· When Ruby Rhodes meets Jane Coblentz for the first time in the middle of a hurricane. (Welcome to Last Chance)
Riding out the hurricane had just reached a new level of tedium when a woman wearing a bright yellow rain slicker and a pair of matching pants opened the door and said, "Goodness gracious, who are you?"
The newcomer had a round face with a riot of curls that had been permed into place. She was carrying a large Tupperware lunch bucket filled with fried chicken.
"Uh, I'm Jane." Jane scrambled to her feet as the woman carefully scrutinized her. The woman's gaze swept over the sleeping bag, Jane's oversized sweatshirt, and her wet jeans, jacket, and tank top hung over a folding chair.
Something seemed to hang in the balance for an instant, and then the woman let go of a large and genuine smile. "Oh dear me, I'm sorry, darlin', I must have scared you nearly 'bout to death. Let me introduce myself. I'm Clay's momma, Ruby. I just brought him some dinner."
Ohmygod, his mother! Jane stifled the urge to tug on the neck of the sweatshirt. Heaven help her if the hickey was visible.
· When Dash Randall discovers snakes in the Kismet movie theater, and Savannah doesn’t believe him, because he’s teased her about snakes too many times. (Last Chance Book Club)
Savannah got as far as the landing when Dash came barreling down the stairs in the opposite direction. “Honey, there are rattlesnakes up in the projection room. I don’t know how many. We need to get out of here.”
“Dash, come on. I’m not falling for this a second or a third time. So you can just quit. If you came here to play some kind of practical joke on me, I—”
She never finished her sentence because Dash picked her up and threw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, thereby giving her a close-up-and-personal view of his Wrangler-clad backside. Unfortunately she was so furious with him that she couldn't entirely enjoy the moment.
“Dash, put me down.”
She got no response. Instead he marched down the stairs oblivious to her demands or even the fists she used to pummel his sexy derriere.
She was still hollering when he finally set her down on the sidewalk outside the theater.
“You overbearing, annoying, cowboy-hat-wearing, practical-joke-playing ass—” She took a big swing at his face, but he caught her fist before she got anywhere close to his jaw.
“You know, princess, you always did have one heck of a temper.”
· When Simon helps Jane deliver her baby at the Knit & Stitch and the new parents are in for the surprise of a lifetime. (Last Chance Knit & Stitch)
Simon steadied the newborn with his long-fingered hands as Jane gave one final push. The baby slid out, and Simon tipped the wet and slippery child over onto Jane’s tummy and covered it with the blanket. The baby was crying like it was the end of the world.
Clay was crying, too, but in an entirely alpha-man kind of way.
“He’s going to be fine. He’s big and pink and loud,” Simon said.
Jane raised her head. She had stopped freaking out. But she didn’t exactly look all that Madonna-like. “What do you mean, ‘he’?” she said, frowning.
Simon blinked. “It’s a boy. Were you expecting something else?”
Clay stopped crying. “It’s a boy?” He lifted the sissy pink blanket and checked. “Uh, how in the Sam Hill did the ultrasound technician miss that?”
“It’s a boy?” Jane asked.
“It’s a boy.” Clay responded.
“Oh, my God, Clay, we painted the nursery pink.”
· When Miz Miriam give Daniel Jessup advice. (“Silent Night,” a short story included in A Christmas to Remember)
The old woman studied Daniel from behind her thick glasses, her brown eyes sharp.
“Son, there’s something I need to remind you of.” She pushed her cart up next to his and reached out to touch his arm. It was strange to be touched. It had been a long time since anyone had touched him like that—person to person, with friendship and caring.
“I’m sure you know the story of the three wise men. How they each looked up at the sky and saw that star. How just the sight of that light was all they needed to get going. They just saddled up their camels and went off to find a miracle. But have you ever stopped to think about the fact that the star was there for everyone to see? Why didn’t everyone go to Bethlehem?”
Daniel stood there. He had no answer for Miriam. He’d never given this much thought at all. And besides, Miriam had a reputation for talking in parables, when she wasn’t working hard to match up all the unsuspecting single people in town.
She nodded as if she understood his confusion. “I’ll tell you why. Because everyone else decided to go back to sleep. The point is, Daniel, most folks didn’t really see that light—not with their hearts, anyway. So they just stayed home and waited for the miracle to come find them, instead of going out looking for one. I’m a firm believer in folks working for their miracles.”
· When Aunt Arlene has a heart-to-heart with Clay Rhodes about grief. (Last Chance Christmas)
“I gotta go,” Stone said.
Arlene grabbed his hand with a fierce grip. “You listen to me, son, and you listen good. I didn’t understand what you’re going through until recently. But I’ve learned something by losing Pete. We all have a hole inside us. Every single person on the face of the earth.”
That stopped him. He turned. “A hole?”
“Yeah. You can’t be angry at God for making you that way. You have that empty place for a reason.”
“Aunt Arlene, I didn’t take you for one of those holy rollers.”
“I’m not. I’m not trying to get you to come back to church on Sundays. I’m just trying to point out that you’re hoarding yourself and pouring your love into something that can’t give you anything back. Sharon is gone. Uncle Pete is gone. We loved them both when they were here, and they loved us back.”
Mike Taggart has always been willing to take a gamble. But these stakes are just way too high - there's no way he's prepared to become a legal guardian to his five-year-old niece. His only option is to head from Las Vegas to Last Chance to sort things out as quickly as possible. Problem is, he arrives to find an inconsolable little girl, her sick cat, and a gorgeous veterinarian he can't get out of his mind.
Charlene Polk has two talents: healing sick critters and falling in love with the wrong men. Mike has trouble written all over him, but she can't leave him in the lurch. And the more time she spends with the sexy high roller, the more she sees that this ready-made family is the best stroke of luck they've ever had. . .
Except Last Chance Family:
Charlene stood in the kitchen doorway, her hair wet, her stomach empty, and her heart suddenly racing. Mike leaned against the counter, his head hung low. He seemed to be struggling to draw breath.
She crossed the room and put her hand on the middle of his back. His T-shirt was soft, the body beneath it hard and warm.
He straightened and let out a big breath. "Sorry."
"Killer heartburn," he said, then immediately changed the subject. He moved toward the coffee maker, shaking off her touch. "You want some coffee?"
He turned and gave her a quick glance. That's all it took.
Her heart wrenched, and she responded the way she always did when confronted with unspoken pain. She encountered it often, usually in the eyes of animals. But it was there, beyond that mild-mannered expression he tried to wear. He was hurting. She reached up to stroke his cheek. Her fingers encountered his warm skin and rough stubble. That touch flipped her switch. Electricity flowed inside her.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath as her fingers moved over his face to his ear and up into his bright red hair.
"Don't," he whispered, but he made no attempt to move away. He reminded her of an abused animal that growls when all he wants is a little kindness. She cupped the nape of his neck and pulled him down as she rose up on tip-toes.
She gave him a soft, gentle kiss. Nothing deep or sexy, just a little kiss, intended to comfort. But it didn't stay that way. Mike grabbed her by the cheeks and pulled her up into it like a man starving for love. His tongue stroked hers. His right hand dropped to her hip, and he yanked her forward and into his chest.
Her knees almost buckled. But she didn't fall, because Mike had her. His hand found the small of her back as he sagged against the counter. They leaned together, thigh to thigh, chest to chest. The kiss turned utterly carnal. His hand wandered up over her spine to her breast. He palmed it. Her nipples came alive. He groaned.
And her whole body throbbed.
She broke the kiss and looked up into his face. His eyes had dilated with desire. His breath sounded ragged. His skin flushed red.
"I want you," he said in a hoarse voice. "I want to strip you naked and do it right here in the kitchen."
His words ignited a bad-girl fire that pretty much torched her reservations about him. "Okay."
His gaze widened. "I'm not a reliable bet," he said.
She laughed. "You think I don't know that?"
She could almost feel him having second thoughts. And she had no intention of allowing that. She'd have the rest of her life to regret this choice. Or not.
Which would she regret more? Letting her reservations about him put the kibosh on this? Or spending the rest of her life wondering if maybe she should have bet on Mike Taggart?
Heartbreak was her middle name. "I'm a gambler," she whispered. "And sometimes the long shots pay off."
"Not usually," he said.
"Maybe not. But I'm the eternal optimist.”
About Hope Ramsay
Hope Ramsay grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina. Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you'll find in Last Chance, South Carolina. She's a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart and is married to a good ol' Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar.
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