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Heart's Cove Hotties Book 6: Dirty Little Midlife Secret

Heart's Cove Hotties Book 6: Dirty Little Midlife Secret

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Secrets don’t stay hidden for long in Heart’s Cove…

Lily has a secret, and it’s about to come out. The forty-year-old free spirit will tell her family, deal with the fallout, and move on with her life.
Within a year, she’ll be back to normal, with the addition of a little bundle of joy.

Then she meets Rudy.

Handsome, charming, roguish Rudy.
The man who drifts through life with a smile on his lips and sin in his gaze.
The man who makes her body heat and her mind spiral into all the places that should be locked away.

Because when the truth comes out, their romance is doomed.
No man will stick around when he finds out she’s pregnant…and definitely not when he finds out what she’s 
really hiding.

MAIN TROPES

  • 40+ year old characters
  • Small town
  • Secret baby
  • Reverse age gap
  • Second chances
  • Comedy
  • Steamy/Spicy

Chapter 1 Look Inside

THERE ARE TWO secrets, really. One is a blessing, and the other is a curse.

I’m still coming to grips with them both—and trying to figure out how to tell my family. My mother, Lottie, won’t know how to react. She’ll be ecstatic and dismayed and overwhelmed. She’ll tell her best friend Dorothy, which means the whole town will know what’s happening within minutes.

My two sisters, Candice and Katrina, will burst into mother-hen mode.

Telling them what’s been going on will be a good thing. They’ll be supportive. They’ll have my back. I’ll be able to grieve all the things that have gone wrong, and maybe even celebrate the things that might go right. I’ll be able to move on.

So why haven’t I told anyone yet?

The past six weeks have felt like I’m driving through a snowstorm in the dead of night. I can see four or five feet ahead of me, a small cone of light that quickly falls away to complete darkness. Snowflakes swirl and dart above the blacktop in front of me as my windshield wipers flick over and back at full speed, and I’m just gripping the steering wheel praying there isn’t a patch of black ice beneath my tires. Ask me what bends are coming up in the road, and I’ll just laugh. How the hell would I know? I’m barely able to keep the car between the lines, let alone see what kind of hairpin turns are coming up next.

Running my finger along the edge of one of the ten thousand brochures I’ve been given over the past four weeks since I’ve been back in Heart’s Cove, I try to focus on what my doctor is saying.

My obstetrician, Dr. Alder, leans against the edge of his desk, crossing his legs at the ankle. He’s a handsome man in his late fifties. He has an easy confidence about him that put me at ease the first time I met him. Now, the familiar nerves that have been plaguing me for just under two months are bubbling up again. “We’ve reviewed your file from the hospital in Milan and are happy to monitor your condition for the next three to five weeks. As you know, we won’t be able to start any further treatment until you enter your second trimester.”

I nod. I do know this. I probably have three or four or ten brochures shoved in one of my kitchen drawers that say something to that effect.

I found out I was pregnant six weeks ago. The first day of my last menstrual period was three weeks before that, which means I’m nine weeks along. I found out about the second big bombshell in my life four and a half weeks ago and ran back to Heart’s Cove a few days later.

So, here I am. Surrounded by loving family, feeling isolated in my own personal midnight snowstorm.

“Now, with geriatric pregnancies there are a host of added risks.” Dr. Alder looks at me with his warm brown eyes, his voice soft and understanding. “Not to mention the treatment plan we’ve put together for your—”

Before he can finish his sentence—and before he can jump into the even longer laundry list of things that might go wrong with me—I sit up. “Can we call it something else?”

Dr. Alder frowns. “Pardon?”

“‘Geriatric pregnancy,’” I explain. “I’m turning forty next week. That’s hardly geriatric, and I feel old enough as it is.” I spread my hands. “Maybe, ‘mature?’ Or, um… ‘sunset?’ ‘Grown-up pregnancy?’”

Dr. Alder gives me a patient, kind smile that makes me want to throttle him. “It’s just the term used for pregnancies in women over the age of thirty-five. Some doctors use it for women over thirty. It doesn’t mean you’re geriatric.”

“No, only my womb.” I suck in a breath and shake my head. “Sorry. I guess ‘sunset pregnancy’ sounds ridiculous.”

Dr. Alder studies me for a moment, then stands up as he inhales sharply. “I’m going to give you a referral to Dr. Melissa Gardner. She’s a psychiatrist who specializes in fertility, pregnancy, miscarriage, and postpartum depression and anxiety.”

“You think I need a shrink?” My voice comes out shriller than I’d intended. I haven’t even told my mother about this, and he wants me to spill my guts to a stranger.

Dr. Alder flicks through dozens of business cards until he finds the right one, then hands it to me. “I think a woman going through as much as you should take advantage of all the support she can get.” His face grows serious, and he leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “Iliana, this will only get more difficult. You’ll need help.”

I take the card and read it. Another piece of paperwork for my ever-growing collection. Gulping, I nod and wave the card in a small circle. “Thanks.”

“Mention my name and Dr. Gardner will slot you in as soon as she can.”

“Name-drop you. Got it. Does that work for other things? Exclusive clubs? Discounts at local restaurants? Do I get a senior discount card now that I’m officially geriatric?”

Dr. Alder starts typing on his computer and completely ignores my irreverence. “Make the call, Iliana.”

Knowing when I’m dismissed, I gather my purse and bid him goodbye. After a quick stop at the reception desk to make my next appointment, I step outside into the mid-July sunshine. Northern California has never been my home, but I think I might have liked it here if my life wasn’t a complete mess.

How can it feel like a snowstorm in the middle of summer? How can the sun soak into my skin, yet all I feel is cold?

The edges of the business card cut into my palm, and in some dark corner of my mind, I know Dr. Alder is right. I need to talk to someone. A professional someone.

My phone dings, pulling me away from my thoughts. I fish it out of my purse and look at the screen, heart jumping.

It’s Rudy, the thirty-four-year-old who has been adding to my growing to-be-read list for the past couple of weeks. He works part-time at his grandmother’s bookstore, and he’s just about the hottest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.

Then again, I’m a hormonal, emotional wreck, and he happens to have a nice smile. I might be overstating his attractiveness.

I’ve gone to the bookstore twice since I arrived in Heart’s Cove last month, and both times left me hot and bothered as I trundled back to my car with an armload of new books. I’m fairly sure he’s been flirting, but…you know. Hormonal, emotional, et cetera. He could just be friendly.

How did he get my number?

I swipe to unlock my phone and read his message.
Rudy: Hey Lily. Rudy here. Got your number from Candice. We just got the newest Lee Child book in stock and I set one aside for you. I’ll be here until the end of the day if you wanted to grab it.
I’ve got my phone in one hand, and Dr. Gardner’s card in the other. I glance at both hands, eyes shifting from one to the other. It would be easy to dial the number on the card and make an appointment. Maybe it would be easier to talk to a stranger about everything that’s going on.

Or I could ignore the shrink and answer Rudy.

Is it a good idea to continue this less-than-innocent flirtation with Agnes’s grandson that will probably end with me heartbroken and embarrassed? No.

Is it a good idea to get involved with anyone considering what I’m about to go through? Definitely no.

Am I someone who usually makes good decisions?

I stuff the card in my purse and answer Rudy’s text.
Me: Be over this afternoon!
Before I can indulge in a little Rudy-shaped distraction, I have a date with my sister. A few minutes after my OB appointment, Trina meets me outside the local nail salon and gives me a big hug.

“I’m so glad you could make it.” She beams at me, opening the door to let me in. “Things have been hectic, but the kids are with Mac, and Mom is busy at Candice’s new house, so I figured we could use some alone time.”

Tension still grips my chest, but I hide it behind a smile. “You always say a pedicure solves ninety-nine percent of problems.”

“And it’s true, too!” Trina laughs and waves at the nail tech who appears from behind a door at the back of the salon.

We’re led to big, black massage chairs and told to sit down. I kick off my shoes and rest them on the foot pad, sinking into the seat. The chair starts vibrating and rolling along my back and instead of soothing me, it makes me feel like vomiting. I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

I turn the chair off and catch my sister’s watchful eye. She arches a brow.

“So, tell me how you and Mac met.” I give my sister my best casual grin. “You promised me the story when I first arrived in town, but all you’ve done is deflect.”

Trina laughs. Since I last saw her, her whole demeanor has changed. Then again, last time I saw her was a couple of years ago, when she was still married to her jerk of an ex-husband. She looks younger and more vibrant than ever, and she tells me all about the whirlwind romance that happened between her and Mac. How he let her ride on his motorcycle and she just about died from how raw and sexual it was. Then they got—ahem—messy doing pottery together, and she thought she had died and gone to heaven. She laughs as she tells me how she thought everything went wrong, but now that all’s said and done, she knows he’s so perfect for her his kisses make her teeth ache from the sweetness of it all.

“You deserve someone to treat you like a queen,” I tell her as I finally make my nail polish selection from the thousands of available shades. The nail tech smiles as if I’ve just made the most important decision of my life. She nods solemnly at the little plastic sample of nail polish and moves to the wall of bottles to grab my selection. It makes some of the tension in my shoulders seep out, and I wonder if Trina is right about the whole pedicures-solve-all-problems thing.

“Enough about me,” Trina says. “You still haven’t told anyone why you’re back. Mom is asking me about it every day.”

“Funny, she’s not asking me about it,” I deadpan.

“She’s too scared you’ll take off on an international trip and not come back for another three years.” Trina laughs, but I hear the truth in her words.

I’ve spent the last fifteen—nearly twenty—years of my life traveling the world. Six months in one place, two years in another. Wherever I could get a visa, I’d lay some shallow roots and explore. I built my business to be entirely remote, and as long as I had my laptop and an internet connection, I was all set. It was perfect for me…until it wasn’t. Until the freight train of life came down the tracks and flattened me.

The woman doing my feet squirts some lotion on my legs and starts massaging my calves, and a tiny bit more stress ekes out of me. Maybe I could tell Trina about the baby and about…everything else.

Stress seizes every muscle in my body at the thought of spilling my guts to my sister.

I grip the edge of the chair as my nail tech glances up, frowning. She can feel the tension in my legs as I do my best to let the thoughts pass through me and let my muscles relax.

How can I possibly say the words out loud when thinking them sends me into a panic?

I definitely need professional help.

“Okay, if you won’t tell me why you’re back, why don’t you tell me why Rudy was asking Candice for your number?” Trina’s eyes glitter, and I groan.

“No secrets in Heart’s Cove, huh.”

“Girl, get used to it.” My sister laughs. “I went through hell trying to keep this thing between me and Mac under wraps. It’s only fair that I get to have some fun too.”

I roll my eyes. “Nothing’s going on. He just got the new Lee Child book in stock and wanted to let me know.”

Trina purses her lips and inspects her fingernails before flicking her eyes to me. “Funny, he didn’t text me about any new books.”

I wave a hand. “It’s nothing.”

“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, Lily.” Trina grins. “From Jen and Fallon to you and Rudy, this summer is shaping up to be a lot of fun.”

“There’s nothing going on between me and Rudy. I’ll prove it to you. Look.” I pull out my phone from my purse. The movement sends part of my brochure collection spilling out of my bag, but I hold them back with a hand while I unlock and hand over my phone. “See? Books.”

Trina reads the texts with an arched brow as I try stuffing my crumpled brochures back into my purse. When Trina passes my phone back, she catches a little square of cardboard as it slips off the arm of my chair.

Before I can snatch it back, Trina pulls the business card toward her. “Dr. Melissa Gardner,” she reads. “Perinatal psychiatry.” Her eyes widen as her head whips around toward me. “Lily…”

I extend a hand. “Give it back.”

“Is this why you came back? Are you…?” Trina lets the word hang. Her eyes drift down to my stomach, but I know I’m not showing yet.

I clench my hands into fists to stop myself gripping my middle. The last thing I need is the game of Heart’s Cove Gossip Telephone to start about me. “Give it back, Trina.” My words tremble, and I stare into my sister’s eyes when she meets my gaze again.

She says nothing as she hands the business card back to me.

I stuff it back into the depths of my purse and shake my head. “It’s nothing.”
Trina stays quiet for a few long minutes. We finish our pedicure in silence and when I stand up to leave, I jerk my thumb over my shoulder. “I’m going to go to the bookstore. I’ll see you around.”

Trina opens her mouth to say something, but reconsiders. Finally, she just nods. “Okay. And Lily?”

“Yeah?”

“You know you can come over whenever you want, right? I can ask Mac to watch the kids or get a sitter or whatever. We can grab dinner or just go for a walk. I’m always here. I won’t tell anyone about the business card.”

My throat is tight and I manage to nod. “Okay. Thanks.”

It’s not until I’m down the street and out of sight that I manage to take a full breath.

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