Wyatt Montgomery knows a barrel of legendary Zoria imperial stout will help his Denver gastropub stay on top. The only problem is the brewery that made it is no longer in business. When Wyatt hears the brewmaster has only one barrel left, he won’t stop until it’s his. He doesn’t consider what this mythical barrel might cost him. And he certainly doesn’t anticipate his reaction to the heart-stoppingly beautiful brewmaster he needs to convince to sell him the beer.
When Wyatt rushes into Bec Dempsey’s small-town cooperative offering to buy the last barrel of her precious Zoria, she’s thrown for a loop. She’s been burned by city-slickers before, and she’ll be damned if she’ll let it happen again. But when things start heating up between them, Bec decides to make Wyatt a counteroffer. One she hopes he won’t refuse.
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Bec opened the apartment door cautiously, heading for the small kitchen table where they’d had dinner. Evening sunlight filtered through the window in the living room, the mountains looming blue-black and massive in the distance. She set her glass of Zoria on the table near her chair, waiting until Wyatt had taken his place across from her.
“We do this right,” she said slowly. “First, we look at the color.” She raised her glass until the sunlight caught it. Wyatt did the same. Deep golden highlights danced within the dark brown depths, like molasses or unfiltered honey.
“Nice,” he murmured.
She nodded. “Looks about right.”
He stared down at the beer again. It was time to taste it, but suddenly he felt nervous. What if it didn’t live up to the hype? What if it wasn’t good? Even worse, what if it was…okay? Good, but just good. What would he say to Bec if she expected a religious experience and it was just sort of ordinary?
“Now we sip,” she said flatly, and he realized she was feeling the same fear that he was.
He nodded. “We do.” They picked up their glasses at the same time and sipped.
Wyatt closed his eyes. He tasted chocolate and caramel, the deep toasted notes of the grain, a faint bitterness of hops that kept the ale from being too sweet. He paused, savoring, and the flavor grew—deep, warm, smoky.
He swallowed, then took a deep breath, holding himself back from guzzling another gulp. “It’s good,” he said softly. “It’s really good.” It’s outstanding, but you must know that.
Bec nodded slowly, her forehead furrowed. “I think it worked out. The flavor’s a little deeper than the other barrel—that extra year made a difference.” She took another sip, closing her eyes for a moment. “Yeah. It worked out.”
He thought of all the things he wanted to say to her. You’re a wizard. Nobody else makes stuff like this. My god, this is head and shoulders above every other beer I’ve tasted in the last year. But somehow he couldn’t get the words out. She was so good at her craft that all the compliments he could think of sounded like empty flattery.
“I’m glad I bought this,” he said quietly. “And I owe you a hell of a lot more than I paid.”
She shook her head. “We agreed on the price. I need the money, but I also need the other things you bought for me if I’m going to start brewing again. You got me everything I needed, everything I wanted. Antero can start over again now.” She raised her glass in his direction. “Thank you, Mr. Montgomery.”
He took another sip of the Zoria, then reached across the table to touch her cheek. “You’re a star, Bec. This is one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted. If I can help you get back to brewing again, it’s worth it.”