Title: Blue Skies of Summer
Author: Hope Malory
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Coach Blake McLemore loves women. All women. The way they look, the way they smell, the way he feels when he is with them. But, he has yet to meet one he wants to commit to much less spend a lifetime with. Until he meets Krystan.
Krystan Parks breaks free from an abusive marriage. While she and her son escape to a peaceful small town, danger follows them. The last thing she wants is another man in her life. Until she meets Blake.
What are the odds for a matchup between a jaded single mom on the run and the handsome ladies’ man protecting her from a desperate ex-husband? Will their season end with a strikeout or a homerun?
Blake McLemore stared in horror as a stranger bolted into the Yellow Butterfly Café wielding a handgun. A customer screamed. Familiar faces of the regular lunch crowd packed the restaurant. Friends, neighbors, and three of his baseball players. Moments before, conversation, laughter, and sounds of people eating filled the room. Now, everyone fell silent.
“Krystan.” The shout drew Blake’s attention back to the gunman. “I know you’re here.” The man edged along the side wall of the dining area scanning every table with the barrel pointed as he moved. “I’ll start shooting until you come out.” The cashier fainted when he swung the gun in her direction.
Frustrated, Blake was too far away to tackle the guy. Any wrong moves and someone would be injured—or worse.
Mia, the café owner, eased through the kitchen door with her hands up. “Krystan isn’t here.”
“You’re lying. If she doesn’t come out, you’re the first one I’ll shoot.” He yelled louder, “Krystan.”
Blake grew up with Mia, and she never shied away from anything, yet her voice tremored, and fear clouded her eyes.
“I swear she left.”
The man aimed the gun toward her and fired.
A frisson of fear shot through Blake. Seconds passed before he released the breath he held while waiting to discover Mia’s fate. Cold sweat trickled down his back.
The bullet struck the wall above her head. Was it intentional or did he miss? Screams rang through the café. Mia’s body shook, her eyes wild. She wobbled and reached for a chair for support.
How could he not intervene? But he had no weapon. Blake scanned the faces of his baseball players who sat in a booth near the kitchen where Mia stood. One of them signaled to him they would jump the stranger given an opportunity.
An idea materialized. Disturbed by the realization this might not work, he questioned his impending action. The shooter inched closer toward Mia. Blake acted on impulse rather than thought and hesitated only for a second knowing this was not a wise decision but the only option. He snatched the baseball still in his jacket pocket from the last practice, held it up to alert his athletes, and hurled it at the gunman’s head like a guided missile.
When the ball struck him and knocked him off balance, the three young men jumped the man and wrestled him to the floor. One kicked the pistol out of his hand. Blake charged toward them and wrenched the perpetrator’s arms behind his back.
“Everybody move outside and away from the building.” They rushed out, some in tears.
All the color drained from Mia’s face. She clutched her heart.
“Are you all right?” Blake asked.
“Scared the living daylights out of me, but I’ll live.” Her body shook. “For a quiet little town, Azalea Valley has had more action today than in all my years.”
“Someone call the police,” he ordered.
“Already done,” Mia said. “They’re on their way.”
The man cursed and struggled to free himself. Blake pressed his knee in the gunman’s back and jerked his right arm upward until he moaned. “Unless you want some hometown justice, you would be wise to keep still, but I’ll warn you, you’ll do better with the cops.”
“Mia, how did you know to notify the police?”
“We were in the kitchen and heard the commotion. Krystan recognized his voice and said he’s trouble. I instructed her to leave and make the call.”
The man jerked and muttered, “Bitch.”
Blake tightened his hold. He knew everyone in town, especially the females, but the one in question he had not yet met. “Who is Krystan?”
“My new server,” Mia answered.
Sirens and screeching tires sounded outside. The tension in Blake’s shoulders eased, and he sighed with relief.
His pitcher and star player said, “Nice arm, Coach.”
“Great job, guys. I couldn’t let you grab all the glory for bringing this piece of crap down.”
Chief Bartlett and one of his recruits rushed in guns drawn. The younger officer picked up the Glock 40. Chief cuffed the guy, jerked him to standing, and read him his rights. “What’s your name, son?” The offender stood stone-faced and stared straight ahead.
Bartlett reached into the alleged criminal’s pocket for his wallet and opened it to his driver’s license. “Says you’re from Ohio. What are you doing in Tennessee, Mr. Luke Parks?” When he didn’t answer, Chief continued, “Well, let’s take you to the station and find out if we can loosen up your tongue a little. What happened to your head?”
Joshua, the pitcher, said, “Coach beaned him with the baseball, and we took him down.”
“If you guys get tired of playing for Coach here, we can use more recruits.”
“Hey, Jim, you leave my players alone.”
The chief quirked his mouth, the closest to a smile he would ever come. “Nice work, Coach McLemore. Advise everyone to come inside and sit at the tables where they were. Mia, I’m sorry, but after we interview them all, you’ll need to shut the café down until we clear this as a crime scene. My men are on their way.”
As Jim and his officer escorted the shooter out of the restaurant, Mia stepped up, stared him square in the eyes, and said, “You’ll get what you deserve, you sorry excuse for a human being.”
When the customers returned to their seats, Mr. Slatterly, the retired postmaster, said, “Damn, son, the last time I saw you throw a baseball that hard, a Boston Red Sox scout had a radar gun on you.”
Blake grinned. “Motivation, sir.”
Though Mia insisted she was all right, he waited with her until they questioned the staff and customers. After everyone left, Mia hugged him. “Thanks. Chief said his name is Luke Parks. Parks is Krystan’s last name. A jealous husband perhaps?”
“Don’t you check out new employees?”
Mia lifted her shoulders. “Who’s stupid enough to put ‘a crazy husband’ on their resume?”
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Blue Skies of Summer is a story of courage and perseverance for a fiery, independent single mother on the run and a handsome ladies’ man whose mission is to protect her and her son. This romantic suspense is packed with action, engaging characters, friendship, fierce loyalty to family, and gorgeous settings. The novel is for anyone who enjoys intrigue, romance, action, drama, nature, and charming small towns with a strong sense of family and community.
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Hope Malory, author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels, grew up in a small Tennessee town. An avid reader, she was often away on