Hometown Girl at Heart
Hometown Series Book 1
by Kirsten Fullmer
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tara has always been too engrossed in her work - refurbishing the historical homes in Smithville. She keeps a tight rein on her jobs and her emotions buried, but she’s losing control of both since that ridiculous city boy investor showed up.
New in town, Justin is confident that his ultra modern resorts will bring Smithville into the twenty-first century. If only the local-yokels and their ringleader, the gorgeous and peculiar Tara, would stop interfering.
With her quirky and protective hometown behind her, will Tara confront Justin and the town’s long buried secrets to take on the financial and emotional risk of a lifetime?
The floor sander whirled heavily in large circles. Justin’s upper arms ached as he struggled to control the machine, forcing it in an even pattern across the hardwood floor of his kitchen. Thinking he’d heard a noise, he glanced over his shoulder and was shocked to find Tara standing in the kitchen doorway, waving a set of blueprints.
He flipped off the machine and turned to her, clenching and unclenching his fists, in an attempt to relax his throbbing muscles.
Her eyes bright and prints waving, she shouted, “...and Winnie brought me this!” Her last few words hung awkward and loud in the silence between them.
She didn’t continue so he could only guess she thought he understood. He reached for the water bottle on the counter and gulped, buying time. Finally, he plopped the bottle back down and wiped his sleeve across his forehead. “What’s your problem?”
Startled by his uncharacteristically harsh greeting, Tara was taken aback. “I said, I was working on the furniture and Winnie brought these by.”
“Yeah...” They both waited for the other to break the thorny silence between them. “I can’t believe you had new plans drawn up...” she began.
He cocked his hip against the wall, his expression flat. “And why is that?”
She swallowed once, then again. “I thought we’d talk about it first.”
His lip curled and he snorted. “Well, funny thing is, talking would involve answering the door or the phone, and you didn’t seem capable of either.”
She retreated another step. Her lips moved but nothing came out.
He wiped his arm across his forehead again. “Did you even check your messages?”
She stared at the floor. One shoulder shrugged. “No.”
“Well hell, partner, if you had, you’d know that we are supposed to meet with Muffy and Denny in two days.” He tossed one hand in the air. “Two days!” He stared at the half-sanded floor, then met her eye. “So I take it you were banking on me caving. Backing out, is that it?”
Her head snapped up. “No... I...”
“Why did you come running over here then, if not to yell at me for messing up your resort?” His eyes snapped bitter sparks.
“I...” She cleared her throat. “I was surprised that you changed your whole design.” Her eyes fell and she took another step back. Her arm brushed the wall, startling her, and the blueprints shuffled to the sawdust-covered floor. She scrambled to her knees, gathering the pages with frantic haste.
He bent to help and as he handed her the last page, their eyes met; his bright with anger, hers shimmering with tears.
He shot to his feet in surprise.
She stayed on her knees, clutching the jumbled documents in her lap, her eyes downcast, and her voice a whisper. “It’s beautiful, Justin. These drawings, I mean.” She turned around the top page and smoothed it against her legs, the other drawings sifting back onto the floor. One fingertip touched the paper, to trace the roof outline of the stately wood-shingle-clad house, with two wings added to either side, nine-pane windows, roof dormers, and a long porch sprawling across the front. “I’m sorry. I really...” Her voice broke.
He lurched forward and grabbed her arm, yanking her to her feet. The drawing fluttered and fell between them.
She turned her face away and he gave her a gentle shake to get her attention. “Look at me, Tara.”
She shrugged and sniffed.
“I’m going to stand here until you look at me.”
She glanced up tentatively through her lashes, then back to the
He dropped her arm and took a step back, gesturing with his hands. “This is business, Tara. We are professionals.”
“Okay! Okay. Look, You’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m not—” He scrubbed his hands across the top of his head. “I’m not to touch you. And that’s fine. But I can’t let this deal go. I need it. I’ve spent most of my savings to get set up and I have to succeed. It’s not an option for me to quit.”
She raised her chin and wiped the back of her hand under her nose.
Justin turned away, shook his head, and gulped more water from the bottle. Finally, he swung back to her. “Are you even going to be able to work with me?”
Her chin jutted out and she crossed her arms over her chest. “I promise to pull myself together and be a professional. I apologize for—”
He waved his hand at her. “No, it was my fault. I crossed the line. You kept telling me, but I was an idiot.”
She reached for him, trying to refute his words but he wouldn’t have it.
He pointed his index finger in her face and she froze. His eyes serious, he spoke low and steady. “Tara, I’m sorry I scared you.” His finger wagged. “That was never my intent.”
She opened her mouth and his finger came back up as he continued. “Winnie filled me in on a few things, and I realized I had been acting like an ass. I had no right to touch you, or kiss you, or to assume you wanted anything from me. I was out of line. It won’t happen again.”
She nodded once.
He dropped his hand in surrender and with a frown, turned to stride out the back door.
Tears shimmered hot in Tara’s eyes. She turned her back to hide the devastating disappointment, embarrassment, and misery that threatened to break her heart. Slowly she collected the drawing and let herself out.
Hometown Girl After All
Hometown Series Book 2
Julia lost everything while she was ill. Self-conscious and alone, she’s moved to Smithville, determined to hide away in her rundown Victorian house. Little does she know, she can’t hide anything in a small town, including her interest in the deliveryman.
Resolved to keep his life simple, Chad has his hands full running his delivery business and supporting his adopted family. So why can’t he get that withdrawn city girl, Julia, off his mind?
Will the eccentric but well-meaning Smithville folk push Julia and Chad to open up, or will the emotional toll drive them both back into seclusion?
At the diner, Chad stepped behind Julia and pushed open the door for her, his hand warm on her back to lead her through. Bells chimed, announcing their arrival, and Marge glanced up from behind the counter. Her customary greeting froze on her lips as she did a double take, her conversation with a bald man seated in front of her forgotten.
The song on the jukebox ended and all the diners turned in the suddenly silent room to watch Julia and Chad walk to a table.
As Chad pulled out Julia’s red vinyl and chrome chair, the jukebox clicked and clattered, changing records. The first few words of the song P.S. I LoveYou, drifted across the room, as Julia did the butt-lift and scoot maneuver so Chad could scoot up her chair. The other diners slowly returned their attention back to their plates and conversations.
“It’s the Beatles,” Chad commented distractedly, shifting his chair up to the table, his eyes darting nervously between Julia and the other customers.
She nodded, engrossed in digging through her purse for something. Giving up in frustration, completely for- getting what she’d been looking for, she turned to hang her purse on the back of the chair, inadvertently catching the eye of a man and woman at the next table who sat staring, with their forks still hovering in mid-air.
Chad cleared his throat and lifted two menus from behind the salt and peppershakers. “So, what do you want to eat?” he asked, his voice a bit too loud.
Jumping in her seat, Julia’s gaze flew from the staring couple, back to Chad. “I—I’m not sure. What’s good here?”
Pretending to glance over the menu, Chad berated himself for bringing Julia to the diner. Why hadn’t her taken her to Uniontown where they could have cuddled in the corner booth of a crowded restaurant where no one would notice them? Feeling the back of his neck burn, he glanced over to see Marge’s pink tennis shoes on the floor next to the table.
He sighed inwardly and followed the pink uniform up to Marge’s face, which clearly but silently said, “I knew it!”
“Well,” Marge stated, her tone speculative, a wide grin on her face. “What can I get for you two this fine evening?”
Chad glanced at Julia, noting the misery written across her face, and he flinched. “I’d like a Coke. Julia?”
“Water please,” she muttered, not making eye contact with Marge.
Pretending to scribble on her pad, Marge sized up the couple over her reading glasses. “You got it,” she finally replied, turning on her heel.
Julia adjusted the salt and peppershakers into a row with the container of sugar packets and the ketchup, then turned her attention back to her menu.
“I like the meatloaf,” Chad said, glancing up. “Hmm,” she mumbled, turning the page. “And the tuna melt.” Julia nodded.
“Sometimes I get the—”
Marge plopped two large red plastic tumblers on the table, and scooted the one full of water toward Julia. The aging waitress then tugged two paper-wrapped straws from her apron, tossed them on the table, and collected her pad and pencil. With one hip cocked and her glasses balanced on the end of her nose, she glanced between Chad and Julia.
Chad watched as Julia’s neck turned red, the color flooding up over her chin, then her cheeks. “Give us a minute please,” he said, his eyes never leaving Julia, angry at himself for being such a dunce.
Wishing she were invisible, Julia suffered the curious stares of the other diners. Shoving down her discomfort and battling to muster even a dab of confidence, she glanced up at Chad.
He took a long drink of soda, then set down his glass. “Sorry, we should have gone to Uniontown...” he muttered.
Julia straightened in her chair. “No, I’m fine, really.” She lifted her glass. “Have you had time to think about the flower—”The tumbler in her hand shifted in her grip, then fell to the table top, the water and ice pouring across the gleaming white table and directly onto Chad’s lap.
His chair screeched back as he bound to his feet. Wiping at his pants and shaking his hands, Chad danced backward in an effort to miss the torrent, barely managing not to fall into the lap of the woman seated behind him. When he looked up, all he could see was Julia’s stricken expression.
“I’m so sorry,” she gasped, then hurried around the table. Plucking a handful of napkins from the dispenser, she frantically wiped at Chad’s crotch.
“Julia—” he stuttered, still in shock, his hands and shirt drip- ping into the growing puddle.
She continued to press the napkin into his jeans, desperate to help.
“Julia!” he said louder, grasping her wrist in his fist.
She stopped, frozen in horror, finally noticing that everyone in the diner sat staring at her hand pressed to Chad’s crotch. She stood and her hand dropped from Chad’s grip, her face turning so pale he was afraid she would faint.
Hometown Girl Forever
Hometown Series Book 3
Lizzie gave up her stressful job in Boston to embrace her love of all things country in Smithville PA. Her farm, a new job at the spa, and her pet alpacas are a dream come true, if only her meddling, matchmaking, socialite mother would back off.
Elliot, a successful architect from Washington, DC, designed the new spa, but he certainly hadn't envisioned the exotic bohemian style manager or her intriguing, demanding mother. Small town antics and his interest in Lizzie extend his visit to Smithville, but will the allure of country life draw him in for good?
Once again, Smithville’s folk interfere with plans at every turn, forcing Lizzie and Elliot to face their personal dilemmas and each other, head on.
The spa door opened and Elliot tromped in, scuffing his feet on the mat. “Hey there! Looks like today was a success...” He froze in midsentence, his smile fading to concern. “What’s wrong?”
Dashing away her tears, Lizzie jumped up and attempted to hide her sadness. “Nothing, I’m fine. I...” She smoothed her lab coat and offered a limp grin to accompany the false happy tone of her voice. “I think today went well.”
Elliot strode to her side and took her hand, his face filled with concern. He led her gently to sit down on the sofa. “What happened?” he asked as he perched on the edge of the ottoman facing her.
She pulled her hand away and shook her head in an attempt to convince him she was fine, but her mother’s harsh words rang in the back of her mind. Tears gathered at the corners of her eyes and she dabbed at them with her knuckle.
“Did someone have an issue with the spa?”
She shook her head. “No, no, of course not. It was a wonderful day.”
Elliot’s brow puckered. “Then why are you so upset? Something happened.”
Lizzie shrugged. “It’s nothing really. Nothing I don’t deal with every day.”
He waited, his elbows resting on his knees, not wanting to press her to speak.
Finally she sniffed and squared her shoulders. “I’m sorry, here I am all blubbery when the spa was a hit.”
He searched her face, waiting for her to explain.
Fluttering her hands in front of her face, attempting to dry the tears, she continued. “Oh, it’s just—just my mom. She isn’t on board with me being here...” Understatement of the century, she thought grimly.
Perplexed, Elliot sat up straight. “What do you mean? Why would your mother care if you’re here?”
Lizzie snorted. “Oh, she cares all right.” Anger flashed across her face. “I’m not back home letting her run my life and that irks her no end. She has to get her digs in, make me feel like absolute garbage...” She paused, realizing she was emotionally vomiting.
“I take it she’s, what do they call it nowadays, a helicopter mom?”
She stared at him, a question in her eyes. “She hovers...” “Oh!” she said, getting his joke. “Yes, but more than that, she is determined that I live the life she wanted.”
“What do you mean?”
Her hands twisted in her lap. “Oh, you know, I went to the schools she couldn’t get into, wore the expensive clothes that she couldn’t afford before having me ruined her body, took the jobs she couldn’t have because she had to stay home with me. I had to buy the condo in the neighborhood she wanted to live in...”
“I always knew I had to toe the line or things would get ugly, but...”
He waited for her to continue, but the lump in her throat was choking her. “But?” he offered.
She sniffed and shrugged one shoulder. “Today was the straw that broke the camel’s back, I guess. She’s never going to be proud of me. Never.”
Unsure what to say, he stammered, “I’m sorry. You’ve done a great job with the spa.”
Suddenly embarrassed and overwhelmed that she’d fallen to pieces in front of Elliot, Lizzie struggled to collect herself. “Anyway, I’m okay now, really.” She stood, desperate to end the whole emotional scene.
Elliot stood too, putting them face to face. Or her face to his chest, as it were. A moment slipped by without either moving, both held by an invisible magnetic force. Slowly Lizzie’s head tilted back, and Elliot’s chin lowered. Their eyes met, his sizzling with concern and warmth, hers still teary and bright. His fingers skimmed softly up her arm, raising goose bumps that raced up Lizzie’s chest and neck and across her scalp. The backs of his fingers continued on up to brush her cheek, wiping away a shimmering tear trail. Then, ever so slowly, both of his palms framed her cheeks, tilting her face to his.
Lizzie’s hands came up to cover his, her eyes drifting closed as she rose up on tiptoe. A soft sigh escaped her lips as she fell into what she knew would be an epic kiss.
The spa door flew open and Tara clattered in, her arms full of boxes. “Hey guys, I was...” When she saw Lizzie and Elliot she jerked to a halt, nearly dropping the packages in shock.
Elliot and Lizzie jumped in shock, each trying to jolt back but tripping over the sofa and ottoman. Finally Elliot managed to stumble away, momentarily resembling a kid staggering on stilts as he found his balance. Lizzie flopped limply onto the sofa and her eyes rolled toward the ceiling.
Tara cleared her throat. “Well crap. Sorry... I...”
Lizzie shook her head, lamenting the great impression she must be making on her new boss.
Christmas in Smithville
The Hometown Series Book 4
Even though Gloria is determined to change her reputation, most of the women in town still think she’s a tramp. Sure, she may have dressed a little flashy and dated pretty much every single guy in town, but that’s the past. Now that she wants to make a fresh start, will Smithville give her a second chance?
Ned has heard all the gossip, but being the Sheriff’s Deputy, he sees all the kind things Gloria does behind the scenes for the folks of Smithville. It looks like the upcoming Christmas Pageant will offer him the opportunity to spend time with her, but can he overcome a frustrating stutter and talk to her, face to face?
Your favorite characters from the Hometown Series bring craziness, love, and Smithville Christmas style, to a whole new romance about overcoming your past and sharing your deepest secrets. Fall in love and be swept away with the Christmas Eve celebration of your dreams.
Gloria could practically hear Ned’s heart beating; he was standing so close. What was he thinking? They’d formed a solid friendship, and now, if her instincts we right, he appeared to be crossing the friendship line. Had that been his intention all along? Was she so stupid that she’d let her guard slip and hadn’t seen that he just wanted to get her in bed? What was it about her that made men think she was fair game?
Scrubbing at a stubborn piece of food on a plate, she frowned.
Ned backed up half a step, picking up on her discomfort. “What’s wrong?”
The plate was clean, but she kept scrubbing anyway.
“Gloria?” He said her name more like a quiet demand than a question. She quit scrubbing the dish but didn’t look up.
He waited, and the silence in the small kitchen was deafening. Finally, Gloria met his eye. Ned grinned an easy smile. “I’ll dry.” With that, he snatched up the dishtowel hanging on the oven door and reached for the plate.
She regarded him through narrowed eyes, trying to read his intent. He felt like the same old Ned; maybe she’d been wrong. With a shrug, she rinsed the plate and handed it to him. Her instincts had led her astray before. Crap, she’d never been able to tell when a man cared about her.
Ned dried the plate and reached up to put it in the cupboard. Glancing back to Gloria, he caught her watching him, so he offered a reassuring, friendly grin.
“Damn,” she thought, turning her attention back to the dishes. The man really was dangerously good looking. Yet, here she stood with him in Nadine’s kitchen. The one woman she wanted to show she had changed. She had to prove to Nadine, and the other wives in town, that she wasn’t out to get a man. She needed to remember that, no matter how gorgeous Ned was. Besides, she valued his friendship far too much to mess it up. If she was capable of managing any type of relationship with a man, she wanted to be Ned’s friend.
Rinsing a plastic cup, she handed it off to him, and her eye caught his. Something in the depths of his gaze snagged her attention, and she couldn’t look away. What was he trying to tell her?
“I’m firsty,” Christi’s tiny voice said from the doorway.
The cup dropped to the sink as both Ned and Gloria jerked their hands apart, both jumping back as they turned toward the little girl.
Christi stood in her pajamas, her eyes wide. “I need a dwink.”
Ned was the first to spring into action. “I’ll get you a d—drink, sweetheart. Do you want water or milk?”
“Miwk,” she said. Her little face was serious as her eyes bounced from Ned to Gloria and back.
Reaching into the cupboard by the sink, he retrieved a child’s sippy-cup and lid, then headed toward the fridge. For a moment he juggled the cup and lid to open the door and take out the milk, but he managed to make it to the table and fill the cup half full. Tossing a grin to Gloria, as if to say ‘I got this’, he twisted the cap onto the cup.
Christi padded across the room and reached for the cup.
Ned squatted down to eye level and offered her his trademark grin. “Here you go d—darlin’.”
The child gave him a serious once over as she took the cup, then tipped it up to drink. Unfortunately, when the cup reached her mouth, the lid came off, and milk spilled all down the front of the little girl’s chin, neck, and footy pajamas.
Ned gasped and jumped back to miss the torrent of milk splashing across the floor.
“Oh dear!” Gloria cried, grabbing the towel off the counter and hurrying to the little girl’s side. “Did the lid come off?” Her eyes sprung to Ned’s, and she felt instantly silly for asking the obvious, so she turned back to the little girl. “Of course, it did. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Ned floundered, “I didn’t m—mean to… I’m so s—sorry…”
Little Christi glared up at him, her expression clearly stating that she considered the man to be a complete jerk. Milk dripped onto the floor as she stood in a widening puddle. Her fuzzy pink pajamas and even her hair were soaked in milk.
Trying not to laugh, Gloria stripped off the sodden pajamas, soothing and assuring Christi that the deputy didn’t mean to spill her milk. After dabbing up all the milk she could with the now-soaked towel, she hefted the child up onto her hip and turned to Ned. The miserable look on his face gave her pause. “Don’t worry,” she assured both parties. “Nothing a bath won’t fix.”
As she headed across the room, Ned found his voice. “I’ll m—mop up…” but Gloria was gone, along with his chance to tell her how he felt.
Kirsten grew up in the Western US and graduated from high school in 1984. She married soon there after and quickly built a family. With three young children and number four on the way, she returned to college in 1992. Her career as a draftsman included many settings ranging from a steel fabrication shops to prestigious engineering firms. Balancing family life with the workplace forced her to become the queen of multitasking. In 2001, bored with the cubical life, she moved on to teach drafting in technical college, then to opening her own consulting firm teaching 3D engineering software. Due to health problems, Kirsten retired in 2012 to travel with her husband for his job. She now works writing romance novels and enjoys spoiling her three grandchildren. Since 2017 Kirsten has lived and worked full time in a 40' travel trailer with her husband and her little dog Bingo.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!