She’d take a good, cold beer over a hot guy most days of the week. Even better if it’s a beer she brewed.
Reese Murphy, brewmaster at Rosalind Brewery in Asheville, enjoys quick, easy flings and hoppy IPAs. Men come in second behind running the brewery with her best friends. She didn’t ditch her decade-long career in chemistry to let anything, or anyone, distract her from perfecting her next award-winning beer.
With his black-rimmed glasses and intriguing tattoos, their new accountant is the complete opposite of what she expects. Full of dark, brooding looks and sarcastic humor, even Eli's boring tax jargon sounds sexy. He's exactly the type of distraction she doesn't need, and exactly the type of man she wants.
Living a solitary life suits accountant, Eli Montes. After his failing eyesight led to a broken engagement, Eli swore off deep, long-term commitments to women.
And dating the owner of Rosalind Brewery, his newest client, doesn’t fit into the “just casual” category.
But his first meeting with the gorgeous Reese throws Eli off-center. She’s different. The former chemist is sexy, exciting, and insanely smart. Still, no matter how perfect she seems, it won’t change his determination to stay away and stay single. It’s for her own good.
Reese (Brewing Chemistry), Book Two in the Rosalind Brewery Series, is a full-length romance novel full of laughter, sexy-bits with a foxy accountant, and a satisfying happily ever after.
No use crying over spilled beer.
That was a damned lie.
Reese Murphy would definitely cry over the beer running down the drain. Cold, fantastic beer. Wasted. But she’d cry after she dealt with her cousin.
“Bradley!” Reese cut the valve off at the brite tank and then worked her way down the five half barrels, cutting off the flow. “Where the hell are you?” She shouted again as she turned in a circle, surveying the brewery, ready to lay into him.
Frankie rushed into the room. “What’s going on?” She stopped at the edge of the wet concrete. Her blue eyes scanned the floor. “Did another pipe burst?”
“No. Bradley left the damn kegs hooked up to the brite tank for who knows how long.” Reese wiped the beer from her hands on the side of her jeans. “Can you grab the hose?” Because Bradley wasn’t around to help.
Reese tapped the pressure gauge on the side of the tank. Dang. He had it cranked up, too.
Her phone vibrated with an alarm. It was time to harvest the yeast from the fermenter. Instead of doing that, she was cleaning up Bradley’s mistake. What was the point of having help if the help had the attention span of a gnat?
“I don’t think we have time to do this. You know the accountant will be here soon.” Frankie, still a few steps beyond the mess, turned on the hose.
“Yeah. I know.” Reese held out her hands. “You said to dress up for the guy.”
Frankie raised an eyebrow. “Yes. I can see you made a huge effort. And based on the wet spots on the back of your pants, you’ll smell like beer when we meet with him.”
“Ha! I smell like beer anyway. You know that.” Reese patted the large silver tank as she walked around it to the fermenter. Harvesting the yeast would let her reuse it for her next beer she’d start tomorrow, the second batch of her latest creation.
Rosalind Brewery deserved an anniversary beer for hitting their one-year mark. The best year of her life. Opening a brewery with her two best friends, Frankie and Ava, was a risky chance that’d paid off.
Reese squatted down and started to pull off the yeast into the brink. A slow sludge of pale-yellow yeast churned through the hose. The storage container wouldn’t hold the yeast for very long, but the process was still necessary.
“All done over here.” Frankie held out the hose. “Did you want it for when you get done? God, I hate the way the yeast smells. And the part you don’t use always looks like a pile of wet sand. It still bothers me that you let it dump on the floor like that.”
“That’s why we have concrete floors and drains.” Reese turned off the valve as the yeast shifted to drawing more beer out of the bottom port of the tank. “Here. Let me rinse this off, so I don’t step in it and ruin my nice shoes before we meet with your fancy accountant.”
Frankie barked out a laugh, pushing her long blonde hair behind her ears. “I’m not sure I’ve seen you in real shoes since we opened.”
“I like my new purple rubber boots. They’re comfy.” Reese turned the hose on and jerked the stream of water Frankie’s direction, causing her to jump away.
“Better step back before I get you wet.”
“You would do it, too. I’m going to straighten up my office before our meeting. Try not to have any more calamities before he gets here.”
Reese finished locking down the storage tank. “Where’s the accountant from? And does this accountant have a name, or do people just call them ‘accountants,’ and they lose their identity when they start doing taxes? Their profession sucks their individualism away as it drains their souls.” A little dramatic, but after the one accounting course she accidentally signed up for in college, Reese never wanted to touch the stuff again. Give her an Analytical Chemistry class any day.
Frankie scrunched up her nose. “I don’t know where you come up with that crap. His name is Eli Montes. And I meant it. Be nice and professional. Social. I think you’ve lost some of your filter being back here in the warehouse all day. Eli is great. He saved our ass when I couldn’t figure out our taxes earlier this year. I mean, after going to school for years to get my degrees, you’d think I could figure out a few technical forms.”
“Got it. Stay dry and clean to meet with the stuffy CPA. Wouldn’t want some desk junkie to see what real work looks like.” Reese sprayed the ground, pushing the yeast toward the drain. Most of the time, when she dropped the cone of the fermenter, she caught the excess waste, or trub, before it hit the drain. Unlike the yeast, she wouldn’t reuse that part.
Bradley’s signature whistling drifted to her over the hum of the spray. The closer it came, the tighter her grip became on the hose. Because she promised her aunt to help Bradley, Reese couldn’t fire his butt. That didn’t mean she wouldn’t find another way to pay him back.
His footsteps stopped a few feet behind her. “Reese—”
She turned, the water on full blast, and hit him square in the chest.
Shit. That wasn’t Bradley.
Bradley was to the guy’s left and managed to jump out of the way.
The recipient of the water bath was a stranger. Tall and a little lean, his dress shirt buttoned until nearly to the top, his tie loose around his collar. His shirt sleeves were rolled a few times.
And now he was wet. He held a laptop case out wide, away from the water, no doubt.
Reese moved the hose and released the lever on the sprayer. “Oh, shit, I’m so sorry!”
Bradley crossed his arms. “Wow, Reese. That’s one way to introduce yourself to the new accountant.”
Accountant! It was a hell of an introduction, that’s for sure. “I’m really, really sorry.”
The accountant looked down. The water had plastered his white shirt to his body and turned it nearly see-through, revealing the tank top he wore underneath. And something else. A dark swirl of lines and shapes covered his right arm all the way to the edge of his collar. A tattoo?
Their accountant had a tattoo.
She dragged her eyes to his face.
And glasses. God, she was a sucker for that geeky vibe. Dark hair, black glasses, and dark eyes. Enough scruffy hair on his cheeks to know it was more than a five o’clock shadow but not enough to be called a beard.
“Reese!” Frankie rushed into the room, stopping just beyond the edge of the puddle on the floor before ruining her cute boots. “What the hell have you done?”
Reese tried to say something, but only a squeak escaped. What could she say? Her seventh-grade revenge on her cousin had backfired.
“She nailed the number cruncher with the hose,” Bradley announced as he stopped beside the gorgeous man.
What was that tattoo?
“Oh,” Bradley said. “Thanks for unhooking those kegs. Totally forgot about them.”
Right. Bradley. The man she wanted to throttle. “Do you know how much beer you wasted leaving those unattended? That’s money, Bradley. The type that pays your paycheck.”
He held his hands up. “Alright. I get it. But I got caught up. The new Lumberjack Man magazine came in with the mail today. They had a fascinating article on using a natural deodorant to smell more like a man. Women can’t tell if you’re a potential mate if your natural odor is masked by chemicals.” He fisted his hand and made a muscle with his bicep. Bradley was strong, but it was hard to tell underneath those awful flannel shirts he wore. Even in the summer. They somehow made them short-sleeved as well.
Reese rubbed her temples. “I want you to promise me two things.” She opened her eyes, the impact of the accountant hitting her again. Damn, the man was hot.
“What are your two things?” Bradley asked, unfortunately making her turn away from the man again.
“First, you will never walk away from the kegs while you’re filling them again.”
“And your second thing?”
“You will never try to go without deodorant. I will send you back to Aunt Clara’s house if you do that. That article lied. No woman will be attracted to you if you smell like a hot horse stable that’s never been mucked.”
The accountant’s lips twitched.
Frankie finally took a step onto the wet concrete now that the puddle had subsided. “Let me get you a dry shirt, Eli.”
“I’ll take one. Thanks.” His dark eyes held Reese’s. “Am I safe to turn my back on the water hose?”
Frankie chuckled. “The water hose, yes. Reese…that’s a gamble.”
“I’ll meet you in your office, Frankie,” Reese said, still mesmerized by Eli.
Bradley nudged Reese in the ribcage. “My mom says that staring isn’t polite.”
Reese flicked the water hose up, squeezing the lever and nailing him under the chin with a quick spray.
“Don’t leave the kegs unattended.”
He threw an arm around Reese’s shoulders. “You know you love me.”
“Yes.” She sighed and laid her head on his shoulder. “But I will call your mother.”
He cackled and stepped away. “Got it. Now go meet with the accountant.” Bradley wiggled his eyebrows. “I saw the way you looked at him.”
“Shut up,” Reese said.
She cleaned up the connections from draining the yeast and set the yeast brink in the cooler.
As a last thought, she poured a glass of beer from the tank. Cold and crisp, a little of her tension drained away as she walked down the hallway from the back of the brewery to Frankie’s office.
Eli stood beside the desk, his gaze locking on Reese the second she walked through the door.
Its impact shot a warm buzz across her skin that didn’t come from the high gravity beer.
“Welcome to Rosalind Brewery, Eli,” Frankie said.
He’d pushed up the sleeves on the Rosalind Brewery long sleeve shirt Frankie gave him, revealing the bottom edge of his tattoo.
“You’re a lifesaver,” she added.
“Not quite.” His lips quirked to the side, revealing a small dimple.
Great. A tattooed, geeked-out, dimpled, hot guy. Damn.
He turned his dimple Reese’s direction. “I’m going to assume you’re another owner?”
“Yes,” Reese said, wiping her hand that was damp from the beer glass on her jeans before shaking his hand. “Reese. Again, I’m really sorry.”
His handshake was polite, professional, and shouldn’t have made her want to hold on a second longer than necessary.
“It’s fine. Must be a nice job to get to play with a water hose and drink all day?”
“I’m afraid I work most of the day. This is a luxury.” She held up the beer. “New brew. Have you been here before? Tried anything?” Beer. That’s what she could talk about, even with a man that distracted the hell out of her.
She sat down in the chair, giving Frankie the position behind the desk. She’d much rather sit beside Eli.
As Eli sat, Reese rudely stared at the inch of tattoo visible on his neck. Was it one big picture or several small ones?
“I haven’t been here before. I’ve heard of Rosalind Brewery, even before Frankie contacted me. You’ve had some great articles written in the paper. Is the third owner here? I wanted to try and meet all of you while I had the chance.”
“That’s Ava,” Reese said. “She’s at home with her baby. Her little girl is eight weeks old today, I think.” And just as gorgeous as Ava. Most babies were born with blue/gray eyes, but they matched Ava’s so perfectly.
“I’ll meet her another time.” He directed his conversation to Frankie. “I know you explained over the phone about your business needs, but I’d like to get a feel for what it is you do. The flow. The different costs you may incur.” He cut his eyes at Reese. “I already realize you’ll have a fairly high water bill. It’ll help to know what I’m looking at as I’m inputting the books.” Eli leaned forward, setting his elbows on the desk. The movement shifted his shirt along his forearm.
The dark ink grabbed her attention again. What was it? A bird’s wing? A feather?
“Reese?” Frankie called her name.
She blinked. “Yes?”
Eli’s dark eyes held an edge of humor. And maybe a little interest? Was there a rule against making a play for their accountant? Frankie probably had a rule against it. She had rules for everything.
Reese brought the beer to her lips. “What?” she asked Frankie.
Frankie rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I asked you if you’d take Eli on a tour of the brewery?”
More time to figure out that tattoo. And the man. “Can you stay around until four? I have a tour that I’m giving then.”
“Sure. I cleared off my schedule to come out here.”
“Hey, guys—” Bradley paused in the doorway. “Whoa. Sorry. Didn’t know you were still meeting.”
Eli unfolded from the chair and took a step Bradley’s direction. And Reese just stared. She didn’t usually gawk at men. Really, she never took a break from work long enough to give a guy the time of day lately. It was never worth it. In the past few years, her dates had consisted of mediocre dinner conversations and uncomfortable kisses.
“I never had a chance to introduce myself. I’m Bradley Murphy.” He motioned to Reese. “You know, like Reese Murphy.”
Eli cut his eyes over to Reese, surprise and shock registering in them.
“Whoa. Oh. No.” Reese stood, laughing off the confusion. “This is my cousin, Bradley. He helps out around here. What did you need?”
“Did you want me to clean out the tank once I finished kegging?”
“Yes. I’m brewing again tomorrow. Grab Zane to help if you need it.”
He saluted her. “Okay, boss.”
Eli smirked. “Did he braid his beard with a yellow ribbon?”
“Yeah.” Reese lifted a shoulder, suddenly aware of how close Eli stood. “He says it’s an expression of his creativity.”
“He might have inspired me to grow mine out.” Eli rubbed a hand over his cheek.
Reese tsked and shook her head. “I think Bradley has ownership over the braided beard trend. The customers love it. He’s somewhat of a celebrity for our regulars at this point.” She smiled, bringing her beer to her lips. “Not sure you could compete.”
“Probably not.” He turned away from her and walked back to his chair. He paused, waiting for her.
Sitting back down at this point would only result in more uncomfortable moments. “Will I see you at the four o’clock tour?”
“I plan on it.”
“Great. Then I’ll leave the two of you to figure out the accounting.” She pointed at Frankie. “She’s in charge of the money and food.” Reese held up her glass. “I’m in charge of the beer and, well, beer.”
“Got it,” he said.
Reese took a step back. “See ya.” She turned and left before she was tempted to say anything else. Or flat-out ask him out.
She strode down the hallway and back to her lab in the brewery. It’d been a long, long time since she’d been that struck by a man. Actually, she never remembered ever having a dumbfounded moment like that before.
Not like she gave herself the leeway to really date a man long term. Too much of her father’s blood ran in her veins to ever settle down.
But if she asked Eli out and it offended him, Frankie would kill her. Sure, she could probably find another accountant, but not without giving Reese hell in the process.
She stepped into her lab and leaned on the workbench. “Don’t be an idiot,” she murmured. Eli’s personality probably lived up to her dull accountant stereotype and wasn’t even worth pursuing.
Going to visit a new client, seeing their business operations, learning how they functioned, wasn’t new. Eli Montes had done it with every one of his clients. Getting soaked with water during an initial introduction was a first.
Eli leaned against the wall, considering the women. He was rather selective of who he’d take on as a client. After the first conversation with Frankie over the phone about their operations, any remaining hesitations disappeared. They had a great business plan, seemed conservative on their spending, and Frankie promised to listen to his advice when it came to taxes.
But now, watching Reese, he second-guessed his judgment.
She led a small group of customers on a tour of the brewery, explaining the process from beginning to end. About eight people gathered around her, hanging on her every word, himself included. She knew her beer processes. Inside and out. He didn’t know what he’d expect with three women running a place like this, but for some reason, it pleased him that she was so smart. She probably knew the function of each valve on the large, silver containers that held the beer to go along with her explanation of some molecular structure of the beer.
He didn’t really care about the technical development of the beer or the process to brew it. Her brief explanation of analyzing the original extract and O2 content went right over his head. It seemed like there were dozens of tests and process measurements that were taken and summarized on the computer in her lab.
He assumed it was technical. What he hadn’t counted on was being so attracted to the beautiful brewmaster. The best part of the tour was Reese and the soft, Southern accent that didn’t fit with the woman who would exact revenge on her cousin by spraying him down with water.
Intermittently, she’d make eye contact with him. Each time it was like that first moment when she sprayed him. A little shocking. His mental image of a chemist turned brewer didn’t align with Reese. Not even close. Everything about her reminded him of a woman that spent her time in the sun with golden, tanned skin. The juxtaposition between her career, intelligence, and sex appeal captured his attention.
“It’s lucky that you took the tour today,” Reese said to the crowd. “I’ve finalized my latest IPA.” She began passing out small tasting glasses to the customers. “Should be on tap next weekend.”
Eli waited at the end of the line, wanting a moment alone with her. “Is this the last stop on the tour?” He accepted the glass. “Or is there more?”
“This is it. We send everyone out to the front of the restaurant now.” She poured herself a small glass. “Do you drink craft beer?”
“Yes.” He took a drink. Flavor exploded in his mouth. “Wow. This is really good. And cold.” He held it up between them. “Did you know your eyes are the same color?”
“Really? I guess it’s fitting that my body would start to morph into beer after spending so much time here over the past year.”
“Based on what Frankie sent me, you’re profitable, so it’s been worth it.”
Reese looked pleased with the compliment. “Definitely. We’ve had our challenges, but everything seems to be going good for us right now. I know I need to hire more people, but it’s hard to give up control.” She slowly began walking toward the door that led back to the main dining room. “Hiring you will help Frankie out.”
Eli fell into step beside her. Her purple rubber boots squeaked on the concrete floor. “Anything you need me to know before I head out?”
“I thought you wanted to get to know the business.” She paused at the door. “I think that includes food. Stay for dinner. On the house.” She wiggled her fingers in the air. “Stick that deduction wherever you want to.”
Was she interested or being nice? Hard to tell. Impossible to make a move. He wouldn’t lose a client over misreading her signals. And some half-hearted fling would have to end at some point. Because nothing could be permanent. Not with him.
He adjusted his glasses and glanced away before those amber eyes lured him away from thinking logically. He could see every gold flake in her iris with the overhead lights so bright.
“What do you say? Dinner?”
She set her hands on her hips. “A drink to make up for spraying you down?”
He held up the empty glass, trying to make a joke. “I already had one of those.”
He hated to shut it down, but he couldn’t lead her on. Not with his future. “I need to get back to Asheville to let my dog out.” And before it got dark. His dog was a better excuse, though. Nothing like being interested in a woman and then admitting that he can’t drive at night due to his vision.
That always made a great first impression.
Her amber eyes hardened. “Oh. Well, suit yourself.”
It seemed like a mix of disappointment and annoyance. He felt the same way about himself.
Disappointment he couldn’t take her up on her offer and annoyance at his situation. But he couldn’t change either. She was a client, and he wanted it to stay that way. Professional. Distant. He’d met women before who’d interested him enough to push the limit, and he refrained.
Granted, none of them were as unique as Reese.
He followed her into the dining room and toward the crowd from the tour piled in around the bar. For a quick second, he thought of taking her up on her offer, ignoring everything else.
Frankie poured a beer behind the bar, working along with Josh, an employee he’d met earlier.
“He’s all yours,” Reese called to Frankie as she passed the bar and continued walking. “I’m going to visit Ava. I’ll be back in thirty.”
“Reese?” Eli called her name just loud enough for her to hear.
She waved her hand in the air but continued out the front door.
And he stood there, torn between chasing after her and staying put. Well, he’d effectively annihilated his chance with her by pretending to be disinterested. Too bad, it was a damn lie.
“Wow. Sorry about that.” Frankie stepped beside him. “What happened? She’s not normally that rude. She also doesn’t usually spray people down that visit her in the brewery, so it’s an off day for her.”
He slipped his pockets into his slacks. “I’m not sure.” Another lie.
“Is there anything else you need, aside from my big box of crap- I mean receipts and records?”
He chuckled. “No. That’s it for now. I’ll take them with me.”
“I think you said we’d plan to talk once a month or whenever we had a question? Will those monthly meetings be over the phone?” She raised an eyebrow, her cornflower blue eyes bright and sincere. “Or in person?”
He was just torturing himself at this point. Planning their monthly calls over the phone was easy. Impersonal. He’d likely only deal with Frankie from now on. No reason to ever expect to see Reese again.
Eli glanced at the door where Reese had exited a few moments earlier.
Damn, but he wanted to see her again. “In person.”
“Why don’t you come back another night and plan to stay for dinner? My new cook is working out really well right now.”
“Reese asked me to stay tonight, but I need to get home and let my dog out.”
Frankie smiled. “Bring your dog. If you’re willing to come on a Saturday, we serve lunch, and you can sit outside with your dog. Other people do it. We have water bowls for them and everything.” She wiped off the chrome bar top. “I know you said a monthly meeting, but can you come next week?”
“I might be able to.”
She set her hand on her hip, flipping the towel she used over her shoulder. “The quicker you get to meet Ava the better, right?”
That wasn’t really necessary, but the idea of seeing Reese again appealed to him. Not the smartest move if he wanted to stay away and keep a professional relationship with her. He scanned the dining room, the long, wooden tables mostly empty this time of day.
The laughter from the crowd of customers outside in the courtyard echoed inside to the bar. He drummed his fingers on his thigh. His options were clear. Come back, see Reese, and figure out his next move. Or, stay professional and distant, and like with other clients, only have monthly phone calls.
“Tell me, Eli. Are you seeing anyone?”
Frankie’s question snatched his attention. “What?”
“Are you seeing anyone?” She made the question seem innocent, but he’d never had a client ask him that before. “I was thinking, if you were seeing someone, you could bring them Saturday.”
“No. I’m not.”
She clasped her hands together, her eyes lighting up a little too much. “Good.”
“It’s just...oh, well...here.” She took a few steps away from him. “Let me go grab those records.” She left the room.
Was Reese seeing someone? He shouldn’t care.
He was an accountant for the company, nothing more than a contractor there to help with their general ledger and taxes. It didn’t matter the reason Frankie asked, Eli wouldn’t read into the situation.
He wanted to have them as a client more than he wanted Reese.