Sam parked in front of Paige’s home. The drive from the restaurant had been a quiet one. Paige’s attempts to draw Jess into the conversation had resulted in the briefest of responses. As for the attempts he’d made… Well, Jess hadn’t entirely ignored him, but she’d put even less effort into her responses. No doubt she was worn out. The swift change from dynamo to drowsy wasn’t a surprise. Kids seemed to run on an on/off switch.
“I enjoyed our evening,” Paige said, breaking into his thoughts. “Though it wasn’t what you expected for a first date, was it?”
“I never know what to expect when it comes to you, and that’s what makes you so exciting.”
Her eyebrows shot upward. “Exciting, me? Hardly.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I’m just plain Paige.”
He released his seat belt and shifted slightly. A quick glance to the back revealed that Jess had fallen asleep. Even so, he lowered his voice. “You have the face of an angel and a joy for life that doesn’t stop. I haven’t known a dull moment in all the times we’ve spent together. Everything about you makes me want to know more.”
Her lips parted, and those gorgeous brown eyes gazed into his. “Wow.”
Sam chuckled. “Seems I’ve left you speechless.”
Her chin tilted upward, her luscious mouth just inches away. “So, that’s your secret power?”
“No, baby.” Sam cupped the nape of her neck in his palm. “This is.”
His lips touched hers, igniting a spark so unique, it had no comparison in his life.
The winning touchdown at his final high-school game. His first collar as a law-enforcement officer. All the kisses from every woman he’d ever dated. Everything paled beside what should have been a simple good-night kiss. But this kiss meant more than all those experiences combined. This kiss was the next step toward the life he yearned to have.
Paige slid closer, her fingertips touching his face. Her lips parted, accepting his gentle invitation.
He breathed her in, savoring her sigh just before he deepened the kiss. Her fingers slid through his hair to the nape of his neck, and it took every ounce of restraint he possessed not to take things further.
He eased away, ending the kiss sooner than he wanted. A girl next door didn’t neck in the front seat of a truck in a quiet residential neighborhood, especially not with a child in the back seat.
A child showing signs of waking up.
“Are we home?” Jess asked, her voice thick and drowsy.
A small gasp escaped through Paige’s lips, and she twisted her head toward the back of the truck. “Sure are. Ready to get out?”
Sam swallowed his disappointment and reached for the door handle. By the time he rounded the truck, Paige was helping Jess to the ground.
“I’ll get the car seat out while you unlock the door,” he said.
Heading toward the front walk, Jess whirled around. “It’s a booster, not a car seat.”
Sam bit back a laugh. “Excuse me. I’m new to this sort of stuff.”
“Mr. Nick knows the difference.” She whirled around and stomped to the front door.
“Sure put me in my place.” He pushed the car door shut and strolled up the front walk to where Paige waited.
“Sam, I’m sorry. She’s tired—”
“It’s okay.” He set the booster inside the door. “How did Nick get so high on her list this quick?”
“They bonded over dinner last night. Plus, he spent time with her while I talked with Danny about the custody case. To top it all off, he’s engaged to ‘Miss Dana’ and calls her Sprite.”
Sam winced. “Ouch, tough competition.”
She punched his arm. “I’m sure you can win her over.”
A gentle snore sounded from the couch. They both turned to see Jess curled on the cushions.
“Want me to carry her to her room?” He lowered his tone to avoid waking her.
“I can manage.”
Paige walked to the door and rested one hand on the latch. His cue to leave.
“I enjoyed tonight more than I’ve enjoyed anything in a long time.” He paused, hand on the doorframe. “Love to do it again.”
Head tilted, she smiled up at him. “I’d like that too.”
He looked around the room a final time. His gaze lingered a second longer on the sleeping child, then several more on the woman in front of him. “Make sure you lock up behind me.”
She burst out laughing, then tipped him a salute. “Yes, sir, Sheriff, and thank you very much. Never would have thought of that.”
He returned the salute. “Here to serve and protect.” Seeing Jess was beginning to stir, he stepped outside. “What’s up for tomorrow?”
“Painting Jess’s room. I’ll probably stop by the restaurant around noon to check in.” Paige shrugged. “And give the paint fumes time to clear out.”
“I might stop in and say hello. Maybe we could plan something in the evening.”
She glanced over her shoulder. “Let me see how things go. Jess and I both might need an early night.”
One more kiss wouldn’t be out of line. Before he could put that plan into action, Paige made the move. Hands on his shoulders for balance, she lifted onto her toes. With her still several inches short of their lips meeting, Sam lowered his head.
She kept the kiss light and quick, barely more than a peck. Not the kiss he wanted, but one he cherished as a signal that Paige was ready to move forward.
“Good night, Sam. I had a nice time.”
The door closed behind him. He waited until he heard the lock being turned, then walked to his truck. Seconds later, the front of the house darkened. He sat for a moment, considering Paige’s last words.
Nice. A bland word for what had been the best evening he’d had in a long time. But it wasn’t a condemnation from Paige. “Nice” meant something else to her. She might be the girl next door, but from his point of view, temptation and chaos lived on the other side of that door.
A chuckle broke loose as he started the ignition. Nope, not a thing wrong with nice.
Dianna Wilkes is an award-winning contemporary romance author, known for the Providence Island mystery series. Reading has always been an important part of her life. “I learned to read when I was four years old,” she said. “Writing my own stories seemed a natural progression.”Dianna holds a B.A. in Visual Communication and a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology. She worked as an Education Consultant for a medical technology company before leaving the corporate world to write full time. Despite all that nerdy stuff, she loves creating stories of romance and mystery with touches of humor.When she isn’t writing, Dianna is deep in researching various twigs and branches on her family tree or fulfilling entries on her travel bucket list.
Rare book authenticator Carys Jones wanted nothing more than to be left alone to pursue her obsession with ancient manuscripts. But when her biggest client is committed to an asylum, he gives Carys an offer she cannot refuse. In exchange for his entire library of priceless, Dark Age manuscripts, Carys must track the clues hidden in a previously unknown journal, clues that lead to a tomb that could rewrite the history of Western civilization.
But there are people who would do anything to stop Carys from finding what she seeks—for reasons both noble and evil. The hunt takes Carys to places she never thought she’d go, physically and emotionally; first to Wales, her estranged father’s homeland, then to bed with Dafydd, a mysterious Welshman who agrees to help her with the search, and finally, deep inside her own psyche, when the monk who wrote the journal 1,500 years ago appears and assists her in her search.
The Bottom Line: By the time I finished this book, a book I truly wanted to LOVE, I found myself somewhat angry and feeling as if I just read a book I have already read many times over by other authors. Make no mistake, I am not suggesting plagiarism or any nefarious issue, just a rehashing of a story line and theme that has already been done. At its core, this is the story of the hunt for King Arthur via clues, hints, history, and sleuthing. There is the requisite bad guy pulling all the strings in the background, the sexy intelligent hunter (Carys), the ultra-rich benefactor, the sexy male companion, and the expected pitfalls and dangers that come along with such searches. As if to reinforce my own feelings about the book, several characters throughout the read openly scoff and note how cliché the search for the legendary King Arthur is at this stage in history. While I was in no way impressed with the plot line, I didn’t dislike everything about this book. In fact, I liked Carys and her best friend, Annie quite a lot and would love to see those two feisty women in a very different story and/or setting. Additionally, there is nothing to complain about in terms of the technical aspects of this read. The author is clearly a competent and capable writer, she just needs a more original story to allow her skills to shine through and not dull her abilities and craft.
Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people–though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her superhero-themed notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible. All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend–her grandmother Zelda–who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever. Filled with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and vivid characters, The Library of Lost and Found is a heartwarming and poignant tale of how one woman must take control of her destiny to write her own happy ending.
Martha Storm’s life isn’t exciting nor is it all enviable. In fact, most of the people in Martha’s life do one of two things, use her or pity her; worst of all are those who both use and pity Martha. While some of the circumstances of Martha’s life are not of her own making or choosing, she has left other circumstances get out of hand which has led her to a most unhappy and unenviable place.
As a child, Martha was keenly aware of her ultra-controlling feelings towards her and they were, at best, tolerant. Martha was also keenly aware of her mother’s absolute inability to stand up to her father, think, and/or live for herself. Finally, Martha was keenly aware that the only member of her family who truly appreciated, loved, and encouraged her was her beloved grandmother, Zelda. Unlike everyone else in her life, Zelda fosters Martha’s creativity, she supports her imagination, and encourages her general zest for life. Right up until Zelda suddenly dies, Martha is certain she will make it through her childhood and her life.
From the moment Zelda exited Martha’s life, nothing seems to go to plan. Though Martha works towards her goals, there always seems to be an impediment. For example, just as her love life appeared settled and set, Martha’s parents took a turn for the worse and her mother begged Martha to care for them . . . . 10 long years later, Martha has essentially given up on every dream and goal she ever felt dear. She has no love life, her parents are gone, her job at the library, though she loves it isn’t going anywhere, and she has a serious need to please others at her own expense.
And then, one day, a book from her childhood comes back into her life and changes absolutely everything in Martha’s life.
From the moment Martha discovers the book her life takes a path she never could have conceived of. In the process, Martha doesn’t just discover the truth of her past, but also of her present and her future. Martha begins her adventure by learning to stand up for herself, asserting herself, and slowly but surely discovering she indeed matters and what she wants and needs from her life is just as important as what everyone else wants and needs from their own lives. The discoveries Martha makes on her journey are often painful, but once she is able to see beyond the pain, she is able to see her life from an entirely new perspective and in a far more positive light.
The Bottom Line: I can’t say I loved this book, but I think, based on the Goodreads rating, I enjoyed it far more than most. In large part, I enjoyed the total transformation Martha Storm goes through; in fact, this is one of the best character evolution books I’ve read in quite some time. In the beginning, Martha is a thoroughly disagreeable character and then that book comes into her possession and the switch flips! Martha taking control of her life, overcoming her insecurities, and finding the person she had so much promise of becoming as a child is truly entertaining. The cherry on top of the character evolution had to be the change in the others around Martha following her own transformation. The moment Martha begins to respect herself the pity and the using stop and that is a beautiful thing. Though I think this book may be a bit of a rough read for some, I found it to be totally worth the time and effort especially if you are particularly interested in total character transformation.