Tag Archive | Sweet Romance

A Marshal for Christmas

 Book 1 in a Brand

New Series

 

 

Blurb

A lonely and abused woman without a home. A Marshal who is given the sudden responsibility of two children. A mail-order bride situation that has fallen to ruin. Can Lottie find a home and a family by Christmas?

December 1880
When Lottie Reiner lost her father in the war, her mother fell to pieces.

At the young age of eleven, Lottie began caring for her catatonic mother. But when both her mother and grandfather pass away months apart, Lottie becomes nothing but a burden to her family.

Her grandmother pushes Lottie to get married before it’s too late. But Lottie is a twenty-seven-year-old spinster with no experience raising children.

Isn’t it already too late?

Deputy US Marshal Archer King comes from a family of law keepers.

His father was a US Marshal, and his mother worked as a Pinkerton Agent with Kate Warne.

When his only sister passed on in childbirth, his brother-in-law swore he could care for the children on his own. And Archer was to check in on them, but in almost two years, he’s neglected that duty to his sister.

When the father, Sam Hodge, goes missing, he finds out exactly what kind of dire situation the children have been subject to.

After being turned out of her home, Lottie heads to Durant, Oklahoma, where Sam Hodge and his two children live, in the hopes of becoming a new wife and mother.

Only the mail-order situation does not turn out the way Lottie had hoped, and many of the things that Sam had told her in his letters turn out to be lies.

The only thing true is the children, and Lottie is fast becoming attached to them.

But what will happen when Sam is found?

Will she have the opportunity to get a home and a family before Christmas?

 

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About the Author

P. Creeden is the sweet romance and mystery pen name for USA Today Bestselling Author, Pauline Creeden. Her stories feature down-to-earth characters who often feel like they are undeserving of love for one reason or another and are surprised when love finds them.

P. Creeden married her college sweetheart, who she also met at a horse farm. Together they raise a menagerie of animals and their one son, an avid reader, himself. Animals are the supporting characters of many of her stories, because they occupy her daily life on the farm, too. From dogs, cats, and goldfish to horses, chickens, and geckos — she believes life around pets is so much better, even if they are fictional.

 

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A Bride for Darrell

***FREE FOR LIMITED TIME***

Blurb

A sweet, historical western romance in the Proxy Bride series…

If Darrell Dean wants to inherit half of the Silver Queen mine, he needs to marry. Though he doesn’t even like the girl, he agrees to marry the local saloon owner’s daughter. He doesn’t expect the surprise that he receives when a woman interrupts the wedding.

If Willa VanDurring wants to escape the danger stalking her, she needs a new name and a somewhere far away to go. At her guardian’s urging, she agrees to marry Darrell Dean by proxy and then immediately leaves to join him in Colorado. She doesn’t expect to interrupt his wedding when she arrives.

Can a man who didn’t agree to marry the proxy bride and a woman pursued by murderers make a life together? What happens when the danger finds her? In a town with no law, how will she survive?

 

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Author Bio

Marisa Masterson and her husband of thirty years reside in Saginaw, Michigan. They have two grown children, one son-in-law, a grandchild on the way, and one old and lazy dog.

She is a retired high school English teacher and oversaw a high school writing center in partnership with the local university. In addition, she is a National Writing Project fellow.

Focusing on her home state of Wisconsin, she writes sweet historical romance. Growing up, she loved hearing stories about her family pioneering in that state. Those stories, in part, are what inspired her to begin writing.

 

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Sweet Adventure

Title: Sweet Adventures
Author: Tamie Dearen
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publication Date: June 13, 2019
Blurb:
Will Katie jump into the shark-infested waters for a second chance at love?
Katie Carson is afraid of everything. Spiders. Sharks. And especially love… thanks to her ex-fiancé. That’s why her immediate attraction to the reckless Gary Lassiter scares her to death. Sure, he looks like Superman and he saved her from a giant arachnid, but he’s an adrenaline junkie.
Gary Lassiter owes his life to his best friend, Steven. But his loyalty is tested when he meets Steven’s PA, Katie. Though Steven and Katie are probably a better-suited match, Gary wants Katie for himself. He sees a lot of spunk behind her overtly timid façade, and he’s determined to bring it out in the open.
When the three spend a week at Indigo Bay, Katie starts to fall for Gary, even stepping outside her comfort zone. It’s all fun and games until her adventure brings her to a moment of life or death. Thrown into the nightmares of her past, she’s convinced they can’t have a future together. Will Gary get past her defenses?
This is the sixth book in the Indigo Bay Second Chance Romance series. All books have been written as standalones, so feel free to dive in anywhere!
NOW LIVE ON MOST RETAILERS!
 
Tamie Dearen lives in Texas with her very romantic husband—her own personal romance hero. She’s been involved in creative writing since elementary school, though her degrees are in the science fields—Chemistry and a D.D.S. But a more recent master’s degree in higher education sparked her writing bug again. And with a zany and wonderful bunch of family and friends, there’s no end of inspiration for her stories. Contact her on her website at TamieDearen.com.

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Chapter One
Katie screamed, jumping up so fast her desk chair crashed to the floor behind her. The spider on her desk was gargantuan—approximately the size of Godzilla—covered with spiky brown hairs. She could tell by the menacing look in each of its ten million beady eyes it was preparing to leap at her and inflict a lethal bite.
Maybe it already bit me!
She checked her arms for signs of puncture wounds.
“Is something wrong?”
The deep voice startled her, and she whipped around, stumbling on the overturned chair. The room tilted and a sledge hammer impacted the back of her head. She looked up from the floor, stars swirling in front of the face that bent over her. Thick brows furrowed over crystal blue eyes.
I know that face—it’s Superman!
Pain thudded in her skull, forcing her eyelids closed. 
“Are you okay?”
“Just hit my head,” she mumbled.
Her eyes came open as gentle hands lifted under her shoulders. The blue-eyed hero was kneeling beside her, so close she caught a whiff of his enticing scent, a combination of minty clean and a dash of masculine aftershave. Curling her legs to the side, she sat up and groaned, raising her hand to the back of her head.
“Let me see,” he said.
Her face was pressed against his clean black t-shirt, as his fingers parted her hair to probe the tender scalp on the back of her head. She inhaled deeply, enjoying the intoxicating smell.
“It’s not bleeding,” Superman announced. “Good thing you have this padded rug under your desk. The tile would’ve split it open.”
As her hero uprighted her chair, she couldn’t help noticing how his back muscles flexed and bulged, pressing against the thin cotton.
That’s strange… I’ve never wished I was a t-shirt before.
Stretching to his full-height, something over six feet, he turned to face her and bestowed a slow smile that sent warmth furling in her belly. Damp tendrils on his forehead suggested he’d been in the shower moments earlier.
Had he come from the company gym? She only interacted with a few of Gherring, Inc.’s employees, the ones who came to the board room to meet with Steven Gherring, her boss. She’d certainly never met this guy before. No way she could forget Superman.
He rubbed his hand across the stubble of dark beard on his square jaw, and she imagined her fingers doing the same, tracing the sharp angle, relishing the masculine feel of the soft bristles on her sensitive skin.
His eyes sparkled as if he somehow read her thoughts, and blood rushed up her neck to highlight her embarrassment.
As if it wasn’t humiliating enough to meet Superman when I’m sprawled on the floor.
“I’ll help you up,” he said.
She placed her palms in his outstretched hands. Big mistake! Charged like an ongoing static shock, his touch sucked the air from her lungs in a whoosh. Before she could escape his electrifying grasp, his large hands folded over hers. With what seemed to be little effort, he hefted her up and eased her into the chair. Then he sat back on the edge of her desk, folding his arms.
The spider!
“Stand up! Get off the desk!” she yelped.
At her cry, he jolted to his feet and whipped around, staring at it as though it might explode at any moment. “What’s wrong with the desk?”
She aimed a wobbly finger at the desktop, the last place she’d seen the spider, who’d now retreated into some unseen place. No doubt, his plan was to hide away, waiting patiently until she’d forgotten about him, only to spring out and clamp his jaws on her skin.
“There’s a spider.”
He glanced at the desktop, empty except for her laptop, the dark wood pristine as always, not a scrap of paper marring the gleaming surface. “Where?”
“He’s hiding now. Probably went underneath or in a drawer, but he was humongous.” She stretched her arms as wide as they would go.
“That big, huh?” The corners of his mouth twitched.
“He was huge. And poisonous. A brown recluse.” She put enough certainty in her voice to properly warn him, though she hoped her hero was brave enough to slay the skulking beast.
“Venomous.” He sank to his knees, peering under her desk. “Spiders are venomous, not poisonous.”
“Either way, I hate them.”
“It wasn’t a brown recluse, though.”
“How do you know? Do you see him?”
“Not yet, but I know we don’t have brown recluse spiders in New York City. It gets too cold here.”
Too her horror, half his body disappeared under her desk, deep into the spider’s lair. “Don’t go in there.”
A muffled chuckle sounded, before he backed out and stood, miraculously unmarked, brushing his fingers on his jeans. “I knocked a little spider web down. That should take care of it.” His hand swept toward the desk, as if all were clear.
“No, thanks. I’ll just do my work over here until the exterminators come.” Katie stood, crept toward her laptop and snatched it, retreating back to her chair, well away from the spider’s domain. Then the monster emerged, charging across the rug. “There he is!” she yelled, on her feet and scrambling away. “Get him before he makes it to the bookshelves!”
With amazing calm, her hero stepped on the spider. Relief flooded Katie’s system, knowing she wouldn’t have to be on guard for his reappearance. Superman bent down and examined the conquered foe.
“You’re that afraid of a tiny little spider?” He cocked his head at her, fingers shoving through his damp locks, pushing them into adorable disarray.
She shrugged. “He looked bigger on the desk.”
He coughed behind his hand, but it sounded suspiciously like a laugh. “Now that we’ve ended this horrible arachnid infestation, I’m here to see Steven.”
Katie snapped into her role, Guardian of the CEO.
“I’m sorry. Do you have an appointment, Mr. …?” She left the question hanging.
“Lassiter. Gary Lassiter. And no, I don’t have an appointment, but—”
“I’m afraid Mr. Gherring won’t be able to see you without an appointment. His schedule is quite full. Let’s see when we can fit you in.” She opened her laptop and pulled up his schedule, with no real intention of making an appointment. Steven Gherring had given strict instructions not to schedule any appointments he didn’t initiate himself. One of Gherring’s subordinates would no doubt handle this man, clearly an intruder, even if he did look like Superman and valiantly slayed large spiders.
“I think Steven will want to talk to me. We’re partners in a business deal.”
“If you aren’t willing to follow protocol, Mr. Lassiter, you may find your business deal canceled.”
“I’ll take my chances.” With an arrogant grin, Gary edged toward the entrance to Gherring’s private office, an ornately carved wood door.
In a flash, Katie was on her feet, racing for the door. With the element of surprise on her side, she reached it first, barring the entrance with her body. Her chin lifted in dogged determination as she glared up at the invader, who towered over her by at least six inches.
“No one goes through this door without an appointment.”
His devastating blue eyes crinkled at the corners as he retrieved his cell phone and held up his index finger. “One moment, please.”
He tapped once on his screen and held the phone to his ear. “Hi… I’m here… No, I can’t… Because your very attractive pit bull is guarding the door, baring her teeth at me.”
Katie heard her boss’ laughter from the phone in Gary’s hand just before the door opened behind her.
She barely kept her jaw from dropping. This interloper had Steven Gherring’s personal cell number?
“I tried to tell you.” Gary shook his head.
Her face radiated heat. But for the recent spider web, she might’ve crawled under her desk to hide. Instead, she aimed a glare at her boss. “You made an appointment with this man and didn’t bother to tell me?”
“An oversight on my part, Ms. Carson. It won’t happen again.”
His lips curved into the trademark, billion-dollar smile that left most women swooning. Katie, however, was impervious to his charms. Not because he was thirteen years older—he certainly didn’t look it—but because she’d sworn off men two years ago. All men. Including handsome billionaires, like her boss.
And hunky spider-killers who’re too smug for their own good.
“It was nice to meet you, Ms. Carson,” said Gary, apparently unaware of the poison darts her eyes sent his way. “I hope you don’t encounter any more giant arachnids.”
“Thank you for disposing of that one,” she mumbled, more irritated than grateful.
He followed Steven inside the door, but turned to his head to toss over his shoulder, “Just thought you might want to know, I noticed a bunch of empty spider eggs in that web.”
The door clicked closed behind him, but the sound was drowned out by the bass drum her heart pounded in her ear.

99% Faking It

Title: 99% Faking It
Author: Chris Cannon
Genre: YA RomCom, Sweet Romance
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: March 4th, 2019
 
Blurb:
Lisa is a card-carrying, book-loving Gryffindor. Solid. And that’s why everyone knows she’s awesome. Well, except for her crush, Matt. He only ever sees her as a friend. Plus, he’s got his eye on another girl. Oh well, plenty of fish and all that.
Good thing Lisa just read a book on the “wedding ring phenomenon”—you get more attention when you’re already taken. What if Lisa pretends to be Matt’s plus one? Maybe it’ll help Matt get his girl and Lisa can hook her own fish.
After the plan works, Matt suddenly claims he doesn’t like the view from the friend-zone and wants her instead… But she isn’t interested in being anyone’s second choice. If this guy wants to earn her attention, he’ll need more than some silly “phenomenon.”
He’ll need to go all out…
Buy Links:
The Dating Debate: http://amzn.to/2GdaA0R
99% Faking It: https://amzn.to/2tpEPN9
 
Chris Cannon is the award-winning author of the Going Down In Flames series and the Boyfriend Chronicles. She lives in Southern Illinois with her husband and several furry beasts.
She believes coffee is the Elixir of Life. Most evenings after work, you can find her sucking down caffeine and writing fire-breathing paranormal adventures or romantic comedies. You can find her online at www.chriscannonauthor.com.
 
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The Dating Debate: http://amzn.to/2GdaA0R
 

Sweet Complications

Title: Sweet Complications
Author: Stacy Claflin
Genre: Sweet Romance
Cover Designer: Naijla Quamber
Editor: Staci Troilo
Publication Date: May 30th, 2019
Blurb:
He can have any woman he wants… except her.
NFL quarterback Dylan Manley’s life revolves around his career and the fame associated with it. He’s only back in Indigo Bay to help with a fundraiser in memory of his best friend. But then finds he has to work with Brooke—the one person who has always made him trip over his own feet.
Brooke Davenport is a far cry from the girl next door who left town years ago. Focused on her political aspirations and still recovering from the loss of her doting brother, she wants nothing more than to return to DC for good. But first she has to get through the fundraiser with Dylan, who she blames for her brother’s death.
When a family emergency pulls Brooke’s parents out of town, the success of the fundraiser depends on Brooke and Dylan. He’ll do whatever it takes to show her he’s a new man, but every attempt only makes him look worse. If he can’t make things right, he’ll lose her forever.
Sweet Complications is the fourth book in the Indigo Bay Second Chance Romance series. Each book is a standalone, so you can read them in any order.
Stacy Claflin is a USA Today bestselling author who writes about complex women overcoming incredible odds. Whether it’s her Gone saga of psychological thrillers, her various paranormal romance tales, or her sweet romance series, Stacy’s three-dimensional characters shine through.
Decades after she wrote her first stories on construction paper and years after typing on an inherited green screen computer that weighed half a ton, Stacy realized her dream of becoming a full-time bestselling author.
When she’s not busy writing or educating her kids from home, Stacy enjoys watching TV shows like Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars, and Once Upon a Time.

Author Links:
 
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m sorry for the things I said at Sweet Caroline’s. It wasn’t fair. Or true.”
Relief washed through him. “Really? So, you don’t think I’m all brawn and no brain?”
“I mean it. I was insensitive. The thing is, I’m used to being hard-lined and direct at work. It’s the only way to get things done. But this isn’t politics, and you’re…” Her voice trailed off.
He leaned forward.
“You’re a friend.”
Ouch. Well, it could be worse. She could see him as an ex to leave in the dust, or…
“You’re also a good person. I know that.” She drew in a deep breath. “You’ve always looked out for Evan, for both of us. For anyone you care about.”
Her gaze lingered, as did the silence between them.
Dylan swallowed. Should he tell her he cared about her? Was she waiting for him to say it? Or was it too soon?
Brooke pulled out her phone and scowled at it. “And it isn’t just that. Things at work are really stressing me out.” She looked back up at him, her eyes shining.
His heart leaped into his throat. He wanted to jump up and wrap his arms around her. Instead, he scooted closer and put his hand on top of hers. It was so soft. She smelled so good, too. Like a field of wildflowers.
“I could lose my job, and there isn’t anything I can do about it.” Her voice cracked. “And I didn’t do anything, either. Somebody’s making me look guilty to cover their own tracks.”
“What? Are you serious?”
She tugged on her ponytail and nodded. “DC is a vicious place to work.”
He squeezed her hand and resisted the urge to hold her in his arms. “Is there anything I can do?”
“No.” She blinked and a single tear ran down her cheek.
Dylan couldn’t take it anymore. He wiped the tear away. “Let me secure the rest of the auction items so you can deal with this.”
“You’d do that?”
He nodded.
“Even after the things I said to you?”
“You didn’t mean them, right?”
She shook her head no. “It was the stress talking.”
“Then let me take this burden from you.”
Brooke held his gaze, her mouth gaped just slightly like she was going to say something. Or like she wanted him to kiss her. Did she?
He wanted to feel her sweet lips on his. To stop thinking about the past kisses and experience the real thing again.
She didn’t say anything.
Dylan took that to mean she wanted the same thing. He leaned forward.

Sweet Horizons

Title: Sweet Horizons
Author: Jean C. Gordon
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Cover Designer: Naijla Quamber
Publisher: Upstate NY Romance
Editor: Jena O’Connor
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2019
Blurb:
There’s nothing like a wedding to bring people together, but family dynamics can be complicated, especially newly blended ones. 
Sonja Cooper is thrilled that her daughter Lauren is marrying Jesse Brewster and giving her a ready-made granddaughter in the irrepressible 3-year old Shelley. The fact that Jesse is also Sonja’s business partner in the launching of the Morrison Mansion B&B is just a bonus.
Custom bike shop owner Jeff Brewster is also delighted that his son Jesse is marrying Lauren and building a new family. The one awkward aspect is the unexpected attraction he feels towards Sonja. For although Sonja feels the same spark, having been burned in her divorce from Lauren’s father, she’s determined never to be dependent on a man again.
Then the Indigo Bay Business Association pits Sonja and Jeff against each other by having their businesses compete for the coveted “New Business of the Year Award.” All’s fair in love and war, but hearts don’t always listen!
This is the 3rd novel in the Indigo Bay Second Chance Romances series, but all books can be read as standalones.
For Amazon Bestselling sweet and inspirational romance author Jean C. Gordon, writing is a natural extension of her love of reading. From that day in first grade when she realized t-h-e was the word “the,” she’s been reading everything she can put her hands on. She and her college-sweetheart husband tried the city life in Los Angeles, but quickly returned home to their native small-town Upstate New York, where she sets many of her books.
They share a 175-year-old farmhouse just south of Albany, NY, with their daughter and son-in-law, two grandchildren, and a menagerie of pets. Their son lives nearby. While Jean creates stories, her family grows organic fruits and vegetables and tends the livestock de jour.
A founding member of the Capital Region Romance Writers (Albany, NY), Jean currently serves as membership chair. She’s also a member of the Romance Writers of America and its Faith, Hope and Love Chapter, and Novelists, Inc.
Jean is currently working on a Christmas novella for the Small Town Christmas Wishes multi-author series, releasing this fall, and looking forward to writing a second book in the Sweet Promise Press No Brides Club series.

Author Links:
Chapter ONE
“A mechanic? Seriously, Sonja?”
Jeff Brewster stopped, drinks in hand, several feet away from Sonja Cooper and the man who was questioning her. Sonja’s ex-husband, he assumed. Although they hadn’t been formally introduced, the impeccably dressed man was around the right age and had been seated in the bride’s family pew at the wedding with Sonja, little Shelley, and Sonja’s cousin.
“I thought the whole purpose behind your ridiculous move to Indigo Bay was to be independent and better your situation.”
The man’s voice should have been dimmed by the hum of voices filling the ballroom of the soon-to-be open Morrison Mansion B&B, owned by Sonja and Jeff’s son Jesse. But it came through to Jeff loud and clear.
The guy continued, “I take time out of my work schedule to fly down here … and this is what I find. You should have remembered that the national sales conference is always around this time and how much work that means for me. I get here and find out she doesn’t want me to give her away or even participate in the ceremony.”
As uncomfortable as he felt eavesdropping, Jeff stayed rooted to the spot where he’d stopped. Sonja might need him.
“Can you blame her after the way you left us with no financial support to go start a new family?” Sonja said.
“And your solution to your and Lauren’s financial needs was to spend what money you did have to move nearly 900 miles away from everyone you knew and hook up with a guy who fixes motorcycles? ”
Sonja’s back went ramrod straight, and Jeff was surprised that her ex wasn’t pushed backward by the anger radiating from her. ‘That comment doesn’t deserve a response. I have not, nor do I ever plan to, get myself into a relationship where I’m depending on a man again for anything.”
Jeff’s gut clenched. He and Sonja weren’t anything more than in-laws, grandparents who shared his son’s daughter Shelley, possibly friends. But Sonja’s lack of words in his defense and her vehemence about not depending on a man laid open buried wounds about failing his deceased wife when she’d needed him most. Sonja’s ex was right about him not having anything to offer her. Everything he’d had had gone to his wife’s medical bills.
Not that he was about to offer Sonja anything but the drink he held. He forced his seemingly weighted feet into action and finished crossing the room to Sonja.
“Here’s that drink you wanted.”
She turned around. Her eyes narrowed.
Jeff halted. Did not depending on men include him delivering the drink he’d offered to get her? He was getting one for himself after all. He hesitated, the drink between them.
In a 180 turnaround, her face came to life, making her look far too young to have a twenty-eight-eight-year-old daughter. “Thanks, Jeff.”
He released his held breath and handed her the drink, sizing up the man standing across from Sonja. The guy was shorter than him and the tailored suit he wore didn’t quite hide the paunch in what may have once been an athletic physique. Jeff tightened his stomach muscles. One thing he could say about manual labor, it was a great workout.
“I don’t think you’ve met Tom Cooper, Lauren’s father,” Sonja said.
Lauren’s father, not her ex-husband. Interesting.
“Tom, this is Jeff Brewster, Jesse’s father.”
Again with the father stuff. But what did he expect? He was Jesse’s father. And Shelley’s grandfather. Why did that make him sound so old? Being a grandfather did not change the fact that he was only forty-seven.
Jeff accepted Tom’s offered hand, gripping it a shade too hard for the handshake and noticing the softness despite the guy’s tightening grip. “Nice to meet you,” Jeff said, feeling anything but nice. The guy’s soft hands and the casual, comfortable way he wore his suit, shouted money to Jeff. As for himself, it took all of his will power not to run his finger around the constricting collar of his tuxedo shirt when Tom released his hand. In the past when he’d had to dress up, he’d had his deceased wife, Shelley, to gently stop him from fiddling with his tie or collar button. He couldn’t expect Sonja to do the same. So why was he searching her face for help?
Sonja broke their eye contact. “I need to go check with the banquet coordinator. Thanks for the drink.”
“And I have a plane to catch,” Tom said.
Seriously? The man wasn’t even staying for his daughter’s wedding reception?
Sonja headed off in one direction and her ex in another direction, leaving Jeff in the middle of the room taking a swig of his beer and trying to figure out what had just happened.
Sonja slipped into the kitchen adjacent to the ballroom, clenching her hands. She could tell herself that she wasn’t running away from Jeff and Tom. But she didn’t lie, especially to herself. Not anymore. She should have prepared herself for Tom, known that he would bail on Lauren. He always did. Why would Lauren’s marriage celebration be any different? He hadn’t even RSVPed. Even though Lauren had said his presence didn’t matter, Sonja had broken down and called him a couple of weeks ago and gotten a noncommittal “I’m trying to work it in.” She had every right to be angry with Tom.
Jeff was another story. His ruggedly handsome face and the perplexed look on it when she’d made her getaway flashed in her mind. Her anger had spread over to him for no apparent reason except he was a man.
And a friend. Yes, he was a friend who had proven a great help renovating the manor and with baby Shelley. But she couldn’t let that friendship get in the way of her self sufficiency, of the success of the B&B. She could too easily see falling into a comfortable routine of relying on him, letting their relationship take over her life. Something that after Tom’s abandonment, she’d vowed to never get into again.
“Ms. Cooper, is something wrong?” the banquet coordinator asked.
Sonja swallowed the distaste in her mouth. She was already doing it, letting a man cloud her mind. “No, everything is lovely.” She pasted a smile on her face. “I came in to tell you that and ask you to let the DJ know there won’t be a father-daughter dance. Lauren’s father had to leave.”
“Certainly.”
“Here you are, Mom.” Lauren walked into the kitchen, saving Sonja from any awkwardness about sharing that the father of the bride had left.
“Yes,” Sonja said. “You know how I am about checking all the details. This is my only child’s wedding reception.” She bustled over and adjusted the skirt of Lauren’s dress before the swinging door closed on it.
Her daughter’s eyes twinkled. “And the first event at the Morrison Mansion B&B. It’s okay. Jesse and I have a stake in the success, too.”
Sonja flushed. “Right. End of business talk for the day.”
“Except for wedding business,” Lauren said, turning to the banquet coordinator. “We’re ready for dinner to be served any time now.”
“Everything’s set. I’ll have the servers bring out the salads.”
Sonja held the door for Lauren and then stepped into the ballroom herself.
“I changed the head table seating so that Jeff is beside you, rather than him being on the being on the other side of Jesse,” Lauren said
Sonja released the door and it snapped shut. She’d be fine with Jeff on the other side of Jesse—or on the other side of the room, so she wouldn’t be tempted by her attraction to him. “That’s fine.” It wasn’t as if she couldn’t have a friendly conversation with him.
“And I moved Aunt Sari to the head table on your other side, since she’s the only relative here from our family and doesn’t know anyone she was seated with. I figured we didn’t need a seat there for Dad, so why not.”
“You know he left?”
Lauren nodded.
Sonja touched her daughter’s arm. “I’m sorry about that, hon.”
“It’s no more or less than I expected of him, and you have no reason to apologize.”
“You’re right. Old habits.” And not ones she was about to fall back into.
When they reached the head table, Sonja eyed the three empty seats and the place cards, while her new son-in-law Jesse pulled out Lauren’s chair for her.
Hmm, I could switch my card with Sari’s. Then it would be me, then Sari, then Jeff. Jeff and Sari would get along. And she could avoid any inadvertent physical contact with Jeff during dinner. Staring at the cards, Sonja asked, “Where is Sari?”
“She and Dad went to get some hors d’oeuvres,” Jesse answered.
Sonja glanced at the food table and saw Jeff and Sari heading toward her. He solicitously balanced both of their plates in one hand and gripped Sari’s left elbow while Sari maneuvered her cane with her right hand. Sari had commented this morning how glad she was that her progressing MS symptoms had stayed in remission so she only needed her cane to get around. Sonja’s chest burned and she dropped her head. What was with her? She couldn’t be jealous. She and Sari were more like sisters than cousins. Sari deserved to enjoy herself with Jeff or whoever.
Sonja rearranged the cards so that Jeff was seated between her and Sari and moved her chair to put some space between her and Jeff. During dinner, he platonically divided his attention between her and Sari. Sonja relaxed. She’d let the confrontation with her ex unsettle her. There was nothing between her and Jeff. Sonja’s heart swelled as she watched Lauren and Jesse step out onto the dance floor for the first dance. She hugged her granddaughter Shelley on her lap.
“Now, will the bride’s and groom’s parents join them?”
Sonja stiffened. Lauren hadn’t instructed the DJ to skip that? Her eyes narrowed at the smile her daughter gave her from the dance floor. Or was Lauren matchmaking?
“That’s us.” Jeff stood and reached for the back of her chair.
“I’ll take Shelley,” Sari said as if sensing her reluctance and the excuse on her lips.
Sonja rose as Jeff pulled her chair out. She placed Shelley in Sari’s outstretched hands. It was only a dance.
“Grammy and Papa are going to dance,” Sari said. “We’ll watch them.”
Sonja waited while Shelley grabbed a chocolate from the dish Jeff had moved out of her reach in front of Sari and settled in with no protest.
“Daddy Jesse and Ren dance,” the three-year-old said, pointing at her father and stepmother.
“Yep, we’ll watch them, too.”
Warmth poured through Sonja at the child’s solemn nod. The little darling had adapted surprisingly well to her mother’s death and her abrupt transition to the father she hadn’t known—a father who hadn’t even known she existed.
Jeff took Sonja’s hand to lead her onto the dance floor. The corresponding tingle up her arm had nothing to do with his slightly rough working man’s hand wrapped firmly around hers. No, Shelley leaning against her arm must have made it go to sleep.
“Here they are,” the DJ said. “Let’s have a hand for Sonja Cooper and Jeff Brewster.”
Sonja reached up and placed her left hand on Jeff’s shoulder and he folded his left hand around her right. Lauren had set them up. She snuck a glance at Jeff. A half-smile teased his lips. Or maybe they had set her up. She dismissed that thought as quickly as it came. Jeff was just better at going with the flow than she was.
As the clapping died down, the strains of the new song broke through.
“I’ll Always Love You” by Taylor Dayne. Bet this brings back memories,” the DJ yammered.
It did, and not good ones.
Jeff stiffened.
Maybe not good for him, either.
He tightened his hold on her hand and pulled her closer to him. “We … I danced to this at my wedding.”
His voice was so soft, Sonja wasn’t sure whether he was talking to her or his thoughts had simply escaped him.
Jeff’s heart appeared to still belong to his deceased wife. Sonja relaxed and allowed herself to enjoy dancing in the arms of a handsome man. Any attraction she’d imagined Jeff might have to her was just that—in her imagination. He circled her around, and she let her head rest for a moment on his warm, solid chest. Knowing that Jeff wasn’t looking for anything romantic from her would make it easy for her to keep her distance and quash the silly thoughts and fears she’d had earlier.
Easy once their dance was over, anyway.
Jeff escorted Sonja back to the table and made a beeline for the bar. What he didn’t know about women could fill Indigo Bay. The body-of-water bay. Maybe the Atlantic Ocean. Sweat trickled down his spine as if he’d just finished a marathon, rather than a slow dance. When he reached the bar, he changed directions. Fresh air would do him far more good than the shots of Jameson he’d been contemplating. He ducked out a side door into the summer evening, which wasn’t any cooler than the ballroom, but a lot quieter.
He jammed his fingers through his hair. Either he was crazy, or Sonja was sending him mixed signals that were driving him crazy. He had heard her tell her ex that she never wanted to be dependent on a man again, which had sounded like a keep-out sign to any man within hearing distance. A message that she had no interest in a relationship or dating or whatever it was consenting adults did these days. What did he know? He hadn’t been with anyone but his wife in thirty years.
But, then, he and Sonja had started dancing. He’d caught himself getting lost in the song and memories, pulling Sonja closer before he’d come to his senses. He’d checked himself and started to pull back, only to have her rest her cheek on his chest, lulling him into peaceful enjoyment. When the song had ended, she’d been out of his arms in a flash and headed back to the table. His first thought for avoiding the turmoil he was in was to keep his distance, avoid her as much as possible. Which as in-laws should be doable. Except he and Sonja were jointly caring for little Shelley while Jesse and Lauren were on their four-week honeymoon cruise.
A bolt of lightning streaked across the dusky sky followed by a clap of thunder. He’d better get back inside before the sky opened up on his rented tux.
“Papa, cake!” Shelley shouted when he got within sight of the head table.
He must have missed the cake cutting.
“I got you a piece,” Sari said.
“Thanks.” He took his seat and Shelley scrambled over from Sonja’s lap to his, but not before he caught Sonja’s glare. Was the cake cutting something the groom’s father was supposed to be present for? Or was the glare for Sari making sure he got a slice?
“Frosting.” Shelley dipped her finger in the frosting flower on his cake and stuck it in her mouth.
“Yep.” He kissed the top of his granddaughter’s head, while Sonja gently extracted Shelley’s finger and wiped it and her face with a napkin.
Their gazes connected. He smiled. Sonja frowned. What was a little frosting? Or maybe that wasn’t what had earned him the frown. Jeff concentrated on his cake and his granddaughter, glad that he only had one kid. These family weddings were murder on the nerves.
Jesse and Lauren finished making their rounds in preparation for leaving and returned to the head table. Jeff stood, hoisted Shelley to his hip, and placed his other hand on the back of Sonja’s chair to pull it out for her. Maybe he’d get a point for good manners. The five of them walked out of the ballroom into the hall.
“You guys are all set?” Jesse asked wrapping his arm around his wife’s waist.
“You have our itinerary and how to reach us if you need to?” Lauren asked.
“Yes,” Jeff assured them. “It’s not like we’re novices at this.”
“We’ll Skype when we can,” Lauren said.
“We’ll be fine,” Sonja said.
Jeff rubbed noses with Shelley. Finally, something he and Sonja agreed on.
Jesse held his arms out for his daughter. “Give Daddy and Lauren kisses and hugs. It’s time for us to go on our wedding trip. Remember, you’re going to stay with Grammy and Papa.”
Shelley nodded. “Stay with Grammy and Papa. Jesse Daddy and Ren go bye-bye.”
Jesse and Lauren enveloped the little girl in a three-way hug. When they broke apart, Jesse said, “We could stop by tomorrow morning early, before we have to be at the airport.”
“Two goodbyes may not be a good idea,” Sonja said, stepping forward to give Lauren a farewell hug while Jesse handed Shelley back to Jeff.
“You’re probably right,” Jesse said opening his arms to Sonja’s goodbye hug.
Jeff bounced Shelley and shifted his weight from foot to foot. He wasn’t a hugger. Jesse got that from his mother. “You guys have a great time. Don’t worry about anything.”
Jeff and Sonja and Shelley watched, waving until Jesse and Lauren disappeared into the front hall and out the main door.
“More cake?” Shelley asked pointing over Jeff’s shoulder toward the ballroom.
“Sure, we can go see what we can find,” he answered.
Sonja had opened her mouth at the same time as him and snapped it shut.
Jeff knew as well as Sonja did that Shelley didn’t need more cake. But the goodbyes had gone so well, he didn’t want to upset things over something as small as cake. He and Sonja could have trouble soon enough when Shelley realized that her sleepover with Grammy wasn’t the familiar one night. He was sort of prepared for that with a set of twenty-five blocks he’d made that had pictures of the places Jesse and Lauren would be visiting on the cruise. The blocks fit together into a little house. He’d figured them working on the house every day and talking about what her parents were doing might help and give her a sense of time until they got home.
Sonja had nothing to say on the short walk back to the ballroom, where Jeff wove around the tables with his granddaughter in search of cake, ending at the head table and Sonja
“No cake.” Shelley lifted her hands palms up and shook her head. “Time for stories.”
“Thank you, I see what you were doing now,” Sonja said, her praise warming him more than it should.
“Okay, we’ll go upstairs to Grammy’s and get your jammies on for stories.” Sonja held her arms out for Shelley.
Jeff stifled a sigh. He was more than ready to head down to the beach to his place, the mansion’s former caretaker’s cottage, lose the tux and unwind. The three of them retraced their steps to the stairway, where Sonja started up to her third-floor living area and he started toward the door.
“No, no, no!” Shelley said, straining to reach over the polished oak railing to Jess. “Papa, stories. Papa night-night at Grammy’s”
His gaze locked with Sonja’s and the indecision in her eyes matched his. She pressed her lips together and nodded almost unperceptively at the stairs. He took another step.
“Papa!” Shelley screamed, loud enough for the remaining guests to hear her in the ballroom.
With Jesse, he would have continued down the stairs, feeling he shouldn’t give in to a child’s demands. But this was his granddaughter, and he hadn’t had the greatest relationship with his son until the past few years, after his wife had died. Jeff looked over his shoulder to the little girl’s tear-stained face and Sonja’s weary looking one. He and Sonja were sharing the responsibility for Shelley. He shouldn’t dump it on Sonja and bolt.
“It’s okay, sweetie, Papa is just going downstairs to make sure the front door is locked.” Which he’d do so he wasn’t lying to the kid.
Shelley sniffled. “Okay. Then stories.”
“Definitely.” Jeff caught what he thought was relief in Sonja’s eyes and bounded to the door.
His ascent after locking the door was slower, his feet weighted by a churning in his gut. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t been up to Sonja’s flat on the top floor of the mansion before, just the two of them. He’d installed her dishwasher, put in the programmable thermostats, and done other home maintenance. Stayed for lunch a couple of times. But overhearing her talking to her ex at the reception had made everything weird, like he was a guest, not a friend, not family.
He could ignore that, read Shelley a couple of stories, and leave. Of course he could.

Sweet Do-Over

Title: Sweet Do-Over
Author: Melissa McClone
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Cardinal Press, LLC
Publication Date: May 17th, 2019
Blurb:
When architect Marley Patterson goes out with Von Ryan, she never expects her practical, cautious life to be turned upside down by the handsome contractor. Von is the definition of fun until his proposal sends her into a panic. Marriage is too serious a commitment to make after dating for only six months. Even though she cares for Von, they are too different so she breaks up with him.
Being rejected hurts, but Von blames himself for not reading the signs and Marley better. He finds solace in work; however, his construction company’s success isn’t enough. He wants to share his life with a woman who’ll love him as much as he loves her. She’s out there. All he has to do is find her, and, this time, be patient for the relationship to develop on its own.
After Marley is assigned to Von’s new project in Indigo Bay, he treats her the same as everyone else—professionally and with respect—though neither can deny a strong mutual attraction still exists. Soon Marley realizes she may have been the problem with their relationship, not just Von’s proposal. She wants a second chance, but after breaking his heart once, will he give her a do-over?
USA Today bestselling author, Melissa McClone has published novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group and been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters. Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds, and cats who think they rule the house. They do!
Author Links:

Website: http://www.melissamcclone.com
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Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/2E9EIwi

Voices sounded from the entryway, but she couldn’t make out their words.
A door slammed. Footsteps sounded.
“Marley.”
Recognizing Von’s voice, she turned. “Hey…”
Whatever she planned on saying died on her lips as if someone had flicked off the switch controlling her brain. The rest of her organs, however, were functioning fine.
Her heart thudded, and her breath caught in her throat. Both unwelcome and unexpected responses.
Had Von always looked this hot?
She’d worked hard to push him out of her mind, blocked his number, and deleted his photos from her social media accounts and phone. Only the video of his ill-fated proposal remained, but she’d watched it only once. That had been one time too many. His pain had been brutally exposed for all to see.
Pain she’dcaused.
For the best, she’d been telling herself since then. But seeing him now…
She’d forgotten how Von’s green eyes resembled a stormy sea. He’d cut his hair. The style was attractive on him, but she missed seeing his sandy blond locks falling in waves past his shoulders. Despite the shorter length, her fingers itched to reach out and wrap around one curl.
Stop.
Thinking about him this way was bad. Wrong.
Yet she couldn’t seem to help herself.
Von Ryan had always been handsome, but breathtakingly gorgeous was the only way to describe him today. Especially with the stubble covering his normally clean-shaven face.
“You’retaking over for Rhett?” The slight crack in Von’s voice was the only sign he might not be okay seeing her again.
Marley struggled to make sense of his question, and then she remembered why she was here.
Work. The Starling project. Her future at RMF.
“Yes.” The word shot from her mouth like nails from a gun. She hadn’t expected to be so nervous around him. “I hope that’s okay.”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
His nonchalant tone bristled. She wanted to make her presence easy on him. If he didn’t have an issue that was great, but… “Cody acted surprised.”
“So am I, but it’s no big deal.”
Okay. Von was taking this well. “It’s not. We’ve worked together before.”
He nodded. “I have no problem with the two of us being on the same project.”
“Me, neither.”
Von pulled out his cell phone, a newer model from the one he’d had before. “You’re early. Mr. Starling won’t be here for thirty minutes.”
Good. That was what she planned. “I’d like to see the house and property before he arrives.”
“You have plenty of time,” Von said in the professional tone he used with subcontractors and inspectors. “If you have questions, Cody can answer them.”
In the past, Cody had never interacted with her in that way. Von had also given her personal tours of each project. But things had changed. “Thanks. I will.”
Focusing on his phone, he tapped on the screen. She watched him, waiting for him to look at her or say something else.
Von didn’t.
O-kay. Except she felt anything but okay.
Her insides short-circuited as if a conduit was twisted after being installed wrong.
What was going on?
She headed to the French doors leading to the deck.
Yes, Marley had been the one to break them up, but Von acted as if she were a stranger, not the woman he’d pledged his undying love to before asking her to marry him. She tried to understand why that bothered her.
Maybe she assumed he was still infatuated with her because he’d treated her as if she was the smartest, most important person in the world.
His world.
Not that he was being rude or mean to her now, just indifferent.
That confused her, left her feeling disconcerted and unsettled.
Stupid.
She couldn’t have it both ways.
Marley should be relieved Von was acting as professional as he’d always been. If this kept up, the project could remain hers. Which was what she wanted—needed—to get her one step closer to a promotion.
Any unease had to be from the shock at seeing Von again. The last time had been a mess of sympathetic tears for him while simultaneously struggling to hold herself together, so they’d made progress. Everything would be fine.
A glance over her shoulder showed Von still on his phone. His expression gave nothing away. “Nothing” being who he might be texting. A client, one of his crew, his sister, or…a girlfriend?
It didn’t matter—was none of her business.
Yet Marley wanted to know.
Desperately.