Author: Nancy Fraser
Genre: Vintage Romantic Comedy
Chicago, Fall 1964
Allison Stiles is the epitome of responsibility. Guardian to her two rambunctious younger brothers, she also runs a home daycare. While she doesn't have time for a vacation, she really needs a diversion.
Enter Eric Thomas, her new neighbor. Tall, dark and handsome and just what she needs to get her mind off her responsibilities, even if only for a short time.
Moving into the house he inherited from his uncle was not part of Eric Thomas' plan. Yet, starting a new business ties up a good portion of his capital, so he forgoes the fancy downtown apartment for the quaint Rogers Park neighborhood.
Now if he could just get his mind off his sexy neighbor and back on the business at hand.
“Hey there, you must be the Thomas kid.”
Eric turned. An older man stood on the cement stoop of the house to the right of his. “Yes, I am,” he said. “Eric Thomas. You must be either Mr. Dunston or Mr. Collier.”
The man choked out a smoker’s cough followed by a rough chuckle. “I’m Collier. Teddy Dunston’s on your other side. He and his missus are away for a few days visiting their grandchildren.”
“It’s nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Collier―”
Collier shook his head. “Call me Jack. Nobody, other than the Stiles boys call me mister.” He nodded toward the house directly across the street.
A large, fenced-in yard, filled from one edge to the other with toys set off alarms in Eric’s head. Kids. They had kids. And, by the looks of it, quite a few. He didn’t do children very well, not that he’d ever had much reason to. He turned back to Jack Collier and asked, “Are there a lot of kids in the neighborhood?”
“Not as many as there used to be. If it weren’t for Allison and her pile of noisy rascals, you might mistake this end of the block for a cemetery. And, heaven knows, most of us will be there sooner than we’d like.”
Grinning at the man’s comment, Eric nodded his head in agreement and lifted the brown box at his feet. “It was nice meeting you.”
“You too.” Waving his hand as he made his way across his porch, Jack Collier added, “If you need anything, feel free to ask.”
“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”
He’d made it up onto the porch, brown box in tow, when a loud jolt of music rent the air. A whimsical lyric about dancing monsters, graveyards, and the upcoming holiday, the song was currently topping the charts.
Halloween. Kids. Noise.
He made himself a mental note: avoid Old Mother Hubbard and her brood at all costs.
Eric awoke with jolt. The sound of a crying child permeated his foggy, sleep-deprived brain. He sat up in the bed and struggled to acclimate himself to his surroundings.
Tuesday. It was Tuesday. Wasn’t it? Chicago, right? He pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger to ward off an impending headache.
Perhaps you shouldn’t have had that final drink last night. Or, the four before it.
At thirty-one, he was definitely getting too old to spend an evening schmoozing a potential client with expensive scotch. Not only would his wallet pay the price, but also his body and aching head.
The cry came again, louder this time. He swung his feet to the floor and reached for the alarm clock. Six-forty-two. What the devil?
Shuffling to the window, he fisted the blackout curtains and pushed them aside. A man, most-likely ‘Mr. Hubbard’, was wrestling his screaming toddler into the house across the street.
Once the door shut behind them, a semblance of order was restored.
Short-lived it would appear when the door opened again and a woman descended the four steps into the yard. She had a sign of some sort under one arm and wielded a sledge hammer in her opposite hand.
As badly as his head hurt, and as much as he craved the dark solitude of his bedroom, an outright laugh escaped him.
The woman, five-foot-two at the most, probably weighed less than the tool she carried. He gave her the once-over. Despite her diminutive height, her body was one luscious curve after another. He blinked and let go of the curtain’s edge, only to lift it a second time.
Long blonde hair cascaded across her slim shoulders, landing just above her narrow waist. Her hips flared out nicely, a shapely counter balance to her perfectly-rounded breasts.
His body stirred unexpectedly, but he dismissed the reaction as a regular early-morning occurrence. He let the curtain drop again. For all of five seconds.
Cursing his weakness for nicely built women, he pushed the heavy material aside for the third time. While he’d been doing his semi-best to ignore her, she’d made her way to the middle of the massive yard. Placing the pointed end of the wooden stake on the ground, she raised the hammer in the air and dropped the heavy steel head down firmly against the top of the stake. She repeated the hammering process another two times until the sign stood by itself.
Bewitched Day Care: A Magical Place for Your Child
Cute slogan. The creative adman side of his brain acknowledged the catchy phrasing. Yet, all the practical side could see were the two words…day and care. Visions of screaming kids filled his thoughts, aggravating an already pounding head.
Mental note number two: move to the back bedroom, away from the street.
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The friendly neighborhood traditions of Halloween in Bewitched were gleaned from my own childhood when it wasn’t unusual to trek for miles for pillowcases full of candy. Nobody worried about tainted treats.
We’d trick or treat in stores, restaurants, and even in bars. We ran through the streets from the first streetlight until we could barely see our hands in front of our faces. It was the one time our parents looked the other way about curfew and more than one classmate missed school the next day due to a tummy ache.
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NANCY FRASER—Jumping Across Romance Genres with Gleeful Abandon—is an Amazon Top 100 and Award-Winning author who can’t seem to decide which romance genre suits her best. So, she writes them all.
Like most authors, Nancy began writing at an early age, usually on the walls and with crayons or, heaven forbid, permanent markers. Her love of writing often made her the English teacher’s pet which, of course, resulted in a whole lot of teasing. Still, it was worth it.
Published in multiple genres, Nancy actively writes for two publishers, and recently threw her hat into the self-publishing ring. She has published over thirty-five books in full-length, novella, and short format.
When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five wonderful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.
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