RELEASES Feb 1!
This handyman can fix anything, except her broken family.
Only In His Sweetest Dreams
For a bunch of reasons--mostly my own beleaguered organizational skills--this duet releases two weeks apart. The first book, Not In Her Wildest Dreams, releases Jan 15th and this one is Feb 1.
In fact, the first half of 2017 is one release after another for me. This falls under the heading of 'Nice problems to have.'
Mostly I'm just super thrilled to have these two books finally running free in the wild. I wrote them over ten years ago and I've always loved the characters. I hope you do, too!
~ * ~
Back Cover Copy
When Mercedes Kimball’s sister abandons her children, Mercedes takes in her confused niece and nephew, jeopardizing the job she loves at a retirement community. The sexy new handyman’s bedroom eyes promise to fix anything, but he can’t fix this.
L.C. Fogarty is trash, not Father Of The Year, but he’s happy to be Mercedes’s sounding board. Given their white-hot attraction, he’d love to see what they could do to a headboard, but he’s keeping a secret she won’t forgive. Confessing means facing untold heartache and going back to where he never belonged. He’d rather stay with Mercedes and her misfit family.
She might not get to keep that family, though. Which means she’s going to need him.
Her phone vibrated as Mercedes Kimball had finally settled her niece and nephew and was turning in herself. Reaching from her sister’s futon to the coffee table, she muttered, “That had better be you, Porsha.”
She knew it wouldn’t be. Porsha would text, not wanting to risk an actual conversation. And texting would be a miracle at this point.
When Mercedes saw the call display read Coconino Vista, she hurried to accept the call. “Hello?”
“Mercedes?” an aged, female voice asked. “Boys have broken into the empty Fairmont unit. The police are here. I know you asked Harrison for another week, but we need you back immediately.”
“Mrs. Garvey,” Mercedes breathed in recognition and pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to snap her overloaded brain into work mode. The Fairmont unit. Vandals.
“Is everyone all right?” She thought of heart conditions and little dogs barking an alarm. Brittle-boned legs stumbling down dark hallways to investigate.
Mrs. Garvey didn’t answer. She was speaking to someone, saying, “I have Mercedes on the phone now.”
Ayjia came to the end of the hallway, rubbing her eyes. Porsha’s nightgown slid off her bony shoulder and the hem puddled around her feet. “Is it Mommy?”
“Pardon?” Mrs. Garvey asked, coming back.
“I’m just speaking to my niece,” Mercedes said. “The phone woke her.”
The fact that the five-year-old had been so on guard for voices that she’d come out right away told Mercedes how distressed Ayjia was at her mother’s prolonged absence.
“The sirens have awakened the entire community,” Mrs. Garvey said stiffly. “The boys were caught, thank heavens, but they had matches. They could have burned us to the ground.”
“There was a fire?” Mercedes sat up and flattened a hand over her T-shirt, trying to contain the leap of her heart.
“Where?” Ayjia’s eyes widened.
“At my work.” Mercedes forced a calm tone. She didn’t have the luxury of freaking out right now. Waving Ayjia to come sit beside her, she asked Mrs. Garvey, “Is the fire still burning? Where are you?”
“The police caught them in time.”
“So there’s no fire?” She should have known Mrs. Garvey was exaggerating. She was an alarmist, always thinking the worst.
Mercedes hugged Ayjia anyway, needing the comfort of her warm, wiry body. If anything had happened to anyone—
“So everyone is okay? Is the complex damaged? The unit?”
“The unit needs repair, as does the back fence. That fence should have been rebuilt long ago.”
Mercedes bit back a huff. She’d been trying to get the budget for the fence repairs past the board for months. “I’ll see to it the minute I get back.”
“Later tomorrow is fine,” Mrs. Garvey said. “It needn’t be your first priority. Other matters will require immediate attention.”
“Right. Um...” Mercedes glanced at the girl snuggling into her side, the weight of her head leaning against the side of her breast. “But as I told Harrison, the kids have school this week.”
Mrs. Garvey’s silence held such thick censure, Mercedes cringed.
“You were supposed to be back last week,” Mrs. Garvey said in her schoolmarm scold. “You should be the one speaking with the police right now.”
“Porsha assured me she was on her way.” But that had been Thursday and here it was Sunday. What were vandals doing out on a school night? At least on a Friday she could have packed up the kids and gone straight back to Flagstaff.
“You’ve used all of your holiday time, Mercedes,” Mrs. Garvey reminded.
“I know. I’m taking this week without pay.” Mercedes held her breath, hoping that would appease Edith Tightfist Garvey.
“But you’ve used all your time. This isn’t another situation like Christmas, is it?”
“Of course not.” Porsha wouldn’t do that to her. Mercedes cuddled her niece closer so Ayjia relaxed and her eyes drifted shut. Porsha wouldn’t do that to her kids. She wouldn’t dare. Mercedes had made it clear that once was too much, especially on top of all those weekend disappearances.
In her ear, Mrs. Garvey spoke to someone else again, her thin voice muffled. Mercedes imagined the senior pressing the receiver to whatever sweater set she’d chosen for a consultation with the police. Never mind the record temperatures Arizona was setting this March, or that potential arsonists had pulled her from her bed at half past nine. She would still be dressed in a light wool skirt, nylons, and orthopedic shoes.
A male voice roughened by a lifetime of whiskey and cigarettes came on the line. “Mercy?”
Oh, no. Was the entire Administrative Board standing there? Some of these people she just couldn’t say no to.
“Hi, Harrison.” She sounded like a sheepish teenager who’d missed curfew. She cleared her throat. “Sounds like a bit of a circus there.”
“Three rings, my girl. Wish you were here.”
Code for Get your ass back home. Ouch.
“Wednesday?” she pleaded. Surely she’d be able to track down her sister by then. If she couldn’t, she was calling child welfare. This time she really meant it.
No, she didn’t, she decided just as fast, cradling a protective hand over Ayjia’s fine hair. After a really scary bout in foster care herself, she’d sworn her niece and nephew wouldn’t experience anything like it. But she dreamed of threatening her sister with it. Porsha needed to wake up.
Harrison filled her ear with a deeply pained sigh. “That the best you can do?”
In the background, she heard Mrs. Garvey working herself into a lather. “She needs to be here now.”
Mercedes winced. “It’s that bad?”
“It’s not that it’s so bad, Mercy-girl. It’s that we’re so damned old. The coppers want us to inspect the damage, but I left my glasses back on the counter and really can’t be bothered walking all that way to pick them up. Pete ought to bring his notes from that inspection we did last fall, but he took one of his nappy pills. Shirley is barely getting a pulse out of him. Mrs. Yamamoto says the little shits seem like nice boys and ought to be given a second chance, but Edith wants ‘em castrated and stewed in oil. We could use your steadying presence.”
Guilt and concern weighed heavier. “I could drive down after school tomorrow.”
More silence, the ominous, disapproving kind.
“Harrison, they’re children.” Mercedes begged for understanding. The seniors were adults. She knew who couldn’t survive without her.
On the other hand, she couldn’t exactly buy groceries for herself or her sister’s children if she didn’t have a job. She would need her life at Coconino Vista when Porsha finally decided to be a mother again. That was home and those people were like family. She hated letting them down.
“I’ll be there by late afternoon, I swear.” She wouldn’t even try to imagine how she would get the kids back for school on Tuesday.
“Can’t your mother take them?” he asked.
“I pick them up from Mom when Porsha leaves them there because—”
Like mother, like daughter, she’d been about to say, but cut herself off as six-year-old Dayton showed up from the hall, his hair sticking up, his cheek wearing the print of his dinosaur pillow.
“Is that Mom?”
“No, hon. It’s my work.”
“What do they want?”
“Mercedes?” Harrison asked. “The police want to talk to us again, but listen. We need you here.”
“I know.” And she wasn’t Porsha, she wasn’t. “I’ll come back tomorrow,” she promised, silently adding, Please don’t fire me.
~ * ~
L.C. Fogarty had just fallen asleep in the hard, college dorm bed when his cell phone hummed.
He was too old for midnight calls. It had to be a wrong number. Or his son. Might be his sister. Their father had been doing all right since his latest heart attack two years ago, but still smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish.
Reaching for the phone, he opened one eye to see the lack of photo and his ex-wife’s initials. A cement-like weight hit his gut, heavy and sloshing with foreboding.
“It’s me,” Britta said. “Your son was arrested tonight.”
Not dead. He let out a breath and sat up, light-headed with relief. “Finally showing some Fogarty colors. Good for him.”
He pushed his fingertip and thumb into his eyes, pinching the sleep out of them. Waiting out her annoyance. Waiting for the inevitable—
“So you don’t care.”
He ignored that. “What happened? Party? Oh, hell, he wasn’t protesting, was he?” That he could believe.
“Attempted arson. In a senior’s complex.” Her tone was sharp with can-you-believe-this-shit.
“They’ve got the wrong kid,” he said, even as he pictured his family home leveled by fire two years ago. But blame had been assigned. Zack had nothing to do with it.
“Of course they’ve got the wrong kid!” Brit sounded like she was red-lining.
“Hey. Come in off the ledge. He’s fine.” He wasn’t dead.
“He’s not fine! God, you never take anything seriously.”
He quit reaching for his jeans in the dark, begged the ceiling for patience, and reached for the pencil and notebook on the table instead. “Tell me where he’s being held. I’ll make some calls. You can go back to bed.”
“That’d be great, but we’re teething and out of gel, so there’s no point, is there?”
Don’t go there, he thought, but it came out anyway. “My fault too?”
How was it they could be pushing forty, be divorced longer than they had been married, yet continued to needle each other like they were still in high school?
She must have thought the same thing. Her tone lowered to something more civil.
“He was released a while ago. He’s probably back at the dorm by now.”
“So he’s not in jail.” That was good news, but L.C.’s tension shifted to resentment. “Your cop husband spring him?”
“My lawyer father did.” It was still vintage Britta, cleaning up the mess then blasting him for not doing it himself.
If he’d been paying attention, he would have known Zack was fine from the moment he answered. She only got snotty and unbearable once a crisis had passed. Recognizing that didn’t lighten him up any.
“So you’re just calling to inform me. Zack doesn’t need anything.”
“Well, I thought you should go make sure he’s all right.”
“Did he sound all right?”
“I don’t know! Dad talked to him.”
“Zack didn’t call you?” That surprised him, but it explained why Brit was so testy. L.C. smirked. Welcome to being a redundant parent, sweetheart. He’d had to get used to it, but it was nice to know it irritated the hell out of her, too.
“Dad said Zack made a good case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the college is still liable to make him an example. I think you should go make sure they don’t expel him or anything.”
“I should do that.” Last he’d heard, his parenting efforts weren’t necessary. When had he become a valued part of the team?
“Well, I have my hands full, don’t I? And you’re not doing anything. Paige said you’re not working.”
Ah. Of course she had called his sister first. It didn’t surprise him, but aggravated him all the same. “Paige doesn’t know what I’m doing.” No one did. It was too close to the bone.
“So you won’t go and help your son.”
“I didn’t say that.”
She wasn’t listening. She was talking to someone in the room with her.
“He doesn’t even care that his son was arrested and could be expelled.” She came back on the line, strident and full of the self-righteousness that made her great in the practice of family law, but a bitch of an ex-wife. “Is partying really more important than your child?”
“I’m not at a party.” He spoke through tight lips, thinking of the one-week high-school equivalency boot camp he was starting tomorrow. He would dump it in a heartbeat if Zack asked, but after this attack, he’d be damned if he’d do it for her. “I’m also not in Arizona. Zack’s eighteen. If he wants me, he knows how to reach me, but it sounds like he’s got things under control. Got himself out of jail, didn’t he? It took me a few tries to get good at it.”
“Are you in jail now? Is that why you won’t go?”
“Jesus, Brit. If Zack asks for me, I’ll go.”
“He shouldn’t have to ask. I’m asking on his behalf and I shouldn’t have to— Now she’s up again!” She made a noise of sheer frustration while a baby cried in the background. “Do whatever the hell you want. You will anyway.” She hung up.
“Kisses for baby,” L.C. muttered as he stabbed to end the call and dropped the phone on the blanket beside him. His chest hurt and it wasn’t just his son’s arrest causing it. Those healthy cries from the baby held his lungs in a vice for a long few breaths until he pulled himself back from helpless terror and futile anger to bleak acceptance.
Is partying more important than your child?
He stared into the darkness, focusing on Zack so he wouldn’t think about heading to the nearest bar and ordering a drink.
Surely Zack knew all he had to do was ask. Maybe they hadn’t spent a lot of time together in the last couple of years, but they texted all the time. And okay, maybe it wasn’t right to make Zack ask him for help, but what was he supposed to do? Take for granted he was needed? His own father had never shown up for anything unless subpoenaed. That’s how L.C. had learned not to rely on anyone.
He rubbed his face again. Swore. Reached for his jeans and stood to tug them on.
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Want to know what happens next? Get your copy of Only In His Sweetest Dreams on all digital platforms:
Be sure to look for Book One in The Dreams Duet, Not In Her Wildest Dreams, about L.C.'s sister Paige and her first love, Sterling.
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