We’re winding down September with a family birthday dinner today (and start October with another next weekend!), hence the cupcake. It’s been kind of a busy month for me: crazy-busy weeks at the day-job, a few family birthdays to celebrate, the 30-day accountability challenge (which has been going amazingly well! I’m really excited about the progress I’ve made.), ticking a couple of to-do items from my perpetual list, plus the Fall into These Great Reads Bookathon. Speaking of which, you still have a few days left to enter the giveaways if you haven’t yet.
Since I’m just about to order the birthday boy’s requested mac and cheese pizza (and a nice Greek salad for me), and I still have accountability challenge work to do today, I have a quick story snippet for you from Light the Way Home.
Lucie had been on Mac’s Light Island for almost three weeks, but the view from the back door of her temporary home still took her breath away. Right now, she realized she’d been standing there staring, slack-jawed, at the sunlight glinting off the grey-blue ocean waves for a good five minutes. Shaking her head, she pulled the door shut and stepped down onto the sidewalk, feeling in her purse for her car keys.
She closed her fingers on the fob as a giggle reached her ears. She turned to the white picket fence that bordered the property next door as a big multi-colored ball sailed over it, toward her. “Oh!” She caught it before it hit her in the face, then started across the grass, balancing the ball on her hand.
Another giggle sounded as she neared the fence, so she adjusted her direction a tiny bit and came to a stop looking directly down onto a tousled blond head.
“I think you lost something,” she said.
The little boy’s face tipped up quickly, his blue eyes wide with surprise–as if he couldn’t believe she’d found him already.
Lucie grinned and held the ball higher.
He smiled as he got to his feet, brushing off his jeans-clad knees.
From seeing him playing outside several times already, she’d guessed he might be four, but now at close range, she scaled that back to three.
“Hi, I’m Hayden,” he said, holding out his right hand.
It was her turn to be surprised. She shook his hand, bemused. “Hi, Hayden, I’m Lucie.” Not too many three-year-olds had such good manners. Aside from the ball toss at her face, that is. “Nice to meet you.”
He glanced up at his ball. “Me an’ my dad are your neighbors.”
“I see that.” She noted he hadn’t mentioned his mom. “Who were you playing with?” She gave the ball a little bounce.
“Maybe you wanna play with me.” Guileless blue eyes locked on her face.
Ah. She squelched the pang in her chest. “I wish I could, but I’m on my way to town. Maybe we can play another time?” she added when his grin vanished.
“Like this afternoon?”
The deep voice got her attention–and the boy’s–just before a tall, sandy-haired man rounded the back corner of the next-door house.
Lucie’s mouth went dry. Wowza!
He frowned when he saw them, but his stride never slowed, just changed direction, toward them at the fence. “Hayden, we have to go to Grandma’s.” He stopped close to the boy. “You were supposed to stay on the porch.” His brown gaze lifted to her face. “I’m Nate Baxter.” He stuck his right hand out. “Sorry if Hayden bothered you.”
She reached across the fence slowly, trying not to gawk at her hot neighbor. “Lucie Russo. And he wasn’t bothering me, we were just making a date to play ball.” She met his palm and gave a firm shake, pretending not to notice how warm his callused fingers were around hers. Or how wide his shoulders were in the dark flannel shirt.
His brows dipped a little more as he looked from the ball in her hand down to his son. “That isn’t nec–”
“I like to play, so it’s no problem,” she said smoothly, tugging her hand free. “But since you have to go, too,” she continued, dropping her gaze to Hayden, “we can do this later, okay?” She held out the ball with a smile.
He grinned as he took it. “Okay. Thanks, Lucie.”
She winked, waving as he ran toward his house.
Leaving her with his father, who still didn’t look happy.
She forced her lips to keep holding the smile. “Sort of. I’m calling it doing a favor for a friend while I have a break.”
One of his eyebrows inched up. “A break?”
“My employer relocated my job far away, so I have some free time to help Mindi and Harry while I figure out my next move.” Holding the smile now became a real challenge. She hadn’t expected to need a back-up for her practical life plan.
He made a small sound, but didn’t speak for a moment, his brown eyes staying on her face. “Sorry to hear that,” he said finally. “You don’t really have to play with Hayden later.”
“I try hard not to break promises,” she said before he could go any further. “You can check my references with Mindi and Harry if you like.”
A ghost of a smile curved his mouth at last. “If they trust you to take care of their place, I already know you’re trustworthy.”
Lucie swallowed, noting the dimple in his right cheek.
“But I don’t want him to intrude if you need to spend your time on a job search.”
“I haven’t quite reached that part of my break yet. I think I’ve only reached the shock stage so far.” She smiled, pleased with the light, joking tone she’d pulled off. “When I get to acceptance, then I’ll have to polish up my résumé.”
One of his eyebrows lifted. “Seems like you might be more interested in playing ball in the denial phase, don’t you think?”
Lucie laughed at his unexpected tease. “I’ll probably need more when I move from bargaining to depression.”
Nate smiled, too, and the dimple deepened. “I’m sure Hayden can help you through, if you’re sure you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all.” She didn’t. Having some company might be a good way to stop her brooding.
“Dad! I’m ready!”
Lucie smiled again at his wince.
“I think that bellow is my cue,” he said with a crooked grin.
“It was nice to meet you both.” She waved and took another step back.
He strode to his house, and she allowed herself to observe–broad shoulders, narrow waist in faded jeans, nice butt, strong legs.
She jerked her attention away from her hot-temporary–neighbor. Not where she needed to focus. She took a quick breath and turned to her car parked beside the house. Groceries and mail. That was her purpose this morning. A ferry trip to the mainland, brief contact with the real world, and then back to the island to lick her wounds some more.
Before I go pick up the birthday pizza, just a reminder that Light the Way Home is available at all your favorite booksellers, and if you click the title, it will take you right where you want to go to pick up a copy.
What has your September been like? Crazy busy and productive, or a little more relaxed?
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