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Wade & Mia

She was beyond his reach…until she turned up on his doorstep.

Wade Abbott is one and done—one look, one conversation, one weekend, and he knows who he wants. Except, Mia Simpson is not free to return his affection. In fact, he suspects she’s in an abusive marriage, but she never confirms that, and he has no choice but to mind his own business where she’s concerned. Two years after they first met and a year after he last heard from her, Mia shows up half-frozen, bruised and beaten on his doorstep, needing something only Wade can provide. 

Mia has never forgotten the kind, gentle, sexy guy who made her heart sing from the first time she met him. She only cut off contact with him because she feared for his safety—and hers—and takes the first opportunity she gets to make a run for what she really wants—Wade. But nothing is ever as simple as happily ever after. With issues from her past still haunting them, and Wade’s family questioning the motives of a woman they’ve never met, Wade and Mia will have to fight for their happy ending. 

Wade Abbott’s long-awaited story is finally here, along with an update on the Abbott and Coleman clan as well as Fred the moose!

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Joe & Janey

He’s like her fifth brother, but her feelings for him are far from platonic.

Joe Cantrell, owner of the Gansett Island Ferry Company, has been in love with Janey McCarthy for as long as he can remember. At the same time, Janey has been dating or engaged to doctor-in-training David Lawrence. When things go horribly wrong between David and Janey, she calls her “fifth brother” Joe, one of the few people in her close circle who lives on the mainland. Janey decides a few days with Joe is just what she needs before she goes home to the island to face her parents and family with the news of her broken engagement. It was bad enough for Joe loving Janey from afar, but having her in his house is pure torture. Will he take advantage of this opportunity to show her what they could have together? And what will Joe’s best friend and Janey’s protective older brother Mac have to say about it?

Here Comes the Sun

(The Butler Vermont Series, Book 3)

By Marie Force

Chapter 1

“I love those who yearn for the impossible.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Even with snow swirling around him, Wade Abbott knew the way home. He could find it blindfolded, which he was basically doing since the whiteout snow made it so he had to rely on everything but his vision. He’d been out with his brothers for hours looking for two young boys who’d gone sledding in the foothills of Butler Mountain and disappeared in the blizzard.

They’d found them alive but hypothermic forty-five minutes ago and dispersed to head home to warm up. His younger brothers, Lucas and Landon, both paramedics, had transported the boys to the hospital, where they’d be reunited with their grateful parents.

The snowmobile’s headlight illuminated the Nelsons’ mailbox, a green monstrosity that indicated Wade was about five hundred feet from his own driveway. He noticed a pattern in the snow that looked an awful lot like footprints. Who would be foolish enough to be out in a full-on blizzard if they didn’t have to be?

Was he hallucinating, or were the footprints leading to his place? A trickle of unease traveled down his back, which was odd because he never felt unsafe in Butler, Vermont. Hell, he never even locked his door. He didn’t have to. His place wasn’t easy to find unless you knew where it was.

He hung a right into his driveway and followed the deep footsteps for a quarter mile of twists and bends until his cabin came into view, nestled into a copse of evergreens, his own piece of paradise.

Biting one of the fingers of his glove, he pulled it off and reached for the flashlight strapped to his hip to further illuminate the yard. The flashlight’s beam cut through the snow to identify a huddled lump on his porch.

“What the hell?” Wade cut the engine and jumped off the snowmobile. Fighting the foot-high snow, he crossed the yard and went up the stairs. “Hello?”

Nothing.

He nudged the lump with his foot.

It moaned.

He scooped up the bundle and carried it inside, where heat from the woodstove he’d stoked earlier swept over him. Dropping to his knees in front of the fire, he deposited his visitor.

She moaned again.

Dear God, it’s a woman—a half-frozen woman. Moving quickly, he threw two more logs on the fire and began unwrapping the ice-crusted scarf that covered her face so the heat could penetrate. Bruises. Her face was black, blue and swollen, so much so he didn’t immediately recognize her.

And then he knew.

His heart skipped a beat and shock reverberated through him as he began to frantically remove her wet coat and gloves.

“Mia.” He could hear the panic in his own voice. “Mia!

She moaned again. Her lips and fingers were blue.

Wade rubbed her hands between his. “Mia, talk to me.” What was she doing here, and who had beat the hell out of her? Rage simmered in his gut. He’d suspected from when he first met her almost two years ago at a yoga retreat that the man in her life— Wade assumed it was her husband—was hurting her, but they’d never reached the point where he felt comfortable asking her about it. Throughout their friendship, he’d seen the signs: skittish, jumpy, secretive, scared, but she hadn’t shared anything overly personal with him.

She’d broken off contact with him a year ago, and he’d suffered ever since, wondering why she’d stopped calling him and worrying whether she was safe.

“Mia, honey… Wake up. Please wake up.” He would’ve called for help if anyone could’ve gotten to them in the storm. Since outside help wasn’t an option tonight, it was up to him to get her warm. Unzipping his parka, he pulled it off, removed his boots, kicked them aside and then took off the survival suit that allowed him to be out in a storm for hours without suffering hypothermia. He stripped down to underwear so he could use his body heat to warm her.

Then he went to work on her clothing, moving carefully in case she had other injuries. Working from her boots up, he took off soaking-wet clothes that had him wondering just how long she’d been out in the storm.

Other than the violent tremors that rattled her body, she never stirred as he stripped her down to panties and a tank top, both of which were damp. He laid her wet clothes on top of the woodstove to dry and then stopped short at the sight of arms and legs mottled with bruises of various colors.

Wade choked back the rage that burned through him. He blew out a deep breath, grabbed a down comforter from the sofa and pulled it over them as he molded his body to hers, hoping his body heat would help to raise her core temperature. It would be better, he knew from his lifesaving training, if they were both bare, but he didn’t think he could handle that.

Hopefully, he could get her warm without having to strip down completely.

He was enveloped in the sweet, fresh scent of her hair, while his heart beat erratically, his palms felt sweaty despite the cold and his mind raced. What had brought her here? Who had hurt her? What did she want from him? Could he bear to see her again and then watch her go back to wherever she’d been the last year? He tightened his hold on her. He wouldn’t let her go back to the man who’d been hurting her, that much he knew for certain.

“Mia, honey, you’re safe. It’s Wade. I’m so glad you’re here. We’re going to get you warm.” He ran his hand gently up and down her arm, wishing she would wake up and talk to him. He’d missed her so much. Talking to her had once been his favorite thing. After they first met at the yoga retreat, they’d connected a few times at coffee shops between his home in Butler and hers in Rutland. He’d driven more than an hour each way for the chance to spend thirty minutes in her presence.

The last time he’d heard from her, she’d told him she couldn’t talk to him anymore. He’d begged her to reconsider and promised to keep his distance so as not to cause her any further difficulty. But he hadn’t heard from her again, until he found her on his doorstep, nearly frozen and obviously injured.

Her poor face was so terribly swollen that it made his heart hurt to look at her.

God… He’d gladly kill the man who’d done this to her, and he had no doubt it’d been a man.

He pressed his lips to her forehead. “Sweetheart, wake up and talk to me. It’s Wade. It’s okay now. No one will ever hurt you again.”

The only reply he got was a tortured-sounding moan.

“Mia.”

Her lids fluttered open, revealing the gorgeous navy-blue eyes that had once looked at him with such affection. She stared at him, almost as if she couldn’t believe her eyes. “Wade,” she whispered.

“It’s me, honey. You’re safe with me.”

She began to cry.

Her tears broke him. “Shhh, it’s okay. Everything is okay now.”

She shook her head as her teeth chattered. “N-no, it isn’t.”

“It is for right now. The only thing you need to worry about is getting warm. Hold on to me and let me warm you up.”

Mia burrowed deeper into his embrace, her arm sliding around his waist and her leg slipping between his.

Wade swallowed hard. Here in his arms was the woman he’d dreamed about since the day he met her. He was supposed to be helping her get warm, but her nearness was making him hot in more ways than one. He took a deep breath and scooted his hips back a crucial inch so she wouldn’t be able to feel what her nearness had done to him.

What did it mean that she’d come to him? He’d once written down his home address and phone number as well as the address and phone number for the office and told her to use the info if she ever needed him for anything at any time. With cell phone service nonexistent in Butler, he didn’t own a mobile phone, so he’d given her all the other ways to reach him. After so much time, he figured she’d thrown away the scrap of paper and forgotten about him.

He had never forgotten her. Thoughts of her and what she might be going through had tormented him through months of sleepless nights and long days at work in which he’d moved through his life in a perpetual state of despair. He’d known Mia a year when he first shared his complex feelings for her with his sister Hannah. His sister Ella knew about her, too, and he’d told his grandfather a little about her, but he hadn’t told anyone else, preferring to keep his feelings—and his despair—to himself.

As one of ten kids, most of whom worked together running the family’s Green Mountain Country Store, it wasn’t easy to keep secrets in his family. But he’d been aided by the fact that he was considered the “quiet” one of the bunch. No one thought much of it when Wade sat back and took in the madness of their family rather than actively participating. So he’d been able to keep his situation relatively private, which, in his family, was saying something.

He had so many questions for her—especially why now and what now—but he didn’t ask any of them. Rather, he stayed focused on warming her and containing the desire zipping through his body, a reminder of how much he’d wanted her from the first time he laid eyes on her.

For a long time after Wade settled them in front of the fire, Mia shivered so hard, her teeth ached. She’d never been so cold in her life. Her car had gotten stuck in a snowdrift on the outskirts of Butler. Fortunately, she’d spent hours studying road maps into and out of Butler. In the back of her mind every second of the last miserable year had been Wade’s address, the phone numbers she’d memorized, along with the map of Butler that had represented her path to freedom.

Her biggest concern as she’d plotted her escape was that Wade might not be willing to help her. She’d had to hope and pray that he would still want her the way he once had, even if he’d never said the words. A woman knew these things, and her life now depended upon him still feeling the same way.

He was so warm and solid as he caressed her back in small, soothing circles that made her want to purr with pleasure. She had no idea how long they lay cuddled up to each other under the heavenly blanket, but after a while, her teeth stopped chattering and sensation returned to her extremities in painful pricks. The warmth flooded her mind and body, filling her with a sense of security that was even more blissful than the heat coming from the woodstove—and his muscular body.

For so long, she’d had to wonder what it might be like to be touched by Wade Abbott, and now she knew what heaven must be like. She took deep breaths of the woodsy, natural scent of him and noted that he’d cut his hair since she’d last seen him. Once upon a time, she’d sat across from him in coffee shops and wished she could run her fingers over the sharp planes of his face and touch the longish hair that wasn’t brown or blond or red, but rather, an interesting golden mix of all three colors.

During those visits, she’d memorized every detail, right down to the flecks of gold in his eyes that glittered with pleasure whenever he looked at her while they talked until their coffee grew cold and the sun dipped toward the horizon.

Every time she’d left him, she’d done so under a veil of panic, certain this would be the time her secret friendship with Wade would be discovered by a man who would kill her before he’d let anyone else have her. But somehow, they’d gotten away with it. Other things had transpired that’d convinced her to stay away from Wade, for his safety as much as hers, but she’d never stopped thinking about him, wondering about him or wishing that things were different.

Had he thought about her, too? Or had he moved on with someone else? Was there a woman sleeping in his bedroom at this very moment? Would he hold her this way if he had someone else? If it meant saving her life, she knew for sure he would. But once her body was warm, would he leave her to join the woman he loved?

That was like a knife to her heart. Thoughts of him had kept her alive long before tonight, and all her hopes were pinned on him being willing to help her now. She wiggled even closer to him and encountered evidence that he wanted her as much as he always had.

He gasped as she rubbed against him. “Mia…”

The proof of his desire freed her to ask for what she wanted more than anything. “Will you kiss me, Wade?”

He stared at her, seeming incredulous. “Are you really here asking me to kiss you? Will I wake up tomorrow to find out I dreamed this?”

She placed her hand on his face because she’d wanted to for so long and now she could. “It’s not a dream. I’m really here, and I’ve been dying for your kiss for as long as I’ve known you.”

Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and released it before opening them again. “What about your husband?”

“I don’t have a husband.”

A strangled sound escaped his tightly clenched jaw in the second before his lips found hers with the light of the fire and years of yearning to guide them. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I’m okay, and I really want you to kiss me.”

He kissed her like a man possessed. His fingers dug into her hair and shaped her skull, making it impossible for her to escape, not that she had any wish to be anywhere but right there with him. She’d waited what felt like forever for him to kiss her, and the reality was a thousand times better than the fantasies had ever been.

To call this a kiss didn’t do justice to the feelings that exploded inside her as his tongue found hers in an erotic, sensual dance that made her dizzy and weak with longing.

“Mia…” He withdrew slowly, gently kissing the uninjured side of her face, jaw and neck. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to kiss you.”

“Don’t stop.” She sounded desperate and wanton but couldn’t be bothered to care. Combing her fingers through his hair, she brought him back for more.

They kissed like they were afraid this was all they’d ever have. Perhaps it was. Perhaps he wouldn’t be able to help her, and if that were the case, she’d have no choice but to leave him. For his sake, as well as hers, it would have to be all or nothing.

One kiss became two and then three, and when they came up for air, he was pressed up against her, and she wasn’t cold anymore. Not even kind of.

He gazed at her, the firelight turning his hair and skin to pure gold. “Who hurt you, Mia?”

“The man I used to love.”

“Why would he do this to you?” He ran his fingertips gently over the bruise on her left cheek.

“That’s a very long story.”

“You can’t go back to him,” he said fiercely. “I knew he was hurting you, but I couldn’t prove it, and you’d never talk to me about him.”

“Because I couldn’t.”

“How did you get here?”

“I drove as far as I could, but my car got stuck in a drift on the way into town. I walked the rest of the way.”

“That’s miles from here!”

“I don’t know how far it was, but it took a long time, and then when I got here and you weren’t home… The last thing I remember is reaching for the door hoping you wouldn’t mind.”

“I wouldn’t have. Of course you could’ve come in.”

“I must’ve passed out before I made up my mind.”

“My place isn’t easy to find. You’d have to know where it is to find it, especially in this weather.”

“After you gave me your address, I looked it up on a map, and I memorized the route.”

Why, Mia? Why did you memorize the way to my home?”

“Because I knew I’d come to you as soon as I could. I only hoped that I’d still be welcome after all this time.”

“You’re always welcome with me. You know that.” He looked at her with love and joy and hope. So much hope that her heart contracted. “You still haven’t told me what happened or why you came tonight, in the middle of a blizzard.”

“Because…” She swallowed hard, summoning the fortitude she needed to say the words. “I need you to do something for me.”

“I’d do anything for you.”

His fierce words made her want to weep from the relief of knowing she hadn’t misjudged him or his feelings for her.

“Tell me what you need, Mia. There’s nothing you could ask of me that would be too much.”

Looking up to meet his intense brown-eyed gaze, she said, “I need you to marry me.”

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 

~ Calvin Coolidge

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