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  • Writer's pictureSusan Lute

Sometimes love doesn't go according to plan

In my two newest releases, The Little Tea Room on River Road (May 26, 2023) and The Fake Marriage Proposal (coming July 13, 2023), our heroines, Wynne Olsen and Sage Dawson are not looking for their perfect guy. In fact, they are pretty sure that man doesn't exist, so maybe it's time to focus on what they want out of life . . . if they can just figure out what that is.

What I love most about both these two sweet, frenemies-to-lovers, summer reads is how Wynne and Sage pick themselves up by their bootstraps to come to terms with their broken dreams; and the men, Brett Macauley and Luke Marshell, who learn that love doesn't always go according to plan, especially when the right woman comes along. That has been my personal experience as well :)

When a fake marriage fails, what comes next?

Gillian bumped Harriet's arm with her elbow. “Tell her, Harrie.”

The dam that held Harriet back broke. “I need a divorce and want to hire you. I have some money saved—”

“Hold on there.” Wynne held up her hand. To hide her surprise, she joked, “You don't look old enough to be married, much less need a divorce.”

“I have to get divorced,” Harriet insisted as she uncovered her hands and curled them into fists. “From foster care.”

The bell over the coffeehouse door jingled, but Wynne was too caught up with the girls and their desire to put her on retainer to pay much attention. Across from her, Gwen’s eyes filled with laughter as she put her hand across her mouth.

Someone stopped beside her. Jean-clad legs, work boots, and a deep baritone finally pulled her attention away from the kids. “What’s this about the money in your safe, Gillian?”

“Dad. Harrie and I are giving our money to Ms. Olsen. She’s a lawyer, and she’s going to help Harrie get a divorce from foster care.” Gillian jumped out of her chair. “Isn’t that a great idea?”

Above Wynne’s shoulder, a throat cleared, a very masculine sound. Quickly, she said, “Um, I think there’s been a mistake.”

Scooting her chair sideways, Wynne stood to meet Gillian’s father and explain. She came face-to-face with a tall man she had to look up to, something that didn’t happen often. At five foot nine, she was tall for a woman. His dark-blond hair was on the longish side but brushed back off his forehead. Light-brown eyes speculated as he studied her face carefully. So he was where Gillian got her unique eye color. Deep dimples and an appealing cleft in his chin kept her gaze on his face longer than was polite.

Oh. My. Word.

Sage parked in front of The Oak. A silver, vintage Camaro pulled in beside her Sunbeam. She had a thing for old cars, especially the model parking next to Annabelle. The Camaro was a sweet ride and a rare sight in Wally Creek, except during the classic car show that came annually to town. Not just anyone could afford such a beautiful ride.

A tall, dark, and okay, up close and personal, gorgeous city slicker emerged from the car. Sage would bet anything, from his starched, polished clothes he wasn't from Wally Creek. He'd left his suit jacket draped over the front passenger seat. His sleeves were rolled to his elbows. The button-down shirt and flawless slacks gave him an air of appealing confidence.

He was what every small-town girl thought successful city dudes looked like, but Sage didn't hold that against him.

If she hadn't just been dumped by Gordan, the defector, she might appreciate how the Camaro owner's dark hair curled in waves around his ears and down the back of his neck. She might have let herself fall headfirst into eyes the color of a clear Pacific northwest summer sky when they flicked in her direction, then lingered on her face, but she resisted. If she were in a reckless mood, she might even have introduced herself. Maybe flirt a little with the man who, like his car, was a little too sleek and shiny to be super comfortable. He couldn't possibly live in her small country hometown. He was definitely an out-of-towner.

Just in time, she stopped her lips from curling into a hospitable smile, broadcasting a message—let me be the first to welcome you to Wally Creek.

Do not trust this, this . . . top-shelf specimen. Don't forget—burnt fingers and all that.

Like Gordan, the . . . okay, this man was probably all bubbles and no substance.

“Nice car.” The deep, inviting rumble in the stranger's voice stopped Sage from paying attention to her own sternly given advice. Especially when he didn't stop there. “How old is she?”

“My car?” Sage pulled her failing defenses firmly back into place. “Old enough. How do you know she's a she?”

He came closer. “Because she's a beauty. A Sunbeam, right? 1956 or '57?” he guessed, his interested gaze locked on her face.

Breathe, girl. Breathe.

Given what he was driving, of course, the guy knew his classic cars. An unexpected attraction washed over her skin. Sage took a step back as he rounded the back of the Sunbeam. He ran a hand gently over the turquoise finish.

Hadn't she learned her lesson with Gordan Whatshisname? Her ex had made her pulse skip, but even thinking he was her passion, she couldn't recall a single time when she'd been left breathless or flooded with a desire to indiscriminately throw herself into his arms.

Now that she'd had time to think about it, Gordan was . . . comfortable. And until he'd left her standing alone on the Emerald Star's deck, she'd thought they fit together like two halves of well-traveled shoes. She'd thought that was a good thing, but apparently, it wasn't.

“Annabelle is a '57 Sunbeam Alpine,” she blurted, then wished she hadn't.

“You named a classic British car, Annabelle?” The slow swipe of his fingers across the classic's shiny surface scattered every coherent thought Sage could bring to bear. Goosebumps rose on her arms.

Before the mad pump of her pulse could make her do something crazy or worse, stupid, she took another step back. Suddenly, her heel hit the curb. Arms windmilling as she tried and failed to catch her balance, she knew she was going down.

Just before she landed on hard pavement, strong arms wrapped around Sage. Twisting in mid-air, the man, who seconds ago had been ogling her Sunbeam, landed on the sidewalk, on his back, between her and the pavement. Her chest was squished against his, her imagination spiraled through impossible intimate scenarios. It only took half a second for her to recognize more than their chest matched up, all the way down to his toes.

She sucked in a deep breath and regretted it the second her chest pushed against his firm body. One brow raised, the spark in his eyes brightened with a lethal interest he didn't attempt to hide. When Sage took another breath, she was swamped by his scent, warm man mixed with an earthy summer day.

Sage Dawson! Less drooling and more action, please. Now!

She tried to move off the poor man but there was her knee, and his um— “I'm so sorry. Are you hurt?”

People who claimed love at first sight was a thing, needed a good stiff drink. Lust at first sight, on the other hand, was probably just a side effect of her recent rejection. The air around Sage went still. The sound of slow, local traffic dimmed.

His eyes turned a deep color of the sky, and lazy like a good chocolate martini. “No harm done.”

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Enjoy your summer . . . and happy reading :)



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