Home > Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2)(3)

Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2)(3)
Author: Alice Clayton

Mmm, start out the weekend with a quickie? Good goddamn I’m good.

Knowing that I had the pup right where I wanted him, I headed over to the counter where Philippe was still going on and on about how well he knew me and how I alone appreciated his perfect palate. I paid attention, but mostly my eyes were on the Cheese Mecca that beckoned.

Philippe prided himself not only on having one of the most complete selections of French cheeses, of course, but on finding the most interesting and wonderful local cheeses from all over the Northeast. He knew my favorites, he knew what I liked, and he knew what I loved.

“Now then, you must try this. I’ve been sold out of it all week, but I just got more in for the weekend business. Taste this!”

I tasted this and that, a little here and a little there, my toes curling inside my shoes as he placed slice after slice of heaven in my hand, where it quickly disappeared into my nearly panting mouth.

“Now then, this one is really going to knock your shoes off,” he cried, pulling a new round from the case with a look of delight.

“Socks, not shoes.”

“Oui, of course.” He leaned across the counter with a spoonful of something rich and dense.

I opened my mouth, he slid it in, and the second it hit my tongue, I moaned.

I knew that taste. I dreamed of that taste. I moaned again.

I heard a small cough from behind me, and I knew Knit Cap Quickie Guy was very aware of the sounds I was making. I didn’t even bother blushing; I was enjoying this too much. To be clear, I was enjoying what was in my mouth.

I opened my eyes to find Philippe standing there, grinning widely, delighted that he’d picked exactly the right one. This cheese was killing me.

“Where did that come from?” I asked, delicately licking my lips, already knowing the answer.

“It’s brand-new, from a small dairy in the Hudson Valley. Bailey Falls—”

“—Creamery,” I said, the word creamery falling from my lips like a caress.

I knew the man who had made this. Strike that. I was aching to know the man who had made this. Know him, and know him.

“I’ll take it,” I told Philippe, my voice breathy. I looked left and saw the other customer, the guy who just moments ago I was considering bringing home for a Friday Night Special. He now paled in comparison to—

Long tanned fingers

Beautiful strong hands

No no. Save it until you get home and can enjoy. No mental pictures right now, get home before you—

Ink. Up one forearm and down the other. At least as far as one could tell—the ink disappeared via biceps covered by a thin cotton tee. Did the ink go all the way up? Circle around his neck and back? Did the ink go all the way down? Cutting along his torso, snaking around his hip to—

Get. Out.

“I’ll take all three, Philippe. Can you wrap those up for me?” I said, dabbing at my brow. Pulse racing, I handed over my money, collected my delectables, bestowed a “sorry, it’s not happening tonight” smile on Former Mr. Wonderful, who was looking so hopeful it was almost pitiful.

I hurried out of the shop, fifty dollars’ worth of cheese under my arm, and headed home. Needing something to change the images in my head, I turned on the mental soundtrack that I almost always had playing.

Cue “Fireball” by Dev.

What, you don’t have a running mental soundtrack?

As I walked quickly down the street, I was aware of the glances I was getting from men. I didn’t need to look in the reflection of the windows to know what I looked like. Long, bouncy strawberry-blond hair, pale Irish skin, likely still flushed from my heated imagination. Deep-blue eyes, almost indigo, set off by an array of freckles across my nose and cheeks.

My body was poured into a deep-green wrap dress, accentuating my true hourglass figure. Rather than slouch my tall body around town, I kicked it up even higher by wearing ridiculously high heels, the higher the better. I’d learned to walk across the old cobblestones of Lower Manhattan, and I could walk in heels almost better than in sneakers. These golden peep-toe pumps weren’t practical at all, unless you wanted to make sure your legs looked fantastic. Which I did.

Size-eighteen women weren’t supposed to show off their legs, which I did. They weren’t supposed to show off their cleavage, which I did. Size-eighteen women were supposed to wear trench coats in the winter, long sleeves in the summer, and somebody better cancel Christmas if they wore a dress that showed off some cleavage. Size-eighteen women were supposed to dress like they were apologizing for taking up too much space. Fuck all that noise. I took up space. I took up space in a city where space was at a premium, and I never apologized for it. And right now, I knew exactly how much space I was taking up, strutting down Fourteenth Street to the song playing in my head, with a bag full of delicious and already fantasizing about my favorite pastime.

Oscar the Dairy Farmer.

I made the last turn onto my street, feeling the smile that broke over my face every time I did. I was incredibly blessed to be able to live where I did, the way that I did. Most gals in their twenties in this city were lucky if they shared an apartment with only two other girls, and I knew plenty who shared with more than that. I lived alone, a luxury, in an apartment I owned, an unheard-of luxury.

Well, technically my father owned it. But it was in my name. So according to my own version of the rules, I owned it . . .

I grinned back at the pumpkins and gourds that peeked merrily over the brownstone stoops. Halloween was only a few weeks away, and decorations were going up all over town. As I clicked up the stairs to my own home, a gaggle of white Lumina pumpkins glowed in the twinkle of the streetlights. Juggling my purse and bags, I unlocked the front door, then paused to gaze up at my building. Three stories with an attic, it was three separate apartments, with my own on the first floor, or parlor floor. The other tenants had been here for years, and helped me take great care of the building. We shared the garden out back, and the fourth-floor attic was a shared storage space.

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