When my publisher said my next book would be out January 1, I laughed. Imagine burly distributors stocking books on New Year’s Day! But thanks to technological advances, Instant Frontier Family was available in an instant and can now be found at online retailers and booksellers near you.
Maddie O'Rourke's orphaned half brother and half sister have arrived safely in Seattle, with a man they hope she'll wed! Though Michael Haggerty's not the escort she planned for, Maddie allows him to work off his passage by assisting in her bakery…and helping care for her siblings. But she'll never risk her new-found independence by marrying the strapping Irishman, or anyone else.
In New York, Michael ran afoul of a notorious gang. Traveling west was a necessity, not a choice. The longshoreman grew fond of his young charges, and now he's quickly becoming partial to their beautiful sister, too. So when danger follows him, threatening Maddie and the children, he'll do anything to protect them, and the future he hopes to build.
Of course, neither of them was too sure about love to start:
Michael followed her into the kitchen. “With dozens of suitors to choose from, you haven’t found one to your liking?” he asked, trying for a light tone. “Are your standards so high, Maddie?”
She chuckled as she pulled a canister from under her worktable and pried off the lid. “Sure-n I could find more than one fellow in that lot to marry, if marriage was important to me.” She jingled the coins she drew from her skirts and dropped them into the tin with a clank. “As it is, if I marry I have to share all this. Why would I want to be doing that, when it’s my efforts that earned it in the first place?”
He couldn’t argue with her there. He knew the law generally granted any money a woman earned to her husband. But to be so coldhearted about it? That didn’t make sense.
She cocked her head, watching him. “You look disappointed in my answer. Did you think I should give up my dreams to marry? You never let love get in the way of your goals, did you now? You wouldn’t have let your Katie sway you from your intended course.”
“I fell in love,” he admitted, “but I never lost sight of my goals. If I had been willing to compromise my values, I might be married by now.”
“Love is compromise from what I can see,” she said, going to the washbasin, wetting a cloth and wringing it out. “You work and work to put food on the table and clothes on your back, until there’s no time left for love. Sure-n but we’re better off without such heartache.” She tossed him the rag, and he caught it in one hand. “Use that to clean off the counter. I’ll go up to check on Ciara and Aiden, and then I’ll start the baking for this evening.”
In the act of pushing back into the shop, Michael paused. “More baking?”
She laughed. “You make it sound as pleasant as the rack. Yes, more baking. That’s my job. This is a bakery, and I bake. I was hoping for a lady to come with Ciara and Aiden to help, if you recall.”
And she’d gotten him instead. “I’m sorry I can’t be more use to you,” he said, “but I’ll do what I can.” Feeling inept for the first time in his life, he went to clean off the counter, wiping away the crumbs and scrubbing at the drips of icing. Yet her words refused to leave him.
He wanted to agree with her that love meant heartache. He’d certainly had his fill. But some part of him whispered that more might be possible, if he would but try once again.
He had been so focused on his task that he didn’t see her move into the room. Instead, he felt her hand on his arm.
“Good enough, Mr. Haggerty,” she said. “Another minute and you’ll rub right through the wood.”
He relaxed his hand, feeling her grip soften. She was close enough that he could see a dusting of freckles across the tip of her nose, as if ginger had escaped some of her cookies. Cinnamon-colored lashes fluttered over eyes as dark as fresh-roasted coffee.
Michael mentally shook himself. Working in the bakery must have addled his brain, because all he could think about was that her kiss would taste as sweet as her cooking.