Heat level: As with all Harlequin Heartwarming books, this story is sweet (has no overt sensuality, rated PG).
Marrying the Single Dad
“What do you think you’re doing?” a deep masculine voice bellowed across the overgrown, wreck-strewn field in Harmony Valley.
Brittany Lambridge jumped and thunked the back of her head on the hood of the ancient BMW sedan. Add headache to her list of injuries this morning.
“I told you we’d get caught,” Regina whispered. Brit’s sister was the queen of .
Brit stepped back from the decaying car, rubbing her head beneath her baseball cap. The nip of early morning bit into her scraped knuckles while dewy knee-high grass hid her feet. She peered to the left, then the right, but the rusting, abandoned cars were still rusty and abandoned. No one else was in the flat patch of land with them. No one driving past on the two-lane highway bordering the field. No one stood near the thick blackberry bushes along the river. And she’d been told the car repair shop and nearby house had been empty for at least a decade. Had she imagined the voice? Or… Brit stopped rubbing her head and faced her sister.
“Don’t look at me.” Regina rolled her artfully made-up brown eyes and said with disdain, “I’m not a ventriloquist.”
“No, but you hate helping me with my art.”
“I love helping you and your ,” Reggie corrected. “I just worry about getting bitten by angry, territorial spiders or snakes, or—” she glanced around nervously “—angry, territorial property owners.”
“Didn’t you hear me?” An angry, territorial-looking man appeared from behind a dented gray minivan. “I said, what are you doing here?”
Guilt, disappointment and a feeling she couldn’t name froze Brit more completely than a complicated updo with too much hairspray.
The man strode forward. Broad shoulders, muscular arms, rumpled black hair and… Brit stopped cataloging his parts because that hair glinted almost blue in the sunlight and made Brit’s fingers twitch for her hair-cutting scissors.
“Oh, my,” her twin murmured wistfully, having already forgotten her fear of getting bitten.
A thin boy appeared next, wearing light blue grease-splotched coveralls like Brit’s and a preteen’s poor attempt at a sneer. He slouched against the minivan’s rear fender, thrusting his hands in his pockets. His dark brown hair stuck out from beneath a faded green baseball cap.
Brit’s fingers twitched again even as Shaggy Man drew closer. As a licensed beautician, bad hair drove Brit crazy. As did the feeling she could now name: artistic appreciation. Shaggy Man was like a Pollock painting—a riot of energy that was perfect chaos. She couldn’t look away.
The man stopped ten feet from her, propping hands on hips. His black T-shirt and blue jeans had seen better days, while those bladed cheekbones and ice-blue eyes had probably appealed to a fair share of women. Everything about him said he was the kind of man her mother had warned her and Reggie about while they were growing up—tempting, dangerous, a man more concerned with who warmed his sheets at night than who made his coffee in the morning.
“That car is mine.” Those cool blue eyes of his skated across the landscape with chilly calculation. “Leave.”
Reggie glanced at Brit.
Who reminded herself about big-girl panties. She unwound guilt, brushed out disappointment and gripped her defenses as firmly as the socket wrench she’d been using to remove the BMW’s grille. “I was told this was Harmony Valley’s vehicle graveyard.” That the deserted cars and trucks were fair game for picking.
“The garage over there, this land and everything on it used to belong to my father.” His stance remained as rigid as his words, at odds with that distracting, rule-breaking hair.
“But…” Used to belong to? “It’s yours? The garage and the land?”
His glacial gaze found hers, so cold it crackled between them like icicles on eaves before they plunged to the pavement. “Papers went through yesterday.”
The Story Behind the Story
The Harmony Valley series began with a town about to become extinct. Throughout the series, I've been adding new businesses. I thought it was time the town got a mechanic and a beautician, but I wanted the beautician to have an interest that might align with - and yet be a source of conflict with - my hero. So I gave Brit a dream of being an upcycle artist, which basically means she turns junk (including old car parts) into art. I'm fascinated with shows where they turn junk or flea market finds into something people can appreciate once more. I may not be able to weld a mermaid out of old car and bike parts (like Brit does), but recently, I took a glass bookshelf I'd painted when I was 12 and restored it (photo below).