This book is the second in the Sweetwater Springs series of stand-alone books by this author.
Former bad boy, Travis Baxter, has a reputation to live down, a job to do fast, and one woman he can’t seem to avoid. He’s starting a 24/7 renovation flip on Claire’s beauty salon when a surprise appears at his door . . . a three-year-old son. Immediate custody brings Travis a major problem. He needs a nanny.
Claire Larkin glimpsed a rare and appealing side of Travis during one ill-fated date, but her personal policy is no involvement, no strings. Not even a pet until she’s pronounced cancer free. With free time until her salon is done, Claire pitches in to help the grieving little boy and stunned father. Despite her best efforts to resist, she and Travis succumb to their attraction.
When it appears Claire’s cancer has returned, she pulls away and Travis is faced with a seemingly impossible decision. Protect his son from another loss or support the woman he’s come to love?
Warning: This book contains hair salon gossip, hunky construction workers, sex in the shower, sudden humor and it might tempt you to gorge on pizza and brownies. Even so, at certain points the reader may wish to keep tissues handy.
Fans of Marie Ferrarella, Tanya Michaels, Leanne Banks and Susan Mallery will enjoy this series, which contains sensual romance against a backdrop of family and community.
Book 1: A Suitable Wife (Rosie and Sam), January, 2014
Book 3: His Small Town Princess (J.T. and Cass), coming soon
Other titles are planned for this series.
Setup: Travis is renovating a portion of the salon Claire works in. In this scene, she’s leaving work late …
Exiting the salon into the deepening twilight, Claire could barely discern one long jean-clad leg hung over an opened tailgate. She stepped closer and saw its twin bent at the knee. Both were motionless.
She peered over the side of the truck bed, at maximum stretch because of the height.
Travis lay flat on his back, eyes closed, mouth slightly open.
Cautiously, she stepped around the open tailgate and took another look.
He was totally relaxed, two bottles of water lying by his side, one half empty.
Although they were into May already, the evenings still held a chill. She shivered, pulling her oversized sweater together and crossing her arms. What was he still doing here? It had been over an hour since his talk with LouAnne. Why hadn’t he gone home?
Her car was parked right beside his truck. Surely he’d rouse when she started it. If not, she’d honk at him.
Yeah. Definitely better than calling his name and risking getting trapped into one of their verbal sparring matches. Way better than nudging him awake, which would entail actually touching him and getting trapped.
A longing rose in her, so strong it created a physical ache. Why had he gone and ruined her perfectly good plan for a no-strings, brief affair?
She stood her ground, watching a few seconds longer, satisfied he was indeed breathing. As she turned to go, a loud snore erupted from between his slightly parted lips.
She shrieked, her heart slamming against her ribs.
He jerked upright, eyes wide and disoriented.
Her pulse slid into overdrive when he hopped to the ground and stood very close, his gaze canvassing their immediate area.
“Why did you scream?” he demanded.
“Yes. You did. It woke me up.”
“You woke yourself.”
“You’re saying I screamed?”
“No. I’m saying you snored.”
“And woke myself.”
“That’s crazy. If I snored loud enough to wake myself up I wouldn’t get much sleep, now would I?”
“Maybe you don’t.”
“Damn right I don’t.” He nodded curtly, then frowned. “Wait. I don’t snore, or I don’t get enough sleep?”
“Obviously you snore. You just proved it. As for the sleep, I wouldn’t know. But if you’re getting plenty, why were you lying in a truck bed snoring and in an alley, of all places?”
He was staring at her with an incredulous expression, then his gaze shifted, falling below her chin, across her shoulders and the arms she’d recrossed under her breasts. If it was possible, his eyes widened even further.
“What do you have on?”
She lifted her chin, assuming her haughtiest expression. “A sweater.”
“Is that what you call it?” He walked a slow circle around her while she pretended not to cringe in embarrassment.
She kept the odd-looking garment in the storage room for nights like this, when it turned chilly and she forgot to bring a jacket. Usually it was too dark for anyone to see her dash to her car or upstairs and into her apartment.
Made of a very loosely stitched crochet, it had foot-long strips of cloth in a myriad of patterns and colors knotted through the yarn loops and left to hang.
“Is it at least . . . warm?”
“Why else would I wear it?” Oh sure, give him more ammunition, why don’t you?
Enough! “Okay, fine. It’s ugly. It’s hideous. But it’s also a handmade, one-of-a-kind item by a woman who was my . . . friend. It’s my sacred cow, and I’m keeping it.” Granny Jo had been more than that. So much more. But Claire couldn’t think about the truth she’d learned too late. It still hurt too bad.
At some point in their exchange, the street and security lights had come on. After her declaration, Travis covered his mouth with the back of his hand and cleared his throat noisily. His eyes were suspiciously bright, and not from the light shining in them.
His shoulders began to shake, and he got red in the face.
He wheezed. He coughed, his eyes growing brighter.
Just when she was sure he needed her to perform the Heimlich maneuver, he burst into laughter.
She rolled her eyes to let him know she wasn’t amused. Not in the least.
He laughed harder, huge gasping guffaws of glee, his eyes filling.
With as much dignity as she could muster, she turned and marched over to her little car. As she located her keys in the roomy tote, she shot him a look of disdain. Unfortunately, it was wasted, seeing as he was bent double and holding his sides, still laughing and trying to catch his breath at the same time.
Served him right. She hoped he hyperventilated and passed out. The big galoot!
While unlocking her car door, she found her mouth twitching. Good heavens, had she actually used the words sacred cow? As if the ugly garment were something to be protected and honored.
She valued the sweater because of who made it, and because it was the one thing ever made specifically for her.
She pulled the door open and tossed her tote inside.
Behind her, Travis valiantly—and noisily—tried to pull himself together.
“I’m going now,” she called over her shoulder. “Are you okay to drive?”
He lifted an index finger in a silent request to wait as his breathing returned to normal and the last of his glee subsided.
Why was she waiting? Of course he could drive. It was time to go home for a nightly routine that had surpassed boring a long time ago.
Travis could’ve already been home. Yet here he was. She turned to him, her hands propped on her hips. “Why are you still here, anyway? This is an odd place to nap.”
His gaze shot to the truck bed and back to her. “I, ah, thought you might be leaving soon. I had something I wanted to say.”
“About what?” she asked warily.
He hesitated, rubbing a hand across his jaw as if he needed to think about how to approach her.
She knew it. Extend one little olive branch in the form of taking his side, and now he probably thought she liked him again. That’s what she got for thinking they could return to being, if not friends, then civil.
This was not going to be pleasant.
Carol Burnside is an award-winning author of the Sweetwater Springs series of contemporary romance with serious sizzle. Her personal second-chance-at-love story resulted in a marriage to her high school sweetheart of thirty-plus years. Also published in short stories, Carol’s novel length manuscripts have placed in numerous contests and won five, including the prestigious Maggie Award for Excellence.
Writing as Annie Rayburn, she produces soft sci-fi and lite paranormal erotic romances which have been favorably received. Talk about cross-genre! Enjoy excerpts, review snippets, and more about her sexy Crainesian characters on her website or connect with her on www.PetitFoursAndHotTamales.com.
Connect with her online via her website or email her at Carol@CarolBurnside.com.
Carol is giving away an e-copy of Her Unexpected Family. Must comment to enter. Winners picked by random.org.