Title: HOME IN YOUR ARMS
Author Charlotte O’Shay
Genre Contemporary Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
After her sweetheart Joe dies in a road accident, twenty-four hours after he returns from Army service, grieving Karla Payne slams the door on love.
Five years later, Karla's tavern business is booming, and she owns her home, but she knows forever love has no part in her future. Headed to interview for his first civilian job, retired career Army 1st Sgt. Zane Blackthorne can't resist visiting his late buddy's beloved Vermont hometown. He also can't resist looking up Joe's sweetheart, Karla, who is an alluring mix of brains, beauty, and bravery.
Loyalty to his brother-in-arms demands Zane fight his attraction to Karla. Besides, even if Karla wants him, she'll never love him. Can Zane say goodbye to the woman he has no right to call his own?
Even if his only true home is in her arms?
Business was good at Carpentry Solutions. Zane had money saved from his years in the service. He could add on to Karla’s house if she wanted, or they could find a new one, also if she wanted. But staying put in Willow Springs probably suited her best because her place was in the heart of town and so close to her business. It didn’t matter if she wanted to move to the middle of Asscrack, USA. Zane would go. As long as she’d have him. As long as they were together. At first, he’d expected her to send him away. It finally dawned on him Karla might be content to have a long-term relationship without any commitment and without marriage. He was not down with that. Or to better state it, he would give everything to convince Karla to make it permanent with him and only him. What if she told him what they had was fine without anything more permanent? What would he do then? If she didn’t want more, his pride told him he’d walk away. His heart knew he’d probably stay with her. So he had to revise his plan. Plan B would require him to lay his heart on the line and tell her how he felt. To be honest, the thought of verbalizing his feelings was the scariest shit he ever had to contemplate. But of course, Karla deserved everything he had to give, deserved his soul bare and his good intentions clear.
When he arrived at the tavern Friday night, Karla’s eyes lit up the way they always did. Her gaze tracked him as he walked around the tavern searching out the corners with problems he could fix, greeting the regulars with a word of hello and a handshake. Karla’s younger brother Ken was behind the bar helping, and he came around to chat. Ken had an interest in the military which Zane knew better than to encourage. He thought the young man would make a fine soldier, but he didn’t spare him on the rough aspects of the life from surviving basic to the furnace and freezer like temperatures a soldier encountered in the desert. At closing time, as had become his habit, he helped Karla with the heavy lifting.
Finally alone, when they were walking home, he was too nervous not to lay the groundwork of the beginning of Plan B.
“I sent in my affirmative response to Jed and Sam for their wedding,” he said.
The wedding was coming up in late May. Samantha had changed her wedding date twice to accommodate her father’s mother who would be traveling from Italy to attend. As a consequence, the invitations went out a little late. But since so many of the guests, those living in Willow Springs at least, were in on the date changes, the invitation had become more of a pretty formality. Except to Zane. He was using it to make a point.
She laughed. “Affirmative? Military speak for you rsvp’d yes? But it’s weird, isn’t it? I was expecting Sam and Jed to invite me with you as my plus one,” Karla said.
“I guess they wanted me to know I was invited as me and not as your date. I mean, you could easily choose another person to accompany you.”
Her eyes widened with an “I can’t believe you said that” look. “What the heck are you talking about, Zane? Who on earth would I ask to accompany me except you?”
“I don’t know. I hope no one else. But we are individuals—not a unit. How would you define us? What am I to you, Karla?”
Karla stopped short on the corner, her eyes swirling with emotion. “What’s with you, Blackthorne? I’m with you. I’ve been with you for almost six weeks. We’re a couple.”
“Are we? I don’t want to take anything for granted. We sleep together.”
“Now you’re getting me pissed off, first sergeant!” Her balled fists bounced off her hips.
“How would you define what we have, Karla? Booty call? Friends with benefits?” He forced his voice into reasonable but she wasn’t having it.
“Don’t even say it, Zane. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”
“Karla, I’m not saying anything besides our relationship isn’t settled. I’m happy they invited me because I want to witness their vows. I like Samantha and Jed.”
“Of course, but we are a couple. They could have invited us as such.”
“Or we could break up, and since they want both of us there, they invited us as individuals. Where’s the harm?”
She spoke through tight lips. “There is no harm. But I thought we were a couple.”
“I think we’d have to declare ourselves for that. I dunno, live in the same house, or maybe get engaged.”
“I…I…” He watched as her face flooded with angry or maybe fearful color. Whatever it was, she was finding it tough to contain her emotions.
“It’s okay, Karla. The plus side is…we’re both going to the wedding. And maybe you don’t want me to say it straight out, but I know what I am to you. I’m a warm body. Someone to hold in the middle of the night. I get that. On a level, I love it. But if you ever want more…”
She scowled. “More? What in hell is going on here? We’re so happy the way we are.”
“Am I? Are you? I want more. I want a home and a family. I’ve been in a state of flux for twenty years; my only stability was the service but that’s behind me now. I’m ready for more.”
“But everything’s perfect the way it is. Isn’t it?” Tears glazed her eyes, but her voice was fierce.
“Maybe for you, but not for me. I’m not a kid anymore, Karla.” They’d reached her front door.
“Are you breaking up with me?” Her hair glowed like fire under the porchlight. She looked like a lively evening sprite, something half fairy, half human—the kind he saw on those old timey magazine ads, but instead of exuding happy sparks of “optimism and positivity, her eyes shot daggers. Karla was pissed.
“I don’t want to leave, but I’ll go if you don’t want me to stay.”
As he watched, her eyes filled and her chin firmed. Not speaking, she lifted her chin as she shook her head from side to side. Her mouth opened but no sound came out. But he read the words she was mouthing. “Please. Go.”
Crap. How had he so royally fucked this up?”
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We're celebrating the new release of Home in Your Arms by Charlotte O'Shay and you can win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Click below to enter:
Runs October 2 - 17 and is open to US/Canada residents.
Winners will be drawn on October 19, 2020.
Award-winning, NYC author Charlotte O’Shay is the middle child of a big family who married into an equally boisterous large family.
Arguing, er…negotiating skills honed at the dinner table led her to a career in law.
After four beautiful children joined the crowded family tree, Charlotte traded her legal career to write romance which has been called “emotional, intoxicating and irresistible.”
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