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Y’all. Don’t give me that look. I can’t handle the puppy dog eyes over the fact that you’re waiting on the Collin’s book. I know, I know! I still haven’t announced a release date for the next Carolina Rebels novel, a title, a cover, or even a description.

But I am making progress and I’m thrilled about that! I don’t want to say when I think I will be finished because that will jinx me (happens every time)!

I might even go ahead and write a blurb soon and share it.


I AM super duper excited about this book and what I plan to work on next. You may see it listed in the upcoming events section, but don’t count that date as the publication date! That’s my let’s-release-it-before-the-end-of-the-year goal spot.

I’m going to end this with a little teaser. Enjoy! :)

“Do you mind if I actually take a nap? I promise to be better company later, but I'm exhausted.”

I shake my head. He walks over to me and gives me the tightest hug he can without breaking a rib. “I'm glad you're here, Jules. I've missed you.”

“I've missed you too,” I whisper before he releases me and walks away to his bedroom. I just wish he loved me like I love him.

Life's Been a Little Rough

a Note from Lindsay.jpg

My last release was 7 months ago. While that may not seem like a long time, it is when I planned to write 3 books during that time and have one ready to release. Instead, I haven’t finished any, so obviously I don’t have anything to release.

If you’re a member of my Facebook group, Lindsay’s League, then you know that late last year, I started my second dream job (writing being the first) as a children’s librarian. It’s been an absolute dream and I love it. However, it has killed my writing motivation and my writing time. And from there, everything else fell apart.

Posting on social media lessened.

Writing came to a halt.

Marketing stopped.

Everything that came with writing became a struggle because that day job took over. I’ve tried a few times to get back into the swing of things and just wasn’t feeling it because all I wanted to do was rest. I know there are authors out there who can rock working both a full-time job and writing, but adjusting has been a ridiculous struggle for me.

So much so that I’ve wondered if I can do it at all.

But I can’t give up either because I LOVE this just as much as working at the library and I can’t let this go. My new problem has been finding the energy and the motivation to just put my rear in a chair and Get. It. Done.

Life, in general, hasn’t been too smooth for me either, so that hasn’t helped.

This past weekend, though, I felt a shift. A serious, legitimate motivation to get back into the groove and Get. It. Done. I did a little writing today and set a deadline to finish this Carolina Rebels book. It is my mission to meet that deadline come hell or high water.

As soon as I finish this, I’ll do more writerly things and dive a little deeper in to the career I’ve let fall to the wayside and to get myself back on track. I figured an update was in order because I know I have folks waiting on that next Carolina Rebels book. I’m getting there! I’m over halfway to the halfway point!

I’m feeling way better about things than I have in a long time; I couldn’t be happier about that. And when I say I’m really going to get back into the groove, I mean it this time. 2019 is the year of learning how to juggle and it’s time to add writing back to my juggling act.

Thanks for sticking with me and being patient. Y’all have seriously been the greatest. I hope to have better news with release dates next time I post! :)

Happy 7 years to us!

October 15th is a special day in my household. It’s an anniversary date and a birthday.

In 7 years, I’ve released 43 books, 20 of them with Mary Smith. I’ve traveled for book signings, met readers, and I’ve been able to sustain myself, even taking a few trips to see hockey games. I would not have been able to do any of that, if not for you, my dear reader. Thank you for your support, love, and friendship. I hope to see you in another seven years!

Now, I also mentioned a birthday.

Bartley turns 7 today. It was meant to be that he was my dog, considering the coincidence that he was born when my first book released, even though I didn’t find him until three months later. I’m very thankful for the seven years we’ve spent together; he’s my little buddy and sometimes, it feels like it’s me and him against the world. Even though he likes to worry me with his health condition, I hope I can come back on his fourteenth birthday and celebrate it with y’all as well. :)

I’m sitting with my grandma today while she recovers from her fractured ribs, but I’m thinking some sugar cookies and an extra treat for Bartley is exactly how we’ll celebrate!

Why don’t you do a little something to treat yourself and celebrate with us! Tell us how you’re celebrating in the comments. :)

Happy Release Day, Hell and a Hard Place!

Today is a release day, which means it’s a day for celebration!

Hell and a Hard Place has a very special place in my heart, more so than any of my other books. When I think about this book, and the inspiration behind it, my heart breaks. Domestic abuse isn’t a fun topic and I don’t know about you, but I hear even less when it comes to the woman being the abuser. But it happens in real life and it happens in Hell and a Hard Place.

There’s so much more that I wish to write, but this is a day for celebrating and I can only say so much. Here’s a little more about Hell and a Hard Place:

What's a girl to do when she's in love with her best friend but she can't have him? Well, I pretend I'm not. I keep my best friend, FC, close and keep my life moving forward. I work. I date. I see my therapist for my mental health issues. But everything always leads back to FC, no matter what I do. The distance between us, FC's secrets, and our own relationships keep us apart while bringing us closer together.

I'm a guy with loads of problems. Where do I even begin? I'm an on-again off-again smoker. I'm an alcoholic. I have a best friend of twelve years who I can't live without, and I only recently met Idaline in person when she let me escape to her house one night. Oh, and did I mention I have an abusive girlfriend? That every day winds up being worse than that last? I'm stuck between hell and a hard place with the dimmest of lights at the end of the tunnel. And that light might not even be there tomorrow. Because things will get worse before they get better.

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google Play

I’ll be baking cinnamon sugar pecans to celebrate, and don’t forget, the sequel releases next month!

Sneak Peek: Chapter One of Hell and a Hard Place

Chapter One


My head snaps to the right, pain bursting around my eye from her punch. I clench my hands and remind myself that I’m a good man and I don’t hit women.

“Who is she, FC?” Lila shouts. “Who the fuck is Idaline?”

“No one!” I lie. “She’s an old friend who doesn’t matter.”

“You tell old friends you miss them?” she screeches, rearing her fist back again as if I told Idaline I love her. I take steps backward, but she follows me and clocks me in the jaw. God, I hate this woman.

I snatch my phone from her hand, the phone she unlocked herself while I was in the shower because apparently she knows my password, and open my contacts. “Look, I’ll delete her.” I’m only confident in this move because I have Idaline’s number memorized. I delete her contact and our conversation thread while Lila watches. “Happy?”

“No. You can sleep on the couch tonight.” She walks into our room and slams the door behind her.

I sigh, walk into the kitchen, and pour and knock back three shots of tequila before planting my ass on the couch. How is this my life? Why am I still here? I should’ve never come to the western part of North Carolina; I clearly had a better life back East. Yet here I am, living a sucky life, not quite willing to do what it takes to leave this situation. Not quite sure howto leave.

Lila and I met at a concert in Charlotte. We both traveled there to see our favorite band and had seats next to one another. It was a long, fun night of drinking and flirting. I left with her number afterward and even called her the next day to double check she got home okay. For about six months, I talked to her constantly. My phone was always in my hand as she charmed me like a skilled manipulator going after exactly what she wanted.

It took one visit to her home here for her to ask me to move in. She knew I wanted a fresh start and wouldn’t mind moving away, even if it was just four hours from my hometown of Raleigh. She was able to convince me in a week to pack up my things and move.

My family and my friends both warned me not to go. They cited reasons such as how I’d technically only met her twice and how six months of conversing every day wasn’t nearly enough to know if I should live with her. They thought I should visit her more and learn about her more face-to-face before I made such a big move. Obviously, I didn’t listen.

I should have.

I’ve been here almost a year and she’s kicked me out of the apartment at least twice a month. She hits me more times than I can count, too. We have good moments, we do. Those moments and the fact that I have too much pride standing in the door every time I decide I’m packing up and going home keep me here. How am I supposed to tell my parents my girlfriend is abusive? That I’ve been enduring it since a month after I got here? How embarrassing would that be? How disappointed would they be to find out I could leave, yet I haven’t?

At this point, it’s manageable. I don’t know when, or if, I’ll reach a limit and leave, but obviously it’ll have to get worse before I decide to make it better for myself.

My phone rings and as I pick it up to answer, the bedroom door swings open.

“Who’s calling you?” Lila snaps, demanding an answer.

“My mom. Leave me the fuck alone like you promised.”

She glares and returns to the bedroom, slamming the door.

With a sigh, I say, “Hello? What’s up, Mom? You must miss me, that’s the only reason you call.”

“Have you been drinking again, FC?”

There must be something in my voice because my mom can always tell when I’ve had a few shots too many; she hasn’t seen me in a year and she worries I’ve become an alcoholic. If she only knew. “Is that why you called?”

“That means yes, but I’ll ignore that for now. Nana’s birthday is coming up and we’re having a big party. We’d love to have you home and to finally meet Lila. It’s well past time for both a visit and to meet her.”

My heart panics while my brain shouts no repeatedly. However, I say, “I’ll ask Lila.”

“Ask her right now. Aren’t you home?”

Oh, for fuck’s sake, Mom.“Hold on.” I mute the phone, just in case Lila yells things my mother doesn’t need to hear. “Lila!” I shout. “Mom wants me to bring you home for my nana’s birthday. You want to go or not?”

She peers out of the door, now calm and serene. “She wants to meet me?” Lila smiles like I just proposed, something that won’t everhappen. “Yes, of course we’ll go!”

I unmute the phone and tell my mom, “We’ll be there. It’s next weekend, right?”

While I get the details on the party, Lila curls up next to me with a glass of wine as if nothing happened twenty minutes ago. That’s her fourth glass of the evening, so round of applause for not one, but two alcoholics in the apartment. When I hang up with my mom, she rubs her hand over the crotch of my jeans. What fucking sucks about this situation is that my body betrays me every damn time. How my dick can still harden for her not long after being hit is beyond me.

“You know, this would be a wonderful time to propose and surprise your family,” she says sweetly. Have I mentioned she’s been wanting to get married for the last six months?

I give her my standard response. “I’m not ready yet, Lila.”

She removes her hand with a huff. “You’ll have to be ready at some point, babe.”

“Well, today ain’t that day. If we’re going to talk about this shit, you’re going to have to pour me another shot.”

“You’re an asshole, FC.” She stands and walks back to the bedroom, slapping the back of my head on her way.

Before I get too comfy, I switch my phone to silent. The last thing I need is for Idaline to message or call me and Lila roar out of the bedroom again. I smile at the thought of her being jealous of someone neither of us have ever met.

Idaline and I have known each other for twelve years. My middle school wanted us to write to kids at a school in South Carolina, a pen pal of sorts. Idaline was mine. She still is, I guess. We started with letters, then emails, then texts and phone calls. She’s only about an hour away from me now; I know because one night when Lila kicked me out, Idaline called me and I almost asked her if she was ready for us to meet.

We’ve talked about it a lot over the years, but we’ve never made concrete plans to do it. We do send birthday and Christmas gifts; I had to get a separate post office box once I moved here, just for mail from Idaline, because it didn’t take long to realize Lila was the jealous type. She only discovered Idaline in my phone now because I’d forgotten to delete the latest text thread.

Idaline is easily my best friend and my closest confidante. After twelve years of talking nearly every day, it’s no surprise really. But Lila is ruining my friendship with her. I’ve had to be strategic when I talk to Idaline and I’ve talked to her less since moving here. She knows I have a girlfriend, so at least we can both blame it on her. One thing Idaline doesn’t know about is the hell I go through living here. Just like with my family and friends, I don’t talk about my relationship with Lila.

Before I can place my phone on the table again, it lights up with a text from Idaline.

Idaline: Fredrick Clark?

I smile, happiness filling up my soul for the first time today. The feelings I get when she texts, the happiness, the elation, the pure, untainted joy, are something I hope never goes away. One reason Idaline and I connected was because we both have old family names, only I go by FC, the first letters of my first and middle name because I don’t like either of them. Since Idaline doesn’t know anyone who knows me to find out what they could be, it’s one of her life missions to figure out what they may be. I’ve told her she’ll never ever guess it, but she sends about a guess a week.

Me: No for both.

Idaline: Darn it.

I crave to hear her voice, or to videochat with her and see her face, but that’s simply not possible right now.

Me: Can I call you on my lunch break tomorrow?

Idaline: I’m having lunch with my boyfriend. I’m sorry.

She even includes a sad face, which makes me smile. The woman is sweet.

Me:mNo worries. I’m taking my girlfriend home to meet the family this weekend.

Idaline: Oh, that sounds serious. Looking forward to that? And to going home?

Me: Sure.

Idaline: Totally believe you.

Me: I know you do. Talk to you tomorrow.

She doesn’t believe me, but that’s okay. I wouldn’t believe me either.

~ ~ ~

“You had to hit me this week, didn’t you?” I grumble as Lila attempts to apply makeup on and around my eye to cover the bruise there.

“It was an accident,” she insists, as if she truly believes rearing her fist back and hitting me on purpose was an accident. “If they can still tell, we went to a bar and you got into a fight protecting my honor.”

I almost snort. She can protect her own honor. There’s no way I’d get into a fight over her.

“I am sorry,” she whispers. I almost believe her too. She looks at me with these deep brown eyes, concern etched onto her face, and she softly kisses my forehead in apology. This beautiful woman who had me telling her I loved her wields her fists like weapons whenever I piss her off. Sometimes, I don’t even have to do that much. I can’t reconcile those two women. How are they one person? “There you go. Check it out for yourself, but I think it looks great.”

She moves out of the way and I see my reflection in the mirror. The ugliness of the bruise has disappeared underneath whatever gunk she put on my face.

“Thanks, babe.” And then I kiss her before I can examine the fact that I’m thanking and kissing my girlfriend for covering up a bruise she gave me before we drive out to see my family. No, my life isn’t fucked up at all.

Halfway into our drive, Lila picks up my phone. It takes her two seconds to realize I’ve changed the passcode.

“Why did you change it?”

“What fun would it be if you constantly knew it and didn’t have to figure it out all over again every once in a while? It’s like our little game, babe.” It’s supposed to sound like fun teasing because that’s all I have to give. Our conversations about boundaries were always useless. I thought we should have some, especially since I would never go into her purse or her phone. She doesn’t know the definition of privacy or boundaries. My mail, cell phone, wallet, and anything else she can access are open doors for her to walk through and examine what’s on the other side, according to how she thinks. What choice do I have but to let her do it, too? It’s either allow her or face the consequences, and I don’t need any more of those.

“If you have something to hide, I’ll find it, you know.”

“Yep.” She’s like an award-winning hound dog on the hunt, always finding what’s at the other end of the sniff trail.

We drive the rest of the way in silence, thankfully. My stomach is in knots, wondering how Lila will behave around my family. What if the makeup wears off and they find my black eye? Will Lila’s cover story hold up? Will we be able to not argue in front of them?

Sure, we have our good days, but what if today isn’t one of them?

The party is being held in my parents’ backyard. It seems as if we’re the last to arrive based on all the vehicles in the driveway and in the yard. Lila takes my hand as we walk toward the party. I take a deep breath and send up a prayer.

“He’s here! He’s here! FC!” Mom runs over, shouting and drawing everyone’s attention.

An easy smile lifts my lips and I release Lila’s hand to hug my mom, picking her up and twirling her in a circle. It is so good to see my family after being away for a year. A sudden ache of homesickness rushes over me.

“I’ve missed you too, Mom,” I say as I set her on her feet. “And this is my girlfriend, Lila.”

Mom turns to hug her while my dad and the rest of the family comes to greet us. Nana is the one to usher us over to the table of food and make sure we both fix a plate, but Mom insists we sit next to her.

With amazement, relief, and a touch of familiarity, I watch Lila act like the girl I first met and then spent so much time talking to on the phone. Our relationship transforms into a normal, almost perfect one. The happiness she shows rubs off on me. I find myself doing things I only do on our good days. Her hand is always in mine. I happily accept every kiss she gives me and enjoy her hands touching my body when she laughs or talks about me. I don’t wonder why I’m enjoying it either. And I genuinely smile.

Even her lies seem like the truth to me right now.

“We both work during the day. Oh, me? I work full-time as a receptionist for a medical office.” She works part-time at a convenience store.

“But we spend our evenings together. We only occasionally go out or invite friends over.” I have to take her out to eat once a week and she’ll invite her friends over whenever she wants at whatever time she wants.

“I told FC we should drive my Mercedes, but he insisted on his Jeep. I bought that car all by myself when I was eighteen, you know.” Her parents bought that car for her when she was eighteen.

“I was able to purchase my condo by the time I was twenty-one.” Again, her parents bought that for her.

My nana points at me and curls her finger, wanting me to come over to her. I leave Lila for Nana and bend down so she can whisper in my ear.

“Doesn’t she know bragging is annoying?” she says.

I laugh. “She’s proud of her accomplishments, I guess.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve lived to be eighty. She can shut up any time now, dear.” She pats my hand, done with the conversation and Lila apparently.

I return to my seat, unsure of how to make Lila shut up, because this is one of her personality traits. She likes to be the center of attention. Nana’s birthday or not, this is Lila’s show now. She brags, lies, and charms everyone but Nana. She pulls me back in with all her sweet talk and charm, as if nothing in the past year happened.

“Oh, I love FC a lot,” she tells my mom. “He’s very protective over me, takes care of me, and he’s such a sweet man. You raised him right, that’s for sure.”

I keep thinking about that as we drive home. That and how my mother told me she liked her and feels reassured about my life away from home now. Well, aside from the drinking, which I got a minor lecture on.

“Today was such a good day, babe!” Lila exclaims when we walk into the apartment. “I love your family. They were all so nice!” She wraps her arms around my neck. “Although, I don’t think your nana liked me.” Lila frowns.

“She did,” I lie.

Lila begins to walk backward to the bedroom and I know immediately that she wants sex. Just like that, all the good from today disappears and reality comes crashing back down. I have two options: have sex with her unprotected or insist on a condom and risk getting kicked out of the apartment again. She hates when I wear a condom and has actually kicked me out for refusing to have sex with her without one. She may be in a good enough mood tonight that I can get away with wearing one. She might be on birth control, but every precaution is necessary.

She kisses and seduces me until we’re on the bed, naked, and horny. Just as I lean over to reach for the nightstand drawer, she grabs my arm with a tight grip. Her nails dig into my skin so hard, she could draw blood at any second.

“Not tonight, FC. I want to feel you. Really feel you.”

Damn it. “You haven’t missed a single day of birth control?” I ask.

“No!” she exclaims. Outrage colors her face that I would even ask. “I donotwant a baby, FC.”

“That’s the point of me also wearing a condom, babe.”

She rolls her eyes, grabs my cock, and situates herself above me. “I’ll take that day after pill tomorrow as precaution,” she promises me.

I should know by now that she can’t be trusted, but that thought doesn’t hit me for a couple of weeks.

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Have you heard about the Heaven and Hell Duet?

Releasing this fall is the Heaven and Hell Duet, which includes Hell and a Hard Place (October 11, 2018) and Light in the Dark (November 8, 2018). My love and excitement for these two books surpasses that of all my books before. I absolutely cannot wait to share this duet with y'all. 

It's a bit of a rollercoaster ride that will definitely bring out some strong emotions and that's all I'll say right now. But be sure to stay tuned and check into my social media for teasers. Read on for the blurb and check out the awesome cover.

What's a girl to do when she's in love with her best friend but she can't have him? Well, I pretend I'm not. I keep my best friend, FC, close and keep my life moving forward. I work. I date. I see my therapist for my mental health issues. But everything always leads back to FC, no matter what I do. The distance between us, FC's secrets, and our own relationships keep us apart while bringing us closer together.

I'm a guy with loads of problems. Where do I even begin? I'm an on-again off-again smoker. I'm an alcoholic. I have a best friend of twelve years who I can't live without, and I only recently met Idaline in person when she let me escape to her house one night. Oh, and did I mention I have an abusive girlfriend? That every day winds up being worse than that last? I'm stuck between hell and a hard place with the dimmest of lights at the end of the tunnel. And that light might not even be there tomorrow. Because things will get worse before they get better.

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Happy Release Day, Defend!

Who's ready the next standalone in the Hearts in Carolina series? I AM! Defend does have a familiar character taking the male lead role. If you've read Steady, then you'll recognize Brent Murphy and his family. If not, no need to worry. You can pick this book up without reading Steady (although I totally think you should read Steady, too!😉)

Okay, so now, let's get to all the details you need to know about Defend

A flat tire brings together Brent Murphy, a workaholic parent of two, and Jamie Alexander, a soon to be college graduate. The eighteen year age difference startles them both at first, but they decide there's no harm in seeing where things go. After a few dates, it's clear their attraction to one another can't be resisted.

Jamie's best friend thinks the appeal must be physical. Brent's daughter can't understand why he would date someone so close to her age. Others judge the fact that Brent is dating someone so much younger than him. Over time, it becomes apparent they will have to defend their choices to those around them.

Brent and Jamie are secure in their relationship, but will outside assumptions become more than they are willing to defend?

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google Play

Another Sneak Peek: Chapter Two of Defend

Chapter Two


“I’m the oldest,” I say, answering her question. “There are five years between each of us. Do you have siblings?”

“An older sister.” Jamie wears a slight frown as she stabs a piece of her waffle and I wonder if she realizes it. I also wonder if she knows how beautiful she is. She seems confident enough, but I feel like there are many layers to her. I was instantly attracted to her, tears and all. She has this kind of beauty that makes a man want to throw her over his shoulder, carry her off, and make sure he keeps her all to himself.

“Do you have a good relationship with her?” I’m not sure why I’m pushing. Hell, I’m not sure why I’m still here with a twenty-one-year-old, but I can’t seem to find any reason to leave. There seems to be some magnetic pull to her that I can’t resist. Has been since the moment I saw her hunched over her knees on the sidewalk.

Jamie shrugs. “How’s life been since your divorce?”

I’m not quite sure if she wants anything specific or not, so I answer with what comes to mind. “It’s been good. I work, more than anyone likes. I date here and there. And I make time for my kids.”

“What do you mean about your work?”

I lean forward a little bit, my elbows rest on the table, and my hands clasp in the air above my empty plate. “Okay, here’s the deal. I love my job. I love working and staying busy. Unless there is a reason for me to not work, then I’m at the shop doing just that. Because this is how I am, my daughter thinks I’m a workaholic, which I guess I am, but she thinks it’s a bad thing and she worries. I could step away from my work any time as long as I have a reason to. She doesn’t think so, however. Not only is she on my case, but now, she has my brothers on my case too.”

Jamie smiles and leans forward, mimicking my stance. “So, what you’re saying is that you need someone to see, which will ease everyone’s worries.”

“You offering yourself?”

“Do you see anyone else at this table? Of course I am.”

I grin as I shake my head. “Still way too trusting, Jamie.” She rolls her eyes at that. “I think we need to return to that forgotten issue.” I nearly fainted and she about choked.

“You’re hot and you’re sweet; I can get over it.” She raises her eyebrows in a challenge, waiting for my answer. How did she get that I’m sweet out of a few hours with me? Sure, I helped her with her tire, but that wasn’t extraordinary. “I’m waiting, Brent,” she says in a bit of a singsong manner.

“I’ll make an exception for you,” I decide only as the words flow out of my mouth.

Jamie’s smile is bright and quick. The waitress brings over our bill and I pay. While we wait for her to bring back my card, I ask, “Why don’t you like college?”

“I don’t like school,” she replies flatly. “I’m only in college because my parents insist and they’re paying. If I could quit and do something that doesn’t require a degree, but keeps me around people, I’d be happy.”

I frown. “You don’t think your parents would understand that?”

“I’m still in college, aren’t I? Trust me, if I thought telling them would be better than suffering through four years of this hell, I would drop out in a heartbeat.”

The waitress drops off the receipt and my card. I don’t like what she’s telling me, but it’s not like I can change her situation. We slide out of the booth and I rest my hand on her lower back. I wait until we’re back inside my truck to ask my question again.

“Why do you hate school so much?”

“Ah, ah, ah. I can’t spill but so much about myself in one night and that one is a whopper. We’re not ready for that answer. You’ll have to ask me again another day.”

Hmm. “Okay. Where do you see yourself in five years?”

“Five years, ten years, twenty years, it’s all the same. Hopefully, I’ll have a job I enjoy and in a good relationship with a man I love. That’s all I want out of life.”

It sounds so simple. Maybe too simple. All she wants is a job and a man? No kids? Nothing else on her list?

“Thank you for dinner, by the way,” she adds.

“You’re welcome. We’ll do it again sometime.”

“That sounds like conviction and certainty in your voice.”

I glance over and see her smiling. “It is,” I confirm.

We ride the rest of the way in silence. It seems as if Jamie’s mood darkens by the second. When I park my truck next to her car, she confirms my suspicions with a sigh.

“I have to go back to campus. Yay me.”

“Hand me your keys.” She doesn’t ask or give me a look; she just hands them over. Again, the girl is way too trusting of people. I get out, the cold nipping at my skin, and go over to her car to crank it. It’ll be nice and toasty by the time she gets in it.

“See? Seriously so sweet,” she says as I get back into the truck.

I shrug. “I have manners.”

Jamie stares at me for a moment. “Huh.”

“What?” I don’t know what that huh means.

“I’ve realized that all the guys I know have no manners. None. Absolutely none.” She shakes her head in astonishment. “I don’t know anyone who would open a door for me, much less crank my car so it’s warm when I get in it. You are something else, Brent.”

No, I’m not. It’s just a damn shame that there aren’t more people with such manners out there. “Your car should be warm and toasty.” I get out and walk around to open the door for her, making her smile once again.

“When do you plan to see me again?” she asks.

“Tomorrow at six in the morning?” Her jaw drops and I laugh. “We could run and I’d make you breakfast afterward. You need a good start to your day so we don’t have a repeat of whatever happened today.”


“Six,” I confirm.

She pulls her phone from her pocket. “What’s your number?” I recite it for her and she adds, “I’ll text you later to get your address. I wasn’t exactly paying attention earlier, so there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to find your house again.” Jamie takes a step closer and closer until our chests touch. It doesn’t seem like enough, yet it is all the same. “One last question before I go. Is this considered a date and if so, do I get a—”

She is not about to ask that question, so I cut her off with a kiss. Within seconds of our lips and tongues meeting, my arms rope around her waist and I move to lean her against the car. She shivers as the cold from the car presses against her back. Her hands rest on my shoulders, her nails digging into the skin as she leans up and presses herself into me, kissing me harder and deeper. A soft moan leaves her to echo into my mouth.

I pull away, breathing as hard as if I just went running. I... What the hell was that? In all my years, no woman has done whatever the hell she just did to me. Kissing when I was a teenager and horny as hell didn’t even feel that good, that right. She tasted sweet and somehow, she smells a little like chocolate.

I need to get my head checked.

Instead, I clear my throat and open the door for Jamie. “Drive safe.”

She slides into the driver’s seat, buckles up, but looks at me. “One more?”

I laugh as I lean into the car and kiss her one more time. “Dress just a little warmer tomorrow. It’ll be colder.”

She tsks. “You’re bossy. I’ll see you in the morning, Brent.”

“Drive safe,” I repeat because one can never be too careful. I close her door, step back, and stand there until her tail lights disappear.

By the time I make it home, Jamie has texted me that she made it back to campus safe and sound and she needs my address for the morning. Now that I’m away from her, I can’t help but wonder what the hell I was thinking, even as I respond to her. She’s not much older than Kayla. I can’t seriously think about doing anythingwith her, can I? Even if I’m completely interested in finding out a little more about her?

What would my kids think? How would I feel if the situation was reversed? Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. It’s not like I’m about to jump into a relationship with this woman. There’s no harm in exploring the waters, right? And just the other day, Kayla actually told me to date more. Granted, she told me so I’d work less if I was dating someone, but that’s beside the point. I’ll just see what happens and if it seems like it might become more than casual, I’ll reevaluate. In the meantime, I have a feeling that Jamie is exactly the person I need to see right now.

~ ~ ~

She knocks on my door five minutes after six. I pull it open, keep my face expressionless, and say, “You’re late.”

Jamie rolls her eyes. “Sorry, boss. I needed this.” She holds up a coffee cup. “As soon as I set this down, we can get started.” She walks past me and adds, “You’re lucky I’m here at all. Do you realize how early it is? Too early, that’s how early.” No shorts this morning, but no pants either. She went midway with capris. And no long-sleeved shirt like me, either. She’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt. How is she not freezing her ass off? “Okay, let’s go.”

“Are you sure you’re ready? I have a jacket if you’d like to borrow it.”

“No, thanks. I overheat when I run. This is enough.” She walks out the door, jogs down the steps, and I have no choice but to follow her.

I catch up to her on the sidewalk. We start slow and steady without any talking. This is the odd thing about running with a partner. You have to learn their running habits. What’s their pace like? Do they enjoy talking or do they prefer not to? I normally run alone, so I enjoy the silence. Jamie had her phone in an armband yesterday with earbuds attached, but I notice it’s missing today.

We run five miles in silence by the time we make it back to my house.

“No wonder you look so great.” She rests her hands on her hips and takes a few breaths. “You’re a workhorse. I almost didn’t think I was going to make it.”

“You should’ve said something.” I hand her her now cold coffee and lead her into the kitchen, where I pull out a seat and make her sit.

“I was fine. You just have a...” Her voice trails off as she thinks and I wash my hands before getting started on our breakfast. “I don’t know what to call it. How I run is based on my emotions. It’s never a smooth, solid run like that.”

“I don’t know if that means it was enjoyable or not.”

“It was. What’s for breakfast?”

“Eggs, bacon, toast?”

She nods in agreement. “How did you get into running?”

“Ran track in high school. It’s a bit of an addiction. You?”

Jamie sighs. “Ever heard of the freshman fifteen?” I nod. “It was more like the freshman fifty for me. Running helped me lose it. I got into the habit of running every day.” She glances down at her lap and then her gaze moves around the kitchen. Everywhere, but at me. “I was scared if I broke my habit, I’d gain it back. That’s not something I want to experience again.”

“There’s more to that story, isn’t there?” Her not looking me in the eyes was my first clue, but maybe I’m wrong.

“None that you’re going to hear.” Or maybe I’m right. “What’s different about your life since your divorce?”

“It’s actually not that different from being married, which probably says a lot about my marriage.” I leave that line of thought behind and say, “I still work a lot. Only changes are I now live alone, I see my son less, and I can date other people.”

“What about your daughter?”

“She lives with her boyfriend now. I see her about the same as I did before. Maybe slightly less with the boyfriend and her new jobs. Where are you from?” I don’t want to talk about my kids just yet. Her age is still too much at the forefront of my mind.

“Charlotte. I wanted some distance between my family and me, and they were adamant about staying in-state for school. I almost went to the university in Wilmington, but changed my mind.”

I make our plates, fix myself a cup of coffee, and walk over to the table. “Still good?” I ask, nodding to her drink. “Or would you like something else?”

“Actually, can I have some water?”

“Sure.” Once I’ve fixed her a glass of iced water, we’re finally able to eat.

Except, Jamie’s eyes are fixed to my fridge.

“What is it?” I ask.

She stands and walks over to the refrigerator. She points to one of the pictures from a family vacation last year. “Who are these people?”

“My kids: Kayla and Gregory. Why?” My muscles tense and coil, ready to spring into defensive mode if necessary.

“Your daughter is Kayla Murphy?” She releases a short breath before looking over at me. “I have a class with her this semester.”

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Sneak Peek: Chapter One of Defend

Chapter One


I’m suffocating.

This campus sucks all the air from my lungs and prevents me from inhaling. All the assignments, all the parties, all the people, and all the pressure is a burden with two hands around my throat. What started out as a way to lose the fifty pounds I gained freshman year and soon became therapeutic for me won’t be happening on campus today like usual. I need to get away from this place.

Running around campus won’t relax me. Hell, just standing here coils my muscles and locks up my joints. I hate this place. I need to get away from here. Without a second thought, I change, grab my keys, and jog out of my dorm room. A few minutes later, I’m in my car driving. I don’t know where I’m going yet, but campus isn’t where I need to be. Overall, college isn’t too bad, I guess, but I don’t like it. I pretty much despise it.

School has never been my cup of tea. Tests? Suck. Teachers lecturing for hours on end? Sucks. Homework? Sucks. The only reason I’m in college is because I disappoint my parents enough. They’d have a fit if I didn’t go to college, and well, if they want to pay for me to earn Cs in all my classes, then they’re more than welcome to do so.

I spot someone running on a sidewalk along the road and immediately pull over. If someone else runs here, then so can I. After locking the car doors, I put my earbuds in place and turn on the music on my phone, which rests in an armband, and I take off running on the sidewalk.

Sometimes, I start out slowly before increasing to a full speed run.

Sometimes, I switch from slow to fast, slow to fast, and so on.

Sometimes I run like today. No preparation. No buildup. Just full-fledged running.

My lungs soon burn as my feet pound on the sidewalk with every step. My music drowns out the sounds of any traffic or people. I run until my entire body aches and I can’t breathe. I run until college is a distant memory and not a current nightmare.

Then, I stop. Take a deep breath. Realize I have no idea where I am or where I parked my car.

Damn it.

Time to turn around. Considering I don’t know where my car is, I take off running just like when I started, only paying more attention to my surroundings. It doesn’t help that the sky changes from a bright blue to a more subdued blue by the second as it slowly gets dark. None of this looks familiar. It should, considering I ran past it all, but I was too lost in spacing out that I didn’t pay attention to anything.

Where is my car? It should be around here somewhere. Feeling discouraged, I press my panic button, hoping to hear my alarm. It’s not until I’m further down the street that it finally goes off. I parked just past someone’s house. I turn my alarm off, but then curse when I see my front driver’s side tire.

I must’ve run over something on the way here because it’s completely flat. I sit on the curb, the tears falling before I can stop them. Great. Another problem to deal with. At least this one is fixable. Resting my head on my knees, I decide to get all the tears out now before I change my tire to my spare. These tears have wanted to trail down my cheeks for months, as I’m one of those people who likes to bottle up my emotions, but today must be the day I break.


I jump at the sound of a man’s voice and glance up; I didn’t even hear him approach. He’s tall with dirty blond slightly wavy hair, green eyes, and a body built for ogling. Holy hell, he’s hot. I wipe my tears and point at my tire, which causes him to walk over and look at the problem. I get a good view of his backside. He wears jogging pants and a white T-shirt that makes me want to drool, which is crazy because it’s not like he’s half-naked, but he’s still insanely hot right now.

“Do you have a spare? I can change your tire for you,” he offers as he crouches to be eye level with me.

My breath is stolen at seeing him up close. He’s even more gorgeous. He’s probably thirty-five, tops, but I still wouldn’t mind him taking me home. Not at all.

“Ma’am?” he repeats. “Are you okay?”

“It’s Jamie.”

He holds out his hand. “Brent.”

I shake his hand and nearly swoon. It’s a rough, callused hand. Good lord. “I know how to change it,” I manage to say, not yet releasing his hand.

“Offer still stands. I can even fix your tire if it needs patching or get it replaced with a new one if you want. My shop isn’t too far from here.” A shiver runs through me. Even his voice is sexy. “Come on, Jamie.” He pulls me up since we’re still holding hands and I’m thankful because the cold concrete under my butt was really starting to get to me. It may be March, but I get hot when I run no matter the time of year, so I dressed in shorts and a sports bra. “Let’s get your spare and I’ll change your tire,” Brent says, taking over the situation.

We get everything he needs from my trunk and I stand off to the side in front of my car, at Brent’s orders, while he begins to change my tire.

“Are you okay, Jamie?” he asks me again with a sideways glance.

I nod. “Rough, long day. The tire pushed me over the edge. You can really fix it?”

“Yeah. I’ll do it right now if you want.”

It’s six in the evening, so I have to wonder if there are any reasons behind him offering to help me after business hours, other than simply being nice.

“That’s my house right there.” He points at the house whose driveway I parked closest to. “But I started my run from the shop, so I don’t have my truck. I can drive us back to the shop, or I can give you the address and run back if that makes you more comfortable.”

He’d run back to his shop instead of riding with me if it makes me uncomfortable to have him in my car? That’s both crazy and sweet. And he called me ma’am, which would normally be a turn-off because I reserve that term for older women, but when he says it? I’ll repeat, swoon.

“You want to do it today?” I ask.

He shrugs. “It doesn’t matter to me. If you want it fixed today, I’ll do it for you. It’ll be one less thing for you to worry about on your rough day.”

“Thank you.”

He looks up at me and smiles. “Your day should end on a good note, Jamie.”

He goes back to work and we don’t speak. He offers to let me drive to his shop, but I’m not too keen on driving with a spare—I hate doing it—so I hand over my keys. This could be stupid to do with a stranger, but I’m too tired and stressed to care. While in the car, I remove my armband and my earbuds from my phone, slipping my phone into my pocket.

We don’t speak until Brent has my car in one of the bays and working on my tire. “You trust too easily,” he says, glancing over at me while I walk around and look at all the different tools and machines. “What if I was a serial killer or something?”

“You’re too hot to be crazy.”

He laughs but shakes his head. “There are real threats out there. You should be more careful.”

“I should,” I agree. He isn’t crazy or a serial killer. Now that my emotions are contained, I focus on Brent. “Does your girlfriend mind that you’re working late?”

“No girlfriend.”

“Wife?” I question, glancing over at him to see a smile play on his face.

“No wife, no girlfriend, no friend with benefits, Jamie.”

I smile because he’s as free as a bird. “Do you always offer to help women when you see them crying on the sidewalk?”

“Only the pretty ones.”

I laugh. “What will I owe you for this?” I ask as he puts my tire back on my car.

“It’s on the house.”

With a frown, I walk over to him. “No, really. What do I owe you?” He didn’t have to change my tire, bring me here and do this tonight, and he definitely deserves to be paid.

“Nothing, Jamie.”

“Do you normally work for free?”

“Making an exception for you.”

I fold my arms over my chest. I don’t like this. It’s nice, but he deserves something. Soon, my car is all ready to go. I lean against the hood, in no rush to leave, and Brent stands in front of me, wiping his hands with a red rag.

“Can I take you out to eat as a thank you?” I ask.

My heart falls as he shakes his head and tosses the rag onto a nearby counter. “No, but I will be more than happy to take you out.”

“Right now?” I grin as he nods, but then I glance down at myself with a frown. While I may be comfortable running out in public like this, I wouldn’t go into a restaurant wearing just a sports bra and shorts.

“Stay right there.” Brent disappears toward an office and returns a moment later with a white T-shirt, much like the one he’s wearing. “Will this make you feel better?”

“Yes, thank you.” Slipping on his T-shirt does crazy things to me. I almost shiver again and it takes every ounce of willpower not to inhale heavily because damn, does it smell good. It has this manly scent tinged with the smell of the shop, but it’s not too overpowering. It’s too big, so I tie a knot at my hip.

“Okay if I drive?” Brent asks.


He shakes his head as he holds out his hand for me. “Way too trusting, Jamie.”

“Do you want me to say no and go home?” I ask as we walk outside into the frigid air and to a truck.

“No, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”

He opens my door for me.

I repeat. He opens the door for me. He even closes it once I’m in the passenger seat! Where did this man come from and can I keep him? It hits me that this isn’t the first time. He opened the door for me when I was getting into my car on the way here, too. I wonder if I waited, if he’d open the door for me to get out.

“Any particular place you’d like to go?” he asks.

“You can pick.”

I sneak glances at him, wondering how old he truly is. I’ll be twenty-two in four months and this is my last semester in hell—I mean, college. A man like Brent might want nothing more than a roll between the sheets. He looks good enough that I might be okay with that, especially if he can be a distraction from the stress college gives me.

At heart, I’m a hopeless romantic; I want the kind of love where it consumes me. Where even his annoying flaws cause me to love him a little more. Where I would fight for him and for us. Where he would be able to calm me in the simplest of ways when I’m stressed. Where I’d feel like I’m living in a fairytale, even the road bumps feeling worth it because I’m with the person I love with every breath I take.

But I’d take a fling until I could find that love if that’s all Brent offers. Then again, I’m getting ahead of myself. All he’s doing right now is taking me to dinner, specifically to a diner that serves nothing but breakfast food, and as soon as I realize that’s the type of restaurant we’re at, I realize breakfast for dinner is exactly what I want.

The place is surprisingly busy, but there’s an empty booth we’re able to claim. Once the waitress takes our order, I pick up my drink and ask Brent what’s been on my mind the entire ride over.

“So, how old are you?”

I take a sip as he answers, “Thirty-nine, but I turn forty soon.”

The drink gets caught in my throat and I choke with surprise. “Seriously?” I ask as I cough. There’s eighteen years between us? How is this possible?

There’s a small smile on his face. “How old did you think I was?”

“Thirty-five at the most, late twenties at the least. I’m only twenty-one; I turn twenty-two in July.”

His face pales and he shifts in his seat. I think this dinner just went to hell and we haven’t even been served yet. Brent clears his throat. “I have kids, a daughter and a son. Twenty and sixteen, and they haven’t had their birthdays yet this year.”

“Oh.” Wow. That’s crazy.

“Yeah. Oh.”

“Well, how about we forget those little facts?” When he nods in agreement, I ask, “Do you run every day?”

“No. Three to four days a week. It clears my head, keeps me in shape, and makes me feel good. You?”

The waitress drops off my waffles and eggs and his pancake platter as I answer him. “Every day if I can. College is...” I shudder at the thought of that horrid place.

“That bad, huh?”

“I can’t stand it. Did you go to college? Did you like it?”

“My dad had my brothers and me working in the shop as soon as he felt we were capable of helping. Right after high school, I found out my then-girlfriend and now ex-wife was pregnant. I needed money right then to support them and staying home to work in the shop was the best way to do that. I eventually went to learn more than what my dad taught me, and now, my brothers and I own the shop while my parents are retired and living in Florida.”

“Do you enjoy what you do?” It sounds like he had no choice but to do the work he does now.

Brent nods. “I didn’t care for it as a teenager, but it grew on me. Now I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

“That’s good. How old are your brothers?”

He grins. “Thinking of trading me in already?”

“Nope,” I say with a smile. “I already know I picked the right one. I won’t get rid of you yet.”

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Lindsay's (Mis)Adventures in Sewing & Quilting: Bartley's Placemat

Lindsay's(Mis)Adventuresin Sewing &Quilting.png

It's been a while since I've done any sewing and I decided it was time I get back into it. And in doing so, I did an impromptu project. It's almost my first without any instructions and my first measly attempt with free motion quilting.

Bartley's old placemat was getting really dirty and tearing up (thanks to my washing machine). Thanks to a friend, I had two pieces of doggy fabric that was just the perfect size to make him a replacement placemat for his food and water in the same shape of a bone.

I started Friday night and finished up Saturday. While it's not the prettiest thing thanks to my paw prints and hearts, I'm still pretty proud of it and my attempt. Besides, Bartley won't complain. Plus, we have two very different sides so we can switch things up if we want to! 

Check out the pictures below and let me know what you think! Are you working on anything with your hobbies?

A Final Sneak Peek: Worth the Risk

Chapter Three


Bree stays home with Elias and his mom while I take Jackson to school. I may shed a few tears on the way home because for the first time, my baby wanted to walk by himself to class. I walked him to the entrance of the school, and then he left me without a backward glance. It was almost like the first day of school all over again. I had to go inside anyway to update his files with a new home address.

When I return, Elias goes straight into showing me every nook and cranny of the house practically before having another round of discussion in the kitchen with his mother nearby with Bree.

“I won’t be home until kinda late because we have a game tonight,” he continues. “Lock the doors if you go to bed before I get home, but if you set the alarm, make sure you do the silent alarm. That way it won’t go off when I come in and wake the kids. I have to run out and get a key made for you before I head to the rink. Is there anything you or Jackson need me to pick up? Do you want me to go ahead and set up her carseat in your car, so you don’t have to do it later?”

“I don’t think so, and if you want. It doesn’t matter.”

“I’ll do it.” He nods to himself. “And here’s a credit card you can use in case you decide there is something you need or would like to have here.”

He holds out the card, but I stare at it, flicking my gaze to see a disapproving look from his mother. “Um, that’s okay. We’ll be fine.” It doesn’t feel right to basically have my employer’s credit card to use at my disposal for things for Bree or Jackson and me. It’s worse that his mother watches my every move, waiting for me to mess up so she can convince him to fire me. It feels that way, at least.

“Raelynn, take it. I said I’d provide groceries for y’all. There’s a road trip coming up around Thanksgiving. You’ll need this. I’m not always going to be here or have time to go shopping.” Reluctantly, I take it, and he adds, “You don’t need to ask before you use it either, but Mom will show you where to put the receipts. Need anything else before I go?”

I think about my car, which is low on gas. I think about my phone bill, which is due today and will likely wipe my account of what money I have left. “Could I get this week’s pay already?”

“Yeah, sure.” He disappears upstairs and returns a minute later with a check.

I’ve never made so much money in one week before. I almost feel like I should argue about the amount since I’m living here rent free, utilities free, and grocery free, but I’m not. This was the amount he offered and I could definitely use the money.

“Thank you,” I say softly.

“Just don’t let me down.” He walks over to his mother, kisses her cheek, and then leans down to kiss Bree’s forehead, causing her to have that goofy baby smile. “Love you, princess.” It’s so sweet to watch Elias interact with his daughter. It also makes me wonder how he ended up with custody; he’s yet to mention her mother. I’ll have to ask about that later. I don’t want to be unprepared in case someone shows up. “I’ll be back shortly, Raelynn,” Elias tells me before heading out the door.

With her son gone, Alice interviews me with far more questions than her son did. I answer them completely. What harm is there in telling her that Jackson and I have struggled and the only reason I’m here is because I needed a job and Elias was offering? She asks me if I’m trying to take advantage of him, but when it becomes clear that I’m not because I had no clue I could take advantage of him, she accepts that. When she asks of my past, I politely shut her down. My past is my own and has no relevance.

~ ~ ~

Alice hugs Bree in her arms. “Take good care of my granddaughter, okay? I have complete faith that you will, but I have to say it anyway.”

“I will take care of her as if she’s my own,” I promise. Today is a big day for a couple of reasons, one of which is Alice leaves to go home.

I’m also here to take care of my daughter, Ma,” Elias tells her. “She’ll be fine. Unless you don’t trust us?”

“I trust you. That’s how I’m able to leave.”

It’s been nice to have Alice around. She’s helped me adjust to things here, learn my way around, and feel comfortable, somewhat. It’s nice to know she’s giving me her official stamp of approval.

Alice kisses Bree’s cheeks until Elias takes matters into his own hands and takes Bree away, giving her to me.

“It’s time to go, Ma. We don’t want you to miss your flight.”

“Fine. Fine.” Alice hugs me, kisses Bree one last time, and says, “Tell Jackson I said goodbye.”

“I will.” He’s already at school, so he’s missing the goodbye session. Alice did say goodbye to him this morning, but I’ll be sure to pass along the second goodbye.

Elias leaves to take his mother to the airport and I focus on a new milestone I must cross. Elias is about to leave for his first road trip with me as his nanny. I’m slightly terrified, especially since his mother is gone. To stay calm, I’ve been doing what I’m doing right now: sitting on the floor, playing with Bree, so I don’t have to think about it.

“Hey,” Elias says as he comes into the living room. “Feeling good about being on your own?”

“Yeah,” I lie. I mean, I can take care of my own baby, no problem, but it’s giving me serious anxiety to be left alone in someone else’s house with someone else’s baby and with someone else’s credit card to use as I see fit. What if I mess up? What if I do something that’s not up to his standards? I don’t feel like I know Elias well enough to know boundaries yet.

“Good. I, uh...”

At the sound of Elias sounding nervous, I glance up. “Is something wrong? Did I do something?”

“No,” he quickly says. “I feel like a jackass, but I’m not sure what’s the polite way to tell my nanny to give me my baby and sort of leave me alone until I have to leave.”

I laugh. “You say, ‘Raelynn, I’m about to leave for a few days and I’d really like to spend some time with my daughter before I go. Shoo, please.’” I stand, picking Bree up as I go, and hand her to him. “There you go. I’ll be in my room.”

Elias’s smile slowly disappears. “You don’t have to hole up in your room.”

“I don’t mind,” I say, meaning it. “Pretend I’m not even here.” I walk away before he can say anything else.

This is another thing I haven’t figured out yet. When and how to give him space. I live here, but I’m also an employee. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I don’t want him to feel like I’m constantly intruding on his space or on his time with his daughter, like I almost accidentally did just now. That’s one reason why the other night, when he texted me after a game, mentioning how the guys were going to a bar and he was debating going with them, I told him he should go. The kids were asleep. Why should he rush home? To keep me company? Ha.

I need to figure out a game plan to combat this. This, as in, a way to make sure he’s free to do as he wishes in his own home, and even out of it. I guess Jackson and I could always hang out in our rooms or outside when he’s home. We’d always be out of his way if we did that.

Despite my nerves and uncertainties, this job has been such a blessing. I’ve been able to do some schoolwork when I manage to snag some free time. Thankfully, Elias has internet, so I don’t have to go to the library to get my work done. I’ve been slowly working through earning a degree online. I’ve been lucky to receive grants through financial aid to pay for the expenses. I normally do my work when Elias has a game or once everyone has gone to bed.

I’ve been getting my baby fill, too. Every now and then, I’d wish I could find someone only to give Jackson a little brother or sister. He’s such a shy kid who sticks to himself. Maybe a sibling would help. I was an only child and I hope that one day I can give Jackson siblings. One day when I’m better off financially, which means it’ll be a long time before I can entertain the idea. Well, I’d need a man, too, but that’s not the point.

This is the only drawback to a job like this. I love babies. Jackson was a good baby. Then again, I was so in love with him, he could’ve cried twenty hours out of the day and I would have thought he was a good baby. Bree is also a good baby. She loves to interact and play. She naps during the day. She cries and makes a fuss when she wants something. She’s crawling up a storm and loves for us to walk around the house together. She’s adorable.

After awhile, Elias calls my name because it’s time for him to leave. He’s been great, too. It’s been sweet to watch him with Bree, but also because my second day here? When he was out getting a spare key made for me, he bought Jackson a nightlight. He refused to let me pay him back for it, but it was sweet that he decided to do that for Jackson.

As he hands Bree to me and I say, “Say bye bye to DaDa,” I see the nerves on his face for the first time. That’s not reassuring in the least, especially when Bree hiccups and whines a little, reaching for him. She knows what bye bye means. She also knows who DaDa is.

“Take care of my princess, please,” he says softly with his eyes on her.

“I promise I will.”

“If she says a coherent word that’s not DaDa, don’t tell me.” At that, I laugh and Elias looks at me. “Okay, tell me anyway.” He smiles easily and kisses her forehead once again. “I’ll see you soon. Call me if you need me.”

“Go,” I whisper. He’s wasting time unnecessarily. Elias nods and then he’s gone.

Bree and I play the day away until it’s time for her afternoon nap. She wakes up just in time for us to leave to pick Jackson up for school. Jackson has settled in okay; he’s taken a great interest in hockey all of a sudden. We watched a game on TV last night for the first time, but saw a player get hurt. Not so much fun. However, I’ve never seen Jackson take so much interest in something before. He keeps asking me about things, but I don’t know anything about the game.

“Momma, Bree is looking at me,” he says from the backseat on the way home. He hasn’t quite gotten used to her yet.

“She’s curious about you. Why don’t you talk to her? Or sing to her?”

Jackson decides to talk. He does so for a few minutes, but then asks, “Is Bree really a princess? She doesn’t look like a princess and Mr. EJ calls her princess.”

I smile and say, “She’s his princess. Like how you’re my baby.”

“So, she’s not really a princess?” he asks, not letting it go as I pull into the driveway.

“It doesn’t really matter.”

“Definitely not a princess,” he mutters. “Where’s Mr. EJ?” he asks once we’re inside and it’s clear we’re home alone.

“Mr. EJ is on a road trip. The team goes to other cities to play games.”

“Can we watch the games?” he asks hopefully.


Later that night, my phone vibrates with a video call from Elias. Before I answer, I pick Bree up from where she’s playing on the floor and say, “Want to talk to DaDa?” Her face lights up with a smile, and I’m pretty sure it’s only because I said DaDa. I swipe across on my phone and hold it away from us.

Bree is looking at me with her smile, patting my chest, until she hears Elias say, “There’s my princess.” Her head swivels toward the phone and she squeals.

Jackson leans over from next to me, his eyes filling the screen. “Hey, Mr. EJ.”

Elias laughs. “Hey, J-man. Did you have a good day at school?” My heart warms a little at him entertaining Jackson, even though he only called to see his little girl. It’s already sweet that he has a nickname for my son, too.

A foul smell tickles my nose as Jackson answers him. “Jackson, hold my phone for a second, and you don’t have to hold it so close to your face.” I peek into Bree’s diaper and find the source. “Talk to Mr. EJ. Elias, I’m changing her diaper real quick and then she’s all yours, I promise.”

“No rush,” he says.

Bree is pretty easy to change. She likes to play with her feet. As long as you talk or sing to her, she’s happy and lets me clean her up and change diapers rather quickly. Jackson has gone quiet on Elias by the time I return, leaving him to do all the talking. Sometimes, he talks to him just fine. Others? He reverts to being shy.

“Thanks, baby,” I say, kissing the top of his head. Jackson doesn’t waste a second saying goodbye to Elias and handing the phone back to me. “No coherent words so far,” I tell him, causing him to smile.

“Good. How’d today go?”

“Just like every other day,” I speak over Bree who wants to talk just as much in her gibberish. Elias doesn’t seem to know who to focus on: me or her. I decide to be quiet and let her talk, making sure I smile and laugh when she seems to want a reaction.

“She really likes you,” he says quietly, bringing my gaze back to my phone. “She cried a little when you left the room today; that was when I knew. She doesn’t do that for just anyone.”

I can’t tell if he’s happy about this or not, so I’m not sure what I should say. “I really like her, too,” is what I settle on.

He talks to her for a little bit before it’s time for me to lay her down for the night. He doesn’t hang up, though. Oh, no. I have to take her upstairs, place her in her crib, and then let Elias say goodnight. She cries as I walk out of the room and Elias frowns.

“I always hate when she does that, even though I know she’ll stop within a minute or so. It took my mom a long time to convince me not to stay by her side all night.”

“It’s nice that you had a good support system to help you learn the ropes.” It took forever to become semi-confident in my actions as Jackson’s parent because I was so young and didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. A question seems to be on the tip of Elias’s tongue, but I don’t want to talk about me or my past. “I’ll let you go. I need to get Jackson ready to wind down for the night as well and tidy up the house.”

Elias nods and says goodnight, hanging up a moment later. I take a deep breath and peer into Bree’s room. She’s still lying down. I’ve caught her standing up a few times after I’ve walked out. I’ll check on her later to see if she’s asleep.

~ ~ ~

The next day, Jackson watches cartoons while Bree sits on my hip. She’s been a bit fussy, so I’ve been dancing around the house with her, singing, much to Jackson’s annoyance. Bree has loved it, though. There’s a knock on the door and I freeze, mid-step. I should have no guests with Elias gone. What if it’s her mother? I still don’t know if she may pop up at some point. Damn it, I should’ve asked Elias!

With a deep breath, I slowly walk over to the door and open it. My eyes nearly pop out of my head. Never thought it would be this guy. “Brayden, right?” The man from the quilt shop. Elias told me his name is Brayden. He’s one of his teammates and Deanna is his girlfriend.

“Yeah. Sorry to drop by like this, but I needed to get out of the house. Can I hang here for a while?”

“Um.” Why on earth would he want to do that? Why is he even here? Then, it hits me. He was the guy who was injured in the game Jackson and I watched. I glance over my shoulder at Jackson, who watches with interest with his chin resting on the top of the back of the couch. This guy was nice to me. He’s friends with Elias. “Sure,” I say, not totally confident in this answer.

“You can say no, you know. I just wanted to see Bree, but if you’re not comfortable or whatever...”

“No, that’s okay. Come in.” I won’t take it back now. I step aside and Brayden doesn’t give me a chance to change my mind again.

“Hey, Jackson,” he says as I close the door.

He knows my son’s name? Jackson looks as surprised as I feel. Elias probably told him.

“This is Mr. Brayden, Jackson. He’s friends with Mr. EJ.” Jackson, my shy, shy boy. He turns around and focuses on the TV. “Sorry. He’s shy around new people.” That’s what I always say. “Did you want to hold her?”

“Yes, please.” He holds his hands out for Bree and I let him take her, watching as he walks into the living room as if he’s been here before.

For a moment, I worry if this is the right decision. Would Elias want him over here while he’s not here? Would he want him to play with Bree? Does Elias know he’s here? But then, I remind myself that this guy helped me get this job, so Elias has to trust him.

“Do you mind if I catch up on some chores?” Might as well take advantage of the unexpected babysitter.

“No, go ahead,” he says. “I’ll find you if we need anything.”

“Thanks.” I glance down at Jackson. “I’ll be in the kitchen, baby.” He doesn’t look up at me. “Mr. Brayden plays hockey with Mr. EJ, so you’ll be fine,” I add, hoping that relaxes him. He finally glances at Brayden when I say that.

Feeling better about things, I leave the three of them to clean up the house. I scrub and clean the kitchen until it’s sparkling before I return the living room to check on my guest.

“How is it going in here?” I ask.

“Is there a place I can lie down for a minute?”

He wants to lie down? I nod, hoping I didn’t look too surprised. Brayden and Bree are behind me as we walk upstairs. “You can lie in here if you want,” I say as he lays Bree down in her crib. “But if you’d rather have a bigger bed, you can have your pick of Elias’s or Jackson’s, I guess.” I’m certainly not offering mine, even if he does seem nice enough.

Brayden seems confused for a moment, which worries me, but then he says, “I’ll lie in here. I’ll be out of here soon.”

“Let me know if you need anything.”

The moment he nods, I leave the room, pulling the door until it’s almost closed. I could use a break for a while, so I go sit with Jackson. He and Brayden apparently talked about hockey. Jackson shows me what he’s learned, which is mostly what the referee’s signals mean.

He, of course, wants to watch the hockey game tonight and I don’t think I can deny him. He won’t be able to stay up for all of it, but he can watch some of it. The game comes on and I keep glancing at the clock. Where is Brayden? It’s getting kind of late. I wait and I wait, but when eight thirty rolls around, I walk upstairs.

He’s lying on the bed with a pillow over his head. Oh, man. I have to wake him up. He probably wants to go home. With a deep breath, I shake his shoulder. “Brayden? Brayden?” He lifts the pillow and winces immediately. “I’m sorry to wake you, but it’s getting kind of late and I thought you might want to wake up.”

“What time is it?” he grumbles.

“Eight thirty.”

“I’m sorry.”

He rubs his forehead before standing and sighing. When he has to blindly reach out for the wall to steady himself, I worry about what happens if I have to support him. This is a big, tall man. I am not even average height for a woman. He’d probably crush me if I had to help him down the stairs. He’d lose his footing and then we’d fall and I’d die either from the fall or him landing on me.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yeah.” He pats his pockets and then pulls out a phone. “I’m going to make a phone call.”

He seems to be fine. Bree stands in her crib, so I pick her up to take her with me downstairs. She’s not used to people in and out of her room and talking, or to going to sleep as early as she did. Tonight will be a long one with her; I just have a feeling.

I reclaim my seat next to Jackson on the couch and Bree pulls on my hair. It’s her favorite thing to do. She doesn’t really pull too hard. She likes to tug while her fingers try to make knots form in my hair.

Brayden’s footsteps are heavy down the stairs. “Someone’s coming to pick me up,” he says. I nod as he takes a seat in the chair, looking absolutely miserable. He leaves with a quick thanks and a see you later once he sees his ride is here.

With him gone, I focus on getting Bree back to bed. With Elias gone for a few days and Jackson out of school until next Monday due to Thanksgiving, my plan is to take him shopping. He’s in desperate need of new clothes and now, I have some money to buy him some. It’ll be interesting to shop with both him and Bree, but I’m sure I’ll manage just fine.

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Another Sneak Peek: Chapter Two of Worth the Risk

Chapter Two


Damn. I didn’t see this coming at all. Not to have a hot as sin woman knock on my door to be Bree’s nanny, sort of recommended to me by Brayden, or the fact that she’d be a single mom. Raelynn looks at me with these big, watery green eyes. All I thought I was getting was a new roommate, but adding a kid to the mix makes things trickier, doesn’t it?

There’s a buzz from her pocket and she winces.

“I’m sorry. I need to pick him up from school.” She carefully hands Bree back to me. “I’m sorry for wasting your time.” She moves for the door the moment my princess is securely in my arms.

“Wait,” I call out, standing to follow her. “You threw me for a loop. I wasn’t expecting that. You’re the first person I’ve interviewed who I’ve liked and actually seems interested. I need someone to hire, too. The job is yours if you want it. We’ll figure the rest out as we go.”

I’ve never seen such a heavy tension leave someone before, but I swear, it’s like I lifted the world from her shoulders.

“Can I start this afternoon?”

“Yeah, sure. Come back here once you pick up your boy.”

She surprises the hell out of me by coming over and hugging me, careful not to disturb Bree. “Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me.” The sincerity is obvious.

I nod as she pulls away with embarrassment. “Hey, what does he like to eat?”

She chuckles to herself. “Hotdogs and mac and cheese are his favorites. He likes to drink water or apple juice, too.”

I nod. Raelynn leaves. I cancel the remaining interviews just in time for Bree to start whining, so I feed her, change her, and gather her up to run to the store. Hotdogs and mac and cheese are not regular items in my kitchen. Once I’m back home, I sit on the couch with Bree in my lap and play patty cake, which causes her to giggle constantly. My mother also returns. I sent her out for a spa day because I felt like hiring a nanny needed to be something I did on my own.

Now that I have a nanny, Mom will be able to move back home. She was home over the summer, but she came back once the season started. Mom has been helping me adjust to becoming a dad and learning how to take care of a baby, but she can’t stay forever. Hence, the nanny search. It’s taken way longer than I thought possible.

“Well?” Mom asks.

“We have a nanny.”

“Oh, yeah? Do you think she’ll be good?”

“Yeah. Her name’s Raelynn. She’s younger than I am, but she knows what she’s doing. She’s actually a single mom. She seems to have had a rough time; she has no one but her kid.”

“Wait. They’re both moving in with you?” Mom frowns at this and I know she is feeling the same thing I was when Raelynn told me about her son.

“They should be here soon. Her son is five, so he’s in school during the day.”

“Are you sure about this, son?” Mom interrupts.

“Yeah. Bree likes her and Raelynn seems perfect for the job. I have a good feeling it’ll work out like it should.” That’s the only reason I still hired her. My gut told me the second she held my daughter that this girl was the one. I can’t waste any more time looking for other okay nannies when I know I’ve found a fantastic one.

Mom is quiet for a moment. “Okay then. I’m going to stick around for a few days and make sure she passes my inspection.”

“Ma.” That causes her to glare at me. “You might make her nervous.”

“And? She’s going to be caring for my granddaughter. I need to make sure your instincts are correct.”

Before I can argue with her further, there’s a knock on my door. I forgot to take down the sign about the doorbell. I open the door with Bree in one arm and Mom hovering behind me to find Raelynn and the spitting image of her in the form of a little boy. He has his arms wrapped around her thigh as he hides behind her, peeking out with one eye.

“Hey. Come on in. This is my mom, Alice. She’s been helping me so far and she’ll be here until you get settled in.”

I step aside. The boy stays glued to Raelynn’s side as she and my mom shake hands. We go into the living room and he climbs onto Raelynn’s lap.

“Hey,” I say gently. He glances at me. “What’s your name?”

He ignores me and Raelynn rubs his back. “Jackson’s shy when it comes to new people.” She glances down at him. “Jackson, this is Mr. Bertuzzi. Don’t you want to tell him hey?”

Jackson looks over with his head still resting on his mom’s shoulder and mumbles, “Hey.”

“My friends call me EJ; you can too.” No way that kid should have to say Bertuzzi if he ever does talk to me. “Want to watch cartoons with my mom while I talk to your mom in the kitchen?”

Jackson shakes his head. Raelynn whispers something in his ear. “Any cartoon will work,” she tells me. Jackson moves to his own seat on the couch. “I’ll be right in there, okay?” she tells him as she stands. I place Bree in my mom’s lap and we go into the kitchen.

We hammer out the details of her pay, and she thanks me like three more times for giving her the job.

“What’s your story?” I finally ask. She’s definitely got one.

A wry smile appears as she glances into the living room. “Which one?” Raelynn shakes her head. “Most recently, stuff happened back to back to back to make making ends meet that much harder; I lost my job and apartment this morning, and everything I own is in my car. If you hadn’t given me this job, the last of my money would’ve been spent on dinner for Jackson and a very cheap hotel room.”

“You don’t have any family? Or friends?”

She shakes her head. “It’s just Jackson and me.” Raelynn clears her throat. “Can you watch him while I get our things and put them in our room?”

“Sure.” Then I realize she said our room. “Actually, I have another spare bedroom, the one next to yours. Jackson can have it.” There’s a twin bed in Bree’s room, so I’ll sleep in there and let Mom have my room until she leaves.

“Oh. Thank you.”

I feel like I should help her, or do it for her, but she may want to move her things herself. She goes outside and I return to the living room. Jackson’s eyes widen as he watches his mom walk out the door.

“It’s okay.” He whips around to look at me. “She’s getting your stuff out of the car. She’ll be right back.”

“You aren’t going to help her?” Mom asks.

“She seemed to want to do it herself. Go move your things into my room.”

She purses her lips, but gets up to do it, leaving me alone with the boy.

Jackson sits on the edge of the couch and seems to be anxious as he waits for his mom. Then he looks at me. “You’re a Rebel.”

My eyebrows rise. “Yeah, I am.”

“You were at my school.” His little legs swing, bumping into the couch each time.

“I was?”

He nods. Oh, maybe I was. We went to some of the local schools in September, right before training camp, for this reading program thing. We read to a few classes and then played ball hockey with the older kids.

“What’s hockey?” he asks as if he’s been dying to ask this question ever since I went to his school.

“It’s a game. Like baseball or basketball, but you play on ice with skates.”

Raelynn walks back inside, her arms loaded with stuff. She smiles at Jackson before continuing up the stairs. Bree cries, so I pick her up from where Mom placed her in the pack ʻn play and sit on the couch. Jackson and Bree eye each other. Bree leans over and tries to grab Jackson, but he leans away from her.

“Who’s that?” he asks.

“This is Bree. I’m her dad.”

“She drools a lot.”

I laugh. “Sometimes. I bet you drooled a lot when you were a baby.”

Jackson doesn’t seem to like that idea. “Momma,” he says when she comes back down the stairs.

“Yeah, baby?”

“Did I drool when I was a baby?”

She laughs. “Yep. All babies drool.” She kisses the top of his head before going back out to her car.

“Mr. EJ, I’m thirsty.”

Part of me wants to correct him and tell him he can just call me EJ, but if his mom has told him to say mister, then I don’t want to overstep. “What would you like to drink?”

“Apple juice.”

“You’re in luck. I have some of that. Come on.” He follows me into the kitchen. “Do you drink out of a big boy’s cup?”

“Yep,” he answers, popping the p just like Raelynn did earlier.

I find my smallest plastic cup and pour him some juice. I hear the door open and close, and then footsteps up the stairs. I carefully watch him and I’m kind of impressed when he drinks out of his big boy cup without spilling his juice. I so have a ton to learn about kids. Raelynn appears in the kitchen a moment later, some papers in her hand.

“Momma, look! No straw!”

“I see. Did you tell Mr. EJ thanks for fixing you something to drink?”

“Thanks,” he quickly says.

“Welcome, buddy.”

Raelynn looks uncomfortable for a second. “Um, mind if we use your table? He’s got some homework.”

“In kindergarten?” I ask with disbelief.

She laughs. “Yep.”

“Go ahead. I’ll start dinner.” I put Bree in her seat and get busy while listening to Raelynn help Jackson focus on his homework. “Are you guys allergic to anything?” I ask as Mom appears in the kitchen.


Good to know. I let Raelynn know that there’s an extra carseat in the garage and that she can park in there starting tomorrow. I’ll run out to get an extra key made in the morning. I’ll need to write down the code for the alarm system, too. I give her my cell, Mom’s cell, and the number of some people within the organization in case of an emergency. I’ll give her the full house tour tomorrow morning.

Jackson is delighted about having hotdogs and mac and cheese. I feel like an oddball in my own house as Raelynn asks him about his day and the apparent upcoming field trip. Jackson can be a chatterbox if he’s talking to someone he likes. Raelynn offers to clean up, but I decline her offer. I go upstairs to change a stinky diaper, something I didn’t think I would be doing at twenty-four, that’s for sure. Raelynn and Jackson are cuddled on the couch, watching TV when I come back.

We watch cartoons before Raelynn declares it’s bath time. Bree is fast asleep on my chest, so I show Raelynn where everything is after laying her down.

“I like her,” Mom declares. “She seems like a good mother and that means she’ll be a great nanny.”

“Told ya.”

She rolls her eyes. “I’m going ahead to bed.”

I follow after her to get what I need from my room, so I won’t disturb her later. Afterward, I check on Raelynn and Jackson. The bathroom door is open, showing it’s empty, so I peek into Jackson’s bedroom.

“I wanna go home, Momma. I don’t wanna stay here. Why can’t we go home?”

“This is part of Momma’s new job, baby. Isn’t this better than our home? You even get your own room here.” He didn’t have his own room before? “You know how Peter Pan goes on an adventure? That’s what we’re doing. We’re on an adventure.”

Jackson seems to think about this. “Is Mr. EJ Captain Hook?”

Raelynn laughs. “No, he’s not. Think you’ll be okay in here by yourself?”

“I’m scared.”

She crawls into bed next to him, her back facing me. “I’ll be right here while you fall asleep, okay?”

He must nod because they don’t talk anymore. I quietly move away to stop eavesdropping. I can’t imagine how bad things might’ve been for her, or what it must be like to raise a kid without any help or a lot of money. Kids are expensive, and mine isn’t but nine months old. With Bree down for the count, I quickly jump into the shower. Afterward, I head downstairs to turn off the lights, lock the doors, and set the alarm.

Jackson is all alone in his room, I peek into Bree’s room, and then stop outside of Raelynn’s. The door is cracked. I’m about to knock when I hear soft cries. Oh man. I’ve never been good around crying chicks. Do I knock or leave her alone? Before I can think better of it, I push her door open.

“Raelynn? You okay?”

She’s lying on her side, her back facing me, and she hasn’t yet changed into any pajamas. Still, I can see her quickly wipe her eyes. “I’m fine. I was tired, so I’m going to bed early.”

“Okay. Well, um, I’ll be across the hall in Bree’s room if you need anything. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the morning.” I wait to see if she’ll say anything, but she doesn’t. “Good night, Raelynn.”

“G’night, Elias.”

With that, I close her door and retreat to my temporary bedroom. Bree was a surprise that entered my life. I was a carefree guy who played the sport he loved for a living. Then, all of a sudden, I’m a single dad with an unfamiliar set of responsibilities. I’ve never worried so much in my life. I don’t know what I would’ve done if my mom hadn’t dropped everything to come help me. I still don’t know what I’m doing half the time, so I’m relieved to have Raelynn, an expert practically like my mom, around to take care of Bree when I’m not here, but to also help me out.

I fall asleep in the pink room, worried that I’m going to somehow mess my little princess up.

~ ~ ~

Something pokes my shoulder and then I hear, “Mr. EJ. Mr. EJ. Mr. EJ.”

My eyes creak open to see Jackson standing next to the bed. “What’s wrong?”

“Where’s my momma?”

I toss my sheets aside and am surprised when Jackson takes my hand. “Her bedroom is right next to yours,” I whisper as we cross the hall to her room. Raelynn is on her back, her arms above her head, and she’s sound asleep.

“Momma,” Jackson whispers, poking her in the ribs before I can say her name.

Her eyes fly open and she quickly sits up. I’ve never seen someone wake up so fast. “You okay, baby? What’s wrong?” She glances between us.

“He found Bree’s room by accident. He was looking for you.”

“He didn’t wake her, did he?” I shake my head. “I’m sorry he woke you, Elias.”

I shrug. “I live with a baby. It’s okay.”

Jackson lets go of my hand to crawl in bed with his mom. She seems able to handle the situation, so I turn to leave. “Momma, I wanna sleep with you,” I hear Jackson say. “It’s too dark in that room.”

“Okay, come on.”

I make a mental note to find the kid a nightlight when I get the key made in the morning. Since I’m up, I peek into Bree’s crib. Her eyes are open and I’m surprised she’s not crying. “Hey, princess,” I whisper, reaching my hand inside her crib, smiling when she grabs a finger. I pick her up and settle into a recliner that’s in her room. I rock her gently until she falls back to sleep.

My life has been turned upside down. It’s been hard and exhausting and more often than not, I feel like a dumbass. But it’s been worth it. Bree has made it worth it.

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Sneak Peek: Chapter One of Worth the Risk

Chapter One


“You’re fired.”

My mouth drops. “What? You can’t do that!”

“We need people who are dependable, and you are not,” my jerk of a boss says calmly.

“My son was sick, and I’m the only one who can be with him. What was I supposed to do? You can’t fire me over this.”

“I just did.”

He hangs up on me like the bastard he is and I lean forward, clutching the steering wheel. This can’t happen to me. My eyes water with tears and I take deep breaths because I can’t cry. No matter how badly I want and need to. It’s been one bad thing after the other for months and now, I’m jobless and homeless.

“Momma,” Jackson’s soft voice says from the backseat.

I take a quick deep breath and turn to look at him. “What’s wrong, baby?”

“I don’t wanna go to school.”

We sit in the school’s parking lot. There shouldn’t be a reason why he doesn’t want to go. I unbuckle my seatbelt and lean over the console to reach him in the backseat, resting my hand on his knee. “Why? What’s wrong?”

He frowns. “I don’t feel good.”

I touch his forehead with the back of my hand; he doesn’t have a fever. He was sick earlier this week, but he’s been doing better. “Try and if you feel really bad, tell Mrs. Solomon, okay?”

He nods. I get out and walk around to his door. He unbuckles himself because he’s a big boy and Momma can’t do it anymore. He hops out and I reach in to grab his book bag. I have until he gets out of school for the day to find a job and a place to live.

He holds my hand and we walk up the breezeway and into the school. The closer we get to his classroom, the closer Jackson walks next to me. He’s always been a quiet kid, but when it comes to new people, he’s super shy. It’s only ever been the two of us, so it takes some adjusting when new people come into the picture. He has been in school for about three months, but he still refuses to walk in without me.

Mrs. Solomon smiles when she sees us and crouches to be eye level with Jackson. “Hey, Jackson.” She holds out her hand and after a few seconds, Jackson takes it. He walks away, glancing over his shoulder to wave goodbye to me. The tears can’t be helped now. I wait until he takes his seat before I leave. Not that I have anywhere to go. I was already trying to find another job because my boss is a sleazy bastard. I put in applications everywhere I can think of, but nothing has panned out so far.

I get in my car and break down like I’ve wanted to do for the past few months. The sobs rip through me, tearing me apart so easily while this voice in my head berates me for letting things get this bad in the first place. How could I let Jackson down? What kind of mother loses her job and home in one day? A terrible one. That’s me. How did I become like this?

I’ve been a strong person for so long, but life has finally broken me. Everything I own is in this dingy car. It’s loaded down with what few possessions we own since we had to be out today. What am I going to do now? Why does everything have to be so hard for Jackson and me? We’ve managed to get by just fine until a few months ago when everything started going wrong left and right and sucked my money away faster than I could make it.

You’d think in the five years I’ve been on my own, I would’ve made some friends and have someone to help me, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m as alone now as I was when I left the hospital with a newborn in my arms. My parents were strict, hypocrites of preachers. They told me that I made the bed, and I would lay in it. They had as much issue with the fact that I was pregnant at sixteen as who the father was.

My parents got on my nerves so bad and stressed me out so much during my pregnancy that I nearly had him early twice. I went into labor on my seventeenth birthday and Jackson was born early the following morning. Everything was set. I had a job and I was able to move out and in with a family friend. As soon as I scraped up enough to move away, I did. I went across state lines and never looked back. My parents don’t know where I live and haven’t ever seen their grandson.

I’ve had to grow up, learn how to be not just a parent, but a single parent completely on my own, and survive for the two of us. I’ve managed to do it. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but my son has always been fed and had a place to sleep.

Until today.

I can’t fail my son now. Something has to give. There’s only seventy bucks to my name. My son needs a place to sleep and I need to be able to feed him. I wipe my tears and sniff a few times. The time for Raelynn’s pity party is over. I need to move forward for Jackson’s sake. First, I stop by the public library, type up a résumé, and print off fifty copies. Hopefully paying the library to use their printer lands me a job before I go broke. With résumés in hand, I visit places of business and with more confidence than I actually have, demand to speak with whoever is in charge of hiring new employees and plead my pathetic case.

Like how I’m currently in a quilt shop faced with a pretty blonde and a tall, intimidating man. With a quick, steadying breath I hope they won’t notice, I hold out my hand, which the woman takes. “Hello, my name is Raelynn Woods. I’m sorry if I bothered you while you were busy,” I glance to the man, his black eye and busted lip particularly, but force the words to continue out of my mouth, “but I wanted to make sure I talked to the person in charge.” I find my résumé in my purse and hand it to her. “I don’t know if you have any positions open, but I’m in desperate need of a job, so if one opens up, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep me in mind.”

She tells me what everyone has told me today. “I will. I don’t have anything right now.”

My shoulders fall. Is it too soon to give up hope and cry again? I’m nearly out of résumés. Someone has to have job opening. Someone has to be willing to hire me.

“Are you open to any kind of job?” the man asks, surprising me. He seemed content to stand and hang around.

“Yes.” If he’s offering, I’ll take it. I don’t care what it is, I’ll do it. I’m desperate.

“What about as a nanny?”

“I can do that. I have references, experience, and I’m CPR-certified.” The words can’t leave my mouth fast enough. At this point, I’ll take what I can get and figure out details later.

“Stay here for a second,” he says.

“What are you doing?” the woman asks him.

He says a name as he steps away with a phone in his hand. I watch him talk on the phone, hoping that this is my chance. The one that will ease the tension in my muscles, that will start me back on the up and up with Jackson. I don’t know how being a nanny will work, considering I have my own son, but surely it’s just babysitting during the day and maybe late at night, right?

Before I can worry too much, the man is back.

“Here’s the deal. I have a friend who is a single parent and he needs a nanny to help with his little girl, Bree. She’s almost nine months old. He can explain everything to you during the interview, which he’d like to do as soon as you can make it to his house because he’s in between interviews right now. Deanna, where’s a pen and paper?” She walks around the counter to grab him what he asked for and he asks me, “Can you go now?”

My anxiety returns as it hits me. It’s a single father? I don’t know any of these people. “To this man’s house?” I manage to say. I’m supposed to go to some random guy’s house? Is he insane?

“He’s a good guy. I can go with you if you’re uncomfortable going alone; that’s totally understandable,” Deanna says.

Is a potential job worth this? Her reassurances help, but I don’t know. I glance at the man. What if his friend looks like him? I’m being a judgmental bitch right now when I have no choice, but I also have no clue what he does or what I’m walking into here.

“Can you read that?” He holds out the piece of paper with his handwriting and I nod. “Are you going? He doesn’t have all day.” Deanna slaps his arm from across the counter. “What?” he asks.

“Don’t pressure her. She doesn’t know us and you’re trying to send her to a man’s house and she doesn’t know him either. And you got beat up at work, so you look a little sketchy.” What kind of work does he do where he walks away looking like that?

He frowns. “I’m not pressuring her.” He glances at her. “I look sketchy?”

“Intimidating,” I correct, using the word I first thought of when I saw him.

He smiles. “That’s a better answer.” He looks at me. “We’re all good people, but Deanna can go with you if you want. Here.” He pulls his phone back out and after a moment, he turns it toward me to show off a picture of a little baby girl. “That’s his daughter. How dangerous does she look?”

Okay, he has a point. I debate it while the two banter until I hear Deanna ask, “Anyway, would you like for me to ride out there with you?”

“You don’t mind?” It would make me feel more comfortable, if she’s willing.

“Not at all.”

“His mom is probably there too,” the man adds.

I nod. That works for me. I follow Deanna outside and then to this man’s house. It’s a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I could never afford to live here, that’s for sure. The house almost reminds me of a doll house from the outside. I wonder what this man’s job is.

I glance into my rearview mirror. I look frazzled and out of place. I tried to freshen up in the bathroom at the library, but obviously, I did a bad job. No wonder people don’t want to hire me. With a deep breath, I run my fingers through my hair again and get out to meet Deanna. It’s now or never. Deanna and I walk up the pebbled walkway. There’s a sign on the door.

Sleeping baby. DO NOT RING DOORBELL. Knock. Quietly.

Deanna raps her knuckles on the door softly. I want to ask her what his name is again, but he answers before I can.

“Hey, EJ,” Deanna says. “This is Raelynn Woods.” She looks at me. “Are you good?”

I nod and she waves as she leaves. EJ is a handsome young guy in jeans and a T-shirt that flaunts strong arms covered with tattoos. He appears to be not too much older than myself if I had to guess.

He sticks out his hand. “EJ Bertuzzi. Nice to meet you.”

I shake it. “You too.” No need to repeat my name when he already knows it. He steps aside for me to walk in.

How does a guy this young afford a place like this? Much less a nanny. Maybe he’s into something shady with all of those tattoos. Shut it, Raelynn. No judging. I follow EJ through his gorgeous house and into the kitchen. It feels rude to gawk at his house, even if he can’t see me, so I stare at his back. It’s broad and leads to a huge ass and thick legs. Damn. I shake my head. No ogling the potential boss either!

“Have a seat.” He motions to the dining table. “Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thanks. Does EJ stand for anything?” It’s a stupid thing to ask, considering he’s supposed to be interviewing me, but I can’t help it. I see a name like that and I’m always curious.

“Elias James, first and middle name, but only my mother calls me that. Most of my friends just call me EJ.”

Elias. That’s a pretty name. He seems more like an Elias to me for some reason. “So, I could call you Elias?” I ask.

He shrugs as he grabs something for himself from the fridge and then sits down across from me. “If you want. I don’t care.” He’s a bit intimidating between his size and those tattoos. What is it with intimidating men today? “Okay, here’s the deal,” he starts, getting down to business. “I haven’t liked or trusted anyone I’ve interviewed so far, and I’d like to finally find someone so my mom can return home. If I like you and I think you’ll work out, then I’ll give you a chance. Do you happen to watch hockey?”

I’m so thrown off guard by his question that it takes a second to shake my head. I’d need something other than an antenna to watch that.

“Well, that’s what I do. I play for the Carolina Rebels. I travel and have a rigorous schedule for most of the year. I need someone I can trust to be with Bree and who is willing to keep in contact with me while I’m on the road. You’d live here, and you’d be paid well. We can go over specifics if I decide I like you. So far, what do you think?”

I’d have to live here? Oh, boy. I wasn’t counting on that. He’s going to shun me the moment I tell him I have a little boy. But maybe if he likes me enough first, then we can somehow work out an arrangement? I don’t know. But I find myself saying, “I think I’m still interested.”

Elias smiles. It’s such a pretty smile. “Great. Other possible duties would be tidying up. Your number one priority would be taking care of Bree. You’d have vacation time during the offseason and—”

“When is that?” I interrupt, curious. “Sorry, I don’t know much about hockey. Or anything about it at all, really.”

“It’s okay. Season ends in April, unless we make it to playoffs. So, let’s just say late June to early September. You could take that entire time off or as little as two weeks. Up to you. I get one mandated day off every week during the season; that can be your day off, but if for some reason you need another day, let me know with plenty of advance notice if possible.”

Elias goes on and on about his schedule and things he’d want from me. Maybe Jackson and I could live here with him while I’m a nanny. That would solve both my job problem and living arrangements. But is that the right decision? Should I even contemplate that? Would Elias?

Soft cries comes from a nearby baby monitor and Elias jumps up.

“She’s awake,” he says with a crooked smile. The man just got hotter.

I shake those thoughts from my mind. “Can I come with you to meet her?”

If possible, his grin widens. “Sure. Come on.”

I follow him up the stairs. “You have a beautiful home,” I say what I’ve been thinking since I walked in.

“Thanks,” he mumbles. “My mom had a hand in decorating.”

The room we enter is a pink explosion fitted for a princess. Elias picks up his baby and rocks her gently. I step next to him.

“She’s beautiful,” I whisper, even though she’s awake.

“That she is.”

Elias seems enthralled by his daughter and it tugs at my heart. Bree reaches her arm out to me.

“Can I hold her?”

He hesitates, but then nods, handing her over to me like she’s his most prized possession.

“Hey, pretty girl,” I coo. She smiles. Holding her makes me wish Jackson was still a baby. Bree makes baby noises and I laugh when she tugs on my hair.

“You’re a natural,” Elias says. “You seem like you know more than I do,” he chuckles.

I shrug it off.

“Come on.”

I follow him out of the room, but in the opposite direction of the stairs. He walks two doors down and opens the one on the opposite side of the hall.

“This would be your room. If you’d rather have your own things in here instead, I can move this stuff to storage, no problem.”

I nod, my stomach churning and tying in knots. I need to tell him about my son. Elias leads me back downstairs to the kitchen. Bree has dozed off again with her head on my shoulder, so he lets me continue to hold her.

“Any questions or concerns? Because I’m ready to make an offer.”

“I have the job?”

“If you want it.”

The relief at hearing those words overwhelms me and I squeeze my eyes closed to stop the tears. I will them away. This isn’t a sure thing yet. “Um, yes, I do have some concerns.”

Elias frowns, not expecting that. “What are they?”

Bree stirs and I take the opportunity to look at her instead of him. “I...I’m a single mom of a five-year-old. If I accept the job offer, if you’re still offering, then it would be my son and myself moving in.”

“How old are you?”

I lift my head. He doesn’t think I could be the mom of a five-year-old. “Twenty-two,” I answer curtly. I hope like hell he tries to judge me. That is one thing that brings out my inner momma bear. Judge me for almost anything else, but not that.

“Oh, man. I wasn’t expecting the kid.”

My heart sinks and my inner beggar makes an appearance. “Please. I need this job. I’m completely qualified seeing as how I’ve been taking care of my son for five years by myself. He’s in school for most of the day, and he’s a good kid, I swear. I can do this job and take care of your little girl. You wouldn’t have to worry about feeding him either. I can buy the food for him.” Elias said he would cover the grocery bill for me. “Please, don’t let this cause you not to hire me. I need this job. Please.”

Elias just stares at me. That can’t be a good sign.

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Lindsay's (Mis)Adventures in Sewing & Quilting: Les Amis Quilt (2)

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As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on my big quilting project of the year: a 69x90 inch quilt.

All the fabric has been cut. That means I've started sewing! My grandma has been interested in what I'm doing, so I've moved my sewing machine and supplies to her house, so she can hang out and help a little as I work.

She can't wait to see the end result because she swears it's going to be one pretty quilt, and I can't help but agree.

Les Amis Quilt_Flower Star Block.jpg

I've put together one block (there's six of these). I really enjoyed doing the Flower Star and they came out pretty good. I didn't make too many mistakes either.

And then, there were the Flying Geese Stars, the second block I'm to make. Although I know I did everything right, nothing was turning out the way it was supposed to.

I have no idea what I was doing wrong or why it wasn't working and turning out the way it should.

But I kept powering through, even though my frustrations kept rising.

My grandma, as it turns out, is a bit impatient. She wanted to see at least one finished block and this block did seem to be taking for-freaking-ever. 

So, I started gathering what I needed to put at least one Flying Geese block together and I was really getting pissed because I realized this block was not going to look as pretty as my first set of blocks. And it doesn't. The rest might not either. I still don't know what I did wrong, but it's okay. 

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This is my first intermediate quilt (and I've only done one beginner quilt), so mistakes were bound to happen somewhere. All I know is I learned when frustration sets in during this hobby, it's most definitely time to stop and take a break. Once I finished putting that block together, I didn't even want to think about doing the rest or the rest of the quilt for that matter. 

Therefore, I'm on a little sewing vacation right now, but I'll get back to it sometime next month, I'm sure. I've made progress on the quilt, so I wanted to post an update. 

Are you working on anything right now? Be it a sewing/quilting project or with another hobby? Let's hear about it!

Three Terrific Reads

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Hey, y'all! It's time for me to share my love of reading with you!

Three Terrific Reads is where I share the top three books I read this month and would recommend! 

I read 16 books in February, but I was able to narrow it down and pick my favorites. Read on for three terrific reads you should check out! Be sure to share your top three reads as well! :)

I LOVE Katie McGarry. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. It was no surprise that her latest release is making the list this month.

When Drix was convicted of a crime--one he didn't commit--he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the new Second Chance Program, the governor's newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor's daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn't may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle's parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix's messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

Fighting against a society that can't imagine them together, Drix and Elle must push themselves--Drix to confront the truth of the robbery, and Elle to assert her independence--and each other to finally get what they deserve.

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

I very much enjoy books by Jennifer Lazaris as well and she hit it out of the park (I know, wrong sport, but whatever) with Lucky Number!


Hello? Wrong number… 
What happens when you accidentally text a sexy photo of yourself to your favorite hockey player? 

Las Vegas Kingsnakes superfan Hannah Hendrix never planned on her sexy photos ending up in the hands of a complete stranger. But she never planned to walk in on her boyfriend with another woman, either. Or for her mom to get sick. The only bright spots in her life are her upcoming college graduation and her fast-growing video blogging channel, Pretty Paper Planning with Hannah. And of course, her first love-hockey. 

Hockey superstar Brandon Lear is drowning in drama. A divorce from his drug addicted ex-wife has left him the sole caregiver of his two little girls. Trying to juggle being a single father and the grind of another long hockey season has left him exhausted and stressed. So when photos of a woman clad in nothing but glasses and sexy lingerie land on his phone after a tough road game, it's a welcome distraction. He likes what he sees, but quickly discovers he likes talking to the mystery woman who sent the photos even more. 

When Hannah learns that the man on the other end of the phone in possession of her sexy pictures is *the* Brandon Lear, her favorite hockey player of all time, she's completely mortified-until she learns that her attraction might not be as one-sided as she originally thought. But Brandon's determined to keep Hannah strictly in the friend-zone. Despite their sizzling chemistry and his growing desire to get his hands all over her delicious curves, pulling the sweet college co-ed into his chaotic life right now just doesn't seem like a smart decision. 

Her crush on the charming, tattooed forward heats up along with their budding friendship, and Brandon soon finds himself breaking his own rules when it comes to Hannah-giving in to temptation at every turn. 

Will dating her favorite hockey player play out just like Hannah's always dreamed? Or are some dreams never meant to come true?

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

I love the Hades Hangmen series, so it's no surprise to me that the latest book in the series made my list!



A broken woman. 
A damaged man. 
A free spirit intent on saving them both. 

Elysia ‘Sia’ Willis lives a solitary life. The only person in it is her big brother, Ky, vice-president of the infamous Hades Hangmen. She loves him, but she has absolutely no love for the outlaw MC he belongs to. 
Raised in secret by her mother, Sia grew up separated from her brother and distant father. No one knew she even existed. 

After the tragic murder of her mother, Sia spiraled into a rebellion against the rules of the Hangmen. A rebellion with dire consequences that now, years later, she still can’t escape. 

As she lives once again in secret, happy on her own at her secluded ranch, a devil from her past comes calling. A devil who wants to possess her once again and take her from the simple life she never wants to lose. 
And he will stop at nothing to collect what he believes is his: her. 

Valan ‘Hush’ Durand and Aubin ‘Cowboy’ Breaux have finally found a home in the mother chapter of the Hangmen. The notoriously private Cajun twosome have, for now, put aside what chased them from their beloved Louisiana. But as threats toward the club build, Hush and Cowboy are given a task—protect Elysia Willis at all costs. Cowboy welcomes the job of watching over the blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty. 
Hush fights against it. 
Scarred by events from his past and a secret that plagues his everyday life, Hush refuses to let anyone else get close. Only Cowboy knows the real him. Until a certain sister of the club’s VP begins to slowly knock down his defenses, shattering the heavily built walls that guard his damaged soul . . . with his best friend leading the charge. 

As lost and open hearts begin to meld, taking each other from indescribable pain to the never-before felt relief of peace, the newly-mended threesome must first endure one more rocky path. 
Only then will they finally shake free of the shackles of their pasts. 
Only then will they shed the bonds that have for too long held their happiness captive. 
And there is only one way to survive that path . . . together.

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Those are my top three reads of February! What are yours?

Lindsay's (Mis)Adventures in Sewing & Quilting: Les Amis Quilt (1)

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One of my goals this year is to start and finish a quilt for which I bought a kit. The good news is I've started it! 

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen a post or two, but if you're in Lindsay's League, you've seen more regular updates about this project.

This quilt is the Les Amis quilt by Shelley Cavanna. I love the colors and the patterns on the fabrics. I'm so excited to put it all together.

Les Amis screenshot

But so far, I've spent eleven hours cutting fabric and I still have three pieces of fabric to go! However, I haven't put together a post about what project I'm currently working on, so I thought I'd do that.

This is what the quilt will (hopefully) look like when it's done.

It's for intermediate skilled quilters, so I'm really pushing myself since I'm definitely a beginner still. However, if I finish it, I'll consider myself intermediate. 😉

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To begin, I had to cut out all of these tiles. There are so many different fabrics (as you see in the picture at the end of the post) and so many cuts to make, that the tiles are supposed to help keep things organized. It's daunting to realize just how many tiles there are (46).

It's been a long process to cut the fabric, but also interesting because this is the first time I've really had to do this, especially so much of it. And I get to use new rulers! See those triangle rulers? Yep. I get to use those. Yay for new experiences!


I'm hoping to finish cutting all my fabric this week and finish all of one block this month. The first block I'm supposed to do is called Flower Stars; there will be six. I'll post again when I get around to working on or finishing that!

Wish me luck because I'll probably need it!

Lindsay's (Mis)Adventures in Sewing & Quilting: 2018 Goals

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I haven't talked much about my 2018 goals in general, but I thought it might be nice to make a list of my goals in this area. After all, it'll give me a to-do list of sorts and a way of knowing for sure if I accomplished the minimum of what I hoped to do for the year when it comes to sewing and quilting.

Without further ado, here's the 2018 Goals:

- I recently bought a kit to make a 69x90 inch quilt and I want to start and finish that this year. (I posted a picture of it in Lindsay's League.)

- Bartley is still waiting on his quilt. I want to at least figure out what I want to make for him and maybe get the materials at the very least as well.

- I want to do at least six rows from the Row by Row trips I've made (three from 2016 and three from 2017).

- Create some sort of system where I know what kits and patterns I have, what I haven't done, and what I have done.

Other than that, I just want to have fun and continue learning.

What are your 2018 goals?

Happy Release Day, Steady!

Today is the big day! We get to celebrate my first release of 2018 and the fact that this release marks a big milestone for me! Steady is my 20th solo release (40th including my coauthored books)! How crazy is that! 

But I don't want to spend too much time on that when you're probably wanting to know more about the release itself. Steady kicks off a new series, Hearts in Carolina, which is set in North Carolina. Some characters you may meet in previous books (or even in the Carolina Rebels books) or some may be brand new. Because of this, all will be able to be read as standalones.

Now, here's all the details about Steady!

A chance meeting and a spontaneous marriage proposal leads Logan Archer on a first date that turns his dull, unhappy life around. With her help, he finally lands his dream job. But what Logan really wants is his dream girl to spend his time with.

He’s certain that girl is Kayla. He’ll do whatever is necessary to secure a future with her.

Kayla Murphy might be able to turn down Logan’s many proposals, but she can’t resist his charm, his many nicknames for her, or his ability to make her laugh when it’s the last thing she wants to do. 

But unwanted distractions threaten what these two are building together.

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google Play

One More Sneak Peek: Chapter Two of Steady!

Chapter Two


“Whose hoodie is that? Where have you been? I thought you were coming home sooner.”

I sigh at my mom. Still living at home instead of on campus means enduring her nosy questions. “It’s a guy’s. I was out, and apparently, my plans changed. I’m going to my room.”

She says something under her breath, but I ignore her and continue to my room. My dad tried to tell her that since I’m in college, I should have more freedom. Mom told him he didn’t live here anymore, so he should stay out of it. It’s been a battle ever since.

I plop onto my bed and take a deep breath. As I relive the afternoon’s events, I try to figure out what exactly happened. I think about all the ways it could’ve gone wrong. How I could be tied up and in a trunk on my way out of the country right now. Logan and his sister seemed nice enough. That’s the first time I’ve met a guy’s family the day I met him. It wasn’t bad, though.

The incessant buzzing of my vibrating phone cuts into my reminiscing with a call from my dad. “Hey, Daddy.”

“Hey. How’s my little girl doing today?” he asks. I may be twenty and his oldest child, but I’m his only girl and therefore, I’ll always be his little girl. I don’t mind at all.

“Good. Just getting home. How was your day?”

“I’ve been at the shop.” My dad is a mechanic. He and my uncles own a shop where they do pretty much anything to cars.

“Are you still there? Have you had dinner yet? You should go home and eat, Dad.” Ever since my parents divorced, my dad spends most of his time working. I waste my breath, trying to get him to go home and rest, but I’m worried about him. He worked crazy hours before, but I feel like he works all the time now. That can’t be good for him.

Dad laughs. “Quit worrying about me. The only one of us who is supposed to do the worrying is me. Now, tell me about your day.”

I roll my eyes. “I still worry. You’re all alone now.”

“I’m fine.” His voice is firm and allows no room for me to continue on that line of thought. I guess my argument is too predictable if he knows just from that one sentence that I was about to start my you-should-be-with-mom lecture. I’ll even admit that part of the reason I want him back with my mom is so he can handle her and keep her off my back.

“Fine. I practiced my guitar.” Code for playing at the coffeehouse since I haven’t told them about that yet. “And I went out with a guy I met.”

Dad grumbles under his breath. “How’d it go?” he asks anyway.

“Good. He won me over enough to get my number. Now, I’m back at home for the night.”

“Why don’t you tell me more about this young man?”

I laugh. They used to be boys, but Dad begrudgingly upgraded them to young men now that I’m in college. “But what if it doesn’t work out? Then I just told you about a boy for nothing.”

“I’m not going to talk to you for a week since you’re in college now, Kayla. Humor your daddy.”

I smile. He says it as if I set the limit, but he did. Since Mom has been so overbearing still, Dad thought he should limit his contact with me to give me more space. He only calls me once a week, but makes sure I know I can call whenever I want.

“Well, his name is Logan.” Dad grumbles when I mention the proposal and again when I bring up how he led me to a house, but otherwise, he quietly listens as I recount the evening.

“He sounds like a jackass.”

I laugh. “That’s what you say every time I tell you about a date.”

“And how often am I right?”

“A lot of the times,” I acknowledge.

“Exactly. Okay, I’m gonna get off here and let you do whatever it is you do now that you’re in college. Study, hopefully. Call if you need me. I’ll talk to you soon. I love you.”

“I love you too, Daddy.”

We hang up and I close my eyes for a moment. I don’t know why my parents’ divorce surprised me so much. My brother, Gregory, says he knew it was coming. I was apparently oblivious to whatever problems my parents were having. I thought they were happy and still in love. They were the high school sweethearts who would grow old together.

Or not, as it turns out.

I was pissed at both of my parents. Mom for asking for it, though Dad swears to this day it was mutual, and Dad for agreeing to it so easily. Mom asked, Dad gave in, they separated, and later, they made it official. Dad even bought himself a present! He bought a new truck. Who the hell does that? And maybe it’s crazy for me to still want them together, but their lame excuse for divorcing was they “grew apart.” Well, grow back together! They put no effort into trying to keep their marriage intact.

That is what pisses me off the most.

My phone beeps with a text from an unfamiliar number.

Unknown: Hey, it’s Logan. Miss me yet? Too soon?

I laugh and save his number before responding.

Me: Yes, it’s too soon.

Logan: Well, what about my marriage proposal?

Me: Having dinner at your sister’s is not a date, so no answer for you yet.

Logan: That’s true. When can I see you again? I’m asking now because you must have so many guys chasing after you that I need you to pencil me into the next available free space in your calendar.

Me: Depends. What are we doing?

Logan: I’ll give you options and you can pick. My brother-in-law plays hockey. Option #1: We can go to a game. Yes or pass to option two?

A hockey game? That might be fun. Dad watches the Rebels so I’ve seen a few pro games on TV before. I don’t know if he’s talking about a pro game or not. They didn’t really talk about Sydney’s husband while we were at her house. Either way, it’ll be fun.

Me: Sounds like fun. When are you thinking?

It takes a few minutes before the next text comes in.

Logan: Thursday night. Will that work?

Me: Yep.

Logan: Can’t wait. Gotta go. Savannah is annoyed Lo-Lo is paying more attention to his phone than her. Talk soon.

I smile. It’s sweet that he went back to his sister’s house to visit with his niece. He obviously loves his family. That’s a good trait to have. I put my phone away, grab my laptop and a textbook, and continue working on one of my first papers of the semester until my phone rings again with a call from a friend I met on campus.

“It’s Saturday! Why aren’t you hitting up parties?” Suzanne asks. “Please tell me you aren’t studying.”

“School first.”

I imagine she’s rolling her eyes right about now as she says, “You’re missing out on so much.” That’s what she always says, but so far, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I still go to parties, meet boys, and have plenty of fun. What’s wrong with staying in here and there to prioritize? Not to mention, the course-load can be freaking ridiculous in college. Schoolwork is all I have time for sometimes. The semester practically just started; I have no plans to get behind any time soon.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come? I could pick you up.”

“I’m good.”

She groans and hangs up without another word. She’s clearly on her way to one of those parties I’m missing out on.

The night is quiet. Mom checks in on me like I’m a five-year-old who needs supervision still. When she opens my door to poke her head in, I simply point to my textbook and go back to work, ignoring her. I love my mom, I do, but ever since she kicked Dad out, she has been way too obsessed with us.

I manage to get the first draft of my paper done around eleven. Perfect time to stop and head to bed. Tomorrow is a new day. I’m playing at the coffeehouse again and then who knows what I’ll get into.

I first learned of the coffeehouse when I was simply walking around one day. I wanted to get away from home and here was a place that wanted people to sing for the customers. Jackpot. Some people in the coffeehouse pay no attention to me. Others like to watch and listen, but very few are as captivated as Logan was yesterday.

Today is a day where no one cares. That’s okay. I play my set, collect the few tips I manage to earn, and head out. The park Logan and I went to is calling my name. The park is my favorite place to go, play, and write new songs. January isn’t the ideal time to go, but I don’t mind. And today, I’m wearing Logan’s hoodie to help keep me warm. Mom eyed me hard when I walked out of the house with it on. She was dying to ask me where I was going, and I was completely prepared to give her a vague answer.

Who cares where I’m going? Who cares if I’m wearing a guy’s hoodie, which smells totally amazing? I could’ve died and gone to heaven when I put it on yesterday. What is it with guys’ hoodies anyway? They always smell so freaking good and wear so much better. At least he isn’t around to see that I’m wearing it again today. I’m not sure if he’d smirk and find it cute or think I’m crazy. You never know with guys.

Sitting at the same bench as yesterday, I bring my legs up to criss-cross them and lay my notebook on the side next to me. There’s one song I’ve been working on for a month. Nothing is flowing well: not the music nor the lyrics. It’s irking me so much. Everything is right there on the tip of my pencil, but it’s like my hand is frozen and can’t write down anything. The signals cross somewhere between my brain and my hand.

Closing my eyes, I breathe in and out for a minute or so before my hands find their place on my guitar. The notes strum out slowly and surely until I reach the part where the song abruptly ends. I start again, this time softly singing to myself. The words die, but the notes manage to continue a little bit longer and I hurry to jot them down before starting from the beginning once again. My process repeats like this over and over, sometimes writing down words, other times notes, until I mold and edit and complete the song. Once done, I grab my notebook and look over my notes and scribbles.

“You are amazing.”

Screaming, I drop the notebook and clutch my guitar to my chest. My heart hammers in my chest as I look up and see Logan.

He grins as he closes the distance between us, picks up my notebook, and sits next to me. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” he says as he hands back my notebook. The fact that he doesn’t even look makes me feel good. Why, I don’t know. He was basically spying on me just now, so him not looking doesn’t exactly equate to a respect of privacy. But somehow, it does.

“What are you doing here?”

“I was driving by and I saw you. I drive by this place all the time, but never paid much attention to it before. Savannah and I normally go to one closer to their house, or just stay and play in their backyard.” His eyes drift down to his hoodie and his grin grows, but he doesn’t say anything else. “Should I go? I don’t want to keep you from working.”

“I’m finished, actually.”

“Is that a subtle acceptance for me to stay?”

I smile and nod. “Sure. How was your night with Savannah?”

“Good. Savannah, Andrew, and I all played together while Syd snuck off to relax. I may have let Savannah eat some ice cream since she wasn’t around.” Logan grins at his sneaky accomplishment and I laugh.

“You’re a good uncle.”

“It’s fun. Speaking of which, what do you like to do for fun other than serenade people?”

“Live the college life.”

Logan chuckles and smiles, almost to himself. “Parties, drinking, and all-nighters?”

“Well, I’m not twenty-one yet, so...”

He laughs. “You’re in college, though.”

“That’s very stereotypical thinking, Logan,” I tease.

“If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize.” His brows shoot up while he waits for me to prove him wrong. Since I have drunk at college parties before, I can’t. It’s a true bummer, especially when he gets this cocky grin on his face.

“What do you do for fun?”

Logan shrugs. “Not much anymore. I work, hang with Sydney and the kids, and find pretty girls who sing to hang out with.”

I roll my eyes hard at that last bit. “I think you’re trying too hard to butter me up.”

“It’s not working?”

“Not really.”

He laughs. “Come on then. Let’s get out of here. Trust me enough to ride with me this time?”

Instead of answering, I let him take my hand and pull me up. After putting my guitar and notebook into my car, I lock the doors, grab my purse, and follow Logan to his car. When he heads to his door, I hesitate as I stand next to mine. My dad’s voice filters through my mind.

If they don’t open the door for you, you don’t go, Kayla. You’re a woman, a lady, and too many guys these days forget how to treat one. Don’t let them treat you any less than the absolute best. And that includes opening every door for you.

Dad drilled various versions of that into me from a fairly early age. It still trips me up to this day when a guy doesn’t do it. I always hesitate, hear my daddy’s voice, and wonder what to do. Making a guy open my door for me has ended badly, believe it or not. Dad will always say that proves they aren’t worth it.

The sound of the window rolling down lets me know that I’ve been pondering this for too long. “What are you doing? Having second thoughts?” Logan teases.

Well, only one way to find out how Logan will react. I lean down to look in at him. “I don’t know what your daddy taught you, but mine taught me that if I was with a man, I wouldn’t have to touch a door handle.”

His eyes nearly pop out of his head as he scrambles out of the car. “Shit, Kayla. Sorry. I was too excited about the fact that you’re going somewhere with me,” he says, the words rushing out of his mouth as he rounds the front of the car. “I swear I have manners and chivalry isn’t dead and all that stuff.”

I can’t help but laugh. “It’s okay.”

“Here.” He seems so flustered that he hands me my seatbelt. At least he doesn’t try to buckle me in. With amusement, I watch as he triple-checks that all my limbs are inside the car before he closes the door and jogs around to the other side. “Sorry,” he repeats.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” I tell him seriously. I’m starting to feel bad about his reaction. “My dad is old-fashioned and so serious about those things, I can’t help but think about it.”

Logan reaches over to take my hand as he backs up and then pulls out of the park. “Honestly, it’s fine. You caught me off guard is all. I don’t think any girl has ever demanded it before. They should. I’m normally more on top of my game, but I don’t know what happened. Do you have instances like that often?”

“More than my dad would approve of. They don’t all go so well either.”

“Really?” Logan’s voice hitches a bit with surprise.

“Yeah. One guy left me stranded because I essentially said the same thing to him as I did to you and it pissed him off. Some are miffed and do it, but I never hear from them again. Then, there are guys like you who do it and everything is fine.”

“A guy left you stranded?” he asks incredulously.

“Yeah, my dad was pissed because I called him to come pick me up. I was upset over it and he was the only one I wanted to call.”

“That’s insane. I’m sorry, Kayla. Sounds like you have a good dad, though.”

“Yeah. Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” he says with a smile.

We’re quiet the rest of the way, but then we arrive and I’m confused. “What is this place?” There are a ton of people out here for it to be as chilly as it is today. There are also at least two dozen trucks lined up.

“It’s like a food truck convention of sorts.” I must wrinkle my nose because he says, “Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Some of the best food I’ve ever had has come off of a food truck. It’ll be great, I promise. Don’t move.”

I laugh and unbuckle my seatbelt as I wait for him to move around to open my door for me. He takes my hand, tells me to leave my purse if I want, and then leads the way into the rather massive crowd.

“Here’s the game plan. We’ll pick one thing per truck and share. That way we can try as many as possible. I would like to think I’ve gotten good at doing this, so do you give me free rein to choose for us?”

“Go ahead.”

He grins and pulls me along. The line is long for every single truck, which is good. It gives Logan plenty of time to scan the menu. My phone vibrates in my pocket and I take a quick peek.

Mom: When are you coming home?

Me: Don’t know.

Mom: I need to know how much dinner to fix, Kayla.

Me: Count me out.

After eating with him, I won’t be hungry and Mom won’t have to worry about feeding me. I focus on the menu as I slip my phone into my pocket and wonder what Logan will order. This truck is all about burgers with sides like fries and mac and cheese. Logan picks a burger and fries. He’s already breaking his one thing per truck rule. After a couple minutes of searching, we find a place to sit down and eat.

He slides the containers in front of me. “You first,” he says as he steals a fry, causing me to laugh.

I grab the burger and take a big bite. Holy moly. I don’t know what all is on this thing or what seasoning they used, but it might just be the best burger I’ve ever had. I hand it to Logan and grab a fry. Those are pretty good, too.

“This is the best date ever already,” I say when he hands the burger back. “This burger is delicious.”

His grin is cocky. “I told you. Just wait. There are more to try.”

“I’m ready.” There’s a brief lull before I say, “Can I ask you something?”

“Let’s hear it.”

“You’ve mentioned Sydney, your stepmom and your dad, but not your mom. How come? What’s your relationship with her like?” The moment the words leave my mouth, I know I asked the wrong question. Logan tenses ever so slightly, but it’s enough that I notice.

Have I screwed up already?

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Goodbye, 2017!

Outdoor Game Collage.jpg

It's time to recap the whirlwind that has been 2017. I'll talk about my life, my books, and books I read.

Personally, this year has been kinda crazy, but also kinda great. My momma and I went to the Penguins outdoor game in February and went to the Angels & Sirens Author Event in Pittsburgh the following week (we also caught a Penguins game while we were there). We also went to For the Love of Books and Raleigh signing in August.


We made a few trips to Florida, the most exciting was for the birth of my new nephew, Perry. I also got to attend my first home opener for a hockey game, which was pretty fun, even if it was for the Canes. ;) Lastly, I graduated from college and treated myself to a Penguins game when they came to Raleigh a couple of days ago. I also finally started sewing, which y'all already know about because I blog about it.

Now, as far as publishing wise, I released 3 books and 2 novellas (all in the Carolina Rebels series). Plus, I gave my newsletter subscribers an exclusive short story from the Carolina Rebels world. I also announced 3 releases for 2018 (Steady, Carolina Rebels Series: Volume One, and Worth the Risk). I think things went pretty well this year. Thanks for another year of support!

And last, but certainly not least, my reading goals. I wanted to read 100 books, at least 12 paperbacks, and the ABC challenge, where the title starts with a letter from the alphabet.

I read 123 of books, 34 paperbacks (51 if I count the picture books I read), and I missed X and Q in the ABC challenge because time got away from me in December. Also, 21 of my total were read for school.

So, my favorites!

There's my favorites! Now, I decided to keep some more detailed notes this year, so here are some interesting (to me at least) highlights about books I read in 2017.

- Most of the titles started with the letter H, with T and F the runner ups.

- Most of the books I read were bought in the year 2017, but some were from as far back as 2010!

- Most of the books I read were ebooks, but paperbacks weren't that far behind!

- 78 were in a series and 45 were standalones.

- I finished 7 series, started 17 series, and decided not to finish 18 series.

So, there are some fun facts in addition to my favorites from 2017! I think I'll continue to keep track of books this way because it was really interesting to see some of the figures. 

What were your highlights from 2017?