A tasty tidbit of ILLEGAL TOUCHING

 

Grey’s Anatomy meets Monday Night Football. 

Heat and heart clash in this rollercoaster of a love story.

Noah

Finding out I’m going to be a dad knocks me off my self-destructive path and makes me determined to do the right thing.

I know I’m going to be there for my child, no matter what.

But will the mother of my baby ever trust me enough to give me a second chance with her heart?

Alison

After weeks of rollercoaster uncertainty, suddenly I’m not by myself anymore on this journey to parenthood.

When Noah tells me he wants to be an involved dad, I don’t realize just how hands-on he plans to be.

I’m determined to protect my heart from his seductive smolder, but damn, he’s not making it easy to keep things all business.

Sometimes, I forget why I need to fight this feeling . . .

The second trilogy in the best-selling Diagnosis: Love world is made up of two SHAMELESS CLIFFIES before the finale. You’ve been warned. The books release a week apart, so your angst doesn’t have to last long–and the happily ever after in book three is worth the journey.


“What time is it, anyway? Feels like it’s late, but I’m so woozy, I can’t really tell.” I yawned.

“Just after nine.” Noah settled into a chair that didn’t look very comfortable. 

I sighed. “Okay. Well, you should probably head home now.” I paused. “Do you need to call for a car?” 

“Nope, I’m back among the driving population, thanks very much. And I’m not going home. I’m staying here with you tonight.”

“Oh, no, you’re not,” I objected. “Don’t be ridiculous, Noah. I’m fine. You heard Maggie. I’m here with all the doctors and nurses . . . all I plan to do for the next twelve or thirteen hours is get as much sleep as I can. There’s nothing for you to do.” 

“Doesn’t matter. I’m staying.” He patted the arm of the chair and then leaned back until it reclined and a footrest popped out. “I told them I wasn’t going home, so the nurse arranged for a sleeping chair for me. She’s bringing an extra pillow and blanket in a minute.” 

I wanted to argue with him some more, but I was too tired, and my headache was returning. “Okay. Do whatever you want.” 

A nurse came in a few minutes later with Noah’s blanket and pillow. She fussed over him, telling us both how sweet it was to see such a devoted man. He smirked and looked satisfied, and I would’ve rolled my eyes if I wasn’t feeling so shitty.

She gave me another dose of acetaminophen, hung another bag of fluids, and dimmed the lights on her way out. The room wasn’t completely dark—that was almost unheard of in a hospital—but it was as restful as it was going to get. I closed my eyes. 

I heard Noah making himself comfortable, grunting as he adjusted the pillow and the chair. When he’d stopped moving around, he sighed softly. 

“Noah,” I murmured. “Thank you.” 

He cleared his throat. “For what?” 

“For coming to the hospital today. For staying with me tonight. For making sure I wasn’t alone.” Somehow, it was easier to say these things in the quiet dark. 

“You don’t have to thank me for that, sweetheart. I was glad I could be here.” His voice was a little muffled by the pillow, but I heard him anyway. 

“I was scared,” I admitted, my hand fisting under the sheet. 

“I know. I was, too.” He shifted, and the chair squeaked, complaining. I had a hunch that such recliners were not designed for guys as big as Noah. “Which reminds me. I’d like you to change your emergency contact to me when you get back to work. If Emma hadn’t been on your file today, I wouldn’t have known what was happening.”

I was too tired to argue, and besides, Noah had a point. “All right. I’ll update it as soon as I can.”

“Thank you.”

We were both quiet for a few moments before Noah spoke again. “Remember when we were here together right after I’d been hurt? When I was in the ER, and no one was doing anything, and I was in so much pain?” 

“Of course, I remember that. I felt so terrible for you.” 

“I was scared that day, and you sat with me and made me feel better. You kept my mind off all the nightmare scenarios that were dancing around my head. So consider this payback in part.” 

I smiled in the dark. The meds were doing their job, and the headache was beginning to ebb. “All right. If you say so.” 

I heard the steady, comforting rhythm of Noah’s breathing. I held on tight to that sound, foolishly glad that he was here, that he’d insisted on staying with me. 

“You know, I was thinking before, when you were asleep, that you know pretty much everything that I’ve been doing since the last time we saw each other—I mean, since before my surgery,” he amended quickly. “You know I’ve been screwing things up left and right. But other than trying to get in touch with me, I have no idea what’s gone on in your life.” The chair squealed again. “What new projects have you done in your house? How’s everything in your office?” 

I took a deep breath, thinking. “I finished the master bathroom.”

“How did it turn out?” 

“It’s beautiful. I love it. The tub is old-fashioned, but it’s huge and deep . . . so comfortable. The colors are exactly what I wanted. It might be my favorite room in the house now.” 

“Mmmmm. Can’t wait to see it.” Noah yawned. “What else has been new?” 

I thought about the crazy, tumultuous ride the last few months had been. “Oh, I flew to California to see Daneen. Remember I told you about my last foster mothers, Daneen and Lana?” 

“Yeah, I remember. Lana passed away a little while back, and Daneen’s in a home, right? Dementia?” 

I was gratified and oddly touched that he’d remember. “Yeah, that’s it. She has congestive heart failure, and her doctor thought I should come to visit sooner than later.” 

“How was she?” 

I hesitated. “Good. Not as bad as I’d feared, but she didn’t know me . . .” I thought back to the few days I’d spent with her. “The first day, she talked about me. I mean, she talked about Alison, not recognizing that I am Alison, you know? And she said something about Lana doing some digging into who my parents were. If what she told me really happened, Lana found out that my mother had planned to keep me until the last minute. My biological father might have been a dangerous man—or he was in trouble with someone—whatever the reason, my birth mother thought it was safer to leave me than to take me home.” 

“That’s wild.” Noah sounded genuinely intrigued. “Are you going to follow up on that? See if you can figure out who your parents were?” 

I shook my head, even though I was pretty sure he couldn’t see me. “I don’t think so. Not now . . . maybe not ever. If it’s true and my mother really did leave me at the hospital because she thought I’d be safer, I could be stirring up something that’s better left alone. If it isn’t true . . .” I trailed off. “I’d rather not know. I’ve thought about what Daneen said, and it’s just so in character with who Lana was—and who Daneen was, too. Daneen always said it didn’t matter where we came from, it was where we were going. I think she would’ve been a little pissed that Lana went ahead and looked into it when Daneen didn’t think it made any difference. So maybe it’s true. It makes me feel a little more at peace when I think of my birth mother. Maybe she really did do the most noble thing she could.” 

“Hmmmm.” Noah grunted. “Well, if you ever decide you want to take it further, find out more, I’d be happy to help however I could.” 

“Thank you.” 

I closed my eyes again and listened to Noah’s breath growing slower and more even. I smiled, picturing his body contorted into some semi-comfortable position on the recliner. It was such a peaceful feeling, knowing he was near me. 

Before long, I was sleeping, too.

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A LOVE IN A SMALL TOWN Family News Update!

 

If you haven’t read any of the LOVE IN A SMALL TOWN romances yet, now is the time to start! This box set is free on all vendors for a limited time. (See links below: Amazon may not have gone free yet, but will shortly.)

To celebrate, I’m sharing this little peek into what’s been going on in Burton recently via an email update from Cory Evans to her daughter-in-law Ali, who lives part-time in Burton and part-time in New York City.

Dear Ali,

I saw your text message this morning about feeling out of the loop, but you know, I don’t love to text long and complicated updates. So I figured I’d email you instead. Hope you don’t mind!

Everyone here is well. I was out to the farm for a meeting about the Christmas Bazaar–yes, I’m on the committee again this year, despite swearing I was retiring from that fuss and bother–and so I was able to see Meghan and Sam and the twins. Oh, my, those babies are getting so big–and smart! Of course, they’re beautiful, too. Daniella and Justin are talking up a storm now. I can’t wait to see them with Bridget and Colleen when you and Flynn and the kids come home for Christmas this year! It’ll be so much fun.

Oh, and Sam and Meghan are doing well, too. I think they’re still slightly sleep-deprived and a little shell-shocked after being parents for a year, but they’re getting into the swing of things. Meghan just keeps telling everyone how happy she is, and Sam is the sweetest daddy ever–apart from Flynn, of course.

I was over to the Road Block for lunch today. I ran into Rilla who was there with her cousin Jenna and Sydney Garth. They were planning a joint baby show for Jenna and Sydney–oh, did I tell you BOTH of them are pregnant? I swear, there’s something in the water down here. Those two have gotten to be such good friends, it really does my heart good to see it. Anyway, Rilla seemed to be a little extra glowy these days, too, so I pried it out of her that Piper, Noah and Miriam are going to have a little sister or brother some time next spring. She swears this is the last baby, but judging by the way Mason looks at that woman, I wouldn’t bet on it. But let me tell you, Ali, seeing him happy and contented again after everything that man went through is definitely an answered prayer.

Maureen and Smith spent last week in Boston visiting his parents and his brother. Every time they go, I worry that the big city will lure them up there permanently, but Reenie swears that they love the slower pace of life in a small town. Their veterinarian practice is growing, so I assume that would keep them here, too. I’ve been hinting to my daughter about wanting more grandchildren, but you know that girl just keeps evading me and saying that they’re having too good a time with each other to think about settling down with kids yet. Maybe you and Flynn can be an example to her that being parents doesn’t mean ending the fun–only expanding it.

I had a package from Elizabeth last week, with all kinds of delicious cookies she’s been trying out for her blog. She sent some to Kiki, too. We both agreed that she’s got some crazy talent in the kitchen! Anyway, Elizabeth and Trent are still loving life on the road. Trent left Crissy Darwin’s band, as you might have heard, and is spending some time in Nashville to record his first solo album. I reminded Elizabeth of the Christmas Bazaar, and guess what? She talked Trent into coming back to Burton to play for us at the Bazaar! We’re all so excited and can’t wait to see them. 

With your dear family home, Elizabeth and Trent, too . . . we’ll have a real extended family Christmas, won’t we? I’m so tickled that you’ll be here for the Bazaar, too. And I’m very curious about the big news you teased about in your text . . . are you sure you want to wait to tell me in person? 

Well, I should finish this up and head to bed. I have to be at the library bight and early–our new round of preschool classes begin tomorrow, and I like to have everything set up before the little ones arrive. 

Much love to my grandbabies, to my son who never writes to his mother, and of course to you–my wonderful daughter by love! 

Kisses and hugs,

Mom Evans

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What’s new with Ava and Liam?

 

An update from Ava and Liam . . .

Hey! Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve caught up with you. So much has been going on.

As you know, Liam and I finally tied the knot in the most perfectly imperfect and beautiful Christmas wedding. We followed that up with the most incredibly romantic and sexy honeymoon ever known to man–or woman. Sigh . . .

Since then, life has been pretty damn sweet. With Liam’s support and encouragement, I left my job at the ad agency and launched my own social media promotion company. I’m not going to lie, the work’s been hard–and long–but the results have been amazing. I have a full roster of satisfied clients and a waiting list of interested people, too. I’ve just hired my third employee to help me handle all the business . . . and because I’m going to want to take a little time off soon, too.

Liam finished his graduate studies and is a full-fledged professor at Birch. He’s the professor all the students are dying to have, and not just because he’s so much fun to stare at while he lectures. He also has the unique ability to make the subject matter more interesting than anyone dreamed it could be.

With life going so well, we were also able to buy our first house. It’s a little fixer-upper not far from campus and near my new office, but it’s been so much fun to work on together. We’ve become expert painters and tile-layers. Well, expert might be going a little too far . . . 

Let’s see, what else is new?

My brother Vincent and Liam’s best friend Amanda surprised us a few months ago by throwing an impromptu wedding at my family’s restaurant down the shore. They had invited all of us to come down for dinner, claiming that we hadn’t gotten together as a family for a long time–which was true; we’ve all been super busy–and then once we were there around the table in the restaurant, they announced that right after we finished eating, Father Byers was coming over to perform the ceremony. We were all shocked, but honestly, it was the most perfect wedding for the two of them. Neither of them wanted a fuss, but they didn’t want to elope, either. (Probably because Vincent was afraid of my mom!) So we got to have a fun dinner and celebrate these two we love so much. It was a win-win! 

Julia and Jesse are still going strong. In addition to their sweet little girl Mia, my goddaughter, they just had TWIN boys. Julia is going absolutely nuts chasing after all three of the kids, but I think she’s loving every minute. She and Jesse are just as much in love now as they ever were, and we hang out together quite a bit. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful friends! 

Speaking of friends, Giff and Jeff are FINALLY engaged. Why did it take those two so long? I think Jeff was ready, but Giff wasn’t. He wanted to make sure he was firmly established in his business, which he totally is. Anyway, no quickie surprise nuptials for those two: they’re throwing a huge and very lavish bash in Philadelphia in February. And they’re also talking about adopting kids sooner than later, which is especially sweet because . . . 

We’re having a baby!! Yes, folks, you heard it here first. We’ve put off starting a family for a while, but the time is finally right. I’m about six months along, and I’ve never been happier. Liam walks around half the time like he’s the first guy to knock up his woman . . . and the other half of the time, he’s worried to distraction about me, about the baby, about how we’re going to adjust to being a family after it being just the two of us for so long. 

We’ve been setting up the nursery and picking baby names. We want to be surprised about the sex, but I have a feeling I’m carrying a boy. Liam doesn’t care, but I think he’s a little worried about having a son, considering the rocky relationship with his own father (who divorced his second wife about a year ago and has joint custody of their little girl). But I’m not worried. I know Liam is going to be the best father in the world. 

Well, that’s all the news here. My mom’s been making noises about having a big family reunion, so I hope we can catch up there–maybe with our new addition. 

<3,

Ava

Just Desserts

Liam Bailey is my sexiest dream and my worst nightmare, all rolled into one delicious, forbidden package.

I’m the girl with an iron-clad plan. Everything in my world is about succeeding, excelling, and making my large Italian family proud of me. That means graduating college with honors, landing the perfect job, and not letting anything–or anyone–get in my way.

But Liam is the guy who makes me want to break all my rules.

He’s the embodiment of all my naughtiest fantasies, with his incredible body, his brooding eyes and his tempting smile.

Liam’s also the sweet-talking, complicated son of a well-known politician, the big man on campus, the athlete, the rich guy who’s never had to work for anything in his life.

When I don’t fall into his lap like the other women do, I fully expect him to walk away. After all, why would a girl like me matter to someone like him?

But it turns out that Liam doesn’t give up easily. He’s not going to let our friends’ opinions, his parents’ disapproval, or my own walls get in the way of what he wants . . . which, apparently, is my heart.

Well, after all, rules were made to be broken.

 

I Choose You

Wedding bells are ringing for us. I hope.

The path of true love has sometimes been bumpy for Ava and me. I mean, I was her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, the son of a disgraced politician, and a former campus playboy. Ava was the hard-working, single-minded scholarship student with no time for romance. We were the couple least likely to succeed.

But almost two years later, love for us is better than ever. I’m pursuing my dream of being a college professor, and my girl Ava’s the rising star at a local ad agency. But I still have one more goal: I want to marry the girl who changed my life.

Neither of us realizes that making it to the big day might be our greatest challenge yet. Between my parents’ acrimonious divorce and Ava’s family’s ideas of how to plan the perfect wedding, it’ll take the strength of our love—and a little help from our friends–to see us through to happily-ever-after.

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