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That’s not a lie. Petunias are Monica’s favorite flower, but I doubt Brant knows that. It seems their relationship is more of a physical one, and I doubt they do all that much talking after the sex is over.

But still, I’m here to seduce this man, so he can call me Sweet Baby Jesus if he wants. Or Big-Breasts-And-Googly-Eyes. I don’t care; I just want him to fall head over heels into lust so that he leaves my family in peace.

“So what brings you here, Brant?” I ask in a coy voice while fluttering my lashes at him. For good measure, I even twirl a blonde lock between my fingers, trying to look like a seductive vixen. His gaze flickers to the movement, and suddenly, my heart contracts because maybe I’m coming on too strong. After all, Brant Harrison isn’t exactly a high school boy who’s learning about women for the first time. The alpha male has been banging a forty-five year old married woman for the past couple months with no compunction whatsoever, so he knows his way around the female sex.

But it seems he’s ready to play.

“I come by the Red Rooster on occasion,” Brant drawls, his blue eyes as clear as an ice-cold lake. “I live nearby, so it’s no trouble. How about you? I’ve never seen you here before.”

I giggle before spewing my cover story once again.

“Oh who, me? I just moved to the neighborhood, so I’m seeing new spots and familiarizing myself with the territory. I read on one of those review sites that the Red Rooster is a cool place, so I thought I’d check out the vibe.”

Brant nods as the bartender slides a martini across the wooden surface at me.

“Well, welcome to the hood, sweetheart. I’m happy to tell you more, if you’re interested.”

We clink glasses and I take a sip while gazing at him over the rim.

“Of course I’d love to know more,” I purr. “Tell me the gossip. I’m all ears.”

Something flashes in Brant’s eyes and he sits back, his gaze sweeping over my curvaceous form, and I wonder if I’ve gone too far again. But then, I dismiss the thought. What could I have done? I’ve only been here for five minutes, so it’s too early to have messed up yet.

With renewed determination, I lean forward towards the bar, my arms pressing in on my décolletage so that my big bust is emphasized. In fact, the valley between my Double D’s looks positively mysterious and Brant’s gaze lingers there for a fraction of a second before sweeping up to my innocent smile. But he doesn’t comment on my seductive pose, and merely begins a history lesson, of all things.

“Oakdale was originally settled by Norwegians,” he growls. “A lot of us are of Scandinavian stock.”

“Oh, you are?” I ask. “Then you must be descended from Vikings!”

Brant grins raffishly.

“Well, I don’t know about Vikings, but yeah, my forebears were Danes. They came to the United States in the eighteen hundreds after fighting Germans back in the old country. You know how it was in the olden days. Europeans were always fighting other Europeans, and no one even remembers why anymore.”

I frown, momentarily distracted.

“Yeah, I’ve never heard of Danes fighting Germans, but I suppose it could happen,” I muse. “Anything can happen.”

Brant nods thoughtfully.

“Well, after the war, my great-great-grandfather relocated to the plains outside Chicago. He didn’t have a wife yet, so he spent seven long years as a single dude before mail-ordering a wife from the old country. Yes, mail-ordering a spouse really happened back then,” he adds in a rueful tone. “Lots of guys did it.”

I stare at him.

“Are you serious?”

The handsome man nods.

“Yeah, I am. My great-great-grandmother was picked from a catalogue. She had a bar code and everything. I’m kidding,” he grins. “There were no catalogues back then, at least from what I’ve heard. Instead, there were marriage agencies who made introductions. I think they provided a picture and maybe some basic stats about each prospective spouse, but not a lot. There was no internet in those days,” he says with a rueful smile.

I shake my head, my eyes wide.

“Goodness, that must have been interesting. I mean, it gives a whole new meaning to the words ‘blind date.’”

Brant grins again, his blue eyes sparkling.

“Yeah, except it wasn’t a blind date. It was a blind marriage, which is fucking inconceivable when you think about it. My great-great-grandmother was a girl of sixteen when she was shipped here, and from what we know, she got off the boat in New York, got onto a train, and made her way to Illinois where my grandpappy had a homestead. He was a farmer,” he clarifies. “Growing wheat, mostly, but also some vegetables to be sold at market.”

I nod.

“It sounds like a wholesome life.”

Brant smiles, his teeth flashing white in the darkness.

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