tagRomanceDawn over Sun Valley Ch. 03

Dawn over Sun Valley Ch. 03


Author's note:

Welcome back, y'all! I have heard some rumors about a rebellion underway if you don't learn more about the background story. Well, lower your swords, people. KEEP CALM and READ THE CHAPTER. The big black secrets of the past are about to be revealed – at least most of them ;)

Also, this chapter is where things start heating up between Joe and Leanne. Now, I've never written in Adult Romance before (and have only read a few stories in the genre here on Lit) so am not sure what the expectations are. Let me be clear about this, then: it's going to get explicit. VERY. Still romantic - or so I believe - but definitely 18+. Just sayin'.

Now for those of you keeping track of my word count towards the 50K goal of #NaNoWriMo by the end of November, this chapter adds another 10K, for a total of ~25K. I'd have loved to say I'm half-way through, but this story is tracking towards 75K total, which means I'm only a third of the way there. But that's alright, because I'm only a third of the way into the month! #OnTrack

So without further ado – please have a read, enjoy, and let me know your thoughts after :)


Annie (small_town_girl / Anne A. Lois)


On the breathtakingly beautiful trail with Joe, Leanne couldn't remember the last time she'd felt like that. So alive. So centered. So happy.

It was a stark contrast to the agonizing indecision that had kept her up most of the night before.

She had spent hours worrying, debating with herself, thinking and re-thinking her decision to go on this hike with Joe. She was close to canceling come morning. But in the end, she allowed herself to do it.

You planned to earn some money for bill and some work experience for yourself here. Well, what if you could gain some life experience, too? She reasoned with herself. Make the most of it. Enjoy it while it lasts, and then move on, because you know it can never really be. No regrets.

Now that several weeks had passed without raising anyone's suspicions about her identity, she figured she was in the clear. After all, she didn't share a last name with her father, Bill Richardson, as her mother had changed back to her maiden name - Sommers - twenty years ago, following the tragedy here on the farm, and its catastrophic aftermath. The name Leanne Sommers had raised no questions with either Tammy or Joe.

Neither did anything seem amiss with Mr. McConnel. He had introduced himself on the first day at lunch time, and had checked in a few times since. She believed he was satisfied with her work, and he treated her just the same as he did them all, with gruff, fatherly impatience.

She was right to let old dogs lie.

What good could it do, dredging up the ancient past? And how would she have done it, anyways? Say, 'hello, Mr. McConnel, thank you for hiring me. Oh by the way, I'm the daughter of the drunk driver who killed your wife twenty years ago''?

No. She had agreed to help Bill because she needed to believe redemption was possible, and because in the end, it was the right thing to do. But she didn't want to get tangled up in his story. At least, not any more than she had to.

She was her own person, and had her own life to think about. Her own goals. Her own dreams.

And those dreams had lately all been focused on a California cowboy who made her feel like a princess.

So, for the first time in her life, Leanne decided to indulge herself. Have her fairytale with her cowboy; make the most out of it. And then, when the clock struck midnight and the magic ended, as it was destined to, accept the harsh realities of her life with grace and dignity like her mama taught her.

She could do this. She knew she could. No one had to get hurt except herself. She figured it would totally be worth it.


The trail was glorious. Leanne loved the ancient grove of majestic redwoods, where the air was chilled and smelled of damp earth, mysterious and magical. She could just imagine tree nymphs and fairies dancing in the narrow rays of light filtering from the canopy way up above. And then, stepping out of the woods, they hiked down the ridge, making their way through lower trees and bushes until their trail opened to those grassy, rolling hills, awash with early afternoon sunlights.

And Joe was there, sharing her wonder, encouraging it, smiling into her wide, awe-filled eyes. He must have hiked there a million times before, but he didn't seem bored. He looked as exhilarated as she was, his face shining with pleasure as they stopped and took in the views, breathed in the clean air.

His gaze felt warm when it rested on her. Her cheeks reddened in response, but she didn't care. She could always pretend it was the physical exertion that had rendered flushed and out of breath.

"How about we break for a picnic?" Joe sounded a little out of breath, too. "I don't know about you, but I'm kind of starving already."

Now that he mentioned it, so was she. "Yes, I'm real hungry, too. Know any good spots?"

"Oh yes, I know just the place." He said, expectation evident in his voice. "Come on, it's not too far now."

They walked a few more minutes until they peaked over a low hill, and Leanne's breath caught in her throat at the sight. There, nestled within the bright green curves of mother earth, laid a perfect little pond. It was blue-green and smooth as a mirror, adorned with a few flowering water plants. Leanne laughed out in delight, and without conscious thought, left the trail to run down towards the water.

"Hey, wait up!"

She heard Joe shouting after her but ignored it, giggling like a child as the wind whipped strands of hair against her face, the sweet smell of water getting stronger by the second, the grass thick and lush under her boots. On impulse, she let herself tumble down, and rolled over as soon as she hit the soft ground. She continued to flip from her back to her belly and then back over again, laughing breathlessly, the whole world spinning around her in brilliant kaleidoscope of blue and green and yellow -


Joe's alarmed cry came from somewhere behind her, followed by the heavy thud of his boots, just as she came to a stop lying on her belly in a patch of darker-green, soft, flowering clovers. Resting her cheek on her arms she just lay there, heaving, waiting for the world to stop spinning.

One part of her mind was taking stock of herself, now that the adrenaline rush was fading, but aside from a few dirty smudges on her hands from breaking the fall she didn't think she was any worse for wear. The other part of her mind was still high on sensory overload. She felt incredible. She could hear the wind whooshing in the grass, the buzz of busy bees, the chirp of birds - and then Joe's voice, thick with concern, right above her.

"You okay, Leanne? Talk to me, please."

She lifted her head, squinting against the sun's glare coming from right behind his looming form.

"Oh - i'm fine! Just got the breath knocked out of me... God, what a rush!"

"You - you did that on purpose?!" He sounded incredulous. "Jeez, you almost gave me a heart attack!"

Guilt tagged her conscience. "I - I'm sorry. I couldn't resist. It was so much fun! Maybe you should try it, too. Lighten up a bit, you know."

Joe shook his head at her, but she could see a smile curl the corners of his mouth.

"Here, let's get you up, nice and slow now."

Joe's hand appeared before her face and she took it, then tried her best to ignore the zing of awareness his touch ignited. It's just the scraping that's making my skin too-sensitive, she told herself resolutely.

"You really did give me the scare of a lifetime there, you know. I was imagining half a dozen horror scenarios... you sure you're okay?"

Leanne nodded, too deeply touched by his concern, but wouldn't let herself linger on that. She was having fun - more fun than she'd had in way too many years - and she wasn't going to spoil it with self-pity. After a moment of scrutiny Joe nodded, and to her surprise linked his fingers with hers.

"Let's go then. It's just over there."

Leanne allowed him to lead her, still focused on the way his fingers felt, strong and warm and entirely too tempting between hers, until they came to stand under a lone, ancient-looking weeping willow, just a few yards away from the pond.

"Here we are. That's our spot."

It was perfect. Leanne's heart swelled. The willow's stooping branches created a green, airy cave around them, providing ample shade and a sense of intimacy.

"It's awesome!" She smiled at Joe, and he gave her hand a little squeeze. "Yeah. I love this place. Now, let's eat!"

They shrugged off their backpacks and dug into them. Leanne peeked inside, curious as to their contents, since it was Joe who had presented her with the already-packed bag that morning, and drew out a lightweight blanket. She spread it out and placed the plastic container that held their sandwiches in its midst, and pulled out the plates, cups and cutlery. Joe added water bottles, fruits, and a thermos of coffee to the little buffet, and then bowed deeply, gesturing at the blanket with flare.

"Your feast is ready, princess."

Her heart skipped a beat, the nickname bringing up memories of their evening together. Peeking at him she caught his light flush as he looked back apologetically.

"Sorry. It slipped."

"That's alright", she mumbled, and she sat down cross-legged, indian-style. She liked him calling her that, but knowing he'd feel even more guilty if she confessed as much, she kept quiet.

Joe sat across from her. "Dig in, please. It's a mean ham-and-cheese, if I do say so myself."


It really was a great sandwich, Leanne conceded in her half-asleep mind. She was lying flat on her back with her head pillowed on her arms, her belly pleasantly full, her muscles relaxed, her breathing deep and even. She was very much in the moment, sensing the occasional ray of sunshine dancing across her closed eyelids, the light caress of afternoon breeze on her skin. It would have been a perfect opportunity to meditate for a while - that is, if it weren't for her hyper-awareness of the man lying not a couple of feet away from her.

She dared sneak a peek from the very corner of her eye, doing her best to keep her head from rolling towards him. He seemed asleep, his chest rising and falling in easy rhythm, his eyes closed. He looked softer somehow, even though it was only his profile she could see.

Emboldened, she cracked her eyes open and tilted her neck just a fraction so that she could see better. She trailed her gaze down his solid torso, until it rested on the fly of his pants. There it was, that lovely, enticing bulge she'd first noticed that night in town...

"I'm still flattered, you know."

Leanne's blue eyes flew up to collide with Joe's amused, honeyed gaze. She felt her face turn fire-red, and tried for a mumbled - "Um, sorry..."

He chuckled, waving his hand to dismiss her apology, and changed the topic.

"So, how are you enjoying your time off?'

Leanne lay back. "Hmm. To be honest, I'm still getting used to this novel experience."

"How come?" His voice sounded sleepy. It made her lower her ever-present guards.

"Well, I haven't had any time off in - in as long as I can remember, really." She said flatly, accepting the realities of her life. "Between school and work - first helping my mom when she was sick, then caring for Sofia and the boys - I was their live-in nanny, did I tell you that? - anyways, I never really... slowed down to smell the flowers before."

Leanne could hear the self-directed mockery in her voice, but couldn't help it. It's not like you can afford to do it too often now, too, she reminded herself. Don't get too used to it.

"Wow, that sounds tough... what was wrong with your mother?"

Leanne pressed her lips together, but finally answered. "She was diagnosed with breast cancer at forty, when I was fifteen. She died when I was eighteen."

"I'm sorry. I know how hard it is to lose your mom. Mine died when I was ten. Car accident."

She almost blurted 'I know', but caught herself in time. Instead, she mumbled - "I'm sorry. That sucks."

"Yeah, it really does." He agreed too lightly, and she knew he was going to change the subject, just like she did when it somehow came up in conversation.

"So, how did you end up as a live-in au-pair for three youngsters?"

Leanne smiled. "Elaine Rogers was my mom's best friend. She offered me the job in exchange for room and board and a small salary. Then a couple of years later, she and her husband loaned me the money to pay for community college."

"What about your father? Couldn't he help out?"

Leanne's belly dropped, and her eyes flew to meet Joe's. He looked curiously back at her. Leanne swallowed hard.

"He - he wasn't in the picture." That much was true, at least, even if it were a blatant evasion.

"Wow. You've been through a lot."

Leanne felt him looking at her, but refused to meet his gaze, gritting her teeth. "I don't like to be pitied." She was already regretting telling him what little she did about her life.

"I don't pity you, Leanne. I admire you." The conviction in his voice soothed her, and she turned to look at him. Joe reached his hand, as if to caress her cheek, but then stopped and withdrew.

"You're much stronger than you look. That much is obvious."

Leanne's throat constricted with sudden tears. What doesn't kill you make you stronger, she thought; still, it meant a lot to hear his recognition. She blinked rapidly, willing her eyes to dry, and instead smiled her thanks.

Joe nodded, and then rolled abruptly and got up to his feet, offering her his hand. Leanne took it and pushed herself up just as Joe gave her a stronger-than-expected tug - making her slam hard against his unyielding chest.

"Whoa! Easy there, princess."

His arms came up to steady her while her own hands wrapped instinctively around his waist, and their bodies pressed together from chest to knees. Leanne's heart rate, already quickened by their unexpected proximity, kicked up another notch when she looked up and caught the expression on his face.

His eyes darkened and his nostrils flared, and as inexperienced as she was, she recognized plain male desire when she saw it. She leaned back, but that only made her pelvis press harder against the unmistakable ridge behind his fly. Joe's hands moved to her arms and she was sure he would push her away - but then he didn't. His fingers tightened their grip on her flesh, and his voice rasped as he spoke.

"This is breaking every rule in my book."

And yet he stood there, holding his breath, as if waiting for her to make the decision for him, and Leanne found it oddly endearing. She reminded herself her internal debate from last night; reminded herself that going down this route was bound to end in pain. But she couldn't care less.

Throwing caution to the wind she pressed closer, went up on her tiptoes, and kissed him.


Kissing Joe was every bit as glorious as she remembered. He may have been surprised by her forwardness, but it wasn't a few seconds before he took over the kiss, deepening it, his tongue seeking access and then stroking hers, making her shudder with need.

One of his hands found its way to the nape of her neck and his fingers tunneled into her hair, their tips tracing her sensitive scalp, making her shiver and press even closer. His other hand slid down towards the small of her back and then lower, to the curve of her hip. But that wasn't enough for Leanne, and she hooked her arms around his neck and brought his head down so she could kiss him back harder, grinding against him, instinctively seeking more. She may not have had any real experience, but her body seemed to know what it wanted.

Joe's fingers tightened at her hip, and then he groaned and his muscles stiffened, and Leanne knew he was going to break their kiss a split second before he tore their mouths apart and stepped back, breathing hard.

"Wait... Leanne. Shit. Wait. I - fuck."

Leanne watched mutely while Joe visibly struggled to compose himself, half-turned away from her. Finally he met her gaze, and the regret in his eyes struck her like a physical blow.

"I'm sorry."

Pissed off, she stood up straighter, hands on hips. "Don't apologize, Joe. I started it. I kissed you." Against my better judgement, too, she added to herself. Her cheeks warmed as the humiliation of his rejection hit her full-force, dampening her lust, and her shoulders stoop in defeat.

"I - I shouldn't have..." she shook her head miserably. "You told me you didn't do workplace relationships. I should have listened." She started to turn away from him, but his hand on her arm stopped her.

"Leanne... wait. That's not why I stopped - not exactly. Just - tell me this: if I weren't your boss, would you still have kissed me just now? You sure this isn't just you feeling... obligated?"

She stared at him, aghast. "Seriously?"

The set of his jaws told her that he was. She shook her head. "Man, you've got issues."

Joe's head jerked back, but Leanne was on a roll. "Let me remind you that I refused to go on this trip with Mr. McConnel, my boss. Rather, I accepted the invitation from Joe, the guy from the bar. Remember him?"

Slowly, Joe nodded, his look still guarded. Leanne took a step closer. Maybe it was the sense of freedom inspired by their hike, or maybe it was her newfound femininity, awakened that night in Santa Rosa. Her body was certainly on high alert still, sending all kinds of urgent signals to her confused mind.

She was trudging uncharted waters, but at this point, she wasn't backing down. Alone on the trail with Joe, she threw caution to the wind. Boldly, Leanne linked her arms around Joe's neck once more, inching up to whisper the rest of it into his ear.

"Let me tell you a secret: I have the hots for Joe from the bar."

She felt Joe's harsh inhale at her words, and smiled with growing, uncharacteristic confidence. "Oh, he's so handsome, and charming, and the way he moves when he dances..." Leanne sighed softly, exaggerating the gesture for good measure, letting the warm puff of air caress Joe's rapidly reddening neck. "I wouldn't dream of kissing Mr. McConnel, my boss. That would be so inappropriate. But I would love to pick up where I left off with Joe from the bar..."


Joe's head was spinning. Her words, her boldness, her body pressed against his - he wanted her so badly he ached.

He knew he couldn't act on it; not in the way he most wanted. For all her brave words, she was just as inexperienced today as she had been that night at the hotel. But that didn't mean they had to stop right that second...

With a deep growl, he took her in his arms again.


A loud quake startled them apart a few good minutes later, and they both stumbled back, staring in confusion at the source of the obnoxious noise somewhere in the nearby pond, and then broke up laughing together.

"I guess that's our que", Joe shoved his hands into his pockets to keep from reaching back to her. Leanne mimicked his move and they stood there, close but not touching.

"Yeah, um... I - thank you for a lovely lunch."

Leanne licked her lips nervously, and Joe wondered if it was lunch that she tasted on her lips, or him. His dick jerked inside his pants, and he knew they needed to head back, or he'd seriously risk doing something they'd both regret..

"The pleasure was all mine", he said instead, meaning every word, and then bent to start gathering the remains of their lunch. Leanne followed suit, and soon they were following the trail back to the parking lot where his pickup truck awaited.

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