CAN LOVE REVIVE A WILTING HEART?
Cricket O’Malley can’t wait to plant roots back home in Georgia, where she’s returned to restore an abandoned flower shop to its former glory. The only blemish? Her neighbor’s house is even more neglected than her old flower shop, and its occupant seems as surly as he is darkly handsome.
Devastated body and soul after a tough case went south, New York City detective Sam DeLuca thought he’d have no trouble finding solitude in the quiet Georgia town of Misty Bottoms, but his bubbly neighbor seems determined to shine happiness into Sam’s life. Sam is equally determined to close himself off, but his heart says otherwise…
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“Hold on a sec.” Sam raised a finger and headed back inside. Grabbing the small radio he’d found tucked inside a closet, he placed it on the ledge above the sink, dialed up a station that played a lot of Frank Sinatra, and opened the window. The music drifted into the twilight.
In another cupboard, he found a stub of a candle in a squat holder. His aunt Gertie’d probably kept it in case of a power outage. It would do. He lit it and stepped outside to find Cricket curled up on the back porch swing, Hobo at her feet.
“So you decided to come home,” he said to the dog. “You’ve been gone half the day.”
In answer, Hobo thumped his tail on the porch.
“Yeah, I know. You heard steak was on the menu for dinner.”
The tail thumped harder, and Cricket laughed, a warm, sultry sound.
Sam set the candle on a small side table, his system on high alert.
Cricket O’Malley. The girl-next-door meets sex goddess.
He didn’t understand it, but that didn’t seem to matter. Chemistry fairly sizzled between them.
He cleared his throat, then leaned down beside the fire circle. After he got a nice little blaze started, he pulled an old bench close. “I know we don’t need the heat—” He broke off. No, they sure didn’t. If they got within ten miles of each other, they generated enough of their own. “I mean, uh, I thought it might add a little ambiance.”
“Nothing I enjoy more than sittin’ around a campfire.”
“Have a seat then, and I’ll start the steaks.”
After he tossed them on the grill, he inched down beside Cricket.
The woman smelled like heaven. Or sin. He couldn’t decide which and slung an arm over the bench back. Hobo jumped up beside him.
Sam slid closer to Cricket to give the dog more room.
Hobo took it and more.
“You’re crowding me, boy.”
Those big eyes stared up at him, then Hobo threw his head back in an ear-piercing howl.
The dog answered with another mournful cry.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake.” He tried to move the dog off the bench, but he’d become a boneless, dead weight.
Cricket laughed. “I think we both know what he wants.”
Sam let out a half-laugh. “You up for it?”
“I can handle it if you can.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m up for it.” He rolled his eyes. “Wrong way to put that, but—”
He broke off as she laid a hand on the side of his face, leaned into him, and gave him a taste of heaven.
“Not enough,” he muttered, pulling her closer, dipping his lips again and angling them to take more. He trailed kisses along her neck, then moved back to her mouth. His hands moved down her arms, brushed the sides of her breasts.
A log dropped and sent up a loud popping and a shower of sparks.
He drew back and laid his forehead against hers, noticed, thank you God, her ragged breathing matched his own. “Cricket—”
“Shhh.” She laid a finger over his lips. “Let’s just accept that for what it was.”
“What was it?”
“Darned if I know.” She laughed. “But Hobo’s quiet.”
Sam looked at the dog who, job done, had hopped off the bench and rested in the grass. “I’m liking that dog more every day.”
Lynnette’s Tip for the Perfect Wedding
Will you marry me? Those four little words that will change your life forever. Now that he’s asked, you need to decide if this will be a DIY wedding or if you’ll hire a planner. If you do decide to put it into someone else’s hands, trust your wedding planner. Choose wisely and you won’t need to worry. This is a once-in-a-lifetime for you, but your wedding planner has lots of experience. Trust that she knows what she’s doing.
If you decide to do it yourself, choose your service providers carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. This day is too important to take a chance on a company you don’t know. Ask your florist to recommend a caterer they work with or a photographer. They’re in the business. They know who’s good—and who’s not. Be sure the caterer can carry through on his promises or you might end up with chicken instead of the roast duck you’d had your heart set on. A professional will be licensed and insured. They’ll also have the know-how and equipment to pull off those special needs and wants.
Book your vendors as soon as you’ve chosen your venue and decided on the tone of your wedding to ensure you can get who you want. The good ones are often booked far in advance. Be sure to follow up with them. Stay in touch but don’t become a nuisance.