Sloan and Abbey move to Abbey’s hometown of Mount Vernon, Iowa, to start their new lives together away from the chaos of New York City. And they are not alone – they are joined by Gordon, Maggie, and Bartholomew each looking for a fresh start and new love in the small rural town.
Their marriage is put to the test by the reappearance of Abbey’s father, bullies from her high school days, a business opportunity in Miami, and a new baby on the way. When a person from their past comes back looking to make Abbey his own again, will he be able to tear Sloan and Abbey apart forever?
For the next few hours, Sloan couldn’t concentrate on his work. He fumed at Aubrey’s unreasonable demand. Who does she think she is, appropriating my time? My time is too valuable to be wasting on new headshots for her books. This is the last series I’m doing for Panda.
A sly smile suddenly broke across Sloan’s face. Unless Abigail wishes to do another one, of course. She’ll work with another illustrator over my dead body.
Sloan stormed into his makeshift office and slammed the door. Instead of taking a bite of the sandwich he had ordered, he strode to the cabinet against the wall and poured himself a tumbler of whiskey. He took a long, hard swallow. The liquor relaxed him.
Relaxing allowed his mind to wander to Abigail. It had been an incredible three weeks in St. Thomas with her. The best three weeks of his life. He wanted nothing more than to be home with her in New York kissing her, whispering to her, gazing into her beautiful hazel eyes, and making love to her. He missed her more than he had ever missed anyone in his life.
At five o’clock, he made his way down the elevator to the park outside. The photographer had just arrived and not even unpacked his equipment. Sloan paced the stone sidewalk impatiently. He growled as the man gazed at him with a helpless look.
Irritated, Sloan glared at his watch then began to pace the stone walk of the garden again. The constant shuffling of the photographer and the click and clamor of equipment grated on his last nerve. He had delayed a critical meeting for this photo. This imbecile photographer had better hurry up. “Can we speed things along?”
The photographer stared at him, flustered. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t believe we’re ready.”
Sloan’s felt his Irish temper flash dangerously. “Then maybe you can tell me exactly why we are reshooting this picture? Because Aubrey sure as hell wasn’t going to.”
“I’m sorry, sir…”
“Maybe I can shed some light on that.”
Sloan stopped dead at the sound of a soft, feminine voice. His heart thundered in his chest as his breath caught in his throat. It can’t be…
Sloan turned slowly. Behind him, standing at the mouth of the path, stood his Abigail. She was dressed in a fuzzy, baby pink, cashmere sweater and a pair of faded blue jeans with her long, brown hair tied up in a ponytail. She nervously clutched her tablet in her hands.
“Abigail,” Sloan breathed, all his fury evaporating away at the sight of her. She had a way of doing that to him. She smiled at Sloan as she made her way up the stone path to him. He gently caressed her cheek with his fingertips as he gazed at her. “What are you doing here?” he murmured.
“Nathan visited me this morning,”
He snorted in disgust. “About time.”
“Sloan, it’s all too much. You’ve worked too hard.”
Sloan cupped Abbey’s chin with his palm and tilted her face to his. He stared deep into her hazel eyes. “Aye, Abigail. I needed to. You’ve learned my past with the IRA. You’ve learned my marketable talent. I am wanted by some very evil men. I could not leave you without, if something were to happen to me. It very well could.” Sloan curved his mouth into a smirk. “So what did you do that started this chaos?”
Smiling sheepishly, Abbey trailed her finger across the screen to wake it. Then, she turned it to face Sloan.
* * * *
Abbey silently braced herself for Sloan’s reaction. She expected him to be angry that her rash action with the book cover had disrupted his crucial plans for San Francisco’s opening day. Honestly, she expected him to chew her out for what she had done.
She didn’t expect what happened at all.
Sloan’s eyes locked on the tablet screen displaying the new cover of their first book. After a beat, he gently took it from Abbey so that he could take a closer look. “Abigail,” he breathed.
“You’re not upset?” Abbey asked, amazed.
“I should be upset that you finally took my name?”
She felt her face flush red. “I’m here because Aubrey wants to shoot our bio pictures. Together.”
Sloan looked up as he grinned. “That’s a fantastic idea, luv.”
They slowly turned as they heard the photographer clear his throat. “Umm…Mr. O’Riley? I’m ready for the shot,” he announced timidly. Abbey giggled. Sloan must have scared the wits out of this guy.
Sloan weaved his fingers into hers as they walked toward the clearing in the garden where the photographer had assembled his equipment. “Where do you want us?” Sloan queried.
The man’s eyes darted around the patches of flowers and randomly scattered park benches. “I hadn’t really put much thought into it. Maybe you could sit on a bench with Mrs. O’Riley behind you?”
Sloan chuckled. “I have a better idea.” Stepping onto the lush green grass, he led Abbey behind him. He stopped at the trunk of a tall, leafy maple. Leaning his strong shoulders against the trunk, he then tugged Abbey into his arms. She rested her cheek against his warm, broad chest as her body sunk into his hard muscular contours, breathing a deep, contented sigh as she heard the first click of the camera’s shutter.
Tricia Andersen lives in Iowa with her husband, Brian and her three children – her sons, Jake and Jon, and her daughter, Alex. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in English and from Kirkwood Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in Communications Media/Public Relations. Along with writing (which she loves to do), Tricia coaches and participates in track and field, does kickboxing, reads, sews and is involved in many of her children’s activities.
Tricia is one of the hosts of the Blog Talk Radio show Freshly Booked, a part of Writers Online Network. She is also a member of the Romance Writers of America and RWA Chapter 177 From the Heart Romance Writers.