Jenna Reid purchased the Stonehill Café to prove to herself that her ex-husband was wrong...that she could make her dreams come true. Three years later, all she has is a crumbling building, no social life, and her bruised pride. 

Pride is something Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Maguire lost long ago and isn’t likely to find living in the alley behind the café. He just needs a little time to get on his feet. In the interim, keeping an eye on the overworked café owner gives him a sense of purpose. He has no intentions of making his presence known until he hears the woman screaming late one night. 

He rushes into the café but instead of finding her in dire straits, he finds a broken pipe and Jenna—soaking wet and holding a wrench. With her last bit of hope fading, Jenna accepts Daniel’s help to fix up her building, but it doesn’t take long for them to start trying to fix each other.

Daniel didn’t take kindly to charity. Never had. But when he woke up to a to-go cup of coffee and a Styrofoam container sitting by the dumpster with Thank you! scribbled across the top, he didn’t turn away from the gift. Sinking down in the shadows, he looked at the café door and lifted the top off the cup. Sipping the hot brew, he closed his eyes and silently thanked the woman he assumed was responsible.
He’d heard people call her Jenna. He’d started to call her that last night when he’d heard her screams and immediately assumed the worst. He’d barged in to find her on her knees wrestling with a pipe and immediately knew she’d turned off the wrong valve.
He grinned as he remembered the curses spewing from her as she did her best to stop the water from drenching her. He’d turned off the main valve and asked if she were okay, scaring a dozen or so years off her life in the process. He would have apologized, but in doing so, he started to say her name and stopped himself. She seemed startled enough without worrying that he was stalking her.
He was in a sense. He knew her schedule. But only because he’d moved into her alley weeks before. He knew when to expect food to be dumped there. And what. Today was Tuesday. The special would be meatloaf. He really liked Jenna’s meatloaf. She didn’t fill it with chunks of bread that soaked up the grease and turned gummy. She used breadcrumbs. Like his mom used to do when he was a kid.
Daniel opened the container and found fresh eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast. He hadn’t had a real breakfast for a while now. He smiled as his stomach also thanked Jenna. After scarfing down the hot meal, he gathered his sleeping bag into his go-bag and left the alley.
If today was Jenna’s meatloaf day, it was also open-door day at the community center.
They welcomed anyone local, and Daniel took advantage of that. Per his routine, he signed into the center with a fake address and headed right for the showers. After washing away several days’ worth of grime, he put on shorts and a T-shirt and headed to the workout room.
As he gripped the pull-up bar, he replayed the night before through his mind. He’d been watching Jenna from the shadows for weeks, but last night was the first time he’d seen her up close. Her brown eyes had widened when she’d looked up at him and she’d fallen back. Dark hair clung to her pale skin as her full lips parted. And her T-shirt…
Daniel chuckled at the image of a shaggy-haired Barry Manilow clinging to her ample chest and slight pooch of a stomach.
She’d sat there, staring up at him, and it’d taken all he had to look her in the eye. She was beautiful, and he wanted to memorize every inch of her. But he didn’t have to think too much about how intimidating he’d been standing over her. If he’d given in to the urge to stare at her 70s-pop-star clad breasts, she probably would have screamed for an entirely different reason.
After pushing through his workout, one that he determined was considerably easier thanks to the hearty breakfast he’d eaten, he showered again and put on what was left of his clean clothes then headed to the room where the center offered free juice and donuts.
All of this was management’s attempt at bringing in new paying clients, but Daniel had yet to be told he wasn’t welcome, so he showed up every Tuesday and went through the same shower-workout-shower-eat routine.
Today, however, thanks to the breakfast Jenna had left for him, he’d wrap his donut in a napkin to save for later. His stomach was full enough for now. He did drink down a cup of cold apple juice, though. Hiking his pack high on his back, he smiled and thanked the lady working the desk—the one who surely knew by now that he’d never sign up for a membership—and headed to the library.
Inside the cool silence, he sat at a table and looked through the help wanted ads. He wouldn’t apply for a job. But he liked to pretend that he would.
The first—and second and third—job he had since coming home from Afghanistan hadn’t gone well.
Sadly, spending years in a warzone had left him with a few issues—issues that made it difficult to keep a job. Which made it impossible to keep his apartment. He’d get back on his feet. Somehow. Someday. He just had to get his head together first. Maybe hiding in an alley and digging in the local café’s dumpster wasn’t the best way to go about that, but it was what he had and he wasn’t going to complain. A lot of guys had it a lot worse.
A sense of defeat washed over him, and he folded the paper. Instead of staying at the library most of the day, as he usually did on Tuesday, Daniel headed to the laundromat. He’d found enough coins over the weekend to wash his clothes and he needed to clean the jeans he’d gotten wet and dirty while fixing Jenna’s pipes.
Laundry was usually his Wednesday routine, but what the hell did routine matter when the only thing he had to answer to was a dumpster in an alley?

Desperate to keep her ailing mother-in-law, Doreen, in the woman’s home, Carrie Gable agrees to board a handful of Hollywood’s most elite actors at the manor. Despite her resentment of the demands being placed upon her, she can’t help but be taken in by actor Will Walker.

Will, in a last-ditch effort to save his career, has agreed to a project he has no interest in. The more time he spends with his egotistical co-stars, the more drawn he is to Carrie. Long nights spent talking about the paths their lives have taken make him realize he’d rather have a simpler life, but his ties to L.A. aren’t as willing to let him go.

With the temptation of stardom pulling Will in one direction and the need to care for Doreen tugging Carrie in another, the couple struggle to hold onto the happiness they were missing until finding each other.

2012 Epic eBook Awards Finalist

Carrie stared out the back door.
“Hey.” He swallowed when she jolted and spun around. He had never seen such sadness and raw desperation on the face of a person who wasn’t acting.
“You scared me,” she said, forcing a laugh as she turned her back to him. Though she was clearly trying to hide it, he knew she was roughly wiping at her cheeks. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Sorry,” he said quietly. He watched her dry her hands on her jeans. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.”
“You’re crying.”
Inhaling again, she gave him an unconvincing smile. “I’m fine, Will.”
“What happened?”
“Oh,” she exhaled, “the usual.” Pushing past him, she set her mug on the counter. She looked at the clock and cursed. “Damn it. Where did the day go? It’s almost dinnertime and I haven’t even started anything.”
He realized she was trying to change the subject, but he was determined to make sure she was okay. “It must be heart-wrenching to see Doreen fading away like that,” he said.
Carrie’s face sagged. “It isn’t easy.”
“It’s a lot of work trying to keep up with her.”
“Sometimes,” she said dismissively as she walked to the refrigerator and looked at the menu. She looked at the clock again and laughed bitterly. “Well, I won’t be slow roasting chicken tonight, will I?”
“I’m worried about you.”
“About me?” she asked lightly. “Why?”
“This is a lot for one person to handle.”
“I’m fine.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Because I am.”
“Carrie,” he coaxed gently.
She turned from the fridge, her eyes pleading. “What do you want me to say, Will?”
“You can start by telling me how you are doing.”
“How the hell do you think I’m doing?”
He took in the deep creases on her forehead and the puffiness of her eyes. “Not nearly as well as you’d like everyone to believe.”
“Falling apart is not an option right now.”
“Well, burying all of this isn’t either.”
Carrie opened her mouth as if to argue with him but, after a moment, she stepped back, putting space between them. She pulled out a Dutch oven and carry it to the sink.
Moving to her side, he looked down at her. “Can you just talk to me? Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“What I’m thinking?” She laughed softly. “I’ve spent the last two years pretending that my husband is at the grocery store.” She sat the pot on a burner. “Returning insane purchases, picking her up from all over the county after she’s driven off to some place that no longer exists—if it ever did exist—but somehow it all didn’t seem real until today.”
“The disease…”
“I know,” she said turning to look at him. “I know what it does. But I never really felt it. Pretending Mike is running errands, taking away her access to money, hiding the car keys, it all seemed so ordinary. Laundry? Check. Dishes? Check. Lie to Mama so neither one of us have to confront what’s really happening with her? Check.”
He saw fresh tears shining in her eyes before she turned toward the drawer where she’d hidden the knobs for the stove.
She grabbed one and tried several times to fit the knob in place. Cursing under her breath, Carrie slammed it down and faced him. “I’ve read the books, I’ve done the research, I’ve talked to support groups and doctors, but nothing they said could have possibly prepared me for this,” she said as tears returned. “Nothing could have prepared me for her not knowing who I am.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, as he reached out to her. When he wrapped her in his arms, she leaned into him and buried her face in his chest. A sob escaped her, shaking her shoulders, and he soothed her by whispering softly and running his hand over her back. “I’m so sorry you’re going through this,” he said after several moments.
“It’s the way it is,” she said, leaning back. Wiping her cheeks dry, she inhaled deeply and looked up at him. “I appreciate your concern, Will, really I do, but there isn’t anything that can be done. We’ll get by for as long as we can and then…”
She closed her eyes and shook her head before sighing. “I really have to get dinner started.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do. My guests do not want to be kept waiting,” she said, reminding him of what Donnie had told her that morning as she’d sat heartbroken amongst the movie stars while Mama insisted on serving breakfast alone.
“I’m taking care of dinner tonight.”
“You’re cooking?” she asked with a smirk of disbelief.
“I’m ordering in. My treat.”
Putting his hands on her shoulders, he gently squeezed them and held her gaze. “You do not need to be taking care of all those people tonight.”
“It’s my responsibility to take care of them.”
“Not tonight. Let me do this for you. Please.”

As a teen, Marci Boudreaux skipped over young adult books and jumped right into the world of romance novels. She’s never left. Marci lives with her husband, two kiddos, and their numerous pets. She is a freelance writer appearing monthly in a variety of local magazines as well as a content editor. 

Romance is her preferred reading and writing genre because nothing feels better than falling in love with someone new and her husband doesn't like when she does that in real life. 

Visit her website for free reads and more!

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