Jenna Ferris always thought that her ex-husband, Sam, was still her best friend. Sure, their marriage hadn’t worked out, but that was mostly because of their twenty-plus age difference. But after Sam’s death, Jenna finds out that Sam had a secret that he never shared—a son, who is on his way to claim his inheritance, which includes the house that she and Sam had bought years ago. The same house that Jenna has always called home, and has no intention of sharing it with anyone, especially some snot-nosed kid from the big city.

But Craig Ferris isn’t some kid. He is a grown man, the product of Sam’s youthful affair. Craig arrives with his three daughters after hastily leaving Chicago behind. Craig has no intention of staying in the small town of Cape Edwards. He needs to find a job and place to start a new life for himself and his girls after the death of his wife the year before.

Jenna grudgingly makes room in her home—and her life— for Sam and his girls, while fighting a growing physical attraction to the man who reminds her so much of her lost love. But the more time she spends with Craig, the more she realizes he is nothing at all like his father. And lust is slowly turning to something else as she begins to know and understand the man who told her, from the very beginning, that he has no intention of staying in Cape Edwards.

Will the small-town magic of the Eastern Shore convince Craig that this is the best place for his new family? And can he believe that Jenna loves him for himself, rather than as a substitute for the larger-than-life Sam? A Safe Place to Land is about two cautious people slowly trying to find room for each other in the most treacherous landscape of all, the human heart.

After learning about the death of her ex-husband, Sam Ferris, Jenna Feris visits Sam’s lawyer, Ellis Summer.

“Hey, Red,” he said. Everyone I knew from high school called me Red, because I’d been the only person in the entire school with red hair. I’d hated the nickname, but over the years had accepted my fate. “I’m sorry about Sam. Thanks for coming by.”
I nodded as I sat.
The file was right there in front of him. He opened it and cleared his throat. “I have his will,” he began.
I nodded again. I’d learned years ago that to interrupt him for any reason only gave him the excuse to go back to the very beginning.
“Sam’s wish was to be cremated immediately after his death. As executor of his estate, I’ve already instructed Kenny.” Kenny was Kenny Malcolm, owner, and operator of the Malcolm Funeral Home, right in Cape Edwards.
“One year after his death, he wished to have a memorial service in the bar, with free food and drink for all, after which his ashes were to be taken out in Fred Harvey’s boat and dumped in the Chesapeake Bay.”
I took a breath. That sounded about right. “I wondered about that. He’d always said he didn’t want a funeral. I was here to offer my help, but I guess I’m not needed?”
Ellis pushed up his glasses. “No, but thank you, Jenna. Around here we all still thought of you as a couple, albeit an unusual one. So I can understand your concern. I also appreciate the fact that you’d have expectations. However, Sam left everything to his son, Craig Ferris, of Chicago, Ill.” He sat back. “Everything except for five thousand dollars to cover the cost of his cremation and the, ah, after party.”
I opened my mouth, closed it, and sat up straight. What had Ellis just said? “Sam had a son?”
Ellis sighed and nodded. “Yes. Craig Ferris, born in New York. Mother was a Kelly Laslow, who died almost twenty years ago. My understanding was that Sam had a relationship with Kelly as a very young man, but did not know of Craig’s existence until her death, at which time he became involved in his son’s life.”
“But wait…this was when we were still married?”
“The dates are very close. He may have filed for divorce at the same time he found out about Craig. He was not very forthcoming about that. But he told me that he and Craig had been in pretty much constant contact since then. Craig has been notified. I called him myself yesterday afternoon, and a certified letter has been sent.”
I heard, quite clearly, the ticking of the grandfather clock that stood in the corner of Ellis’ office. Sam had been one of the most important people in my life. I’d loved him and thought I’d known all there was to know about him. But he’d had a son, and for years he had kept that very important fact from me. How could he do that? But more than that…
“Ellis, you knew this and you never told me?”
He sat back, obviously shocked. “Jenna, Sam was my client.”
“So was I.”
“This was privileged information.”
“Ellis Summer, we have known each other our whole lives. I introduced you to your wife, we’ve stood beside each other piling up sandbags to keep the Bay out of Main Street.” I paused just long enough for a deep breath. “We saw each other naked in second grade.”
He began to sputter. “Jenna, I’m a lawyer, and Sam was very clear about this. He felt very conflicted. He didn’t want you to know, because he didn’t want to hurt you. He knew how much you wanted children of your own, and well…” He waved his arms around. Ellis was short and skinny as a rail, and it was difficult, under the best of circumstances, for him to look like a person of authority. When he tried really hard like right now, it was downright comical.
“Ellis, you should be ashamed of yourself, sitting there trying to look all official when you’ve been lying to me for all this time.”
He stood up and tried to exude authority. “It was Sam that lied to you, Jenna. He kept his lives very separate. Not only did no one around here know about his son, Craig had no idea Sam owned the bar. He knew very little about Sam’s life in Cape Edwards.” He tugged at the lapels of his suit, then sat back down again. “It was not my secret to share, Jenna. It was Sam’s. And he chose not to.”
I closed my eyes and sank back, feeling angry and betrayed. Sam and I had not just been husband and wife. We’d become the best of friends. Overall those years, he hadn’t trusted me enough to tell me about his son, his own flesh, and blood. I suddenly felt like I hadn’t known the man at all.
I opened my eyes slowly. “Well. Yes.” I looked around, picked up my purse from the floor, and glared at Ellis. “Well. Everyone I’ve run into this past weekend told me that I needed to keep Sam’s place open and that I couldn’t sell. Karen even suggested I quit nursing to run it. And you know what? I thought about it, even decided it was a good idea. I’m tired of twelve-hour shifts and that miserable commute over that damn bridge. I was looking forward to running the bar, fixing the menu, maybe even doing a little redecorating.”
I stood up, feeling a little head of steam building up. “I was going to be on Main Street, Ellis. Join the Chamber of Commerce, maybe run for the Council. I’d be a person of influence in this town, maybe even the county, Ellis.” I leaned across his desk. “I could have become the governor, Ellis, ever think about that? Governor of the whole Commonwealth. But no…” I shook my finger right up in his face. “No. And ya wanna know why? Because some stupid kid from Chicago is getting Sam’s bar instead of me, that’s why.” I straightened. “At least I don’t have to worry about any of that now, do I? I don’t have to worry about the bar at all. It’s Craig Ferris’ problem now, right? Since he now owns Sam’s on Main?”
Ellis stood. “Yes. But Jenna—“
I narrowed my eyes at him. “What Ellis? There can’t be anything else to tell me that’s going to top this.”
He cleared his throat. “Craig inherits everything, Jenna.”
It took a minute to sink in, and the bottom fell out of my stomach. “You mean…my house?”
Ellis cleared his throat again. “Not your house, Jenna. It’s only half your house. The other half belongs to Craig Ferris.”
“The hell it does,” I roared.
Ellis actually staggered back, putting his arms out to balance himself. “No, really Jenna. He inherits Sam’s half of the house.” He cleared his throat. “You and Sam split everything, from the taxes to the new generator. Now, if you had taken over the fiscal responsibility of the property, then, well, maybe you’d have a case for taking the whole thing, but as it stands…”
I closed my eyes, remembering the conversations Sam and I had about the house. He’d bought it outright and there had never been a mortgage. When we divorced, we split it fifty-fifty. As we had gotten older, I offered to buy him out, offered to pay all the taxes and insurance, and tried to wave off his payments to keep up the property. I thought he was being kind and generous.
“That snake,” I growled. Ellis turned pale. “That miserable son of a bitch. It’s a good thing he’s dead, ‘cause I swear, if I saw him right now, I’d strangle him with my bare hands.”
Ellis sighed. “I’m sorry, Jenna.”
“And I suppose you’re on the side of this Craig person?”
“As executor, Jenna, I have to do all I can to carry out the terms of the will. It’s my job, Jenna.”
“Yeah? Well, well…you’re a snake too, Ellis Summer.”
I turned on my heels and stomped off, and my exit would have been quite impressive if not for the fact that the door was locked, and I had to fiddle with the damn thing for at least twenty seconds before opening it and slamming it, quite loudly, behind me.

Amazon - B07BP6HHP7

Michael Carlucci, the hot, young musical genius behind the successful rock band, NinetySeven, knows that he’s found the woman for him. Diane Matthews is not just beautiful and smart, she’s got an infectious passion for everything in her life, from her three daughters to her new play. For him, the search is over. He knows they belong together.

For Diane, it’s not as simple. She’s almost twenty years older than Michael. She’s not interested in remarrying – she’s very happy with her life just the way it is, thank you very much. But she can’t deny the growing attraction between them – and it’s not just his touch that she craves. But it’s not until Michael is gone and an old love returns that she realizes just what he meant to her. He said he would love her forever. Can she trust that? Or should she find a safer route to happiness?

Diane Matthews’ teen daughters have been trying to win tickets to a concert for NinetySeven, a local group that’s become an international sensation.

The week began again, and another Tuesday. She ran errands in the morning, the dry cleaners, the library. She decided to treat herself to Moe’s, a small, crowded deli with great sandwiches. Standing in line, she wavered between corned beef and pastrami, but it was Moe himself who made the choice, wincing at her corned beef request. She picked up a cream soda and then headed out to Bloomfield Park, a large, green oasis. She parked her car and walked toward a picnic table under a barely leafed-out maple tree, next to the duck pond. She was alone in the park except for a man and a dog playing out on the ball field.
She opened her sandwich and took a bite, then opened her soda. She needed to work on the second act this week. It was running way too long. She was running lines in her head when she heard someone yelling. She looked toward the noise and jumped up in alarm. The dog that had been romping playfully in the ball field a few moments ago was racing toward her. The animal’s owner was running behind.
“He wants your sandwich,” he yelled. Diane stared at her sandwich, then at the rapidly approaching dog. It was huge, shaggy, long ears streaming back. No way was the owner going to catch it. She grabbed her sandwich in both hands, scrambled on top of the picnic table and stood, waiting.
“He wants your sandwich,” the man yelled again, so she stuck out her hand and the dog bounded up, snatching the sandwich from between her fingertips and landing gracefully a few feet away. Diane stared at the animal in amazement, then turned as the owner came running up to her. He was completely winded, gasping, bent over with his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath.
“I’m so sorry,” he panted. “But my dog really loves pastrami.”
 Diane stared at him. “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.”
    The owner of the dog nodded his head. “Oh, I know,” he gulped. “It’s probably the silliest thing I’ve ever had to say.”
Diane began to laugh, a tickle that began in her throat and bubbled up. She felt tears streaming from her eyes. No one would ever believe this. The owner started to laugh with her. He seemed very young, dark hair cut short and as he lifted his smiling face, she saw startling blue eyes, an angular jaw.
Suddenly, she stopped laughing. “Oh, my God. I know you.”
He was still breathing heavily. “I’m Michael Carlucci, and this is Max.” The dog had finished and was sitting quietly at his master’s feet. Michael gazed up at her. “I’m very sorry. Can I help you down?”
“Oh. Yes, please.” She felt suddenly awkward and reached down to take his hand. She climbed down off the table carefully, her skirt riding to mid-thigh, heels unsteady on the grass. They were suddenly eye-to-eye. He was not much taller than her, slim, in a white polo shirt tucked into faded jeans, a thin belt around his waist. His arms and hands were beautiful, she noticed, sculpted and strong-looking.
    “I’m sorry,” she said, smoothing her skirt. “I thought you were somebody else. You look just like Mickey Flynn.”
He grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, that’s me. Michael Flynn Carlucci. I was named for my Irish grandfather.”
“I thought it was you. There’s a life-sized poster of you in my daughters’ bedroom. Your hair was longer.”
“Yeah.” He ruffled his hair with his hand. “Well, it’s the end if the tour. I can lose the look.” He stuck his hands in his pockets. “Are you okay? I mean, he didn’t get your hand or anything, did he?”
“What? No, no I’m fine. This is the most excitement I’ve had in a month. My daughters are never going to believe this.” She stared at her hand. “They will never let me wash this hand again,” she said solemnly.
Michael laughed again. His breathing was back to normal. Max yawned and began sniffing the grass. “Are they fans?”
“Are you kidding? They’ve been trying to win tickets for weeks. Some contest going on. It’s amazing how much trivia there is out there about you guys.” She leaned toward him. “Do you know what your drummer’s wife’s maiden name is? I do.”
He reached over and brushed something from her shoulder. “God, I hate those damn contests. Our publicist drives us all crazy. Do you want tickets? I could have some sent over.”
Diane took a half step away from him. There seemed to be a heat radiating from him, an energy that she could feel.
“Really.” His eyes were serious. “It’s the least I can do.” That grin again, sudden, a full blast of charm. “My dog stole your lunch.”
“You can do that? Just get tickets?”
    “Hey,” he said with a cocky tilt of his head, “I’m in the band. Of course, I can. How many daughters?”
“Three. But only two are home. Megan and Emily.”
“How old?”
“Old? Sixteen and fourteen”
“My nieces are that age. Do you travel in packs, too?”
Diane smiled. “Yeah.”
He nodded. “Okay, so I’ll send over tickets. Your daughters can each bring a couple of friends. You and your husband want to come?”
“I’m divorced.”
    “Okay, your date. I wouldn’t expect you to take teenage girls to a concert unprotected.”
“That would be wonderful.” Diane was taken by surprise. “You have no idea what that would mean. They’d clean their rooms for months.”
   “No problem. Do you have a pen or something? Write down your address and I’ll get them to you.”
She turned and rummaged through her purse, dragging out a pen and notepad. She wrote her name, address, and phone, and handed it to him.
“Diane Matthews,” he read. He stuffed the paper into his pocket. “So, tell me, Diane Matthews, are you a fan, too?”
She opened her mouth to lie, then caught the glint in his eye. “No, actually, I’m not. Nothing personal—I happen to think you guys are really talented. I was a big Motown fan. I never liked rock and roll.” She grinned. “Except, of course, the Beatles.”
“Of course. So who was your favorite?”
“Paul. Naturally. I had his picture everywhere. I was devastated when he got married. I spent years obsessing over the fact that I was too young for him. Who knew I’d end up being too old for him?”
Michael laughed in delight. “God, that’s great. I have to remember that for my sisters. They all loved Paul too.”
   “How many sisters?” Diane sat back on the picnic table top, propping her feet on the bench.
“Three, all older than me. The youngest was ten when I was born.”
“You must have been spoiled rotten,” Diane said. “I bet you had them all wrapped around your little fingers.”
He sighed. “Oh, you are so right. I can’t believe some of the things I got away with. They are such great women.” His face changed. “My mother died when I was a kid. They all raised me.”
“I’m so sorry. But I bet they loved it, raising you.”
“Yeah.” He nodded his head. “My oldest sister, Marie, she used to get so upset when people would mistake me for her son, instead of her brother. She would yell at them, you know? But when she got home, we would all laugh about it.”
They were silent a moment, Diane staring at the tips of her shoes, and when she looked back over to him he was staring right at her, and she once again caught the force of his personality. A second later he shrugged and smiled.
    “He’s still living here, my dad, in the same house we all grew up in. It’s great coming back.”
    Diane was surprised. “You’re from here? I thought the band was from over in Hawthorn.”
“The rest of the guys, yeah. But I was born and raised right here in West Milton.”
“Wow. Did you go to Carver Mills High?”
“No. Fabian’s.” Fabian Academy was a very exclusive, private prep school. He noticed her raised eyebrows. “Before that, it was a Catholic school,” he added, shrugging. “For all of us. Saint Kate’s. Those nuns were ball-busters, I’ll tell you.”
“Me too. Catholic school, I mean. Not Saint Katherine’s. I’m from Ohio, originally, but I think Catholic School nuns all come from the same planet.” Michael sat next to her on the picnic table. “Did you have a Sister Elizabeth Immaculata?”
“No, but I had a Marie Celeste.”
“One eyebrow and the mole on the chin.”
“Yes!!” They were laughing again.
Diane cupped her chin in her palm and looked hard at him. “You’re not what I expected in a rock and roll god.”
“Ouch.” He made a face. “Rock and roll god? Please. I’m a guy from Jersey who took piano lessons from a lady named Mrs. Foster and wore a uniform to school. I put together model cars.”
“Oh, my God. You were a geek.”
“Yes,” he said grinning ruefully, “and you must swear to never tell.”
“Might ruin your image?”
He snorted. “Are you kidding? I’d never get laid again.” He glanced at her and shrugged. “Sorry. That was a very stupid, rock-and-roll-god kind of thing to say. Hey, would you like some lunch?”
   “Lunch. We could go to Weatherby’s, it’s right on the other side of the park.”
    “What about Max?” She looked down at the dog, who lifted his head at the sound of his name.
“Besides,” she said, looking at her watch, “I have class in about an hour and a half.”
   “Well, that leaves Chickies.” He slid off the table and looked at her expectantly. “It’s close and we could eat outside. Are you hungry?”
Diane stared at him. “Are you serious?”
“Sure, why not? I owe you lunch.”
His eyes were incredibly blue. Diane smiled.
“Lunch would be great.”
They walked to a small, roadside stand that opened directly onto the highway. They sat at a round plastic table under an umbrella, eating hot dogs and fries, while Max wolfed down a few well-done hamburger patties.
“So, what do you teach?” Michael asked her.
Diane shook salt on her fries and looked at him suspiciously. “How do you know I teach?”
“Well, you have class, right? You’re too well dressed to be a student.”
“Hmm. How diplomatic of you. I teach at Dickerson. English. This afternoon I have two senior seminars, one in Eighteenth-Century Drama and one in Contemporary American Theater.”
    “Wow.” He looked impressed. “Nothing like a little light reading in the afternoon.”
    “It’s great, actually. I love drama and theater, and the kids are really into it.”
    They started talking then, about books, then music, then traveling, which she loved and he hated. He was attentive, she was relaxed, and they laughed often. He had an animal vitality that she could feel as he leaned toward her, and he seemed to be listening closely to every word she said.
She looked at her watch. “Oh shit. I can’t believe it’s this late. I’ve got class.” She began to pick up her empty paper cup.
“No, let me do this if you’re late.” He put his hand on top of hers to stop her. She froze. His skin was warm. She stared at his hand covering hers. She lifted her eyes and saw that he was watching her.
    “Thank you for lunch,” she said faintly. He seemed very close to her. He had not let go of her hand. “This was an unexpected pleasure, meeting you.”
“Me too.” He pulled back his hand. He was still looking at her. “About the concert - do you think you guys would want to come backstage after the show?”
“Are you kidding?” She blurted. “They’d be thrilled.”
“Okay then. I’ll see you next week.” He stood, hands pushed back into his jeans’ pockets, Max standing obediently at his side.
Diane nodded.
    “Thank you.” She turned and walked away, back across the road to the park. She thought he would be staring after her, and she wanted to turn to see, but she kept going, got into her car, and did not see him standing perfectly still, watching her drive away.

They went into the house together, Diane turning on lights as they walked through the empty living room. She could feel him behind her. He’s waiting, she thought. He’s waiting for me.
She turned suddenly. They were face to face, and she could feel the heat from his body, and his eyes were endless, impossibly blue, and he leaned forward very gently and kissed her. She was trembling, and he kissed her again. This time she kissed him back, softly at first, then with a growing hunger, and her arms went around him, his waist, under the thin fabric of his shirt and pulling him toward her. His body was lean and hard, and she opened her mouth, and she could feel the smoothness of his skin against her hands. As his arms went around her, she made a small noise, like a sob, and then his hands were in her hair, and his lips were brushing her neck, soft, down her throat, a trail of kisses that shook her entire body. She brought her hands up, between them, gripping his shoulders and pushing against him abruptly. “Stop.”
He let her go, stepped back, and dropped his arms to his side. She pressed her hands against her forehead.
“I’m sorry,” his breathing was strained. “I thought – I’m sorry.”
“No. No, don’t be sorry.” He took a step toward her, hesitant, and she moved away. “I need to think. I can’t think if you touch me.”
He stepped back again, and she pointed. Her hand was shaking. “Sit. Please, sit down.”
He obediently sat down in a wing chair, leaning forward, his elbows resting on his knees, hands clasped. He was watching her face.
“Okay.” She brushed back her hair with one hand and took a deep breath. “I’m forty-five years old.”
“I’m twenty-six.”
“Exactly. Doesn’t that bother you?”
He shook his head. “Not at all. I like being twenty-six.”
She laughed shakily. “Michael, be serious. Doesn’t it bother you that I’m nineteen years older than you?”
   He shook his head again. “No. Would it bother you if I was nineteen years older?”
   “Please, Michael,” she pleaded, “don’t try to confuse me with logic. It’s not fair.”
He laughed. “Okay. From now on, no more logic. I promise.”
   She took another breath. “I haven’t had sex in over six years. Not since before my divorce.”
   “Whoa.” He sat back in the chair. “Six years? Shit, nothing like a little pressure.”
“Pressure?” She crossed her arms across her breast, hugging herself. “That’s how much you know. The way I feel right now, the only foreplay I need is for you to unbutton your shirt.”
His mouth twitched. “Oh.”
“Don’t you know how sexy you are? You should read some of your fan sites. I mean, I did, and boy was I floored.’ She began pacing up and down in front of him, hands flying around her face as she spoke. “But then I saw you on stage. I mean, my God, you’re incredible. You’ve got all this talent and energy and I don’t know what else, and you put it all out there. Shit, Michael, what a turn-on. No wonder all those women want you.”
“That’s what I do,” he said softly. “It’s my job. I love it, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But it’s only what I do. It’s not who I am.”
“I know,” she said. She stopped and looked at him, eyes wide and dark. “If that was all this was about, I could just sleep with you and walk away. And believe me, I am so tempted right now. But I know that you are so much more than just that. And this right now, you and I, this is more. At least,” she faltered, “at least I think it is. Unless you just want to get laid. Oh, shit.” She covered her face with her hands. “That’s it, right?” She dropped her hands and looked at him miserably. “You must think I’m a real idiot.”
“No, that’s not it. And I don’t think you’re an idiot.” He spoke quietly, his eyes boring into hers. “I think you’re one of the brightest people I’ve ever met. I love how passionate you are about things, your work, your kids, your whole life. You’re funny and kind and I think you have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. When you smile, you break my heart. I think you’re amazing.”

Nook - 

Dee Ernst was born and raised in New Jersey, which explains a great deal about her attitude towards life.  She loved reading at a very early age, and by the time she was ten she had decided to become a writer.  It took a bit longer than she expected.

She went off to college, moved around a bit, had a job or two, a husband or two, and a daughter or two.  It was the birth of her second daughter at the age of forty that got her thinking about what to do with the rest of her life.  That was when she decided to give writing a real shot.

Dee loved chick-lit and romantic comedy but hated the twenty-something heroines who couldn’t figure out how to go and get what they wanted.  She began to write about women like herself — older, confident, and with a wealth of life experience to draw upon. She got an agent but no sales and took the plunge into self-publishing in 2010.

In 2012, Better Off Without Him became an Amazon bestseller.  She signed with Montlake Publishing, which went on to re-release Better Off Without Him and launch A Slight Change of Plan in 2013.

She has since written a few more novels, a series of cozy mysteries, and is now giving a romance series a serious shot.

She is still in New Jersey, where she writes full-time.  She lives with husband #2, daughter #2, a few dogs and a lone cat.  She loves sunsets, long walks on the beach, and a really cold martini.

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