Single father Nic Rossi's only desire is to raise his little girl with the same love and security his grandparents gave him and his siblings. That is, until Anna Thompson and her frightened daughter walk into his family restaurant, looking for employment, and turn his carefully ordered world upside down.
On the run from her abusive ex, Anna wants one thing: a quiet place like Angel Bay to raise her daughter. But she needs a job to pay for that dream, even if her new boss is a man whose sheer size makes her tremble. Yet Nic's capacity for kindness leaves her feeling safe for the first time in years, and the gentle giant slowly awakens her long-dormant passion.
Then her ex-husband turns up like a bad penny, threatening not only Anna's safe haven but Nic's daughter in the bargain, forcing them to choose between love and family.
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J.M. Stewart is a coffee and chocolate addict who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two sons and two very spoiled dogs. She's a hopeless romantic who believes everybody should have their happily ever after and has been devouring romance novels for as long as she can remember. Writing them has become her obsession.
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Anna Thompson looked up from her plate, peering at the hulking giant sitting in the booth across from her. Nic twirled the last bit of spaghetti on his plate, watching her with careful eyes as he stuffed the bite into his mouth and chewed. After introducing her to his older brother, Luc, who owned half the restaurant and worked as the head chef, Nic had indeed raided the ’fridge. He’d made three heaping plates of spaghetti and meatballs, complete with salad and what smelled like fresh garlic bread sticks.
The man made her insides shake. The resemblance was uncanny at best, terrifying at worst. If it weren’t for the other two waitresses, moving silently around the dining room as they cleaned up for the night, she wouldn’t have stayed. When she’d gotten her first look at Nic after that sweet waitress let her and Lacey in, she’d almost turned around a left. He looked so much like Tony her throat had closed. Both had the same dark brown hair and olive complexion so common in men of Italian decent. Nic’s eyes were different, though. Tony was dark all over, including his midnight eyes. Nic’s were a beautiful shade of amber, and, so far, always seemed to hold a hint of a smile.
She couldn’t deny he was good-looking. Ten years ago, before Tony, she might have flirted with his sexy smile, with those beautiful amber eyes. But he stood a good head and shoulders above her, his body thickly muscled. The power behind his large, muscular frame made her stomach lurch.
Nic set his fork on the side of his plate and folded his hands on the table in front of him. He inclined his head at Lacey. “She was hungry.”
Nic had given her enough pasta for a grown man, but Lacey had cleaned her plate. She’d then curled up in the corner of the booth and fallen asleep sitting up.
“And exhausted.” Anna shook her head, her face warming. “You must think I’m a horrible mother.”
What kind of mother couldn’t provide even a meal and a warm bed for her child?
Nic leaned back in the booth, studying her with shrewd eyes, as if he could see too much and had already figured her out. “Actually, I don’t. It takes guts to admit to a complete stranger you have nowhere to sleep.”
Regret twisted in Anna’s stomach. She shouldn’t have pushed them so hard this time. She should have stopped in Oregon, when Lacey begged her to camp on the beach again. Then at least they could have started tomorrow with a full belly, and with any luck, she might have found another job where she could work for a while to earn more money before they pushed on.
She’d been desperate to come here, to this tiny little town on an island in the middle of the Puget Sound. Tony had gotten too close this last time, and she’d run again, terrified he’d find them. Hope and sheer, stubborn determination were the only things keeping her going anymore.
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