Mine To Keep
(Love By Design #7)
Publication date: September 29th 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Remington Kennedy was out of “bless your hearts” to give. She moved North for a chance at something better. Her compass to success was getting an education and getting out of tornado alley. A failed scholarship led her to tending bar. A lie drove her into the arms of the town football star filled with hopes and dreams. A year later, she found herself with a baby on the way, more lost than ever, alone, and terrified.
Evan Rooney was nobody’s hero. As a good cop in a small town, he felt the daily weight of responsibility. Known as the Preacher’s son, he struggled to keep his faith…but secrets have a way of finding the surface and Evan finds himself drawn to the red headed barmaid with a bun in the oven like a moth to it’s flame.
Both need a little saving…both need love, and a baby needs a family made of more than just DNA.
Book seven in the Love By Design series of contemporary romantic comedies.
Mine To Keep is written to be read as a standalone, but many readers prefer to read the series in order.
Evan made sure I got back to my little apartment, and we walked inside to see that my friends had hijacked it, decorating the tiny space. The walls were freshly painted but lacked the chemical smell of cheap paint, and everything was clean and put away. A crib sat in the corner made up with fresh sheets. I hadn’t been able to do it before I gave birth, but there was my crib, which I’d saved every bit of tip money for, all put together with the pretty striped navy bedding perfect for a baby boy. A print of his footprints in navy paint was framed and hanging on the wall above his crib with his name, date of birth, and statistics, exactly where I pictured it would be thanks to Taylor Jane’s eye for design and Hunter whom I suspected made the frame. It was a DIY project right up their alley.
It was perfect.
And also the reason for the burning sting in my eyes because their kindness astonished me.
“I got your bags all here.” Evan stood there and the air seemed to suck out of the tiny space with his size. “Wow, it’s….”
He held the bags in his bulging arms. There wasn’t enough space for him to turn around, and I felt pushed against the wall even though a good two feet separated us from even touching.
“Small, but home.” My gaze drifted to his face and found his eyes were kind in looking over my humble place, which I’d worked hard to maintain. It was all mine, every square footage of it. I couldn’t bear for him or anyone else to think less of it.
“I was going to say comforting. I like it. Where should I put your things?” I’d forgotten Evan had been holding the bags and gestured to the floor near my full-sized bed, which doubled as my couch with all the throw pillows I put on it.
I rocked my son in my arms nervously. He slept through it. I would have to talk to him later about being Team Mom and cockblocking all future guys.
“I guess I should get Ethan settled.”
“Uh yeah.” Evan rubbed a hand behind his head, his elbow brushing up against the wall, forcing him to step closer.
I wondered if I felt as awkward as he looked.
“Thanks. For…everything.” I laid Ethan down in his crib. He was still asleep, looking so sweet and innocent. My body hurt thinking about feeding time, which would be in another hour, but I pledged to get through it.
“Remi, it’s fine. I was happy I could be there for you—both of you.” Evan stood so close behind me that I could feel his breath on the back of my neck as he leaned in adjusting the mobile above the crib. I turned around practically into his arms as the song Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star played above me. A sharp stabbing in my heart reminded me this wasn’t real. I didn’t get to have the nice guy and fairy-tale ending, because the bad boy had knocked me up and skipped town. I may as well have been damaged goods, single mom 101.
“So, I guess I’ll see you.” My eyes darted up to look into his wide blue ones. My mouth dried, and I licked my lips to give me something to do. Evan smiled. We were so close, nearly touching, and yet miles apart. If I leaned just so, I could fall into his arms, and he would catch me because that’s what Evan Rooney did; it was who he was fundamentally. A hero. I also knew it wouldn’t be fair to him. We were on two separate trains leaving the station and careening far away in opposite directions. This seemed to be the story of my life.
“Hey, sweet girl.” A single fingertip pressed under my chin, pulling my head up. Our eyes met and our breaths hitched—okay, at least mine did because all I wanted was to flutter my eyes closed and press my lips against his. Ethan chose that moment to let out a little cry, and I backed away, bumping into the crib behind me, eyes blinking, catching myself from falling. The moment was toast and heat flushed my cheeks.
“I need to change him.” I slipped out from under his arms and grabbed the diaper bag, riffling through it one-handed, looking for a diaper. While Ethan whimpered, I stared around my apartment, wondering where I should change him, when I saw the changing station I never got around to ordering set up next to his crib. I sighed, realizing my friends had surprised me again.
I laid Ethan down and secured the little buckle around his belly so he wouldn’t roll, not that he started that yet at a few days old. I would figure this out, I had to figure this out, and I would do better for my son than my parents had done for me.
“Remington.” I glanced up, and his face softened, care etched in the lines around his beautiful eyes. Eyes I wanted my traitorous heart to drown in.
I bit my lip, choosing my words carefully. “This isn’t a good time for me.”
“Yeah.” He stood there motionless.
“I need space. Time to figure this all out. It’s going to be Ethan and me now.” My voice was breathless, catching up as he shuffled from foot to foot. I sensed he wanted to say something the way the nervous energy built between us.
He took a step forward. I matched his bumping against the wall. His hands reached for me at my hips, pulling me in close as I yelped out loud. My heart hammered, and I strained to look up at him, confused. His hands tangled in my hair, and his face hovered close enough to kiss me. So close I could taste the mint on his breath, making my mouth water. So close I could see the faint stubble shadow on his jaw and I had the urge to touch it. My hands snaked upward between us, pressing back. He didn’t budge, not forward and not backward as time froze.
I whispered, “Goodbye, Evan.”
It felt like a minute suspended in the magnetic pull of wanting something I couldn’t have and the pain of letting it go. I winced as he pulled back. His hands released my hair and fisted down at his sides like he was afraid to touch me again. Well, that made two of us.
His lips moved like he wanted to say something long-winded but instead went with the more formal, “Take care, Remington.”
“Thank you,” I murmured at his retreating back.
He stopped, never turning around to speak. “Maybe call me sometime.” His shoulders flexed at my silence.
I think we both knew I wouldn’t call.
M.C. Cerny is a USA Today Bestselling author of fresh sexy books. She experienced her first real ugly cry reading, Where The Red Fern Grows, and never looked back. She lives with a menagerie of human and feline fur-babies in rural NJ. When M.C. is not writing, you’ll find her lurking in Starbucks, running stupid marathons, and eating all the tacos.