This time there's a baby on board...
Dr. Lauren Dawson knows her brief marriage to footloose photographer Tavish Fitzgerald ended for a reason.
That doesn't mean their undeniable chemistry isn't as potent as ever.
And when Tavish returns home to Sutter Creek for his sister's wedding, the sparks between them turn into a blaze.
But when Lauren finds herself pregnant, these exes have nine months to build a forever family together...
It is not easy to be a grown up and adulting has many challenges as the heroine Dr. Lauren Dawson knows. Lauren is a complex character in a middle of crossroads in her life, trying to find her own way in a middle of assumed expectations from her family, from her boss, from her ex, and from herself.
Lauren became a doctor because that what her mother wanted her to be. She has a low (read no) tolerance for seeing blood, she believes that she has to be in a close company of her family or they are going to be in harm's way and die, she believes all her ex is good for is leaving her behind, she herself is not good at finding solutions for problems or making compromises, she is all or nothing person even though life is often all about finding the middle road.
Photographer Tavish Fitzgerald has traveled the world and seen it through his camera lens. The small town he and Lauren grew up in has never been exciting enough for him, but his teenage love, Lauren thought that meant her as well, even though Tavish would have rather traveled the world with her at his side, with him, as his wife.
The chemistry between Tavish and Lauren is palpable, nearly a visible force in the tale. I like the honesty and openness they have between them, especially from Tavish's side. Lauren has a lot of issues, she is rather stubborn about them, and at times she frustrated me to no end. Both Tavish and Lauren have doubts about their relationship making it work, not because of their feelings towards each other, but because of their needs to live their lives in a certain way that are in conflict with each other. These questions and misgivings go on all the way towards the end and stayed in my mind as well, making the story very realistic and life-like, and raw enough to make me question the possibility of a happily ever after for Lauren and Tavish.
A thought-provoking, well-written, and emotional story about choices we make in life, about responsibilities, career moves, expectations we feel, and about family, relationships, compromises, finding the middle ground, setting priorities, and daring to fall in love and act upon it.
Not your typical category romance story, yet entertaining and delightfully provocative in many ways. It has witty dialog and well thought-out characters in an unexpected and awkward situation in life.
~ Four Spoons
“Why are you still here? Your ride’s gone.” She threw the accusation out from somewhere behind him.
He turned, held up his hands in mock surrender. “I come in peace.”
Gripping the newel post, she shuffled her feet on the bottom tread of the staircase. Her sleek hair hung in just-showered tendrils around her shoulders, making damp spots on her silk bathrobe. That material would be touchable as hell and, with her soft skin, it would be hard to tell where silk ended and flesh began.
Cool it, Fitzgerald.
He jammed his hands into the front pockets of his hoodie sweatshirt. “Just needed to explain myself.”
“Explaining yourself is well and good, but you’re getting back to town how?” she demanded.
“Try again, Tavish.” Crossing her arms over her chest, she sent him a death stare.
Okay. So his prediction he might end up in a shallow grave wasn’t far off.
And no way were his fingers getting even close to touching her.
Instead of verbally running in circles, he went for the easy out. He pasted a cheeky smile on his face. “That’s a pretty complicated half hitch in your panties, Lauren.”
“You can dream about seeing my panties, but it’s not going to happen.”
He chuckled. She made it so easy. “I don’t need to dream, sweetheart. I got my fill in Vegas. You still like lace, or have you moved on to the waist-high, granny kind?
“Wouldn’t you love to know?”
A predictable response, clichéd even, but it pierced the bull’s-eye. Discovering white lace under Lauren’s wedding dress had killed him. And getting to touch her over the soft material, coaxing sexy moans from her with his fingers? The memory still kept him up at night. He barely held in a groan and ran a hand over his face before she realized just how much he’d love to delve under her robe. To find out what she had hidden beneath. Maybe nothing but her sweet skin.
“Nice house. I recognize the artwork.” He jabbed a thumb toward his photography on the mantel.
“Don’t read anything into it. You have a way with a camera.” Her pink cheeks contrasted with her blanched knuckles, which were clenched in fists at her sides. “And with ruining my summer vacation, apparently.”
“You going to give me the chance to explain before you reduce me to ash with that glare?”
“By all means.” She stomped into her kitchen and started opening and slamming cabinets before yanking out a coffee canister and grinder and placing them on the granite island. Sure, her anger had grown to the point that he could almost see it shimmering on her skin, but too much white showed around her irises to peg her as solely pissed off. She was covering for something he didn’t want to poke too much. Unearthing their feelings could suck him past the point of no return.
He strolled to the island and leaned his forearms on the surface across from where she was shakily scooping beans into the grinder. “Mackenzie and Drew needed help, Lauren. Otherwise they were going to have to cancel their honeymoon.”
“Nice to know you’re more concerned about your ex-brother-in-law than your ex-wife.” She pressed her lips together, brows knitted into a near V-shaped blond line.
Tavish’s heart dropped. “That’s not... I didn’t know I’d be working with you when I offered. And it’s about my sister, too, not just Andrew.”
Beans whirred in the grinder. She stared at the counter and gripped the machine as it slowed into silence.
“I figured you’d be so busy at the clinic that we’d barely see each other.” He offered the excuse in a gentle voice.
“Whatever.” Deserting the coffee, she circled the island and stood close enough to him that she had to tilt her chin to look him in the eye. He had a good foot on her, something she’d always complained about. Why, he didn’t know. It had just made it easier for him to pick her up, pin her against a wall and send her into oblivion. Her fresh-from-the-shower scent drifted into his nostrils, a hint of tropical summer and sugary sweetness. His mouth watered for a taste, just one...
And now he was lying to himself and not just his family. Great.
She slumped against the counter. “So, two weeks?”
The urge to touch her, comfort her, licked up his arms. He fisted his hands. “I’m sure if we schedule things right, we can avoid actually being in the office at the same time.”
“That’s not the problem!” She jabbed him in the chest. Her utilitarian-length nail wasn’t sharp enough to dig in, but she put enough force behind it for it to sting. “I can’t believe you’d step in with this, but you wouldn’t stick around for me!”
He caught her by the wrist before she could poke him again. “You needed more than two weeks, Lauren.”
Swiping at her eyes with the back of her other hand, she nodded. “I needed a lifetime.”
"And I couldn’t give that to you. Still can’t.” Not if it meant holing up in Sutter Creek. He ran his thumb along the fleshy base of her palm. The tendons in her hand tensed under his touch.
She glanced down at his fingers circled around her wrist, then back up to his face.
Those damp eyes. Holy hell. Through all of his travels, the countless people he’d captured with his camera lens, he hadn’t come across irises that exact blend of amber and spring green. Nor had he ever encountered eyes that could stare right to the core of his soul. A fist clamped around his stomach. He released her arm and tucked a damp wave of hair behind her ear. “That’s why we cut and ran. Better for both of us.”
“Was it really? Better, that is.” Her lips parted and her chest rose and fell faster than normal.
“I’m betting my mom would say it was. My dad jerked her around for almost a decade—did the same to Mackenzie and me—before disappearing. Our decision seems miles more responsible.”
Her expression softened, and she touched his face. Skilled physician’s fingers drawing down his cheek, leaving behind a trail of aching emptiness. They settled on his left pec. Did she know she owned the organ beating under her palm? That he’d given it to her in high school, and even through long-distance breakups and divorce, he’d never quite gotten it back?
“I’m not putting all this on you, you know,” she said. “I changed my mind. Was just as much at fault as you sticking to your need to roam.”
He settled his hand over hers and squeezed. “Never thought you were.”
“We’ll get through working together somehow. Through seeing each other every day.”
Anticipation, blended with dread, fused his heart to his lungs. He wanted to see her every day. And knew he’d feel like he was walking on knife blades each day he did.
“Maybe it’ll help us find closure,” she added.
“We’ve wanted each other for over a decade. I don’t see that ending for me after spending two weeks watching you trot around the WiLA sites in tight technical gear."
Her cheeks pinked. Her hand still rested on his chest and her fingertips dug into the muscle a fraction. “Kind of like you showing up on my dock in a fricking wetsuit?”
“I couldn’t exactly turn down the invitation when Drew extended it. Figured the fewer questions the better.” Sending her a pained grin, he brushed the backs of his fingers along her jawline. “And you can’t point fingers about wetsuits.”
The corner of her mouth curved as she toyed with the open zipper on his hoodie, running the tab up and down the teeth. “Pretty sure Cadie and Mackenzie suspect something’s going on between us.”
“We’ll hide it. Even if you did decide that you were ready to be honest about our marriage, dropping it on our families right before Drew and Kenz tie the knot would be the definition of unfair.”
Nodding, she slid her hand under the cotton of his hoodie. It rested on his waist. What he would give for her to drop that hand lower, cup his hardening length. He closed his eyes and shifted his weight, hoping she didn’t notice how much of an effect she was having on him. “I should probably go.”
It would be a long walk back, especially in flip-flops, but he didn’t trust himself to stay in her presence any longer without reaching for the row of tiny buttons holding the fabric of her robe snug under her breasts.
She stepped into him, until only an inch separated their bodies. A charged, heated energy thrummed between them, seeped from his skin deep into his bones. He couldn’t be the first to close the space. Couldn’t do that to her.
He didn’t have to. Standing on her toes, she pressed a kiss just above the collar of his T-shirt. “I dunno. If we’re needing closure... Maybe you should stay.”