It Had to be You
It’s hard to keep a big secret in a small town . . .
When Paige Hollister discovers her “Mr. Right” already has a “Mrs. Right,” she swears off men forever. Even more humiliating, she suddenly finds herself labeled the other woman and out of the teaching job she loves. So Paige does what every unemployed single woman staring thirty in the ace does: She hightails it to the beach. Bad luck like hers is hard to outrun, however. Her getaway is stalled when her car breaks down in a small-town chock full of meddling, nosy residents. The worst of them being the local sheriff—none other than her estranged father.
Finally on top of the golf world, Tanner Gillette is poised to show everyone he’s not just an entitled playboy coasting through tournaments on his pedigree. That is until his life is turned upside down by a little girl who shows up on his doorstep with a birth certificate inexplicably bearing his name. Complicating matters more, the kid isn’t talking. When the stress of caring for a child whose mother is AWOL gives Tanner a bad case of the yips, he’s forced to enlist help from the one person in town who can’t wait to leave.
Sticking around Chances Inlet and her father’s shiny new, über-successful family isn’t on Paige’s to-do list. Especially when she’d prefer to keep her embarrassing incident under wraps. Yet she can’t walk away from the troubled little girl. Or the sexy Australian golfer who just might make her want to take a chance on trusting her heart again.
She snatched up one of the beach-reads she’d brought from home. The well-worn paperback was one of her “comfort” books. Part of a Victorian era romance series featuring a group of wallflowers trying to find love. The familiar words kept swimming on the page, however, before Paige finally slammed it closed.
“There’s more to life than finding a man, sister,” Paige mumbled. Sighing heavily, she smacked her head against the pillows. “Yet another thing Jon ruined for me. Romance novels.”
She was about to reach for the TV remote when a sound from Whitney’s room caught her attention. Flipping back the covers, she listened intently for it to come again.
“It was probably something outside,” she told herself.
Except it wasn’t. Whitney was crying out in her sleep. And it sounded like she was calling for her mother. Paige raced through the bathroom and into the adjoining bedroom. Whitney was tossing and turning as sobs wracked her small body. As sweet as it was to finally hear the girl’s voice, Paige was devastated by her cries.
“Shh.” Paige crawled into the bed, gathering Whitney up beside her. “Shh,” she repeated. “Everything is going to be okay. You’re safe. I’m here.”
Whitney’s gulping sobs eventually subsided. She curled against Paige, remarkably, still fast asleep. Paige rubbed the girl’s back, softly whispering reassurances. She wiped Whitney’s tear-stained cheeks with the sheet. Within minutes, the child was sleeping peacefully.
A noise in the doorway alerted Paige they were not alone. She looked up to see a shadow of a man illuminated by the hallway lights. After resettling Gladys in Whitney’s arms, Paige replaced her own body with a pillow. She waited a moment to make sure Whitney was settled before slipping out into the hallway where Tanner waited.
A shirtless Tanner.
“She okay?” he whispered.
Paige picked a spot beyond his muscled shoulder where she could fix her gaze to avoid openly drooling at the man.
“Mmhmm,” she answered with a nod.
He took a step closer. “Are you okay?”
She wanted to be blasé and mature, but she wasn’t that skilled at playing it cool. The man’s chest was a freaking work of art. And who knew golfers had six-pack abs? Weren’t they supposed to be pot-bellied or some damn thing? It was the trail of dark hair disappearing beneath his flannel joggers that sent her over the edge.
“Could you—” She wiggled her fingers in the direction of his chest. “Could you cover that up, please?”
He looked at her as though she’d just asked him to shoot a hole-in-one on the moon. Then he chuckled sadistically before turning on his heel and padding down the long hallway leading to his bedroom.
“Water.” Paige fanned herself. “I need some water.”
Hurrying to the kitchen, she filled a glass using the dispenser on the refrigerator door. She was gulping down its contents when Tanner reappeared. Thankfully, he was wearing a T-shirt with what looked like German writing on it. A pair of sheepskin moccasins covered his feet.
“I’ve got something stronger in my study,” he said when he walked past, presumably on his way there.
A smarter woman would have returned to her bed and listened for signs Whitney might be having another nightmare.
USA Today bestselling author Tracy Solheim writes books with shirtless men on the cover. Some of them are actually best-sellers. The books, not the men. When she's not writing, she's practicing her curling. . . bottles of wine, that is. She's been known to cook dinner but no more than two nights in a row. Most days, she'd rather be reading, which to her is just necessary research. She lives in the suburbs of Atlanta with her husband and a neurotic Labrador retriever. Her two adult children visit but not often enough. (See the note above about cooking.) Check out her romantic suspense series featuring the Men of the Secret Service--shirtless, of course! See what she’s up to at www.tracysolheim.com
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