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Book Excerpt: Smoking Hot Summer

Book Three of the Peachland Passions Series is set to launch in three weeks (April 12). Here, to get you as excited as I am, is an excerpt.

Chapter Twenty

Heading out after dinner was more, for Colton, than just taking in a concert in the park. It was taking his intention to be a family public. It surprised him, actually, that Nina had agreed when he had suggested it. Now, sitting beside her and Louisa on a beach blanket while some local unknown band played a set of tunes, he thought he had it figured out. She’d agreed because of Louisa.

He’d never really thought about all motherhood meant. His own mother, even when she was physically there, had just never really been there. Drugs had gotten hold of her young enough that honestly, it was amazing she was even still alive. Nina, though, she was present for Louisa. It was easy to see the way she made choices because they benefited Lou. Even if they were uncomfortable for her.

It was just one more thing to admire about her. Also, it was one more thing he had missed -- seeing that transformation happen in real-time. She was still Nina -- passionate and fun, and touchy, and straight-forward -- but now it was like she’d grown into an even better Nina. He hated that he’d walked away and missed it.

There was nothing he could do about that, though. And he refused to let the past ruin this moment for any of them.

“So,” he asked Lou, and nodded his head in the direction of the band, “What do you think?”

Her response was a shrug that he recognized as intimately as if he was looking in a mirror. Grinning, he glanced up at Nina and saw she was smiling, too. That moment, right there. He wanted to live that moment over and over for the rest of his life.

“I think this band would be better if we were dancing. What do you say?”

“Momma and I dance,” Lou told him with her eyes wide and sincere. “You want to dance with us?”

“Oh, Lou, I don’t know.”

“Oh yeah?” Colton’s eyes laughed up at her. Lifting his hands, he fisted them under his armpits and flapped his arms like a chicken. He heard Louisa giggle, but his eyes were trained on Nina’s. “You jump, I jump, Neen.”

Her eyes narrowed at him...

“Things never end well when you say that,” Nina said now, sitting on the blanket. “And stop looking at me like that, Boyd.”

He grinned.

“Well, there was that one time,” he said softly.

“I knew that’s what you were thinking about,” she said. “And I mean it. Stop with the look. It’s not like that now.”

One of his eyebrows lifted lazily, and she had the grace to flush. Because, it had been exactly like that on more than one occasion this week alone. In one lithe motion, she stood and put an end to the conversation.

“Fine. If it will stop you making that face, I’ll dance with you both.”

“Yeah!” Lou said. She seemed oblivious to any tension between her parents and just honestly delighted to have them both to herself. For a moment, Nina felt the simplicity of Louisa’s pleasure. Then Colton held out a hand to each of them, Lou giggled, and Nina felt her entire body flush. There was no possible way to get out of it -- she was going to have to hold the man’s hand in front of half the town. And there was no possible way she didn’t read about it in the Peachland View newspaper tomorrow.

So, they danced, the three of them together, in as sweetly innocent movements as possible. It made her laugh to see Louisa and Colton circle around holding hands, then have him lift the girl up like she weighed nothing and twirl her around while a steady stream of happy giggles traveled around behind them.

It was enough to make her forget the watching, small-town eyes around them, and simply enjoy the moment. It made her heart sigh to watch the way Louisa was clearly falling in love with the man. Then, when Lou passed out, Colton wrapped their daughter up in the blanket, lifted her into his arms, and carried her all the way home, a sleeping weight against his chest.

When he lay her down on her bed and they tucked her in between the covers together, Nina’s heart wanted to explode. She sighed and accepted what she already knew. Louisa wasn’t the only female in love with Colton Boyd tonight.

The thought didn’t make her happy. Instead, it made her grouchy.

“I met your ex-girlfriend today.”

They were sitting out back, Colton on a chair, Nina with one foot up, one foot gently pushing the patio swing back and forth. At her words, Colton set the wine glass he’d been drinking from down on the glass of the patio table and leaned forward.

“Which ex-girlfriend is that?”

“Oh, because there are so many of us?”

The sudden anger got his attention. Even if her words hadn’t done the trick, her tone had him raising his eyes.

Hers were no longer cold. Now they were blazing. If he didn’t know her better, he’d think she was jealous.

That was an incredibly nice thought.

“Start again. Who did you meet today?”

“She didn’t tell me her name. I had to go to the fire station for work, and she was damn concerned about you. She was not my number one fan.”

“And you assumed that was because of me?” He fought back a grin that he figured she would not appreciate right now. “Nina, did you consider that sometimes you just come off as a bit prickly?”

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