NEW RELEASE!- Love Songs (Book Six of the Keller Family Series) by Bernadette Marie

Love Songs
Warner Wright is looking for that big break into country
music, but the reputation of his ex-stepmother is getting doors slammed in his
face. But when he hears the angelic voice of Clara Keller—he knows she’ll be
his ticket.
When the talented Clara Keller and the sometimes awkward
Warner Wright get together there is a spark even bigger than Nashville.
Opportunity is going to knock on their door, but fame can be a tricky
bedfellow.
Making beautiful music will be the easy part.  Facing Warner’s past might corrupt them both.
Excerpt:

Excerpt of Love Songs:

Could the sun possibly be any hotter, or brighter, or…

Warner’s brakes screeched as he came to a stop at the stoplight he’d nearly run though. The glare from the hood of his Ford was blinding. The sweat on his neck was annoying. And the fact that he’d just been told he had no talent, well that was pissing him off.

He had talent. He had a butt-load of talent. Warner Wright had performed on every stage in Nashville. Oh, he’d performed with some of the biggest names when they were begging for a job.

He let out a breath. So why had he been passed up?

Oh he knew why!

The reputation of his family came long before he started trying to sell his songs. One thing about being the ex-stepson of Patricia Little, was all of Nashville knew she was trouble. And even if you were a thirty year old man, and you hadn’t had the woman in your life since your own father committed suicide when you were twelve, those things stick in the minds of some. It didn’t help that after his father’s death, she married a little bigger—a little richer—and soon she’d made it into the bed of The Ox, Harley Oxbury. The only problem was he was Nashville royalty—and married to Nashville royalty. The legend was when Christine Eaden found out about Harley and Patricia she put a shotgun to his head and threatened to dis-“member” him.

Did it matter to the world that his ex-stepmother took down one of Nashville’s icons? Oh, yeah. The Ox lost his career. Record companies didn’t want him anymore. The public didn’t want to see his shows. There wasn’t a product willing to put his name out front. Patricia Little had ruined the icon and her reputation, twenty years later, she was tarnishing his.

Perhaps he needed to change his name.

That was stupid. His name was fine. The woman was only his step mother for two years. By now the town should have forgotten the men she left in her path. Well they probably would have if she hadn’t gone on TV and done one of those reality shows where Warner’s picture was prominently displayed on her mantel as some kind of trophy of the husbands and “other’s” children she left in her wake. And hadn’t he asked the producers to take that down? Only a million times.

Well, some people were meant to be on stage and some in the behind the scenes. The guitar on the passenger seat was a reminder that he was one of them.

Although Jordan Farr, the head of Master Records, told him if he could get a voice to back up his music, maybe the world would start to see past his relation to Patricia Little. That had been the most positive feedback he’d received yet.

The light turned green and Warner eased off the clutch and onto the gas. The truck hiccupped and then picked up speed.

But in Nashville afternoon traffic, he didn’t make it far. Warner eased to a stop at the next light.

He could hear the music which the city had been built on. It poured out of the stores and the bars. But this music was closer and the voice wasn’t Carrie Underwood’s or Miranda Lambert’s. No this was fresh, sweet, original, and very close.

Warner turned his head to the right and spotted a woman in a Jeep tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. The song wasn’t one he’d heard on the radio. It wasn’t a karaoke cut either. No, she was singing to someone’s music, and she was magnificent.

She turned her head as if she might have felt his stare. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. The aviator glasses shielding her eyes reflected his beat-up blue pickup truck.

She stopped singing and smiled. And it wasn’t just any smile. It was the kind that came with a wink, if he could have seen her eyes.

That moment nearly stopped his heart, just as her voice had. If he had her by his side then the doors of this town would open up to him.

The woman eased through the intersection and turned right at the next light.

He had to follow.

Warner checked his mirrors and quickly changed lanes. It was a close call with a Mustang, of all things, and the driver flipped him the middle finger. But he had to keep her in his sight.

He made a right, but her Jeep wasn’t on the street.

“Damn!” He smacked the steering wheel.

But just then he saw the Jeep. The woman was climbing out of it.

Warner made a U-turn, again causing a car to blare its horn at him and a driver to flip him off. The heat must be getting to everyone. They were all in such a nasty mood.

She’d parked in front of a theater and was jogging up the steps.

Warner screeched to a halt in the middle of the street and pulled his brake. The woman turned around on the steps of the theater and stopped.

He climbed across the bench seat to the passenger door and hung his head out the window.

“Hey,” he yelled like some back woods yokel.

“Hey, yourself.” She had an accent. She was native and that might be iffy. If she grew up in Nashville then she knew all about the shame of his family. But he’d let that find its own moment. This one was his.

“I’m not stalking you. I swear.”

“If you say so,” she said slowly, but she didn’t make a move toward the street and he didn’t blame her.

“I heard you singing. You’re freaking amazing.”

She laughed and her ponytail waved behind her. “I appreciate that.”

“No, really. I know what I’m talking about.” He tried to open the door, but it wasn’t going so well.

She’d taken another step toward the door. He was losing her.

“Wait. I want to talk to you.” Finally he managed the handle and nearly fell out of the truck, which he’d left running

The woman had made it to the top of the steps and gripped the knob on the front door of the theater.

“I’m not crazy. Please hear me out,” he was begging, but at least common sense had kicked in enough and he stopped moving toward her. “I’m a song writer. I’m looking for a voice.”

The woman nodded slowly, but she didn’t make any more moves to run away. That was a positive sign, wasn’t it?

“What’s your name?” she called down to him.

“Warner. Warner Wright.”

“Warner Wright the song writer? Cute.”

“No, that’s really my name.” He took one step further toward the curb. “You have an amazing voice.”

She looked at the watch on her wrist then back up at him. “You gathered that from hearing me in my truck?”

“Yes.”

Again, she nodded slowly. “Listen, I’m going to be late. If you want to come in and sit that’s fine. But I’m out of time for talking on the street.”

She opened the door to the theater and walked inside.

Warner started for the door and then the grumbling of his truck caught his attention. God, was he this desperate?

He hurried back to the truck, climbed in, and parked it down the street.

Clara locked her purse up in her aunt’s office and headed for rehearsal. The man in the street had scared the hell out of her at first, but she’d lived in Nashville her whole life. Every song writer thought they had what it took to make it big. Some of them got desperate enough to hunt down talent. But she’d never heard of this approach.

He hadn’t come inside. Perhaps he’d given up. All the same, she had her cell phone in her pocket. The theater had once been gutted by fire because of a psycho man. She didn’t care to see that repeated.

On the stage was a small ensemble waiting for her arrival. Behind them, the set to West Side Story was being repositioned for the weekend’s production.

“Thought you gave up on us,” Duke shouted from the piano. “You only have four shows left. Don’t give up now,” he laughed.

“The only reason I wouldn’t show up is because it’s too damn hot in here,” she said as she made it to the side of the stage. She walked up the stairs and joined the others.

Duke gave her a nod. “Let’s just take it from the top and work the songs. Arianna wants these last four shows to be sharp.”

They had only started the first song when the door opened and Warner walked into the theater. Why she thought he might be a threat she didn’t know because looking at him now she thought he looked like the biggest nerd she’d ever seen.

His jeans were worn, his shirt was untucked, and his thick blond hair was messed up something awful. More than likely he’d been driving all day with his windows down.

He’d helped himself to a seat in the back and just listened as they practiced. Well, she thought, if he liked what he heard in the car wait till he heard her sing as Maria.

Warner wondered how long he’d sat in that theater, alone. He was familiar with the musical—very familiar. They’d just finished the number Somewhere. Damn, he’d listened to nearly the entire musical. But that voice. She had the goods!

“She’s something, huh?”

Warner jumped in his seat and looked at the man next to him. Quickly he got to his feet. “Um, yes. She’s amazing.”

“That’s my niece.”

“She has a fantastic voice.” Warner turned to the man and held out his hand. He didn’t want this man to think he was crazy. “I’m Warner Wright. I’m a song writer. I heard her sing in the street and wanted to talk to her.”

The man nodded. “John Forrester.” He turned and looked at the woman he’d followed into the theater. “She doesn’t know you?”

“No, sir. But I’m not stalking her. I just wanted to talk to her about singing.”

John nodded slowly again and pulled his hand back. “She’s trained with a gun.”

Warner swallowed hard. “Most women in Tennessee are, sir.”

That made John laugh. “True enough.” He patted Warner on the shoulder. “She’s almost through.”

He gave him a smile and then looked toward the stage and gave his niece a glance. A million words were said between them in that moment, he wondered what they were.

Warner sat back down in his seat and listened as they finished the rest of the show.

To say he was moved would be an understatement. A piano and a dozen voices could do amazing things.

When the group stood up they all began to talk. This was a family, a musical family. One brought together by a common love and the current show they produced together.

It had been years since Warner was in musical theater, but you never forgot the feeling.

The woman he’d followed walked away from the group and was headed toward him. Her thumbs were tucked into the front pockets of her cutoff jeans.

The eyes that had hid behind the shiny aviators, which were now hung from the front of her tank top, were dark brown.

Warner quickly stood.

“You followed me all the way in here and listened to rehearsal?” Her accent was drawn out.

“Yes. I have to say, you’re amazing.”

The woman nodded slowly, just as her uncle had done. “You’ve said that, but thank you.” She looked down at her bare toes in the sandals she wore and wiggled them. The middle ones had rings on them. “Is that all you wanted to tell me?”

“Yes. No. I—is there somewhere we can talk?”

She looked around. “What’s wrong with here?”

“Right. Listen, I’m a song writer and I’m looking for a voice to demo my work.”

“And you’re looking for lessons?”

Warner raked his fingers through his hair. It was getting much too long. He looked down at his attire. God, she must think I’m a hobo.

“No. I’m not looking for lessons. I’m looking for someone to do the vocals.”

“And you want me to do that?”

He smiled. Finally they were on the same page. “Yes.”

“I see. Mr. Wright, I’m very busy with the theater right now. I just don’t…”

“Would you just look at them?” He was so desperate he was hunting down strangers to sing his songs. This was embarrassing. “Please. Maybe just a few hours with me and you could see what you think.”

“You don’t even know my name.”

He dropped his shoulders. He was desperate.

He held out his hand to shake hers. “Again, I’m Warner Wright.”

She smiled and took his hand. Her grip was firm. There was no messing around with this one. “Clara Keller.”

“Ms. Keller, I would appreciate a moment of your time to show you my work.”

She pulled her hand back, tucked it into her back pocket and gave him a regarding look.

“Do you know where the Riverside Building is?”

He raised his eyebrow. “Doesn’t everyone? This is Nashville.”

She chuckled. “There is a Starbucks on the main floor. I’ll meet you there tomorrow at ten.”

“Tomorrow at ten. Starbucks. Riverside Building.”

“Will that work?”

He nodded. “Thank you. Can I take you out for a drink tonight? No business, just get to know you?”

Clara pulled her phone out of her back pocket. “Thanks, but I have one guilty pleasure and its on TV tonight.”

A bead of sweat rolled down the back of his neck. He forced a smile. “What might that be?”

“Reality TV at its worst. Every heard of Nashville Ex-wives Club?”

He knew the blood had just drained out of his head. Damn if he fainted this would be over.

“I’ve heard of it.”

“Never miss a one. That Little woman is such trash she makes me laugh. But I’ll see you tomorrow. Ten.”

He only nodded as Clara left the theater.

Well, this was over. Once Clara found out about his connection with Patricia Little she too would exit stage left.

Warner left the theater just in time to see a tow truck drive away with his pickup.

It was official—Nashville hated him.

####

5 Prince Publishing Launch Day for Bernadette Marie!About the Author: 
Bernadette Marie has been an avid writer since the early age of 13, when she’d fill notebook after notebook with stories that she’d share with her friends. Her journey into novel writing started the summer before eighth grade when her father gave her an old typewriter. At all times of the day and night you would find her on the back porch penning her first work, which she would continue to write for the next 22 years.

In 2007—after marriage, filling her chronic entrepreneurial needs, and having five children—Bernadette began to write seriously with the goal of being published. That year she wrote 12 books. In 2009 she was contracted for her first trilogy and the published author was born. In 2011 she (being the entrepreneur that she is) opened her own publishing house, 5 Prince Publishing, and has released her own contemporary titles. She also quickly began the process of taking on other authors in other genres.

In 2012 Bernadette Marie began to find herself on the bestsellers lists of iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble to name a few. Her office wall is lined with colorful PostIt notes with the titles of books she will be releasing in the very near future, with hope that they too will grace the bestsellers lists.

Bernadette spends most of her free time driving her kids to their many events—usually hockey. She is also an accomplished martial artist with a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. An avid reader, she enjoys contemporary romances with humor and happily ever afters.

 Website     Blog     Facebook     Twitter     Email

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

Bernadette Marie releases the second book in her Matchmakers Series, Encore!

If you read the first novel in the Matchmaking series, Matchmakers, you have no doubt been anticipating the next book in the series. Well, the wait is over!

Encore cover

Newly unemployed concert pianist, Thomas Samuel has spent most of his adult life escaping his upbringing. He’s become an expert at hiding his feelings and remaining professional. But when he meets cellist Carissa Kendal he’s faced with one emotion he can’t escape—love.

Carissa hadn’t expected her mother to take on the art of matchmaking and she was convinced she wasn’t very good at it. Strong minded Carissa had her work cut out for her with the emotionally scarred Thomas, but love always wins in the end—or does it?

By the time Thomas realizes his past does not define the man he has become it might be too late. Big venues and scenic places might just win over the heart of Carissa and take her away from him—unless he hurries and faces the man who ruined his career and convince Carissa that every performance, even love, deserves an encore.

Amazon     5 Prince Publishing

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Her young student pulled the bow across the strings of the violin, and the sound was pure evil. Carissa Kendal winced, then quickly smiled. She’d get it in time. Eventually, they all got it if they stuck around.

The dropout rate of students was the one dark cloud over her next venture, the Kendal School of Music. It had been her dream to teach music in her own school, and she was about to dive into it. She’d hoped her mother would want to be by her side more, but Sophia still had Hope to raise. Carissa had accepted that, but to have her mother call up an old friend to help her wasn’t settling.

Did Sophia not think she’d look him up? That she wouldn’t find out who he was?

At the moment, he was nobody. Every musical endeavor he’d pursued in the eight years since the renowned tenor Pablo DiAngelo’s ensemble broke up had failed spectacularly.

Why was Sophia soft on him? Her mother’s name carried far more influence than that of the failed pianist, and it would have given Carissa’s music school all the prestige it needed.

The student pulled another evil note and snapped Carissa from her thoughts.

“I’m never going to get this,” the young girl complained with her nose wrinkled.

“You will. If you want to, you’ll get it.” She smiled encouragingly, remembering when she’d been that young girl. “You need to remember to practice the material I give you.” Carissa raised her eyebrows with the subtle demand.

“Okay. I promise I’ll be better next time.”

“And if you practice, that will always be the case.”

As her student gathered her instrument, Carissa marked off her lesson sheet and handed it to her.

They left the study of the old boardinghouse, where Carissa lived with her grandmother, and stood by the door as her student’s mother walked toward them. Carissa gave the girl a squeeze on her shoulder.

“She’s doing wonderfully. A little extra practice each day will help,” she said. “Don’t forget your peppermint on your way out the door.”

The young girl fished in the bowl for the right piece of candy as Carissa opened the front door. The violinist’s mother handed Carissa a check for the lesson.

“Thank you, Carissa. She enjoys her lessons very much.”

“I’m pleased to hear that. We’ll see you both next week.”

As the woman and her daughter descended the front steps, a man paid a cab on the street in front of the old house. He stood with his suitcase in his hand and looked her way.

He was tall and too thin for her taste, but he looked almost regal in the way he carried himself. He removed his sunglasses and stroked the wisps of dirty blond hair from his eyes. She almost didn’t recognize the man from the pictures she’d seen on the Internet.

He looked like a blond Jimmy Stewart, and her stomach did a little flip.

“Hello,” he called as he neared the house. She smiled despite her misgivings. He even walked like Jimmy Stewart.

Like most of Pablo’s ensemble, he’d always walked behind the man with the million-dollar smile, never next to or in front of him, not like her mother who had been paraded on Pablo’s arm. It was no wonder she hadn’t recognized him.

She extended her hand to him, and as his fingers enclosed hers, she gulped in air. He was strikingly handsome. She hadn’t expected that.

To have played for Pablo, as Sophia had, Thomas had to be tremendously talented. Yet would the curse that hung over his career affect her music school?

“You must be Thomas Samuel. I’m Sophia’s daughter, Carissa Kendal. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

When Sophia Kendal had said her daughter would meet him at the boardinghouse in Kansas City, he hadn’t expected she’d look like the woman standing before him. The woman before him stood erect as a dancer. Her hair fell to the middle of her back like an ebony waterfall, and her dark eyes were soft. She wore a flowing, orange blouse and a long skirt of the same orange, mixed with earthy browns that swirled around her calves when she moved.

She was mesmerizing.

“Please come in.” She stepped back through the door. Heat rose on the back of his neck as he passed by her. “My mother says you’ll be staying with us until you get settled.”

“Uh. Yes.” He felt like his tongue had swollen. “I’m sorry if I seem out of sorts. I knew Sophia for so long that to think of her as your mother, well, that’s a stretch for me.”

Carissa smiled at him again. “I was seventeen before she adopted me, so I can understand. I’m sorry you couldn’t make it out for their wedding.”

“Yes, so am I.” Had he made that wedding, he’d have made it his business to become more familiar with the dark beauty who, with the most subtle gesture of tucking her hair behind her ear, had his pulse climbing.

Guilt halted his thoughts. He should have been at the wedding because he’d promised Sophia he would be. It was just another broken promise, and he feared he would let her down again. And given his past, he had no business fantasizing about Carissa—or any woman. It could end only in heartache—or worse.

5 Prince Publishing Launch Day for Bernadette Marie!

About the Author: 

Bernadette Marie has been an avid writer since the early age of 13, when she’d fill notebook after notebook with stories that she’d share with her friends. Her journey into novel writing started the summer before eighth grade when her father gave her an old typewriter. At all times of the day and night you would find her on the back porch penning her first work, which she would continue to write for the next 22 years.

In 2007—after marriage, filling her chronic entrepreneurial needs, and having five children—Bernadette began to write seriously with the goal of being published. That year she wrote 12 books. In 2009 she was contracted for her first trilogy and the published author was born. In 2011 she (being the entrepreneur that she is) opened her own publishing house, 5 Prince Publishing, and has released her own contemporary titles. She also quickly began the process of taking on other authors in other genres.

In 2012 Bernadette Marie began to find herself on the bestsellers lists of iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble to name a few. Her office wall is lined with colorful PostIt notes with the titles of books she will be releasing in the very near future, with hope that they too will grace the bestsellers lists.

Bernadette spends most of her free time driving her kids to their many events—usually hockey. She is also an accomplished martial artist with a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. An avid reader, she enjoys contemporary romances with humor and happily ever afters.

 Website     Facebook     Blog     Twitter     Email

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook     Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

 

#WriterWednesday- Check Out What 5 Prince Publishing Has to Offer!

In celebration of the release of the next novel in The Butterfly Memoirs series Jaded, I am sharing the latest releases of my fellow 5 Prince Publishing authors. Click each photo to find out more about the story. No matter what genre you prefer, I promise you’ll find a great read to match!

Christina OW - Contemporary Romance

Christina OW – African Contemporary Fiction/Multicultural/ African American Romance

HeartLikeAnOcean-Cover

Christine Steendam- Historical Romance

Release Day for 5 Prince Publishing Author Bernadette Marie!

Today is release day for  5 Prince Author, Bernadette Marie, and the fourth book of the popular Keller Family Series!


           

Keller Family Series Book 4
By
Bernadette Marie
Center Stage
John Forrester is a simple man whose never needed more than his work, his truck, and a small apartment with his flat screen TV. After a bad breakup with his ex-wife John swore he’d never get married again and has done his best to keep to himself. But one woman always creeps into his mind—Arianna Keller.
Arianna Keller had an amazing career, center stage on Broadway. However, her run in New York is over and circumstances have forced her back home to Nashville, Tennessee.
The relationship John and Arianna have forged over the years as friends has always had a romantic spark, which has been ignored. Now they are working together to restore an old theater and their desire for each other can no longer be denied.
It’s only a matter of time before sparks ignite into a passionate fire. But Arianna is keeping a secret which threatens to destroy more than her relationship with John—it threatens the lives of the entire Keller family.

Bio for Bernadette Marie:
Bernadette Marie has been an avid writer since the early age of 13, when she’d fill notebook after notebook with stories that she’d share with her friends.  Her journey into novel writing started the summer before eighth grade when her father gave her an old typewriter.  At all times of the day and night you would find her on the back porch penning her first work, which she would continue to write for the next 22 years.

In 2007 – after marriage, filling her chronic entrepreneurial needs, and having five children – Bernadette began to write seriously with the goal of being published.  That year she wrote 12 books.  In 2009  she was contracted for her first trilogy and the published author was born.  In 2011 she (being the entrepreneur that she is) opened her own publishing house, 5 Prince Publishing, and has released contemporary titles and began the process of taking on other authors in other genres.

In 2012 Bernadette Marie found herself on the bestsellers lists of iTunes and Amazon to name a few.  Her office wall is lined with colorful PostIt notes with the titles of books she will be releasing in the very near future, with hope that they too will grace the bestsellers lists.

Bernadette spends most of her free time driving her kids to their many events.  She is also an accomplished martial artist who will earn her conditional second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do in October 2012.  An avid reader, she enjoys most, the works of Nora Roberts, Karen White, Megan Hart, to name a few. She loves to meet readers who enjoy reading contemporary romances and she always promises Happily Ever After.
Author Contact Info:
  
Excerpt from Center Stage:
     Arianna pushed down on the suitcase and forced the zipper to close. The rest of her apartment was packed and ready for movers, but she’d need all her clothes before her belongings arrived in Tennessee.
She looked around her small, New York apartment. It had been a good home to her for the past decade. She’d accomplished everything she’d wanted. When she’d moved there, it was to try her hand on the stages of Manhattan. She’d played in some dives and had worked her way up to leads on Broadway. She had a few commercials to her credit and had graced a few TV shows as an extra, but her love was still on stage. But now it was time to go home, back where her family was. Something would come together for her there.         It always did.
      Arianna looked at her watch. She had barely enough time to get to the airport. If there were any accidents backing up traffic, she’d miss her flight.
      Her brother-in-law, Zach, had called and said her sister Regan had gone into labor with the couple’s second baby. She figured she’d arrive just in time to get to hold the bundle of joy. Then in a few more weeks, her brother, Curtis, and his fiancée, Simone, would have their first child. She knew moving back to Tennessee was right, and getting to spoil new nieces and nephews was reason enough to be closer to home.
     The flight had been miserable. Leaving New York in a January snowstorm always meant delays and aggravation. It was almost eight o’clock at night by the time the flight landed two hours late. Carlos would be livid if he’d been waiting at the airport the entire time.
     She made it to baggage claim, retrieved her two pieces of luggage, and then scanned the area for her brother. There was no sign of him, or any member of her family, anywhere.
     “I thought I’d missed you,” the familiar voice behind her said.
     She spun quickly to find John Forrester, Zach’s most trusted building foreman, standing there.
     “Missed me? Were you looking for me?”
     “I have been sent to pick you up. Carlos and Madeline ended up with Tyler for the night.”
     Arianna narrowed her stare on him when he’d commented about her nephew. “I thought Mom was watching him while the baby was born.”
     “Well, it seems as though your family is going to grow quite a bit tonight. Regan is still in labor, and Curtis just took Simone in. She’s having her baby today, too.”
     Arianna gasped. “Simone isn’t due for two more weeks.”
     “Babies come when babies want to, and Emily thought she’d better be there for Simone.” He picked up her suitcases, one in each hand. “C’mon, my truck isn’t too far.”
     Who would have thought she’d get to be there for the birth of both babies in one night. God had blessed the Keller family—that was for sure. Carlos and Madeline’s kids were teenagers, and in the next few years, they would be off on adventures of their own. Eduardo, their eldest, was already working for Zach after school. Christian, their second son, was an all-star athlete—baseball, she thought. And Clara, well, Clara was a girl after her own heart. She was an accomplished musician on the acoustic guitar. And, boy, could that girl sing.
     Regan and Zach’s son, Tyler, was as anxious as any sixteen-month-old child could be for a new sibling. But Arianna figured he’d need the most spoiling from her to make everything just right.
As for her, she’d never wanted children. It just hadn’t been in her plans. Her career had always been more important. She came and went as she wanted, carried on in any fashion she saw fit, and, of course, traveled the world.
     But now Nashville, Tennessee called her back home. Perhaps she could share her talent with the world in some other way.
     John led her to his truck in the adjoining parking lot. She was comfortable with John, she thought, as she walked behind him. They had been each other’s dates to both of Carlos’s weddings last year, and they had hit it off, as friends of course. They might have hit it off more, but he was very conscious of their age difference, even though she wasn’t worried about the thirteen years between them. His ex-wife had burned him badly ten years ago, and it was clear he didn’t trust any woman.
     Not that she’d been looking for a man, but she often thought if John hadn’t been so worried about everything, they might have had something. As it was, they could keep each other’s company comfortably. Coming home with all her brothers and her sister being married, that might just be what she needed—someone to keep her company.
     John’s truck was probably one of the most beat up pickup trucks she’d ever had the displeasure of riding in, and she’d been born and raised in Tennessee—she knew bad pickup trucks. But that was John’s character. If it still worked, there was no need to replace it.
     He backed out of the parking lot and headed toward the highway. Also common with John, he didn’t have much to say unless you started the conversation.
     “So, how is the construction business?” she asked.
     “Zach keeps me busy. That’s for sure.”
      “I’ll bet. Do you think he’ll take some time off after the baby is born?”
      John laughed. “Sure he will. He will work from his office at home.”
      Arianna followed suit and laughed too. That sounded like her brother-in-law.
     She watched as John merged lanes. His tanned skin showed the many years that he’d worked in the elements. The deep lines around his eyes never made him look old, she thought, only distinguished. Arianna liked her men distinguished. Age on a man had never bothered her. Oh, if her parents knew about some of the men she’d dated in New York, they certainly might have had an opinion on the matter.
     She must be feeling the pang of needing someone to connect with, she decided, because the thought of running her fingers through John’s salt and pepper shaded hair was almost irresistible. But she denied herself the pleasure. He probably wouldn’t take too kindly to the lunatic sister-in-law of his boss making a move on him.
     The long flight and drive out to the hospital must have worn her out more than she’d thought. She woke to John’s hand on her arm.
     “We’re here. If you hurry, you might not miss the show.”
     She rubbed her eyes. “Aren’t you coming in?”
     “Not my place to be. But I’ll drop your bags off for you. I assume you’re staying at your place?”
     She nodded. One of the perks of keeping your house when you moved away, especially if you knew you’d be back. “Yes. Of course.”
     “That was a sound business decision to keep the house and rent it out. Benson, Benson, and Hart keep good care of it.”
     “I wouldn’t expect anything different. I know I have a renter in the basement, too. Hope they don’t make too much noise. I’m a day sleeper.”
     John smiled. “Oh, he’s a good guy. He won’t bother you.”
     Arianna nodded and looked up at the hospital where her brother worked as an emergency room doctor.           
     “Guess I’d better go meet the newest members of this crazy family.” She slid across the seat and placed a kiss on John’s unshaven cheek. “Thanks for the ride. I’ll take you out for pizza and a beer.”
     “Never could turn down a woman who offered up pizza and beer.”
     She opened the door and climbed out. He was just her kind of man.
     The waiting room was full of Kellers, including Carlos and Madeline, who held a sleeping Tyler.
     Carlos stood and greeted her with a hug when she walked into the room. “I thought you were babysitting him so he didn’t have to hang out here.”
     “C’mon, what’s better than meeting your baby brother or sister in the middle of the night and knowing this is the kid you get to beat on for the rest of your life?”
     Arianna laughed as Clara rushed over and hugged her. “Auntie, I have a new song for you. I wrote it myself.”
     “And I bet it’s the best song ever.”
Arianna pulled her niece to her side. This was just what she’d needed—her family.
     John opened the door to Arianna’s house. He supposed he’d have to relinquish his key now that she was home. He shut the door and carried her bags to the bedroom at the top of the stairs. He didn’t open the door. He knew it was empty, but still, it was her bedroom.
     The house was dark and quiet; he’d miss that too. There hadn’t been a renter upstairs for months; he’d had the house to himself. Oh, he kept to himself downstairs in the little apartment in the basement, but he’d enjoyed using the front door access and the kitchen from time to time. There was a grill on the back porch, which offered the perfect view of the sunset. He was sure Arianna wouldn’t mind him cooking a steak or two for her, just for access to the porch.
     John grabbed a beer from the refrigerator as he passed through the kitchen. He figured he’d better get his plugged in downstairs. It had been a saver on electricity since the one he had in his kitchen was old, and Arianna’s kept the beer colder.
     He started down the stairs to his little apartment. The door locked from her side, which kept the renters out of the house. He’d taken liberty with that since the house was empty, but certainly he wouldn’t disrespect that rule when she came back home.
      His small apartment was just the right size. He was a simple man who didn’t need much—and who didn’t have much since his ex-wife took everything he’d ever had. Ten years after she’d left him for another man, he still wondered what he’d ever seen in her. Well, he’d never make that mistake again. Women just weren’t worth it. Most women, he corrected himself. His mind had been preoccupied with one woman in particular for months. And now he faced the dilemma of knowing she’d be living only feet from him.
     The last thing he wanted was a relationship—platonic or just sexual. Relationships had never brought him anything but grief.
     John sat down on his Lazy Boy recliner and turned on his big screen, flat panel TV. A man had to have his luxuries. He pulled from his imported beer and thought life was good.
     But only a moment later, his mind wandered to Arianna. With her hair piled atop her head, her eyes dark from lack of sleep, and her ripped jeans, she’d still stirred him up more than he’d have liked.
     Beer and pizza sounded like a great idea, but he wouldn’t take her up on the offer until he knew they’d cemented their relationship as landlord/renter and friends—only friends.
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