A contemporary holiday romance set in New Jersey.
Re-release just in time for the Holidays!
Barnes & Noble.com
Julianna Hastings had to put her grief for her father and stepmother on hold when she had to assume custody of her younger siblings. When she loses them in a custody hearing, her grief is too much with which to cope.
Jeremy Davies runs a successful business. While looking for his next Executive Secretary, he is pulled into the fun and loving Hastings family circle. When Julianna falls apart, Jeremy wants to be the one to help her put her and her family back together.
Another watches and wants Julianna and all that Jeremy has, will he break their new family apart?
Julianna was just leaving work after another late night. She had thought that when she gave up her position for Mr. Andrews that she would be able to cut back on her late nights, but the holiday season was almost here and she needed the extra money. Stopping, she closed her eyes and took a moment to take a deep breath and relax, then opened them and looked around at the scenery. Fall in New Jersey was beautiful this year. The beginning of November had been extremely mild, but now as the temperature dropped, winter was setting in with a vengeance. Dried leaves of various brown, gold and amber hues littered the ground, some swirling in the air. The blustering wind pulled at her coat causing the ends to flap making it hard to keep the edges pulled closed. The coat was too small by at least one size, and for the thousandth time in the past five minutes, Julianna wished that she could afford a new one. The money she made was just enough to pay for rent, utilities, daycare and food for the kids. Even in the small town of Dover, where she lived, the cost of living was rising so fast that she could seem to keep ahead of it.
Julianna took one more deep breath and then continued on her way to the bus stop. Her fingers were nearly frozen in the cold night air as she tried again to bring her unruly coat around her slightly plump frame. “You would think that I would lose some weight with as little as I have eaten these past few weeks,” she grumbled to herself.
Thanksgiving was only a few days away and she thought about what food was still in the kitchen with which she could create the semblance of a normal holiday meal. Payday was over a week away so she briefly toyed with the idea of a payday loan at one of those “stores” around town.
She shook her head after a moment knowing that those things were no better than a credit card. Once you use one, you never broke free from the circle of interest and re-loans, so she returned to cataloging her kitchen contents: “Oatmeal, salt, pepper, sugar, flour, milk, some old potatoes, a block of cheddar cheese, brown rice, and a scrawny chicken. I could make cheesy potatoes, stuff the chicken with rice…hmm, that sounded good. I think there is enough butter, flour and sugar for me to make Great-Great Grandma’s Scottish Shortbread. I can even get the kids to gather leaves, acorns and pine cones to decorate the apartment,” she murmured to herself. Julianna was so engrossed in the planning process that she missed the man coming toward her at a fast walk. His head was bent too, looking at papers in his hands, so he failed to see Julianna. They collided, her head just clipping his chin and knocking them both backwards.
“Ow…,” she said as she raised her left hand to her forehead. “That smarts.”
“Damn it, watch where you’re going,” he grumbled, as the wind caused the papers he dropped to swirl around them.
“Hey, I wasn’t the only one not watching where they were going,” she exclaimed as she grabbed at a paper whirling around her face. Catching it, she then bent to pick up another paper that she had stepped on to prevent it from flying away. “Here,” Julianna thrust the papers she had gathered into his hands.
“Sorry, you’re right, I’m at fault too. Thanks for grabbing those,” the man said without a smile as he reached to take them from her hands. Their fingers touched for a moment, his encased in black leather gloves, while hers were pale and blue from the cold.
“You’re welcome,” she said as she stole a longing glimpse at his black wool overcoat and gloved hands. “Did we get them all?” she asked as she glanced around for stray papers, strands of curly blonde hair whipping around her face.
“Yes, I think we did thanks to your quick reflexes,” he said.
Julianna felt his gaze move over her. She was dressed in her typical ‘East Coast Office Attire’. She wore an old, tattered, woolen coat that was an ugly grey color which at one time had been blue. Beneath the coat she wore a cream-colored blouse and navy skirt that were in better condition, thank goodness.
“Well, running after munchkins tends to give you quick fingers so little hands can’t grab whatever it is you don’t want them to have.” She flashed him a smile full of white teeth and a contrite expression, hoping to break the tension.
“I wouldn’t know,” he said without returning her smile, “but whatever works…I would have had a more difficult time tomorrow without these. Again, thank you.”
“Sure,” she said a little deflated and embarrassed as she watched him stuff the papers into a manila folder. She pulled at the edges of her coat trying to keep warm, “It looks as if your papers are safe from me now. Have a good night or at least a better one,” she chuckled. Responding this time to her attempt at humor, she watched as a soft smile curved his full lips creating a sudden flash of dimples. A sparkle entered his eyes making him seem more human and less forbidding. Too bad I can’t tell what color they are in this darkness, she thought to herself.
She was conscientious of her appearance beside this handsome and expensively dressed man. She had noted his black wavy hair, long, dark lashes that any woman would envy, and classic good looks when she gave him back his papers. His forehead was high with perfectly arched brows that matched his hair color. His nose was straight and his features were chiseled as if sculpted by a master artist. His lips were lush for a man, very kissable and the black wool trench coat hugged his broad shoulders. With a start, she realized the direction her thoughts were leading her. She felt a blush start at her neck and work its way up her face. She was grateful that the darkness would help hide the rush of heat that would give away the direction of her thoughts.
“You too. Goodnight,” he murmured as he sidestepped around her to continue on his way down the walkway toward the office building that she had just left.
“All work and no play, makes for a dull boy,” she spoke in an undertone to herself, not thinking that he could hear her muttering. She resumed her walk to the bus stop noting that it was quite late to be going to work instead of home, especially in this weather, where a hot cup of tea or in his case, a warm brandy, and a cozy fire were in order. With a shake of her head, she realized what she had just said, having just left work herself, and felt a twinge of guilt for her nasty thought. She should not be casting stones, she chided herself as she gazed at her watch.
But, he had heard her and he paused for a second, his back still turned away from her. His lips compressed and his eyes narrowed in aggravation. He considered turning around and giving the woman a piece of his mind. Then, just as fast as his anger had came, it was gone.
“Damn, I am a dull boy!” This grated on his nerves, because if there was one thing he thought he would never be, it was a slave to the Davies Corporation, which of course he was. Why else would he be going into the office at six o’clock on a Friday night? However, if he is a dull boy, then she is a dull girl, she was just as bad as him since she was just leaving the same office building herself.
On an impulse he decided that he would ask the impertinent woman out for a cup of coffee. She certainly looked like she could have used something warm in her system with her thin coat and cold fingers in the frigid night air. Before he could change his mind, he turned around and scanned the streets. Just as his eyes spied that horrid coat, she stepped up into a bus. “Oh well, see what good intentions get you, Old Man?” he said to himself. “I’ll just go ahead and finish up this task, and maybe when I’m done I can go into the City and not be so dull. Maybe I owe you another thanks, lady, for shaking me out of this workaholic pattern I’m in.” With that in mind, Jeremy Nathaniel Davies III entered the building that had housed their family business for the past fifty years.