Release date: November 14, 2016
Single father Nic Rossi’s only desire is to raise his little girl with the same love and security his grandparents gave him and his siblings. That is, until Anna Thompson and her frightened daughter walk into his family restaurant, looking for employment, and turn his carefully ordered world upside down.
On the run from her abusive ex, Anna wants one thing: a quiet place like Angel Bay to raise her daughter. But she needs a job to pay for that dream, even if her new boss is a man whose sheer size makes her tremble. Yet Nic’s capacity for kindness leaves her feeling safe for the first time in years, and the gentle giant slowly awakens her long-dormant passion.
Then her ex-husband turns up like a bad penny, threatening not only Anna’s safe haven but Nic’s daughter in the bargain, forcing them to choose between love and family.
by J.M. Stewart
J.M. Stewart is a coffee and chocolate addict who lives in the Pacific Northwest. She’s a hopeless romantic who believes everybody should have their happily ever after. Find J.M. Stewart at http://authorjmstewart.com/, on Facebook, and on Twitter @JMStewartWriter.
An excerpt from Nic:
“I’m looking for Nic Rossi?”
Nic set down his coffee cup and dragged his gaze from the endless stack of schedules and inventory sheets in front of him, turning to the woman standing at the table beside him. Technically, the restaurant had closed a half an hour ago. The dining room sat empty, save for him and his two servers, Julie and Beth, who quietly moved through the nightly cleanup routine. Clearly, one of them had let this woman in. The question was, why?
“You found him.” He rubbed his tired eyes, hoping to rouse himself a bit, and offered her a smile.
Whoever she was, she made quite the picture. She couldn’t have been more than a hundred pounds soaking wet. Her well-worn jeans contained several holes, and her threadbare brown jacket looked like it let in more cold air than it kept out. She stood with a protective arm around a young girl, who couldn’t have been more than six. This side of too thin, both looked in need of a good hefty plate of pasta, as his nonna would say.
What on earth had dragged her out in the pouring rain at nine-thirty at night? With a child? Angel Bay, Washington, boasted barely two thousand residents. Bustling during the daylight hours, their town had long since gone to bed. Seated on the coast of Whidbey Island, one of the five islands out in Puget Sound, Angel Bay was the kind of small where everybody knew everybody else, and he was pretty sure he’d never seen her before.
He slid from the booth and extended his hand in greeting. As soon as he got to his feet, the young girl’s eyes widened, and she slipped behind her mother. Nic froze, his friendly greeting lodging in his throat.
“She’s not too keen on strangers.” The woman stroked the girl’s back, flashing a smile that didn’t match the anxiety dancing in her eyes.
He always told his three-year-old daughter, Ella, not to talk to strangers. But as the girl peeked around her mother’s arm, her eyes filled with a fear that sent a cold chill sweeping his spine.
Hoping, somehow, to appear less intimidating, he squatted to the girl’s level and braced his elbows on his knees. “I’m pretty big, huh? My baby sister used to call me Big Bird. I promise I don’t bite.”
The girl disappeared behind the woman, her little hands gripping the woman’s jacket until her knuckles turned white.
Nic sighed and pushed to his feet, extending his hand again. “How can I help you?”
The woman darted a glance around the empty dining room before pulling her shoulders back and shoving her hand into his. “Sarah Wheaton. I need a job, Mr. Rossi.”
“It’s Nic.” He pulled his hand back and stuffed both into the pockets of his slacks. “Kind of late to be out. We could do this tomorrow, you know. I’m here at nine every morning.”
It wasn’t any of his damn business, but the more he looked at her, the more the local women’s shelter came to mind. Ice-blue eyes identical to her daughter’s held a kind of fatigue that hinted at a hard life. The way they continued to flit around the dining room, as if she were afraid he’d jump on her, filled his mind with possibilities he prayed were wrong.