Title: Light the Way Home
Author: Elizabeth Andrews
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Single dad Nate Baxter has his hands full with his son and his haunted lighthouse. He doesn’t have time to spend with a woman...especially one who won’t stick around, like his ex-wife.
But Lucie Russo’s not like other women Nate’s met. She’s sweet and sexy, and his mouth waters every time he’s around her.
Will a family emergency cause him to break his relationship rules? And if he does, will his heart be broken too?
Nate schooled his expression to neutrality before turning around. Hayden’s chin jutted stubbornly, and his blue eyes narrowed. “I’m saying Lucie might be busy right now,” Nate said evenly. “Maybe we’ll see her outside tomorrow.”
“I can knock on the door.” His son crossed his arms on his chest, covering the spotted blue dog graphic. “She said we’d play later, and it’s later.”
“We can check, but, buddy, you have to promise not to be upset if she’s busy. Plus it’ll be suppertime soon, so we’ll be busy here, too.”
Hayden’s chin jutted out further.
“Just don’t get your hopes up,” he said, trying to keep his tone from dropping in defeat.
Hayden bolted for the back door.
Nate followed more slowly, picking up his son’s jacket from the chair inside the door. By the time he reached the bottom step, he heard his son’s voice, then Lucie spoke in reply, though he couldn’t hear the words. When he cleared the lilac bushes, he expected to see Hayden’s shoulders droop.
He was a little surprised to see the two of them walking into the middle of the neighboring yard while Lucie bounced the big yellow ball on one hand. Huh. He would’ve bet on her putting Hayden off. He paused at the open gate between the yards to watch them. They’d stopped, and she crouched in front of Hayden, who chattered a mile a minute. She nodded as she rose.
Hayden jogged backward a few steps, grinning, then held out both hands.
Lucie gave the ball another bounce before she tossed it to him.
His son caught it, giggling. “Too easy,” he shouted. He jumped once, then moved a few more steps away from her. “Ready?”
“Ready!” She leaned forward and held out her hands.
Nate wished he could see her expression.
Hayden lobbed the ball at her, and she caught it before it hit her in the face. He smiled and shook his head when his laughing son danced backward a couple more paces. “Throw it again!”
“You sure you can catch it so far away?” The tease in her voice made Nate relax. Lucie Russo might be a nice woman. Mindi and Harry trusted her, which meant she was okay.
But she seemed to be enjoying his son, genuinely enjoying him. Maybe she had nieces or nephews–she was comfortable, chatting with Hayden as they played catch.
He leaned on the fence to watch.
“Daddy, come play with us!”
Lucie straightened and looked over her shoulder, eyes widening.
Nate felt a little kick in his gut at the appealing image–pink cheeks, green eyes that tipped up at the outer corners, full lower lip dropping a tiny bit. Lucie Russo was pretty.
He reined that in as he straightened. He didn’t have time for pretty–he had enough on his plate with his son, his business and the lighthouse. Besides, Lucie would be gone as soon as the neighbors returned. “You forgot your jacket, buddy.” He held up the red garment by the collar.
Hayden heaved a dramatic sigh, but he ran toward Nate. “All right.”
Nate helped him into it, then smiled as the boy rushed back to Lucie, who bent to listen to his chatter, nodding in response.
He started to turn away, then whirled around when the ball hit him square in the back.
Both Hayden and Lucie smiled, and Nate noted the way his son had grabbed her hand. He narrowed his eyes at them, pretending annoyance while he bent to pick up the ball. “Who did that?” he asked gruffly.
They both shrugged and exchanged a sidelong glance.
“Hayden?” He balanced the ball on his fingertips.
His son shrugged again, trying for an innocent expression, but giggling.
Her lips twitched, but one of her shoulders lifted in a half-shrug.
Nate considered the pair of them for a few seconds. He bounced the ball once. “Hm,” he said finally, palming the ball. “Eeny, meenie, miney–”
“Moe,” Nate finished, throwing the ball at Lucie instead of his expectant son.
She caught it, chuckling. “What gave me away?”
“He did.” He pointed at his son, who giggled some more. “That giggle is a tell.”
“Ah, well, now I know not to play poker with him.” She looked down at Hayden. “How far can you catch?”
“Far, far,” he claimed and ran across the backyard.
“Really? That far?” She glanced at Nate, who lifted his eyebrows. “Well, let’s find out.” She threw the ball hard enough to reach the boy, who snagged it before it hit the grass. “Wow, nice catch.” She smiled.
Nate watched his son lob the ball, but his little arms couldn’t get it all the way back, so he chased after it, then threw it again, this time at Nate, who jogged forward a few steps to catch it. He held it out to Lucie, whose left eyebrow rose. “I have some prep to do if this boy wants supper tonight.”
“I actually have a big pot of soup on the stove, if you guys would like to join me.” She bit her lip.
“Yes!” Hayden ran over to them. “What kinda soup?”
Nate started to shake his head, then saw his son’s happy expression fall. “It’s nice of you to invite us,” he said carefully, noting the disappointment that clouded Lucie’s eyes before she dropped her gaze. “I don’t want to infringe on your space.”
Hayden opened his mouth, so Nate cleared his throat.
“But soup sounds really good.”
What’s your favorite thing about the Fall season:
It’s so hard to narrow it down to just one thing, but since I have to, I’ll say the sheer beauty of the season change: the leaves brightening the world on shorter, cooler days. In my home state of Pennsylvania, the mountains are just gorgeous in full fall bloom, with the glow of bright yellow, orange and red leaves, and photos just don’t do them justice.
What inspired you to write this story:
I am a writer who loves having a deadline to make sure I get words on the page, so when the opportunity arose, I joined a group called “Common Elements Romance Project”. We voted on a small group of items that everyone’s story had to include. I took the opportunity to set my story in one of my favorite places: Maine. It allowed me to create an island with a lighthouse ghost, and two people who have no intention of starting a relationship right now, but fate has other plans for them.
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