Archive for the ‘Second Chances’ Category

Series Title: Doctors of Eastport General Season 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance (multi)
Release Date: March 2023
Cover Design: Thunderstruck Cover Design
 
 
 
Syd Ryan – Doctor Irresistible – March 6th
Amy Stephens – Doctor Mistake – March 7th
Tracy Broemmer – Doctor Divine – March 8th
Celeste Granger – Doctor, Please – March 9th
CA King –Doctor Frank Enstein – March 13th
Amber Ghe – Doctor Change of Heart – March 14th
Mel Walker – Doctor Know – March 16th
TL Mayhew – Doctor Delectable – March 17th
Adryan Hart – Doctor Love – March 20th
Pandora Snow – Doctor Danger – March 21st
A.N. Waugh – Doctor Stuck-Up – March 22nd
E.M. Shue – Doctor Sinful – March 23rd
S.L. Sterling – Doctor Right – March 24th
 
 
Are you ready to return to the halls of Eastport General?
The second season of Doctors of Eastport General Series will give you a taste of 13 new books in a shared world experience. All books are standalone but may include cross-over in characters or scenes.
About the Series:
Come on in and meet the new ER Physicians, Surgeons, Specialists, Residents, and patients that occupy the rooms and halls of the largest hospital on the coast of Rhode Island. You may even run into some of your favorite doctors from Season 1. We hope you are ready to fall in love with all the new sexy stories that take place inside the walls of Eastport General Hospital.
 
 
 
 
 

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Title: HATE/LOVE

Author: Quinn Riley

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Blurb

Our story is a lie, a relationship built on fake promises and hopeful dreams.

He’s my bully.

I crave revenge.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself for my plan to succeed.

I need Korbin freaking Rose to be consumed by me.

So I can crush his black heart, leave him broken and bleeding.

Except now, with each kiss and touch, my plan shifts.

There really is a thin line between love and hate.

BUY HERE

Read review #mumsalwaysreading: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/5274865130

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About the Author:

Join Quinn Riley Reader Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/964880011150597/?ref=share&mibextid=NSMWBT

🖤❤️ #mmromancenovel #mmromanceauthor #mmromancereads #quinnriley #preordernow #sealedwithink #lovehate

@Quinn Riley

 
 
Title: Bluebird Sky
Author: Emi Hilton
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Small Town Romance, Second Chance Romance
Release Date: January 24, 2023
Cover Design/Publisher: Parcel and Page
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Emi Hilton did it AGAIN! This sweet, second-chance romance is a beautiful addition to any romance reader’s collection.” ☆☆☆☆☆ Author Fiona Keane
 
 
Dumped before her wedding, Emma wants to forget about her heartbreak, but her life falls into more shambles after a skiing accident.
 
When she meets the local town veterinarian, whose rescue distracts Emma from her failed honeymoon, their spark could turn everything around.
 
Their attraction is instant, but Sean will never get married, and that’s something Emma can’t accept.
 
Heartbreak and all, Emma holds out hope for her happy ending, while Sean’s past keeps him from the future he wants with Emma.
 
Determined to grow from their pasts, Emma and Sean realize their journey was worth the wait as they embrace their future together, under a Bluebird Sky.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Emi Hilton is a California native who was born at March Airforce Base, while her father was an Officer in the US Army Combat Engineer Battalion. An English Professor for a mother, Emi followed in her footsteps and graduated from Brigham Young University in English. While in college, she took a year and a half break from her studies to serve as a full-time missionary for her church in the Canary Islands. When Emi isn’t writing, she enjoys training for marathons, fishing off local piers with her husband and three sons, or visiting her other love, Spain.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Title: Bluebird Sky
Author: Emi Hilton
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Small Town Romance, Second Chance Romance
Release Date: January 24, 2023
Cover Design/Publisher: Parcel and Page
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dumped before her wedding, Emma wants to forget about her heartbreak, but her life falls into more shambles after a skiing accident. When she meets the local town veterinarian, whose rescue distracts Emma from her failed honeymoon, their spark could turn everything around. Their attraction is instant, but Sean will never get married, and that’s something Emma can’t accept. Heartbreak and all, Emma holds out hope for her happy ending, while Sean’s past keeps him from the future he wants with Emma. Determined to grow from their pasts, Emma and Sean realize their journey was worth the wait as they embrace their future together, under a Bluebird Sky.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Emi Hilton is a California native who was born at March Airforce Base, while her father was an Officer in the US Army Combat Engineer Battalion. An English Professor for a mother, Emi followed in her footsteps and graduated from Brigham Young University in English. While in college, she took a year and a half break from her studies to serve as a full-time missionary for her church in the Canary Islands. When Emi isn’t writing, she enjoys training for marathons, fishing off local piers with her husband and three sons, or visiting her other love, Spain.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Title: Memories of the Past
Series: Willow Valley Book #1
Author: S.L. Sterling
Genre: Small Town, Second Chance Romance
Release Date: October 11, 2022

“This is an adorable small town, second chance romance.” ★★★★★ Review


“Such a sweet story. S.L. Sterling always pulls you in head first with her writing!” ★★★★★ Review

Thomas was the love of my life, or he was supposed to be. Instead, he became the guy who broke my heart, crushed my spirit, the last guy I ever dated, and the reason I never wanted to date again.

All this, I decided at seventeen, right after we graduated, which coincided with the day he left. He had his truck packed. We’d talked about running off together, eloping. Instead, Thomas explained he was leaving, joining the rodeo, and I could come if I wanted.

If I wanted!

I thought we shared a dream, but it didn’t include running off to join the western equivalent of a circus. Not with him. Not with anyone. I knew better.

So, he left, and I decided to make a life on my own.

I spent the next few months learning all I could about the small bookstore my aunt owned. I gradually took over as she aged, until one morning she woke and announced that she was ready to retire. She had picked a retirement community nearby, she wanted to relax, sleep in and hang out with the old people, like herself.

I’d begun to clean up the place, sorting through boxes of books she’d packed away and began setting them out. I’d let people make me an offer since I was short on space. That was when Thomas appeared. His father had passed, and the community was buzzing with rumors that he had returned to sell the property.

He’d come in looking for a good read or so he claimed. Instead I shoved a book at him and told him to take it. I hoped I’d never see him again, but I was wrong. He returned, with the book, his note told me to read the book and I’d understand. So, I read it, and I understood nothing.

It was Aunt Vi’s diary. She too had never stopped pining for a cowboy who left her behind.

Maybe he thought he was saving me. Perhaps I missed what I was supposed to understand all together. All I knew was that I didn’t want to face him. One look at him told me it would be all to easy to fall into those strong arms again and I knew I still loved him, even if he didn’t love me in return.

“Morning,” I said unenthusiastically. 


“Well, if I had of known you’d be this excited to get your coffee cake muffin, I’d have ordered you two.” Peggy giggled, sitting down in one of the chairs that sat in the corner. 


“I’m sorry, I had a bad night,” I said, placing my clipboard down on the counter and crossing my arms in front of me. “How are you?” 


“Good. I can’t stay too long this morning. I had a huge order for some funeral arrangements. Plus. I need to get all the baskets done for Mrs. Parker as well.” 


“Funeral? I’ve been so busy that I’m behind on all the town gossip. I almost feel as if I live in another universe right now. Who passed away?” 


“William Jenkins. His son came in yesterday to order the flowers for the funeral. Oh, did he stop by? He asked about the store by name, so I’m guessing he used to live here at one point,” Peggy said as she peeled the wrapper away from the soft, cakey muffin. 


Peggy had only moved to Willow Valley about four years ago, after she lost her husband. Even though we became friends almost instantly, I’d never told her about Thomas. Some things were just better left buried, and Thomas Jenkins was one of them.


I felt my stomach turn. That explained it completely. That was why Thomas was back here. It had to be. There’d be no other reason. I walked over, picked up the muffin Peggy had brought for me, and removed the paper, then I buried my teeth into the sweet cake, savoring every bite.


“Did you want coffee?” I asked with my mouth full. 


“Yes, please. I’m going to need the energy.” Peggy giggled. 


I brought out a fresh, hot cup of coffee and set it on the counter, noticing that Peggy was looking at me, a look of concern on her face. “Trinity, is something wrong? Where’s Vi?” she asked, looking down the hall toward the back.


“She moved to the new retirement village. I dropped her off there on Tuesday. She said she was ready to retire. I’m not going to lie. It came as a shock, to be honest.”


“Is that what’s got you so down?” 


“No, if she is ready to retire, I say let her. I’m happy for her. What I’m not happy about is the visitor I had last night,” I said, taking a sip of my hot coffee and setting it back down.


“Oh? Is it something I should be worried about?” Peggy asked, taking a sip of her coffee. 


“Not unless you have the same ex I do,” I said, shoving another piece of muffin into my mouth.


“Ex? You have an ex?” Peggy questioned, looking at me with big, rounded brown eyes. 


“Unfortunately, I do. I know most people around here think I’m just some book-loving spinster, but I did date someone a long time ago.” 

Peggy couldn’t help but start to laugh at my choice of words. “What happened?” Peggy sat back in the chair, getting comfortable, waiting for my story. 


“The usual, girl meets boy, girl falls for boy, and then boy runs off and joins the western version of the circus.”


Peggy couldn’t help but laugh again. “Trinity what are you talking about.” 


I blew out a breath and sat down in the chair across from her. “Thomas Jenkins happened. We were supposed to get married at the end of the summer after we graduated high school. He was going through a real rocky period with his father at the time. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were having breakfast at The Crispy Biscuit, and he ran into a man who used to work for his father. He had left to join the rodeo, and he had invited Thomas to come down to Darling Ranch to check it out. Without me knowing, he went later that day. That night he dropped the bomb that he was leaving Willow Valley.”


“Thomas Jenkins? As in William Jenkins’ son?”

“That would be him.” I nodded.  


“So, he left for good? He left his parents behind?” 


“Yep, Mr. Jenkins was always busy with the ranch. Betty used to come and have tea with Aunt Vi often after he’d left. She’d always ask about me, but I did my best to keep my distance. I was hurt enough.” 


“So, you mean after all these years he never came back?” 


“Oh, he did, once, maybe twice over the years. I followed his career for a little while after he left, and I know for a fact that he was here for his mother’s funeral or at least he had come into town when she died. I never did see him at her funeral, so perhaps he didn’t go. I just heard it from some of the others around town. I assume he came into town, had a fight with his father, and left again. After that, I never heard anything about him. He certainly never tried to find me, until now.” 


“And how did he do in his career?”


I shrugged. “He did well, but I had to stop watching after a while. He was gone, and it was unhealthy to sit and wonder about someone who you knew wasn’t coming back. Besides, when he left, along with him he took my heart. I couldn’t allow him to take more than that.”


Peggy was silent. She just sat there staring at me for a bit, nodding in understanding. “I’m sorry. If I had of known, I would have lied and told him that the store had closed or something. I figured he was here to see Vi, since he only mentioned her.” 


I shrugged. “It’s all right. You wouldn’t have known. Anyways when he showed up here last night, it shocked the hell right out of me. I didn’t know what to say. He, of course, acted as if everything was normal between the two of us. I just wanted him to leave. I couldn’t even look at him without every feeling I ever had for him rushing right back into me. I had to do whatever it took to protect myself, so I told him to just take a book and go.” 


“What happened?” 


“Exactly what I figured would happen. He took the book and left.”  I shrugged. “He hasn’t changed. He’s still running.” 


“Who’s still running.” 

Both Peggy and I jumped at the sound of a man’s voice behind us. I turned and looked toward the door to see Thomas standing there, holding the book he must have taken last night in his hand. 


I swallowed hard as I looked at the man I’d been in love with my entire life. He leaned up against the door, wearing perfectly fitted jeans, a blue plaid shirt that brought out his eyes. The sleeves of the shirt were rolled up, exposing his muscular forearms, and he held his hat in his large, rough hands. Large, rough hands that I’d kill to have hold me once again. I swallowed hard. 


 
 
S.L. Sterling was born and raised in southern Ontario. She now lives in Northern Ontario Canada and is married to her best friend and soul mate and their two dogs. 
An avid reader all her life, S.L. Sterling dreamt of becoming an author. She decided to give writing a try after one of her favorite authors launched a course on how to write your novel. This course gave her the push she needed to put pen to paper and her debut novel “It Was Always You” was born. 
 
When S.L. Sterling isn’t writing or plotting her next novel she can be found curled up with a cup of coffee, blanket and the newest romance novel from one of her favorite authors on her e-reader. Her favorite authors include Kendall Ryan, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, Lauren Blakely, Alessandra Torre and Willow Winters. 
 
In her spare time, she enjoys camping, hiking, sunny destinations, spending quality time with family and friends and of course reading.
 
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Title: Memories of the Past
Series: Willow Valley Book #1
Author: S.L. Sterling
Genre: Small Town, Second Chance Romance
Release Date: October 11, 2022
Thomas was the love of my life, or he was supposed to be. Instead, he became the guy who broke my heart, crushed my spirit, the last guy I ever dated, and the reason I never wanted to date again.

All this, I decided at seventeen, right after we graduated, which coincided with the day he left. He had his truck packed. We’d talked about running off together, eloping. Instead, Thomas explained he was leaving, joining the rodeo, and I could come if I wanted.

If I wanted!

I thought we shared a dream, but it didn’t include running off to join the western equivalent of a circus. Not with him. Not with anyone. I knew better.

So, he left, and I decided to make a life on my own.

I spent the next few months learning all I could about the small bookstore my aunt owned. I gradually took over as she aged, until one morning she woke and announced that she was ready to retire. She had picked a retirement community nearby, she wanted to relax, sleep in and hang out with the old people, like herself.

I’d begun to clean up the place, sorting through boxes of books she’d packed away and began setting them out. I’d let people make me an offer since I was short on space. That was when Thomas appeared. His father had passed, and the community was buzzing with rumors that he had returned to sell the property.

He’d come in looking for a good read or so he claimed. Instead I shoved a book at him and told him to take it. I hoped I’d never see him again, but I was wrong. He returned, with the book, his note told me to read the book and I’d understand. So, I read it, and I understood nothing.

It was Aunt Vi’s diary. She too had never stopped pining for a cowboy who left her behind.

Maybe he thought he was saving me. Perhaps I missed what I was supposed to understand all together. All I knew was that I didn’t want to face him. One look at him told me it would be all to easy to fall into those strong arms again and I knew I still loved him, even if he didn’t love me in return.


 
 
S.L. Sterling was born and raised in southern Ontario. She now lives in Northern Ontario Canada and is married to her best friend and soul mate and their two dogs. 
An avid reader all her life, S.L. Sterling dreamt of becoming an author. She decided to give writing a try after one of her favorite authors launched a course on how to write your novel. This course gave her the push she needed to put pen to paper and her debut novel “It Was Always You” was born. 
 
When S.L. Sterling isn’t writing or plotting her next novel she can be found curled up with a cup of coffee, blanket and the newest romance novel from one of her favorite authors on her e-reader. Her favorite authors include Kendall Ryan, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, Lauren Blakely, Alessandra Torre and Willow Winters. 
 
In her spare time, she enjoys camping, hiking, sunny destinations, spending quality time with family and friends and of course reading.
 
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Title: Not Over You
Author: Whitley Cox
Release: October 1, 2022
Genre: second-chance, closet Dom, brat heroine, cop romance, romantic comedy, thanksgiving comedy, heroine with PTSD

She’s thankful for many things this year, but her ex moving back to town isn’t one of them.
Four years ago, Officer Jordan Lassiter swept Rayma Young off her feet, making the twenty-year-old finally feel safe and loved. His quiet, calm, take-charge attitude made it easy for her to trust him with all of her secrets—even the dark ones.
Eager to prove himself as a rookie cop, Jordan accepted a transfer too far away for their relationship to work. Heartbroken, they broke up but remained friends. Or at least that’s what she thought …
Three years later, Jordan’s back and thinks they can just pick up right where they left off.
Not happening.
Hurt and angry for ghosting her, Rayma has slammed her walls back up and not even Jordan and his patient control will convince her to give him back her heart.
But when they wind up at the same Thanksgiving dinner, it’s all Rayma can do to remain strong as happy memories begin to crack the protective shell she’s forged around her heart, while Jordan does everything he can to win her back.
Except give her the one thing she needs.
His trust.

“It’s date number six, Jordan …” Rayma said, exasperated, horny, and looking hotter than she’d ever looked—in her opinion. “Can you at least kiss me for fuck’s sake?”

Jordan’s mouth twisted as he tried to hide his smile. “You really don’t care who can hear you, do you?”

Rayma rolled her eyes. “Sure fucking don’t. This is all just a game to you, isn’t it?”

“Couldn’t be further from a game, Rayma,” Jordan said, ushering them forward as they waited in line for a busy new restaurant that had just opened up downtown. Rayma had been trying to get a reservation for ages since everyone in her classes was just raving about the place, but so far, she hadn’t had any luck. Jordan, however, appeared to have pulled some strings and they had a reservation for eight o’clock. 

She’d changed her outfit four times that night before finally deciding on an adorable but also ridiculously sexy long-sleeved black dress that hit her on her upper thigh and showed off what little cleavage she had in a lace-trimmed sweetheart neckline. Her black boots with the four-inch heels hit her knees, and the black leather jacket that she was also permanently borrowing from Pasha’s closet tied it all together perfectly. She kept her hair down in thick waves and wore tear-drop cubic zirconia earrings, because, well, she was a starving student, she ain’t got the scratch for diamonds. 

Even with Jordan’s reservations, the restaurant was still packed and people were forced to wait outside in the cold as the staff hurried to clear and re-set tables. 

She shivered where she stood, questioning her choice of attire since her entire thighs were exposed to the elements and a sharp breeze from the harbor was tickling her ass cheeks.

“Here.” He tugged her in front of him, wrapped his arms around her front and plastered her back to his chest. He pulled the sides of his open peacoat around her, enveloping her in his heat and decadent scent. “Better?” 

“Infinitely,” she said. She pushed her ass back against his crotch and was pleased with the slight hitch to his breath. At least he wasn’t immune to her advances and friend-zoning her, which was what she thought was happening after date number two and he still didn’t even kiss her. 

By date four she thought maybe she had bad breath or stunk. But after a thorough pit sniff and a lot of mouthwash, she determined that wasn’t the case, either. 

Date five had her ready to end things right then and there, but then when he said he made reservations at Ellapora since the owner was a friend of a friend, she decided she’d at least see how date seven went before she decided to cut the hot, celibate cop loose. 

She did another little hip shimmy and smiled to herself when he groaned and his cock jerked in his dress pants against the crease of her ass. “Careful,” he warned.

A Canadian West Coast baby born and raised, Whitley is married to her high school sweetheart, and together they have two beautiful daughters and a fluffy dog. She spends her days making food that gets thrown on the floor, vacuuming Cheerios out from under the couch and making sure that the dog food doesn’t end up in the air conditioner. But when nap time comes, and it’s not quite wine o’clock, Whitley sits down, avoids the pile of laundry on the couch, and writes.
 
A lover of all things decadent; wine, cheese, chocolate and spicy erotic romance, Whitley brings the humorous side of sex, the ridiculous side of relationships and the suspense of everyday life into her stories. With single dads, firefighters, Navy SEALs, mommy wars, body issues, threesomes, bondage and role-playing, Whitley’s books have all the funny and fabulously filthy words you could hope for.
 


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Title: Silent Chaos
Series: Love & Lyrics
Author: Nikki Ash
Release: September 29, 2022
Genre: Second Chance, Rock Star Romance
 
From USA Today Bestselling author Nikki Ash comes a hate to lovers, second chance, rock star romance.
Braxton
Our senior year, I promised my girl forever.
Forever, as it turned out, wasn’t enough. She told me so in her actions. When she took a match to my life, burning it to ash.
I headed to LA with my band—Raging Chaos—like we always planned, while Kaylee went to college, taking my damaged heart with her.
This was where our story was supposed to end.
Only six years later, our lives collide again.
Kaylee is the only thing I ever loved more than music, and I wish I could hate her for it, but the line between love and hate is thin, and often straddled.
And the thing about collisions? They result in deadly debris.
Kaylee
When you love someone, you let them go. But what I did was so much worse.
Because instead of pushing him away, I shoved Braxton straight over the edge.
I’ve spent the past several years avoiding him, trying to make things right.
When my reputation has been dragged through the mud, and I’m given the opportunity to clean it up, I have no choice but to cross paths with him again.
Being around Braxton is a harsh reminder of the way I lit his life up in flames, but I’m not sure he knows I’ve been burned, too.
If suffering in silence is the cost, I’ll pay the price to make things right.
I just hope our history won’t play on repeat and he’ll see me as more than the stupid girl with the lit match.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Like real life, the characters are far from perfect, make morally gray decisions, and deal with subjects that may be sensitive for some readers. If you are looking for a safe romance, this series is not for you. Trigger warnings (which contain spoilers) can be found on my website.

 
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Title: Ruthless Hawke
Series: The Hawke Family Second Generation Book 1
Author: Gwyn McNamee
Genre: Steamy Contemporary Romance Standalone
Tropes: billionaire, second chance, secret baby, woman in peril, possessive/protective alpha hero
Release Date: February 23, 2023
Cover Design: Blue Sky Designs
Cover Model: Andrew Biernat
Cover Photographer: Wander Aguiar
 
Love can be ruthless, especially when you’re a Hawke.
You have to be ruthless to be a Hawke.
Our empire in New Orleans has only grown over the years.
And protecting it falls on my shoulders.
Whether it’s in the courtroom or in the streets, I do whatever it takes to get the job done.
We’ve already suffered and lost enough.
I won’t let anything threaten my family or what we’ve built.
But a mysterious woman from my past shows up, with danger in tow.
That’s not all she brings with her.
The little girl stares up at me with the Hawke blue eyes.
Instantly, my entire world shifts.
It isn’t just about defending what’s ours.
Now, it’s about defending what’s mine.
Ruthless Hawke is the first book in The Hawke Family Second Generation Series. Grab this angsty contemporary romance about a man who will do anything to protect his family, a woman on the run, and an attraction neither of them can deny.

Gwyn McNamee is an attorney, writer, wife, and mother (to one human baby and two fur babies). Originally from the Midwest, Gwyn relocated to her husband’s home town of Las Vegas in 2015 and is enjoying her respite from the cold and snow. Gwyn has been writing down her crazy stories and ideas for years and finally decided to share them with the world. She loves to write stories with a bit of suspense and action mingled with romance and heat.
When she isn’t either writing or voraciously devouring any books she can get her hands on, Gwyn is busy adding to her tattoo collection, golfing, and stirring up trouble with her perfect mix of sweetness and sarcasm (usually while wearing heels).
Gwyn is the author of The Hawke Family series, The Slip Series, The Deadliest Sin Series, The Inland Seas Series, The Supernatural Love Stories in the Absurd (written as her alter-ego, DP Payne), and several stand-alone novels.
HOSTED BY:

Title: Memories of the Past

Series: Willow Valley Book #1
Author: S.L. Sterling
Genre: Small Town, Second Chance Romance
Release Date: October 11, 2022
Cover Design: Thunderstruck Cover Design

Thomas was the love of my life, or he was supposed to be. Instead, he became the guy who broke my heart, crushed my spirit, the last guy I ever dated, and the reason I never wanted to date again.

All this, I decided at seventeen, right after we graduated, which coincided with the day he left. He had his truck packed. We’d talked about running off together, eloping. Instead, Thomas explained he was leaving, joining the rodeo, and I could come if I wanted.

If I wanted!

I thought we shared a dream, but it didn’t include running off to join the western equivalent of a circus. Not with him. Not with anyone. I knew better.

So, he left, and I decided to make a life on my own.

I spent the next few months learning all I could about the small bookstore my aunt owned. I gradually took over as she aged, until one morning she woke and announced that she was ready to retire. She had picked a retirement community nearby, she wanted to relax, sleep in and hang out with the old people, like herself.

I’d begun to clean up the place, sorting through boxes of books she’d packed away and began setting them out. I’d let people make me an offer since I was short on space. That was when Thomas appeared. His father had passed, and the community was buzzing with rumors that he had returned to sell the property.

He’d come in looking for a good read or so he claimed. Instead I shoved a book at him and told him to take it. I hoped I’d never see him again, but I was wrong. He returned, with the book, his note told me to read the book and I’d understand. So, I read it, and I understood nothing.

It was Aunt Vi’s diary. She too had never stopped pining for a cowboy who left her behind.

Maybe he thought he was saving me. Perhaps I missed what I was supposed to understand all together. All I knew was that I didn’t want to face him. One look at him told me it would be all to easy to fall into those strong arms again and I knew I still loved him, even if he didn’t love me in return.

 

© 2022 by S.L. Sterling (Unedited and Subject to Change)

 

“Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting you.” I said, my tone low. 

 

Trinity stood there, not saying anything. She looked up at me, then looked down to the casserole dish she held in her hands as if she’d forgotten what it was and why she was holding it. 

 

“What’s that?” I questioned, trying to glance at what was inside.

 

“Oh, um, I just thought…. well…I brought you this.” She said slowly raising the dish and holding it out for me to take. 

 

I rubbed my hands together, “I sure hope it’s your chicken and broccoli casserole, it’s my favorite.” I reached out to take the casserole dish from her and lifted the lid. “I had one the other night from some lady my mom knew but it didn’t hold a candle to the one you make.” 

 

“Nope, not my chicken and broccoli casserole. It’s Aunt Vi’s chicken and dumplings.” She smiled. 

 

Instantly I felt my stomach turn, as I got a whiff of the contents. My mind instantly went to the last time I’d had it, remembering the upset stomach I’d had for days afterward. It had never been my favorite dish, even the one my mother made, and as far as I remembered Trinity knew it.  

 

“Did you want to come in? It would be nice to have company while I eat.” I said, swallowing hard, thoughts of eating chunky paste like balls of mushy flour.  

 

I almost smiled when I took a look at the scared look on her fac, it was almost as if I’d asked her to do something against the law. I leaned up against the post and waited for her answer not saying anything. I planned to do whatever it took to keep her there, so if that meant chowing down on soggy flour then I’d do it. I wanted us to get past whatever anger, hate, and bad memories we needed to, so we could hopefully get back to normal. 

 

“Oh, you haven’t eaten yet?” She questioned, glancing at her watch.

 

“No, I wasn’t hungry earlier, but suddenly I’m starving, and this…this looks delicious.” I said, almost choking on my own words. “Besides the house it too quiet to eat, so how about it Trinity? Will you join me?”

 

“Oh, where is Lyle?” She asked looking around. 

 

“He went into town; said he was going to have a couple drinks with one of the hands from Darling Ranch.”

 

I watched as she looked back to her car. I could only imagine what was going through her mind. Was she wondering if she could run back to it and leave without me noticing. 

 

“I’ll…I’ve just got to grab my purse.” She said, turning back toward her car.

 

“Trinity, I don’t think you need to worry about your purse way out here.” I said climbing the stairs and holding the front door open for her. “There’s no one around for a few miles at least.”

 

I saw a slight smile on her lips, and she nodded, “Oh of course. Silly me.” She said swallowing hard. 

 

“Come on in.” I said, still holding the door for her. 

 

She stood there for a second and then climbed the three stairs, and walked past me into the house, stepping out of the way so I too could get inside. She stood just inside the door, glancing around and was about to follow me to the kitchen when she suddenly stopped and bent down to untie her shoes. 

 

“Don’t worry about your shoes, just come on into the kitchen.” I said leading the way and pulling out a chair for her to sit on.  I placed the still warm casserole dish down on the counter and grabbed a plate and glass from the cupboard.  “Want anything to eat or drink?” I asked. 

 

“Oh, No thank you. I already ate.” 

 

“You’re sure?” I questioned as I dished some of the chicken and dumplings onto the plate, the look of them already making me nauseous. “These look delicious.”

 

“Yes, I am good, thanks.”

 

 “Okay, If you say so.” I said taking a glance at her as I poured myself a glass of milk and carried both the plate and glass over to the table. I sat down and reached for the salt and pepper, shaking the contents of both shakers over my plate.  

 

“You’ll have to let me know how they are.” Trinity said watching my every move. “It’s been a hot minute since I made them.” She smiled as she watched me sink my fork into the mess on my plate.

 

I looked at the gooey contents that hung off my fork and took a breath, then brought the full fork up to my mouth.  Why did it have to be chicken and dumplings? Of all the things she could have made, this was what she brought. I took the fork and placed it in my mouth, my gag reflex working almost instantly. Just before I swallowed, I picked up the glass of milk and drank some back, it was the only way to get the food down. 

 

“It’s great.” I lied, my mouth still partially full.

 

“Oh good. That means I followed Aunt Vi’s recipe perfectly.” She smiled. “I was worried they wouldn’t turn out.”

 

I smiled back, sinking my fork into the soggy mess on my plate and bringing another forkful up to my mouth. “How is Vi?” I questioned, doing whatever I could to avoid placing this food in my mouth.

 

“Good. She’s doing well. I just moved her to the retirement facility that was just built on the outskirts of Willow Valley.” 

 

I could feel the sweat begin to trickle down my forehead and wiped my brow with the sleeve of my shirt before taking another bite, followed by a mouthful of milk. I couldn’t help but wonder how much more torture I was going to have to endure, how much more of this I was going to have to eat.

 

“Sure, you don’t want any?” I asked, nodding to my plate. “Feels a little odd to be the only one eating.”

 

“No, I’m good, I was munching on chicken and vegetables while I made it.”

 

It was the moment that I caught sight of her lip twitching as her eyes danced at my question. Was she actually enjoying watching me suffer as I ate this mess? I wondered, as I wiped my brow again, this time with my napkin.

 

Shoving another forkful into my mouth my stomach churned. There was so much flour, and I seriously didn’t know how much more I would be able to eat. I had barely put a dent into what sat on my plate, and my stomach was already turning. With my hand shaking I brought another mouthful up to my lips. 

 

“All right! That’s enough.” Trinity said standing up. 

 

“What?” I asked, shocked at her outburst. 

 

“Do you want to die?” She said, ripping the fork from my hand and dropping it down onto my plate. “You’ll end up with heartburn for days on end you silly man.”

 
 
S.L. Sterling was born and raised in southern Ontario. She now lives in Northern Ontario Canada and is married to her best friend and soul mate and their two dogs. 
An avid reader all her life, S.L. Sterling dreamt of becoming an author. She decided to give writing a try after one of her favorite authors launched a course on how to write your novel. This course gave her the push she needed to put pen to paper and her debut novel “It Was Always You” was born. 
 
When S.L. Sterling isn’t writing or plotting her next novel she can be found curled up with a cup of coffee, blanket and the newest romance novel from one of her favorite authors on her e-reader. Her favorite authors include Kendall Ryan, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, Lauren Blakely, Alessandra Torre and Willow Winters. 
 
In her spare time, she enjoys camping, hiking, sunny destinations, spending quality time with family and friends and of course reading.
 
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