About the Author
Jennifer Greene has sold over 80 books in the contemporary romance genre. Her first professional writing award came from RWA--a Silver Medallion in l984--followed by over 20 national awards, including being honored in RWA's Hall of Fame. In 2009, Jennifer was given the RWA Nora Roberts LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. Jennifer has degrees in English and Psychology, and lives in Michigan.
USA Today bestselling author Barbara Dunlop has written more than thirty-five novels for Harlequin Books, including the acclaimed COLORADO CATTLE BARONS series for Harlequin Desire. Her sexy, light-hearted stories regularly hit bestsellers lists. Barbara has twice been short-listed for Romance Writers of America’s RITA award.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Being the deputy municipal clerk in her hometown of Tucker's Point, Maine, was usually a low-key job she enjoyed, but the stampede of people who'd realized it was the last day to register their vehicles would try the patience of a saint. And Delaney was no saint. Even after four years in the office, she had to brace herself for the panicked rush between the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
"Highway robbery if you ask me," Mrs. Keller muttered, slapping her checkbook down on the counter, just as she did every single year.
Delaney half expected the leather checkbook cover to creak and release a plume of dust and moths when the woman opened it. "How was your Christmas, Mrs. Keller?"
"I would have spent less on presents if I'd remembered you were going to rob me blind again."
Every year, Delaney thought again. "Did your grand-babies enjoy the holiday?"
Mrs. Keller's face, as worn and creased as her checkbook cover, softened. "They sure did."
"I heard Courtney had the croup again. Is she feeling better?"
"That baby takes after her mother," she said, shaking her head. "I swear my Becky spent half her childhood bent over a pan of hot water with a towel draped over her head. Now she has to do the same thing with Courtney."
By the time Delaney finished processing Mrs. Keller's registration renewal, the woman had forgotten her complaints and she even offered a "Happy New Year" on her way out. When you worked with the public in the town you'd grown up in, it didn't take very long to get everybody's numbers. Mrs. Keller had a reputation for being cantankerous, but she was a marshmal-low when it came to her grandchildren.
Ten minutes later, Delaney looked up to take the paperwork from the last customer of the year and almost laughed. Mike Huckins had a rumpled and frazzled look about him that went beyond the post-holiday haze the rest of the town was in. Having a two-week-old baby would do that to a man.
"Sandy called me in a panic," Mike said. "She totally forgot we had to register the car this month."
"At least you guys have a good excuse." Delaney took the handful of crumpled papers from him and smoothed them out. "How's Noah?"
"Loud. But he's doing good."
Mike sighed. "She's exhausted, of course. But she's doing good. You should stop in and visit for a while if you get a chance."
"I will. New moms don't get a lot of company."
"They sure don't. Brody's coming in Sunday, though, for an overnight visit."
Delaney froze, except for her fingers, which curled into fists and crumpled a paper she'd just smoothed.
"Sandy hasn't seen her brother since we all went to Vegas for our wedding," Mike continued, "so you can just imagine how excited she is."
Unlike Delaney, who hadn't seen him in the five years since his mother handed her the note he'd left, telling Delaney he loved her, but he was leaving town and wasn't coming back. So sorry.
But now he was coming back to Tucker's Point.
She went through the very familiar process of renewing Mike's registration while he talked about their new baby, but part of her mind couldn't let go of the fact Brody was returning to town.
Even through locking up the office and driving to the market, she couldn't stop thinking about him, which made her angry. He hadn't cared enough to tell her he was leaving town, so he wasn't worth thinking about. She'd done enough of that crying herself to sleep every night for weeks after he'd left. So he was going to his sister's overnight. Big deal. Delaney would simply put off visiting Sandy until she was sure he was gone and, since she planned to spend the weekend curled up in front of her television, there was no chance she'd run into him.
She was surprised to see how full the parking lot was, even for a Friday afternoon. Then she remembered it was New Year's Eve and figured there was a run on booze and snacks. Surprisingly, there had also been a run on bread and milk, she found as she wandered up and down the aisles a bit.
"Did the weather forecast change while I was at work?" she asked Cindy, the cashier, when it was her turn to check out.
Cindy rolled her eyes. "Not that I've heard. A little snow, but everybody's stocking up like the ice storm of '98's on its way back through."
"That was a doozy, for sure." And now that she was a volunteer for the town emergency shelter, should it need to be open, she hoped they wouldn't have another storm like that anytime soon.
She took the scenic road home, which took her along the coast for a few miles before turning back inland to the house she'd grown up in and had rented from her parents since they made the decision to move to Florida three years before. Driving calmed her and she desperately needed that. She needed to leave thoughts of Brody in her past, where they belonged.
Pulling off into a scenic area, she pulled a granola bar out of one of her grocery bags but, after a moment's hesitation, she traded it for the candy bar she'd bought on impulse. This day definitely called for chocolate therapy.
Unfortunately, off in the distance beyond the gray winter ocean, she could make out part of the roof of the Ambroise estate, which never failed to make her think of Brody. It was a beautiful place, set out on a jutting piece of land, and she used to daydream about winning the lottery and buying it. Brody could quit fishing and they'd fill the place with kids.
It hadn't worked out that way for anybody. Sophie Ambroise had passed away and, thanks to working in the town hall, she knew the place had been rezoned from residential to commercial. Somebody would turn it into a hotel, she thought. Brody had left town and Delaney certainly hadn't won the lottery.
With her mood matching the turbulent waves below her, Delaney pulled her car back onto the road and headed for home. She was going to spend the weekend with her television, a couple of good books and the gallon of ice cream that had simply jumped into her cart.
Come Monday morning, she'd go back to work and Brody would go back to wherever he'd come from. Life would go on.
The plan was simple. Fly into Portland on Sunday and rent a carupgrading to an all-wheel-drive model in deference to the snowand then drive into Tucker's Point. Once he'd done the ooh-and-ah thing over his newborn nephew, he'd spend the night and then drive right back out again Monday morning.
Brody Rollins didn't intend to spend one minute longer than he had to in his hometown. He'd left the place five years ago, and he hadn't thought anything could drag him back again. Then his only sister, Sandy, had her first child. Her need for her brother to see baby Noah had, over several phone calls, overcome his reluctance to ever step foot in Maine again.
Even though the "Welcome to Tucker's Point" sign was as familiar as the area it welcomed him to, Brody relied on the rental's GPS to guide him off Route 1 and through town. It was a blessing that Sandy's husband, Mike, worked for the town instead of fishing, so they had a small house in a residential section away from the harbor. Not the picturesque marina for the tourists, but the rough and dirty harbor the lobster boats called home. Sandy's residence wasn't necessarily in the postcard-pretty part of town, but it wasn't one of the run-down houses by the docks they'd grown up in, either.
He finally found the placea small, tidy Cape with green shutters, set back from the roadand pulled up the driveway, parking behind the well-used navy sedan Sandy had described. After killing the engine, he climbed out and stretched his back, inhaling deeply.
At least the frigid temperature and falling snow neutralized the smell. The briny air, reeking of fish and desperation, was so pervasive he'd bought himself all new clothes when he left town because he was convinced he could still smell Tucker's Point no matter how many trips he made to the Laundromat.
At the time he'd made do with stiff, coarse jeans and thin T-shirts from the discount store. Now his jeans were almost as soft as his merino-and-cashmere-blend sweater, and the soles of his boots weren't worn through. He didn't squander his money on fancy labels, but what he did buy was good quality and made to last.
Brody was halfway up the walk when the front door opened and, despite his reluctance to return to Tucker's Point, his heart squeezed at the sight of his sister. It had been two years since he'd seen her, and being a wife and new mother had changed her. She had the soft, rounded look of a woman who'd just had a baby, and her long, brown hair was pulled into a ponytail. She was a little pale and had dark circles under eyes the same soft shade of green as his, but he guessed that came with the new, first-time-mom territory.
She hugged him fiercely. "I can't believe you're here!"
"I've missed you." He squeezed her back, then chuckled when an angry shriek echoed through the house. "I guess it's time to meet my nephew."
Sandy led him to the bassinet set up in the living room and lifted Noah out. His volume level didn't go down any but his sister passed Noah to him, anyway. Brody held the tiny bundle of ticked-off baby, looking down into his face. It was red and scrunched up, and Brody thought he was cute as hell.
"He looks just like you do when you're hungry," he said, smiling at his sister.<...