Jul 282021
 

The Dom Identity (Masters and Mercenaries: Reloaded Book 2) by Lexi Blake

A man with everything Michael Malone seems to have it all. A wealthy, loving family.
A job that fulfills him. Friends he can count on. But something is missing. He’s spent years watching his brother and close friends get married and start families, but it hasn’t happened for him. When an assignment comes up to investigate fallen Hollywood star Vanessa Hale, he jumps at the chance.
She’s gorgeous and potentially deadly.
Playing the spy game with her might be just the thing to take his mind off his troubles. A woman with nothing left to lose Vanessa Hale had big dreams that ended in scandal. She returned home with nothing but heartache and the desire to find her sister’s killer. The trail points to someone at Lodge Corp, so taking a job with Julian Lodge’s mysterious company is her best option for finding the truth.
While she hunts for a killer during the day, she hopes to find some solace at night in The Club. Meeting the gorgeous, sexy and seemingly kind Michael Malone, their chemistry sparks in a way she’s never felt before, and Vanessa thinks maybe her luck has finally changed. A love that might save them both When Michael’s true motives are revealed, she will have to find a way to forgive his betrayal. The killer has made Vanessa their next target. Working together and stopping this monster is the only chance for them to have the real love they both deserve.

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Jun 082021
 

Desire by Anna Edwards

Elise Landry is a divorced actress forced out of Hollywood when she split from her more famous husband. But when she’s given the chance to resurrect her career on a famous dance show, she does so on one proviso, she’s partnered with the man who she grew up with and hasn’t seen in fourteen years.

Leo Westwood is the professional dancer who’s known for his hips and the way he shakes them. He’s confident with women, but none of them hold a candle to the girl he’s dreamed of every day since he first met her all those years ago. When he’s partnered with her on a dance show, he can’t quite believe it. Could this be his second chance at happiness or is Elise too broken?

When secrets from both their pasts threaten to tear them apart, Elise and Leo look certain to lose their chance of a happily ever after, or does family legend hold the key to the painful truth neither of them will want to face?

Please note this book was previously released under the name Easy Rumba.

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May 302021
 

Thicker Than Water by Dylan Allen

Falling in love was the easy part.

Lucia is on a winning streak.
Her book, Throw Away the Key, has taken the country by storm.
And now it’s being made into a movie.
After years of chasing it, she can finally taste freedom.

Reece Carras is one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.
Handsome, rich and generous, he’s everything girls like her aren’t supposed to dream of.

But, dream she does.

And in his strong arms she finds pleasure and comfort she never knew existed.

Falling in love was the easy part…
Cruel twists of fate and torn loyalties will make staying together seem impossible.

Sacrifices will have to be made.
And they will learn that blood may be thicker than water,
but nothing is more powerful than two hearts that beat for each other.

Hana’s Review:

– 4 stars

– Interracial couple

– BiPOC main character

 

Poignant, brilliant and timely.

I received this book in a subscription box and went into it blind. I’d never read anything by Dylan Allen before but I figured what the heck? And I was truly not disappointed. Allen’s writing is smart, funny, emotional – she pulls you in with Lucia’s story – a story of an undocumented American. A POV that I’d never read before and I loved it and I love Lucia. Her fear, her nerves but even more so, her strength, her grief, her love and joy were tangible.

Watching her navigate this new world and her feelings for Reece, the film producer taking her book to the big screen, was lovely and at times heart wrenching. Sometimes slow burn romances aren’t my thing but when the story and emotion are compelling, I am invested.

I truly enjoyed this book and will happily pick up Dylan Allen books again, for certain.

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 30 May 2021  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
May 252021
 

Reel (Hollywood Renaissance Book 1) by Kennedy Ryan

Award-Winning Wall Street Journal bestselling author Kennedy Ryan launches a brand-new series with a Hollywood tale of wild ambition, artistic obsession, and unrelenting love.

One moment in the spotlight . . .

For months I stood by, an understudy waiting in the wings,
preparing for my time to shine.
I never imagined he would watch in the audience that night.
Canon Holt.
Famous film director.
Fascinating. Talented. Fine
Before I could catch my breath, everything changed.
I went from backstage Broadway to center stage Hollywood.
From being unknown, to my name, Neevah Saint, on everyone’s lips.
Canon casts me in a star-studded Harlem Renaissance biopic,
catapulting me into another stratosphere.
But stars shine brightest in the dead of night.
Forbidden attraction, scandal and circumstances beyond my control jeopardize my dream.
Could this one shot—the role of a lifetime, the love of a lifetime—cost me everything?

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 25 May 2021  Posted by  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Feb 212021
 

The Sinner (The Obsession Duet #2) by Mackenzie Lane

My tormentor is on the loose.

He knows where I live. He’s been in my apartment, watched me while I sleep. To keep me safe, Dylan whisks me away somewhere secluded while his team track down the psychopath who wants me dead.

Away from the danger, we lose ourselves in each other. He’s hard, demanding, and passionate. I yield to him. Entirely at the mercy of the man who holds my life in his hands. Until that passion turns possessive, and the more I push, the harder he pulls.

As secrets and lies begin to unfold, I have no doubt Dylan can protect my life, but can he protect my heart?

**Book One must be read first. This story comes with a trigger warning as it may contain scenes that readers find uncomfortable.**

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 21 February 2021  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »
Feb 202021
 

The Saint (The Obsession Duet #1) by Mackenzie Lane

You’re not a star until you have a stalker, right?

I come from a long line of Hollywood royalty. A line that ends with me. Becoming an ‘adult film star’ is a sure-fire way to get yourself exiled from the family. But this new film will skyrocket me to the top of the A-List. The tabloids love me and the fans are obsessed with me. Literally.

When I start receiving death threats, my manager hires me a bodyguard. Dylan’s an arrogant jerk who hates me instantly, yet he’s committed to the job, intent on shadowing my every move and never letting me out of his sight. But as they say, there’s a fine line between love and hate.

And it’s not long before that fiery anger turns to blazing passion. But when the threats escalate, I have to put my life in the hands of the man who knows my body so well and hope he can keep me alive long enough to find my tormentor.

**This book is not a standalone and may contain dark themes that some readers may find triggering.**

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Jan 122021
 

Only Once by Ashley Munoz

Breaking news: Hollywood’s biggest heartthrob, Ryan Prince, was caught vacationing in his hometown, but who’s the mystery girl?

No, I hadn’t heard that Ryan Prince was staying at the very resort I had just started working at.

If I had, maybe I would have called in sick.

On second thought, maybe I wouldn’t have, because I really needed that paycheck. Being a single mother and having a lapse in child support had made me that desperate.

Still, I would have rather avoided the circus that rolled into Hawk Tail Resort and the man who sauntered in with it.

All these years later and he was still that same gorgeous football player I left behind in college.

Except now he wasn’t gracing the gridiron unless it was for a movie role.

I assumed he wouldn’t even recognize me, not with the actress on his arm and the crowd pressing in around him.

Ryan Prince didn’t just recognize me; the angry tilt of those lips on that too perfect face told me he remembered exactly what I did when I left.

I thought maybe this was a gift, a way to put the past to rest…but the look on his face told me he had plans to dig up everything that was unfinished between us.

The summer was about to end, but it felt like my penance for the last decade was about to begin.

*This is a standalone romance novel with no cheating.*

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Dec 282020
 

A Righteous Man by Jay Crownover

Salinger Dolan.
You know his name.
You’ve seen his face.
You’ve spent money on the endless amount of useless crap he endorses.
Of course, you’ve heard the stories.
You know the ones…The one that claimed he was hard to work with and totally unprofessional on set.
The one where he got caught doing drugs on the set of the most popular, family-friendly show in America.The one where he ruined the reputation—and career—of America’s sweetheart.
There’s more truth to those stories than his fans want to believe because Salinger is the kind of thoughtless, careless, dangerous Hollywood bad boy the paparazzi and fame-hungry starlets can’t get enough of.
Eventually, the shine of his flashy lifestyle started to fade, and Salinger realized the only thing he’s famous for nowadays is his bad behavior and well-documented struggle with addiction.
The former golden boy is beyond tarnished, and the only person who can help him get his glow back is the one woman who wants absolutely nothing to do with him.

Maren Copeland.
You might recall her name.
It’s possible you vaguely remember her face.
You’re probably wondering where she went. After all, you’ve heard the stories…The one where she exposed Salinger Dolan’s drug use all those years ago.
The one that said she tried to ruin his career because she was envious of his popularity.
The one about how she went from being everyone’s favorite to a pariah overnight.
Maren Copeland is now known as the comeback queen. After years of hard work and purposely avoiding entanglements with problematic heartthrobs like her first co-star, she’s on track to revitalize her career and rearrange her priorities after a very messy and very public divorce.
For the first time in both her professional and personal life, she’s the one calling all the shots.
Unfortunately, the path to get her where she wants to be leads directly to none other than Salinger Dolan.
He’s the one and the only person she swore she would never work with again.
Once upon a time, he cost her everything. He’s back to make amends and promised to give her anything she wants if she’ll just give him a chance to prove he’s grown up.
She doesn’t trust him.
She knows she’d be a fool to believe he’s changed.
After all, what are the odds that a spoiled, entitled brat like Salinger Dolan could become a righteous man?

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 28 December 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Dec 232020
 

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.

Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star, Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…

Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?

But their light-hearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.

When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?

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Dec 202020
 

The Close-Up by Kennedy Ryan – is a Hollywood Renaissance series Novella

From Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Kennedy Ryan comes a new story in her Hollywood Renaissance series…

Those bright lights burn hot.

In Hollywood, the land of fairy tales and happily ever afters, a make-up artist to the stars finds herself entangled with the man of her dreams. Is the girl always behind the scenes ready for her close-up?

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 20 December 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Dec 072020
 

Affinity by Harlow Layne (A Salvation Society Novel)

Waking up in Vegas was always a gamble… but the last thing I expected was to find myself in bed with Hollywood’s latest bad boy.

Or that Jenner would be my husband, as in happily ever after — till death do us part.

He also happened to be my newest client.

Behind closed doors we couldn’t stand each other, but for the world we were forced to play the part of happy newlyweds.

The longer we pretended, the more real it felt. The tension, the desire… the slow fade from hate to love.

It wasn’t just his reputation on the line, it was my career as a publicist.

He had an affinity for bad publicity; I was hired to fix that, but what happened if I fell in love with my fake husband?

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Nov 262020
 

Becoming Mrs. Lockwood by K.I. Lynn

Every girl has dreams of meeting Prince Charming, or at least I know I did.

A fairy tale-like meeting of love at first sight.
Real life and fairy tales are very different.

I’m just a small town Indiana girl that had a chance encounter with one of Hollywood’s golden boys. You may think you know where this story goes—not even close.

Life is different. Marriage is hard. It’s even worse when you’re strangers.

476 pages…. I feel like I have just watched a whole movie. I think some authors would make this a duet, so I am happy to have read this book.

I really really loved the story and the life of a 18 year old girl waking up being married to a hot shot Hollywood producer. Yes, I would have loved it even more if she was at least in college, but I get the idea of this age gap. She’s 18, while Weston is 31.

That being said, I’m 31 and I cannot imagine life with an 18 year old… but anyway…

I have been keeping this book on my TBR list for months and finally reached it yesterday. I am all for this trope and the book was a 4.5 stars for me. Wren and Weston’s married life wasn’t always rainbows and puppies. I was happy to see him grovel, but maybe he could have spent more time on it. (Just a personal thought here).

I recommend this if you want a hot standalone, age gap and all the feels. No triggers, no cheating and a lovely HEA.

 

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Nov 032020
 

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who’s cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town… where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong.

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.
Publication date : July 13, 2021

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 3 November 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Nov 022020
 

Undone (The Ryder Billionaire Brothers Book 2) by Mia Kayla

“The way my body reacted to him was undeniable, but the way my heart reacted was unprecedented.”

Calculated, clear, and concise.
That is how I like my life.
As head of Armstrong Realty, I acquire, conquer, and secure deals in the boardroom—and bedroom.
No strings attached is how I like my relationships.

But then Jordan—Mr. Hollywood A-list actor—shows up.
He has more strings than the 1000 thread count sheets I sleep on.
We both have reasons we’re unwilling to open up again.
And I can’t live through another heartbreak.

So I make a decision—a one-and-done to get Jordan out of my system.
Casual. Hot. Naked. Simple.

But when the clothes come off, beds get broken.
And everything changes.
Because underneath that California tan and perfect six pack is a heart of gold, a heart I want, a heart I’m falling for…deep, fast, and completely.
And suddenly, all my rules become UNDONE.

Excerpt Undone by Mia Kayla
#1

“Hey, Christene. Wait up!”
I stopped mid-step, and my heart stuttered.
That voice. I’d remember that voice anywhere. Thick. Deep. Sexy.
It’d been months since I heard him or seen him in person. I’d viewed every movie he’d made, watched every YouTube video of his interviews, and listened in on my sister’s conversations with her boyfriend just to hear what was going on in his life.
My pulse ticked up in tempo. Tick. Tick. Tick. Like a bass drumming on the inside of my wrists.
I froze, took a deep breath, composed myself, and turned around ever so slowly to find Jordan Ryder—the highest-paid actor in show business, Hollywood’s hotshot, America’s it guy—staring right back at me.
He was also Cade’s adopted brother. Yep. My sister’s boyfriend’s brother.
He blew out a breath of smoke and then flicked his cigarette to the side. A sizzle of electric energy surged between us, just like that very first day I’d met him months ago.
I took a step forward, and as though the world had suddenly tilted on its axis, I lost my footing. In slow motion, as if I were in The Matrix, my legs gave out, and I saw the ground, the gum on the concrete, the cracks in the foundation. One knee hit the concrete before I felt a pair of strong hands reach out to steady me.
My hands fell to his hips, and I thanked the heavens above that I hadn’t totally wiped out. I thought I had been saved, saved by an angel. But just when I was about to pull myself up, my other knee gave out, and I face-planted. Not on the ground, but into his crotch.
Oh. My. God.
When I tried to push myself to a standing position, pain seared through my scalp. Because, like on an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, I realized my perfect curls were stuck on his belt buckle.
“One second,” Jordan said.
Is he laughing?
Shit. Shit. Shit. He is.

#2

I writhed against the sheets. Warm hands wrapped around my belly, a body spooning me from behind. Spooning …
Spooning felt like heaven.
Spooning was only for intimate, serious relationships.
Spooning only happened in my dreams, in complete unconsciousness.
I sighed, but when a man’s long sigh echoed behind my ear, I was instantly wide awake. I flipped around and found a familiar pair of blue eyes staring back at me. Surprise seemed to hit us both at the same time. My eyes went wide, and my mouth dropped open. I tugged the sheet to cover my body as he tugged the same sheet toward himself.
“Shit,” I screeched.
“Fuck,” he muttered at the same time.
He lost the tug-of-war.
I yanked the sheet toward me, revealing him almost naked and at full salute with morning wood. He covered his package with both hands while I wrapped the sheet against my body, noting that I still had my bra and underwear on. Thank goodness. All he wore was one sock.
His entire upper body was a mural of tattoos. A dragon and Chinese characters made up most of the art on his chest and upper arms. Sexy as hell.
“Nothing happened,” I stated.
I doubted it had since I was fully clothed, but shit, where the hell is the rest of my clothing? And why did he only have one sock on? My head pounded with a dulling pain, and I rubbed at my temple.
It wasn’t like I’d never had a one-night stand before, but I would like to remember if it had been with the Jordan Ryder.
With one hand, he gripped the top of his hair, squinting against the light shining through the window. “No, ’cause I’d remember.” He scratched the top of his head, and his eyebrows furrowed. “I do remember bringing you in here, so we would be more comfortable, but I don’t know why I only have a sock on.”
I nodded and bit my lower lip, debating my next move. Run? Hide? Escape? All of the above?
“Why am I only in my underwear and bra?” I slapped my head as memories of the night filtered through like clips from a movie—playing gin, making drinks, and then, of course … strip poker.
Well, considering he had one piece of clothing on—his sock—and I had two, I’d won.
“Strip poker,” he confirmed, no doubt reliving the same scenes in his head.
I slowed my breaths, though my heart raced, and my pulse thrummed hard on the inside of my wrists.

I wasn’t surprised that I was in a hotel room. What shocked the shit out of me was that I had fallen asleep in his room, in his bed, and in his arms. And we hadn’t had sex. Worst of all? We had been freaking spooning.

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AUTHOR BIO

Mia Kayla is a USA Today Bestselling Romance writer who lives in Illinois. She is the wife to the husband of the year, and mommy to three unbelievably cute little girls who have multiplied her grey hairs.

In her free time she loves reading romance novels, jamming to boy bands, catching up on celebrity gossip and designing flowers for weddings.

Most of the time, she can be caught on the train with her nose in a book sporting a cheeky grin because the main characters finally get their happily-ever-after at the end.

She loves reading about happy endings but has more fun writing them.

AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authormiakayla
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/miakaylabooks
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mia-kayla
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/author_miakayla
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mia-Kayla/e/B00K5G532E

Oct 252020
 

Powerful by Kathleen Kelly – A Driven World Novel

Kathleen Kelly’s Powerful is a second chance romance in K. Bromberg’s Driven World.

Kris Livingston is a Hollywood heartthrob, A-Grade actor, riding the crest of success.
Living his cosy life in Los Angeles, he’s surrounded by glitz and glamor, as far away from me and our sleepy seaside village as he can get.
Now, he’s returned home with his band-new film star girlfriend, to be the best man in my brother’s wedding.
Kris broke my heart the day he left, without so much as a goodbye and I never got over him. I know he’s not mine anymore and if he knew my deep dark secrets, he’d never look at me the same.
The chemistry between us is still there. But it’s been years, maybe too many and I’m not the same naïve girl anymore.
Can love be reignited the second time around or will our pasts be too powerful to overcome?
Publication Date : December 3, 2020

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Oct 212020
 

The Scene Stealer by Renee Harless

Scene Stealer (noun): an actor who attracts attention when another is intended to be the center of attention.

The glow of fame only casts shadows. The name Devyn Dane was once lit up amongst the stars. Everyone worshiped me. But now, I’m on the edge of darkness. No one warned me about the fall. My crash was lethal. These days I’m nothing more than a forgotten child-star with a tainted reputation.

Redemption is what I need. When a chance is handed to me, I vow not to blow it—I can’t. This could launch me back to stardom. But nothing is given freely in Hollywood. Everything comes with a price. This time, mine is a bombshell waitress battling insecurities deep enough to rival even my own.

The resilient Larsen is a mystery I can’t wait to unravel. Her brokenness makes me feel not so alone. But together, we are a complete mess that should never work. I know it, Hollywood knows it, and someone is Hell-bent on making sure we don’t beat the odds.

I truly believed she was my ally. An added boost on my rise back to fame. But the shine of Hollywood masks many things. She broke my focus, pulling me away from the most important goal.

That’s the thing with a scene stealer – you never see them coming.

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 21 October 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Oct 122020
 

Edge of Desire (Let Me In Book 3) by Jessica Marin

International superstar, Sean Lindsey, finds himself in a tangled web of lies, lust and love, in this scintillating conclusion to the Let Me In series from Jessica Marin.

I have loved Cora Gregory since the first time I laid eyes on her.
Problem is, I’m not the one she wants.
My best friend is.
She is pure poison, whose venom I can’t seem to flush out of my system.

The only antidote comes in the form of Isla Jones, a longtime family friend, that I used to view as a little sister.
While I have been gone conquering Hollywood, little Izzy has grown up into a beautiful woman, with a sinful mouth and curves that ignite my desire for her.

A war has started between my head and my heart, confusing me as to who I should make mine.
The woman who has tormented my heart since I was fifteen?
Or the woman who has started to haunt my dreams?

One thing is undeniable.
I’m teetering on the edge of desire, determined not to fall…instead I’m going to jump.

This is book three of the Let Me In series, but all novels in the Let Me In series are stand alone novels with no cliffhangers, no threesomes, no cheating and HEA endings.

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Oct 112020
 

Becoming Mrs. Lockwood by K.I. Lynn

Every girl has dreams of meeting Prince Charming, or at least I know I did.

A fairy tale-like meeting of love at first sight.
Real life and fairy tales are very different.

I’m just a small town Indiana girl that had a chance encounter with one of Hollywood’s golden boys. You may think you know where this story goes—not even close.

Life is different. Marriage is hard. It’s even worse when you’re strangers.

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 11 October 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Oct 042020
 

Matchmaker (Irresistible Bachelors Book 6) by Lauren Landish

30 men. 1 woman.

I know how it sounds… dirty.

Except it’s just the premise for a new reality show, Matchmaker, where I’m supposed to find love on TV.

Thirty sexy eligible bachelors are competing for my hand, trying to prove their love for me in front of millions of people.

I know most are fake and only here to advance their careers, but there are two who draw me to them like a moth to a flame.

One is blond and blue-eyed, with a chiseled body and a prowling natural grace. And while he might seem a little rough around the edges, with me, he’s kind and genuine.

The other is passionate, driven, and totally focused on me–everything a woman could want.

I feel so torn. Do I choose the one I’m falling in love with, or can I be happy settling for the safe bet?

That should be an easy question. If I were a bystander sitting at home, I know what my answer would be.

But I’m scared. He could destroy me, burn me to ash with his fire. And if I’m wrong about him, I don’t know if I’ll ever recover…

Matchmaker is a full-length Sexy Romantic Comedy with an HEA, no cheating, and no cliffhanger!

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Sep 202020
 

Stay for Me (The Arrowood Brothers Book 4) by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes the final poignant standalone love story in the Arrowood Brothers Series.

Hollywood taught me everything I know about relationships—except how to be in one. As an actor, I became an expert at faking it. Faking that I wasn’t affected by my childhood. Faking that I was okay. Faking that I knew how to save the day, the girl, the whole damn world.

But I’ve always known the truth—I’m no one’s hero.

Until I’m forced to move back to Sugarloaf for six months, and Brenna Allen offers me a chance to prove otherwise. She’s everything I never knew I wanted, but can’t have. Her broken heart, perfect face, and adorable children turn my world upside down. Instead of preparing for my next leading role, I’m directing a middle school play.

All to make her smile.

The more time I spend here, the more I want to stay. Build a life in this town that I swore I’d leave—for her.

But when the world comes crashing down around us, I’m forced to decide if staying for her is the right choice or if leaving is better for the woman I love.
Publication Date : December 8, 2020

Excerpt Stay for Me by Corinne Michaels

Chapter One
Brenna

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Ugh.

It can’t be six thirty already. I swear, I just fell asleep.

I roll over, check the clock, and sure enough, it’s time to get my ass up. My hand slides across the sheets to feel the cold, and I want to cry. Over the last eight months, I’ve felt like I’m living the same day on repeat. I look for him, ache for him, try to feel the warmth that was once there, but it’s gone.

Just like he is.

“Mom!” Melanie’s voice screeches at the end. “Get up!”

I sit up in the bed, drape my legs over the side, and close my eyes.

I can do this. I’ve been doing it this long, and I’m doing the best I can. The kids need better, and I have to be that for them even if the pain is still so intense I want to give up.

Ten days ago, we moved into this new house, which is a simple house in the middle of nowhere, but it’s close to my husband’s—my now-gone husband’s—family and the place he’s buried.

I’m struggling to breathe, to find something to hold on to that will let me know that life will be okay again. It will be. I know this, but I’m alone, and it hurts. I don’t have Luke or his steady faith to remind me that I’m a warrior and I always find a way. I’m the one having to push myself up and remind myself that this isn’t just a deployment. It’s forever. He’s gone. He’s buried in the ground, and I’ll never hear his voice again.

When I closed on this place, it should have been a time of joy. Instead, I sat in that cold chair, signing the mortgage papers with just my name. There were no smiles or jokes as we notched another address on our list. It was tears that filled the space as my pen swiped along the final black line.

My head tilts back to the ceiling and the hurt in my heart grows.

“Mom! Sebastian won’t get out of the bathroom! I have to do my hair!”

I release a deep breath. “I’m coming.”

Clenching my teeth so hard they may shatter, I get to my feet, pull a robe on, and shuffle out the door.

Melanie gets one look at me, and her eyes bulge. “Oh my God!”

“I look that good?” I joke. Sure, I haven’t slept in a week and was up crying half the night, but I don’t think I look that bad.

“No, it’s . . . your eyes are swollen. If Miss Cybil were here, she’d be screaming.”

“It’s been a rough few months.”

Plus, Cybil wouldn’t say shit. When I met her, we were two lonely military wives, stuck in Pensacola without any family or friends, and I was pregnant. Cybil was a sweet Southern girl with a thick accent and a heart of gold. We’ve been best friends for twelve years.

She’s a peach. On the outside, she’s soft, sweet, and you think she’s easy to bruise. But on the inside, there is a pit. A hard shell that’s impenetrable and able to withstand almost anything. She’s my rock, and I miss her more than almost anything.

Mel sighs and then looks at the bathroom door. “I know.”

And she does. It’s been rough on all of us and we wrestled with the idea of coming to Luke’s hometown. Not because we don’t love it here or want the family close but because it meant another life altering change.

We were a military family. Always close to a base, stopping the car at sunrise and sunset to hear the national anthem, and living in cramped houses that had more issues than we could count, but it was our life.

After having held Sebastian in my arms as he sobbed hearing the jet fly over the house, I knew we had to go. It had gone from being a source of joy, of knowing his father could be in that plane, to an ever-present reminder that Luke is gone and will never fly again.

I left, stayed with my in-laws as we looked for somewhere to live. This house came on the market, and thanks to one of the teachers I met at my new job, I was able to grab it quickly. The only issue is that it’s small and the kids don’t have their own separate bathrooms.

“He has to get out of there!”

“You will be totally fine, Melanie. I promise that no one will care if your hair isn’t perfect.”

“You don’t know that. What if these girls are mean? What if the boys don’t like girls who don’t wear makeup? Why can’t I get ready in your bathroom? Why won’t you let me put eyeliner on?”

The life of a preteen girl is always so dramatic.

“Well, I need to get ready in my bathroom. To answer your other questions . . . you’re twelve, your father said he didn’t want you to do it, and I’m going to abide by it because he’s dead and I’m tired.”

Her eyes meet mine, and then she sighs. “I’m sorry, Mom. I shouldn’t have said it . . .”

My sweet girl, always the caretaker. She may only be twelve years old, but you’d never know it. She’s sometimes more grown up than most of the adults I know, but that’s the life of a military child. They grow up too fast, understanding that a family is its own unit and everyone needs to do just a bit more.

Then she lost her father, and her childhood became nonexistent. Gone was the girl who spent hours on fashion and beauty. Instead, she has been trying to be an adult and I’m doing everything I can to stop that progression.

“Don’t be sorry, sweetheart. I am. I shouldn’t have snapped. I was wrong.”

She waits for me to breathe normally and chews on her lower lip. “I’ll get Sebastian and me off to school.”

“No, that’s not necessary. I just need to get going. It’s a first day for all of us.”

Luke’s favorite saying was that everything happened for a reason. He felt that kismet was real, and that it was the reason we met. I don’t know if it’s true, but I never argued. I was eighteen years old, met a man who was a pilot, and I fell—hard. Within a few months, I was pregnant with Melanie and we were married.

No one thought we’d last—in a way, I guess we hadn’t, but it wasn’t the ending anyone had in mind.

“Did Grandma make our lunches?”

I really freaking hope so. I was unpacking while she helped get things ready for today. “She said she did last night.”

“Did she make Sebastian’s sandwich without the crust?”

“I gave her all the instructions.”

She sighs, knowing that, most likely, it didn’t happen. “She’s as bad as Daddy. He doesn’t make the sandwiches right either.”

Her body tenses at her slip. She never mentions Luke. She pretends that he’s just deployed and that we didn’t suffer the most unimaginable pain a family could feel. Melanie has taken it horribly. Luke was her world.

Her hero.

The father that every little girl dreamed of. He may not have always been there because of his job, but neither she nor Sebastian ever felt neglected. His job came first, yes, but kids never felt that. It was only me who got shafted in the time department when it came to Luke’s job, and I accepted my role. I was to handle everything at home—the kids, appointments, moves, and shuttling them around. I ensured that our home was a well-oiled machine, and if something broke, I got it fixed.

However, no one told me to plan for me being the broken piece or what happened when the plane went down.

“Everyone is trying,” I tell her with a smile, thankful that my mother-in-law has been able to step in and help.

“I’ll check on the sandwich while Sebastian is hogging the bathroom!” Mel screams the last part so loud I wince. Then she heads downstairs, missing the soft sound of her brother laughing at her.

“Sebastian, you have five minutes, buddy. All you need to do in there is brush your hair and your teeth. Doesn’t take more than that.”

“Okay, Mom!”

He’s eleven and this is really just to irritate his sister. I love my kids, but I really hoped to have today go smoothly.

It’s their first day of school in Sugarloaf. They’ve met a few kids over the years when we visited Sylvia and Dennis, but it’s all uncharted for them here. Typically, a new school is no big deal, but this time felt different because we had left military life behind. There was camaraderie between military kids. They understood how hard it was to be the new kid, year in and year out, and tended to be more welcoming.

Now, they’re going to a place where these kids have known each other their whole lives.

Not even thirty seconds later, he’s standing at my door. “Do I match?”

I look at him, dark brown hair just like his father’s and that grin that is impossible to resist. Then I look at his attire and groan. “I thought you and Grandma laid your clothes out last night?”

“We did.”

Oh, Jesus. “And that’s what you want to wear for your first day?”

“Granny said it had character.”

I snort. It has more than that. “Sebastian, sweetheart, that doesn’t match. Go put on the pair of new jeans I bought you.”

“What about the shirt?”

This is not the hill I want to die on, so I say, “If you like it, I think it’s great.”

My mother-in-law has a thing for loud colors and animal print. If it has stripes or spots, she owns it and wears it. I am nothing like that, but she and Sebastian bonded over it years ago, prompting her to help him, “Dress to own the world.” If he likes the shirt, I am not going to stop him.

A boy named Bruce or Troy or God-only-knows-what with fists the size of watermelons will probably have something to say about it, but Sebastian has long since tried to make people like him. He’s a sweet boy who loves to make us smile and constantly entertains us with jokes or music. He writes songs, plays the guitar, and has straight A’s. I couldn’t be any prouder of him if I tried.

“I wish Dad were here.”

“Me too.”

“He would’ve liked the shirt.”

I fight back the tears that threaten to form. “He would’ve bought a matching one.”

One thing that Luke didn’t have was fashion sense, but he loved trying to give Sebastian the confidence to wear what he wanted. If he—a big bad navy fighter pilot—would wear a zebra shirt, then Sebastian would too.

“Do you think he’s in heaven watching me today?”

“I would bet all my dollars.”

Sebastian’s face falls slightly. “I miss him.”

I give him a soft smile, one that is a signature. It says, I understand, I wish it were different, but I can’t fix this. “I know you do, but it’s a good thing that we’re in this town with Granny and Pawpaw, right?”

He nods, but I can see the disappointment. “Yeah.”

“It’s not the same, though,” I tack on. There’s nothing that will make this better for any of us, and trying to give him false hope is only going to make it worse.

We are alone.

We’re no longer the Allens, a family of four. We’re just three of us, down a spoke on the wheel that will never be mended.

I lost the man I love and the father of my children because of a mechanical failure. So many apologies. So many nights spent crying, wondering how our life would be if he hadn’t reenlisted three months before that.

If only he hadn’t let me down.

If only he’d loved me enough not to go to work that day like he promised.

If only . . .

But only is a dream that I can never have because reality took him from us, and now, we only have each other.

“No, but I have you.”

“Always.”

Sebastian rushes forward, arms wide, and I pull him tight. His hugs are the best. They’re full of warmth and love.

He lifts up onto his toes, kisses my cheek, and hugs me tighter. “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too.”

Melanie comes back up. “Crisis averted.”

I laugh. “Thank you, Mel.”

She shoulders past Sebastian and darts into the bathroom. “Jerk.”

My son rolls his eyes. “Sisters.”

As they get themselves ready, I head to my bathroom, dressing in a pantsuit that I hope says hip but still professional. Working as the district counselor will be a huge change of pace from what I’m used to. In California, I was in a rough area. The kids I dealt with needed help in all areas of their lives, from escaping drugs, gangs, and abuse to passing SATs and applying to colleges. My days were never boring, and I loved helping everyone who entered my office.

Mrs. Symonds, the principal here, laughed and told me to prepare for days where I’d be searching for problems to solve.

I’m still excited and ready for any challenge that comes my way.

The kids meet me downstairs, backpacks slung over their shoulders, and I can feel the tension in the air. “You guys ready?”

They nod. Our house has very deep-seated traditions for the first day of school, and I’d like just one damn thing to be the same for them. They file into the room, pushing the other out of the way as they try to win the implied race.

“Move, squirt.” Mel’s voice is hushed.

“You move! You’re stupid.”

Oh, siblings. “Both of you stop.”

“She hears everything,” Sebastian says with wonder.

“Yes, I do. Now, stop being buttheads and let’s have our cake.”

They come into the kitchen area and grab a plate. This was something Luke and I came up with after our first duty station change. On that first day, we have cake for breakfast. It’s a celebration of the wishes we want to make. Even though this isn’t a first-first day of school, it’s a first for us in Pennsylvania, and we’re going to count it. Plus, cake has eggs, and eggs are a breakfast food. Sure, the sugar, oil, and frosting negate anything healthy, but I don’t care.

Each slice has a candle, and in order for the wish to be put out in the world, it must be spoken aloud.

“Melanie, you go first.”

She lifts the cake, staring at the flame. “I hope this year I get all A’s and I finally get a boyfriend.”

Sebastian laughs. “Yeah, right. No boys are going to want to go out with you. You don’t even wear makeup.”

“Sebastian!”

He shrugs.

Oh, I don’t have enough strength for this.

She glares at him and then blows her candle out.

“You’re next, Mom.”

I hope this year I don’t fall apart.

They don’t need to hear that. Instead, I bring the cake up and wish for something that might actually happen. “I hope this year gives us new friendships, lots of laughter, and we love our new home.”

“That’s sweet, Mom,” Mel remarks softly.

Sebastian’s voice is opposite of hers. “And boring.”

“Yeah, yeah, you go, Mister Adventure.”

He grins and then closes his eyes. “I hope that I can stop missing Dad so much, I meet some cool kids, and I get to see Jacob Arrowood, tell him how amazing he is, get to go on set, and become a famous actor.”

Melanie and I share a look because Sebastian might just get a part of that wish.

Chapter Two
Jacob

~One month later~

“I am not staying in that thing!” I tell Declan for the tenth time as I stand at his porch with boxes.

“You’re not staying here, Jacob. I’m married with a newborn. I love you, brother, but you really don’t want to stay here either.”

If he thinks that is going to deter me, he’s wrong. “Better than staying in that shack.”

“It’s not a shack. I stayed in it for six months, and Sean managed it as well. Your spoiled ass can handle it too.”

He’s out of his damn mind. He stayed there voluntarily because he didn’t want to stay with Connor. Sean did it because he was trying to win over Devney. I don’t have a damn reason to. “I’d rather not attempt it.”

“Go to Connor’s then.”

“He’s got two kids. You only have one. When it comes to chaos, that’s better.”

Declan huffs. “I swear, we should’ve tossed you off the mountain as a kid.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t. Now, let me in.”

He shakes his head, arms crossed over his chest. To anyone who didn’t know him, he might look intimidating. Not me. I find it hilarious.

I start to make my way up the porch steps but then see the only thing in this house that is scary shove her way past him. All five-foot-two inches of Sydney Arrowood stands there, brow raised and ready for battle. “Jacob Arrowood, you try it, and I’ll knee you so hard in the balls that they never come back down.”

I wince because I don’t doubt that she’ll do it. “Syd.”

“No.”

“I can’t stay in that box. I’m claustrophobic.”

“You are not! You used to lock yourself in that chest your mother had as a hiding spot and you loved the dried out well down on Mrs. Beackerson’s land. Not to mention, you know you have to stay on Arrowood land. That’s the agreement.”

“Yes, but you merged your land with ours, so really, this is Arrowood land.” It’s a stretch, but I don’t care. The damn thing doesn’t even have running water. It’s a compost toilet. Seriously, I didn’t know that was a thing.

She sighs and steps toward me. “I love you, Jacob. I do, but I don’t love you that much. You are not moving in for six months. Not when I have a baby and Declan.”
“He’s worse than the baby, isn’t he?”

Syd nods with a grin.

“Nice,” Declan adds.

“Glad to see your hearing works, old man.”

Declan gives me the middle finger before Syd’s hand touches my arm. “Ellie has the tender heart. You should try her. Devney would let you stay in the main house if you begged enough. But seeing how they’re getting married in a few days and will probably be humping like rabbits when they get back from their honeymoon, I’m not sure you could beg enough. Plus, they have Austin, who needs stability, not their homeless uncle . . .”

“Syd, I’m begging. I’m begging you to let me in this house, you won’t even know I’m here.” I’m the damn charity case in the family.

She rolls her eyes. “No.”

“You know I’m a big fucking deal in the real world, right?”

“Yes, but you’re in Sugarloaf now, and we really don’t care how big of a deal you’ve become. Here, you’re just Jacob, the idiot brother who once starred on that horrible sitcom that I made a meme out of.”

“Wait, you made the meme?”

She grins. “It doesn’t matter who made the meme, the point is that you’re not staying here.”

I should’ve known it was her repaying me for putting a rubber snake in her bed or when I convinced her a bear ate Declan. That was a fun one.

It was also when I realized that acting might just be something I was good at.

Right now, all I want is a normal house to sleep in. So, I play nice. “You’re seriously going to turn me, your favorite brother-in-law, out?”

Not like I’m really homeless, I just don’t want to stay in that tiny house.

Sydney doesn’t look apologetic. “I really am, but for the record, you’re not my favorite, Sean is.”

My mouth drops at that. “Sean? Why the hell is he everyone’s favorite?”

“He’s the nice one.”

Okay, that’s true, but who cares about that? Nice is overrated. “I’m the attractive one,” I counter.

“True.” Sydney looks back at her husband and shrugs. “But it doesn’t change the fact that your ass isn’t staying here.”

Declan shakes his head. “Wait. You think he’s the attractive one? What the hell does that make me?”

Sydney’s fingers slide against his face. “The perfect one.”

Well, this is a bust and making me nauseated. “It’s not a great idea to start a marriage off on lies,” I shout as I stalk off to the car.

“And this is another reason you’re not staying here,” Syd yells back.

“Some welcome home I get!” I say.

“Welcome home, idiot!” Declan calls back.

If I didn’t have a box in my arms, he’d get a fist to the face.

I’m clearly going to have to stay in that damn thing or with Connor. The tiny house is a more appealing option. I love my brother, and he’s great and all, but we’ve always been the ones who bicker. It doesn’t matter how old we get, when we are around each other, my inner ten-year-old comes out. God only knows what the hell living together would be like.

Also, I love my nieces, but I’m not ready to have that twenty-four seven. Hadley is a handful—a loving, beautiful, adorable handful who never stops talking. I need to study my lines and prepare for my movie that begins shooting as soon as I get back.

“Come for dinner tomorrow, Jacob,” Syd says as she wraps her arms around the jackass she married.

“Oh, I will. If I have to sleep in that damn thing, you’re all feeding me!”

She laughs while Declan shakes his head. They might think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’ve lived in Hollywood for the last nine years without having to cook. I am a pro at takeout and delivery, but this is Sugarloaf, and there’s none of that here.

I’m not sure how I’m going to survive without help. Hopefully, Mrs. Maxwell is still on the welcoming committee and will bring over a casserole or some shit. I make a mental note to stop by and visit with as many neighbors as I can.

Mom was always part of that crew. If someone came by, she fed them. If that’s still part of the town’s MO, I’m all for it.

I get the box back into the car and stand with the door open, leaning against the frame. “I really expected more from you, Syd. You could’ve offered the barn at least!”

“Where would I sneak off to have hot, crazy sex with your brother if I did that?”

I gag. “God that mental picture is now burned in my brain.”

“You’re welcome!”

I get in the car before anyone can say anything else. Now, I’ll have nightmares of them as well as what Sean and Devney will be like after they return from their honeymoon. I take the scenic route as I make the drive back to the Arrowood farm.

The corner store where I had my first job is still there. So is the gas station with the old pumps that they won’t change out because the new ones are complicated. Then there are the new things like the bakery that Mrs. Symonds’s daughter owns, a pizza place, and a dairy barn.

It’s the same in so many ways, but it feels different. It was like the first night after my mother died. Everything was there, just as it always had been, and yet, it was as though the house were empty. The most important thing was gone, and that void has remained.

After a few winding turns, I get to the entrance.

It doesn’t matter that in the last eighteen months I’ve been here several times. I still feel the same knot in my stomach as I get to the gate.

I stare up at the sign that has been there for fifty years and sigh.

“What’s one truth about an arrow?” I ask as I look up, wishing it were my mother’s voice asking. “Removing half the feather will create the curve and alter its course.”

She always made it seem like we needed to stick together, but in the last few months, I’ve realized that isn’t it. How does removing the feathers or creating a curve bond us together? It doesn’t. She clearly thought I needed to change directions—I think. Is it because I’m the one who always bends? Is it because I need to remove something in my life? Or that I never follow the right path? She never explained it, she would just smile and tell me that one day I’d understand.
Well, I’d like that day to hurry up and get here because it’s pretty lame not to understand what the hell my meaning even means. My brothers had lightning strikes with theirs, and I’m over here, still trying to figure out a riddle that no one has the answer to.

“A little help here, Mom,” I say. “I don’t think I’m asking for too much after all these years. The other three idiots got easy ones, but you gave me the one that requires an answer key.” I feel like an idiot looking up at the sign as though she’s going to answer. Still, there’s an overwhelming sense of her around me. “What would you think of all of us now? Would you at least be happy with three out of four of us being married? Well, Sean isn’t yet, but he will be in, like, four days.”

The sun peeks out of the clouds, and I smile. I thought she would be happy.

I get up to the house, and there’s a car there.

I park next to it, not knowing who the hell would be at the house since my brother is in the Caribbean.

As I open the door and get out, a woman emerges from the other car. Her long red hair blows softly in the spring breeze, her blue eyes lock on mine, and for a moment, I don’t know who I am. Everything escapes me. My name, where I am, the ability to breathe and think is gone.

I’ve seen beauty before.

I’ve known women who are every man’s desire, but this woman is . . . something else.

“Hi.” She waves tentatively as I stand there, staring. “Are you . . .” I watch as awareness strikes her. “Oh. You’re Jacob Arrowood. I’m . . . I didn’t think . . . I mean, I just . . . yeah, I’m Brenna Allen. I bought the house that Devney owned. It’s just down the road a bit. I guess her brother lived there before. I’m sure you know that since you’re from here and all, and . . . I’m rambling. But, anyway, I came by to bring this.” Brenna lifts a casserole dish. “It’s for Ellie, but I’m not sure where her house is since it’s a little confusing . . .”

Brenna’s voice drops, and she pulls her lower lip between her teeth. I need to say something instead of standing here like a fucking idiot. “Okay.”

Okay?

That’s the best I can come up with. Jesus, I need to be slapped. I clear my throat and try again. “I mean, thank you, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”

“Is Ellie here?”

“They live a little down the road that way. It’s the third driveway.”

Brenna closes her eyes and sighs. “I’m sorry. Ellie mentioned it was past the main house, but I don’t know which one the main house is.”

“This is the main house.”

“I see that now.” Her cheeks blaze, and she ducks her head. “Well, what about Devney? I’d love to say hi since . . . I’m guessing this is her house?”

“Yeah, that would be great. I’m sure she’d love to see you, but my brother whisked her away to St. Lucia.”

“Oh! Wow. That’s one heck of a whisk.”

I smile—or, at least, that’s what I hope I do. “Yeah, my brother is a romantic at heart. He is surprising her by proposing and then marrying her in a few days.”

Brenna tucks her hair behind her ear. “That’s sweet.”

“Or really stupid if she says no and he’s paid for all of us to fly out there to celebrate a wedding that won’t happen.”

Her deep blue eyes look up, nearly taking my breath away. “Luke always said a man only asked that question when he knew the answer.” She laughs. “I would hope that your brother is confident.”

I take a step toward her, wanting to ease the look of pain in her eyes, and then stop myself. “I’m sorry to hear about Luke. I didn’t know him well. He was a few years ahead of me.”

No idea what possessed me to explain that, but at least I’m talking in full sentences.

“Thank you. We miss him a lot. It’s always so weird when people say they’re sorry.” She smiles. “I mean . . . I appreciate your saying it. It’s just that we’re finding a new normal and doing our best even though we miss him. My son, Sebastian, especially.”

I remember that. After Mom died, people were always apologizing, but we were just trying to live without the core of our family. I feel like an ass for bringing it up.

“Ellie mentioned your son is a big fan of Navigator.”

She nods. “Yes, he loves you. You play a superhero that happens to be a fighter pilot as your day job in the movie, so . . . I’m sure that’s a part of it. I don’t know why I just explained what you do since you clearly know that. Anyway, he pretty much worships the ground you walk on.”

I laugh. “That must be shaky ground then.”

Brenna’s smile is soft as she takes a step back. “I’m sure you’re worthy of the praise. After all, you’re willing to spend time with a kid you’ve never met. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”

“I lost my mother at a very young age, and I remember all too well how hard that was. I think her death shaped all of our lives in a lot of ways, so if there is a way for me to help someone through a similar situation, I’m happy to do it.”

“You’re very sweet to say that, Jacob. Or is it Jake? I never know, and I hate to assume.”

“Jacob. Only one person is allowed to call me Jake. She’s nine and pretty much owns all of her uncles.”

“I understand. Sounds like the little girl is lucky to have you.” Brenna’s smile is warm but ushers in an awkward pause. “Well, I should go, but I’m going to be late getting back, would you mind giving it to her?” She extends the tray of food toward me, and I grin. I have one meal down.

“I would, but you see, I’m living in this house by myself for a week, and well, I will starve to death if I bring this to Ellie.”

Her lips turn up, and the sadness in her eyes disappears. “So, you’re telling me that this casserole will save your life if I give it to you instead?”

“That’s what I’m saying. I’m a man in need of food, and Ellie is completely capable of cooking for herself.”

“In that case, consider it yours.”

“You’re the hero here, Brenna.”

Her smile does something to my heart. “I appreciate you thinking that.”

“I appreciate the casserole.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

She starts to walk toward her car, and there’s a need so deep to stop her, to exchange even a few more words, or see her deep blue eyes brighten, that I step forward as if to follow her.

“Brenna,” I call out, forcing her to stop.

“Yes?”

“I’d like to meet Sebastian whenever you think it would be okay. I leave for Sean and Devney’s wedding in two days, but then I’ll be back here for six months and will have more free time than I’ll know what to do with.”

Her smile is stunning, and my throat feels tight. “He’ll love it. He’s had a rough first month at school. Well, he’s had a rough nine months in general if I’m being completely honest. Sebastian is a sweet boy who is trying to fit in somewhere he’s not sure that he does.”

I planned to make a sarcastic comment about how I’ll save him, but the look in her eyes tells me she’s past jokes. She’s suffering, tired, and overwhelmed by everything on her plate, and this deep urge to make it better fills me.

I need to stop that shit.

She’s a widow.

The widow of someone I knew and liked. Also, she shouldn’t get involved with a bachelor from Hollywood who has zero intention of ever moving here.

Not because of the past or because I am nothing like my idiot brothers who found farm life more appealing than the city, but because my life doesn’t exist here.

There’s nothing in the world that could make me stay.

So, I give her my signature grin. “Hopefully, we’ll turn it around for him.”

“I hope so too.”
*excerpt posted with the author’s permission

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