Pregnant and betrayed at fifteen, Bernadette Mitchell made the agonizing decision to let her father and stepmother adopt her baby. Grateful to have her child in her life, even if she'll never be called mom, she’s learned to live with her choice—until an unthinkable tragedy brings the ghosts of her past back to town.
Officer Mike Donovan moves back home to Redemption to raise his little girl, but he’s also on a mission—to win back the only woman he’s ever loved. If he can convince Bernie to give him another chance, he’ll spend the rest of their lives proving they belong together. But when he discovers she’s been keeping an unimaginable secret, his entire world is flipped on its axis.
He strode purposefully toward their table, but stopped short when he caught the tail end of Marone’s last comment.
“…and I was hoping we could give it another try. I’d love to take you out to dinner one night this week.”
Sonofabitch. Mike waited with bated breath as Bernie looked down at her lap, a sure sign she was uncomfortable. A good sign, from Mike’s viewpoint. Though it didn’t mean she would turn the guy down either. Unwilling to take that chance, he cleared his throat. Loudly.
Marone glanced over, a frown quirking his brow. “Hey, Mike. Something you need to talk to me about?”
“Not you. I was hoping I could steal Bernadette away for a few minutes.” He met her gaze. “I think we should talk.”
Panic darkened her eyes. “Is it Noah? Did something happen?”
He nodded. Desperate times and all that. “I just need a few minutes. But if now isn’t a good time…”
“We were kind of in the middle of something,” Marone pointed out, his words clipped as his annoyance started to show.
Bernie touched his leg, setting Mike’s teeth on edge. “I’m sorry. Just give me a minute, please.”
His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Sure. Think I’ll go pour myself another glass of lemonade. Can I get you anything?”
“I’d love another glass as well, thanks.”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Take your time,” Mike told him as he strode away.
Bernie stood and watched him expectantly. “Well? What is it?”
“I, uh, just wanted to apologize for yesterday.”
Her brows rose. “For what, exactly?”
“You know. The whole tip jar thing. I should have given it a few days, waited to see if the money turned up before calling you.”
She stared at him, her exasperation clear. “And that’s it? You had me worried to death, dammit.”
“Sorry. I just—”
“You just overheard John asking me out on a date, and your macho pride couldn’t wait for my response, so you decided to kill the moment.”
Damn if she didn’t hit the nail on the head. “Pffft. No.”
She crossed her arms and pursed her lips. Those luscious, perfectly shaped lips.
She chuckled, the sound music to Mike’s ears.
“Very mature of you.”
He stepped forward until he was close enough to pull her into his arms. A soft gasp told him she might not be as indifferent to him as she put on. Not wanting to set back the tiny bit of progress he’d made, he stuck his hands in his pockets, deciding to keep things moving at a slow and steady pace. “Marone isn’t the guy for you.”
“And I suppose you are?” she countered, her tone challenging.
“You’re damn right I am. And if you’d give me half a chance, I could prove it to you.”
“How?” she whispered.
That one breathless word tightened Mike’s groin with near painful anticipation.
He reached up and traced the line of her jaw with his forefinger before gently tilting her chin up. “A kiss. Just one kiss is all it’ll take to convince you we belong together.”