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Who doesn't want a little sweet talk?
Leif Lively is the hottest thing to happen to Magnolia Bend. But single mother Abigail Orgeron figures he's another heartbreaker and does her best to ignore the steamy glances he tosses her way. When he speaks, though, her resistance crumbles! His sweet words, humor and laid-back ways captivate buttoned-up Abigail.
For once, losing control feels so good, and this no-strings arrangement is getting serious. What will she do when Leif solves the family mystery that brought him to town and decides to leave? Because she's learning that the biggest love means taking the biggest risk...
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Liz Talley writes romance because falling in love over and over again through the pages of a book is the best feeling in the world (and cheaper than therapy). A 2009 Golden Heart finalist in Regency romance and a 2015 RITA finalist in contemporary romance, she's found her niche writing sassy contemporaries with down-home warmth and Southern charm. She lives in North Louisiana surrounded by a loving family, a herd of animals, and towering loads of laundry.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Simeon Harvey turned away from the open window noting the ceiling fan did little to relieve the discomfort of the sultry Louisiana night. He supposed he'd have to buy a damned air conditioner. Days ago, he'd discovered the humidity had damaged some of the priceless artworks hanging in the gallery. And that could not be.
He glanced at his grandnephew, Bartholomew Theriot Harvey, who sat in a chair in desperate need of reupholstering, fanning himself and sipping a gin and tonic.
"I don't know why you don't install air-conditioning in this old dump. It's hotter than shit in here," Bart said, wiping his brow with a handkerchief. He looked so much like his mother, Brenda, it was difficult to be angry at him...until he opened his mouth. "So why have I been summoned? Usually I call you. Regardless, you pulled the strings and the puppet dances."
Simeon stared hard at the boy. No, he wasn't a boy any longer, but rather a spoiled little popinjay of a man who'd turned thirty years old yet still acted like a frat boy, drinking too much, spending too much, ignoring his old uncle until he needed more funds.
Simeon itched to smack the boy, but he wouldn't. Simeon wasn't a man of violence.
"Pull the strings? That's the way you see it, eh?" Simeon asked, creeping painfully toward his re-cliner. His apartment of rooms occupied the upper floor of Laurel Woods, the historic plantation his family had owned for over a hundred years. Simeon seldom left his rooms, and his pride kept him from moving his bed into the downstairs parlor. He wasn't that damn old, but the rheumatoid arthritis had worsened over the years and he knew his ability to get up and down the staircase was nearly at an end. Yes, for a man who enjoyed the splendor of the natural world, accepting his limitations was a bitter pill to swallow. He missed the wind brushing his skin...not that there was a breeze tonight.
Simeon tucked his sateen robe around his legs, then adjusted his round spectacles. "And that is exactly why I asked you to come to Laurel Woods this evening. Those pesky strings."
Bart, whose gaze had traveled over Simeon's collection of beautiful things, jerked his head indicating the life-size sculpture Calliope had unveiled last week. "That thing is starting to give me a boner."
Simeon looked at the beautiful rendering of two lovers in a passionate embrace. The lithe female arched back, one arm lifted, as her lover suckled her breast. Folds of fabric fell from the bared stomach of the seductress. Diana, the huntress, captured in sensual pleasure.
"It's a work of art, meant to engage the senses."
"Well, if it does a better job, we'll both be embarrassed." Bart gave a dirty laugh. "Seriously, if people visit and see that, they're gonna think you're a perv."
Simeon took a few seconds to allow the disappointment inside him to settle. He still couldn't believe guileless Brenda had given birth to someone as low as Bart. The boy made him feel as if he needed to wash his hands. "Bartholomew, I'm sorry to say I've done you a great disservice all these years."
Bart's Adam's apple bobbed slightly as he swallowed. "A disservice?"
"Yes, a grave disservice," Simeon said, stroking the white goatee that brushed his knotted cravat, reaching for calmness, asking the gods to give him the right words.
Bart uncrossed his legs, adjusting his position in the chair. "What are you talking about?"
"I've provided for you because I loved both my sister and niece. Celeste and Brenda made mistakes in their lives, lives shortened by heartbreak, but each was free of selfish motive."
"Do you think I don't appreciate all you've done for me, uncle? Because I do," Bart said quite prettily, using a cajoling voice and a soft smile.
Bart had blown through half the money he'd inherited on his twenty-first birthday and came to Simeon several times a year to beg for more. His handsome great-nephew always brought presents, like the fine velvet pajamas or Victorian erotic art he knew his uncle treasured. He also exploited his uncle's loneliness by reminiscing about old times, times where laughter echoed through the halls of Laurel Woods. Though the boy was incredibly selfish and dissolute, he was hypodermically sharp.
"I care about you, Bart, and that's the reason I'm changing my will."
"Oh." Bart straightened, his eyebrows lifting. "Ah, what... " He paused as if unsure what position he should take. Buttoning his mouth, he elected to wait.
"You'll continue to receive the money remaining in the trust, but I've decided the estate will be given to the Laurel Woods Art Foundation on my death. I want the good work we're doing for artists and the community in general to continue after I'm gone."
Bart's eyebrows lowered. "You're joking."
"Not a joke. I firmly believe you'll never change, never grow up, as long as I continue to feed you money. You have two legs—it's time you learned to stand upon them."
At that moment his nephew did. Rising abruptly, Bart moved toward him, hand outstretched. As usual. "Uncle Simmy, please. I'm not a bad person. Didn't I bring you chocolates from the place on Magazine Street you like?"
Simeon looked at the box he'd already opened and sampled from. "A nice gift, Bartholomew."
"Yes, a nice gift," Bart said, dropping his hand. "And I think the art foundation is deserving of your generosity. But to give the whole estate to a bunch of fruitcakes who make crap—" he picked up a piece of driftwood carved to look like a sleeping heron "—is insane."
"I beg your pardon? Insane? What is insane about wanting to leave the world a better place?" Simeon cupped his hands over the recliner's arms, shifting his weight so he sat taller.
"Leave the world a better place with this stuff? You're mad."
Simeon chose to ignore that remark. Keep to the course. "I have an appointment with Remy Brous-sard tomorrow to make the changes. My mind is made up, but I thought it best to tell you in person. You deserved to know what to expect upon my death."
Bart turned. "I can't believe you would do this to me. I'm your own blood, the child of the niece who cared for you when no one else would. I'm a Harvey. You can't do this. You just can't."
"Of course I can. The estate belongs to me. The money you inherited from your mother was gambled away at the track. You think I don't realize why your hand is stretched out so often? You think I don't know about the people you owe money to? Dangerous people who would sooner slit your throat than piss on you."
His nephew jabbed a finger toward him. "I'll get an attorney and fight this. Harvey money belongs to a Harvey—not a nest of freaks."
"Do what you wish, but you'll lose. I know people whisper that I'm odd, and I suppose I am, but being different makes you more anticipatory. Think I'd leave any avenue open for you and some half-assed attorney? No, Bartholomew. I may wear silk underwear and eat macaroons, but my balls are steel." Power surged through Simeon. He hadn't felt this way in years. So alive. He had been a millionaire all his life, a burden, he'd often thought, but sometimes it felt good to exert the force his millions gave him.
"Don't do this," Bart said, his color fading, a look of panic emerging. "We're family. I'm—"
"Going to be better off depending on yourself rather than the money my father made. Trust me. You'll thank me one day."
A thump below drew their attention.
"Simeon?" a woman called out. "Are you presentable? I wanted to show you the new sketch for the library piece."
"I'm up here, Calliope," he called, turning to shoot Bart a warning. He didn't like to discuss personal affairs in front of his artists, especially the lovely Calliope. Of course, they weren't "his" artists, but they stayed at Laurel Woods because he fed and housed them, as well as commissioned their art for the town and surrounding businesses. The house and grounds his mother had loved so had been turned into a place of solitude, a place birthing beauty. It was a legacy that would continue with the huge allocation of resources upon his death. Until then, he'd continue to provide for the foundation.
"Oh, shall I come up?" she called.
"Make her go away. We're not finished yet," Bart said.
"No, we are finished," Simeon said, rising. He didn't want Calliope to see inside his rooms. Hat-tie hadn't come to clean in a few days because her grandson was ill. A pair of pajamas on the floor and rumpled bedclothes weren't an acceptable tableau for receiving a lady. "I'll come down."
Even if it meant another flare-up of pain.
"Is that the one the town says is after your money?" Bart asked, his voice low, still panicked.
"Pish posh, that girl isn't after my money. But Calliope is the person I've chosen to run the foundation. She's bright, talented and—"
"A whore. I've heard about her. Seducing all the men in town. Barefoot, no bra—she's a dirty heathen. And that's who you want to give the money to? Some fruitcake hippie who has slept with half the men in town?"
"Well, if it isn't the pot," Simeon said, picking up the ebony cane and moving at a turtle's pace toward the open door. "Seems rather a double standard from a man who's paid for two abortions."
As Simeon entered the upper hall, he caught sight of the loveliest artist he'd ever had the pleasure of hosting. She'd already turned and was heading down the stairs toward the marble-tiled foyer, her elegant hands gripping a sketch pad. She wore a broom skirt and her unbound blond hair just touched the curve of her buttocks. She padded barefoot, soundless on the curving staircase, a lithe sprite, full of energy and light. He'd never felt an attraction for a woman before, his tendencies leaning toward nubile young men, but he fancied he had a crush on the ethereal sculptor.
Something about her pulled at him. Just as he reached the stairs, he felt Bart behind him.
"Please," Bart begged. "Please don't do this, uncle.
Simeon shook his head, turning back to tell Bart to stop groveling. Simeon felt his weight shift oddly, the foot that dangled over the first step downward found only air. He grasped for the banister, the cane falling from his hand and clattering to the tile below. And then he fell, slamming into the wall with enough force to make the sconce flicker, striking his head hard. Needles of pain flew at him from all directions as his body crashed down the marble staircase.
He heard the terrified scream and didn't know if it came from him or someone else. And just before he surrendered to the darkness coming for him, he saw the angel. Her eyes were wide, the color of the hydrangea still blooming at his door. Her silken hair, golden like the sunrise. She reached out for him, radiating comfort.
And then he was no more.
December, present day
Abigail Orgeron glanced back at her twelve-year-old daughter as they approached the small white house located directly behind the antebellum home where they lived. Birdie resembled a prisoner sentenced to hang, trudging as if the happy cottage was the scaffold.
Birdie looked at the house with the stained glass and bamboo wind chimes, soulful eyes roving the charcoal shutters, regret shadowing her face. Not even the string of large-bulb Christmas lights could erase the dread from her face.
Well, Birdie shouldn't have stooped to spying on the lone occupant of the house if she didn't want to face the consequences of her actions.
"Please, Mom," her daughter said, her glance sliding to meet Abigail's.
"Sorry, but you must," Abigail said, her lips automatically dipping when she noticed the makeup Birdie had applied. Over the past year, her daughter had grown rebellious, doing things she knew her mother did not approve of. "Are you wearing eyeliner?"
Birdie looked away. "Yeah."
Since muttering whatever or giving the silent treatment was Birdie's typical reply, Abigail counted herself lucky to get an actual response. Her daughter had tucked away the manners Abigail had instilled in her from the time she began babbling. "It's yes, ma'am, and I don't want to see that crap on your face again. You're too young."
"I'm not too young. I'm in the seventh grade. All the girls wear makeup."
Birdie made a great show of sighing and rolling her eyes. They were pretty green eyes, lined in black. She'd also managed to find some awful bubblegum-pink lip gloss. She looked like a little girl playing dress up, but maybe in Abigail's mind she always would look like her little girl.
"I can't believe you're making me do this. It was no big deal and you're making a federal case out of something stupid." Birdie stopped on the walk and crossed her thin arms. Pink stained the girl's cheeks, and Abigail was certain it hadn't come from the cosmetic drawer. She also suspected this was a bigger deal than Birdie wanted to make it. Birdie had told her she'd spied on Leif Lively only twice last month, but Abigail doubted her claim. The kid had gotten awfully interested in drawing birds from the perch in the big tree out back.
"Spying on people is a crime. It's called being a Peeping Tom...at worst, stalking."
"I wasn't stalking. Just, uh, looking a little. I didn't intend to spy," Birdie said, not moving another inch up the walk.
"All you have to do is apologize. Don't worry. No beatings or stringing up by the toenails will commence."
Birdie shook her head. "Don't make me. He doesn't even know."
"That doesn't change the fact your actions were wrong. You have to apologize, Birdie."
"Stop calling me that ridiculous child's name."
Abigail sighed. "It's not a child's name. It's cute."
Birdie burned her with a laser glare. "I don't do cute, Mom."
No, she didn't. Not anymore. Birdie had gone from fluffy tutus and sparkly shoes to skinny jeans and a black hoodie. The one thing that hadn't changed was her size. Birdie may have been in the seventh grade, but she looked like a fourth grader. Slim, small and defiant, she had gone from funny Birdie to brooding Brigitte.
"Fine, Brigitte. Let's go apologize to Mr. Lively."
Birdie gave a short puff of aggravation. "Dad said I didn't have to if I didn't want to."
"Oh, did he? Well, since he's failed to be a parent for the past five years and doesn't even live in the state, his insight into the situation isn't va—"
At that moment the door swung open and there he was. Leif Lively himself...or, as Abigail had dubbed him, resident cuckoo bird. Okay, sexy cuckoo bird was a more accurate descriptor. The head of the art department at St. George's Episcopal School had flaxen hair that fell to his shoulders, bright blue Nordic eyes, a chiseled jaw and a body that made half the women in town salivate. He probably could make the other half salivate, too, but some women had principles and sense.
Like Abigail. She snapped her mouth closed and gave him her committee smile—the one that got things done.
"Ah, my neighbors," Leif said with a warm smile that touched those pretty eyes. "I don't see any casseroles in hand so I'm guessing you're not welcoming me to the neighborhood?"
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Book Description Harlequin Books, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: Brand New. large print edition. 384 pages. 6.70x4.30x0.70 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # __0373608969
Book Description Harlequin, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373608969
Book Description Harlequin Superromance Large Print, 2015. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373608969
Book Description Harlequin, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Large Print. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0373608969n