ONE LAST CHANCE
Deirdre Murphy has had her life planned for her since she was born: Work in her parents’ noisy pub in rural Ireland. Live with her family until she marries. Marry her childhood sweetheart ASAP, since he’s decided sexy fun time should wait for marriage. None of it excites her. But before her fate closes in, Deirdre’s got one last visit to her Chicago cousins—where she can spend her mornings in a peaceful bakery, keep to herself, and savor the space she needs…. Until she meets Tommy O’Malley.
Tommy is as tough as his city and twice as ready to welcome her in. He’s covered in tattoos, stays up half the night inking them on other people, and has a reputation for being good with his hands. And he’s heart-pounding, forgot-her-words, can’t-stop-staring exciting.
Tommy knows he’s the opposite of everything Deirdre has prepared for. But to watch her set herself free, he’s willing to risk almost anything…
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Shannyn Schroeder is the author of the O’Leary series, contemporary romances centered around a large Irish-American family in Chicago and the Hot & Nerdy series about 3 nerdy friends finding love. Her new series (For Your Love) will release this summer with the first title Under Your Skin. When she’s not wrangling her three kids or writing, she watches a ton of TV and loves to bake cookies. Find out more at: www.ShannynSchroeder.com
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He drove to the bakery and found a parking spot in front. It was near closing and the business was empty.
He walked through the door and a sweet scent filled the air. The place hadn’t changed much over the years. The fake cakes they had on display were different, changing with the times, showing popular themes, but the classics remained on a high shelf near the ceiling.
One of his earliest memories was coming here with his dad and Jimmy to pick out his birthday cake. His dad had hoisted him up on his shoulders and told him to pick any cake design he wanted. He couldn’t have been more than four or five. It wasn’t long after his mom had been killed, but the memory was such a happy one. He didn’t remember feeling sad.
That realization made him feel crappy.
No one came from the back, so he called out, “Hello? I’m here to pick up a cake.”
From the back room, with her head down, she came toward him.
“Cupcake,” he whispered.
She moved to the counter opposite him and turned her back to dig through a stack of order slips. Her reddish-brown hair trailed down her back in a ponytail. Without any greeting, she asked, “Name?”
She spun with the pink slips in her hand. Her light blue eyes were wide, and the sprinkling of freckles across her nose reminded him how cute she was.
“You’re back,” he said.
“Another cake for O’Malley?”
He lifted a shoulder. “There are five of us.”
“It’s good to know you’re not eating all this cake. I was beginning to think you had a wicked sweet tooth.”
“Uh, your cousin Moira told me you went back to Ireland.”
The papers in her hands crinkled, and a blush swept across her cheeks. “I did.”
“Are you staying long?”
“I’m not sure.” She focused on the slips, flipping through them, looking for his order.
When she found it, she pulled it from the stack and looked up. She waved it at him with a smile. “I’ll be right back.”
She disappeared to the back room, and Tommy sucked in a deep breath. This was it. He had another chance. All he had to do was open his mouth.
Why hadn’t Moira said anything? She knew he had a thing for her cousin. Maybe she was the one who’d put Jimmy up to making him get the cake. That definitely sounded like a Moira move. But to get Jimmy involved, that took skill. Moira was obviously better than he’d given her credit for.
Deirdre returned carrying a box. She slid it on the counter between them and lifted the lid. “Here you go.”
He barely glanced at it. No one would care if something was misspelled. His gaze locked on hers as she lowered the lid.
“Would you like to go out sometime?”
She stared for him so long, he began to wonder if he'd really spoken aloud.
“Uh . . . I have a boyfriend.”
“Oh.” The disappointment hit him hard. Again, he had to question why Moira wouldn’t tell him. This was the kind of pertinent information you gave a guy before he made a fool of himself.
“Your order is all paid for.” She nudged the box forward so he’d take the hint.
He scrambled for what to say to ease the tension. “Maybe you’d like to go out and do some sightseeing. As friends. You’re new to Chicago, and I could show you around.”
“Maybe.” Her eyes shifted away. It seemed no matter what he said, he made her nervous.
“Are staying with the O’Learys again?”
“I’m right across the street. Stop by any time.”
She nodded and he took the cake from the counter. Not quite the answer he was looking for, but at least she hadn’t totally shot him down. She didn’t seem completely uninterested.
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