Rosie could swear Zoe was watching her with superior indignation as she threw clothes out of her closet attempting to find the right outfit for tonight. Prancing around in her bra and panties while she tried to puzzle out the perfect I'm-not-trying-too-hard outfit, Rosie chastised herself. When had she ever been this nervous about attending an event?
With a mewling pounce and a few turns to find a comfortable spot, Zoe took residence on the little black dress Rosie had already determined to be too dressy. Instead, she held up her favorite skirt with a simple blouse and smiled. Wait, had Zoe just shook her head at her? Now she was seeing things.
"Look, little miss Zoe. You lick your fur, shake, and look all pretty. I don't have it that easy." And now she was talking to her cat. Rosie might just lose it before she made it out of the apartment.
This event at the new brewery -Erik's brewery- was the first time in over a year since she moved here that she was actually dressing to go out. Everyone in the small town had been talking about it. The local shop owners were speculating on just how the brewery will change their quiet island. Rosie was in the group of those who believed it would be good for tourism, enticing younger families to try their island as a vacation spot.
Now tonight, they would all get the first look at the brewery. Admittedly, Rosie had altered her early morning bike route to include the side road cutting across the inlet towards the brewery so she could catch glimpses. Mere curiosity about the business, nothing more, she assured herself.
She had caught glimpses of Erik and a man she was fairly certain was his brother on a few of her morning rides. She'd never stopped though, requiring time to get over the mortification of misunderstanding his partnership. Had she really insinuated he might be gay? He definitely didn't look gay. Why had she jumped to that conclusion? Damn her silly imagination sometimes.
Her hiding was over now. She pulled on the long flowing skirt and peasant blouse, slung on a pair of sandals, and scooped up her little clutch. With a quick pat to Zoe's head, Rosie headed down the stairs and into the breezy evening air.
The walk to the brewery was short but gave Rosie enough time for the pep talk she needed. It had been a long time since she'd cared this much about anyone's opinion of her and if she were being honest, she wasn't sure she liked the feeling. She'd given all that up. Rosie wasn't going to start obsessing over what others thought of her now.
As she approached the old barn that had been bought and renovated by the Thorne brothers, Rosie marveled at the transformation. She'd seen the outside during her ride-bys but those quick peeks hadn't prepared her for the vibrating energy coming from Thorne Brewery tonight. Spotlights held you captive as you entered through a rose garden. The landscaping was something out of a home and garden magazine, including the built in stone benches and walkways. Hundreds of twinkle lights lit up a patio area along the side of the building that overlooked the inlet.
Rosie gravitated toward the patio until she spotted Erik framed by a halo of light at the main doors. In keeping with the original style of the building, the barn doors remained and were set on casters that were pulled open as if the brewery was an extension of the outdoors. Rosie couldn't help but marvel at the detail that went into the design. She lifted her arm to wave just as her sandal caught on a paver and she stumbled forward right into the arms of a man.
"Easy there, sweetheart."
Cheeks flaming, Rosie looked up into a face so similar to Erik that she knew it had to be his brother. "Oh wow. You look just like your brother."
He chuckled. "I'm going to take that as a compliment." He paused and leaned in as if sharing a secret, "though I know I'm the one who got the looks in the family."
Rosie shook her head and laughed. "And I suppose you're whispering that because you'd hate to hurt Erik's feelings." As luck would have it, when she looked over his shoulder, she saw Erik heading their way.
"You know it. He's a sensitive one..." his words were cut off as Erik inserted himself between them.
"Rosie, I'm glad you came. And you've met my brother Brandon," Erik arched an eyebrow at his brother. "who I'm sure is telling lies."
There was no escaping this greeting now. She'd hoped to have a drink to settle her nerves first. She would just pray she didn't embarrass herself any more than she did the first time they spoke... and she'd hope he hadn't seen her trip.
"Are you all right? I saw you stumble," Erik asked as he touched her arm. Goose flesh swept up her skin at his touch.
Her cheeks flamed in embarrassment again. No such luck on the hope of Erik not witnessing her clumsiness. "I'm fine. I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking. That's all it was." Trying to change the subject, she added. "Your brewery is beautiful. The grounds and the building itself are so well designed."
"Good designers and contractors make all the difference. Speaking of which, Brandon, you might want to have Holly check on the pavers to be sure they're flat. We don't want a lawsuit if a patron falls."
"True. Next time, the person who trips might not have a strong gentleman to catch her." Brandon grinned, winked at Rosie and then headed inside the building.
"Would you like a tour?"
"I'm sure you're busy. I can walk around on my own."
"My job tonight is to show our guests the brewery. And you, Rosie, are my guest so it's only right I should give you the grand tour." Erik took her arm and began following the same path Brandon had taken inside.
If Rosie had thought the exterior was beautifully designed, the interior rustic woods and metals presented an urban vibe for hanging out with friends. Erik steered them toward the bar and asked the bartender for a sample flight. While he spoke with the guy behind the bar, Rosie took it all in. Though entirely unique, Thorne Brewery also felt as if it belonged on the island.
Then she saw Brandon in a deep conversation with a dark haired woman. Stunningly tall and definitely of middle eastern descent, she was beautiful. After she followed Erik to a tall table where he sat the beers down, she nodded towards the corner where Brandon stood talking to the woman she'd never seen before.
"Who's that with Brandon? She's not from the island."
Erik laughed. "I'm continually reminded of just how small the island population is when people say things like that. Back home, we'd never be able to differentiate locals from visitors so easily."
"If you stay long enough, you'll be doing it too." Rosie assured him, knowing all too well from personal experience.
"How long have you been here?"
"A little over a year now." She looked away when she answered and selected the first sample on the flight. She'd prefer not to answer more questions about herself. "I like this one. I've always gravitated to the lighter beers."
"Okay," Erik held up his hands, "I can see a deflection when it's thrown out."
He watched as Rosie drank the beer, unashamedly admiring her. She could feel his gaze on her as if he were touching her, stroking down her entire body. And damn her cheeks for heating up. When she set the glass down with a small amount remaining, he picked it up and drank it down, his eyes never leaving her. Why was that so hot?
Swallowing back the attraction, Rosie shifted. "So your brother is the brew master?"
"Yes. This one is his self-proclaimed best brew." Erik picked out the sample in the middle and placed it on the table in front of her. "Try it. He says it's like him, so smooth that no girl can refuse." Erik winked.
Rosie reached for the glass, their fingers brushing. After a quick sniff and a small sip, Rosie took a better taste. Her eyes widened as she drank in the rich flavor. "That is good. I'm not a dark beer girl but that just won me over. Your brother might just be right."
Erik raised an eyebrow. "About the beer, not about him. He's not the irresistible one."
YOU ARE READING
Ring Around RosieRomance
This weekly serial introduces some of the characters from the ISLAND REFUGE series. The first full book in the series will be published in Winter 2016. Born and bred to become the perfect princess in the Chicago socialite scene, Rosemary's dream of...