help wanting her.
She’s checking him out ... in more ways than one
Jennifer Kendall doesn’t mind a tough job, but the handsome Stetson is trouble of a different kind. When he isn’t making her mad, he’s filling her head with all sorts of forbidden fantasies.
The sparks between them fly even faster when the road washes out and Jennifer has to spend the night on the farm. But passion alone won’t pay the bills. Can Jennifer find a way for Stetson to save his farm?
And if she can’t, will he ever forgive her?
Accounting for Love is the first novel in the Long Valley world, although all books in the Long Valley world can be read as standalones. This is the “sweet” version of the book, which means on a heat scale of 1 - 5, it is probably around a 1.5 or so. If you are interested in the “swexy” version (sweet + sexy), please check out the other listing for this book. Either way, enjoy!
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“How am I supposed to organize this crap?” Stetson groaned, shoving his hand through his hair. The back of his neck was burning hot with anger.
Spending time in the small room always made Stetson uncomfortable. Sometimes, he was simply annoyed by the boring work that was done in the office. Other times, sitting in the room would flat-out anger him. Memories would flood his mind, reminding him of his father’s death. Consequently, he spent as little time in the office as possible. Real farming happened in the fields – everyone knew that.
He shuffled papers from one stack to another and back again. The small office was closer to being a closet than it was an office, but his father had kept the little room spotless. Stetson, on the other hand, had let that organization disappear in the months since his father’s death. Small drawers labeled “Cattle Receipts” and “Parts Receipts,” among other expenses, were only half closed. Thin yellow and pink papers fanned out from the overstuffed drawers like the backend of a turkey.
“When that jerk gets here, I’m gonna give him a piece of my mind!” he ranted. “I’m really gonna let him have it. They have no right whatsoever to force some clown to come into my house and tear apart my bank accounts! Just who do they think they are.”
Stetson picked up yet another stack of papers and stared silently at them, trying to decide which pile of receipts he should put them in.
Ugh. His father’d been the bookkeeper, not him. Stetson’s job had been out there on the farm, doing the real work. He was the one who fixed the fences, bailed the hay, and repaired the tractor.
Well…to be honest, his father wasn’t all that fond of record-keeping either, but it was one of the few tasks he could do once the cancer treatments started.
“How did you keep track of all of this crap?” Stetson mumbled the question to the memory of his father.
Now that his dad had passed away, the paperwork just seemed to multiply every time Stetson turned around. Cow vaccines, crop spray, fertilizer…it was a hundred times worse because he didn’t just focus on growing one major crop, like most farmers did. He did it all – cows and row crops and alfalfa.
He remembered when he’d first brought up the idea of raising cows to his dad. He was only 17, and so sure he could make it work.
“Cows? What do we want cows for?” His dad had stared up at him like he’d just announced he wanted to fly to the moon for breakfast.
So, his dad had not been impressed with the idea, to say the least. The Miller family had raised row crops since they originally moved out west in the 1880s. As they had prospered, they bought up neighboring pieces of land, spreading out over the years.
But cows? Cows were a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. They required squeeze chutes, strong fences, and corrals. They were expensive, and they could up and die on a man for any number of reasons. They were a gamble, and Millers weren’t known for being gamblers.
But Stetson was. He took that gamble and he won. Through a dent of pure will and a whole lot of statistics, he finally convinced his dad that this was a risk worth taking. He grew that first small herd into a small-but-growing herd. From there, strong management had turned a gamble into a sure thing. Well, as sure as ranching ever got.
In the end, it was a business venture that returned profits, changed his father’s mind, and forced his brothers to see him differently. Stetson took a lot of pride in the fact that it was his cows that had paid for his father’s cancer treatments. He’d made enough to extend Dad’s life for an extra six months.
He hadn’t, however, made enough to pay the bank loan, too.
“That jerk will not take my cattle. If the bank wants my cows, they can think again,” he said, slamming the papers he held in his hands into the drawer marked “Cows” in his father’s neat, spiky handwriting. He wasn’t entirely sure that the papers had to do with cows – he wasn’t actually sure what the papers were about at all – but at least now they were in a drawer, right?
He looked around the office. It looked the same as when he had begun his bank-ordered organizing spree. Everything was a mess except the center of the desk. The letter from the bank sat there, alone, straight, clean. No smudges, no coffee spills, no pen scribbles.
He sat down. The chair creaked under his weight. Placing his elbows on the desk, Stetson lowered his head over the letter.
“That stupid bastard isn’t gonna come in here and take everything. I’ll shove his teeth down his throat first,” Stetson muttered. “I’ll take him outside and beat the living hell outta him. I’ll—”
From behind him, Carmelita cleared her throat.
Stetson turned slowly in the beat-up office chair. Standing just outside the office door was his housekeeper/cook, and she looked pissed.
The short Hispanic woman had worked for the Miller family longer than Stetson had been alive. Technically she was an employee, but after so much time and dedication, she was family, and she knew it.
Carmelita folded her arms across her chest and glared daggers at him. Carmelita didn’t allow foul language in her house. Stetson’s name may be on the deed, but as long as Carmelita ran things, her house was run by her rules.
Carmelita had helped raise him and his brothers. Before his mother had died, Carmelita had always filled the role of grandmother, but after Mom was gone, she made sure the boys, especially Stetson, didn’t go hog-wild on her. She was astute enough to never try to replace his mother, but she did help fill in the gaps.
Behind his formidable housekeeper stood…a woman? Younger than he’d expected and much more…female than he’d expected. She was a head taller than Carmelita, and if he hadn’t already decided to hate her, his first reaction would’ve been to get his hands on her in an entirely different way. Or at least do everything in his power to get his hands on her number.
His face turned an even deeper shade of red, and he stared at the duo for just a moment. Ugh. Any chance he may have of endearing himself to the…female auditor was gone. Why’d they have to go and send a woman, anyway? Any hopes of landing a nice right-hook on the auditor’s face had just disappeared.
Stetson’s anger toward the bank grew even more. This was a dirty trick to send a woman. He knew they figured sending a woman would cut down on the yelling and fighting. He wanted to yell at the auditor. He wanted to tell a pencil-necked jerk just what he thought of this audit, but instead that slimy bank was using the underhanded trick of sending a woman. They hoped that he wouldn’t be the kind of man who would yell and rage at a woman.
They were right, darn their dirty hides.
Giving up hope of winning over (or at least punching) the bank employee, he decided to ignore the warning look Carmelita was sending him. Screw them all. There was nothing that would entice him to be nice to the bank, no matter what shapely form the bank came in. He stood up, using his height to tower over the petite banker.
“Hi,” the woman said, extending her hand toward him. “I’m Jennifer—” She stopped abruptly, Stetson noted with pride. Probably because he was looking down at her hand with all the respect he might give a rotting fish.
“I know who you are and why you’re here,” Stetson said flatly. “Let’s get some things straight. First, you’re not staying here. This is not a guest house; you can get a room in town. Second, this is my home, and I’ll not have it invaded by…” he waved his hand in the air, “bank people. You can use the office and the bathroom. The rest of the house and farm is off limits.”
Really warming up to the task of putting this woman in her place, he continued, “Third, I’m not paying for the privilege of having my farm stolen from me. If you have to make a phone call, you’ll do it on your own dime. Use your own phone, not mine. Fourth, Carmelita serves lunch at noon each day. Because I’m a good host, I’ll let you eat one sandwich with a glass of water, but that’s it. Finally, you’re gonna start at 8 and be gone by 5 every day. No exceptions.”
Drawing in a deep breath, he crossed his arms and glared down at her. Wow, it felt good to order the bank around. About time they got a taste of their own medicine.