A second shot at first love
After college, Ryan Kowalski decided to leave Whitford, Maine, rather than watch Lauren Carpenter marry another man. Now his siblings need his help to refurbish the family-owned Northern Star Lodge and he's forced to face the past sooner rather than later when he collars a vandal--and learns the boy is Lauren's son...
The last person Lauren needs back in her life is Ryan Kowalski. With a bitter ex-husband and a moody teenage son, she has enough man trouble already. But her son needs to learn a few lessons about right and wrong, even if Lauren has to escort him to Ryan's door every day to work off his crime.
With all this close contact, Ryan and Lauren can't deny the chemistry between them is as powerful as ever. But can a few searing kisses erase their past and pave the way for a second chance at true love?
Because hectic Monday mornings didn't suck enough all on their own merits, Lauren Carpenter managed to miss her lashes and apply mascara straight to her eyeball. Cursing and blinking, she groped for a tissue.
She wasn't sure why she bothered making herself up anyway. Over her years working as the entire office staff for the only insurance agent in town, she'd seen communications swing from office visits to phone calls and faxes and then to email. Entire days could go by without anybody but her boss actually stepping foot in the place.
It was the principle, she decided as she mopped up the damage and tried again. She'd long ago given up on giving a crap what anybody thought of her, but it made her feel good to look good. There was a limit, though, and she smiled as she shoved her feet into the battered leather loafers that were even older than Nick. Her feet were usually under her desk anyway.
Thinking of Nick, she glanced at her alarm clock and sighed. Morning battle to commence in three...two...
"Ma!" The bellow made her cringe.
She'd asked him not to shout at her from across the house even more times than she'd asked him not to call her Ma. Ma made her think of calico dresses and aprons and churning butter. It also made her feel old, and being the mother of a sixteen-year-old was reminder enough of that, thank you very much.
Lauren left her bedroom and went down the hall, purposely not glancing into the train wreck that was her son's room, fastening small pearl earrings as she walked. "Don't bellow, Nick."
"If I don't, you won't hear me."
He was in the kitchen, rummaging through his backpack at the table while a full bowl of cereal turned into mush on the counter. "You planning to eat your breakfast?"
Shrugging, Nick pulled a crumpled ball of paper out of his bag. "Yeah. You need to sign this."
"What is it?" She carried the bowl of cereal to the table and traded it for the paper. "Eat. The bus comes in five minutes."
When he kept his eyes down and shoved a heaping mound of cereal in his mouth, Lauren's stomach sank. Whatever the paper was, it wasn't good.
Physically, Nick took after Dean, her ex-husband. Nick's hair was darker than her blond and his eyes were a lighter brown. He'd gotten not only his dad's good looks, but his struggles in school, too.
It was a detention notice, assigned due to missing homework. "Nick, you've only had three weeks of school and you're slipping already?"
"I don't like the teacher," he mumbled around a mouthful of cereal.
"You don't have to like the teacher. You do have to do your homework." He shrugged and the nonverbal whatever was the straw that broke Monday morning's back. "I know which form I won't be signing and that's the driver's ed registration."
"Save it. The bus is coming."
She signed the detention paper while he dumped his bowl in the sink, then watched him ball up the notice and shove it back in his pocket. The faint rumble of the bus came into earshot and he hefted his backpack.
"Walk straight home after detention," she said to the back of his head as he walked toward the front door. "And no video games."