Homecoming by Rebecca Norinne
Release Date: July 1, 2021
Series Page → https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/speakeasy-taproom/
Cover Design: Elle Maxwell Designs
About the Book:
Who knew falling in love with my fake girlfriend could feel so real?
I don’t have time for distractions, which is a huge problem since my new next-door neighbor Rosalie Wentworth is very distracting. She’s kind, beautiful, and makes me laugh like no woman ever has before.
Unfortunately, the two of us add up to one really sad country song—I’m nursing a bruised ego following a broken engagement and she’s suffering through a messy divorce—so I vow to set my attraction aside and focus on being her friend instead.
That’s easier said than done, however, since her mom is convinced Rosalie and I are perfect for each other. When one of her matchmaking schemes goes a step too far, Rosalie and I hatch a plan of our own: pretend to date for a couple of months to get her mom off our backs.
It’s foolproof, really.
Only, what started as a fake relationship is starting to feel very real, and now I don’t know if I can go back to the way things were before. Because it turns out if home is where the heart is, then Rosalie is mine.
“Oh!” my mom chirped, her head swinging between the man standing at the bottom of the stairs and me.
In the dim glow of the porch light, I could see the cheeks above his closely cropped beard were flushed with embarrassment. He shuffled the toe of his work boot through the fallen leaves scattered at his feet. When our gazes connected, my breath caught, and I felt a swooping sensation in the pit of my belly—not unlike that moment when you’ve reached the top of the hill on a roller coaster and the car careens forward, faster than you expected.
For a brief, flashing moment, he looked as startled as I felt, but then he blinked, and his face became a mask of polite indifference.
That was … odd.
I jerked my head to dislodge the strange feelings that had swept through me and directed my attention back to my mother, my hands planted firmly on my hips in annoyance. “What did I tell you?”
She waved an unbothered hand in front of her face. “Psh. You’re too concerned about what other people think.”
Not for the first time, I wondered if my being that way was in direct contrast to her never being concerned enough. But that was an argument we’d had more times than I could count, and I’d never come out on the winning end of it. The truth of the matter was that Gloria Mitchell marched to the beat of her own drum, and you could join her parade or get the hell out of the way. Sometimes, I wished I could be more like my mom, but right now—when I was broken and battered from that final, soul-sucking year of my marriage—all I wanted was to fade into the background. That had never been her way, though, and I was foolish to hope that might change now.
“Besides, it’s just Preston.” She gestured at the man whose gaze had darted toward the woods to the right of our house, his features pinched with what looked like discomfort at being caught between mother and daughter. “Who’s he going to gossip to about you being back?”
Her words sank in. “That’s Preston?” My voice pitched up at the end, a mixture of confusion and disbelief. For the last six months, she’d alternatively referred to him as “that nice young man next door” or “that sweet boy Preston.”
Except this was no boy. The person standing below us was all man. Easily over six feet tall, his thick, dark beard was cropped close to his jaw, setting off a pair of full lips that were currently turned down in a slight frown. Muscular, flannel-clad arms were crossed over his broad chest while his feet were braced shoulder-width apart. The whole Vermont lumberjack vibe didn’t usually do it for me, but I would have been lying if I said he wasn’t the sexiest man I’d ever laid eyes on. It was no wonder I was standing there with my jaw hanging open, collecting flies. “You said he was young.”
She chuckled, and he shuffled on his feet. He looked desperate to be anywhere but here. I couldn’t entirely blame him. “It’s a figure of speech, Rosie. Everyone is young compared to me.”
I crossed my arms over my chest, inadvertently mimicking his stance. When I realized what I’d done, I quickly dropped them down to my sides and balled my hands into tight fists. “From the way you described him, I assumed he was nineteen or twenty. That—” I pointed accusingly in his direction “—is a grown-ass man.”
From below, I heard a muffled chuckle abruptly covered by the rumbling of him clearing his throat. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the slight lifting of his lips before I turned my glare back on my mother.
She brushed my comment aside for the second time in as many minutes. “Of course he’s a man, dear. And you’re in luck, because he’s a strong one, too.”
Before I could respond to that, she turned toward the man in question. “Will you be a dear and help Rosalie bring the rest of her stuff inside?” She gestured toward my beat-up Volvo. I’d brought my large suitcase and a few smaller weekender bags inside but had left the five or six boxes I’d haphazardly packed—intent on a speedy getaway—in the back hatch of the car.
“Sure thing.” Preston swiped his hand over his jaw, but not before I saw the traces of an amused grin split his lips. I was glad he thought this was funny, because I certainly didn’t.
Although I also wasn’t quite sure why I was so damn annoyed.
What did it matter if he was closer to thirty-two than twenty-two? I tried to tell myself him being a grown-ass man—I inwardly groaned as I recalled saying that out loud—had no bearing whatsoever on my life. He was my mother’s renter and sometime handyman, nothing more.