Let’s get right into it! I hope you enjoy this excerpt of Second Chance At Love.
Karen Johnston didn’t know why she glanced again at the digital clock on the dashboard in her Honda Civic. It only fueled her frustration of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic Saturday morning on Henry Avenue for the past twenty minutes. Cars moving at a snail’s pace made her regret she promised to water Ava’s plants while she was out of town spending the weekend with her daughter, Zoe. It wasn’t like she had a house full of plants. A heart leaf philodendron that needed serious cutting back because the vines were creeping into the other room and a bushy spider plant were the source of her misery. Karen made a mental note to gift Ava self-watering pots for Christmas.
There were a million things she had to do. Ashley and her classmate Marcy needed to get to dance class by ten. Then she had to drop Kyle off at soccer by ten-thirty, go grocery shopping, rush back home to do laundry, clean the bathrooms, and vacuum. Thank goodness Marcy’s mother offered to pick the kids up and take them for pizza and ice cream after their activities. Otherwise, something was bound to be left undone.
One would think working part-time as a dental hygienist three days a week, Karen would be able to carve out time for herself. She couldn’t remember the last time she blew off everything to bask in some me time. With the late spring temperature going up to eighty-two degrees, making it feel more like summer, this would’ve been the perfect day for Karen to simply sit around and do nothing. Not in this lifetime.
The crawling traffic finally sped up as cars eased past the roadside construction. Karen looked at the clock again. If she didn’t get in and out of Ava’s place in the next ten minutes, the children would be late. And Lord knows that couldn’t happen. She wasn’t in the mood for a bunch of whining and complaining. If she heard one more time from either of them, “Why can’t we get to practice early like the other kids?” she was going to run away from home. Some days she wanted to scream, “I’m doing the best I can. So give me a freakin’ break.” And then there were those days when she was at her wits end and lost it and yelled at the kids. Which sent Karen retreating to her bedroom where she smothered her sobs facedown in a pillow.
Pulling into a parking space, Karen wished her kids’ dedication to cleaning their rooms, loading the dishwasher and putting away the dishes was met with the same eagerness as being on time to practice. Daily reminders for them to do chores was another thing wearing on her frayed nerves. A weekend in a hotel room where she could sleep until eleven, order room service and get lost in Lifetime movies was a fantasy she dreamed of daily.
It wasn’t that her sister, Starr Dawson, and friends Ava Peretti and Summer Stiles weren’t supportive with offering to help out with the kids. They did and she appreciated it. But each time she stole away to the hair salon or nailery, Kyle transformed into the Tasmanian Devil. Before she could get her foot in the door good, Ashley’s reporting, “Kyle flushed his lunch down the toilet,” or “Kyle threw a tantrum because he lost a game,” or “Kyle pushed me,” ruined her natural high. Even though her sister and friends assured her they could handle Kyle except Ava—her solution being to “tear that ass up”—Karen nowadays politely declined their offers to babysit. There was only so much embarrassment she could absorb due to her nuisance of a child.
Karen prayed Mrs. Virginia wasn’t out front as she removed the key from the ignition. She didn’t have twenty minutes to indulge the chatty woman. As she got out the vehicle, Karen hurried up the walkway with her head down to avoid eye contact in the event Mrs. Virginia was peeping out the window.
Whew, that was close. Once inside Karen closed the door and set the keys along with her purse down on the table in the vestibule before rushing off to the kitchen. She pulled the cabinet open and snatched down a glass. In her haste, the glass slipped from her hand and went crashing to the floor. Karen let out a tiny squeak as she jumped back to avoid the shards cutting her sandal-covered feet.
“No, no, no. I don’t have time for this,” she groaned on her way to the shed connected to the kitchen to retrieve the mop, broom, and dustpan.
As Dominic “Dom” Peretti, Jr. turned off the water and stepped out the shower, a distant crashing caught his attention. What the hell?
He snatched a thick white towel off the rack on the wall. Not bothering to dry off, he wrapped it around his waist. Slowly opening the bathroom door, Dom stealthily made his way into Ava’s bedroom to get the golf club she kept propped against the wall. Gripping the handle tight, Dom entered the kitchen and was stopped cold in his tracks.
The grip on his weapon loosened and his head slightly tilted to the side. He couldn’t tell who the lovely specimen was, bending over grumbling something about kids being late. It didn’t matter who she was at the moment. Dom was too caught up drooling and staring at her derriere, curvy hips and shapely legs thanks to the denim shorts she wore. The urge to rub his fingertips down the smooth skin of her partially exposed back, courtesy of the yellow halter top caused him to bite his bottom lip suppressing a groan.
Dom tried to fight it. What was he to do? Any red-blooded man’s body would respond the same way his was doing right now. The best thing to do would be to ease out of the room before she noticed him there.
He didn’t know if it was fate or not. Before he could slip out as easily as he had slipped in, she stood and swiftly spun around as if she knew she was being watched.
Karen let out a blood curdling scream when her eyes locked eyes with the tall, bronze, half-naked, aroused—yes aroused!—beauty of a man. She had never seen so many rippling muscles in all her life.
She didn’t know if she should throw the shards of glass at him and run, or if she should stay and confront him. Right now, she couldn’t figure out which to do because the man was stealing her breath away.
Dropping the golf club, Dom held his hands up to show he wasn’t a threat. “Calm down. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Out of her trance, Karen jutted the glass-filled dustpan at Dom. “Who are you?”
“Whoa, watch it lady,” Dom growled as he jumped back to avoid the flying glass heading straight for the family jewels.
Karen’s eyes widened in horror as she watched the direction of the airborne glass. When she dared to glance up at him, she wished she hadn’t. If looks could kill.
Lifting her chin in defiance, Karen glared back at the stranger. After all, he was half-naked in her sister’s house that was being rented to their friend. It wasn’t her fault that the piece of glass had a mind of its own and nearly maimed him. Again Karen demanded, “I said, who are you?”
“I’m Dom. Ava’s brother,” he gritted out between clenched teeth.
The building tension in her shoulders relaxed. Now she could see the family resemblance. Man, he was as handsome as Ava was pretty.
“Oh,” was all that would come out. It was hard to talk with him standing so close and obviously attracted to her although he was clearly annoyed.
“Oh,” Dom sarcastically parroted. “You damn near cut me.”
Karen’s eyes drifted downward and she wished she hadn’t because she wanted to touch him. When was the last time? Years.
All Karen could think about right now was how it would feel to be beneath him with her back pressed to a mattress. The dustpan began to shake as she gripped the handle so tight her hand was beginning to ache. When she glanced back up at Dom, his face was still twisted in a scowl. Karen licked her bottom lip. He had no idea how sexy he was, staring down at her and brooding.
It was clear he was irritated with her silence when he snapped, “What are you doing here?”
She would have been well within her right to make him aware that this was her sister’s property. Instead Karen let it go since she knew he wasn’t a threat.
“Ava asked me to water her plants,” Karen replied as she went over to the trashcan near the shed door and emptied the broken glass before putting the broom and dustpan back inside the shed. Karen took several seconds longer than necessary to put everything back in place in hopes Dom would be gone. No such luck. He was still standing there making her mind conjure up things she hadn’t thought, let alone indulged in, in years. She needed to get away from this man. And fast.
Dom tossed the golf club against the wall. “I already watered them,” he murmured, his dark eyes openly appraising her. “Ava didn’t tell me you were coming.”
Oh yeah, it’s time for me to go. He went from a roaring lion to a pussycat. And from the look in his eyes, she was feeling like the mouse he wanted to play with until he was good and tired of playing.
“She must’ve forgotten,” Karen nervously answered as she held her breath and eased by him. “I gotta go. My kids are waiting for me.”
Karen swiftly walked to the foyer, her hips swaying from side to side. She could feel the heat of his eyes watching her as she disappeared out of the room. Snatching up her keys and purse she bounded down the stairs and to her car. Slamming the door shut, Karen tossed her purse on the passenger seat. Her head collapsed against the headrest. What in the world just happened back there?
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