Fourth of July . . . Small Town Style

{Psssst . . . if you want to read the prequel to this short story, go here. Happy Fourth of July!}

 

“Hey, Sam! Happy Fourth of July.” Mason slapped me on the back, grinning. “I’m kind of surprised to see you here. I figured you and Meghan would be celebrating at home today, what with . . . you know. Everything.”

He nodded in the general direction of my wife, and I followed his gaze. Meghan sat in a lawn chair next to my sister. Her beautiful red hair was up on top of her head in what she called a messy bun, keeping it off her neck in this oppressive Georgia heat. Her face was as gorgeous as it had been five years ago when I first saw her on the side of the highway just outside town, and her smile was serene.

It wasn’t until my eyes traveled lower that my stomach clenched with the same nerves that had been tormenting me for the better part of nine months. Meghan’s belly was enormous, so large that it dwarfed her frame. We’d known from the beginning that she was carrying twins, but sometimes lately, I wondered if it might be more than just two babies.

With great effort, I dragged my gaze back to Mason. “Oh, you mean the fact that my wife is currently eight days overdue? And that twins are almost never born this late? And that she looks like she’s balancing four watermelons on her middle? And she’s been contracting pretty steadily for the last two days? You think all of that would convince that stubborn woman that we should, I don’t know, go to the hospital? Or at least stick close to home?” I shook my head. “Nope. She said she wasn’t missing Independence Day, no matter what. She even joked with me that maybe the fireworks would scare the babies into being born. Can you believe her? Joking at a time like this?”

Mason threw back his head and howled with laughter. “Oh, Sam. Settle down, buddy. Meghan’s fine. Look at her over there, enjoying herself with all of our friends and families . . . she looks great. And just think: if she does go into labor, you’re closer to the hospital here than you would be out on the farm.” He elbowed my ribs. “Relax, man. Impending fatherhood is damn scary, but you can handle it. Look at me. I’m basically a pro by now.”

So saying, he swung down an arm to catch the little boy who was racing past, lifting his son into the air and tossing him high before he hugged him tight. A few feet away, his daughter Piper was sitting at the picnic table with my niece Bridget, both of them eating watermelon.

“You do make it look easy. You and Rilla, I mean,” I admitted. “But two at once? I’m already having nightmares about how we’re going to handle this.”

“Hey, if anyone should be freaking out here, it ought to be me.” He lowered his voice. “Rilla doesn’t want to make it public knowledge until after Meghan has the babies, but she’s cooking number three. We’re going to be officially outnumbered, come early next year.”

“That’s wonderful, Mason.” I gave him a punch in the shoulder. “I’m happy for you. I know Meghan will be, too. She—”

“Sam!” My sister’s voice interrupted me, calling my name with an urgency that had my heart jumping into my throat. “Get over here! Meghan’s water just broke.”

My feet were suddenly frozen, unable to move. I felt like I was standing in cement. “What?”

“You need to get her to the hospital!” Ali dashed over to me and shook my arm. “Come on, big brother. Get moving. You’re about to become a daddy. Times two.” She twisted, scanning the green expanse of grass where Burton’s Fourth of July celebration always took place. “Flynn! I need you to get the kids and take them over to where your mom is sitting. Tell everyone that Sam and I are driving Meghan to the hospital, and then come meet us.”

“I’ll call Meghan’s mom,” Rilla volunteered. “I know she’s been on standby to race up here the minute she hears things are getting underway.”

“Great.” Ali took my hand and dragged me toward my wife. “Sam, snap out of it. Meghan needs you.”

Those were the magic words. I stumbled to where my wife was still seated and leaned over her chair. When she lifted her eyes to meet mine, I expected to see panic. Pain. Fear.

But I should have known better. Instead, I saw joy, anticipation . . . and love. So much love.

Suddenly, I was back on that dark highway, looking down into the face of a young woman I was holding, whose eyes had just blinked open at me with wonder. I touched her cheek.

“Hey, babe. Ready to go meet our kiddos?”

Her smile was radiant. “So ready. So way over ready. I love you, Sam.”

I kissed her lips. “I love you, too. Now let’s get moving before you give birth here on the green.”

As I hauled my wife to her feet, applause and shouts of love and well-wishing rose around us. Our family, our friends and our town were sending us off in grand style, and this time, my heart swelled with gladness. I might be scared about becoming a dad, and I might be anxious about Meghan’s delivery, but I knew without a doubt that dozens of people loved me and had my back.

This was life–and love–in a small town.

Read more about life and love in Burton! There are nine Love in a Small Town books right now . . . and more on the way. Find them here.

At the beach with Meghan and Sam (Love in a Small Town)

At the beach with Meghan and Sam

{This short originally appeared on Literary Escapism as part of the Coastal Magic At the Beach series.}

“See? I told you. September is the best time to visit the Cove.” I kicked off my flip-flops and dropped the bag of food from the Rip Tide that my mom had packed for us onto the stripped blanket Sam had just spread. “Weather is perfect, crowds are virtually non-existent and the water is still pretty warm.”

My husband squinted toward the ocean. “It’s pretty, that’s for sure.” He reached over his head and pulled his T-shirt off in one fluid movement, and I smiled at his white chest and stomach. My man was a farmer, and he had the tan to prove it . . . on his arms and neck.

Sitting down on the blanket, I opened the bag and pulled out two burgers. “One medium-rare Ripper burger for you, one very well-done Ripper for me, with extra . . . crap.”

Sam stretched out next to me, taking his sandwich, as his mouth curled into a half-smile and one eyebrow rose. “Extra crap? I thought you asked Sadie to make it with extra blue cheese.”

“Yeah, I did.” I folded the wrapper back around my burger. “I’m not really hungry at the moment. I think I’ll just stick to the fries for a bit.”

“Okay.” Sam took a bite and moaned a little. “Oh, baby. Now this is heaven.”

I grinned. “Because of the burger or because of me?”

“Hmm.” He pretended to consider, and I elbowed him in the ribs.

“Babe, you know it’s all about you. It’s always all about you.” He wiped off his lips with a napkin. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s been over four years since I stopped alongside that highway to help out two drunk college girls with a broken-down car. When I think of how everything in my life has changed since that night . . . it’s crazy.”

“To be fair, Laura wasn’t at all drunk. It was only me.” I shrugged. “But four years—wow. So if you had to do it all over again, knowing what you do now, would you still stop?”

“Every time.” He slipped his around my back, pulling me against his side. “I know things have been a little hard lately, with all the fertility issues, but we’re still good, right? We’re okay?”

“Of course we are.” I kissed his cheek, feeling my heart began to thud in anticipation. “No matter what, it’s you and me. I love you, Sam Reynolds. You’re my one.”

Sam touched the tip of my nose with his finger. “My first, my last, my only. Always.”

Running the tip of my tongue over my lips, I made my voice as casual as possible. “Hey, can you grab my sunglasses from the bag? They’re in the case.”

“Uh, sure.” He rummaged for a minute before finding the hard black case. “Here you go, babe. So did you—” He paused as a thin white piece of paper flutter out with the glasses. “What’s this?”

I pretended ignorance, but it was impossible to hide my smile. “I don’t know. Look at it and see.”

Sam held the paper in front of his eyes, frowning. I watched his face closely, waiting for the moment when realization dawned.

And when it did, I’d never seen anything so beautiful. He glanced at me, back at the paper, and then at me again.

“Meghan, is this—it’s—is it what I think it is?”

I nodded. “That, Sam Reynolds, is the very first picture of your babies.” I lifted his hand and laid on my still-flat stomach. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but come early next summer, the next generation of the Reynolds’ family will be ready to meet you.”

Sam stare leaned forward to kiss me, that simple touch conveying everything I knew he was feeling. Releasing me, he bent down to press his lips to my stomach, glancing up as he did.

“Meghan Reynolds, I love you.”

I combed my fingers through his short hair and smiled.

“I know.”

{Want to read about how Sam and Meghan met? Check out THE LAST ONE right here!}

{And if you want another short about these two–go here to read more!}

BIG News about Love in a Small Town

 

Being an indie author oftentimes means being flexible and rolling with the tides of the business. It also means going back to fix things later . . . or re-doing something that sounded like a good idea at the time.

When I published The Last One in September of 2014, it was supposed to be a stand-alone, a spin-off from the Crystal Cove Romances. But by the time I’d finished writing it, I realized that I was oh so wrong . . . this wasn’t just a spin-off, it was actually the start of a new series. I thought it would be three books, a trilogy: The Last One, The First One, The Only One. But then, it turned out that there were more Burton stories to tell.

The Always Love books take place in Burton, Georgia, just as the The One books do, and there are tons of crossover characters. It really IS the same series. But oftentimes, readers couldn’t figure that out.

Enter re-branding, the dread of every indie author.

What we’ve done here is:

–Created a brand-new series called Love in a Small Town that encompasses all nine of the books currently set in or connected to Burton, as well as any subsequent books released in that series.

–Created brand-new covers for each book that capture the feel of these books. The marvelous Meg Murrey did an amazing job.

–Released The Perfect Onea novella that had previously only been available as part of the box set. (If you didn’t read it as part of the box set, you can buy it here.)

–Tweaked the blurbs to carry through the flavor and heart of these books.

–Added extra content in the form of an additional chapter to each full-length book. The new content is from the point of view of one of the main characters featured in the subsequent book.

To celebrate this re-branding business, The Last One is free for a limited time! You can get your copy by clicking any of the links below.

iBooks/Amazon/Nook/Kobo/Google/Smashwords

 

Here are all the books in Love in a Small Town:

The Last One   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Only One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always For You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath My Christmas Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always My Own

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My One and Always

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always Our Love

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The most wonderful time of the year!

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**This is the story of what happened before Trent and Elizabeth arrived in Burton. How did they meet? What made them fall in love? Find out here!**

Elizabeth Hudson has one goal in mind for this holiday season: ignore it. With her complicated family, non-existent love life and demanding job, skipping Christmas seems like the best plan ever.
Until a Christmas tree lot pops up just outside her office, run by the hot and hunky Trent Wagoner.
Trent took this job because he needed to get away from life in his small Georgia hometown. Hauling a truckload of Douglas firs and blue spruces from his uncle’s farm in Michigan to sell in Florida sounded like the perfect plan to find the space he needs and finally get his life on track.

Neither Trent nor Elizabeth planned on the instant sparks of attraction between them. But no matter how hard they fight it, something unexpected—and wonderful—may show up beneath the Christmas tree this year.

**Don’t miss the rest of the story! ALWAYS MY OWN picks up after this book ends . . . and answers the question, “What happened next?”**

 

Buy your copy at iBooks today!

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