If you missed Episode One, read it here.

If you missed Episode Two, read it here.

If you missed the Bonus Episode, read it here.

If you missed Episode Three, read it here.

If you missed Episode Four, read it here.

If you missed Episode Five, read it here.

If you missed Episode Six, read it here.


{Trigger Warning: this episode contains a description of an abusive situation, including violence. If this is a trigger for you, you might want to skip this one.}


“My God, it’s a tornado.”

The words had no sooner slipped from my lips than Wesley grabbed my arm and yanked me with him down the steps. I wasn’t sure my feet actually touched the ground; he ran so fast that the world spun around me.

Terror pounded in my veins. I knew what tornados could do. Growing up in southeast Wisconsin, I’d learned that when the dreaded siren sounded, I had to drop what I was doing and race to the basement, where we huddled until the radio assured us that it was safe to leave. We’d never been hit by a twister directly, but I’d seen the grim pictures of nearby towns that had been devastated by storms.

I was so worried about getting away from that looming funnel cloud that I didn’t even think about where Wesley was dragging me until he paused to tug open the door that led to the basement.

“Wait!” I yelled over the sound of the wind, rain, and thunder. “I don’t want to go down there.”

“Sabrina.” Wesley gripped my wrist. “We don’t have any choice. That tornado is heading this way. The basement is the only safe place.”

“But it’s horrible. There’s not even a floor. I talked with Linc about putting in a subfloor and some better walls, but he said we should focus on the main part of the house first.”

“We don’t have time to debate this. You’re coming down here with me, and that’s all there is to it.”

I opened my mouth to argue some more, and growling in frustration, Wesley bent and scooped me into his arms. Stepping down onto the top step, he slammed the door behind us and made his down into the pitch black of the basement.

It was ridiculous to be frightened, I scolded myself silently, even as I hid my face in Wesley’s shirt. It was just an old basement. But it smelled of earth and decay and mildew, and I couldn’t help feeling as though we were about to be buried alive.


“It’s not so bad, Brina girl.” Wesley’s breath was warm as he murmured against my ear. “Better than being upstairs and getting carried away to Oz.”

“Oz has its virtues,” I mumbled, keeping my eyes squeezed shut. “It’s all dirt down here. There are probably mice and rats and snakes.”

“Doubtful,” he answered, but I noticed that he didn’t exactly sound convincing.

“No, there are,” I insisted. “I remember my grammy’s basement in Ripon. There were mice.”

“Yeah, probably, but my point was that if there are snakes, there probably aren’t mice. Snakes eat mice.”

“Well, that’s just great.” I curled my fingers into Wesley’s neck. “Thanks for the biology lesson.”

“No problem.” He came to a stop, his back against the earthen wall, and then I felt him slide down until my feet hit the dirt floor.

“Hey!” I pulled in my legs and rolled up my body like a little potato bug. “Why are you sitting down on the ground where the snakes are slithering around?”

“There aren’t any snakes. And I’m sitting down because if I don’t, I might drop you.” Wesley brushed one hand down my back and then wrapped his arm securely around me, snugging me tight against him.

“Well, thanks for that.” I began to struggle against his embrace and then remembered the possibility of rodents and reptiles and stayed put. “Are you saying I’m so heavy that you had to get off your feet?”

“Not at all, babycakes. Just that I ran down here, and you’ve got a stranglehold on my neck. Safer for both of us if I’m sitting.”

“Okay.” I closed my eyes and let myself lean into Wesley. The one positive thing about this solid earthen basement was that I could barely hear the sounds of the storm anymore. Everything was muffled and softened. “Do you think it’s going to hit the house? The tornado, I mean?”

“Hard to say. Those things are so damn unpredictable. It could hit us. Or it could dance around and hit a bunch of other stuff.” He rolled his shoulder. “Impossible to know for sure.”

“Hmmmm.” I tried to focus on good stuff, to settle my mind, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d seen growing up. “Wesley, do you remember the year the twister hit Genessee?”

I couldn’t see him in the dark, but I could feel his body tighten. “Yep.”

“It was so bad. Up until then, I didn’t take the storms seriously, you know? I always dragged my feet about going to the cellar when the radio warnings sounded. It seemed ridiculous because they always missed us. But when that one hit so close . . . I saw the pictures. We were in . . . what, eighth grade? Seventh?”

I felt Wesley’s throat work. “Eighth. I remember because . . .” He expelled a long breath. “It was spring of eighth grade. I was playing baseball. First base, remember?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Of course. I went to every game and sat on the first row of the bleachers—until you broke your collarbone and couldn’t play.” Something inside me clicked suddenly. “Oh, my God, Wesley. You—I thought you fell down the steps. That’s what you said. But that wasn’t what happened, was it? It was him—it was your father, wasn’t it?”

His head moved slowly. “He didn’t want to go downstairs because he was watching something on TV, and my mom begged him—she said what if we got hit and he was trapped up there? I said—” Wesley’s breath hitched. “I said, let him stay up here if he’s so hell-bent on doing it. I was standing at the top of the steps of the cellar steps, and before the words were even all the way out of my mouth, he came charging at me. Knocked me down, and I heard the crack—I knew it was bad. My mom was screaming at him to stop, but he dragged me back upstairs and made me stay there with him. Forced my mother down to the basement and locked the door—she was pounding on it, yelling for me, but after a while, the wind and the storm were so loud, I couldn’t hear her anymore. I was in so much pain—I puked, and he smacked me again for doing that. And then he held me down while the twister went past us, and I prayed—God, I prayed that it would hit us, suck both of us up and end all that misery. But it didn’t. And when it passed, he gave me a kick and then left the house. I had to drag myself over to let my other out of the basement.” He was silent for a beat. “So yeah, I remember it. We were sitting in the emergency room watching the coverage that day.”

“Oh, Wesley.” Reaching up, I stroked his cheek. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I didn’t know. I was so clueless. You must’ve hated me for not realizing.”

“No way.” His response was swift, and I wasn’t sure, but it felt as though he’d brushed a kiss over the top of my head. “You were my safe spot. My happy place. If you’d been part of that, if you’d known . . . I would’ve hated that. But there is no fucking way I could have ever hated you. Not ever.”

I toyed with the collar of his shirt, my nose pressed into his neck. He smelled delicious, like sawdust and musk and the woods at sunset. It was a killer combo.

“Maybe not back then, but more recently . . .” I sighed, and Wesley shivered as my breath tickled his skin. “I’ve been a raging bitch. I acted like a spoiled kid who’d gotten her feelings hurt, and I never stopped to listen to you, to ask what happened. Why you left. I’m sorry, Wesley. So fucking sorry.”

“Hey, I told you before. Nothing to apologize for.” He cupped my cheek with one warm hand. “Second chances mean not saying you’re sorry for things that happened before.”

“Oh, really?” I teased, loving how his touch made me feel. “So you’re making the rules now?”

“I’m making that rule.” His head bent over mine. “Brina girl . . . can I ask you something?”

“Of course. Anything,” I whispered, my heart stuttering erratically.

“If I promise that I’m not going to leave town unexpectedly in the foreseeable future, could I kiss you?”

My mouth curved into a helpless smile. “That depends. Will it be as magical as it was when we were sixteen?”

His deep chuckle jostled us both. “Baby, you can count on it. All that and more. I’ve picked up some moves in the past fourteen years.”

“Then I say . . . a little less talk and a lot more action.”

Taking that as the assent it was, Wesley nudge my chin up until the back of my head rested on his arm. When he angled his mouth over mine, I was suddenly catapulted back to that young hopeful girl having her first kiss . . . and at the same time, I was me, the older and somewhat cynical woman who still couldn’t resist the man holding me in his arms.

The moment our lips touched, I knew for sure that we’d never lost any of the spark between us. Wesley groaned, and I trembled, my entire being catching on fire, needing his touch more than I needed to breathe. I arched my back, wild to be closer to him, to press my body against his and feel every subtle movement he made.

One of his hands—the one not attached to the arm that was cradling my head—wandered down to squeeze my ass and then back up toward my breasts, cupping first one and then the other through the thin cotton of my shirt. His thumb stroked the stiff tip of my nipple, and I was pretty sure that I was going to melt into nothing right then and there.

“See,” he murmured against my lips. “So much better than when we were sixteen. This is the kind of stuff that I only fantasized about doing back then.”

“Did you really?” I nuzzled his jaw and then hummed with pleasure when his lips trailed down my neck. “Did you really fantasize about me?”

“Only all day, every day.” His soft laughter rumbled again. “Took me way the hell too long to get up the nerve to actually do something about it. If I’d acted sooner . . .” He heaved out a long breath. “Let’s just say my timing sucked.”

“Hey now.” I kissed his chin. “Remember your rule.”

“Right.” His fingers slipped lower until his palm flattened over my stomach. “Brina, babe, about that second chance—”

“Wesley? Dr. Hudson? Are you down there?”

The voice calling from above jarred both of us from this sweet world where no one existed except the two of us. Dim light illuminated a slice of the basement, and I heard the clump of Linc Turner’s boots on his way the steps.

Without thinking, I jumped up from Wesley’s lap, brushing at my jeans and raking my fingers through my hair. God, did I look like I’d been making out in the basement? What would Linc think?

“Yeah, boss, we’re here. We’re okay.” Wesley rose slowly to his feet, stretching his back. “Is it all clear up there?”

“It is.” Linc hit the bottom step and squinted toward us. “Lord A’mighty, I’m glad you made it down here. I was just leaving the office when we heard the report of funnel clouds, so I called home to make sure they were taking cover, then the guys and I hightailed it to the interior bathroom.” He glanced at me. “No basement at the office, so that was the safest place. But let me tell you, after spending fifteen minutes in that space with four sweaty, dirty men, I’m putting in a storm cellar just as soon as I can.”

“I bet.” I cleared my throat. “I’d just stopped by the house, and as I was upstairs, uh, talking with Wesley, the power went out and we saw the cloud. Wesley was smart enough to drag me down here.” I couldn’t bring myself to meet his eyes yet, so I gestured toward him instead. “Note to both of us, Linc—let’s make getting this basement fixed up a priority, okay? I know we put it on the back burner, but if I’d have had to spend any more time down here than I did, I wouldn’t have been very happy.”

Too late, I heard the words that came out of my mouth and realized what they might sound like to Wesley. Shit. That hadn’t been what I meant, but going back now to clarify wasn’t going to help either of us. Linc Turner was a great guy and a hell of a restoration contractor, but I wasn’t in a hurry to share my deepest, darkest secrets with him. He didn’t need to know that I’d been in a lip lock—and more—with one of his employees.

The overwhelming stress of it all—rushing over here to spill my heart to Wesley, the storm, the basement, revisiting our past—not to mention a very hot make-out session with the guy who’d always made my insides go gooey—suddenly rolled over me, and I needed to get out of there as fast as I could.

“The tornado didn’t hit the house, right?” I asked Linc. “Nothing’s damaged? And my car’s okay?”

He shook his head. “Everything’s fine here. There are a couple of branches down, but they didn’t hit anything. The twister passed by about a mile south. Mostly, I think it stuck close to the road, though I heard a couple of farm fields might have been torn up. Let’s hope it was the ones that have already been harvested.”

“Yes, sure, let’s hope,” I babbled. “I better get out of here and check on my friends. Make sure they’re all right.” I skirted behind Linc. “House looks great, Linc. Awesome. Wonderful work. I’ll be in touch.”

With my foot on the bottom step, I paused and finally glanced back at Wesley. “Thank you. For saving me. For getting me down here. For—everything.”

It was too dim for me to make out his expression, but in my mind’s eye, I already knew that he was probably scowling.

“Sabrina—” he began, moving toward me, but I didn’t give him a chance to go on.

“See you all later!”

And then, racing like the devil himself was on my tail, I ran up the steps, through the kitchen and out the door.

Want to know what comes next?

Episode Eight is coming *next* Friday, October 15th!

But . . . Wesley and Sabrina’s HEA will have to wait a bit.

Because it’s time for the tale of

Coral’s movie premiere date!

What about Celeste?

Her romance is revealed in


which is part of the holiday benefit anthology


Releasing Today!

Get your copy of Tinsel and Tatas Today:


Apple Books



Barnes & Noble



If you missed Episode One, read it here.

If you missed Episode Two, read it here.

If you missed the Bonus Episode, read it here.

If you missed Episode Three, read it here.

If you missed Episode Four, read it here.

If you missed Episode Five, read it here.


“Are you sure you’ll be all right out here?” Linc raised his voice to be heard over the howling wind that was bending trees outside the house. I peered through the window, frowning at the darkening sky.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I answered. “You need to get home, dude. Not every day your daughter turns seventeen. And I want to finish the trim on the window seat upstairs in the master before I knock off for the day.”

A horn sounded close by, and Linc rolled his eyes. “Hollister needs to keep his pants on. He wants to get back to the shop before it rains—like he thinks he’ll melt.”

“But he’s giving you a lift, so let’s not keep him waiting.” I reached for the doorknob and tugged on it. The wind whipped it out of my hand, throwing it backward, and it might have banged into the wall if I hadn’t caught it.

“Note to self: let’s get those wall guards added sooner than later.” Linc pulled his hat down more securely. “Okay. I’m heading out then. Don’t forget—”

“—to lock up and make sure all the windows are closed and check the tarps on the questionable spots on the roof,” I finished for him. “Got it, boss. Get out of here. And tell your girl I said happy birthday.”

Linc nodded and jogged out to the waiting pickup. I closed the door behind him and then stood for a moment, glancing around the house. It wasn’t often that I had her all to myself. Patting the gleaming banister, I spoke aloud.

“Alone at last, huh, beautiful? Let’s see what I can do to make you even sexier than you already are.”

There was no answer as I climbed the steps, not unless you counted the creaks and groans of the trees. I’d been in plenty of houses where sometimes, I got the sense that I wasn’t quite . . . alone, even when I was. Like most of the guys who routinely worked historical rehabs, I’d had my share of experiences that bordered on the creepy. I didn’t scare easily, and I didn’t have a problem with former residents hanging around to see our work, even if they happened to be spectral. Still, I was vaguely relieved that Sabrina’s house didn’t seem to fall into the possibly haunted category.

Sabrina. I forced away a wince as I thought of her. Last weekend, I’d joined the rest of the crew at the Turner home where we’d all enjoyed a barbecue. Linc had introduced me to his wife Jenna and demanded that I repeat the same history I’d given him—to tell the story of why I’d ghosted on Sabrina back in high school. Apparently, Jenna was friends with Sabrina’s BFF in Burton, the one who owned some kind of store. Linc had slapped me on the back and assured me that he had everything covered—that with his help, Sabrina Hudson would shortly have full knowledge of the truth.

“Does it even matter?” I muttered to myself, taking out a tape measure to check on the length of a piece of trim. “We were kids. We weren’t dating. We weren’t in a relationship. Not even a teenage one.”


But even as I spoke those words aloud, I knew I was lying to myself. The night my mom and I had fled the only home I’d ever known, Sabrina had been the one person I’d mourned, the one regret I’d held. I’d missed her keenly for months. And even now, seeing her again reminded me of the deep feelings she’d stirred within me once upon a time.

Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, throwing weird shadows on the opposite wall. It was getting darker and darker, and I paused for a moment, squinting out a nearby window, wondering if maybe I should call it a day. Storms like this weren’t uncommon in the late summer, but this time of year, with autumn in full swing, it was a little more unusual. There was a better than decent chance that the power would go out, and if it did, I wasn’t going to get anything done anyway.

Still, for now, I had electricity and decent light. I dropped to my haunches and laid the strip of trim, examining it with narrowed eyes. When I worked on houses like this, I had an image of what the result should be, and if reality didn’t match my vision, I kept at it until I was satisfied.

I’d just lifted the nail gun and filled it with the tiny finishing nails when I heard a loud bang downstairs. It sounded like the door again and swearing under my breath, I set down the tools and trotted toward the steps. I must not have closed the door all the way, and with gale-force winds like these, I probably should have turned the deadbolt, too.

But I came to a sudden halt when I saw a figure in a bright red slicker climbing up the steps. A wide hood obscured the person’s face, and out of instinct, I reached for the hammer hanging from my tool belt.

“Hey!” I hoped my voice sounded deep and threatening, with none of my trepidation noticeable. “What’re you doing here?”

And then the hood was thrown back, and it was Sabrina standing midway up the stairs. Her face was damp, with drops clinging to her long eyelashes. Blonde hair was plastered to her head. But none of that mattered when I looked in her eyes because for the first time in fourteen years, what I saw there wasn’t hurt or anger or accusation. Instead, I saw a soft eagerness that made my heart stutter.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, slipping her arms from the sleeves of the oversized raincoat. “I wasn’t sure . . . I saw your truck or at least a truck, but I hoped it was yours. Anyway . . .” Her voice trailed off. “I didn’t mean to spook you.”

I spread my hands. “I wasn’t spooked exactly. Just surprised. I thought I was here by myself.” Pointing to the large window downstairs, I added, “I figured no one was fool enough to go out in this crazy weather.”

“Only me.” She offered me a tentative smile, and it was suddenly hard to breathe.

“Can I . . . I mean, do you need to see something? Are you here for an update? Linc’s not here, but you can look around, of course. It’s your house.”

“I’m not here to see the house. And I knew Linc had left because I called him on my way over to see if you were working today.” The tip of her tongue darted out to trace the seam of her lips. “I came to see you, Wesley.”

“Me?” I echoed dumbly, frowning. “Why?”

“Because.” She took a deep breath. “I owe you a massive apology, and I didn’t want to wait another hour before I told you how sorry I am.”

I had a pretty good idea of where this was going, but I’ve never been the kind of man to assume thing. “Why are you sorry?”

“I didn’t listen to you. I didn’t give you a chance to explain what happened all those years ago back in Wisconsin. I jumped to some pretty shitty conclusions back then, and I never let you tell me the truth. I’m really sorry, Wesley. So deeply sorry.”

I gazed at her without speaking for a long moment. “You had no way of knowing. If you’d vanished on me back then, I’d probably have been a little bitter, too.”

“Probably not,” Sabrina argued. “You’ve always had that thing where you think the best of people. You used to give me more credit than I deserved. I bet if the situation had been reversed, you’d have been nicer to me when we met again, too.”

“Maybe, but—” I shook my head. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. I accept your apology, Brina girl, if even if I don’t need you to give it to me.”

“Thank you.” She climbed the last few steps until she stood only a couple of feet away from me. “I really missed you, Wesley. Every single day of the rest of high school. Nothing felt right after you were gone. You were my best friend.”

The sad note in her voice cracked me open. “It gutted me to leave you, Brina. But I didn’t have a choice, you know? Mom wouldn’t leave without me. If I’d kicked up a fuss, she’d have gone back to that house, to getting knocked around by the asshole who called himself my father, until he finally killed her—or until I killed him. Either way, it wasn’t going to be a pretty ending. As much as I—cared about you, I couldn’t do that to my mother.”

“I understand that now. Back then, I honestly had no idea.” Sabrina lifted her hand as though reaching toward me, then dropped it back to her side. “Why didn’t you tell me, Wesley? Before then, I mean. Why didn’t you let me know how bad things were at home?”

I rolled my shoulder. “I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want your pity, and there was nothing anyone could do—not until we had a way out. And I didn’t want you to look at me differently. You know how you hated being the girl whose mother died? I didn’t want to be the guy whose dad was abusive.”

“I guess I see.” She nodded, lowering her gaze to the floor. A silence stretched between us, and I wondered if Sabrina was thinking the same thing I was—what now?

“Well, I guess that’s all I came to say.” She straightened her spine. “I’ll just—”

A gust of wind rattled the house, making it groan and creak. Then all at once, it was dark, the power cut off abruptly. Sabrina shrieked, and I reached for her, my hands grasping. She leaped into my arms, wrapping herself around me.

“It’s okay.” I ran my hand down her back, offering what little comfort I could even as my body responded to her scent, her soft curves, her very nearness. “Probably the wind blew down a line, and it’ll be fine in just a little bit.”

But my last words were drowned out by a roar like I’d only heard once in my life, and my stomach dropped even before I pivoted to look through the rain-splattered window behind me where, in the black sky,  I spotted the unmistakable sight of a funnel cloud.

“My God. It’s a tornado.”


Want to know what comes next?

Episode Seven is coming next Friday!

The tale of Coral’s movie premiere date

is coming in this month, too.

What about Celeste?

Her romance is revealed in


which is part of the holiday benefit anthology


Releasing this Tuesday!

October 5th

Preorder Tinsel and Tatas Today:


Apple Books



Barnes & Noble

Bosom Buddies Episode Four

If you missed Episode One, read it here.

If you missed Episode Two, read it here.

If you missed the Bonus Episode, read it here.

If you missed Episode Three, read it here.



“Hey, can I borrow your stud finder?” Lincoln climbed up the last few steps, holding out his hand toward me. “Mine’s out of juice.”

I lifted one eyebrow. “What’s that you always tell us about keeping our tools charged up and in good working order?”

He shrugged, grinning. “Hey, I can’t help it. Every time I use the stud finder, it goes crazy and sticks to me. Can’t blame the thing for knowing a real stud when it sees one.”

“Oh, Jesus,” I groaned. “You didn’t really say that.”

“Sure did.” Linc had no compunction about making the corniest jokes ever, telling us that as a father of four, he held the ultimate dad joke title. It was a point of pride among the crew that none of us ever laughed when the boss unleashed a one-liner.

“Here.” I unsnapped the case that held my stud finder from my belt. “Take this and your lame humor and go downstairs. I’m busy here.”

“Yeah? Doing what?” Linc smirked, but we both knew that he was just yanking my chain. One of the things that I liked about working for this company was the way the bosses respected my skill. Other outfits didn’t realize that mutual respect was essential in order to hold onto talented workers. I’d had bosses who thought that sneering at what I did and how I did it made them big guys. I didn’t stick around long for that kind of treatment; I’d had enough experience with bullies to know when to cut my losses.

“Finishing up this trim.” I pointed to the elaborate woodwork beneath the waist-high railing at the top of the steps. “It’s got to be measured precisely, or—”

“The design is shit,” Linc finished my sentence. “Yeah, I know. I put in my time doing this kind of stuff. It can be tedious.” He paused, squinting at me. “If you need to take break, stretch your legs, get some air, go ahead.”

“We’re running behind on this part,” I reminded my boss. “I want to finish today so I can move on to the next tasks.”

“Yeah, but if you screw it up and have to re-do it, we’re that much further back. Work smart, not stupid.”

I nodded, the edges of my lips curling as I considered what a difference it was to partner with a guy like Linc. “I got it. Don’t worry, I know my limitations.”

“Okay, then.” He turned and descended two steps before pausing. “Speaking of limitations and knowing our own . . . Dr. Hudson texted earlier and let me know she’s stopping by for an update.”

My heart began to pound until it was too loud in my own ears, and suddenly, it was that much hotter up here. I kept my eyes on the cut pieces of wood in front of me. “Yeah?”

“Thought you should know since the last time she was here, she ran for the hills when she caught sight of you.”

“That’s not exactly—” I began and then expelled a long breath. “Okay, yeah. She did. She didn’t appreciate the surprise of seeing me again after all these years, I guess.”

“And you don’t want to tell me—” Linc broke off as we both heard the sound of the door opening below us. “Huh. Guess that’ll have to save. I’m going down to welcome her, so you can stay up here and keep working, but when we pass your way, play nice, all right?”

I raised my eyebrows. “I’m not the problem here. I’m always perfectly nice. She’s the one who . . .” I dropped my voice to a whisper. “Ran away.”

“Whatever. She’s the customer, so she automatically gets the benefit of the doubt.” Shooting me one more quelling glare, Linc started down the steps again. “Hey, doc! Is that you?”

I heard Sabrina’s voice waft up the stairwell. “Yes, it’s me. Wow, look at all the progress you’ve made! This is amazing.”

For the next ten minutes, I kept my eyes glued to my work, pretending that I could ignore the sounds of the conversation below. But every time Sabrina said something or laughed in response to whatever Linc was saying, my body tightened, and I got the same weird sense that I did just before a huge drop on a rollercoaster.

And then their voices were louder, and I knew they were approaching me. I had two conflicting urges: to run so that I didn’t have to see the raw hurt and cold fury in Sabrina’s eyes or to stay just so that I could look at her more, be close enough to examine all of the ways the last fourteen years had changed the girl who used to be my best friend.

I knew the minute she spotted me. I could almost hear her breath stutter, and then Linc said, “Ooopsie daisy, there. Don’t fall now. We’ve got insurance for our team, but I’m pretty sure you taking a tumble down the steps would be under your homeowner’s policy and could jack up your rates.”

“True.” Sabrina’s voice was thin and thready. “Thanks for the catch.”

“Can’t have the woman who pays the bills end up with a bump on the noggin that could lead to her forgetting that she hired us.” Linc sounded a little too hearty. “Well, here you can see one of our favorite artisans at work, restoring the second-level bricka-brack.” He cleared his throat. “Scoring Wesley for this job was a massive win. He’s the perfect storm: he does his own research, and with his masters in historical architecture, that’s not just hitting Google for colors and old photos, believe me. But add his incredible talent working wood, and he’s a truly rare dude.”

“I’m . . . sure.” Sabrina squared her shoulders as I rose from my knees to face her. “His work is definitely, ah, adequate.”

Adequate? I scowled and opened my mouth to respond, but before I could, Linc rushed to intercede.

“Ahahaha, doc, that’s the way to tell him.” He shot me a meaningful glance over Sabrina’s head. “We don’t want him getting a big head and leaving us to start his own company, right?”

“That’s definitely something I’d be concerned about.” Sabrina’s breathiness had turned brittle. “Leaving people without warning is his specialty.”

I stood in front of her, feeling as though I’d turned to stone, not knowing what to say. Linc’s eyes darted from the client to me, clearly not sure how to handle this tension.

A high-pitched tone trilled, the sound coming from the direction of Sabrina’s brown leather handbag. She fumbled with the snap and then whipped out her cell phone. Frowning at the screen, she gave her head a little shake.

“I’m sorry to cut short the tour, but I have to get into town. A friend . . . ah, it’s kind of an emergency.” She shoved the phone back into her purse. “Linc, if it’s okay, I’ll give you a call next week and set up a time to come by again.” She stepped backward, down another stair. “Sorry I have to keep . . . uh, I can’t seem to finish getting a good look, can I?” She affected a laugh that was undeniably fake. “The life of a doctor, right?”

Linc nodded, but his smile was forced, too. “Sure thing. This is your house, doc. Come whenever it works for you. And if I’m not here, just text or call with questions.”

“Of course.” Sabrina dipped her head. “What I see so far . . . it’s amazing. Fabulous. I can’t wait for it all to be finished.”

She spun on one heel and dashed down the steps, disappearing through the door seconds later.

“Well.” Linc crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the unpainted wall behind us. “Once again, the lady seems to be in quite a hurry. And this time, Crane, I’m gonna need an explanation.”

“I guess I owe you that much.” I pulled a kerchief from my pocket and wiped off my forehead.

“Let’s go outside and sit down,” Linc suggested. “We can refill our HydroFlasks on the way.”

The company of Kent and Turner was serious about taking care of the environment, doing our part to cut down on the scourge of plastic pollution. That’s why we were each issued our own personalized reusable cold beverage thermos. Those damn things kept water icy all the day long, even in extreme heat.

The old house we were restoring was set back in the woods, and as I joined my boss on a roughed-out log bench, I took a moment to appreciate the quiet, with only birdsong and the occasional rustle in the underbrush disturbing the silence.

“Okay.” Linc gulped down some water. “Spill. Tell me why our client seems to have an allergic reaction to seeing you.”

I twisted the cap back onto my water and rested it on the ground between my feet. “I’ve known Sabrina since we were toddlers. We lived down the street from each other in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and we were in the same playgroup. We walked into kindergarten together on the first day . . . then a few months later, her mother died.”

“Oh, God.” Linc’s jaw tensed. “That’s so damn tough. Poor kid.”

I realized that this news probably hit home with my boss, who had lost his first wife and the mother of his two babies in a tragic accident. Although he’d since found new love and remarried, he’d completely empathize with the idea of a child losing her mama.

“It was breast cancer,” I went on. “I don’t remember much, but later, when I was older, my mother told me that Sabrina’s mom had been really sick for a long time.” I paused, thinking back over the years. “We were with all of the same kids through elementary, middle, and high school. Sabrina hated being known as the girl without a mom. So I always made sure I treated her like . . . you know, like a normal person.”

“You guys were pretty close, huh?”

“The closest.” I rubbed my lower lip. “We were best friends. We told each other everything.” I swallowed, staring at the ground. “Well, almost everything. The only thing I didn’t share with Sabrina was the worst part of my life . . . and that was the fact that my father routinely beat my mother.”

It was Linc’s turn to suck in a swift breath. “Fuck, Crane. Jesus. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, well, the man who donated the sperm for my conception was a sick son-of-a-bitch. I don’t have a memory of him that doesn’t involve my mom getting hurt. He was cruel, sadistic . . . I hated him.”

“Did he ever—” Linc frowned. “You know—with you? Did he lay hands on his kid?”

“No, and that was almost worse. Once I got old enough to try and protect her, he took extra . . . glee, I guess, in hitting her in front of me. Or attacking her verbally, emotionally. Whatever might twist me up, knowing I couldn’t do anything to defend my mother. He was a huge guy.”

“Fucking prick.” Linc glowered. “I can’t stand that. I don’t understand men like that—and you can’t even call them men really, because they’re less than animals if they’re hitting the women they’re meant to love and protect. If they’re teaching their impressionable sons to be the same way.”

“Yeah.” I ran my hands over my jean-covered thighs. “Well, I almost confessed everything to Sabrina so many times, but she had so much sadness in her own life that I didn’t want to lay that on her, too. So I kept my mouth shut.”

“Hmmmm.” Linc’s response was non-committal. “And then what?”

“The older we got, the closer we got.” I closed my eyes, letting my mind wander back to those crazy days of my youth. “At the end of junior high, I knew I liked Sabrina—I wanted her as more than just a friend. Hanging out and watching movies at her house wasn’t enough anymore. I wanted to . . . you know. Hold her. Kiss her. I wanted Sabrina as my girlfriend. But at the same time, I was scared shitless to make a move. Partly because I couldn’t imagine being involved with her in that way and not sharing everything—the truth about my home life, I mean. And then a big part was this worry I had that maybe I could be like him. What if it was like some genetic thing, and I hadn’t realized it because I’d never had a girlfriend?”

“That’s a lot of heavy shit for . . . how old were you then?”

“Sixteen,” I replied. “It was heavy, you’re right. But finally, the way I felt for Sabrina outweighed all of my fears and hang-ups. We were walking home one night, and I worked up the nerve to tell her how I felt. We had this dance thing at our high school every Christmas time, and it was a big deal. So I asked her to go with me, as my date, and she said yes, and we kissed.” I could still feel everything I’d felt that night. “I left Sabrina at her door, and I’m pretty sure I floated down the block toward my house.”

“Uh-huh.” Linc’s eyes were steady on mine, as though he had a clue about what came next.

“Thing was, though, I didn’t get home. A few houses away from mine, a car I didn’t recognize pulled up alongside me. When the passenger window rolled down, my mom was there in the dark, and she whispered to me to get in.” I gripped the log on either side of me until the wood dug into my palms. “She hadn’t told me, but for months, she’d been working with an organization that helps women and kids escape abusive situations. They’d helped her get the car—it had been waiting at a safe spot for the first opportunity my mom had to sneak away. That night, my father’s car had broken down, holding him up at work, and so my mother snatched the chance. She’d been parked down a side street, just waiting for me to walk past.”

“Holy shit, Wesley.” Linc gaped at me. “What did you do?”

“I was sixteen, and my mother needed me. She’d found us a way out of a situation that probably would’ve ended in her death if we hadn’t escaped. But getting away—and getting away safely—meant cutting all ties to the people who knew us. That included Sabrina. I didn’t have any way to contact her. Mom and I both destroyed our phones and dumped them behind a grocery store on our way out of town.”

“Ah.” My boss nodded. “But you did get away?”

“We did. We took back roads all the way from Wisconsin up into Canada, and then this pilot flew us to Alaska on a prop plane—crazy stuff. We lived up there in a small town, changed our names, our birth dates . . . it was mind-blowing, but we lived. My mother finally got a second chance for a peaceful, safe life.”

“And so did you.” Linc grasped my shoulder. “But it came at the cost of your friendship with Sabrina, right?”

“It did.” I nodded. “I finished high school in Alaska and was in the middle of my first year at a community college there when we learned that my father was dead. Mom and I would check on him now and then, you know, online, and we found out he’d been killed in a barfight in California. Guess he finally picked on someone bigger than him, and it bit him in the ass.”

“What did you and your mom do after that?”

I stretched out my legs. “Mom stayed in Alaska. She’d been dancing around a relationship with a really great guy for a while, and with my dad gone, she was free to finally go for it with him. They’re married and very much in love. She ended up with happiness she deserved.”

“And what about you?”

“Well, I spent a summer working with a couple of brothers who restored buildings up there. I realized that I loved the work—and as you know, the fact that it dovetailed so well with my history major made it even more perfect. I finished another year of community college in Alaska, and then I got a scholarship to a school in New England.” I shrugged. “The rest of my resumé is exactly what it says on paper. After the asshole died, I changed my name back.”

“You didn’t ever try to find Sabrina?” Linc cocked his head.

I hesitated. “I thought about it, but when I made a trip back to Waukesha, her family had moved—I guess right after Sabrina finished high school. I looked her up on social media, but I never could find her. And what would I have said to her? I have no clue what she thought when I disappeared from her life. I figured she hated me.” My mouth twisted. “Guess I was right.”

“Okay, I follow you so far.” Linc’s head wagged. “But did you try to explain all of this to Sabrina when you two reconnected here?”

“She didn’t give me a chance.” I shrugged. “She had a shit load of assumptions about me and what had happened, and before I could say a word, she blew out of here again. Like a hurricane.”

“So you need to get her back here and lay out the truth. Tell her exactly what happened in the past and why you ghosted.” Linc said it as though it was simple. “You owe her that much. And you need to do it soon if she’s going to keep avoiding being here at her own house in order to keep from seeing you.”

“Great idea, boss.” I tossed up my hands. “Do you have any brilliant plan to make it happen?”

Linc was quiet for a moment, his eyes narrowing. And then a slow smile spread over his face.

“Leave it to me, buddy. Just leave it to me.”


Want to know what comes next?

Episode Five is coming next Friday!

And we’ll see exactly what Linc has in mind.

The tale of Coral’s movie premiere date

is coming in this month, too.

What about Celeste?

Her romance is revealed in


which is part of the holiday benefit anthology


Releasing October 5th

Preorder Tinsel and Tatas Today:


Apple Books



Barnes & Noble

Did you know Linc Turner has his own book?

The Forever One

Welcome to Burton, a small town just west of Savannah where the men are sexy, the women are sassy

and happily-ever-afters are a specialty of the house.


I celebrated my twenty-first birthday by persuading Trent Wagner, the guy I’d been crushing on for months, to sleep with me. When he broke my heart and crushed my dreams by rejecting me afterward, I did the unthinkable. I tried to end my life.

Over two years later, I’m finally finding my balance again. My job at the county historical society is steady and predictable, two elements I appreciate right now. I’m living on my own, and my world is peaceful, if lonely.

That is, until Lincoln Turner comes to town.


When my wife was killed in a car accident, she left me with two small children and a bleak future. Six years later, I’m a recovering alcoholic who’s just gotten my kids back. I’m ready to tackle a new position as co-owner of a building restoration company.

I’m not looking for any attachments. But I’m also not ready for the irresistible attraction I feel for Jenna when a huge project brings us together.

The road to true love has more bumps than we could imagine. Making our way to a happy ending won’t be easy. But when two bruised souls find their way to each other . . . forever is possible.


Bosom Buddies **BONUS EPISODE**

If you missed Episode One, read it here.

If you missed Episode Two, read it here.



“Come in, come in!” Celeste opened the front door to her adorable little lingerie boutique, Between the Sheets. “How’re you doing, sweetie?”

“I’m good. I’m fine.” I leaned into my friend’s enthusiastic hug. Celeste was one of the brightest, most positive people I’d ever met, and I often wondered why she liked someone like me who tended to teeter on the cliff of pessimism.

But she did like me, and I knew I was lucky to have both Coral and Celeste in my life. When we’d met at that volunteer rally back in college, I never could have guessed how long we’d know each other and how deeply they’d both impact my future. Hell, I lived in Georgia because after we’d finished our undergrad studies, Celeste had been determined to start up a business in Burton, her hometown. Coral had already written her first book by that time and knew she could work anywhere, so she’d decided to stick around and share a rental house with Celeste.

I’d gone to medical school in Atlanta, close enough that my girls could come to me at least one weekend a month. They’d cheered me on, getting me through those three long years of insanity, and when I’d landed a spot in a residency program in Savannah, we’d all been thrilled to live within about forty-five minutes of each other.

And now, all three of us had realized our dreams: Coral’s books were bestsellers, the kinds of books that were optioned for movie deals even before their release dates; I was working in a cutting-edge breast cancer treatment hospital, heading up some of the most promising studies and trials; and Celeste owned this totally kick-ass lingerie store on the main boulevard of Burton.

She studied me now, her eyes clouding with concern. “You don’t look fine.”

“Oh, stop with the flattery, Celeste, you’ll make me blush.” I rolled my eyes. “I just came off a twenty-four, and I only had time for a couple of hours of sleep before I had to drag my ass to Burton for this meeting.” I yawned big. “So sorry if I don’t match your sparkle. Cut me a break.”

“Whoa there, angel pants. Slow your roll. When I said you didn’t look fine, I only meant that there’s something in your eyes. Something that says you’re not at all fine and good. You’re upset.”

“Am not.” The denial flew fast from my lips. “Like I said, I’m just . . . tired.”

“Okay.” She shrugged, and she might have said more, but just then the bell over the door jingled as Coral came in, followed in short order by a group of three young women.

Celeste wore her official saleswoman smile as she glanced at me. I nodded, understanding that she had to deal with these last-minute-before-closing customers, and gestured to Coral to follow me behind the counter and into the small sitting room in the back of the store.

“Ugh, I saw those girls getting out of their car right after I did, and I kept sending them mental vibes: don’t go into Celeste’s store. But I guess my Jedi mind power must be a little rusty.”

“Oh, it’s fine. She’ll schmooze them, sell them a couple hundred dollars’ worth of sexy silkies, then send them on their way.” I sank onto the overstuffed loveseat. “God, it feels good to be off my feet. It’s been a long week.”

“Sorry about that.” Coral kicked off her shoes and curled into the opposite corner of the small sofa. “Just work stuff?”

I hesitated. I’d been vacillating all week on whether or not to spill my guts to the girls about Wesley. They both knew of him; they’d heard the story early in our friendship, on one of our very first margarita sleepovers. I’d gotten sloppy drunk and sobbed out my heartbreak. Still, I wasn’t sure I wanted to let them know that the first guy who’d broken my tender heart was now helping to transform my home.

“Yeah, just work,” I answered Coral finally. “A lot of challenges right now.”

“I’m sorry.” Coral reached over to pat my hand. “Want to talk about it?”

“No.” I shook my head. “Comes with the territory, you know.”

“Sure, but . . .” She shrugged. “We’ve all been there. Or at least near there.”

I had to swallow hard over a lump that had risen suddenly in my throat. Coral, Celeste, and I called ourselves the Bosom Buddies for two reasons: first, we’d met at a volunteer rally for Young Survival Coalition, and second, we’d all three gone into lines of work that had something to do with, well . . . boobs. I worked in breast cancer research and treatment, Celeste sold fancy and sexy bras, and Coral wrote historical romances that all featured those famous and stereotypical heaving bosoms.

But behind the truth was pain that was still scarred and hurting, at least for Coral and me. I’d lost my mom to breast cancer when I was only five years old. That was why obliterating the disease was my daily personal crusade.

Coral, though, had actually fought breast cancer herself. She’d been diagnosed at age seventeen and battled for three years before going into remission. Now, nearly ten years after she’d finished treatment, it was sometimes hard to remember that she’d ever been that sick—it had happened before Celeste and I had met her—except that every now and then, I happened to look into her deep gray eyes—those old soul eyes—and caught a flash vulnerability. And then I remembered my friend’s enormous courage.

I scooted over on the loveseat and slipped one arm behind her back. “Thank you, Cor.”

She gave me that heartbreaking half-smile. “I didn’t do anything.”

“You do stuff all the time. You’re always here for Celeste and me. You listen, you encourage—you’re the best cheerleader a woman could want. I love you to pieces, and I don’t say it nearly enough.”

“Oh.” Coral ducked her head, embarrassed. “We all do that for each other.”

“Well, we try. I don’t think I’m as good as you are.” I nodded my head toward the door that led to the front of the shop. “By the way, did you think Celeste sounded funny on the video chat last night when she asked us to meet up here today?”

“Funny how?” Coral tilted her head.

“I don’t know. Funny like . . . she’s hiding something. Or like something big is happening.”

“Oooooh!” Coral’s eyes got big. “Do you think it’s a guy?”

“Jesus, Cor, does it always have to be about a man?” I rolled my eyes.

“Not all the time, no, but every story’s better when a man’s involved,” she shot back, all sassy like. For all of her wise ancient spirit energy, Coral really was a hopeless romantic. It was probably why she was so good at her job.

“I don’t know about that,” I sighed, thinking of Wesley and our tense encounter at my house last week.

“Aha!” She wriggled to sit up straighter. “See. There’s something else going on with you, girlfriend, and it’s definitely man-related. I can just tell.”

I never lied to my friends, but that policy didn’t stop me from trying to redirect Coral’s attention. “Do you think Celeste is too stressed about this holiday benefit? Taking on the chairperson job was a big decision.”

Coral narrowed her gaze. “Stop trying to change the subject. Also . . . yes, I think she’s stressed, but no, not too stressed. You know her. She thrives under pressure.”

“Hmmm. Maybe.” I nudged her with my elbow. “Hey, do you have to be up early tomorrow?”

She frowned. “No. Not particularly. Why?”

“Because I’m off for a few days, and I was thinking we could crash at Celeste’s place tonight after dinner. We could have a margarita sleepover. We’re way past due for one.”

“That sounds like a plan.” Coral grinned. “Celeste will have to get up to open the store, but you and I can sleep in. Oh! And we could go to Kenny’s for waffles!”

“Now you’re speaking my language.” I loved the small diner in the center of Burton’s downtown. It was one prime reason I’d chosen to settle so close to this little town—but I wasn’t going to admit that to Celeste or Coral.

“This is perfect.” Coral rubbed her hands together. “While we’re here, we’ll gang up on Celeste and get her to spill whatever she’s hiding. And then tonight—” Her grin turned wicked. “We’ll find out what it is you’re trying to keep from us.”

I sent her a withering glare. “I will never talk. No matter how much you torture me.”

My friend snorted, smirking. “Oh, we’ll see about that, Sabrina. We’ll just see.”

Want to know what comes next?

The details of this meeting–and what’s up with Celeste–are all revealed in


which is part of the holiday benefit anthology


Releasing October 5th

But the next episode of BOSOM BUDDIES releases on Friday–

and it’s all about the margarita sleepover!

Stay tuned!

Preorder Tinsel and Tatas Today:


Apple Books



Barnes & Noble