Saturday, August 24, 2019

Book Giveaway: The Duchess in his Bed by Lorraine Heath

A Sins for All Seasons Novel, # 4
Avon Books
ISBN: 978-0-06-267606-1
September, 2019
Historical Romance Paperback 
(Also in Hardcover in August)

London, 1840 and 1872
In a short prologue we meet a scoundrel who inherited an earldom thanks to his older brother’s “hunting accident”. He fathers a series of bastards whom he palms off on needy women. Some of them survive. Several lucky ones were raised by a good woman named Ettie Trewlove. One such, Aiden Trewlove, has built himself successful businesses, a men’s club and a very popular club catering to women who enjoy gambling, smoking, and being catered to by young handsome men. Though flirting is rampant, it falls short of being a brothel. Aiden welcomes the ladies with a smile, but goes no further. Then temptation arrives all dressed in blue, including her mask.

Serena Sheffield, Duchess of Lushing, suddenly loses her dear husband to an illness. What is worse is that she never gave him children, so no heir. In THE DUCHESS IN HIS BED, Ms. Heath does a great job of bringing to life not only Serena and Aiden, but their families and friends. Readers of the first books will already know the Trewloves.

Serena has three younger sisters and a brother dependent on her. But much of the Lushing fortune will revert to the crown for lack of a male heir. What will she do? Then her brother suggests a plan.

While the whole plot is captivating, it’s also filled with lots of very hot sex, both temptation and actual performance. 

Jane Bowers

Love a good historical romance?
Post a comment to be entered in a chance to win a copy of this book!
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Friday, August 23, 2019

Book Winner!

The winner of FAKING MS. RIGHT is....Natty's Mama aka Karen T.

Please email me at to claim your book!

Promo: I've Got You Babe by Lynnette Austin

I’ve Got You, Babe 
by Lynnette Austin
Publication date: August 27, 2019

“Powerful chemistry that makes this a winning page-turner.”—Publishers Weekly for Must Love Babies

Where do you go when you’re at the end of your rope?

Former Marine Tucker Wylder wants nothing more than to work with his brothers in their vintage car restoration business and be left alone with his nightmares and regrets. The last thing he needs is to take on someone else’s troubles…

Then Elisa Danvers and her young daughter arrive in Misty Bottoms, Georgia. Elisa has reached the end of the line—flat broke, engine trouble, sick in body and spirit. Tucker steps up to the rescue and finds himself reluctantly taking care of a feisty preschooler and her independent mother, who doesn’t seem to want his help. And Tucker isn’t sure he’s ready for the way precocious little Daisy and headstrong, beautiful Elisa herself capture first his bachelor household and finally his carefully guarded heart…

Must Love Babies Series:
Must Love Babies (Book 1)
I've Got You Babe (Book 2)

What People Are Saying about Lynnette Austin:
“Austin is a talented writer with a gift for capturing the charming...dynamic and interesting.”—Kirkus Reviews for Must Love Babies
“Austin’s sweet small-town romance hits all the right buttons.”—Booklist for Must Love Babies
“Readers will be drawn in most of all by the sweet Southern romance.”—Publishers Weekly for Picture Perfect Wedding
“Romance that has it all… A beautifully written tale of romance, friendship, and learning to trust.”—Fresh Fiction for Every Bride Has Her Day

Lynnette Austin has been a finalist in Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Contest, PASIC's Book of Your Heart Contest, and Georgia Romance Writers' Maggie Contest. Having grown up in a small town, that's where her heart takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody...and all their business, for better or worse. Visit her at Lynnette splits her time between the beaches of Florida and the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia.

Author Website:

Purchase Links:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A cup of hot, black coffee in hand and a well-earned—and desperately needed—weekend fishing trip on his mind, Tucker unlocked the front door of Wylder Rides. The smell of oil and new tires welcomed him like an old friend. He liked the peace and quiet of the early morning, the solitude before his brothers arrived.
When a breeze drifted in through the open bay door, he thanked the stars the calendar had finally flipped to October. This summer, his first in Misty Bottoms, Georgia, had been hotter than Hades. With the onslaught of autumn, though, temperatures had dipped to a less humid mid-seventies.
Still, even the Georgia low-country summer had been a hell of a sight better than the sweltering heat he’d suffered during his Middle East deployment. There the July temperatures hovered above the hundred-degree mark. Add in the blistering sun, and the place could turn a man’s hide to shoe leather in no time. Don’t even get him started on the never-ending sand that found its way into every crack and crevice on the human body and scoured exposed skin raw.
A tough place to live. A worse place to die.
Involuntarily, his hands clenched into fists. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed them. Not today. He dropped to the creeper, slid partially beneath the ’Vette, and got busy replacing the brake lines.
Southern rock blasted from his stereo. Over the magic of Charlie Daniel’s fiddle, Tucker heard a car slow, then pull in out front. Its muffler was shot. The engine knocked, coughed and sputtered, then shut down with a rattle.
Seconds later, a totally different sound caught his attention—high heels on the garage’s concrete floor. Tucker slid a sidelong glance toward the front of the bay and almost swallowed his tongue. Framed in the narrow window between the floor and the car’s bumper were a pair of legs that would have any red-blooded man drooling…and they crossed slowly toward him. Laying the wrench on the floor beside him, he gave a push with his foot and slid the creeper from beneath the car.
Flat on his back, he let his gaze travel up over a body that matched the legs beat for beat, then on to a face only angels could have created. The heart-shaped face, with its sensuous lips and the biggest, bluest eyes he’d ever seen, sent a shockwave rocketing through him. Long, pale blond hair had been caught back in a ponytail.
An illusion? Maybe he’d breathed too many gas fumes and was hallucinating?
Nope. This woman was real and, from the expression on that stunning face, in trouble. 
“My car—” She waved a hand toward the front of the building.
“Could use some work,” Tucker finished, slowly getting to his feet. Wiping his hands on a grease rag, he moved toward her. “Look, we’re not a repair shop, but I can probably figure out what’s wrong. If it’s minor—”
She swayed and reached out toward the wall.
“You okay?” Even as Tucker spoke, he saw those mind-blowing eyes go blank. Dark lashes fanned her cheeks.
With a muttered curse, he lunged, barely reaching her before she hit the floor. Heart racing, he held her against him and swore again. Out cold.
“Hey, can you hear me?” He tapped her cheek but got no response. “Wake up.”
Sweat broke out on his brow. Where were his brothers? They should be here by now. What was he supposed to do with an unconscious woman? He leaned his head close to hers, relief flooding him when her breath whispered against his cheek.
A high-pitched wail split the air. Panicked, his head whipped up, and he glanced toward the beater parked out front. The driver’s side door hung open; in the back, strapped into a child’s seat, sat a little girl with her mama’s pale blond hair—a little girl winding up for one hell of a crying jag. 
And the day just got better!
He shook the limp woman gently, noticed the sheen of perspiration on her face. “Come on, sugar. For God’s sake, open those baby blues.”
She didn’t.
Kneeling and taking the woman down with him, he spread an old garage blanket and laid her carefully on it, straightening the short skirt of her flower-print dress.
With his forearm, he swiped the sweat from his brow. “Hey, wake up.”
She didn’t.
Okay. Time to tackle the second half of this double-feature horror show.
Edging toward the used-up Ford Escort and its young occupant in much the same way he’d approach a suspected sniper’s nest, he pulled out his phone and hit 911.
The sheriff answered on the first ring. “Misty Bottoms Police Department. What can I do ya?”
“Jimmy Don, it’s Tuck Wylder. I’m out at my shop.” Opening the sedan’s back door, he stared at the young child, at her tear-covered face and runny nose. He’d guess her to be maybe two or three years old. An opened bag of pretzels lay on the seat. Leaning in, he grabbed one and handed it to her. She raised it to her mouth and chewed, her cries dying to quiet whimpers.
Thank you, Jesus.
“Tuck? What’s goin’ on?” the sheriff demanded.
“A woman pulled up in front of our place, and, well, she’s passed out.”
“Been drinkin’?”
“I don’t think so, but she’s hot.”
“I don’t care how good lookin’ she is.”
“No, Jimmy Don. Not hot hot, hot! As in sweating.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so?”
“I did!” Who’s on first? he thought.
“Do I hear a kid?”
Exasperated, Tucker raked fingers through his short hair, his gaze travelling over the woman. She still hadn’t moved. What a friggin’ mess!
“Yeah, you do. She came with the woman who’s passed out on my garage floor.”
“She okay?”
Tucker raised his eyes to the heavens and rubbed at his forehead. “Which one?”
“The kid.”
“How would I know? Nothing wrong with her lungs, I can tell you that.” The nagging beginning of a headache bloomed into a full-fledged whopper.
“You need an ambulance or you gonna take the gal in to see Doc Hawkins?”
“What?” Tucker pulled the cell away to stare at it. Bringing it back to his ear, he asked, “Are you serious, Jimmy Don? You want me to pick up an unconscious stranger, toss her in my car, along with the baby, and drive them into town?”
“So I guess you want me to send the town’s ambulance out there.”

Excerpted from I’ve Got You, Babe by Lynnette Austin. © 2019 by Lynnette Austin. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Cover Reveal: Capturing the Heart of the Rock Star by Nomi Summers

 by Nomi Summers
Brought to you by Forever Write PR

We are excited to share the cover for Nomi Summers’ CAPTURING THE
HEART OF THE ROCK STAR. Keep scrolling to take a closer look at the
cover, and don’t forget to add CAPTURING THE HEART OF THE ROCK
STAR to your Goodreads TBR shelf or even pre-order!

Add to Goodreads Now!

Even rock stars are haunted by the one that got away...
Chasing music and freedom, Shane Knox left Arbor Shores nine years ago and never looked back... until now. With his best friend, Dax, getting married, Shane is coming home to face his past as well as Avery, the girl he left behind. 

The second he lays eyes on her, all of his long suppressed feelings come rushing back in a tidal wave of regret. For him, it was never truly over. But is it too late for a second chance? 

Despite being bitter over Shane’s abrupt exit, Avery has bigger problems on her hands than drama with her ex. Her family’s hotel, Arbor Shores Resort, is struggling. Financial difficulties have landed the business in prime position for a real estate buyout, which would destroy all Avery and her family have built. 

Putting his career on the line, Shane comes up with a plan that could save the resort. But will it be enough to redeem himself with Avery? 

Or is it time for him to leave Arbor Shores for good?

Pre-Order on Amazon Today!

Author Nomi Summers: 

Nomi Summers is a clean contemporary romance author with a flair for taming
bad boy heroes readers swoon over.

When she’s not dreaming up her next sweet small-town romance, you’ll find
her at the beach devouring the latest new release on her Kindle. Her other guilty
pleasures include getting lost in mindless reality TV and spending far too
much time talking to her dogs, as she’s convinced they understand every
other word!

Nomi’s living her own “happily ever after” with her loving husband and their
two fur babies in Tampa Bay, Florida. However, a piece of her heart will
always belong in Michigan where she’s originally from--the inspiration for
the settings in her novels. 

This blogger event is brought to you by Forever Write PR. For more information,
visit our Facebook page!

Promo: Nothing to Fear by Juno Rushdan

Nothing to Fear
by Juno Rushdan
Publication date: August 27, 2019

“Juno Rushdan is the real deal. Every Last Breath is an electric combination of heart-stopping thriller and swoon-worthy romance.”—LEXI BLAKE, New York Times bestselling author

The clock is ticking.
Fearsome Gray Box operative Gideon Stone is devoted to his work and his team. He’s never given reason to doubt his loyalty…until he’s tasked with investigating Willow Harper, a beguiling cryptologist suspected of selling deadly bio-agents on the black market.

He knows she’s innocent. He knows she’s being framed. And he knows that without him, Willow will be dead before sunrise.

Thrust into the crossfire of an insidious international conspiracy, Gideon will do anything to keep Willow safe…even if that means waging war against his own. With time running out, an unlikely bond pushes limits—and forges loyalties. Every move they make counts. And the real traitor is always watching…

The Final Hour Series:
Every Last Breath
Nothing to Fear (coming August 2019)
Until the End (coming early 2020)

What People Are Saying About Juno Rushdan:

“Tense and fulfilling. Settle back and savor this one.”— STEVE BERRY, New York Times bestselling author
“Fast-paced, intense, and sexy—a must-read romantic suspense!”—CYNTHIA EDEN, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
“A fast-paced, spine-tingling thriller you won’t want to put down!”—LAURA GRIFFIN, New York Times bestselling author
“An unputdownable thrill ride.”—LEXI BLAKE, New York Times bestselling author
“A romantic thriller that handily juggles emotional intensity and a heart-pounding, James Bond-ian adventure.”—Kirkus Reviews

Juno Rushdan draws from real-life inspiration as a former U.S. Air Force Intelligence Officer to craft sizzling romantic thrillers.  Although she is a native New Yorker, wanderlust has taken her across the globe. She’s visited more than twenty different countries and has lived in England and Germany. When she’s not writing, Juno loves spending time with her family. She currently resides in Virginia.

Author Website:

Purchase Links:

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Willow’s car nosedived down a long ramp that mouthed open to three lanes. Vehicles lining the two on the left were stopped at a red light.
She grabbed the wheel and veered toward the empty right lane.
Relief flashed through her. But as quickly as it came, it was gone. Her car had no brakes and was on a collision course with a major intersection of traffic.
Pressure welled in her chest.
Figures. She’d just had the most highly charged experience in her short life with a guy she was crazy attracted to, and now she was going to die. After living a neutral—
Neutral. She shifted from drive to neutral and dragged the tires against the concrete curb. The friction would shave off some speed but not enough. Not while pitched downhill on a trajectory sending her right into traffic with the cruise control jammed at sixty.
She had to avoid causing a domino effect of collisions in the intersection. Cranking the wheel, she plowed over the curb, scraping the undercarriage, and climbed the grassy berm over uneven terrain. Her gaze flickered up to the rearview mirror and to a red Jeep speeding up behind her.
A concrete barricade ahead stole her attention and her breath. She spun the wheel, turning into the main street traffic. Cars squealed, braking. Another skidded and rear-ended a truck.
The Jeep bulldozed up beside her in the left lane, horn honking.
What was she supposed to do? What could she do?
The four-wheel-drive vehicle nosed past her bumper and crashed into her car, forcing her to make a hard right—straight into the parking lot of a grocery store.
A woman yapping on her cell phone while rooting in her purse crossed in front of them. Willow’s chest turned to a block of ice.
The Jeep that had run up beside her tapped her car to the right, engaging her focus.
She steered away from the woman to the side of the building and a vacant part of the lot.
The sound of her name penetrated her shroud of fear. She looked over through the Jeep’s open passenger-side window.
He signaled to her, punching his hand down and yanking his fist up toward his shoulder. She glanced to her side.
Gear selector? No.
Emergency brake. He wanted her to pull up on the emergency brake.
She gripped the handle and wrenched up. The car whipped into a wild spin. She gasped. Light swirled into a haze of gray. Nausea flooded her in a violent wave. Her body shivered like it wanted to splinter into a hundred pieces.
Pressing her head against the seat, she released the wheel and crossed her arms, hands to her shoulders. The tail of the car crashed into something, shattering the back window. The vehicle rocked, jostling her forward.
A dense pillow punched her, throttling her back. A white cloud engulfed everything. The airbag sucked up the space around her. A scream strangled in her throat and died.
Dust and white powder clogged her nose and esophagus. She choked on the remnants of terror.
Her car door swung open. “Willow! You okay?”
A loud pop echoed. Her airbag deflated with a hiss, as if it’d been cut. She drew in a shuddering breath and waved to clear the congesting dust from her face.
Gideon whipped a double-handled knife closed and reached for her.
A whimper slipped from her lips as she cringed, raising her arm. It was all too much—losing the brakes, the sound of metal grating, hitting vehicles. Almost dying. She needed to breathe, gain her bearings, before he touched her.
“I want to help you from the car and make sure you’re okay. I won’t hurt you.” He reached for her slowly. “Okay?”
Shutting her eyes, she clutched the strap of her purse still draped over her and nodded.
He unfastened her seatbelt. One strong arm slipped under her legs, the other curled around her shoulders. He lifted her out the car, tucking her against his large frame.
Particles clung to her nostrils, burned her throat, and filled her lungs. She coughed and raked in a glorious breath of fresh air.
Gideon’s long legs stretched quickly, carrying her to his car. In his powerful arms, warm and solid, a blanket of calm covered her, dampening her chaotic thoughts save one.
She was safe with him.
He opened the passenger’s door and set her inside, but she didn’t want him to let go. Not yet.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Everything had unraveled in minutes. Trying to slow the car, the parking lot. Gideon helping. She still couldn’t make sense of it.
Gideon crouched in front of Willow and examined her, smoothing his big hands over her face and her hair. He tilted her chin up. “Did you hit your head? You might have a concussion.”
Staring into his wide eyes, now darkened to the bluish gray of a stormy sky in this light, her breathing slowed and her bunched muscles uncoiled. He looked shaken, off beat from his normal steady cadence.
“Willow? Are you all right?”
I’m okay. How bizarre since she’d almost died. “Everything is fuzzy, but I didn’t hit my head. I don’t think I have a concussion.”
“You can get it from whiplash. A doctor should check you.”
Before she voiced objections, a sheriff’s car pulled into the lot, lights flashing, siren muted. Gideon patted her knee and left her side. He spoke to the officer, pointing to her car, waving his hands in the air as if explaining everything that’d happened.
What exactly had happened?
This morning, nothing was wrong with her brakes. She’d had the car checked recently, never pushed the service due date. Yet she’d nearly been killed.

Excerpted from Nothing to Fear by Juno Rushdan. © 2019 by Juno Rushdan. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Cover Reveal: Fair Catch by S.R. Grey

Title: Fair Catch
Series: A Men of Fall Novel
Author: S.R. Grey
Genre: Sports Romance, Romantic Comedy
Release Date: October 1, 2019 Cover Design: Najla Qamber Designs Cover Model: Braun Wilburn Photographer: Wander Aguiar Photography

He’s not looking for love. And she’s given up on it. 
Former football star Caleb Fortier has a chance to make things right. There’s no way he’s washed up, despite what critics are saying. Determined to prove them wrong, Caleb’s about to reclaim his title as one of the best tight ends to ever hit the field. 
But making that happen requires a full-time commitment, meaning there’s no time for love. 
Too bad life has other plans. 
When Caleb rescues Jodi Knapp, a pretty wedding consultant, from a bad situation, he’s all but done for. Jodi feels something for him too but doesn’t trust her heart. She’s had far too many disappointments. 
Can Jodi believe in love again? 
Will Caleb show her how? 
Or will he stay focused solely on football? 
Find out in Fair Catch, the second novel in the bestselling Men of Fall football romance series.
S.R. Grey is an Amazon Top 30 Bestselling Author and a #1 Barnes & Noble Bestselling Author. Check out her newest bestselling Boys of Winter hockey rom-com series. Each is a complete standalone novel, but the characters are interconnected and may pop up anywhere. 
Ms. Grey's novels have appeared on multiple Amazon Bestseller Lists, including the Top 100 several times. She is also a Top 100 Bestselling Author on iTunes. 
Residing in Pennsylvania, when not writing Ms. Grey can be found reading, traveling, running, and cheering for her hometown sports teams. Sometimes all at the same time!


Cover Reveal: Shortcake by Lucy Watson

Title: Shortcake
Author: Lucy Watson
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: September 12, 2019
Things Emelia Anderson would rather do than share a house with Benjamin Crawford: 

1) Get strapped to a chair in a restaurant full of loud-chewers.
2) Parachute into the Australian Outback armed with only a blowdart.
3) Live her best life as an ice road trucker in the Alaskan Tundra. 
Benjamin Crawford thinks Emelia conned his dying grandmother into leaving her half of an estate worth millions, so let's just say he's not her biggest fan either. Not even close. 
Now they have to live together for the next thirty days while renovating the family home. Or the estate will transfer to the one person Ben hates more than Emelia, and she'll have to move back to the one place she wants to forget more than Ben. 
Did I mention Ben look likes man-candy and smells like testosterone? Not that Emelia notices. She spends a lot of time not noticing things about Ben. 
If you ever happen to see a vertically-challenged brunette wandering aimlessly in a mall parking lot while yelling at herself, don’t call the cops. It’s just me trying to find my car. Or, more accurately, me trying to find my cousin Derek’s huge-ass F-250—that you would think would stand out amongst the sea of shiny Teslas and Priuses. Well, you would be wrong. Derek’s truck is apparently the David Copperfield of freaking automobiles. Taking in calming breaths, and casual sips of my now-cold tea, I adjust my sweaty grip on the new dress slung over my shoulder. A dress I can’t afford, sold to me by a totally nice but very chatty Charlize Theron lookalike and her hovering 80s-beauty-queen boss who gushed at how my bloodshot blue eyes are just to die for. My pasty skin to die for. My boring brown rat’s nest of curls to die for. Like I don’t own a mirror. My first real smile in days came when I told Beauty Queen Boss the dress was for a funeral. I coolly scan my surroundings, despite the panic attack crawling along my spine like newly hatched spiders, trying to appear at ease amongst the chipper people who can find their cars. Look away, people. Nothing to see here.
I force an awkward baring of teeth to a bouncy Lululemon-wearing mom walking past with her Gerber baby in one of those sling thingies.
She smiles back.
See, I’m totally normal. Totally.
Fake it till you make it, Em. I knew today was going to be a rough day. Like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Which is why I wasn’t planning on leaving my magic bed. Until Mrs. Baker called to rant about how the dry cleaner had ruined her “good funeral dress.” I hung up on her mid-rant and rushed to Rose’s bedroom, praying she had a dark dress I could borrow, hoping I could buy one more day in the confines of my selective reality. I never made it to her closet. The sight of her rumpled sheets kept my feet rooted at the bedroom door. In the seven months, I worked as Rose’s caretaker, I never once saw her bed unmade. Not once. Now it sat as a sobering reminder that she was gone. We might’ve had over fifty years separating our births, but she was my friend. My only friend since moving here. My only friend since The Night That Shan’t Be Named turned me into this anxiety-ridden hot mess who can’t handle a simple trip to the mall. I clench my teeth and decide to give the parking lot one last scan before I press the emergency button on the key fob, alerting the world that I am, in fact, an idiot. My breath catches, the clouds part and angels sing hallelujah from the heavens as rays of gold shine down on... Derek’s Houdini-freaking-truck.  Right where I left it.
The first time I pulled up to Morris Ranch, I was awestruck by its majestic Old West beauty. With rainbows of wildflowers set against dark weathered wood, I could see why it was named Bride Magazine’s most romantic venue in California. Now, as I drive past, I barely notice it. Funny how that works. The truck jostles as smooth pavement gives way to dirt and gravel, and luxury cars give way to dusty pick-up trucks. Back home, if you ask someone if they ride, it means motorcycles. Here, in the multi-million-dollar-world of California’s Woodside Hills, it means horses, usually with names like Star and Duke. And if you’re a member of the elite top one-percent of the top one-percent, you board your horses at Morris Ranch. And my step-cousin, Derek, is your vet. I continue past the converted Dutch barn he calls home, past the stables, and park under his favorite redwood, then grab my phone from the charger to shoot Derek a text. Me: Truck’s back. Thanks! Slipping his keys back under the seat, I reach for my stuff and hop out into the familiar horse-and-hay air, which at 5’1” feels more like a freefall than a hop, careful not to snag my new dress. Aka: my Savings Account. My steps slow as I pass the exercise pen, my gaze fixed on two riders who look like Prince William and Kate in their fancy English gear. I scrunch my nose as they lean over to kiss each other from atop their noble steeds, laughing adorably at the bumpy, missed connections. I love you. I love you, too. Giggle. Giggle. Nose-bump. Kiss. Nose-bump. Kiss.
Once upon a time, I was the biggest nose-bump-kisser of them all.  Straightening my deflated shoulders, I shove the world’s tiniest pity-party violin back into my pocket and catch eyes with Shiloh, a white Arabian showing off his high trot, thanks to Derek’s taping skills—tape that I handed him, by the way.
I give Shiloh an enthusiastic wave, not caring that I look like a total loon waving at a horse. Or that the rider gives me a tentative wave back, clearly thinking I’m waving at her. What can I say, I do weird shit. Turning down the main road, I run my hand along Mrs. Baker’s iron gate out of habit and give her a sealed smile through the security cameras perched on top, also out of habit. I know she’s watching. The FBI has nothing on Mrs. Baker. She knows everything that happens in this town. Everything. My smile drops and my heart sinks, thinking this is one of the last times I’ll be taking this walk home. I push down the empty feeling growing in my gut and focus on the towering oak trees that give way to a delicate waterfall of white wisteria Rose’s late husband planted on their wedding day. They had the Allie and Noah Notebook sort of love. I always thought that kind of love only existed in Nicolas Sparks movies. Nope. It’s a real thing. And my beautiful friend had it. I brush the soft clusters of hanging white flowers with my fingertips and breathe in the sweet honey scent, trying to override the bitterness I’m filled with today. I hate feeling this way. Hate the black inkiness clouding my soul. My steps freeze and my hand drops to my side as I watch a black Town Car with tinted windows turn between the towering stone pillars, down the driveway to the Crawford house.
They’re here.
A day early.
Shit. My pulse races as my hesitant feet carry me down the long gravel driveway, in no way excited about meeting Rose’s family a day early, especially wearing the same leggings and wrinkled T-shirt I’ve spent the last few days in. I’m not proud of the fact that when life gets tough, I curl into a ball and binge-watch movies, but it is what it is. After combing through my tangled mop of hair with clumsy fingers, I grab some clear lip gloss from my purse and slather it on, while my mind races through every inch of Rose’s house. Week-old dishes from our last dinner still sit in the sink, half-folded laundry covers the couch in the den, but it’s Rose’s unmade bed and bottles of medication littering the nightstand that causes my stomach to twist. She wouldn’t have wanted them to see that.
My hand itches to text Derek, but I know he can’t fix this. I continue past the overgrown azaleas, to see the red door of the white farmhouse peeking through the blooming magnolia trees. When she comes fully into view with her wraparound porch and black plantation shutters, looking like a vintage postcard from a simpler time, I realize how much I’m going to miss this house too. My lungs seize as I spot the familiar dark blue Tesla parked opposite the Town Car. I’ve only met Rose’s son Dale once in all the months I’ve been here, which is pretty sad, considering he lives just a few towns over in Palo Alto. He stayed for less than an hour. An hour spent talking about himself and his new Tesla while slowly stripping me with his eyes. It’s funny how someone can go from heart-stopping-silver-fox to a creeper with just a look. Muffled voices fill the air around me as I step onto the wide porch. Stalling, I walk to the door and pretend to look for something in my purse, not sure if I should just walk in or knock. I mean, it’s kind of weird to knock since I live here, but just walking in feels rude... The sound of a car door slamming jolts me from my thoughts. I turn to see a lanky gray-haired driver in uniform light a cigarette as he leans against the Town Car, his gaze fixed on me.
I force a smile.
He exhales a trail of smoke and gives me a casual chin lift.
No smile. Retreating past this smoking, non-smiling stranger feels like a walk of shame, not that I would personally know what a walk of shame feels like. Especially, not one taken from a supply closet with my nurse’s scrubs on inside out. Pulling in a steady breath, I decide to walk in and say a quick hello, give my condolences, grab a change of clothes, and head back to the ranch as fast as my size sevens will take me.
Just as I’m about to make good on my plan, the air vibrates my chest with a ground-shaking roar. I swing around to see a motorcycle heading down the driveway, kicking up gravel and dust as it goes. The rider looks like one of the Four Horsemen here to ring in the Apocalypse, with a black protective mask and reflective shades covering his demon face. His bike doesn’t have the polished chrome and custom paint of most of the weekend warriors I see around here. His chrome is dull with paint covered in dust and grime. The smoking stranger flicks his still-lit cigarette and slinks back into his car—smart guy. Before I can join him, the motorcycle roars past the cars and stops haphazardly in the walkway, blocking my escape. A normal person would rush inside the house. What do I do? Stand here. Cutting the engine, he swings his jeans-clad leg from the bike, giving me a view of his broad back. Thick corded muscles move under his threadbare T-shirt as he takes off his helmet, showing dark hair just long enough to curl in places. He sets the helmet on the seat along with his shades. I can tell he’s tall even from this vantage point. Over six feet for sure. My stomach flutters watching him pull the face mask over his head, giving me a strong profile with a close beard, not long enough to be considered hipster-worthy, more like Jamie Dornan’s sexy beard-of-perfection in The Fall. Jamie’s character in the series was a serial killer who strangled his victims while wearing lingerie, which makes the fact I still thought he was yummy sort of freak me out. The rider turns to me, and I realize I should have taken the opportunity to run. His low brows are pulled tight over menacing eyes, almost black in color. He looks pissed, or maybe he just suffers from the male equivalent of resting bitch face. Whatever it is, it causes the hair on my neck to stand tall. At first, I don’t recognize him with the beard, but there’s no mistaking those piercing dark eyes from the family photos scattered throughout the house.
Sweet Benny. Except this Sweet Benny looks more like a hitman. A hitman who enjoys his job a little too much. If I hadn’t spent months printing out the emails he sent to his “Grammy Rose,” reading most of them to her aloud, it’d be hard to imagine this biker dude could be described by anyone as sweet. But after reading his letters, I knew why Rose gave him that tender nickname. Nervous to finally meet her Sweet Benny, I try to run through the list of things Rose told me about him, but the only thing that comes to mind is that he’s allergic to penicillin. You know, the important stuff... My eyes are glued to Ben as he takes the stairs, his movements look stiff, almost painful, and I wonder if it’s from the ride or from his injuries. When Rose got the call that he was wounded in combat, her entire body trembled with fear. She reminded Mark that Benny was allergic to penicillin. She repeated it a dozen times on a frantic loop. And a dozen more after they hung up. And a dozen more times in the middle of the night while I held her. As he clears the last step, I move from the door and extend my clammy hand, hoping to find the words to tell him how sorry I am for his loss. I only had Rose in my life for a handful of months, and her loss has left a giant hole in my heart, so I can only imagine how he must feel, losing her after a lifetime. “Hi, Ben, I’m—” “Move,” he says, his voice rough and unapologetic, his simmering black eyes glaring down at me. My heart sputters, and my hand falls. Umm. Okay. I scoot to the side, though apparently not fast enough for devil boy because he pushes past me, knocking into my shoulder before he throws open the front door and storms inside.
I will not call Rose’s grandson a dick. I will not call Rose’s grandson a dick.
Lucy Watson is the pen name for an award-winning screenwriter living in San Francisco with her husband, son, and narcoleptic cat. When not writing, or mom-stalking her son at school, she can be found reading steamy novels and binge-watching cheesy '80s movies.