Title: Seventeen Days
Author: Linda Griffin
Genre: Romantic Suspense
She wasn't looking for love, but the next seventeen days would change everything.
Divorcee Jenna Scott moves to a quiet California fishing village during the first Gulf War to make a new life in a house inherited from her grandfather. Her next-door neighbor recommends widowed handyman Rick Alvarez to fix her leaky roof. Jenna is intimidated by his good looks and annoyed by his self-assurance but disarmed by his affection for his young son. She is still hurting from her ex-husband's betrayal and resists the attraction between them.
Rick has lived in the village for only three years and is still an outsider, friendly but not sharing his past with anyone. When an attractive vacationer is murdered, local gossip says he is the killer, and rumors spread about his wife's death as well. Jenna is determined not to believe the gossip, but will she ever be able to trust Rick with her wounded heart?
The rain had started again while they were eating. They ran to the pickup, having of course left the umbrella inside it. They left in plenty of time to get back to San Ignacio on schedule, but it rained most of the way, and traffic was slow. The showers finally stopped, but they were running a little late. “I guess we should pick Danny up before I take you home,” he said.
Jenna was dismayed, not because she didn’t want to see Danny or believed his seeing them together would do any harm at this point, but because their good intentions could be so easily derailed. She couldn’t explain her feelings and said only, “I don’t want to make any mistakes.”
“Don’t worry,” Rick said. “He’ll bounce.”
“Will I?” she asked.
“You will,” he said. “Don’t give him the book—save it for dinner tomorrow,” which sounded as if he’d already begun to plan the entire evening. Now she was curious—she wanted to know everything about him and about Danny, to see where they lived, how they lived—would she see pictures of Celia? Did he have a modern kitchen? Did they eat enough vegetables?
San Ignacio Elementary was a small building, but otherwise resembled every other school she had seen. They were in time—the children hadn’t begun to come out yet. When they did, Jenna spotted Danny at once and was surprised by a rush of emotion. She had not seen him since he’d brought her flowers on Monday morning, and so much had happened in between. What an extraordinary thing it was to see the features he shared with Rick in this new light, to discover that strong feelings for a child could come from loving his father, even though she hadn’t given birth to him. If she and Rick had a little girl together, would she have those spectacular cheekbones?
Then she noticed what he must have seen at once. A slender, brown-haired woman in a yellow dress held Danny’s hand, and he had, if not a black eye, at least a bruise on his cheek. Had they been irresponsible in leaving town at such a time? Rick got out of the pickup, moving slowly, and now she realized this reaction, which she had also noticed when Danny skinned his knee at the barbecue, was not calmness, but a way of controlling the instinct to be overprotective. She got out too, but hung back, not sure of her role here.
The woman, presumably Danny’s teacher, greeted Rick coolly. “He was in a fight,” she said. “He didn’t start it.”
“I asked you—” he began.
“I can’t be everywhere every minute, Mr. Alvarez.” She spoke to him with an exaggerated politeness that suggested a previously contentious relationship. “Both boys were kept in at recess,” she went on. “We must remember to use our words, mustn’t we, Danny?”
“Yes, Miss Lacey,” he said meekly, but he was looking at his father.
“Thank you,” Rick said in the same overly polite manner. “I’ll take it from here.”
As soon as the teacher let go of Danny’s hand, Rick got down, eye to eye with his son, and gingerly touched the bruised cheek. Behind Miss Lacey’s back, he gave Danny a light, affectionate punch on the shoulder, a masculine gesture of approval. “Look who’s here,” he said, and Danny looked past him.
“Miss Scott!” he cried and ran straight into her, throwing his arms around her waist. “Are you going to marry us?” he asked.
Jenna was too surprised to speak, and Rick, smiling, said, “Using his words,” and to Danny, “Let’s not put the lady on the spot.”
Recovering, she said, “I’d marry you in a minute, Danny. I’m not so sure about your dad.”
They walked back to the pickup, and Rick said, over Danny’s head and so quietly she wasn’t sure the boy could hear, “She thinks I’ll break her heart, but I won’t.”
She imitated the punch he had given Danny and said, “Behave yourself.”
She would have slid over against the door to make room for Danny, but Rick took him on his lap and fastened the seat belt across both of them. Danny grasped the steering wheel in the approved ten-two position, and Rick put his hands on top of Danny’s.
As they drove away from the school, he asked, “What was the fight about?”
“I don’t know,” Danny said indifferently. “Sean cried.”
“When you hit him?”
“He’s a crybaby,” Danny said. “Are we going to Miss Scott’s house?”
“We’ll take her home,” Rick said. He was smiling. This fatherly pride in such uncivilized behavior was absurd, but she couldn’t help feeling a little of it herself. The important thing was that, whatever had happened, Danny wasn’t upset.
“You are such a dad,” she said.
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
For Father’s Day, Rick is a single father who has made a new life for himself and his young son after the murder of his wife. He is immediately attracted to Jenna, but the romance would be a no-go if she hadn’t also bonded with Danny. InD’Tale magazine said, “The romance begins to shine in the later part of the book, making Rick and Jenna a couple that readers grow to like. The writing provides good insights into all the characters and overall makes them easy to get to know. Seventeen Days quickly develops into a pleasant, nicely paced story.”
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Linda Griffin retired from the San Diego Public Library to spend more time on her writing. Her stories have been published in numerous journals, including Eclectica, Thema, The Binnacle, and Nassau Literary Review. The Wild Rose Press published Seventeen Days (2018), The Rebound Effect (2019), and Guilty Knowledge (2020), and a fourth romantic suspense novel is forthcoming. In addition to the three R’s—reading, writing, and research—she enjoys movies, Scrabble, and travel.
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