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Saturday, December 30, 2023

Review: There Should Have Been Eight by Nalini Singh

Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkeley
Publication Date: November 2023

They met when they were teenagers. Now they’re adults, and time has been kind to some and unkind to others—none more so than to Bea, the one they lost nine long years ago.

They’ve gathered to reminisce at Bea’s family’s estate, a once-glorious mansion straight out of a gothic novel. Best friends, old flames, secret enemies, and new lovers are all under one roof. But when the weather turns and they’re snowed in at the edge of eternity, there’s nowhere left to hide from their shared history.

As the walls close in, the pretense of normality gives way to long-buried grief, bitterness, and rage. Underneath it all, there’s the nagging feeling that Bea’s shocking death wasn’t what it was claimed to be. And before the weekend is through, the truth will be unleashed—no matter the cost. . . .

There Should Have Been Eight is an isolated, closed circle thriller.   Told through the perspective of Luna, seven friends come together for a weekend get-away to reminisce about their friend Bea.  Everyone has a secret and people start disappearing and dying. Honestly, there should have been a thriller here somewhere, but sadly there just wasn't.

I really wanted to love this one.  But I just thought it was meh.  I was honestly bored thorough most of it.  I never really felt a sense of danger or urgency.  The characters were insufferable.  I couldn't find a character to root for. They are all supposed to be best friend, yet I never felt like they were.  Luna was going blind, but she refused to tell her friends?  Why?  I know she was still coming to terms with it, but why wouldn't you clue in your "best friends"? I also got tired of her complaining about the way Bea's sister handled Bea's funeral.  We get it, you are mad.  Move on. The ending was predictable.  I think fans of this author will like it, but it just wasn't thrilling enough for me.


Friday, December 29, 2023

More December Mini Musings

Undercover Mission:  I wish I could say I enjoyed this one.  But it's definitely my lest favorite of the series so far.  It was kind of forgettable.  I hated the couple.  There was zero chemistry. Also, for a cop who is  undercover, the main character had zero awareness and kept getting attacked.  I was annoyed.


Hemlock Island
:  This is another one I wish I could say I enjoyed. I love this author, but this book just didn't do it for me.  I hated the ending.  I didn't love the reveal.  It was cheesy and just didn't work for me.  The characters were unlikable.  I probably should have DNF'd this.  The only thing I did like was the kid.


The Last Close Call
:  For the most part, I enjoyed this one.  I liked the mystery part of the book more than the romance part.  I didn't really feel the attraction between the main characters.  But I thought the use of DNA and genealogy to track down a serial killer was pretty cool.  

We'll Never Tell: This was just a "meh" YA msytery.  I had a hard time believing that the police would have missed a huge piece of evidence in the house.  It was very far-fetched and required a LOT of suspension of disbelief.  The reveal was obvious and pretty much a let down.  


Midnight Renegade
:  My least favorite of the series.  I was annoyed that the fortress that was supposed to be so protected ended up not being so fortified after all. I also didn't love the romance.  It was too insta-lovey for me.






Thursday, December 28, 2023

Review: The Fearless One by Lori Foster

Author: Lori Foster
Publisher: Canary Street Press
Publication Date: December 2023

 He had it all planned…until she showed up.

Jedidiah Stephens came to the Colorado Rockies for one to uncover the truth behind the fire that killed her family. She’s been chasing down clues, and everything has led her to an isolated campground. Her plan is to get a job there so she can investigate who comes and goes. Getting involved with her boss, Memphis Osborn, the ruggedly handsome groundskeeper, is definitely not part of the plan.

When Jedidiah arrives on the scene, Memphis just knows she's up to something. He can see the desperation in her eyes and warily agrees to hire her. As they work side by side, Diah triggers his deepest protective instincts—and the chemistry between them ignites.

But the more Diah digs into her family’s past, the more secrets she unravels…and the more afraid she becomes. She lost everything once before. She’ll never forgive herself if now she loses Memphis, too.

The Fearless One is the second book in the Osborne Brothers series.  This one is Memphis and Diah's  story.  Like his brother Hunter, Memphis has a plan and never counted on a woman to be a part of it.  Diah has been moving all her life and now she is back at a familiar camp site to try to figure out why her family died in a fire.  This one works well as a stand alone.  Characters from the previous book do show up in this one, but you won't be lost.

It's been a pretty busy December, so this will probably be the last book I finish reading this year.  What a way to end the year.  I always love Lori's books and this one was no exception.  She always writes strong heroes who fall for strong women.  The chemistry between Memphis and Diah was intense.  I loved watching them fall for each other.   Diah's story was heart breaking, but she landed in just the right place.  There is a little bit of a mystery with a twist at the end.  As I said before, characters from the first book, The Dangerous One, and the series before this one (The Mackenzie's of Ridge Trail) show up here.  I love Memphis's "BFF", Madison.  She is just so much fun.  I highly recommend this one.  I can't wait to see what comes next.  I hope that Remy gets his own story!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Spotlight: Excerpt from The Weekend Retreat by Tara Laskowski

 


Author: Tara Laskowski
ISBN: 9781525811456
Publication Date: December 26, 2023
Publisher: Graydon House
18.99 US | 23.99 CAN

Every year, the illustrious Van Ness siblings, heirs to a copper fortune, gather at their lush winery estate for a joint birthday celebration. It's a tradition they've followed nearly all their lives, and now they are back with their significant others for a much-needed weekend of rest and relaxation, away from the public spotlight.
 
With lavish comforts, gorgeous scenery, and indulgent drinking, the trip should be the perfect escape. But it soon becomes clear that even a remote idyllic getaway can’t keep out the problems simmering in each of their lives. As old tensions are reignited, the three couples are pushed to the edge. Will their secrets destroy them, or will they destroy each other first? And who’s been watching them from beyond the vineyard gates?
 
When a torrential rainstorm hits, plunging them into darkness, the answers prove all too deadly…

 
Buy Links: 
Harlequin
BookShop.org 
Barnes & Noble 
Books A Million 
Amazon 

Excerpt:

W-JKA BREAKING NEWS

 

Tragedy strikes at Van Ness Winery


SUNDAY, October 15—Multiple people have been reported dead at the Van Ness Winery after an altercation late Saturday night, our Eyewitness Team reports. Police were dispatched around 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning after a 9-1-1 call from the estate’s main house, but they were delayed hours getting to the scene because of the torrential rainstorm that flooded Rte. 8 and many of the small roads leading up to the winery. 

Our news team is on-site but has not been able to verify details with officials, who are still investigating the scene. It appears the damaged substation in Parnell affected power to the estate as well as a number of neighboring homes and businesses in the Finger Lakes area. 

This tragedy is the latest to befall the Van Ness family, whose matriarch, investor and philanthropist Katrina Van Ness, died earlier this year of pancreatic cancer at the age of sixty-eight. 

The Van Ness winery, known for producing high-quality, award-winning wines, has been owned by the Van Ness family for several generations. The family started the business in the 1950s, after selling their Arizona-based copper mining company founded by Benson Van Ness. The 985- acre winery and estate is now managed by the Van Ness siblings, who live full-time in New York City. Their family investment office owns interests in multiple different real estate holdings and industrial and manufacturing enterprises. The siblings are believed to have been visiting the estate for the weekend for a family celebration. 

We will report more as details are confirmed.



THURSDAY

 

Two Days before the Party



LAUREN


Ever since Zach told me about The Weekend, it’s all I’ve been able to focus on. Most people would naturally be at least a little nervous to meet their significant other’s family for the first time. 

But most people aren’t dating a Van Ness. 

“Earth to Lauren.” Zach snaps his fingers, grinning over at me. He left work early to get on the road sooner and didn’t have time to change, so he’s still wearing his suit, purple tie slightly askew but knotted even after hours of driving. 

“Sorry,” I say, tugging the ends of my hair. “Zoning out.” 

“You look like I’m driving you to your death,” he says, then grabs my hand and squeezes. “Don’t worry. I promise it’ll be fun. Even if my family’s there.” 

All I can see out my window are trees and fields and cows, my cell phone bars ticking steadily down. We must be close. Zach is taking care on the steep, curvy roads. One bad turn could send our car into a deep ditch or crashing into a thick tree trunk. 

It’s so beautiful up there, my best friend Maisie said when I told her about the invitation. She had that wicked look in her eye. All the rolling hills. A vineyard. Starry sky. Super romantic. Perfect place to propose. My stomach flips at the thought, and I breathe in deep. This weekend is not about us. It’s a birthday party for Zach’s older siblings, Harper and Richard, the twins, an annual tradition to celebrate at the family’s winery. I can’t get ahead of myself.

We drive up a winding gravel road, through patches of dense trees. Taller ones have already gone barren for the winter, but some of the smaller trees arch over the road, their branches meeting and entangling like fingers, blotting out the remaining light.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are now approaching the famous Van Ness estate,” Zach says in a booming voice as the car’s headlights flick on. “Please, no photographs, and keep all hands and feet inside the moving vehicle at all times.”

Zach had told me the estate was large—a thousand acres— but I didn’t grasp what that meant until the tunnel of trees ends and the view opens to a sprawling expanse of green fields and rolling hills, stretching endlessly against the purple-hued sky. We cross a small stone bridge that extends over a stream, then bump along a rocky road. The vineyards creep closer to us now, eerie in their precise organization, each plant in a perfect row. We’re inching toward winter, and all the grapes must have already been picked for the season, pressed and bottled, because the vines are bare and withered.

When I first moved to New York and waited tables at an Italian restaurant, we served the Van Ness wine. I remember those dark purple labels, the name stamped big and bold on the front. A brand that said, We are too good for you. But Zach is nothing like that, like the Van Nesses you read about online. Sometimes I forget he’s part of that family in the day-to-day rhythm of our lives. He doesn’t talk about them much, offers the scantest of information, or cracks a joke, or completely changes the subject when I bring them up. All I know of them is from the press, fleeting and superficial, like the pages of a glossy magazine, but hazy enough that I can imagine slicing open my finger on the sharp edges if I’m not careful.

“Tell me about them,” I say now, when there’s no evading the topic.

He glances over at me. “My family? What more do you need to know?”

“I don’t know. How can I win them over so they all love me forever and ever?” I say, trying to hide my nerves.

He laughs. “They’re impossible to win over.” 

“Oh perfect,” I say. “That makes it easy then.” 

“Nah, they aren’t that bad. They’re…particular is all.”

We head up a slight incline. To the right, there’s a gravel path marked Private—Staff Only. We pass it and stop in front of a large metal gate. Zach rolls down his window, fetches a key card from the glove compartment. “We had this installed years ago for extra security,” he says. Once the machine reads his card, the gates swing open soundlessly. I turn to watch them rotate back and slam into place. 

As we round a corner, I finally catch a glimpse of the house, a stone mansion, stoic on the hill. The long driveway curves up to an overhang in front, flanked by a series of round potted trees. 

“Here we are,” says Zach as we pull up. He shuts off the car, taps the digital clock on the dashboard. “And on time for dinner, too. Elle will be pleased.” 

My stomach does another flip. 

Breathe deep. 

Project confidence.

They’re going to love you. 

I get out. The air is chilly—it’s dropped at least ten degrees since we left the city. I wrap my arms across my body. 

The massive wooden front door opens, and an older man walks out, gray hair and beard, a deep purple polo shirt with the Van Ness logo stitched on the pocket, two flutes of sparkling wine in his hands.

“Bill! You are the man.” Zach trades him the keys to the car for the glasses. “Lauren, Bill and his wife Linnet have been taking care of the estate—and us—since I was a snotty-nosed kid.” 

As Bill heads for the trunk to unload our baggage, I survey the house. My eyes follow the three short steps up to a wide entryway with pillars, to the archway above the door, and then outward to the wings on either side. Greenery climbs up the stonework between the windows, and I imagine Bill must trim it often to keep it so nice. I touch a pillar next to me and feel its cool smoothness. 

“Where’s everyone else?” Zach asks Bill. For him, this is business as usual. I doubt he even notices the grandness anymore. 

“Oh, they’re around,” he says. “Miss Elle says dinner at 6:30, and you can all meet in the library.” 

I smooth down the gold silk top Zach picked out for me, hugging and hiding in all the right places, like expensive clothes do. What would my parents say if they saw me? They would never guess I’d be weekending with a famous family like this. They never thought I’d make it in New York, thought I’d come crawling back begging to return to my night shift writing obituaries at our small-town paper. 

But I’m never going back.

I take a sip of the sparkling wine. The bubbles pop, cold and hard against the back of my throat.



Excerpted from The Weekend Retreat by Tara Laskowski, Copyright © 2023 by Tara Laskowski. Published by Graydon House




 
Author Bio: 
Photo Credit:
Ron Aira

TARA LASKOWSKI is the author of The Mother Next Door and One Night Gone, which won an Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and Anthony Award, and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Left Coast Crime Award, Strand Critics' Award, and Library of Virginia Literary Award. She is also the author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, has published stories in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Mid-American Review, among others, and is the former editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, @TaraLWrites.
 
Social Links: 
Author website: https://taralaskowski.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TaraLWrites/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tara.laskowski.9

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Review: The House of Love and Death by Andrew Klavan

Author: Andrew Klavan
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Publication Date: October 2023

When a family is murdered in a wealthy Chicago suburb, English professor Cameron Winters asks the questions that the police aren’t willing to.

Professor Cameron Winters is well known for having a sense about crime. His background as a former spy and his current work investigating themes and motives in literature give him unique insight into why a crime might have occurred and who had the reason to commit it. Which is why he can’t resist getting involved after reading a puzzling news story about a wealthy family killed in the small town of Maidenvale. Three members of the family, along with their live-in nanny, were pulled from their burning mansion, already dead from gunshot wounds. The only survivor is a young boy whose memory of the event raises more questions than answers. The police seem to have settled on a simple explanation and the most obvious suspect, but something isn’t adding up.

While Winters’s investigation is welcomed by many who knew the victims, Inspector Roland Strange makes it clear he not only wants Winters to stop looking for answers, but to stay out of his town altogether. Winters begins to understand why as he slowly uncovers crimes and unsavory behavior that had been ignored long before the killings. But this only makes him more determined to find the real killer and expose the rot that is hiding behind the town’s sanitized fa├žade.


The House of Love and Death is the third book featuring Cameron Winter. He is a college professor and a former spy who has a knack for solving mysteries  This time around he reads about a wealthy family who were murdered.  Something about the case keeps bothering him.  He can't let it go, so he decides to investigate.

As with the first two, I really enjoyed Winter's adventure.  The msytery was solid with twists. That's about all I will give away about the plot.  I don't want to spoil anything. More than the mysteries in these book, I like spending time in Winter's world..  He is such an intriguing character.  With each book, more of his past and personality is revealed.  At the end of each, I'm kept wanting more. Have you spent time with Cameron Winter yet?  I highly recommend this one as well as the series as a whole.  I can't wait for the next one. 



Thursday, December 21, 2023

Spotlight: Excerpt from The Vacation by John Marrs

 


Author: John Maars
ISBN: 9781335006042
Publication Date: 12/19/2023
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
18.99 US | 23.99 CAD

How far would you run to escape your past?
 Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth. Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood. But for eight strangers at a beach-front hostel, there is far more on their minds than an extended vacation. All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…
This holiday-set read is a compulsive and addictive thriller, perfect for fans of T.M. Logan.

 
Buy Links: 
Harlequin 
BookShop.org
Barnes & Noble  
Books A Million
Amazon
 
Enjoy this sneak peek:


PROLOGUE


Venice Beach, Los Angeles 


    “That’s her,” the driver yelled to the three men waiting in the rear of the transit van. 

    He pointed a gloved finger in the direction of a slender woman walking along the sidewalk up ahead. 

    “You sure?” a gruff voice asked. “It’s pretty dark out there.”

    The driver was very sure. He’d watched carefully as his target walked with purpose in her high heels. He recalled her appearance an hour earlier as she made her way up a stainless-steel pole before slowly, seductively descending.

    “Yeah, man,” he replied. “You don’t forget a pretty little ass like that in a hurry, even from this distance.”

    He was confident their mark was completely oblivious to her impending fate. She stopped suddenly, searching for something that was seemingly wedged in her clutch bag; the streetlamps and neon shop signs illuminated the glitter in her hair. The driver lifted his foot slightly from the accelerator and dipped the headlights as he continued to stalk his prey. Meanwhile, his colleagues slipped black balaclavas over their heads and adjusted their bodies into position—one knelt with his hand gripping the door lever, ready to open it on command; another held plastic restraints, and the third clasped a hunting knife with a serrated blade.

    “Ready?” the driver asked. They grunted in unison. 

    The van sped up, but not so fast as to throw the hunters from the positions they’d rehearsed earlier that day. Then, as it pulled up alongside the woman, the door flew open and the first of her assailants sprang out.

    The man with the restraints was the first to reel backward into the vehicle as a bullet from her revolver tore its way through his shoulder blade, taking fragments of collarbone with it. 

    For a split second, the flash from the gun’s muzzle illuminated the van’s interior as she pinpointed two more would-be assailants poised to drag her inside. Twice more she pulled the trigger; twice more she heard the men screaming. The driver remained rooted to his seat, baffled by how off-kilter their mission had suddenly gone. They had been so confident of its success that there was no Plan B.

    “Go, man, go!” yelled a desperate voice as another bullet found its target. 

    Tires squealed as the van lurched forward, veering across the median and then crisscrossing back toward the sidewalk. 

    A combination of adrenaline and fury propelled the woman to kick off her heels and run after it, firing twice more and shattering its rear windshield. The vehicle clipped an LA Times newsstand, hurling newspapers into the air; they fell like large chunks of confetti.

    She fired one last time, but the van had already corrected itself and sped off out of range. Then she watched in horror as that final shot sent a stranger up ahead, carrying a backpack, sprawling face forward onto the pavement. 

    Time froze as the consequences of her last reckless bullet resonated. 

    She had just killed an innocent tourist.


Excerpted from The Vacation. Copyright © 2023 by John Marrs. Published by Hanover Square Press, an imprint of HarperCollins.




Author Bio: 
Photo Credit:
Robert Gershinson

John Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. His books include No1 bestseller and Netflix series The One, The Passengers, award winning What Lies Between Us and The Good Samaritan. Follow him at www.johnmarrsauthor.co.uk , on Twitter @johnmarrs1, on Instagram @johnmarrs.author and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/johnmarrsauthor

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

November/December Mini Musings

Quarter to Midnight:  This book was a bit long for my taste.  Even though it's a long book, the romance part was kind of insta-lovey.  I felt like there wasn't enough time to build up their relationship.  Despite all of that, I did ultimately like the msytery.  I enjoyed the characters.  I'll probably continue with the next book in the series.

Scarewaves:  This is a really enjoyable middle school horror book.  It would be a good way for younger readers to dip their toes into the horror genre.  I was sucked right in and thoroughly captivated. The characters were great. I loved how mismatched they were, they could come together to solve what is going on in the town. This is a great debut!

Truth or Dare:  I've had this one in my TBR for a while.  I'm glad I did end up reading it.  I loved how the couple got to be friends first.  I did thin that Tyler was kind of a dumb-ass when it came to the other woman.  How he didn't get that he was being played I will never know. Still the book had fun characters with lots of laugh out loud moments.  Check it out.

Suddenly a Murder:  This was another recent YA mystery that I wasn't a fan of.  A lot of it wasn't believable.  The whole scenario with the cop and her reveal was so far-fetched.  In the end, it was just meh.  

Monday, December 18, 2023

Review: The Haunting by Natasha Preston

Author; Natasha Preston
Publisher: Delacourte Press
Publication Date: September 2023

Haunted by the past . . .

Penny's trying to forget about her ex, Nash. His father was arrested for the brutal murder of four teenagers on Devil's Night last year. Penny's parents have forbidden her to have anything to do with Nash or his family. It's hard not to think of what happened as spooky season gets underway--but she's trying.

That stops when she goes to the Halloween store with her friends to find a costume. What she finds instead is ripped from a horror movie: a girl from school bleeding out on the floor of a dressing room. Stabbed.

Is a copycat killer on the loose? The adults are saying no. But Penny knows better.

The Haunting is the latest YA horror from this author.  A year ago, Penny's boyfriend's father was arrested as a serial killer who murdered four teens.  Now Halloween is coming up once again and Penny finds the first body.  Could it be happening again?  If so, who is the new killer?

I thought his was a fun YA slasher.  It reminded me of the slashers of the 80s and 90s, like the movie Scream.  I was kept guessing until he end.  That reveal is how you do a twist.  I really liked it.  I didn't love the cliffhanger though.  I will have to speculate that all ended up well in the end.  I also really enjoyed the characters.  The characters really enhanced the book.  I also liked that the parents were actually involved in the story. There is a romance, but it wasn't annoying.  I won't spoil this one. I do highly recommend it.


Sunday, December 17, 2023

Review: Thin AIr by Kellie M. Parker

Author: Kellie M. Parker
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: October 2023

Eight hours. Twelve contestants. A flight none of them might survive. A flight to Paris full of teenagers seeking opportunity turns deadly in this suspenseful, locked-door YA thriller. Perfect for fans of Diana Urban, Karen McManus, and Jessica Goodman.

Seventeen-year-old boarding school student Emily Walters is selected for an opportunity of a lifetime—she’ll compete abroad for a cash prize that will cover not only tuition to the college of her choice, but will lift her mother and her out of poverty.

But almost from the moment she and 11 other contestants board a private jet to Europe, Emily realizes somebody is willing to do anything to win. Between keeping an eye on her best friend’s flirty boyfriend and hiding her own dark secrets, she’s not sure how she’ll survive the contest, much less the flight. Especially when people start dying…

In Thin Air, a group of students are flying to France to compete for a scholarship that will cover their full tuition.  They all come from prestigious boarding schools.   Having to compete in games on the plane, the students soon find themselves fighting for their lives.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't really love this one. It's short, so that is why I finished it.  The story is told solely through Emily's point of view.  She isn't a very likable character.  She lied to get in the competition.  People are dying around her and all she can think about is if the cute boy likes her and if he will kiss her.  I mean, she kind of solves the case, so there is that. The rest of the teens weren't really any better.  The major issue I had with the book was the ending and the solution to the case.  It came out of left field and was really lame. I mean, there were zero clues that would help the reader solve it.  I wouldn't even call it a twist.  I won't spoil it, but I wasn't a fan.  I don't really recommend this one.  There are better closed room YA mysteries out there.



Friday, December 15, 2023

Spotlight: Excerpt from Fitting the Financier by Robecca Austin

 


by Robecca Austin
 
In this small town romance, a woman must find a way to keep her home, resist the charms of her best friend's father while dodging a nosey neighbor and avoid being caught under mistletoes. Readers who love rags to riches romance will enjoy Fitting the Financier by Robecca Austin, a steamy, small town, billionaire, age gap, IR romance.
 
 
Buy Now or Read FREE with KindleUnlimited!

 
She’s made for me.
The perfect combination of sassy, sweet, and sexy, with generous thighs to cushion my heartache. She’s also my daughter’s best friend, forbidden.
Despite my daughter’s wishes, I have no plans to visit the small town or partake in the festivities of mistletoes and pumpkin spice lattes this Christmas. For good reason. One look into her best friend’s stormy gray eyes and I’ll want no one except her to fill the void in my life.
But when Naomi needs my protection, how can I say no?
She thinks I’m helping her out of charity, but she’s wrong. I can crush bullies, and using that power is the distraction I need to break my desires for her.
 
 
 
Excerpt
Copyright 2023 Robecca Austin
 
“You’re staring.” He passes me a pouch.
“Am I?” The peanuts are warm in my hand. The scent of caramelized sugar tickles my nose.
“Now you’re flushing. If I didn’t know better I'd say you’re having naughty thoughts about the side of my digits.”
I choke on a nut. My eyes water. “I think the reference is to shoe sizes.” I make a point to glance at his snickers.
“Twelves, baby.” He wiggles a brow.
This time I chomp on the nut before it goes anywhere near my throat. “I was thinking your hands belong to a mechanic not a person working in city hall.”
“Give me half a chance and I can show you what these hands are good for.”
“Travis…” I flush, not because I’m a prude, but because despite the lovely evening, Charity’s dad is at the edge of my thoughts. I blame Charity for mentioning him, for convincing him to visit Candy Cane. Most of all, I blame myself for falling for a man who didn’t know I existed beyond being his daughter’s best friend.
“Get your head out of the gutter,” Travis says with a smile that I wished set my heart on fire. “I noticed you didn’t have any Christmas decorations up yet. Any later and the entire town will write to the big man himself.” He glances around him, then whispers. “Or worse, put a complaint in with the city.”
I groan. He’s only half joking. Candy Cane had a Chrsitmas committee of four grandmothers that took their positions as seriously as the mayor. There hasn’t been a change in membership since Carter was president and unless one died, their word is law when it comes to Christmas.
“I’ve just been—”
 “Hey, no need to explain.”
But I want to. Want to share my good news with someone other than Charity. “I recently received good news that will help my business.”
“That's amazing.”
“And nerve racking but it’s an opportunity to grow.”
“You’re not trying to let me down easily, are you?” He searched my face.
I shook my head. “No.” This is my chance to have a fresh beginning all around. It is definitely time I put a stop to this madness I feel for Nathan and get a hold of my love life. I realize that I went about my dating life the wrong way. Pushing Travis away or engrossing myself in work isn’t the answer to forgetting Nathan Dawan. Dating is. Nights like tonight are. We are at the end of the path. The end of a beautiful evening. “Sorry it took so long to make tonight happen.”
He paused, taking my hand. I stared at our hands. This was nice in a gentle, reassuring sort of way. My middle didn’t flutter from the mere thought of him and his name didn’t have my pulse racing. “You’re worth the wait Naomi Waters.”
We’re caught in a loop of staring into each other’s eyes. I will myself to relax, drown in the blue sea staring back at me but all I see are Nathan’s dark intense eyes that mimic the howling winds of a category four hurricane.
Travis leans in and my stomach flutters. The feeling is so unexpected that my eyes widen instead of closing in anticipation of our first kiss and I gasp. He tosses his peanuts aside to cup my cheek. My lips part to tell him to wait…that I’m not ready, but no words escape.
Not a single one.
The distance closes between us and I slam my eyes such, too afraid he’ll see my thoughts for another man in my eyes. The first kiss I’d shamelessly envisioned having with him.
“You really shouldn’t litter,” came an icy tone.
Shit. Shit. I’m even hearing his voice. Squeezing my eyes tighter, I pucker my lips like a tenth grader and concentrate on what is about to happen.
“Naomi!” Nathan growls, the sound bouncing behind my eyelids. I try harder to block him out. He’s only in your imagination.
I count to five and wait.
 

About Robecca Austin

Robecca Austin is the author of happy ever after romance stories. She enjoys crafting tales of sassy heroines and alpha heroes that have a soft center.
She writes historical romance and billionaire romance stories.
You can find her outside enjoying nature and lots of sunshine when there are no bugs. When she's not writing her next novel, she's busy battling Cystic Fibrosis and hugging family. She lives and works in Canada.
 
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