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Home Sweet Home #1
Released February 23rd, 2016
In Benevolence, Washington, the Lamont family's irresistible handmade chocolates are a cherished tradition--and always a reason to celebrate. And now they're giving the three Lamont sisters, one by one, delicious chances to start again, make a change, and have their sweetest dreams come true...
Neighbors who care, a peaceful routine--accountant Adeline Lamont is glad some things about her beloved hometown never change. But when her grandfather is injured, she has to run the family store, Chocolate Haven, and make its legendary fudge. Trouble is, she can't get the recipe right to save her life--or Chocolate Haven. And she doesn't need her ornery new tenant, Sinclair Jefferson, stirring up the pot with his help--and daring Addie to taste her wild side…
Once Sinclair gets his hapless brother back on track, he's leaving Benevolence for good this time. He's made his life far away from his irresponsible family and their scandals. Trouble is, he can't quite stay away from Addie's optimism, enticing plus-size curves, and kindness to those who need it most. But they don't seem to have a thing in common--except that Addie's passion for chocolate, and for Benevolence, is just as contagious as Sinclair's passion for her. Maybe small-town life has its charms after all…
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She’d tried the love thing. She’d headed down that happy path of commitment and promises, her heart doing a joyful little dance the entire way. She’d had a ring on her finger and every intention in the world of saying I do. Right up until the moment that Adam had said he didn’t, Adeline had been committed to them and had been absolutely sure that they had the real thing.
Why wouldn’t they? They’d grown up together. Attended school together. Went off to college together. They’d fit like pieces of a puzzle, and there hadn’t been a person in Benevolence who’d doubted that they’d last forever.
That had lasted until Adam got a job offer he couldn’t refuse. Good money. No. Great money. Adeline had wanted to get married before he left to join the law firm in Houston, but he’d had a dozen reasons why they shouldn’t. He’d said goodbye with tears in his eyes and promises on his lips—I’ll send you a plane ticket as soon as I get settled. I won’t sleep a wink until you’re by my side again. It won’t seem like home until you’re with me.
Bull crap. All of it.
A month later, Adeline had gotten an e-mailed Dear John letter. Adam had said that he thought they should take a break, see other people. Oh. And by the way? He’d like the ring back.
She’d tossed it in the Spokane River, and she’d gone on with her life as if her heart hadn’t been broken in a million pieces.
Fickle things, hearts.
So easily swayed, so easily fooled, so easily broken.
Not hers. Not anymore.
She liked her life just the way it was, but dang if she didn’t wish she had someone to go to the wedding with, because Janelle? She wanted nothing more than to see her three daughters married. To her, it was a source of never-ending disappointment that there hadn’t been a wedding yet. Three daughters, and not one of them had walked down the aisle. At least she could say that Willow and Brenna were in committed relationships. Willow was even engaged. Both of Addie’s sisters had exciting lives in exciting cities. A fact Janelle pulled out at every church function, every community event, every situation where bragging about children was considered a social norm.
She was still living in town, working as an accountant with no man in sight. There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot that her mother could say about that. My daughter crunches numbers all day and spends most of her evenings alone? Not exactly bragging material.
Not that Addie usually cared.
Janelle was Janelle. She’d met Addie’s father in high school, fell in love with Brett Lamont and never once looked back. Their relationship had been one for the record books—true love that only seemed to grow as the years passed. If cancer hadn’t taken her father, Addie was quite sure her parents would still be together and still be madly in love.
Was it any wonder that Janelle wanted that for her daughters?
Too bad she didn’t realize that some of her daughters. . . one of her daughters . . . didn’t want the same. Whether or not Addie was happy with her choice to remain single didn’t play into Janelle’s thought processes.
Which was a shame, because Addie was happy.
Or had been until Granddad fell and ended up in the hospital. Now her nice routine life had turned to chaos.
She was under too much stress. That’s why the dang Lamont fudge wasn’t turning out and why every heart she made seemed to be weeping chocolate. The last thing she needed was her mother hounding her about having a date to the wedding.
She also didn’t need to be hiding in a bathroom in her grandfather’s apartment. An apartment that was being rented by a guy who looked like he’d stepped off a magazine cover.
Sinclair Jefferson had been handsome when he was a kid.
Now . . .
Women were going to be falling all over themselves trying to get his attention.
All she wanted to do was get back to work and get home.
“Screw this,” she muttered. “I am not going to hide. If Mom asks me about my date for the wedding, I’ll just tell her I’m taking Tiny.”
She stalked into the hall.
The apartment was silent.
No sound of high heels clicking on wood. No murmured voices. Not even the soft sigh of fabric.
She hurried into the living room, the ugly orange dress under her arm. Empty. No one in the kitchen.
Maybe they’d gone down to the parking lot, and maybe . . . just maybe . . . she could get into Chocolate Haven, get the kitchen cleaned up, and get home without hearing one word about wedding dates.
“Leaving so soon?” Sinclair asked as she reached the door.
She didn’t know where he’d come from.
The office maybe? Or Granddad’s bedroom? Didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to be able to sneak out. She turned to face him, hoping to heaven her mother wasn’t there too.
“Soon? I figured I’d already outworn my welcome,” she replied, her hands itching to smooth her hair and to tug at the end of her T-shirt to make sure it was covering the rip in the thigh of her jeans.
She didn’t do any of those things, because Sinclair was just a guy who was renting her grandfather’s place, and it really didn’t matter what she looked like or what he thought of her.
His gaze dropped to her thigh. Obviously, her shirt wasn’t covering the tear.
“If I’d been in a hurry for you to leave, I’d have let you know,” he said, his gaze traveling from her thigh to the splotch of chocolate in the middle of her shirt.
“Since you make the place smell like chocolate, I figured it would be okay for you to stay for a while.”
That made her laugh, all the tension she’d been feeling sliding away. “You have a thing for chocolate?”
“Not me.” Not anymore.
“Too many days in the shop?”
“Something like that.” She kept her voice light. No need to announce to an almost complete stranger just how desperate she was to be done working at Chocolate Haven.
“We could switch off. You can help my brother. I’ll work at your grandfather’s store,” he suggested.
It was a joke.
She knew it was, but she’d have happily switched places with him for a day or two.
Or a thousand.
“I wouldn’t want to ruin your fun,” she said.
“I heard you and Gavin were cleaning out your grandfather’s house, trying to get it ready for the baby.” She’d also heard that Gavin’s wife had moved out. Seven months pregnant, Lauren had insisted that
Gavin make the house he’d inherited habitable for her and their child before she returned to him. According to the blue haired ladies at the diner, he hadn’t been making much progress toward the goal.
“I guess not much has changed since I left town,” he said, all the humor gone from his face and eyes.
“Gossip still travels faster than the speed of light.”
“Gavin is the one pushing the gossip along,” she replied, suddenly defensive and not sure why. She loved Benevolence, but not everyone did. Sinclair had every right to his opinion about the town.
“What’s he been saying?”
“He’s told everyone who cares to listen that Lauren walked out on him.”
“He needs to shut up. No one in town needs to know his business or Lauren’s.”
“Maybe you should tell him that.” She stepped outside, cold air bathing her hot cheeks. Perfect. That’s what this was. The perfectly horrible end to a perfectly horrible day.
“I will.” He’d moved to the door and stood in the threshold, backlit by the living room light.
“Then I guess there’s nothing more to say but good night.” She flounced down the stairs. At least, she hoped that’s what it looked like she was doing—a nice energetic retreat from a guy who she hoped wasn’t going to prove to be another complication in her already too complicated life.
She tripped on the last step, nearly landed on her face, but managed to right herself before she hit the pavement.
“Careful,” he called.
She offered a quick wave, doing everything in her power not to look at him again. No sense staring into those green eyes, taking in those long lean muscles, those very broad shoulders. Let the other women in Benevolence drool and dream. She had work to do.
She stepped into Chocolate Haven, grabbed Granddad’s apron from the hook, hung the dress in its place. Chocolate permeated the air, the scent of it so heavy and thick she was sure she could stick out her tongue and taste it.
Shirlee McCoy spent her childhood making up stories and acting them out with her sister. It wasn’t long before she discovered Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, her mother’s gothic romances . . . and became an ardent fan of romantic suspense. She still enjoys losing herself in a good book. And she still loves making up stories. Shirlee and her husband live in Washington and have five children. Readers can visit her website at www.shirleemccoy.com