New Year’s Home

Born on December 31st, I was considered “Daddy’s Little Deduction”.  (I’m glad as a baby I could help the family out. Ha.)  To celebrate my birthday this year, my New Year’s Eve romance, The Garden Collection, is on SALE for $0.99 until 1/3/19.  In this story, Robert Donovan learns that home is where his heart is.

Please grab your copy, write a review, and/or share this post.  I appreciate your help getting the word out. Thank you.

THE GARDEN COLLECTION on AMAZON

A few words of encouragement can stay with you for a lifetime.

Robert and Brianna’s childhood friendship grew into respect for each other and their ideas.  Robert gave her the confidence to stand up for herself.  Brianna helped him see his artistic potential and encouraged him to travel for his inspiration.  He found it in the letters she wrote.

BRIANNA CARLSON, an optimistic realist, appreciates the little things in life.  Working at the local diner in their wintry rural town in West Michigan, she pushes the stress of caring for her half-sister, CHLOE, aside focusing instead on the unconditional love she gives and receives.

Her best friend’s brother, ROBERT DONOVAN, regally proper and polished, balances his business acumen with his artwork for his family’s jewelry store.

In THE GARDEN COLLECTION, a Cinderella-esque romance, Brianna receives news that her abusive step-father will be released from prison.  She’s terrified he’ll come back to hurt Chloe this time.  She decides to leave town.

After traveling the world, Robert returns home and discovers Brianna had lied in every letter she sent.  She never received any of his. Before he can demand answers, she disappears without Chloe.  As Robert learns about Brianna’s life during his absence, he sets out to find her and convince her to trust him again.

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Meet Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Joe Roberts, Eva O’Sullivan, and Taylor Valentine are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia lost her husband, Herbert, a year ago. In Chemical Attraction, she had a hand in getting Joe and Madeline together. Then, in Chemical Reaction, her support for Joe helped him focus on finding Madeline. Today, Sylvia answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: Whose idea was it to setup Madeline with Joe?

SYLVIA: Herbert and I had the idea years ago, but it wasn’t until recently we got them into the same room. At the local women’s group, Eva and I thought Joseph and Madeline would have chemistry. I think Joseph saw right through our plan. He was already smitten though. I’m happy everything worked out. I trust in the Lord’s plan for us. My sister, Allison, would have approved the match. My heart breaks that she’s not here to see how happy her daughter is. Family meant everything to Allison, too.

CHRISTINA: You met Joe before the start of Chemical Attraction. How’d you first meet?

SYLVIA: In The Kindred Code, I met Joseph about the time Eva and Matthew started dating. Herbert thought pairing Joseph with Madeline would be beneficial for both of them. He never said why; he’d just chuckle. Eva and I felt we carried out his wishes.

CHRISTINA: Is Joe as good of a dancer as he thinks he is?

SYLVIA: Yes, he is. I danced with him before Madeline did. I knew then that our plan would work.

CHRISTINA: Did Earl VanKampen have any chance of courting you?

SYLVIA: Good God, no! Herbert was my one and only. My focus is on my new family. Suddenly, I have sons, daughters, and grandchildren. I’m truly blessed. They keep my heart young.

CHRISTINA: Tell us about your husband, Herbert.

SYLVIA: Joseph reminds me of Herbert ─ charming with a sense of humor and a kind heart. Herbert retired after working thirty-five years at Haworth Manufacturing then he helped me at the B & B until he passed. We met at the local American Legion’s annual veteran’s dance. He was my Navy man. Herbert swept me off my feet. I miss dancing with him.

CHRISTINA: Everyone loves your chocolate chip cookies. Care to share the recipe?

SYLVIA: It’s Herbert’s mother’s recipe. Imogene would say, “Love makes them good, but lard makes them great.” That’s our secret, right? The women in my sewing circle have been after my recipe for years.

CHRISTINA: It’s our secret. Thanks for joining me today and giving the fans insight into your life. Learn more about Sylvia’s life in the standalone romantic thriller Chemical Attraction and its sequel, Chemical Reaction.

Meet Madeline, the Love of Joe’s Life

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Joe Roberts, Eva O’Sullivan, and Taylor Valentine are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

Dr. Madeline Pierce, a dedicated scientist, has pain in her heart from an abusive relationship. With her Ice Queen persona set, she hides within the realm of her research.

In Chemical Attraction, Madeline works with FBI Agent Joe Roberts uncovering a sinister scientific plot. She fights her attraction toward him. Then, in Chemical Reaction, they struggle to make their whirlwind relationship work while apart. Madeline sits down with me to answer a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: We don’t know much about your family. Are you close to your parents?

MADELINE: No, my mom died when I was young and I don’t talk to my father. I haven’t missed having parents with Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Herbert around. For years, Uncle Herbert and I would debate philosophy. I learned so much from him. Aunt Sylvia is so much like my mom—beautiful with a teasing sense of humor. She’s kept me laughing while Uncle Herbert kept me dancing.

CHRISTINA: You knew Joe was a player before you knew he was the FBI agent assigned to your case. What first attracted you to him?

MADELINE: His butt, his biceps, his abs, his sexy green eyes. Oh my, is it getting warm in here? I thought he was handsome in a suit. Then I saw him in jeans and a t-shirt … even sexier. Deep down, Joe’s a romantic guy and cares about people. I love him for the little things he does. For example, he walked my aunt home on a dark evening and cheered up his sister with karaoke. During the case, Joe joked with me on several occasions to calm my nerves.

CHRISTINA: Joe says he’s not intimidated by your genius. He finds it sexy. I’m curious who would win in a chess match?

MADELINE: Well, first of all, I think he can hold his own when it comes to intelligence. Second, I would never play him in a match. Can you imagine how big his head would get if he won? Seriously though, I don’t like to compete with him. We work well together. It’s what I love about us.

CHRISTINA: Do you think you’ll ever be a fan of boating?

MADELINE: I haven’t gone near the water since I was eight. It brings back bad memories for me. And the last few weeks haven’t changed my mind about it either. I prefer to enjoy the water from solid ground.

CHRISTINA: What’s your next adventure with Joe?

MADELINE: We’re going up to Tim Orr’s secluded cabin in Canada. I’m ready to relax and recharge. I can’t think of anything that could possibly disturb us there.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for joining me today and giving the fans insight into your life. Read more about Joe and Madeline’s romance in Chemical Attraction and its sequel, Chemical Reaction.

 

Meet Joe Roberts

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Joe Roberts, Eva O’Sullivan, and Taylor Valentine are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

His charisma hiding his loneliness, Joe Roberts is searching for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults not in spite of them.

In Their Rigid Rules, Joe meets his future boss and then in The Kindred Code, he sets his career with the FBI in motion. In Chemical Attraction, he and Madeline fall in love during that dangerous case. In Chemical Reaction, they struggle to make it work while apart. Today, Joe answers a few questions for the fans of the series.

 

CHRISTINA: How’d you know Madeline was your one?

JOE: When I read her case file, her brilliance intrigued me. Then, I saw her jogging down the street next to her Aunt Sylvia’s B & B and knew. Our kiss on the dance floor confirmed it for me, but getting her on board took a while.

CHRISTINA: Madeline’s a genius research scientist and you need to be right. Do you find her intimidating?

JOE: I grew up where I had to take charge. I was on my own and had to be right to survive. With Madeline, I love the challenge of raising myself up intellectually. Her intelligence is sexy.

CHRISTINA: Is there any correlation between Madeline and Taylor’s favorite scent of lilacs? Did that scent attract you to Madeline?

JOE: Wait. What? I, um, uh, I never thought about that. I’m not comfortable discussing it. Next question, please.

CHRISTINA: Okay, we’ll move on. How’s your relationship with Stuart now?

JOE: We’re good. He and Matt treat me like a little brother although they don’t pick on me as much as Eva does. I let her to make her feel superior. Don’t tell her I said that.

CHRISTINA: You and Sylvia have a flirty relationship. How’d that start?

JOE: Years ago, in The Kindred Code, I met Sylvia and Herbert Folkert when Director Bingaman and I stayed at their B & B. She asked me if I was single.  Apparently, she planned to set me up with Madeline way back then. I flirted back amused by her playful banter. The next day, Herbert gave me an inspiring piece of advice that I still hold on to. I’ll share it with Madeline later.

CHRISTINA: When did you get rid of your tank of a car and buy the Ford Taurus?

JOE: My eighty-eight Lincoln Continental sat at the Director’s cabin for most of the winter and wouldn’t start, so he had to have it towed. Before I answer about my Taurus, what did the Director say about it? I, uh, didn’t actually buy it. It’s revealed in The Kindred Code though.

CHRISTINA: How would you characterize your relationship with your boss?

JOE: Director Bingaman took a chance on me in Their Rigid Rules. I’m grateful for that. At the office, we stay professional. At family gatherings, Peter is my mentor and fills the father role with Eva and Taylor, too.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for joining me today and giving the fans insight into your life. Read more about Joe’s backstory in Their Rigid Rules and The Kindred Code. Then follow up with Joe and Madeline’s romance in Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction.

 

Meet Eva O’Sullivan

Taking-the-town

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Eva O’Sullivan, Taylor Valentine, and Joe Roberts are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

Eva O’Sullivan Connor, a petite Irish spitfire with auburn spiral curls, has big opinions, and you know them whether you want to or not. Masking her vulnerability, she wears her willfulness like armor. Eva grew up in a single parent household and met Joe and Taylor in grade school. They quickly became inseparable. Eva has a fierce love for her family and believes families are bound by love not blood. Today, she answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: Taylor and Joe have said, “If Eva has an opinion on a subject, you knows it whether you want to or not.” Does that description bother you?

EVA: No, it’s true and it’s not a bad thing. I like that way I am. Joe and Taylor tease me about my bossiness, but it’s never mean. We have our strengths and weaknesses. Family balances them. How boring would it be if we were all the same?

CHRISTINA: You made quite an impression with David and Matt at your first meeting in Their Rigid Rules. How’d you feel about them?

EVA: What’s not to love? David was adorable. He’s smart with a good heart just like his father. And, well, my first thought about Matt was “Wow, now this is a man.” He wasn’t a guy or a college boy. This handsome rugged man has embraced the responsibilities to his son and his profession. Seriously, Matt was shot in the line of duty saving an officer’s life. How much more manly can you get? They included me in their family. I can’t imagine a better feeling for your soul than that.

CHRISTINA: Throughout the series, you’ve fixed the meals when the family gathers. Have you always been a great cook?

EVA: I learned to cook from Matt’s mom. I have a thick homemade cookbook with all her delicious recipes. We didn’t get off to a great start. In fact, Gail hated me.

CHRISTINA: What happened that made her dislike you so much?

EVA: Oh boy, well, I visited Matt at his house for our first weekend together without David, who stayed at a friend’s house. Naked in his bed, I waited for Matt to come home from work. Well, Gail walked in first. She called me a harlot. The weekend deteriorated from there. Everything I did caused a stir in the town. It’s a big part of The Kindred Code.

CHRISTINA: You love messing with your brother, Joe. You’ve called him out for his player ways and embarrassed him in front of the other agents in Chemical Attraction, and then you pranked him during your phone call with Madeline in Chemical Reaction. Has he ever gotten you back for those shenanigans?

EVA: Not yet. He tries, but I’m always a step ahead of him. Taylor and I tease him so his anger doesn’t take over. Madeline’s the perfect balance for him. For a long time, Joe didn’t think he was worthy of someone special. I hope Madeline will continue to appreciate how great he is. Oh, uh, don’t tell him I said that. He doesn’t need a bigger head.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for sharing your insights. I love how dedicated you are to your family. Read more about the chemistry of Eva and Matt’s first meeting in Their Rigid Rules. Then follow up with their touching romance in The Kindred Code.

 

Meet David Connor from The Chemical Attraction Series

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Eva O’Sullivan, Taylor Valentine, and Joe Roberts are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

David Connor, a high school senior and son of Matt Connor, has an integral part in the series. David brings Eva and his dad together in Their Rigid Rules and The Kindred Code, finds a body in the cornfield in Chemical Attraction, and then saves a young woman’s life in Chemical Reaction. Today, he answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: What was it like growing up with a dad who’s the Chief of Police?

DAVID: Eva and my dad know everyone in our rural town. I still can’t get away with anything without them hearing about it. You wouldn’t believe how many adults are tattlers here. It’s also scary. I was eight the first time Dad was shot on duty and I had nightmares. To help me work through it, he let me stay with him in the hospital.

CHRISTINA: Let’s talk about Eva for a moment. You met her before your dad did. What drew you to her?

DAVID: Well, I met Aunt Taylor first. She introduced me to Eva who helped me with my homework during Dad’s stint in rehab. At the time, I thought third grade math was stupid. Anyway, I adored her from the beginning. She would play with the hair by my ear. It was comforting. I remember Dad and I were supposed to go to a movie after he and Eva first met. Dad quizzed me about her until we visited her again later that night. She once told me about The Kindred Code: Blood means nothing; Love is everything. My mom, Aunt Taylor, and Uncle Joe have a tight bond; I’m glad Dad and I are part of it.

CHRISTINA: Let’s discuss your Uncle Joe. You really didn’t know he worked for the FBI?

DAVID: I had no idea. I remember seeing Peter’s gun in the hospital cafeteria. That’s how I met Taylor. I didn’t put it together that Peter was in law enforcement. I thought Uncle Joe and Peter worked in a boring office…selling insurance or something equally dull. At family gatherings, they never talked about their jobs. Wow, what a bad assumption.

CHRISTINA: What do you want to do after you graduate from high school?

DAVID: Right now, I want to get through this last year. I’m hoping to graduate early then start college next spring. Growing up, I thought I’d go into law enforcement and be a cop like my dad, but now I’m interested in the FBI like my uncle.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for sharing your story, David. Stay safe and good luck in your senior year. To read more about David and his adventures, check out The Chemical Attraction Series.

Meet Taylor Valentine

 

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Taylor Valentine, Eva O’Sullivan, and Joe Roberts are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

Taylor Valentine, a natural beauty, embraces her vanilla tendencies. Her plan for her life reinforces those traits. Kindhearted, she doesn’t apologize for giving people the benefit of the doubt.

In Their Rigid Rules and The Kindred Code, she meets Stuart and her perfect plan hits a snag changing her life significantly. Taylor has a minor part in Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction, but she supports the family with her subtle strength. Today, she answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: After all the drama from Their Rigid Rules and The Kindred Code, has your outlook changed about your life?

TAYLOR: Yes. I’ve become more flexible bending with my plans so not to break. Bad things happened back then, but so much good happened as well. All those changes in my original plan led me to Stuart.

CHRISTINA: Was that the start of your Happily Ever After?

TAYLOR: Not quite. Stuart and I had to deal with the aftermath of Their Rigid Rules in the sequel, The Kindred Code. Stuart tried to protect me from the stress which ended up making everything worse.

CHRISTINA: Eva and Joe have mentioned throughout the series that you have a family vibe. Can you elaborate on that? Are you psychic?

TAYLOR: No, I’m not psychic. I had developed an ability of insight with our family. The snapshots I saw weren’t about the future; they were about the present. I can’t always decipher the meaning just the emotion of the family member. Once I saw Eva, embarrassed, angry, cold, and stranded in a snow bank. What I couldn’t see was that Eva slipped into a snow bank just outside the Allenton Police Station. This vibe hasn’t come in handy at all. I just worry more. It’s irksome that there’s no context to these visions.

CHRISTINA: Do you think Joe met his match with Madeline?

TAYLOR: Oh yes! Eva told me about the chemistry of their first kiss. I’m thankful they found each other. Joey works too hard. He found his equal.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for joining me today and giving the fans an insight into your life. To read more about Stuart and Taylor’s romance, check out Their Rigid Rules and its sequel The Kindred Code.

Both novels are ONLY $0.99/each!

Then, download a FREE copy of Searching for Her, an anthology of short stories about the Series that takes place after The Kindred Code leading into Chemical Attraction.

The Chemical Attraction Series on AMAZON

Meet Stuart Morgan from The Chemical Attraction Series

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Taylor Valentine, Eva O’Sullivan, and Joe Roberts are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

As a history professor and former Marine, Dr. Stuart Morgan, a blond, blue-eyed war hero, battles his inner demons. Although he longs for mental peace from an empathetic woman, his rigid rules prevent it.

In Their Rigid Rules, he meets Taylor in his Civil War seminar then throws out his strict rules to pursue her. Instead of sharing their personal struggles in The Kindred Code, they drift further apart. In Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction, Stuart and Taylor remain supportive of Joe and the rest of their family. Today, Stuart answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: Will we ever hear your military story that won you a medal?

STUART: Yes, Taylor and I discuss it in The Kindred Code. I had a hard time putting that time in my life behind me. Thankfully, I have Taylor and the rest of the family for support.

CHRISTINA: What do you do to cope with your PTSD?

STUART: It’s not something a lot of people know about. Although medication has helped many, I don’t take any because I don’t want that to be an issue with my job. Unfortunately, it would give the university president more ammunition against me. The negative connotation of perceived violence is why many vets with PTSD don’t seek medical help … myself included. Support from my family helps, and I work out every day at the gym. Although my symptoms have lessened, I still have occasional nightmares and panic attacks.

CHRISTINA: Are you and Matt Connor friendly? We haven’t seen much interaction between the two of you in the stories.

STUART: We’re married to sisters so, yeah, Matt and I hang out a lot. Joe’s usually there, too. He’s a smartass. Matt and I keep him grounded and enjoy giving him a hard time. Joe’s like our annoying little brother.

CHRISTINA: Have you and Joe worked out your issues over Taylor?

STUART: I worked out my issues with Joe a long time ago. It took him a while longer. Joe protected Taylor for much of her life. He focused on his career, which, I think, helped his transition with the changes. Joe cares about his sisters. You can’t fault him for that.

CHRISTINA: On a lighter note, are any of the football players in your history classes?

STUART: All of them are. It’s a requirement. Taylor once met me as my class let out. Talk about awestruck. She went gaga. The guys were all about meeting her because of our notoriety. She impressed them with her knowledge of the game. She even lectured the offensive linemen on their tells which gave away their blocking direction. I don’t tell Taylor when that class is. My students don’t need the added distraction, and I don’t need the competition.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for joining me today and giving the fans a look into your life. To read more about Stuart and Taylor’s romance, check out Their Rigid Rules and its sequel, The Kindred Code.

 

 

 

Meet Matthew Connor from The Chemical Attraction Series

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Eva O’Sullivan, Taylor Valentine, and Joe Roberts are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

Ruggedly handsome with a calm demeanor, Officer Matthew Connor had pushed any romantic life aside to focus on raising his eight-year-old son, David. Then, he meets Eva O’Sullivan in Their Rigid Rules. In The Kindred Code, he watches Eva take his hometown by storm. As the police chief, he steps up during Joe’s case in Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction. Today, he answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: When you first saw Eva with David, what was your first thought?

MATT: Mesmerizing came to mind. She definitely spiced up my life. The first time she visited my home, she turned the town upside down. I didn’t think the Allenton gossip circuit could travel faster than the speed of light. Boy, that weekend it had.

CHRISTINA: How hard was it to be a single dad for the first eight years of David’s life?

MATT: Tough. Like I mentioned before, gossip is big in this town and stereotypes are even bigger. I’ve been the chief for nine years, but I’m still known as the guy who knocked up his high school girlfriend. Beth gave up her rights to David right after he was born while I embraced fatherhood. I wouldn’t have changed a thing though. David makes me a better person, and I strive to be the man he looks up to.

CHRISTINA: Uncovering a criminal network in your town, Joe created tension by not informing you about his case from the beginning. How’s your relationship with him now?

MATT: Man, I don’t want him to visit us anymore … too much drama when he’s around. Joking aside, I love Joe like a little brother. Years ago in The Kindred Code, Stuart and I helped him out of a sticky situation, which cemented a brothers’ bond among the three of us. Besides, I could do worse than have a federal agent and a college professor as brothers.

CHRISTINA: Just a couple more questions before I let you go. Do you want David to pursue a career in law enforcement?

MATT: It’s his choice. Eva’s not keen on the idea, but she accepts it. David’s smart and has made responsible choices so far. As a dad, I have to trust he’ll continue to do that. There’s not much else I can do.

CHRISTINA: I get the feeling that your responsibilities take over much of your life. What do you do for fun?

MATT: Ha. Not having much fun these days. I enjoy spending time with my wife and I crochet to relax. It’s meditative. My mother taught me years ago. I made David’s first baby blanket, and I donate the baby blankets I make now to our local hospital. After seeing the basket of yarn next to our sofa, Joe gave me a hard time until Eva told him what I did with the finished ones. Boy, did he feel bad. His niceness lasted for a month. It really creeped Eva out.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for joining me today and giving the fans insight into your life.

Read more about the chemistry of Matt and Eva’s first meeting in Their Rigid Rules (Book One). Then follow up with their touching romance in The Kindred Code (Book Two).

Their Rigid Rules (Book One)

The Kindred Code (Book Two)

 

Siblings by Choice

Mark your calendars for the release of The Kindred Code on Wednesday, July 19th. In the meantime, enjoy the excerpt between Joe and Eva, who are siblings by choice. They tease, harass, deflect, and know each other so well…

Excerpt from The Kindred Code

“Joey, focus! You missed the street,” Eva said.

Joe backtracked and finally found Matt’s house, a plain, well-kept country blue ranch with a two-car attached garage and a chain link fence in back half buried in the snow. In the neatly shoveled driveway, Matt’s old Bronco had also been cleared. Joe stopped beside it then blew out a breath in relief, glad to be done with the long drive on the slippery back roads.

“Crap,” Eva said, searching through her brown leather purse. “He gave me a key and I forgot it.”

“Damn it, Eva. I’m not going back,” he replied, flexing his fingers to ease the ache from his tight grip of the steering wheel. “Maybe he has one hidden somewhere.”

She laughed. “Here,” she said, holding it out for him. “You’re the one who needs to lighten up.”

He ripped it from her hand. She continued to laugh as he walked around the car to help her out. She handed him her purse and mittens then struggled to stand on her own, despite the walking boot cast on her right foot. Stubborn as always. With a sigh, he filled his arms with her crutches and suitcase from the back seat.

Taking the crutches, she started hopping toward the front door. Matt had shoveled the walkway bare, too, and rock salt covered every cement surface. Matt was definitely a responsible guy. Joe chuckled as he followed her.

Eva held out her hand for the key. “Just drop my purse and suitcase inside then you can leave,” she said, unlocking the door.

“No way. What kind of brother would I be if I didn’t look around and make sure he’s not some psycho?” he asked.

Inside, Eva turned and glared at him. “He’s a cop and a wonderful father who owns his own home.”

“You do need to lighten up. I was kidding, except for the snooping part.”

In the living room, Joe set her suitcase, purse, and mangled mittens beside the worn yet comfortable looking sofa. Under one end table, he spotted a wicker basket with yarn and a partially crocheted blanket.

“How domestic do you want to be with this guy? Crocheting? Really?” Joe said with a chuckle.

“Aren’t you going to be late?” Eva replied.

“Nope. I’ve got time.” He walked toward the kitchen on the right.

The plain white kitchen had enough room for a square wooden table and four chairs. David’s school paintings on the refrigerator added the only color to the room. To annoy Eva, Joe opened a cupboard above the bare countertop.

“Joe, stop,” she said, leaning on the back of one of the chairs.

“Do you really want to get tied down with a kid?”

Opening the fridge, he found it overflowing with Tupperware containers. He pulled out the closest, lifting the lid to see what was inside. His mouth watered at the macaroni salad. He quickly found a spoon in the drawer. After taking a huge bite, he moaned and held out a spoonful for Eva.

“This is so good,” he mumbled with another mouthful.

“I think his mom made it. His parents live across the street.” She hopped to the lid on the counter and held it out for him to cover the bowl. Instead, he walked around the table, making her hop after him.

“Sounds like Everybody Loves Raymond,” he said, before taking another bite.

“Have you talked to Taylor today?”

“No,” he replied, taking the lid she thrust in his face. “She’s not my problem anymore.” He shoved the container with its lid back into the refrigerator.

“Not your problem? She’s your family.”

“You know what I mean. She’s with Stuart now.” Leaving the kitchen, he headed down the hallway and glanced in David’s dinosaur-themed bedroom. In the guest room next to David’s, six boxes of toys and books rested on the bed beside two police uniforms lying across an ironing board.

“Do you want to talk about her?” she asked at his heels to keep him from snooping too thoroughly.

“This place is void of a female touch. Are you gonna decorate right away or wait until you’re living here?”

“Peter’s going to make you wear a suit everyday with the FBI.”

“Not if I can help it,” he replied.

Before Joe could add another retort, he and Eva heard a bang then a rattling from the basement. Joe whispered for Eva to go into the bathroom and lock the door. Rolling her eyes, she shook her head while Joe opened the basement door. The rattling vibrated the steps as Joe carefully descended. Eva hopped down behind him.

Beside neatly packed boxes on metal shelves that lined the perimeter of the small clean basement, an old furnace shook. At closer inspection, Joe found a large wrench sitting on the water heater and a slight dent in the furnace beside it. He banged the wrench into the dent and the rattling stopped. The heat popped on.

Joe grinned. “Owning a home is easy. I’m a pro already.”

Eva snorted and hopped back up the stairs huffing as she went. When his cell rang, Joe checked the caller ID. He let Taylor’s call go to his voicemail. Eva watched him.

“You need to work through your feelings for her,” Eva said.

“And, on that note, I’m out of here.” She was right, but he wouldn’t openly admit it.

Using her crutch, Eva poked him in the back, stopping him. “I love you, Joey.”

“Stay out of trouble,” he replied, giving her a hug, “although nothing ever happens in these farming towns.”

 

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