Published by Craig Place Books on January 10, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
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A Stranger in His Own Town, to His Own Daughter
When the bad boy of Tobias, Wisconsin, returns home, the repercussions reach far and deep. Handsome and charming Zach Corbett left the small town eight years ago to make his own way... and never looked back.
Not at the pregnant ex-girlfriend he left behind. Or at what his departure might mean for his brother Steve, whose wedding was put on hold to raise a baby.
Tensions are high, and there’s only one person who might be able to redeem the Corbetts’ troubled family reunion, a woman who has truly seen Zach since they were kids.
Fran Dalton has always seen beyond the bravado to the pain in those beautiful baby blues of Zach’s. Now, she can see he’s different. And, unlike when they were kids, now she’s grabbed his attention.
If only she can draw Zach into a loving relationship, and prove how much he’s changed, his fractured family might just find it in their hearts to forgive. And heal.
Can Zach and Fran escape the past’s hold to make a future?
Nothing had changed in the past eight and half years. Not here on Lakeview Street.
The house rose like a secular cathedral from the highest point in town, looking down on Lake Tobias. The grounds were precise and polished … and nowhere near as inviting as the Daltons’ homey yard next door.
No, nothing had changed at Corbett House.
Zach Corbett found that oddly reassuring.
Reassuring because so much else had changed. What he’d seen of the rest of Tobias, Wisconsin had included fresh buildings, unfamiliar roads and new businesses. And he’d changed, that was for damn sure.
Odd, because Corbett House — the upright, pristine architectural embodiment of the Corbett Ideal as expounded and practiced by his mother, Lana Corbett — represented the reason he’d left. So how could he feel reassured that it hadn’t changed?
Maybe because it meant this might actually be a routine run, like Doc had talked about.
Standing in front of the Daltons’ home, he stared across the wide lawns to the house where he’d grown up.
No, that wasn’t true. He hadn’t grown up in that house at all. He’d stayed a child there. He hadn’t grown up until he’d left.
So why did he even need to be here? He had a life, far from Tobias in more ways than geography. He didn’t have anything to prove. Not any more. If it hadn’t been for the old man Miguel—
“Go ahead, someone will answer if you knock.”
Zach remained still, not jolting or overreacting at the unexpectedness of the calm voice. Not reacting at all, except to listen more closely. To try to pinpoint where the voice had come from. The faintest sound could make all the difference. That had been drummed into him by training and experience.
But it took little of either — training or experience — to determine the source of this sound. All he had to do was move his eyes.
She must have been there all along. A compact female figure in tan and green that blended in with a corner bed of bushes and flowers where the Daltons’ property met the Corbetts’ and the front sidewalk. She was crouched down, a trowel in one gloved hand and a clump of weeds in the other.
He’d have spotted her long before she spoke if she’d moved. She must have seen him coming and chosen not to give herself away. Because she hadn’t recognized him? Or because she had?
“Or is that the problem — that someone will answer if you knock?”
As she spoke the second time, she straightened. The leaves of the biggest bush, losing their plump summer green, rested on the crown of her shining hair.
Fran Dalton hadn’t grown very tall, he decided as he surveyed the figure beneath the green shirt and tan jeans, but she had grown up. When he’d left she’d been the quiet, plump girl who’d lived next door all his life. She was no longer plump, though nicely rounded where a woman should be. Her wavy hair, a lighter brown where a summer’s worth of sun had reached it, was drawn back in a short, loose braid.
One thing hadn’t changed — the way she looked at him. Neither glaring, like most of Tobias’s adults used to, nor batting her eyelashes at him and blushing — or not blushing, but instead blatantly inviting — like his female contemporaries had. Fran Dalton still looked him straight in the eyes with no bull.
She was a year younger than him, two years younger than their older brothers, who’d been best friends.
Steve. That was one good thing about getting this over with. Once Zach had faced down Lana, he’d go looking for his older brother.
Zach grinned, a warmth spreading through his chest. “Hi, Franny.”
His grin widened. “Still don’t like that nickname, huh?”
“Still don’t like your given name?”
He dropped the grin, and the teasing. “How are you, Fran?” He really wanted to know.
“I’m very well, thank you. You look…” Her gaze skimmed his face, no doubt seeing the hardening of the years and life, then came back to his eyes and stayed there a long moment before she completed her assessment. “Good.”
“So do you. Real good.” That cut no ice with her, he saw — either she didn’t believe it or she wasn’t interested. “You back here visiting your family? How are they?”
She shook her head. “I live here. Dad got sick, and I moved back. I never left after he died. ” She continued quickly. “So the family’s just me and Rob.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your dad. He was a good man.”
“Yes, he was.”
“But no nieces and nephews? I thought Rob was going to marry that girl from college. Jan? Janet?”
Rob was her older brother, Steve’s best friend. Asking about her family, not his — oh, yeah, he was definitely procrastinating. But he was the only one who knew, so what could a few more minutes hurt.
“Janice. They did get married. No kids and they divorced. But he’s found the right one now.”
Her mouth lifted and her eyes glinted — there was more to her brother’s story than those bare facts, and it pleased her. He’d like to find out more about that later … if there was a later.
“How’s …” He tipped his head toward Corbett House.
Amusement fled from her expression. “You’ll have to find that out for yourself, Zach. They’ve been so worried about you. Steve still puts ads—”
“Steve’s in Tobias?”
Damn, he’d hoped his older brother had escaped, too. But Steve always had thought he could be his own kind of Corbett, even in Tobias, and had planned a life outside Lana’s social and political ambitions, starting with going against her wishes by planning to marry his hometown sweetheart. Zach had left months before the wedding date. Not standing up as his brother’s best man when — if — he married Annette Trevetti was his one regret.
“Yes, he and Annette live—”
“He and Annette?” So, Steve had withstood Lana’s disapproval of what she considered a misalliance with a girl from the wrong side of town. “I didn’t know if he could pull it off, but he married her, huh? Good for him.”
“Yes, they’re married. Now. But …” A frown pulled the smooth arch of her brows into a straight line and worry swirled in her eyes.
“What is it, Fran? Steve’s not — Is he okay?”
“I can’t … You can’t expect me — anyone — to fill in the years between you and your family, Zach.” She shook her head, as if the firm determination of her words hadn’t been enough. “You have to do this yourself.”
And that brought them back to what she’d first said to him: Someone will answer if you knock. … Or is that the problem?
Maybe he wasn’t the only one who’d known he was procrastinating.
OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
USA Today bestselling author Patricia McLinn’s novels — cited by reviewers for warmth, wit and vivid characterization – have won numerous regional and national awards and been on national bestseller lists. In addition to her romance and women’s fiction books, Patricia is the author of the Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series, which adds a touch of humor and romance to figuring out whodunit. Patricia received BA and MSJ degrees from Northwestern University. She was a sports writer (Rockford, Ill.), assistant sports editor (Charlotte, N.C.) and — for 20-plus years — an editor at The Washington Post. She has spoken about writing from Melbourne, Australia to Washington, D.C., including being a guest-speaker at the Smithsonian Institution. She is now living in Northern Kentucky, and writing full-time. Patricia loves to hear from readers through her website, Facebook and Twitter.