Bosom Buddies Episode Two

 

If you missed Episode One, read it here.

 

Wesley

 

I never thought I’d see her again.

Okay, so I hadn’t exactly been looking for Sabrina Hudson in the fourteen years since we’d last been together. For the first year, not thinking about her had been a matter of self-preservation. It had hurt too much, caused me too much gut-deep pain to let my mind linger on memories of her deep brown eyes, the way her whole face lit up whenever I said something she found amusing.

And then . . . well, life had gone on as it does when you’re young and grappling to figure out basic shit like surviving high school, getting into college, and supporting yourself. If I’d thought of Sabrina, it had been occasional and fleeting, with the pang of regret a little more bearable each time.

When I’d seen the name Hudson on the schedule that Linc had sent out to the crew, sure, I’d thought about Sabrina and her family. But as I’d noted a moment ago, it wasn’t exactly an unusual last name. It hadn’t even occurred to me this project we were working—this incredible sleeping beauty of a house—might belong to my Sabrina.

Because that was still how I thought of her. In my mind and in my memory, she was still my Brina girl, the first one I’d loved, the person who I’d most suffered over when Mom and I left town.

She was staring at me now, and in her gaze, I saw a mix of confusion and trepidation give way to disbelief and wonder.

“Wesley?” She breathed my name. “Is it really—how are you—I mean, what are you doing here?”

Of all the questions I was sure Sabrina was about to ask, that hadn’t been the exact one I’d expected. I gave my head a little shake just to get loose of the cobwebs before I answered.

“I work for Kent and Turner. I’m on this project, restoring this—well, uh, I guess your house.” I lifted one shoulder. “How’s that for a hell of a coincidence?”

“Yeah, coincidence,” she echoed, her eyes still stuck to my face. “It’s been—God, I haven’t seen you in—”

“Fourteen years,” I finished for her. “I know. I figured I’d never see you again. Every now and then I check on social media to see if you’re there. I saw a profile that looked like it might have been you, but it was ten years old, and nothing after.”

Sabrina wrinkled her cute little nose, making me want to reach out a finger to stroke down its length and smooth those bumps.

“I don’t do social media,” she said. “It’s not my thing. I had a couple of accounts for half a year back in college, but I hated how it made me feel, so I got rid of them.”

“Ah, so that was you.” I grinned. “You went to Carolina for college, huh? Long way from Waukesha.”

“Yeah, that was kind of the point,” she shot back. “I wanted to start over, far away from everyone I knew back in Wisconsin. I was ready to stop being poor little Sabrina Hudson whose mom died when she was in kindergarten.”

“No one ever thought of you that way.” I frowned, thinking back. “At least I didn’t.”

“You were one of the few. Every year, I had to deal with a new set of teachers who handled me with kid gloves, like I might shatter. And every time there was something in school that involved mothers, everyone looked at me like I was going to have a meltdown. Like the reminder that I didn’t have one was going to break me.” Sabrina pressed her fingers to her temples as though she was holding her head together, and suddenly I remembered that was her stress tell—what she did every time she was grappling with something huge like a killer exam or bickering friends. I hated the idea that I was the one causing her angst right now.

***

“Hey.” I couldn’t help myself. I lifted my hand to brush her fingers away from her hairline. “It’s okay, Brina girl. Maybe the rest of them were idiots, but I always knew you were made of stronger stuff.”

For just a moment, her lips curled into the ghost of a smile, and her eyes met mine with a muted gratitude. And then she seemed to remember where we were and everything that had happened between us. She stepped backward again.

“Yes, you always said I was tough.” The smile turned brittle. “Guess that’s why you figured I could handle it when you left me without a word. You never looked back, did you?”

“Sabrina.” Slowly, I shook my head. “No. That wasn’t what happened at all. It was—I didn’t have a choice.”

“That’s bullshit.” She tossed her head, making her wavy black hair dance. “Everything is a choice, Wesley. You moved away without giving me any notice, any explanation at all. You could have dropped me a note. You could’ve sent me a text. But you decided I wasn’t worth the time or energy.”

“It wasn’t that way,” I began again, but she rolled her eyes and cut me off.

“It wasn’t even the fact that you skipped town the day after—” She stopped abruptly, biting her lip, and I knew what she’d been about to say. “But we were friends, Wesley. You’d been my closest friend since preschool. We went through so much crap together, and I thought you were the one person I could always depend on. In a sea of craziness, you were my reliable float. After you left—” She turned around, giving me her back, but the way her head bowed, I knew she was hiding tears.

That just about killed me.

Who knew that all these years later, Sabrina Hudson still had the ability to rip out my beating heart?

“Sabrina, you have to realize that if there had been any way for me to reach out to you, I would have done it. God, don’t you think it destroyed me, having to leave everything and everyone behind me when we left? And if you don’t know, after all the years we were friends, after I told you that night how much I cared for you, if you didn’t know that you were at the top of the list of people I’d miss, then . . .” I trailed off. “Maybe there’s nothing I can say.”

“I guess not,” she whispered, the sound muffled since she was still facing away from me. “And if there’s nothing left for either of us to say, then I’m going home.” She waved one hand, gesturing vaguely to the space around us. “Tell Linc I was here and everything looks fine. Tell him I’ll be back next week to check on the progress.” She paused. “Please.”

“Don’t you want to take a look around? Check out what we’ve done upstairs?” I hated that my surprise appearance was robbing Sabrina of the joy of watching her house come back to life.

“No, not now.” She turned toward the door, and once again, she held her head between her hands. “I just came off a long shift at the hospital, and I need to get home to sleep.”

There was so much I wanted to ask her. She worked at the hospital, so did that mean she’d realized her long-held dream of becoming a doctor? Where was she living now, while she waited for her house to be ready? How had the last fourteen years treated her? Was she married, living with someone . . . did she have a family to raise in this rambling old house?

But I could tell that she was on the verge of falling apart, and I knew that if I witnessed that, it would only make her resent me more. So I didn’t ask any questions. Instead, I stayed where I was, hooking my thumbs in the beltloops of my jeans.

“Okay, Sabrina. I’ll let him know.”

She nodded and reached for the doorknob, hesitating only a second before she stepped across the threshold.

“I didn’t know what happened to you, Wesley, and I always wondered. I’m glad you’re alive and well.”

Before I could respond, she was out the door, pulling it shut behind her. I listened to the sound of her feet on the porch and then crunching on the gravel of the drive, but I went back upstairs before the slam of her car door.

A few minutes later, I heard the familiar rumble of Linc’s truck, and shortly after that, he climbed the steps to find me.

“Got those nails,” he announced, tossing me a small paper bag. “But we need to order some more from the company because the local hardware store doesn’t stock them on a regular basis.”

“Yeah, sorry about that.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “I thought what we had on hand would work, but these will be better.”

“Agreed.” Linc squinted at me, frowning. “Was that the homeowner I passed on the way in? I slowed down to wave, but she just kept on going.”

“Yep.” Tension made me a little terse. “She came by to check on things, I guess.”

“Didn’t hang around very long, did she? Was she happy with what she saw so far?”

I hesitated, unsure of how much to say. “She didn’t get any further than the foyer. I went downstairs, and I think she was surprised that she wasn’t here alone.” I opened the bag and pretended to examine the tiny finishing nails. “Turns out that she’s someone I knew . . . a long time ago.”

“Oh.” Linc watched me, waiting for me to go on, and when I didn’t, when my face went hot, his eyebrows rose. “Ohhhh. Old girlfriend?”

“Not quite. Kind of, maybe. We were just kids, and things—didn’t end the way I’d hoped. Or the way she’d hoped, I guess.” I closed the bag of nails again, crimping the paper to keep them from spilling. “It’s a long story.”

“I’ve got time and a good ear,” Linc offered.

“That’s okay.” I shook my head. “I know you need to get home, and I’ve lost the light here, anyway. Mind dropping me at the office on your way?” All of us working on the house tried to share rides to and from the site to cut down on too many vehicles in the driveway.

“No problem.” Linc waited as I grabbed my tools and stood up to follow him down the stairs. “You know, that offer to listen isn’t going to expire. Any time you need to talk, I’m here.”

“Thanks. You’re a good guy, Linc.”

He paused at the back door, his smile wry as he dug in his pocket for the key to lock up.

“I wasn’t always, and that’s what makes me a good listener. I don’t judge, and I believe in second chances.”

I nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

But as we trudged to the pickup, I wasn’t thinking about Linc’s offer. Instead, I was hoping that maybe, somehow, Sabrina might also be an advocate of second chances.

It was unlikely. She didn’t seem disposed to hear me out or to understand what had gone done all those years ago in Wisconsin.

But a guy could hope.

***************************

What’s the story between Sabrina and Wesley?

And will she give him a second chance?

Read next week and find out!

If you missed Episode One, read it here.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read the first four Burton romances,

catch up on them here!

Bosom Buddies Episode One

Sabrina

Everything in life is a tradeoff.

At least, that’s the way I look at things. Take today, for instance. Here I was at the end of a twenty-four-hour shift at the hospital, and by all rights, I should have been heading back to my condo to collapse into bed for a solid eight hours of desperately needed sleep. But instead, I’d turned left out of the hospital parking lot and aimed my car toward the small town of Burton, located about forty-five minutes due west of Savannah.

I wasn’t driving all the way into town today, even though I was tempted to pop into my friend Celeste’s adorable lingerie shop and shoot the breeze with her. No, my destination was about ten miles outside of Burton: I was driving to a picturesque little piece of property that boasted a small lake, two acres of wooded land, and over a hundred years of fascinating history.

Oh, and it also included a rambling old mansion that hadn’t been occupied for several decades. Seeing the beauty it could become hadn’t been easy, but I had a discerning eye for spotting potential, and this house had it in spades. I’d fallen head over heels for the place and made a rare impulsive decision. I’d forsaken the search for a cookie-cutter suburban starter home and committed to another year or two in my soulless Savannah condo in order to fund the rehab of my dream home.

Last month, the work on the bones of the house—the structural support, electricity and plumbing—had all been finished. This week, the company I’d hired to handle the historical rehab was supposed to begin working its magic, and I couldn’t wait another moment to see what they’d done so far.

Hence, the tradeoff. I was giving up sleep in exchange for a quick walk-through of my dream home.

It was late afternoon, so I wasn’t completely surprised to see that there weren’t any trucks in the winding driveway that led to the house. Was I a tiny bit disappointed? Sure. I wanted to think that the people I’d hired were giving my precious project all of their time and energy and attention, but the truth was that they probably had other jobs going on at the same time.

Anyway, being alone would give me a chance to really soak it all in without anyone there to rush me along or ask pesky questions. There you go—yet another tradeoff.

I let myself in through the front door only because I wanted the full effect of stepping into the magnificent foyer. I wasn’t disappointed. The walls were freshly painted in an updated shade of their original color, and the woodwork we’d selected for this space was already up, and even though it hadn’t been finished yet, I could already see how gorgeous it was going to be.

“Oh, baby,” I murmured. “You are going to be so beautiful when they’re done. I’d say we’re restoring you to your former glory, but I think it’s going to be even better than that. Kind of like getting a facelift that makes you look like a sexier version of your twenty-year-old self.” I giggled to myself, thinking of all the women who would line up for that kind of surgery.

Kneeling down, I ran my fingers over the baseboards and craned my neck to examine the molding that ran along the top of the walls, seeing in my mind’s eye the old photos one of my contacts at the county historical society had dug up for me, the ones that we’d used to make style and color decisions. It really was like the original, only better.

I was about to stand up again and make my way toward the kitchen when I heard footsteps upstairs. That was disturbing; if the crew had left for the day, no one should have been here. But there they were again: yeah, someone was definitely upstairs, and whoever it might be wasn’t making any effort to disguise his or her presence.

My mind raced through a number of possibilities, landing on the worst one first. I’d heard that sometimes vagrants or addicts or criminals scoped out empty houses and camped out there when they were fairly sure no one else was around. My place was pretty far off the beaten track, but still . . . if someone happened upon it, they might not like the idea of being chased away, and if they felt cornered or had a weapon, I could be in trouble.

I moved slowly, reaching into my purse and groping blindly. Like most women, I’d learned young the defense method of threading keys through my fingers, and if I could find them now, I might be able to buy myself time to get to my car. I thanked my past self for feeling safe enough out here that I’d left it unlocked. The door was just a few feet away, and if I could get to it silently—

And then the footsteps sounded again—this time louder and coming closer. My heart pounded, and sweat broke out all over my body. I tried to swallow, but my throat was bone dry. I took a deep breath and was about to make a run for the door when I heard a deep voice.

“Sabrina?”

I looked up, lifting my eyes to the banister on the second floor where a man was staring down at me. I blinked, my mind darting this way and that as I tried to make sense of the stranger above me who knew my name.

It wasn’t Linc Turner, the co-owner of Kent and Turner, the historical restoration company I’d hired. I’d have guessed it was one of the men who worked for him, but I hadn’t met any of them. It might have been someone local to Burton—someone I’d met with Celeste or maybe through Young Survival Coalition, the breast cancer support network and organization where we both volunteered. But it wasn’t. Somehow, I knew I hadn’t seen this face in a long time.

But I didn’t know him. The familiarity was frustratingly fleeting and vague. I frowned, rising slowly as the guy who seemed to know me jogged down the steps. My keys were still in my hand, so if he turned out to be psychopath who somehow happened to know my name.

“I didn’t put it together . . . I mean, Hudson is a common name, right? But then I heard your car in the driveway, and when I looked out the window to see who was here, I knew it was you.” He took a step toward me.

I moved backward. “I’m sorry. I don’t . . .” My voice trailed off. “How do you know me?”

He was quiet for a moment, and then a half-smile curled his lips. My heart sped up again, but this time it wasn’t fear making my pulse race. It seemed that my body had realized who he was, but my head was slow to catch up.

And then he spoke, his voice low and husky.

“Brina girl.”

Just like that, it all came flooding back to me, and I knew without a shadow of doubt who was standing in front of me.

“Wesley?”

***************************

Who is Wesley?

And how does he know Sabrina?

Read next week and find out!

Meanwhile, catch up on all of the steamy romance happening in Burton right here!

The First One is only 99 cents today!

ONLY 99 CENTS TODAY!

A sneak peek of FALL IN LOVE IN A SMALL TOWN

Enjoy a little taste of Fall in Love in a Small Town, coming September 28th!

Liberty

Sexy underwear on a freshly washed and shaved body? Check.

Dress that’s just the right mix of flirty and fun? Check.

Sassy new hairstyle that makes me look sophisticated–at least I hope so? Check.

Taking a deep, cleansing yoga breath, I gave myself one more encouraging grin in the mirror before I turned away. I’d set up the files I’d brought home from the society’s document library on my kitchen table, and there was a bottle of my favorite shiraz breathing on the counter next to two brand-new wine glasses. I’d been going for serious-business-evening alongside the suggestion of let’s-have-some-fun. I hoped that I’d struck the right note.

The knock on the door made me jump, even though I’d been waiting for it. I shook my head to dispel some nerves and yanked open the door.

Jacob stood on the other side, one hand resting on the wall of my small porch. The light jacket he wore was faded and almost threadbare; I recognized it from our high school days. Back then, seeing him wear it had made me sigh and wish. But right now? The way it clung to arms that had gotten a lot more bulked up since we were teenagers? Total droolfest.

He was wearing old jeans, too, and I knew the way they fit him was going to tempt me to stare at his very fine ass all evening. That wasn’t going to be a hardship.

“Hey, Lib.” His eyes swept over me from head to toe, and was I imagining it, or did I see a flare of heat in his expression? If so, it was too fleeting to be sure. And when he bent to kiss my cheek in greeting, it felt like he was keeping things brotherly, not suggestive.

Damn it.

“C’mon in, Jake,” I invited, stepping back as I eyed the backpack he had over one sculpted shoulder. “What do you have there?”

“Notebooks, binders, my laptop, and a portable scanner,” he answered, dropping the bag in a kitchen chair and unzipping it. “Tools of my trade.”

“Of course.” I smiled, nodding at him. “You come well-prepared.”

He stared at me for a moment and then muttered something under his breath. I wasn’t sure what he said, but it sounded like Not really. Whatever that was supposed to mean.

“Can I pour you some wine? I’m going to have a glass.” I moved toward the counter to give myself a little room before I did something crazy. Something like wrapping myself around him and climbing his body like a tree.

“Um . . .” Jacob looked almost mystified by the question. “Uh, sure. Yeah, wine sounds good.” He sat down and pulled out his laptop. “Sometimes I forget that you’re not still an underage kid, Lib. I was about to ask you how you managed to get ahold of wine.”

I rolled my eyes, irritated. “Jesus, Jacob. I’m twenty-five years old. Just two years younger than you. Newsflash . . . I do all kinds of grown-up things now. I buy alcohol, own a car, rent a house, go on dates . . .” Inspiration struck along with a kind of reckless courage I hadn’t known I possessed. Circling the small table, I stood next to him, closer than I had to, and leaned over to place the wine glass on the other side of his computer. I angled my body just enough to give him an eagle-eye view down the scooped neckline of my dress.

Lowering my voice, I completed my sentence, staring him in the eye.

“I even have sex. Believe it or not.”

Jake’s throat worked, and his mouth dropped open a little. Without looking away from me–almost as though he was powerless to do so–he reached for his wine and took a long drink. When he spoke again, his voice was raspy.

“Oh, I believe it, Liberty. I totally believe it.”

Coming September 28th

LEARN MORE HERE!!

A New Look for the Crystal Cove Books!

The Posse was my game-changer book.

I was a baby author, and I’d released four young adult paranormal romances. I was thinking of what came next–it was meant to be Rafe and Nell’s books. And then one day, I’d gone to the beach with the kids, and as I drove home, suddenly a story fell into my lap. Or my head, as it were . . . and unlike most of my other stories, this one was definitely adult, not supernatural at all, and I knew the entire thing, beginning to end, from the moment it was conceived.

Before I reached home that day, I knew the names, the characters . . . and the setting. Crystal Cove is based loosely on the Florida beach town of New Smyrna Beach, although I take lots of liberties–Crystal Cove is its own entity by now.

I have a special place in my heart for The Posse (and for The Plan and The Path and The Problem which followed), so I was especially thrilled when the talented Stacey Blake created these gorgeous new covers.

To celebrate, The Posse will be discounted through July.

Jude

I’ve always believed in second chances. But I never thought I’d need one.

And then my husband Daniel, my childhood sweetheart, father of my two almost-grown kids, died and left me alone with my memories, our family beach restaurant . . . and his life-long friends, the Posse.

I’m a little surprised–and suspicious–when a few of those friends begin to wine and dine me a year after Daniel’s death. I know they promised to look after me, but this is above and beyond. What’s really shaking me up, though, is that one of them tempts me to believe that maybe I’m not quite finished with love yet.

Logan

For most of my life, I silently watched my best friend love the only woman I ever wanted.

When Daniel died, I lost a guy who was like a brother to me. Along with the rest of our friends, I promised to look after his wife, Jude. Only . . . maybe I want to be more than just her pal.

It’s not going to be easy to convince her that we can be together without betraying our past. But I’ve loved Jude too long to give up on the future we could share. 

Buy it here!

 

Emmy

I’ve always believed in second chances. But I never thought I’d get one.

I’m a hard-working, no-nonsense woman, hell-bent on supporting my family and growing my pie business. Working weekend nights at The Riptide is just something I do to help pay the bills. When it comes to men–or love–I’m not interested. Since the day my surfer-boy husband walked out the door to find bigger waves, I knew I’d never give another man power over my heart.

But one night with Cooper might change that.

Cooper

I’ve been married–and divorced–twice, and I’ve got no desire to make it a trifecta. Being a single dad to my teen-aged daughter keeps me busy, and my carpentry business offers the only passion I need. The Posse, my best friends since boyhood, tease me about finding the right woman. But I know she doesn’t exist.

When I share a casual hook-up late one night with Emmy, it isn’t a big deal. It’s just a one-time thing. Until it isn’t. And although neither of us will admit to ourselves or each other that we want more, each encounter only brings us closer to the happily-ever-after we never planned to have.

Buy it here!

Abby

I’ve always believed in second chances. But I never thought I’d want one. 

I came to the small beach community of Crystal Cove to start over. After a painful affair broke my heart and derailed my burgeoning career, taking over management for the just-opened bed-and-breakfast was the safe choice. In this sleepy town, I figure I can bury my memories and forget the pain.

When I’m offered the chance to oversee the refurbishment of an old hotel in the Cove, I can’t resist the temptation. Bringing the Riverside Inn back to life offers me a second chance I never expected. It would be perfect if the man doing the work wasn’t both irritating and intriguing. Yes, his passion for the hotel is irresistible. But I see another spark in his eyes . . . one that threatens to ignite part of me I thought was dormant.

Ryland

Landing the job of restoring the Riverside Inn is a dream come true. The only problem is the woman in charge of the project. Abby Donavan is a prissy perfectionist, too worried about rules to appreciate my vision.

Still, I suspect that underneath that cool exterior beats a heart that burns with wild flames. If I can only convince her to trust me, I know we could build more than just an exquisite hotel. But second chances are risky when the past is painful. 

Buy it here!

Tawdra Kandle writes romance, in just about all its forms. She loves unlikely pairings, strong women, sexy guys, hot love scenes, and just enough conflict to make it interesting. Her books include new adult and adult contemporary romance; under the pen name Tamara Kendall, she writes paranormal romance, and under the pen name Tessa Kent, she writes erotic romance. Tawdra lives in central Florida with her husband, a sweet pup, and too many cats. Assorted grown children and a perfect granddaughter live nearby. And yeah, she rocks purple hair.

You can follow Tawdra on Amazon to receive updates on her releases. You can also visit her website for more information, and subscribe to her newsletter for sales announcements, special exclusive content, and promotions.

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The Most Delicious Red Gravy by Francesco DiMartino (Just Desserts/I Choose You/Just Roll With It)

Francesco DiMartino is the matriarch of the DiMartino family. She helps her husband run their family restaurant, she raised two daughters, two sons, and a granddaughter, none of her kids can get anything past her . . . and she’s a fabulous cook.

This is the red gravy she makes every Sunday. It’s also served at Cucino Felice. Enjoy.

1.5 pounds beef cubes

3 tbs olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 24 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 10 oz can tomato paste

2 tsp basil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 small can tomato sauce

To a large stockpot over medium heat add the oil and the garlic. Saute for a few minutes being careful not to burn. Add the beef cubes and cook until brown. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, and then fill the empty tomato paste can with water and add it to the pot as well. Add the spices. Cook over low heat for at least an hour (the longer, the better!). Add the tomato sauce and continue to cook for several hours (making it the day before is even better!). 

Serve with your favorite pasta (Francesca always recommends rigatoni), freshly grated parmesan cheese, and a salad (butter lettuce, tomatoes from the garden, and oil and balsamic vinegar). Oh, and crusty Italian bread is a definite bonus!