Third-generation firefighter Captain Ben Libby is sworn to keep Harmony Valley safe. But a recent series of fires points to arson. Not that Ben really suspects Mandy Zapien, who's back in town to reopen the defunct post office—a potential fire hazard.
Turns out Ben and Mandy—she of the incredible smile—have a lot in common. They're both trying to rebuild their lives. Mandy's raising her teenage sister, just as Ben's devoted to his godchild. Though lately, he's started to suspect she's his biological daughter. Amid secrets and family dramas, do Ben and Mandy have what it takes to go the distance together?
Heat level: As with all Harlequin Heartwarming books, this story is sweet (has no overt sensuality, rated PG).
Love, Special Delivery
Ben found nothing funny about it. A fire to the rear of the building by the loading dock and this woman would be trapped.
“Fire!” Ben shouted.
The mop clattered to the floor. The woman whirled, sneakers slipping slightly on wet linoleum. Wide brown eyes landed on Ben with a gut-dropping thud. She wasn’t smiling, but he’d bet she had the kind of face that carried a smile 99 percent of the time, the kind of face that aged gracefully with few lines because she never had a care. And Ben, who carried cares like other people lugged too much spare change, was struck with envy.
She switched off the music.
The sudden silence rang in Ben’s ears as he breathed in cleanser fumes and waited to see if the woman had a frown in her arsenal, some hint that her life wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
“I’m Mandy, the new postmaster.” She blinked, and with that blink her expression seemed to reset. A small smile. A carefree tone of voice. A kick in Envious Ben’s shin. “Is there a fire?”
“This is a fire inspection.” Dad had drawn himself up to his full height. With Mandy in his sights, he wasn’t wheezing or sagging. He should’ve hired an attractive woman as his fire captain instead of Ben. “Nothing for you to worry about.”
Here we go again. Letting an offender off with a warning.
“Not so fast, Chief.” This one wasn’t getting off the hook. This woman could use a care or two. Ben planted his feet more firmly on the floor. “Ma’am, did you realize you’ve blocked two of three primary exit routes?”
“Not permanently.” Her smile never wavered. “Just while I’m cleaning.”
“I mention this for your own safety.” Ben surveyed the post office, counting more than five citations already. “If there was a fire at your loading dock, you’d be trapped.”
Mandy gestured to the rolling overhead door that opened to the parking lot. “First off, there’s nothing combustible back there. Second, those boxes before you are empty. And third, I could still get to the front counter if there was a fire.”
Not an apology. Not an admission that she’d taken a safety risk, nor any assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. Mandy was the only person to argue with them today. The only person to work her way sharply under Ben’s skin.
He nudged the bottom box with his boot. The stack tumbled harmlessly to the ground. “I’ll give you the boxes, ma’am, but if you aren’t concerned about your own well-being, what about your employees?”
And there it was—her true expression. A smile so artless and wide it made Ben wonder what her laugh would sound like. “If there was a fire, that rat Riley can burn.”
The Story Behind the Story
The fun part about Harmony Valley is that the town was very nearly extinct. And then along came three men who revitalize the economy. Why is that fun? Because every business or endeavor that opens or re-opens is new to the town. When my editor and I were talking about what should come next book-wise, she also mentioned that she didn't want to do any stories with DIY, grandchildren inheriting bed & breakfasts, or coffee shops. That got me laughing, because I'd already done some DIY, a grandchild working at a B&B and a bakery/coffee shop. So I said, "I'm thinking about bringing a postmaster back to town." My editor couldn't speak for a moment. And when she did, she said, "I don't think I've ever read a book with a hero or heroine who works in the post office." Now, I don't work in a post office, but I bet some postal workers would enjoy being featured in a romance, don't you?