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Joy Barbieri has hit rock bottom—divorced, unemployed, sleeping on her parent’s couch until she finds an apartment suitable for two kids and a fur-baby—but she’s determined to start over. Eager for independence, she takes the first job she finds. A handsome stranger catches her eye, but with a name like Casanova, he’s got to be a world champion player—right?
Tristan Casanova’s only visiting this rustic town until he recuperates from his painfully quick divorce, not to make friends. However as he gets to know sweet and savvy Joy, he realizes their unexpected alliance comes with undeniable chemistry. She’s the perfect excuse to stay in Scenic View permanently, but when will she quit giving every excuse in the book why they shouldn’t be together?
Will pains of the past, excessive ex-spouse baggage, and interfering relatives keep these two from the happily-ever-after they deserve?
Page Count: 354
Word Count: 89935
“Rex,” Joy shouted and Tristan’s heart sank.
Rex? “Look, I didn’t know you were involved with someone.” He rubbed his face, wishing he never hooked up with her. So much for doing a good deed. Now he’d have to dodge a boyfriend. “I thought we were both on the same level.”
“Rex is my dog. He’s probably missing me right now. Knowing my mother, she has him tied to a tree all night.”
Tristan exhaled a world of relief. “Wanna call home?”
“And say what? I spent the night with some guy I just met? No, thanks. It’s bad enough I’m crawling home after sunup. I’d rather not ruin this moment by inviting my parents into the conversation.”
The aroma of fresh coffee drifted down the hallway, along with the clamor of clanking pans.
“Someone’s in the kitchen.” Joy’s eyes widened in horror. “You have a roommate?”
“Nope,” Tristan said, amused at the grown woman’s sudden state of panic.
He shook his head. “My buddy Nick. He’s here to pick me up for work. And he cooks.” Fried bacon and eggs with a side of burnt toast was Nick’s usual wake-up call.
“I gotta get outta here.” Joy scrambled off the bed and into his over-sized gray sweat suit. “Thanks for everything, but I need to go home.” She slipped out of the bedroom and down the hallway.
Tristan yanked on his robe and followed behind, catching her before she reached the front door. “I didn’t put your clothes in the dryer yet.”
“Mail ’em to me.”
“You don’t have to rush out.”
“No. I do. I really, really do.”
“Your mother would actually tie your dog to a tree? All night? In the rain?” He pressed her back against the wall, getting close enough to kiss, hoping some memory of last night was enough to make her stay.
“Knowing her, she probably dropped him off at the pound. He already peed on her laundry basket and ate my father’s slippers. I can’t imagine what else he’s done while I’ve been gone. That’s why I need to find an apartment fast.”
Tristan almost invited her to stay here but decided against it once he glanced inside his daughter’s empty bedroom. Nicole would be here soon. How would he explain a new woman’s presence? A live-in nanny? That might would work to his benefit, but Joy might not like it.
“I know.” She snapped her fingers. “I’ll just tell her I found a place and that’s why I didn’t come home. I’ll say I was testing it out overnight.”
“You think she’ll buy that story?”
Joy rolled her eyes. “I was divorced for almost two years before I told her the truth.”
“How the hell’d ya get away with that?”
“She never visited us in Florida. And I only came to New York for Thanksgiving. I gave my ex everything he wanted in the divorce if he’d just play along.”
Joy sighed with her arms across her chest. “If you must know, in the beginning, when I was in college, my mother warned me about getting involved with Victor. But I didn’t listen. I guess I was afraid she’d rub it in about being right—as usual. I can’t imagine what she’s gonna say if she knows I spent the night with a stranger. God,” she growled between clenched teeth, “what’s wrong with me. Despite how this seems, I’ve never been a slut.”
“I don’t think you’re a slut.”