Rafael Ryann’s duty has always been to his family and the winery. He’s even prepared to propose to the woman his family expects him to marry. Until he meets a quirky barista at his favorite café. The mischievous redhead lives a carefree life that Rafe envies. She tempts him to buck the system and break with tradition. But with his life at the winery crashing down around him and her careless lifestyle tempting him more each day, he realizes having the life he desires hurts too many people. But what would he sacrifice to be with the woman he loves?

 Keeley Rose has crushed on Rafe since the first day he ordered a café latte. But he’s never hidden the fact that he has a girlfriend. Then, concerned for her safety, he starts driving her home each night from her bartending job and they end up almost making love. Nobody has looked out for Keeley in years. For a few wondrous weeks Rafe loses his Mr. Responsibility scowl and they become intimate while following clues about his father’s death. But when the real world catches up to them, Keeley is the one left alone. Again. Having grown up being shuffled from one friend to another by her carefree mom, Keeley doesn’t believe everlasting love is in the cards for her.

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Rafe strolled into McCreery’s restaurant and bar just before midnight and glanced around the room, his gaze coming to rest on the little bartender.

He straddled the stool at the end so he could watch her. Black slacks hugged her long slender legs and if he looked closely, he could just make out the lace on her bra beneath the white silky blouse.

Rafe couldn’t help but stare at the subtle bar lighting highlighted auburn streaks in the hair around her face. Tonight it was sort of twisted at the nape that kept most of it out of her face, but left it messy and sexy in the back and over her right shoulder. Her hair was never the same twice. Heavy bangles jangled together as Keeley slid a tray of drinks across the bar to a waitress.

At this hour the patrons had thinned, which worked for him. After today, he could use a little quiet and a strong drink.

He felt the moment Keeley recognized him as much as he saw the smile spread across her face. “Good evening Café Latte. What’ll it be?”

Relieved that she wasn’t ticked that he’d shown up, he relaxed. Her clear green eyes shone like emeralds tonight. “A glass of your best Scotch. Straight up.”

Watching her prepare his drink, he couldn’t keep his gaze off her ass in those tight black slacks. And a great little ass it was. He reminded himself that Keeley was just a friend and in the emotional state he was in, he had no more business getting involved with her than he did committing to Isabella.

But still, someone should make sure she got home safely.

Keeley took a napkin off the stack and placed his glass on it. “Can I get you anything else?”

“Not right now. Nice bracelets.”

“I found them at a little thrift store in Taos a few years ago. Aren’t they cool?”

He enjoyed the warmth of the liquid sliding down his throat and tried not to be too obvious as he watched Keeley move back and forth mixing drinks like a pro. She performed her new job as naturally as if she’d been doing it for years. Maybe she had. He really didn’t know that much about her.

She swung back by as he was the only person left at the bar. “Need anything before I close down, Café Latte?”

He shook his head and slid the empty glass toward her. “Where’d you learn to tend bar?”

She grabbed his empty glass and deposited it in a plastic tub of dirty glasses. “The bar where my mom worked when I was a teen.”

“So your mom is a bartender?”

“The last time I talked to her she was in LA working as a hand model. But she’s a woman of many talents.”

Like mother like daughter. He was intrigued. “What’s a hand model?”

“You know, like for lotion, or jewelry, or nail polish. That type thing.” She studied her own hands critically. “Unfortunately I didn’t get her awesome hands.”

Witnessing her cute little expression, he felt certain she’d inherited other attributes just as awesome. “You ready to leave?”

She cocked an eyebrow and studied him suspiciously. “As soon as I load the glasses into the dishwasher, but I assure you I can make my own way home.”

“I’m sure you can, but I’m already here.” He shrugged. “Might as well drive you.”

Turning away, Keeley placed the glassware into the stainless steel dishwasher. She could ignore him all she wanted, he wasn’t leaving without seeing her safely home. The bar was spotless before Keeley checked with the guy counting the money in the register and eyeing Rafe suspiciously.

Rafe took her jacket from her hand and held it for her to slip into. Without smiling, she put her arms through the sleeves and slung her backpack style purse over one shoulder. Before he could open the door for her however, she yanked it open, preceded him out into the chilly night air, and grabbed her purple bike from beside the dumpster.

“Good night Café Latte.”

“A gentleman always sees a lady safely home.” Rafe grinned at Keeley’s tenacity as she straddled the old bike, but he climbed into the winery pickup and followed slowly behind her. The windows were down and the fragrance of flowers filled the cab as he pulled up to the curb and waited until she’d closed the door behind her.