Mariana Zapata has a die-hard following on Bookstagram and BookTok. She self-publishes long, slow-burn books, and I think she is one of those authors where the writing will either work for you, or it won’t. For me, her books really work for me – I like the focus on the hero and heroine, and I love a good slow burn. Her books are on Kindle Unlimited, so if you partake and are curious about checking her out – this is a great, low-stakes book to start with.
This is her most recent book, and this particular scene is one that just is the ultimate cute date scene for me. The hero, Rhodes, is a silver fox single dad/forest ranger, and the heroine, Aurora, is a post-break-up woman with a secret past, looking to find herself in the town she grew up in. She ends up renting an apartment on the hero’s property and is disappointed to find out that she isn’t able to go camping as planned with her friends. She comes downstairs to find a surprise camping date set up by Rhodes in their backyard (aww!).
“He’d pitched a tent.
Set up chairs.
So that I could go camping.
I squeezed my lips together, telling myself, Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it, Ora.
I better not cry. I better not cry.
I even cleared my damn throat.
And it didn’t matter.
I started to cry. Just these tiny, pitiful streams that came out of me silently once the choke was out. I didn’t make a sound, but the tears kept coming out of my eyeballs. Seasonal little streams of salt at an act of kindness I would have never in a million years expected.
Rhodes stood up, alarmed, and I tried to say, “I’m fine,” but it didn’t exactly come out.
It didn’t come out at all. Because I was trying so hard not to cry harder.
“Buddy?” Rhodes said cautiously, concern all over his tone.
I pinched my lips together.
He took another step forward and then another, and then I did the same.
I went straight toward him, still pressing my lips together, still clinging to my small amount of pride. And when he stopped about a foot or two away, I set the plates on the ground and kept going. Straight into him. My cheek going into the space between his shoulder and collarbone, tucking myself in right there, and wrapping both arms around his waist like I had a right to. Like he would want me to.
Like he liked me and this was fine.
But he didn’t push my arms away once they were there. Once I was basically totally pressed against him, not crying-crying but tearing up into his shirt. “This is the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” I whispered into his chest with a sniff.”
All Rhodes Lead Here by Mariana Zapata
April 21, 2021- Self-Published