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New Release | Barrett – Last Man Standing by @LucindaRace #romance #laterinlife #newrelease
Title Barrett – Last Man Standing
Author Lucinda Race
Genre Contemporary Romance, Later in Life
Publisher MC Two Press
Has the last man standing finally met his match?
Attorney Tallie Dorz has heard the rumors circulating through the halls of justice about the devastatingly handsome Judge Barrett Turner. As rumor has it, no woman has ever lasted longer than a couple of dates with this eligible bachelor. A chance meeting at a mutual friend’s house peaks her interest. With one long, simmering look from the enigmatic jurist, she’s captivated and wants to crack his cool facade and melt his heart.
Barrett Turner has it all; a reputation as a respected judge, money, and good looks. What he doesn’t have is someone to share his life with. He’s the last man standing among his group of close friends. A brief encounter with gorgeous woman Tallie Dorz changes all of that. The first time he sees her he’s captivated; the second time is during a meeting for a group of lawyers; and the third occurs when she appears before him in court. So much for the third time being the charm. There’s no way he would risk becoming involved with an attorney who handles family law. As captivating as she is, he won’t risk an obvious conflict of ethics.
Tallie helps another attorney by appearing, along with his client, in Judge Turner’s courtroom—her one and only appearance in family court before returning to her specialty of corporate law. Even though the judge with dark brown eyes scowled at her from the bench, she can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have him across the dinner table. Much to her surprise, Barrett calls her and asks her to have lunch, and she eagerly accepts.
When a case she’s working on puts a target on Tallie’s back, Barret realizes his feelings are more intense than just his usual fling. He vows to not let anything stop him from keeping her safe and, ultimately, winning her heart.
Can two career-minded professionals open their hearts to a lifetime of love?
One Year Earlier
Barrett Turner stood and held up his hand as the wedding guests quieted down. “Hello. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m Carson’s best man, hence the tux.” A smattering of laughter rippled across the room and he swept an arm toward the table for two where the bride and groom sat. Then he nodded with a wide grin to the next table that held his four best friends and their wives.
With a wink to Carson and Beth, he said, “Everyone thought Carson would never find a woman to love him enough to put up with his buddies. I’m happy to say somehow not only did he find someone who loves pancakes as much as he does, but she’s the only woman who’s made Carson happier than I’ve ever seen him. So, Beth”—he kissed his fingertips and waved them in her direction—“welcome to the family.” She gave him a happy, tear-filled smile and crossed her arms over her chest as if she were giving him a hug.
“When Carson and I met our freshman year of college, I never thought we’d be gathered here today. Especially since, as the years went by, we voted him the most likely to be the perennial bachelor. I guess, as of an hour ago, that title has officially been passed to me and I’m now the last man standing. Beth, I’m thrilled to say you married a man I’m proud to call one of my best friends, and Bethy, just remember when you said yes to Carson, you got all five of us, plus the amazing women who said yes to our buddies; we’re a package deal.”
Carson kissed his new bride’s cheek and she laughed. “Barrett, I knew what I was getting into, but thanks for the reminder.”
“I’d like to propose a toast to my very good friends Carson and Beth on your wedding day.” He lifted his water glass a little higher and said, “Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Baker. May you have many happy years ahead. Oh, and I’m available for babysitting but only after the kids are potty-trained.”
The room was filled with well wishes for the happy couple. Barrett took his seat and looked at his friends and then at Carson and Beth. He really was the last man standing, but it was a title he’d happily give up in a heartbeat if he could only find someone who had that special something he’d been looking for. Ever since law school, he knew he wanted to have a more traditional life. And like so many things in his life, he wouldn’t compromise on who she was. He was holding out for a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. And if he never found that deep connection, he’d be single forever. His buddies had found their someone special so there was still hope, but approaching forty made him realize that his chances were dwindling for marriage, kids, the dogs, and the oversized SUV sitting in the driveway.
“Uncle Barrett, you came!” A tiny tornado leaped into his open arms as he knelt down on the slate stone path.
“Jessie, I haven’t ever missed your birthday party. I was the first one of your daddy’s friends to hold you after you were born.” His goddaughter was five with enormous green eyes and fiery-red curls that were secured in two pigtails. What she lacked in size she made up for in personality.
She planted a noisy kiss on his cheek and slipped from his hug. “Come on. Daddy said we had to wait for you before we had cake.” She finally noticed that he had kept one arm behind his back and she raced to his side and squealed. “Is that a present for me?”
“I don’t know of another godchild having a birthday today.” He handed her the bright-green bag with the purple bow holding it closed.
“What is it?” The look on her face was pure adoration and curiosity.
Before he could answer, one of his best friends jogged down the steps and stuck out a hand. “Barrett, I was starting to wonder if you were stuck at the office or if a beautiful woman had captured your attention for a half second.”
He clapped his hand on Julian’s shoulder. Jessie was the spitting image of her dad with the red hair and green eyes, but she was petite like her mother. “And miss the party of the year? Not a chance.” He winked at Jessie. “Let’s go see about that cake, shortcake.”
She took the oversized bag from him and disappeared inside the house, calling to her mom that they could light the candles now.
The two men took a detour around the outside of the house. “Am I the last to arrive?”
“Carson and Beth just got here with the new baby, and Teddy and Clara and their four got here about a half hour ago, so yup, you’re the last.”
He glanced over his shoulder at the driveway. “A lot of cars out there for just four families.” And he had noticed there were a few cars without car seats.
“You know my wife likes to invite the world to our cookouts so she invited a few friends from work, and of course our parents are here too, so it’ll be the usual chaos.”
“How’s Daria feeling?”
“Now that she’s past her first trimester, she’s doing great.” He nodded at the dark-haired beauty approaching, both hands full of party supplies. “See for yourself.”
Julian had lucked out when he met Daria, and Barrett found himself feeling a tad envious as they shared a secret smile with each other before she turned her attention to Barrett.
She offered her cheek for a kiss which, of course, she had always done since the first day Julian had introduced them.
“Barrett, I’m so glad you made it. I was starting to worry.”
He saw the telltale flash slip from her eyes. She was the one who always pulled the strays into her life, and in her mind, Barrett was one of them.
“I got caught up reviewing some notes for court tomorrow.” He kissed her cheek and took the tray from her hands.
She slipped her arm through the crook of his as they strolled through the backyard. “The exciting life of the big tough judge, but that’s not something to think about on this beautiful August day.”
He gave Julian a wink and then directed his attention to Daria. “Yes, ma’am. Today is all about Jessie.”
“Well, not quite.”
His radar pinged. He recognized that tone in her voice and it was the matchmaker coming out in her. She had told him once that she couldn’t help wanting to find him the perfect woman so he could be as happy as she and Julian were.
“Daria, I’m content just the way things are.”
“I call bull. You are the last of the group still single and zero kids.”
“True and as far as kids are concerned, I kind of have one—Jessie.” They reached the picnic table and he set the tray down.
“That’s not what I mean and you know it.”
He turned Daria so she was facing him. “I appreciate that you’re looking out for me but to have a kid I’d need a woman, preferably a wife since I’m a tad old-fashioned and if it’s meant to be, it will happen and no amount of you pushing will change it.”
She dropped her dark eyes and then lifted them up to meet his. He was in trouble now; that mischievous gleam popped in again.
“Just meet a couple of my friends. You don’t have to do anything other than be your charming self.”
He shook his head. It was like this at every party, but they both knew he’d give in. “Daria, you’re incorrigible.”
She gave him an impulsive hug. “I know but I’m married to your brother from another mother so you’re stuck with me.”
He looked to Julian who held up his hands in defeat. “Sorry, Barrett. Once my bride sets her mind to something, I just step back and let her go.”
There was no way he was going to escape today without the introductions so it was easier to place a few conditions around the meet and greet. At least this way he had a modicum of control over what happened.
“You can introduce me to your friends, and not just the single ones, but there is a condition.”
Her grin slipped from one side of her face to the other. They both knew she had won this skirmish. “And what is that?”
“I’ll say hello, shake hands, and then after a few moments of pleasant and benign conversation, I’ll move on and spend some quality time with the people I really want to talk to.” He gave her his sternest look that he knew caused lawyers, who appeared in his court, to quake in their shoes. “Agreed?”
She nodded her head like a dutiful friend and held up her finger. “But if you do find one of my friends interesting, feel free to ask her out for coffee.”
Since there was no way he was getting around this, he nodded. “Lead the way and let’s get this over.”
She laughed. “You act like I’m sentencing you to the gallows.”
He gave her a sharp look and loud laugh. “Is that an attempt at judge humor?”
Looping her arm through his, she led him across the lawn. “I have two friends I’d like for you to meet. Jeannette is from my yoga class and a lot of fun.” Through her smile, she murmured, “Show her your pearly whites.”
After the introduction, Barrett and Daria eased away.
“What did you think?”
“She was nice enough, but she doesn’t really smile much and this is a party.” He glanced over his shoulder to where a very tall, willowy woman was talking to someone else. She was attractive but nothing to ring his bell. “Who’s next on your list?”
She gave a slight nod. “Karen is directly in front of us, talking with Beth.”
Well, at least that was something. She was mingling with their friends. She was a pretty brunette with curves, and then she laughed out loud, which sounded more like a cackle.
His steps slowed. “What is she, a witch or something?”
“No, she runs a bookstore and practices different voices for when she reads to the kids on Saturday morning.” She squeezed his arm to her side. “She’s very nice.”
His gut tightened but he forced a smile for Daria. She meant well. It was another awkward interlude as he shook Karen’s hand, and then he had fulfilled his obligation and reminded her that she had said two friends and he was going to go find a cold drink and see if the guys caught last night’s ball game.
Daria and Julian called everyone over to the table. It was time to sing to the birthday girl, wish-making, and the candle-blowing event. Then he made a beeline for the coolers.
He was opening each one when a woman opened the next cooler, took out a bottle of water, and looked into his eyes. The jolt he felt rush through his system could have knocked him off his feet.
Sticking out her hand, she said, “Hello, I’m Tallie Dorz, a friend of Daria and Julian’s. And you are?”
A beautiful woman with long dark hair and startling ice-blue eyes stood in front of him. She was dressed in a skirt and sleeveless blouse and her feet were bare except for the deep-pink polish on her toes which was mirrored on her fingers.
“Cat got your tongue?”
He realized he was staring at her. “Sorry, I was lost in thought.” He shook her hand. “Barrett Turner. Julian and I grew up together.”
“Very nice to meet you.” She held out a bottle. “Water?”
“Thanks.” He looked around to see if anyone seemed to be waiting for her.
“Well, nice to meet you.” She took a few steps to his right. “I’m going to get a piece of cake. Do you want one?”
“No, thanks. I’m not a big cake guy.”
Her smiled dimmed. “Okay. Well, have fun.” She moved away and joined a group of people that he knew were Daria’s friends. But he had to wonder why she hadn’t introduced them. This woman definitely was beautiful, but there was something else about her. It was the kindness in her eyes and intelligence, but also something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He made up his mind; he was going to talk to her, then he saw Jessie stumble and fall face-first into a chair. He dropped his water bottle and raced across the grass.
The party broke up as soon as Julian and Daria left to take Jessie to the emergency room. Barrett stayed at the house to clean up and set everything back to order. He was pretty sure when they got back, Jessie might have a couple of stitches above her eye, but she’d want to open her presents and have another slice of cake; it was her favorite—chocolate with peanut butter frosting.
His thoughts drifted to Tallie Dorz and he wished he’d asked for her number. Maybe he could ask Daria for it another time. After a couple of hours passed, he got a text from Julian saying they’d be a while longer. They were waiting on someone to do the stitches; the ER was slammed with a traffic accident. Julian asked him to lock up before leaving.
Disappointed he wouldn’t get the chance to ask about Tallie, he double-checked the back door and walked through the silent house. It reminded him of his place—well, except the mantle. His was empty and Julian’s was filled with pictures of the wedding, Jessie’s first photos, and many more to mark the passage of time of them as a family. This is what his house lacked, the warmth of a home. He’d never admit it to anyone, but he had lost hope he’d ever find what his buddies had—amazing women to live their lives with and kids. At one time he had made a joke of being single to everyone within earshot. Turned out the joke was on him. He built a career at the cost of his personal life.
He jogged down the front steps, slid into the car, pushed the button, and the engine on his Benz purred to life. He thought of Julian’s practical SUV and Daria’s minivan, and then he looked at their home. He leaned back in his seat. Who was he kidding? He’d trade in his sports car for something more practical in half a heartbeat if he ever found what his best friend had.
He made the short drive home, and on the way, he stopped for Chinese takeout. At least he could review the cases before him tomorrow one more time.
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Award-winning and best-selling author Lucinda Race is a lifelong fan of romantic fiction. As a young girl, she spent hours reading romance novels and getting lost in the hope they represent. While her friends dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, her dreams were to become a writer—a romance novelist.
As life twisted and turned, she found herself writing nonfiction but longed to turn to her true passion. After developing the storyline for The Loudon Series, it was time to start living her dream. Her fingers practically fly over computer keys she weaves stories about strong women and the men who love them. Lucinda lives with her two little dogs, a miniature long hair dachshund and a shitzu mix rescue, in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. When she's not at her day job, she’s immersed in her fictional worlds. And if she’s not writing romance novels, she’s reading everything she can get her hands on.
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