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Note: If you feel strongly about reading books in order, you'll want to read Hometown Hero (available now on Amazon) before you read these excerpts. Want to try before you buy? You can read the #SampleSundays from Hometown Hero here. And please keep scrolling after the excerpt for a list of all the (multi-authored) books in the Homecoming series.
If you enjoy free excerpts, please also check out on my #SampleSunday for The Russian's Acquisition series, which started this week.
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Let's see, where are we with Liz and Blake?
- In the first excerpt, Liz meets Blake at a cocktail party hosted by Skye and Chase from Hometown Hero) and they realize they used to be in-laws.
- Then Liz wonders if she knows more about Blake than he does.
~ * ~
Blake watched a pensive look come over her face and wondered if he’d over-shared. He was sorry if he had. Her laugh had been charming. Clear and warm and natural. And she was nice. Nicer than he’d realized the first time he’d met her and way nicer than she ought to be.
Way too nice for the kinds of thoughts he was thinking, but he could barely take his eyes off her.
From the second she’d walked in, he’d been captivated, not even realizing at first that he knew her. Fresh faces in small towns caught any man’s attention. Liz had a polished, expensive look that he normally veered from out of self-preservation. But even though her make-up was stylish as a movie star’s, and her dark brunette hair was glossy and cut in sculpted waves around her face, she had a softness about her. Vulnerability, maybe?
Not weak. She had smiled and joked with their hostess as she entered, moving to set out her dish with great care. Her trim figure filled her dark jeans and snug top in a way that had had him trying out a few rusty lines in his head. It had been a while since he’d been with a woman and even longer since he’d felt such a strong pull toward a specific one. His kid was out of the house for a while . . .
Then, he’d been struck by déjà vu. Fate was something he filed with Crystal’s New Age crack-pottery, so he dismissed soul mate bullshit, but he’d felt like he knew her. Not just that she was familiar, but he knew her.
When she’d glanced around the room, bit the corner of her lip and heaved a small sigh, he’d remembered. Suddenly, he’d been back at the head table as Crystal’s brother had given a speech. The guy’s wife had looked, well, like it was a struggle to hold up her spirits.
As someone who’d had his share of wondering how the hell he could carry on, he’d felt an odd mixture of empathy and an uncharacteristic sense of premonition. When the Flower Family Grapevine had revealed Liz and Dean were having marital troubles a year later, Blake hadn’t been surprised. In fact, when his own marriage began to crumble, he hadn’t been terribly surprised by that either and tended to trace it back to that moment. Like he’d seen the potential for disaster in Liz’s weariness with her marriage.
Not that he’d thought of Liz personally at the time. He’d just recollected that glimpse of happily ever afters that weren’t.
“How did you wind up here tonight?” he asked, wondering if there was something in the stars after all, because he’d dithered over whether to make the drive. Free food had won over cooking for himself, but he was nursing a single beer and planning to leave before he finished it.
“Skye came by. Introduced herself.” Her irises were an enigmatic dark blue in this light, her skin tinted just enough to tell him she lived with a hint of winter sun. As she talked, he found himself staring at her lips. Not a wide mouth. Kind of set in a permanent almost-invitation to kiss. She had a dot of a birthmark on her bottom lip, slightly off center. “I thought it would be good for me—Do I have something on my mouth? Sometimes people think I do, but it’s just a freckle . . . ”
“What? No, you’re fine,” he rushed to assure her, wits dulled by a sucker-punch of thinking about running his tongue over that little dot. Which was okay. They weren’t related. It was just maybe unwise and yeah, possibly fueled by irony and a desire to mow down the Flowers.
And desire for Liz. She was classy and pretty and intriguing. He would love to tear up the sheets with her.
Which would start to show if he wasn’t careful. He made himself catch up to the conversation. “What do you mean that coming here is good for you?”
“You know. I thought I should mingle with the natives.”
“You’re eating your social vegetables?”
“Kind of,” she agreed, flashing straight white teeth. “Yes, I suppose that’s exactly what I’m doing. Chewing community kale to stave off a bad case of isolation rickets.”
He nodded, liking that she could be playful.
“And you said you brought Petra? Dean didn’t bring her?”
“He and the woman he’s marrying already have twin sons. His van was pretty full and I wanted to visit Stella before they all left. That’s when his mother pounced.”
“Of course she did. Are you sure you weren’t coerced, Liz? Do you need a sling for that arm that was obviously twisted?”
“I’ll admit I’m not great at sticking up for myself. I’m a middle child who grew up following Major Bloom’s orders so I tend to—”
“What now? Major . . . ?” he interrupted.
“Bloom. My dad. He was in the military so he was a major. And yes, my maiden name is Bloom and my married name is Flower. Ha ha. Yes, it’s hysterical.”
He laughed. Openly and with great enjoyment. Major Bloom. “Poor bastard never lived that one down, did he?”
“He really didn’t. It’s probably why he’s a grouch to this day.”
Their laughing gazes tangled and he knew he was grinning like a fool, but he was enjoying getting to know her. As his marriage had deteriorated, he’d distanced himself more and more from anything to do with Crystal’s family. Auntie Liz had just become a name on a card to Ethan at Christmas and his birthday.
But she was so much more than that.
“Tell me about your salons. Why can you walk away from running them this time of year?” he asked.
“I have two jobs, actually. I write corporate communications—withhold your awe, please. And yes, sadly, I can do that from anywhere, including Nola’s sofa. The other I do with my mother and sister. We have a dozen salons across California. So, I’m working long distance a lot of the time anyway, visiting each one a couple of times a year so . . . ” She shrugged. “That’s why the Flowers are drinking margaritas in the sun, while I’m waking up to prizes on the carpet left by a cranky little dog.” She pointed at an empty martini glass left on a table nearby. A miniature candy cane hung off the rim. “What do you suppose that is? It looks like it was yummy.”
“Eggnog martini. I had a sip of one when I got here. Lethal. If you’re driving, you might want to take one home and drink it when you get there.”
“No, I walked up, but—”
“Who’s giving you a lift home?” Amazing how that came out of him so fast. And with such a possessive need to know.
“It’s not far. Maybe half a mile? I’ll just walk back in a bit.”
“Oh, you city folk are so cute,” he said, fairly sure Chase would have caught her before she actually tried walking down in the dark, but still glad he was the one who could do it. “It’s snowing hard out there.” He pointed to the view through the glass wall where full dark had fallen. The deck was coated with a deep couple of inches that had accumulated since he’d arrived. The colored lights outside turned the floating flakes into a powdered rainbow, making it look deceptively pretty and safe, but he knew better. “It’s dangerous out there.”
“Really?” she asked skeptically, wrinkling her nose at a scene she probably thought had been lifted off a Christmas card.
“The bears are hibernating, but the cougars and timber wolves aren’t. It’s really easy to get turned around in that, especially without streetlights. I’m not playing Prank the Tourist. Life and death is a fine line on a night like this.” He knew. His birth parents had died in conditions like this. “I’m not trying to scare the pretty lady into my car, either. I just want you to get home safe. I’ll take you,” he promised.
She swept her lashes down in the shy way a woman did when a man unexpectedly called her pretty and she liked it. The male interest stirring in him solidified into something far more serious.
“Come on. Let’s find you a drink,” he said, urging her along with a gentlemanly hand against her lower back. Yes, it was a bit of a branding iron. Don’t even think about it, stallions. He’d cut this one from the herd for himself.
~ * ~
You can pre-order Blame The Mistletoe here.
As I said above, if you like to read in order, you'll want to read Hometown Hero first. If you want to read the Homecoming series in order, here are all the authors and their release dates (I'm third):
- Sept 22 - Sing Me Back Home by Eve Gaddy
- Sept 25 - Finding Home by Roxanne Snopek
- Sept 29 - Hometown Hero by Dani Collins
- Oct 02 - Long Way Home by Kathleen O’Brien
- Oct 06 - Home For Good by Terri Reed
Please keep checking back over the next few weeks. I have lots going on for all my fall books:
Open 'til Oct 23rd:
Want to preorder The Russian's Acquisition from Amazon now? It will be in stores November 1st or you can also buy now from Mills & Boon UK.
Want to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest...etc? Click here for Dani's Social Media links and take your pick.
Have a great week,