Fourteen years after her abrupt departure, Samara Davis is back in Marietta, Montana. Now a widow, all she wants is to give her anxious four-year old daughter, Jade, a happy, stable home. Unfortunately, the heritage house she purchased is nowhere near ready for occupancy. And the man responsible for the delay is none other than high-school golden boy and love of her life Logan Stafford, available, interested and just as swoon-worthy as ever.
But this single mother has one priority. She’s all Jade has, and she’ll do anything, make any sacrifice, for her child’s future. And getting distracted by a long-lost boyfriend is not on the agenda.
Logan Stafford never forgot the lonely girl from the wrong side of the tracks who broke his heart. Not only is she as irresistible as ever, but her delightfully odd little girl has him wrapped around her finger in no time. Believing they’ve been given a second chance, Logan’s determined to pull out all the stops on the house to prove to them both that he’s a guy they can count on.
But, despite how easy it is to love Logan, second chance is still a gamble Samara can’t afford to take.
Of course it had to be the underwear suitcase that slipped from her hands. The ancient hinges ruptured on impact with the sidewalk and it split open like a bale of fiberglass insulation. Except, instead of bright pink slabs, what burst forth was dull white, black and beige- “Panties!”
Jade planted her little feet on the cobbled drive leading to the Bramble House bed and breakfast, and glared at her mother accusingly. “Panties are private, Mama.”
Bob the dog cocked her homely one-up one-down ears, always alert to her little charge’s ever-shifting emotions.
Some teenage boys leaving the park across the street paused in their roughhousing. One of them handed his football to the others and began loping over to her.
“Hey lady, need a hand?”
If there was anywhere on the planet where you could still find old-fashioned courtesy, even when you didn’t exactly want it, it was Marietta, Montana.
Samara saw the instant he recognized the items flung about them.
He froze midway, seemingly paralyzed beneath the canopy of fall colors sheltering the street.
“It’s okay, I’ve got it,” she said. “Thanks anyway.”
The boy rejoined his pals and they loped away, but not before she heard hoots of laughter.
Spare her from adolescent testosterone.
“Mama! Panties!” insisted Jade, agitation making her voice quiver.
“I know, honey.” She squatted to shove the formerly neatly rolled items into the case, but it had been packed tightly and without hinges, the laws of physics just laughed at her.
“Stay here with Bob, sweetie,” she said. “Bob, stay.”
She popped the back of the mini-van and pushed and shoved stuff until she located a bungee cord. She could use it to hold the case shut. Naturally, it was underneath the spare tire and one of the s-hooks had become deeply attached, and resentful about being moved.
“You wanna fight?” she muttered. To herself or the stupid clingy s-hook, she wasn’t sure. She yanked hard and, suitably chastised, the cord let go. Of course, being a bungee cord, it snapped back with great gusto and the metal hook, in an illustration of karma or retaliation or, more likely, that darn physics, grazed her chin.
She stumbled against the curb and landed on her butt in front of Jade, who was now clenching and unclenching her fists. Bob shoved her head under the girl’s arm but it didn’t have much effect.
“I wanna go home, I wanna go home, I wanna go home,” Jade chanted, her voice rising with each repetition.
I know exactly how you feel, thought Sam, too weary to stand up.
Through tear-blurred eyes, she saw a pretty young woman burst out the door, a plastic garbage bag in her hand.
“Samara Davis, right? I’m Eliza Bramble. Welcome! I saw you arrive,” she said somewhat breathlessly, hurrying toward them. “I was on my way down, but then I saw your suitcase break and I went to get a bag first.”
“Looks like your little one isn’t very happy at the moment.”
“It’s been a long day.” Samara got to her feet, one hand on her chin, the other reaching forward, hoping to distract Eliza with a handshake.
She squatted down in front of Sam’s quickly dissolving daughter, her voice friendly, her face open and helpful. “I’m Eliza. And you must be Jade.”
Instantly, the dog moved to stand between Jade and the new person. Eliza looked at Sam, eyebrows raised.
“That’s Bob. Don’t worry, she’s friendly, but Jade is… wary of strangers.”
Sam shoved her underwear into the bag, heedless of order or anything other than getting them out of public view, making a mental note to get rid of every single piece, as soon as she had a chance to buy new ones.
A whole drawer-full of new undies.
Starting over from the bottom up. Literally.