Tag Archives: #Lastmanstanding

Another LAST MAN STANDING bites the dust! THEO by @suzanneWinslow #LMS #sweetromance

These guys of the LAST MAN STANDING series are dropping, one by one – and in the very best way! Today, I’m introducing you to THEO, by Suzanne Winslow, a high-flying LMS with a love ’em and leave ’em past. And just when he least expects it, that past catches up with him

Take a peak at THEO ( LAST MAN STANDING)

Theo Thomas chose his aviation career over love. A confirmed bachelor, he’s the last unmarried man among his closest peers. When a Southern California heat wave coincides with a power outage, he’s forced to his friends’ house. He’s surprised to discover their housesitter is the woman who’d forged his opinion on marriage seventeen years ago. 

Chief Information Officer Emma Wilson never gave up on love, but try as she might, she hasn’t found anything close to what she felt for Theo—despite hard feelings on both sides. When a new job takes her back to California, she dreads the possibility of seeing him again. So of course, fate lands him right on her doorstep.  

As grudges fade and resentment slowly turns to forgiveness, Theo sees life offering him a second chance, but Emma isn’t a starry-eyed girl anymore. She’s a woman who knows her worth, and this time, Theo will have to fight for what he wants.

Excerpt:

      A familiar, unexpected voice asked, “Is everything okay?”

   Theo’s heart punched in his chest. “Emma?”

   “Theo?” Her sharp tone clearly told him she held him responsible for what was happening.

   Officer Perez narrowed his eyes at Theo. “Do you two know each other?”

   He couldn’t believe she’d called the cops on him. Or, maybe he could.  “Her name’s Emma Wilson. She knows the people who live here too.”

   “How many people have keys to this house?”

   Theo shrugged. At least one more than he knew about.

   A few seconds passed before Emma came outside ahead of the other police officer. She wore an emerald green bikini, a silver naval piercing, and pale pink polish on her toes. Her hair was shorter and straighter than he remembered. It was pulled back into a ponytail the same chestnut brown as the eyes that still occasionally featured in his dreams. As she got a little closer, he looked away, but not before glimpsing more of her than he had seen in a very long time. She stopped short a few feet away, clicking her fingernails, avoiding eye contact with him too. He didn’t blame her. Not after what he’d said the last time they were together. They hadn’t spoken since. Last he knew, she was an IT director in Detroit. Oliver usually told him when she was coming to California, but not this time. When their eyes finally met, she folded her arms over her stomach, trying to cover herself. All the movement did was show off her cleavage. His eyebrows lifted at her futile effort.

   She glared at him.

   Perez frowned. “Is everything okay?”

   Theo answered yes the same time as Emma.

   “Okay, then.” Perez held out his hand. “Let’s see your driver’s licenses.”         

Website:

https://www.suzannewinslow.com/

And check out all the men who are falling fast – in love!

The LAST MAN STANDING crew.

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GAVIN ( Last Man Standing) sails into your heart today! @kathrynHills #sweetromance #LMS

It’s release day for another of the wonderful LAST MAN STANDING series books – and today’s addition is from my dear friend and award-winning writer Kathryn Hills.

Meet….

Gavin

Sometimes making waves is the only way to chart your true course.

Gavin Hart’s intentions are noble. He’s putting all his energy and every penny he’s got into the marine science education program he devised with his grandmother, a world-renowned environmentalist from Cape Cod. Big boat, special equipment, and a crew of salty characters—everything is ready to launch. All he needs is the backing of his influential family. Turns out that’s the one thing he won’t get—unless he agrees to settle down and marry the woman of their choosing. A self-proclaimed bachelor for life, he’s never been tempted. That is until he meets Sophie.

High school science teacher Sophie Martin is only subbing in town for a few months. Yet the allure of the Cape—its nautical charm and off-season ambiance—has her wishing she could stay longer. Not to mention she’s falling for a local man with a heart of pure gold. They have a lot in common, including a passion for inspiring young minds. Too bad her days there are numbered. Plus, her boyfriend back home is hinting at a ring. Should she return to her previous life? Or is she brave enough to upend everything and take a risk on a man she barely knows?

Excerpt

Students spilled out into the hallway, and Sophie followed, shutting off lights, and locking the door behind them.

Laura Adams—her best friend and fellow teacher—sauntered up beside her. “Fancy meeting you here, Ms. Martin,” the sassy woman teased. “Well, tell me, how was your first week teaching high school science?”

The two women walked together toward the gymnasium, dodging teenagers, flung-open locker doors, backpacks, and sporting gear.

“I was nervous at first, but now I’m much more confident. The kids are all great.”

“Hey, hey, hey, no running in the halls,” Laura bellowed at a group of boys, speeding past them, shoving one another. She glanced Sophie’s way, instantly switching gears. “Some of us are going out tonight. You should come. I’ll introduce you to some nice guys. We’re meeting at the Galley Hatch.”

At first, the invitation appealed to Sophie, yet the idea of being introduced to “nice guys” made her balk. Laura was a notorious matchmaker, and that was the last thing she needed. “I shouldn’t. I promised my aunt I’d spend time with her since I’ve been gone all week. I think she’s having a hard time adjusting to being alone all day again. She keeps talking about adopting a cat or a talking bird.”

“Oh. Bummer. Offer stands if you can get away. Text me, and I’ll save you a seat.”

They entered the gym together and lingered in the double doors.

“Impressive,” Sophie said, adding a sigh of relief when she saw her class wasn’t climbing the walls. “Nice turnout of exhibitors.”

Laura casually looked around. “You should check it out since it’s your first time. Make the rounds with your kids.”

“I think I will.” Sophie went to leave, yet she ran smack into someone rushing past them with a box.

“Whoa! So sorry,” the person was quick to say.

She stepped back, and her gaze fell upon the one person she never expected to see up close and personal. “You,” she said in disbelief.

Hunky boat guy tipped his dark-haired head. “Do I…know you?”

The smooth, masculine sound of his voice washed over her like a warm summer wave. Sophie blinked up at him, her mortified expression reflected in his mirrored sunglasses. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

“Miss… Are you okay?” A sexy little smile turned his lips.

Surprised laughter bubbled out of Laura. “Who’s this?”

The man set his box down and removed his shades.

Both women gaped.

Crystal blue eyes. Stark against his suntanned skin.

“Gavin Hart. I’m exhibiting today. Well, I’m supposed to be. As per usual, I’m late. Can either of you ladies help me find my table?”

“Sophie will,” Laura blurted out, and she gave Sophie a little shove in his direction.

Gavin’s smile widened showing bright white teeth. “Excellent. Thank you, Sophie.”

She spun and narrowed her gaze on Laura. “What about my kids?”

Laura shrugged. “They’re fine. You’re fine. This man is obviously fine.”

********Real Heroes Inspired This Book

New releases are always exciting. However, this book’s birthday is super-special because GAVIN – LAST MAN STANDING was inspired by true heroes. Those dedicated to introducing middle grade and high school students to marine science and the challenges facing our oceans today. So, come on… Meet the real-life and future Gavins and Sophies of the world. I know you’ll be inspired by them, too!

Zephyr Education Foundation is a non-profit ocean science and technology education program based in Woods Hole, MA. They offer unique opportunities to learn about science, research, technology, and career paths in ocean science. Since 2010, over 17,000 kids have experienced their scientific cruises on Vineyard Sound. 65 trips with over 1,200 students so far this year alone! Programs are hands-on, modeling actual operations conducted at the world-famous marine science research institutions in Woods Hole.

Visit Zephyr Education Foundation to learn more!


Buy Link:  https://www.amazon.com/GAVIN-Last-Man-Standing-Book-ebook/dp/B09ZSPTSXC

Genre: Sweet Romance / Clean & Wholesome

Note: This is an Amazon Exclusive book currently available in Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Print formats.

About Kathryn Hills

Hauntingly romantic… Unless she’s writing sweet!

The rich history and many mysteries of New England are the perfect backdrops for many of KATHRYN’s books. Winding roads lined by old stone walls, forgotten cemeteries, grand homes with shadowy pasts…all sparks for her imagination. Whether it’s a quaint seaside town or the vibrant city of Boston, it’s easy for this “hauntingly romantic” author to envision the past mingling with the present. No surprise, some of Kathryn’s favorite stories include ghosts! Sprinkle in some magic, and you’re off on a great adventure.

When not writing, this best-selling author is reading, researching, gardening, or cooking up something special in her chaotic kitchen. She shares her colonial home in the north woods with those she loves most – her wonderful husband, daughter, and three crazy dogs.

Find Kathryn Hills Online

* Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon Author Page

* BookBub * Goodreads

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Meet CHANCE MILLER from CHANCE ( Last Man Standing) #MAP #preorder #sweetromance

So I have to tell you, I love a sexy lawyer hero.

I mean, who doesn’t?

CHANCE MILLER, divorce lawyer extraordinaire, knows the whole happily ever after dream is an urban myth. He deals with miserable and wedded warring couples every day and swears staying single keeps him sane and happy. His friends and family consider him the last single man standing and fear he’ll never find someone and settle down. But Chance relishes his carefree status and unencumbered lifestyle and has no plans to change anything.

If only his relatives would stop trying to set him up with their version of the perfect woman.

Here are a few things you need to know about this hunky barrister :

~ a secret about his parents has formed his thoughts on relationships

~ he feels obligated to his extended family

~ he is addicted to coffee

~ he has a sweet tooth – and for more than just sugary baked goods!

~ he doesn’t see himself as good husband-material

~ he adores his younger sister and would do anything for her

~ he secretly hates his job

~ he’s excellent at his job, which makes hating it a conundrum

~ he likes kids

Want to learn more about this sexy Last Man Standing? CHANCE releases on 9.12.2022 but yu can preorder your copy here, now: CHANCE (LMS)

And check out all the other LAST MAN STANDING books in the series – all books are STAND-ALONE romances.

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And another #LastManStanding bites the dust! Today, it’s BAXTER by Kathleen Lawless

The next man to fall is BAXTER REID. Today, Kathleen Lawless‘ book released to rave reviews. Check out this feisty and set in his way film director.

BAXTER ( Last Man Standing)

Film director Baxter Reid is used to giving directions, not taking them!

Especially from April Thomas, who has been hired by Baxter’s agent to enhance the director’s less than illustrious social standing to help place him in the running for an Oscar-worthy film project he’s after.

Baxter is everything April dislikes. Cocky, arrogant, disdainful of women. Or has the media deliberately portrayed him that way? Either way, she has her work cut out to give him a social media makeover.

Reluctantly, Baxter goes along with April’s regime to improve his image, but when a smear campaign comes to light and they work together to trace its origin, surprises catch them both off guard.

Excerpt:
Inside the sound stage, April looked around at what appeared to be organized chaos with people in headsets clutching clipboards, running back and forth. “I don’t see Baxter Reid.”

       Mike, Baxter’s agent, flashed her a dazzling look. “He’s uh, he’s tied up for a bit.”

       April’s gaze narrowed. “But he is expecting me.”

       “Not exactly.”

       “Hmmph.”  April crossed her arms over her chest. Just then, the decibel level dropped. Holly Snow, media darling and star of a recent hit movie appeared with Baxter on her heels.

       “She looks smaller in person.” April had lived in LA long enough to not be starstruck every time she saw a celebrity. No matter how famous, stars were just people, more often than not wearing a fancy façade to disguise their insecurities.

       “I don’t know his secret, but Bax makes her look bigger on screen.  Otherwise, viewers would know her stunt double does all the real work.”

       “Is it true Baxter Reid never hires female stunt people?”

       “They call them stuntmen for a reason.”

       April spun to face her client. How had he managed that?  Come up behind them without being seen.

       “You know I don’t appreciate strangers on the set.” He spoke to his agent but his eyes were taking her measure.  ‘Not pretty enough to be an actress’ shifted to, ‘what are you doing here with Mike?’

       “Hopefully you two won’t be strangers for long,” Mike said.

       “Latest Tinder date?” Baxter drawled.

       “Revitalique,” Mike said.

       Baxter’s brow furrowed. “Is that a new dating ap?”

       “Not.” April didn’t appreciate being talked about as if she wasn’t there.  “It’s an agency specializing in image makeovers.”

       “Good,” Baxter said. “Mike could use one.” He turned as if to leave.

“I’m not here for Mike.” 

       Baxter did a half turn, waiting.

April met his gaze straight on. “I’m here for you.”

And check out all the LAST MAN STANDING BOOKS here: LMS

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A new #LastManStanding book from Lucinda Race; #sweetromance #LMS

The next book in the LAST MAN STANDING series is out today from acclaimed author Lucinda Race.

BARRETT

Has the last man standing finally met his match?


Attorney Tallie Dorz has heard the rumors circulating through the halls of justice about the devastatingly handsome Judge Barrett Turner. As rumor has it, no woman has ever lasted longer than a couple of dates with this eligible bachelor. A chance meeting at a mutual friend’s house piques her interest. With one long, simmering look from the enigmatic jurist, she’s captivated and wants to crack his cool facade and melt his heart.

Barrett Turner has it all; a reputation as a respected judge, money, and good looks. What he doesn’t have is someone to share his life with. He’s the last man standing among his group of close friends. A brief encounter with gorgeous attorney Tallie Dorz changes all of that. The first time he sees her he’s captivated; the second time is during a meeting for a group of lawyers, and the third occurs when she appears before him in court. So much for the third time being the charm. There’s no way he would risk becoming involved with an attorney who handles family law. As captivating as she is, he won’t risk an obvious conflict of ethics.

Tallie helps another attorney by appearing, along with his client, in Judge Turner’s courtroom—her one and only appearance in family court before returning to her specialty of corporate law. Even though the judge with dark brown eyes scowled at her from the bench, she can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have him across the dinner table. Much to her surprise, Barrett calls her and asks her to have lunch, and she eagerly accepts.

When a case she’s working on puts a target on Tallie’s back, Barret realizes his feelings are more intense than just his usual fling. He vows to not let anything stop him from keeping her safe and, ultimately, winning her heart.
Can two career-minded professionals open their hearts to a lifetime of love?

Excerpt:

One Year Earlier

Barrett Turner stood and held up his hand as the wedding guests quieted down. “Hello. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m Carson’s best man, hence the tux.” A smattering of laughter rippled across the room and he swept an arm toward the table for two where the bride and groom sat. Then he nodded with a wide grin to the next table that held his four best friends and their wives. 

With a wink to Carson and Beth, he said, “Everyone thought Carson would never find a woman to love him enough to put up with his buddies. I’m happy to say somehow not only did he find someone who loves pancakes as much as he does, but she’s the only woman who’s made Carson happier than I’ve ever seen him. So, Beth”—he kissed his fingertips and waved them in her direction—“welcome to the family.” She gave him a happy, tear-filled smile and crossed her arms over her chest as if she were giving him a hug.

 “When Carson and I met our freshman year of college, I never thought we’d be gathered here today. Especially since, as the years went by, we voted him the most likely to be the perennial bachelor. I guess, as of an hour ago, that title has officially been passed to me and I’m now the last man standing. Beth, I’m thrilled to say you married a man I’m proud to call one of my best friends, and Bethy, just remember when you said yes to Carson, you got all five of us, plus the amazing women who said yes to our buddies; we’re a package deal.” 

Carson kissed his new bride’s cheek and she laughed. “Barrett, I knew what I was getting into, but thanks for the reminder.” 

“I’d like to propose a toast to my very good friends Carson and Beth on your wedding day.” He lifted his water glass a little higher and said, “Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Baker. May you have many happy years ahead. Oh, and I’m available for babysitting but only after the kids are potty-trained.”

The room was filled with well wishes for the happy couple. Barrett took his seat and looked at his friends and then at Carson and Beth. He really was the last man standing, but it was a title he’d happily give up in a heartbeat if he could only find someone who had that special something he’d been looking for. Ever since law school, he knew he wanted to have a more traditional life. And like so many things in his life, he wouldn’t compromise on who she was. He was holding out for a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. And if he never found that deep connection, he’d be single forever. His buddies had found their someone special so there was still hope, but approaching forty made him realize that his chances were dwindling for marriage, kids, the dogs, and the oversized SUV sitting in the driveway.

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The #LastManStanding series starts off with a bang! MITCH, by @nancyfraser

I’m so excited to be part of this fabulous new series.

The first book is out and it’s a surefire winner from my pal and writing maven, Nancy Fraser.

Meet…MITCH

At thirty-five, Mitchell Pierce has everything he’s ever wanted. An award-winning architect with his own firm, he collects expensive cars, owns a luxury ocean-front home, and a vacation condo on San Padre Island.

The only thing intruding on his idyllic life is the realization that the majority of his closest friends have married, and had children, which seriously impacts his Sunday football parties with the guys.

Haley Charles is the newly hired project manager at Pierce and McKenna, Architects, one of the city’s most prestigious firms. At twenty-eight, she’s the youngest member of the management team, and determined to make a good impression on the bosses.

When a rush request comes in from one of the firms most valued clients, Mitch has to cover for his honeymooning partner. With the majority of the staff already assigned to ongoing jobs, he finds himself working overtime with the new, and disturbingly attractive, project manager.

Will the late nights and a few shared kisses have him rethinking his bachelor status? Or, is he truly going to be ‘the last man standing’?

And don’t forget to order the Last Man Standing cookbook, GAME ON SNACKS.

All the proceeds from the recipe book go to the WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT

Game On Snacks … every confirmed bachelor’s Sunday spread!
Twenty-eight delicious recipes. Everything from Appetizers to Sweet Treats.

A companion cookbook to the sweet romance series, Last Man Standing.
Fourteen award-winning, best-selling authors bring you fourteen stubborn men, and the food they love!

Will our fourteen feisty heroines be able to keep up with the fellows’ appetites?

All proceeds from this cookbook will be donated quarterly to The Wounded Warrior Project.

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Photo of the day, day 216

And here’s the rest of the tease….hee hee. Have you preordered CHANCE yet? Let me help you with that:

CHANCE ( LAST MAN STANDING)

Chance Miller, divorce lawyer extraordinaire, knows the whole happily ever after dream is an urban myth. He deals with miserable and wedded warring couples every day and swears staying single keeps him sane and happy. His friends and family consider him the last single man standing and fear he’ll never find someone and settle down. But Chance relishes his carefree status and unencumbered lifestyle and has no plans to change anything.

If only his relatives would stop trying to set him up with their version of the perfect woman.

Fredrika Poole already experienced her one great love, and the widow can’t read any future romance in her tea leaves. She’s content to bake, run her business, and care for her daughter.

When Chance meets Freddie and discovers her marriage thoughts run on the same road his do, he realizes she’s the answer to his prayer for keeping the relatives at bay. But the pixie barista has a way of making Chance question everything he’s always thought about love, marriage, and wedded bliss.

Will his last man standing status go unchallenged? Or will Freddie be the one woman he wants…but can never have?

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Photo of the day, day 215

A little teaser of what’s coming soon…

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#SaturdaySnippet CHANCE (Last Man Standing) #sweetromance #fakedating #commitmentphobe

Who knew fake dating seem so…real?
From the upcoming CHANCE ( Last Man Series) addition:

Chance had the limo wait while he rode the elevator up to Freddie’s third-floor apartment. The building, a post-second world war brick edifice had seen some wear on the outside, but the interior was well-maintained and clean. No doorman stood duty so he located the apartment buzzer next to the name Poole, as she’d instructed, and once bid entry, found the single elevator.

The apartment door opposite the elevator opened as soon as he alighted from it.

“You must be Chance,” a woman he knew without a doubt was Freddie’s mother said. “I’m, Annika, Fredrika’s mother. She’s running a little late and asked me to greet you. Come in, come in.”

The apartment ran true to the original design. Railroad track rooms, one after the other off a long, spacious hallway. Hardwood floors that had seen many feet trample over them were, surprisingly, shiny, the wood glowing brightly. Photographs lined the hallway walls from one end to the other. He recognized a teenaged Freddie with her arm slung around a sullen, younger Lindsey.

“Well, look who it is. Mr. French Roast and a corn muffin.”

Chance grinned at the teen as she sashayed into the wide living room Annika had led him to.  At her side she held the hand of a small girl with red hair mimicking her mother’s and grandmother’s and startling blue eyes now wide with interest as they perused him from head to toe.

“You’re tall,” she told him. “I’m Dawn. I’m five.”

He crouched down in front of her and held out his hand. “How do you do, Dawn? I’m Chance. I’m thirty-nine.”

She glanced at his hand, but didn’t shake it, instead declaring, “You’re old.”

“I know,” he said, rising and sighing theatrically. A tiny tug pulled on his lips. “Some days it’s a wonder I can get out of bed.”

“Mommy says you’re taking her to a party.”

“I am.”

“And that I can’t come ‘cuz it’s a grown-up party. That’s not fair.”

“Life’s not fair, peanut,” Lindsey said as she lifted the child in her arms. “Get used to it while you’re young.”

“Lindsey Marie, the things you say.” Annika shook her head. To him, she said, “Fredrika will be right out. She got involved with something and lost track of the time. Would you like something to drink? We have water or I can offer you beer.”

“He drinks coffee, ma,” Lindsey said. “Buckets of it.” She rolled her eyes as she plopped down on the couch with Dawn still in her arms. The child giggled as they bounced.

“I’m fine, thanks,” he said.

“So, Fredrika tells me you’re a lawyer.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I think I would have made a good lawyer,” she said, nodding, a smile tripping across her face. “I like a good argument.”

From the couch, he heard a muffled, “No lie,” and clamped down on the laugh that threatened to seep from him.

“Okay, I’m ready. Sorry.”

He turned and simply lost his breath.

Gone was the ponytailed, overall-wearing, sneaker-shod barista he’d come to know. A vision in deep green had taken her over.

The simple, short-sleeved dress fell from her shoulders to cascade in a simple line to her waist, then flared out to billow just below her knees. Since he’d only ever seen her hair pulled up and back, high on her head, he was shocked at how long it was hanging free and loose about her in a tumble of waves. She’d gone simple on her makeup but managed to look fresh and utterly alluring. A tiny-heeled shoe completed the outfit.

She’d never looked less like someone named Freddie.

“You look lovely,” he said, finally finding his tongue.

Releasing 9.12.2022.

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#ThursdayTease CHANCE #preorder #Fakedatingromance

I haven’t done one of these in a while and when I woke up I remembered today was Thursday, so…

From my upcoming addition to the LAST MAN STANDING series, CHANCE, dropping on 9.12.2022. Here’s a little something between the h/h to whet your preorder appetites!

“I’m so sorry about this,” Chance told Freddie as he pulled the car into traffic. “Nothing short of coming down with the bubonic plague was going to be a good enough excuse to get out of today. And if I told her I was sick she would have come straight to my apartment to check on me. Probably would have sent her private doc to visit you if we’d said you were afflicted. I’m so sorry,” he said again.

A quick glance across the front of the rental car showed him she wasn’t showing any signs of being angry or put out. In fact, he ventured to think it was the opposite. She looked resigned to it and content.

“Don’t worry about it.” She turned to glance at her daughter who was secured in the booster seat behind them, holding an iPad and with earphones in place. “I wasn’t doing anything today buy baking for tomorrow anyway, and I already got a head start on that this morning.”

“Still, I feel, well, guilty about all this. If I’d never asked you to pretend to be my girlfriend in the first place you wouldn’t have been ambushed into coming along today. My only hope is that after this they’ll leave me, us, alone.”

He remembered saying the same thing after the anniversary party and look how that had backfired.

“It’ll all be fine,” she said. “Where’d you get the car, by the way? I thought you didn’t keep one in the city.”

“I don’t. I rented it for the weekend. It was easier than depending on car service, plus, this way we can leave as soon as we want without having to wait to be picked up.”

Freddie’s laugh filled the cab. “We haven’t even gotten there yet and already you’re planning your escape.”

“It pays to plan ahead,” he muttered.

Why wasn’t she angry? Or at least put out by the situation? He was. In spades.

But saying no to his family wasn’t something he could do. He felt obligated to abide by his aunt’s wishes no matter how much they inconvenienced him.

 Freddie, though, had no obligation to his family. And yet, here she was, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, going to a dinner that was sure to be emotionally trying, her daughter in tow, and acting like it was no big deal at all.

The more he came to know the woman the more intrigued he was by her.

Traffic, unfortunately in his eyes, was sparse and they made it over the bridge to his aunt’s Brooklyn brownstone in record time.

When he found a parking spot on her street he started to feel like some cosmic force was conspiring against him, making everything easy today so he’d be forced to stay longer than he wanted.

Freddie took Dawn out of the booster seat and once the child was on the sidewalk between then, she slipped her tiny hand into his, the other in her mother’s. Something shifted in his chest when he looked down at the little redhead and she smiled up at him.

“Mommy,” she said as they made their way up the stoop steps to his aunt’s front door. “Did you make enough cupcakes for me to have two?”

“We’ll see,” Freddie said. “It depends on how many people are here and how well you do with eating your dinner.”

“I’ll be good. Promise. I just hope they don’t have carrots.” She looked back up at Chance. “I don’t like carrots. I don’t like any orange food.”

He pressed her hand and said, “Me, neither.”

“Really?”

Her wide, blue-eyed wonder, made him laugh. “Can’t stand them.”

“Wow. I thought all grownups ate carrots.”

Chance rang the doorbell. “Not this one.” He took a deep breath when the lock shifted.

“Relax,” Freddie said.

“Impossible.”

The door was thrown open wide and his aunt pulled him into her arms, then pushed him away to do the same to Freddie. When it was Dawn’s turn to receive the exuberant welcome, he felt her body press against his leg, her little hand still holding tight to his. In a heartbeat, he picked up her so she wouldn’t have to be engulfed in his aunt’s killer grip and said, “It smells great in here. When are we eating?”

He caught Freddie’s dramatic eye roll as she presented the box filled with the cupcakes she’d baked to his aunt.

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