MISTLETOE KISSES ~ A 9 Christmas Romance novel box set

Treat Yourself TodayIt’s here! Yay and wow! My brand-new River’s Sigh novella SILVER BELLS has hit the shelves.

One lonely highway and a brutal snowstorm. Two broken hearts and an accident. Can Bryn and Sean find lasting love in such random, fleeting circumstances?

Happy book birthday to me – and to the 8 other fabulous authors in MISTLETOE KISSES: Nancy Stopper, Christa Maurice, Maria Luis, Reese Patton, Susan Saxx, July Dawson, Kimberly Readnour, and Natalia Banks!

Lovely reviews are pouring in and I’m over the moon with all the kind comments and all the Christmas romance love! And I have to confess that with another holiday-themed romance box set coming out on Friday (A CHRISTMAS SHE’LL REMEMBER, which contains my River’s Sigh B & B novella ONE TO KEEP), I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. In fact, I’ve enjoyed getting into the Christmas spirit early so much that I think I might start my Christmas reading in October every year from now on. The nights are so long and dark, the weather so wet and dreary . . . it’s super fun to read things that are sweet, steamy and cheery. 🙂

Anyway, I hope you’ll get your copy MISTLETOE KISSES—especially while it’s just .99 cents! And if you’d consider leaving a review . . . Well, it would be a lovely early Christmas present for me. Thank you!

AMAZON ~ KOBO ~ iBOOKS ~ NOOK ~ GOOGLE PLAY

Mistletoe Kisses 99 cent ad 3

 

SPOONS, River’s Sigh B & B, Book 3 by Ev Bishop

HOORAY, IT’S LAUNCH DAY! 

EvBishop_Spoons_800pxThat’s right! SPOONS is ready for your reading pleasure. I’m beyond excited to share Cade and Noelle’s story with you, and I hope you love it.

There’s an extreme heat wave at River’s Sigh B & B, but things have never been colder between Noelle and her husband Cade. When has too much gone wrong for a relationship to be saved? Can shattered love ever be restored?

Buy SPOONS today: 

Amazon.com ~ Amazon.ca ~ Barnes & Noble ~ ibooks/Apple ~ Kobo 

*Paper books will be out in a few weeks, available through select bookstores and online*

 

Haven’t read the other books in the series yet? Don’t hesitate to start with SPOONS. It’s a great standalone read and then maybe you’ll want to grab the other books in the River’s Sigh B & B series, too. 🙂

Okay, buy your book, put on tea . . . and spend some time at River’s Sigh B & B! And thank you so much for reading!

 

 

5 more sleeps ’til SPOONS launches + a sneak preview!

EvBishop_Spoons_200pxAnd the countdown continues! Just 5 more sleeps ’til SPOONS, River’s Sigh B & B, Book 3 hits digital shelves everywhere (paper books to follow soon after). To celebrate and introduce you to Cade and Noelle a bit ahead of time, please enjoy chapters one and two!

SPOONS by Ev Bishop

~ Chapter 1 ~

Noelle’s girdle chewed at the flesh under her ribcage and the chub at the top of her thighs. And speaking of thighs, an itchy friction rash was forming. How on earth could her legs chafe when she wasn’t even walking? Good times. Sweat trickled under the unintentional cleavage bursting forth from the cotton V-neck she’d thought would travel well—thought wrong. Over the barren miles of highway, it became a stretched out, shapeless mess, like the rest of her come to think of it.

Eva and Emily, thank God, had finally stopped their incessant bickering and the manic buzz of some cartoon was the only sound blaring from the middle seat in the minivan. Normally she, and they, insisted they sit on separate bench seats, but the van was packed so full this trip, they had to share. The horror, the outrage!

When she was a kid, she and Melissa—Oh, God, sometimes the small, silly memories hurt the most, like her heart was being peeled—and their two brothers had traveled smashed into a big station wagon, sweaty legs sticking to the vinyl seats, miscellaneous elbows jabbing tender bits, not a gaming device or portable DVD player in sight. And yes, she used to walk to school up hill both ways, too. Her inner attempt at humor didn’t make her smile.

Noelle remembered those cramped road trips as happy times—or she did now, by comparison. Full of takeout chicken, raucous sing-alongs, and the glory of arriving at their destination, welcomed by their cousins and grandparents like they were long-lost, beloved relations, instead of people who lived just hours away and visited every holiday and random weekends too. So the beloved bit was true then, wasn’t it?

The white noise of the tires and the hazy blur of passing scenery didn’t have its usual soporific effect. Everything about this trip was the opposite of her family’s holidays those long years past. It was just her, the girls, and Cade. Except when punctuated by fighting—the kids’ or her and Cade’s—it was quiet. Dull, if she was generous. Joyless, if she was blunt.

And this second leg of their twenty-hour drive wouldn’t end with family fun to look forward to. Family would be there, yes, but at best, Cade and his parents and brothers tolerated each other. At worst, well . . . they were strangers, weren’t they? Cade had left after the last big blow out and said he was never going back. So why were they going to Greenridge? She’d asked, of course, but he’d just shrugged and muttered that a thirty-fifth wedding anniversary was nothing to sneeze at.

Noelle wasn’t so sure. Once she would’ve wholeheartedly agreed, but now she didn’t know if thirty-five years of marriage should be honored if it was the loveless, soulless union her in-laws were mired in.

She sighed heavily. Man, it was hot. So hot. They should’ve stayed one more night at the hotel and got the air conditioning fixed. She glanced at Cade. His knuckles were white on the steering wheel, and his well-muscled arms were taut. He always reminded her of a Viking or something, bear-like in size, with tawny hair, skin that turned honey brown with even the slightest sun, and glacier blue eyes. She hated that after all they’d been through, she still thought he was the most attractive man she’d ever met. Did he even look at her anymore? Did he see her at all?

She sighed again, but Cade didn’t so much as blink to register she’d made a sound. Nothing new there, either. When had he stopped asking if she was okay? Ah, well, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t like she was beating down any doors to find out what latest thing was stressing him out. And in some ways she didn’t blame him for kyboshing the extra hotel night to fix the air conditioning. It wasn’t the expense, not at all. Of all the marital stresses they could lay claim to, money issues weren’t one of them. It was sharing confined space that was tough. The hotel only had one room left, and even though they’d slept in separate beds, Emily tucked in with her, Eva on the couch, the room was awkwardly intimate.

She shoved the last thought away and wondered, not for the first time, if their financial ease wasn’t almost a curse itself. She had appreciated and fueled Cade’s determination to get ahead, but what if that hadn’t been their primary focus? Scraping by financially took a toll on a relationship, yes, but maybe the reverse was true, too. Maybe too much affluence had its own price. Maybe if they hadn’t been so focused on money and accumulating things, they would’ve risen to the challenge of being each others’ source of pleasure, comfort, entertainment, etc. and avoided this complete disconnect. No, she was just making excuses. For them both. As usual.

She fidgeted. Cade still ignored her, his eyes intent on the road. How was it, she wondered, with him always focused on where they were going, that they’d gotten so far off track?

She turned her head, willing away tears. Trees, trees, and more trees whipped past. How was she going to make it through the next month? And why did Cade insist on them staying for so long? If his reasoning behind the trip was unsatisfactory, his explanation for the trip’s duration was bizarre—especially timing wise. Who announces a big family vacation right after his wife asks for a separation?

“I just don’t get it,” she’d said for the umpteenth time before they left. “Pretending for a moment I understand your burning desire to have your first visit home in years coincide with some big dramatic anniversary shindig, why on earth does it have to be for so long? It’s way too much, and the kids will miss the first weeks of school.”

His response had been weary and resigned, like he considered talking to her some almost-too-heavy cross to bear. “I just want one more vacation with the girls while they’re young. Is that so much to ask? I want them to visit their grandparents, to get to know them a bit, before everything changes.”

Noelle’s eyelids were heavy and she was finally, mercifully, about to nod off when a bouncing motion in the backseat jolted her back to consciousness.

Emily was twisting in her seatbelt, peering at something out the window, and vibrating with excitement in that way only small children can, going from dead asleep to high alert in a heartbeat. “That was the sign. That was the sign!”

Her high-pitched glee sent a fire bolt of pain into Noelle’s brain.

“We’re almost there, Mom. Right, Dad?” Emily yelled at top volume.

“Inside voice, please,” Noelle said, about to add that yes, it was exciting, but Cade interrupted.

“She’s just happy. She’s not hollering to bug you.”

“Yeah, Mom. I’m just happy,” Emily parroted, and Noelle wanted to leap out of the vehicle. Cade was still talking to the girls.

“Just wait ‘til you see this place, guys. You’ll love it.” Cade’s voice couldn’t have been warmer—and it hammered yet another nail into the coffin of their marriage. Noelle knew it made her a fundamentally bad person, or at least the kind of person she didn’t want to be, but she was jealous of her daughters. No matter how things deteriorated between her and Cade or how distant he was from her, he was always there for his kids with every fiber of his being. It was one of his good qualities too, of course, but sometime in the past year or two she’d been left out and hadn’t been able to get back into the circle.

She wouldn’t change his love and support for the girls one iota—that wasn’t really necessary to say, was it? She hoped it wasn’t. Maybe it was something she needed to repeat like a mantra. You do not begrudge your children their father’s love. You do not begrudge your children . . . and she didn’t. She really didn’t. But she also didn’t like how he so easily and so consistently undercut her authority. Sometimes they’d even look at him after she’d issued a direction, as if to confirm that yes, they had to listen to her. And all too often he did what he’d just done now: joke it away or dismiss it, like he was somehow defending them from her when whatever she was asking for was perfectly reasonable.

If you’d told her in their early years together that one day she’d curse—or envy, at least—the very thing she loved most about him, she would’ve called you an idiot or worse.

She struggled upright, grabbed a container of citrus-scented wet wipes from the floor, and waved them over the backseat.

“Wake your sister,” she said as Emily took the wipes. “And clean your face and hands and straighten your hair. We don’t want Nan and Pops to think we’re a bunch of ragamuffins.”

Was it her imagination or did Cade grip the steering wheel even tighter? What did he want from her? She was so sick and tired of always having to guess what was crawling through his head.

In the backseat, Eva scrubbed her eyes blurrily.

“Don’t!” she shrieked as Emily jabbed her in the ribs.

“Mom told me to wake you up.”

“I’m already awake, stupid.”

“Don’t call me stupid. You’re stupid.”

And with that oh-so-witty comeback, the fight was on. Doing her best to tune out the rising volume of sisterly love—they were completely impervious to her pleas for them to knock it off—Noelle flipped the van’s sun visor down and surveyed the damage in its small mirror. She attempted to smooth her heavy auburn hair and to blot away the feverish heat in her cheeks.

The girls’ bickering increased. Great, just great. Even if, by some miracle, the family didn’t think they rolled in looking like a complete mess, it would be harder to hide they were a grouchy, broken disaster.

Why did the best things in life always turn out to be fiction? True love. Happily ever after. Teleportation machines. What Noelle wouldn’t give for a Beam me up, Scottie moment. What.

~ Chapter 2 ~

The oval sign loomed huge and unavoidable to their right. “You won’t be able to miss it,” his younger brother Callum had promised and as usual he was right, Cade thought gloomily. Still, the sign was attractive. To him anyway. He wondered if it was Noelle’s taste at all and a familiar leaden weight pushed in on him, making it hard to breath. But how long had it been since he’d had any clue what his wife wanted, what she liked, what would make her happy? Years maybe. Shouldn’t he be used to it by now?

As he turned into the long driveway, he slowed the minivan and studied the sign more closely. It was made from carved cedar and featured two mountains topped with glinting tin that looked like snow-topped peaks. A yellow sun rose up behind them. Block letters announced River’s Sigh B & B along the bottom. Somehow the effect was both artsy and businesslike. Cade wondered if his mother was behind its creation.

He shot a glance at the girls in the rearview mirror. They were squabbling as usual, but had listened to their mom and straightened their clothing. Eva was pulling her ebony curls—hair that always reminded him of his brother Callum’s—into a ponytail. Emily was scrubbing at the orange Slurpee stain that ringed her mouth. When had Noelle gotten so concerned about appearances anyway? He missed the woman who used to decorate with wooden plaques that said things like, “If you’ve come to see me, welcome. If you’ve come to see my house, make an appointment!” and who let the kids dress themselves no matter how outlandishly they did it. But she was gone because of him, so what could he really say?

He knew he overcompensated with the kids, was too soft which forced Noelle to be too hard. She was always the bad cop. He wasn’t even a cop. But after the battlefield that was his childhood with his dad, all he wanted was to keep the peace. He didn’t share every negative thought he had. He didn’t get enmeshed in long, pointless conversations about their problems. But instead of harmony in their home, it seemed to create the opposite.

And now they were on “holidays” with her suggestion that they separate, made just days earlier, burning a hole in his gut. She’d called it a “trial,” but he knew full well, even if she hadn’t voiced it out loud, what she really wanted was a divorce. She was just biding her time. He wanted to punch a hole in a fucking wall thinking about it—but, of course, he didn’t. He wasn’t like his dad. Not in all ways, at least. He could control himself. And he would. Why couldn’t Noelle see that? He was always working so hard to keep things together. Always.

“Wow,” Noelle said suddenly. “It really is gorgeous here, isn’t it?” The awe in her voice was cute and made her sound, for the briefest second, like the woman who used to love him.

The whole van went silent, as they each took in the ancient forest surrounding them. Massive cedars reached for the sky, some of them so big that Cade didn’t think the four of them, holding hands, could make a loop around their trunks. Other assorted conifers also crowded in, and random names came back to him. Hemlock. Spruce. Jack Pine. Fir. He was shocked by the variety of needle shapes, colors, and textures. How had he forgotten what a forest looked like? He’d grown up in Greenridge, for crying out loud. A leafy plant with jewel red berries drew his eye to the forest floor and its velvet carpet of gleaming moss.

Cade wasn’t an outdoors guy, not really—he spent his time obsessing about room dimensions and floor space—but he found himself wanting to get out of the van and rub some of the bark or touch the moss. He didn’t though. Instead he sped up. And then they were there, pulling up in front of a cedar shake home with a huge porch and old-fashioned multi-paned windows.

“Oh, look at the door!” Emily squealed. “I love it!”

Eva agreed with her sister for once, and they chattered on, pointing out log cabins visible here and there through the trees. Cade studied the bright blue door and wondered at it. Why paint it such a glaring, impractical shade? A neutral color would be better, less out there, more appealing to the masses—and Callum was running a business, after all. Maybe it was a gender thing. Maybe the color was the mysterious new wife’s idea—this Jo woman his old man couldn’t stand. Probably.

The door opened and Callum strode out, one hand raised in greeting, the other linked with the hand of a short woman with wild curls and a welcoming smile.

Cade almost restarted the van and threw it into reverse. This wasn’t the place for them. It was too cutesy. Too overtly cozy and cheerful. It would only highlight everything he and Noelle no longer had, everything they weren’t. It wouldn’t help her see they’d once had something good, something they should try to salvage.

It was too late though. Eva had pushed the release button on the side door, and she and Emily were piling out.

What had he done?

He patted his chest pocket and felt the reassuring outline of the letter folded there. At least he had a back up plan if this one failed, right?

Noelle climbed out of the van just as slowly as he did. Her forehead creased and her wide brown eyes narrowed. The weight on his chest increased. A huge desire to be anywhere but here might be the only thing he and his wife had in common anymore.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Read the whole story Tuesday, February 9!

7 more sleeps . . .

EvBishop_Spoons_800px

Exciting news! As hard as it is for me to believe, January 2016 is over and February is upon us. And what does that mean? Well, that the launch date for River’s Sigh B & B, Book 3 is right around the corner. 😉

That’s right. SPOONS hits digital shelves (with paper versions to follow shortly) on Tuesday, February 9. Just seven more sleeps!

I’m really excited about this book, and I know some of you are impatient for it, too. (Yay!) I can’t wait for you to enjoy it.

So without further ado, here’s the official blurb – and to further whet your appetite, watch for chapter one soon. I’ll post it here in just a few days.

 

 

SPOONS, River’s Sigh B & B, Book 3
By Ev Bishop

There’s an extreme heat wave at River’s Sigh B & B, but things have never been colder between Noelle Archer and her husband Cade.

Dragged there for a reunion with Cade’s screwed up family, Noelle is confused, resentful—and considering divorce.

Noelle never would’ve predicted she’d be trapped in a loveless marriage, but Cade’s more distant and aloof than ever, plus she’s sure he had an affair. What other choice does she have? Husbands who cheat don’t become faithful, and wives who put up with it become bitter and lonely. She won’t have that for herself, and she won’t model that for her children.

Cade has always clung tightly to Noelle, his beloved daughters, and their life together. He’s not good at expressing himself, but he’s been confident, even cocky, that if he’s strong enough, works hard enough, provides well enough, Noelle will know how he feels. But now one moment of stupidity that wasn’t what it appeared has wrecked everything. He wants her to believe in him the way his parents and brothers never have, with no explanations necessary—but maybe that’s unfair.

He’ll swallow his pride. He’ll find the words. He’ll do anything to fix their relationship. But what if it’s too late? Can shattered love ever be restored?

Get SPOONS Tuesday, February 9, 2016!

 

ONE TO KEEP awaits!

EvBishop_OneToKeep_1400pxMy latest River’s Sigh B & B novella is ready for you!

Buy it here:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ iBooks

Please consider leaving a review wherever you buy ONE TO KEEP–and please share this post. I’d love more readers to discover and enjoy River’s Sigh B & B. 🙂

New Year’s Resolution: ONE TO KEEP

It’s been two years since Sophie was dumped at the altar, and she’s scarred, but wiser. She has a career she loves, good friends, and a caring family. It should be more than enough, and she wants to vanquish the part of her that still craves something more.

This year, unable to bear one more “festive” get together where everyone gives her sad eyes and asks how she’s doing, she heads to River’s Sigh B & B, a picturesque spot she discovered online. It will be a New Year’s celebration for one, a place to unwind and kick off her new resolution: to embrace single life as a permanent choice.

Jesse Ales has found the perfect way to avoid the world this holiday season. He’ll be the caretaker at River’s Sigh B & B and enjoy a break from well-meaning friends who think he should be over his ex-wife. The whole place will be deserted, except for some eccentric old woman holidaying alone in the wilderness. Even after making her breakfast every day, he’ll have plenty of time to plan his new life: committed bachelorhood.

When chance throws Sophie and Jesse together in a pub, and a night of alcohol, food, and laughter-infused lunacy almost leads to a one-night stand, they’re both shaken, but doubly resolved to remain single.

And then they meet again at River’s Sigh and realize they’re about to spend a week alone together—twenty miles from their nearest neighbor. They’ll each have to face their worst fears: their own unacknowledged yearnings for a love that lasts.

Can love tempt them to commitment a second time around?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Haven’t read my other River’s Sigh B & B novels? No worries, like all the books in the series, ONE TO KEEP is a perfect standalone. That said . . . You can always get a jump on your cozy winter escape reading and check out WEDDING BANDS or HOOKED today!

EvBishop_WeddingBands#2_200px Amazon ~ Kobo ~ iBooks ~ Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

EvBishop_Hooked_800px Amazon ~ Kobo ~ iBooks ~ Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

p.s. I’ve had inquiries regarding SPOONS, River’s Sigh B & B, Book 3. . . . Don’t worry, it’s still coming, I promise. It was initially slated for a November release, but that’s been changed to February. I hope you’ll be just as excited for it then! In the meantime, get your River’s Sigh B & B fix and take a break with my cozy, fun holiday story, ONE TO KEEP. 🙂

ONE TO KEEP can be yours to keep!

EvBishop_OneToKeep_1400pxMy latest River’s Sigh B & B novella is coming, and I can’t wait to share it!  

Buy it online Tuesday, December 15, or sign up for my newsletter and get it as a free gift! Please spread the word. 🙂

New Year’s Resolution: ONE TO KEEP

It’s been two years since Sophie was dumped at the altar, and she’s scarred, but wiser. She has a career she loves, good friends, and a caring family. It should be more than enough, and she wants to vanquish the part of her that still craves something more.

This year, unable to bear one more “festive” get together where everyone gives her sad eyes and asks how she’s doing, she heads to River’s Sigh B & B, a picturesque spot she discovered online. It will be a New Year’s celebration for one, a place to unwind and kick off her new resolution: to embrace single life as a permanent choice.

Jesse Ales has found the perfect way to avoid the world this holiday season. He’ll be the caretaker at River’s Sigh B & B and enjoy a break from well-meaning friends who think he should be over his ex-wife. The whole place will be deserted, except for some eccentric old woman holidaying alone in the wilderness. Even after making her breakfast every day, he’ll have plenty of time to plan his new life: committed bachelorhood.

When chance throws Sophie and Jesse together in a pub, and a night of alcohol, food, and laughter-infused lunacy almost leads to a one-night stand, they’re both shaken, but doubly resolved to remain single.

And then they meet again at River’s Sigh and realize they’re about to spend a week alone together—twenty miles from their nearest neighbor. They’ll each have to face their worst fears: their own unacknowledged yearnings for a love that lasts.

Can love tempt them to commitment a second time around?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Haven’t read my other River’s Sigh B & B novels? No worries, like all the books in the series, ONE TO KEEP is a perfect standalone. That said . . . You can always get a jump on your cozy winter escape reading and check out WEDDING BANDS or HOOKED today!

EvBishop_WeddingBands#2_200px Amazon ~ Kobo ~ iBooks ~ Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

EvBishop_Hooked_800px Amazon ~ Kobo ~ iBooks ~ Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

p.s. Did you notice it’s snowing on my blog? How perfect! 🙂 🙂

Get Hooked! :)

EvBishop_Hooked_800pxWow, it’s been a busy few weeks! How can summer almost be done? *Wails!* Ah, well . . . at least the sun has returned. I will just have to do my very best to suck as much fun and delight out of every warm day we have left. (The sacrifice, the sacrifice, heh, heh! :D)  *Rushes off to pack for the lake*–and on that note, if you’re looking for a reading treat for the beach blanket, campsite, cozy corner of your yard or lamp-lit recliner on the couch, consider HOOKED. It’s getting great reviews (for which I’m incredibly grateful) and is a perfect end of summer read.

Here are the first two chapters. I hope you get Hooked. 😉

Hooked by Ev Bishop

~ Chapter 1 ~

Sam was fresh from the shower, barefoot and dressed only in a robe. She wrapped her arms around herself and turned in a slow circle. Five stars or not, a hotel room was always just a hotel room, wasn’t it? It was beautiful with its teak four-poster bed, matching highboy and desk, and snow-white linens, but generic nonetheless.

She settled into the leather wingback chair, the room’s best feature in her opinion, and put her feet up. A niggle of surprise tickled her as she uncapped a pen and reached for her spiral bound notebook. Who’d have thought? Samantha Kendall using a diary. But she couldn’t help it. The movement of her hand across page, the scent of the paper, the process of filling the sheet with the mess in her head—slowly at first, then so fast her hand cramped—soothed her and helped her see more clearly than she had in a long time. Her life, once so beautiful and busy, felt empty. Come to think of it maybe that was the appeal of the journaling. She filled something. Created a tangible mark that she was here. That she lived.

The coffee pot on the desk across the room sighed and sputtered.

“Ah, my faithful friend,” she whispered, then got up, doctored herself a mug of the dark espresso blend, and settled down again.

She sipped her hot drink and drummed her fingers on her notebook. What to say, what to say?

She paused, drank more coffee, and ran her fingers through her damp hair. Finally she began to write.

Sheesh, three pages minimum is going to take hours today.

But it didn’t. By the time she had two cups of caffeine in her, she’d churned out her minimum, plus another three pages—yet she wasn’t calmed. She was edgier than ever. She scanned the last page, bit her lip and barely resisted the urge to tear the sheets loose and throw them away.

There’s nothing I hate more than my sister being right about anything, but I have to hand it to Jo. She is right about this, and the pros and cons I wrote yesterday confirm it.

I always figured Aisha would reenter my life at some point, if only, like seems to be the case, for medical information and “closure.” (How I hate that damn word!) I just thought I’d be at a spot in time, personally and professionally, that I could be proud of—or at least not a bloody embarrassment. But at the same time, I guess it’s not about me, is it? (Ha ha, quick, someone tell Jo I actually said that!) I would’ve done anything to have someone to talk to, when I was stuck in the same boat Aisha’s in, so how can I refuse her request to meet?

My two biggest fears: that she’ll ask about the asshole who fathered her. (What can I say about him that won’t just be a huge ugly shadow over her?), or that she’ll hate me—which is pretty hilarious because I definitely don’t want her in my life permanently.

That was the line that stopped her. She shook her head, crossed the last line out, drew an arrow, and scribbled furiously.

That she’ll hate me, which I’ll totally understand, or worse, want something I don’t have to give her. All of my love for her went out the door with her the day I gave her a chance for a better life. (Not that it seems to have panned out—but don’t even get me started!) And what if she does want a relationship? I have no frigging clue what I’ll do.

Samantha closed the book, and stashed it in her suitcase.

She paid special attention to her outfit and did her makeup and hair just so, but it wasn’t until she sprayed a light mist of perfume in front of her and walked through it that she admitted she’d made up her mind.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. She’d return to Greenridge. She’d see if she could be of any help to Aisha and answer any awkward questions her biological daughter had.

And then, so long as Jo and Callum were willing to let her monopolize one of their B & B cabins—and why wouldn’t they? Her cash was as good as anyone’s—she’d spend some concentrated time figuring out what exactly she wanted next and why her life, which she’d always enjoyed, wasn’t enough for her these days.

She cocked her head, smiled at her reflection in the mirror, and nodded approval at both the image she projected and her new thoughts. She was an excellent planner and there was no reason she couldn’t get herself back on track. And once she had a new direction, she’d leave Greenridge in the dust and never return. The place was a black hole. In lieu of a welcome sign at the beginning of town, there should be a plaque that read, “Abandon all hopes of having a life, ye who enter here.”

And if Jo wanted to visit now and again? Well, she’d have to sojourn out of her hobbit village and head for the city. Sam was done with the ghost town of bad memories. She was sick of the family-focused “great place to raise kids” motto that everyone in town seemed to spout. Not everyone had kids or even wanted them. And she was beyond weary of how the place reminded her that except for her one solitary sibling, Jo, she had no family. Everyone was dead. There’d be no TV movie worthy reunion or redemption scene. Greenridge was like one big beer commercial for all the things she didn’t have. And didn’t want, she reminded herself.

~ Chapter 2 ~

Charles tripped over the stuffed-to-bursting rucksack he’d stowed by his office door and stared at the ringing phone like it might bite. The call display showed T.C.O. Literary Management all too clearly, and unfortunately his agent Theresa, the “T” in T.C.O., knew he was home. After all, he’d just sent an e-mail seconds ago admitting it. He sighed heavily and picked up.

“Theresa, hi. Good to hear from you.”

“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, and get real. You knew that e-mail wasn’t going to fly.”

“But—”

“And no buts.” Her voice softened. “I feel for you. You know I do. And I’m on your side even if it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s time, Charlie. Past time. And if you can’t see that, maybe it’s time to rethink your career.”

Charles sank into his office chair and rolled back and forth across the room. He didn’t want to “rethink” his work. He loved what he did, what he wrote. Or he used to. And anyway, it wasn’t like he hadn’t considered doing something else. Just absolutely nothing came to him that didn’t sink him even more deeply into the mire of apathy and disillusionment he seemed unable to pull himself from. And now, with Aisha living only God knew where and insisting she was staying there to have her baby, he didn’t even have the occasional bright spot of her presence.

“You’ve used up all your reserve books, even your earliest ones that were previously unpublished for pretty good reasons. It’s just a good thing some readers don’t care what you write as long as the story says Jax Bailey on the cover.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“Oh, you know what I mean. Don’t get pissy. I love your books. You’ve earned reader loyalty, but even diehard fans are starting to grumble on the Interwebs. You can only play the dead wife card for so long before people start to think you need to get over it.”

Charles managed to not throw the phone across the room, but only just.

Theresa seemed to sense she’d crossed a line. “Sorry, that was crass. Obviously, healing isn’t an easy one, two, three process. I know you’re doing the best you can, just barely hanging on, and I know it will take time—but I’d hate to see you lose everything you worked so hard to build.”

Too late. Everything he’d worked for died when Maureen did. Still, Theresa wasn’t the enemy and she was on his side. He knew this. He also knew he’d probably exhausted every possible extension. He made a decent living, and Maureen’s life insurance had paid off the mortgage and left a little besides, but not enough to see him through life—and definitely not enough to provide ongoing stability to Aisha and her little one, should she decide to keep it. And he was a young(ish) man still. Forty-four was nowhere near the time to retire even if it felt closer to eighty these days.

“They need a new book, or, and it’s pretty nice of them, almost human in fact, they’ll forgive the contract without penalty, but if you ever want to write for them again, it’ll be like starting new.”

Perish the thought—and no, that wasn’t melodrama. “How long?” he asked.

“I got you six months, but that’s it, final offer, last extension.”

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay?” Even though their connection was a little static-filled, the surprise in Theresa’s voice was loud and clear. “Just like that you say okay?

“Do I have a choice?”

“No, but I still thought you’d be a harder sell.”

They wrapped the conversation up quickly from there, and Charles was careful to sound more positive than he felt. Six months, if he was his old self, was more than enough time to get a solid book to his publisher. But he wasn’t his old self, and didn’t think he ever would be again. Maureen had been gone three years, yet in some ways it was like she’d passed away yesterday, the grief would hit so fresh and raw. In other ways, however, it was like she’d left a lifetime ago, which, hard as it was, was sort of the truth. Neither his nor Aisha’s lives were the same. They had new existences altogether, as if their time on earth had been divided into separate realities: Life with Mo. Life without her.

He stood up, scooted his chair under his desk and turned off his computer, then grabbed his laptop. He was sick of himself and the endless woe-to-me pool he wallowed in. Even his self-pitying thought about everything he’d worked for dying when Maureen did wasn’t fully honest. Only half of what he worked for and lived for had passed on when she did. He still had their daughter, and who knows, maybe a grandbaby too.

He hit the lights and hefted his bag. Soon, with any luck, he’d be in a better writing space and headspace. For a moment he wondered if he should’ve told Theresa his plan, then shook his head. Where he spent his time wasn’t her business and she’d just worry. Besides, though she’d be skeptical, he could write—or not write—just as easily in the boonies as he could at home.

And if Aisha was intent on setting up a temporary home in Greenridge, wherever that was, with this aunt whoever she was, in the hopes of connecting with her birth mom—who back in the day had seemed level-headed, but now he worried was a callous flake . . . well, he wasn’t going to just abandon her to the wolves and wilds. He’d take up residence in one of the cabins that were “so far beyond cool that he couldn’t possibly imagine how cool they were,” to quote Aisha, and support her in whatever ways he could. She was the only family he had left, and if anything came between them, damaged their relationship, or hurt her, it would be over his dead body.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

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Have a fantastic weekend! I hope it’s filled with outdoor fun, lots of laughter with good friends or family, and great reads. (All things I’m shooting for today too! :D)