Title: Ed’s Blind Date Dilemma
(Note: While this is part of a “series” with several other authors, it’s a standalone story unrelated to the others in the series. So it’s “Book 6” in the collection, but each is its own story, with totally different characters and settings, just tied with a common theme.)
Author: Katie O’Sullivan
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Ed MacDonald lost the only woman he’d ever loved to cancer three years ago. A single dad and small town cop, his options for dating are limited by circumstance and gossip, but he’s okay with that. Ed knows he’s already had his happily ever after, even if it didn’t last forever. Except… as his cousins and friends start finding love, it makes him wonder if there might be someone else out there for him. The ink on her divorce papers is finally dry, and Claire Masters wants a fresh start. Moving to a new state and a new school district, she agrees to a blind date and gets a whole lot more than she bargained for. Sexy and sensitive, Ed seems like everything she’s always wanted in a guy… until she realizes he’s the father of one of her students. A girl who’s been telling Claire troubling things about her home life. Can she reconcile the man she’s falling for with the monster her student describes?
The sun hovered over the surface of the ocean before starting its slow descent, disappearing below the horizon, the sky around it blazing with fiery shades of orange and red. Claire sipped her glass of wine, trying to remember the last time she’d taken the time to sit and watch the sun set. “Beautiful,” she murmured.
“Yeah, beautiful,” Ed agreed. When she shifted her gaze toward him, she realized his dark blue eyes were trained on her instead of the sunset. The butterflies in her belly started whirling, and she took another sip of her Chardonnay, hoping to calm them. Maybe if I drink enough wine, the butterflies will get drunk and fall asleep. The corners of her mouth twitched up at the silly thought… and at the out of control feelings those blue eyes inspired. Get ahold of yourself, Claire. She forced her gaze back out to the ocean.
The Beach Grille’s deck overlooked the Atlantic, a perfect sandy beach stretching out and down half a mile from the restaurant’s edge toward the small waves lapping at the shoreline. The gentle slopes of the dunes were punctuated with clumps of tall seagrass waving in the gentle breeze coming off the water. Weathered wooden posts topped with old fashioned looking lanterns lined a pathway, and Claire watched as they blinked on one by one in the gathering darkness.
The deck itself was lit with thousands of twinkle lights wrapped around the posts and beams, as well as jarred candles dotting every table, giving off a surprising amount of light now that the sun had set. And the flickering light did wonderful things to those deep blue eyes staring at her from across the table.
She cleared her throat. She liked him, and liked that conversation flowed easily between them. In a way it felt like they were old friends, talking about childhood pets, sibling rivalry, and high school football. Except for that distinctive undercurrent of desire swirling through her… the one she was pretty sure she could feel coming off her date in waves.
He seemed as interested in her as she was in him. But then again, he had that near panic attack in the park when he made his confession about not dating since his wife passed away. Eight years of marriage to his high school sweetheart. When he first told her they got married straight out of school, she thought he meant college, but he dispelled that idea when she’d asked about his alma mater and found out he’d gone straight to the police academy after graduating from Nauset High. Her sisters would have walked away from the table right then and there, convinced that anyone without a college degree wasn’t worth dating. Dennis would probably laugh at her as well, turning his nose up at Ed’s lack of sophistication. Which was a ridiculous thought – why should she care what Dennis thought of her date?
She realized that while Ed had told her about his wife, she’d never confessed her marital status. “You mentioned your wife before… and I guess I should confess that I’ve been married too. Divorced now.”
“Not at all,” she said with a wry grin. “I started dating Dennis while I was in grad school. I thought he was everything I wanted. Turns out I had no idea who he was, and he couldn’t care less who I really am. Took me a while to figure out my mistake, and a little longer to extricate myself.” She took another gulp of her wine. “Looking back, I think I was too young to know what I wanted in a relationship.”
“Would you want to get married again?”
The question startled her, seeming to come from so far out in left field. Marriage? Subjecting herself to the dictates of another man? Between the bitter divorce proceedings and the drawn out house sale, she hadn’t considered wanting to shackle herself to anyone ever again. But then again, not all marriages were bad. All of her friends from college led happily married lives, with doting husbands and smiling kids filling her Instagram feed on a daily basis. Almost all the teachers at her new school were also married and seemed happy. Even her date admitted he’d been happy in his marriage until cancer stole his wife. Just because Dennis was wrong for her didn’t mean the institution of marriage was wrong.
Before she could answer his question, Ed placed his warm hand on top of hers. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you with too personal a question.”
“No, it’s okay,” she assured him and realized she meant it. “I never stopped to think about it before now. Never considered my options. The last few months living alone in the cottage have actually been pretty great. My ex was kind of a control freak, and I guess at the moment I’m enjoying my freedom.”
“Understandable.” He started to pull his hand away but she turned hers over so they were palm to palm and caught his fingers.
“I… I didn’t mean it to sound like I’m not interested.”
His lips quirked up at the corners. “Are you? Interested?” The low, seductive tone of his voice sent heat rushing to her face. And other places.
“I might be.”
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What’s your favorite activity to shake off the winter doldrums?
In a non-pandemic year, my favorite thing is to take a week off to road trip. We visit my sister on her farm in northern Vermont, or visit my parents down in Georgia. Each trip has their pros and cons. Vermont is much closer, and over the years the kids and I have gone skiing, snowboarding, sledding, maple-sugaring, snow shoeing, skating, and dog sledding. (Not usually all in the same visit!) Georgia is a longer drive, but a warmer destination for sure, with beach visits and historic Savannah to explore.
This year I think spring cleaning the house from top to bottom while blasting loud music might be on tap! Not as fun as dog sledding… but there’s always next year.
Why is your featured book a cure for the winter blues?
My book is set on Cape Cod, a destination usually associated with warm sandy beaches and hot summer nights. Except that the story starts in the winter and early spring between a local police officer and a middle school teacher, each looking for a second chance at love. Ed lost his wife to cancer years ago and this is his first time climbing back on the dating rollercoaster. Claire just got out of an unhappy marriage and is looking to spread her wings and convince herself that not all men are selfish jerks.
Spring. Renewal. Looking forward. Second chances. (Hot Sex.)
Sounds like a cure for winter blues to me!
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Katie O’Sullivan is an award-winning author with more than a dozen books contemporary romance and young adult books to her name, available online and in stores.
A voracious reader, she loves to read and write second chance stories with strong female characters and hot alpha males. A recovering English major, she earned her degree at Colgate University and now lives on Cape Cod with her family and big dogs, drinking way too much coffee and finding new uses for all the sea glass she obsessively collects from the beach. She writes YA and romantic suspense novels, as well as working full time for a high-tech company. Which explains all the coffee.
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