Series: The Arrowood Brothers #4
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New York Times Bestseller Corinne Michaels brings you the final installment in the Arrowood Brothers Series. This emotional single-parent, second chance at love story will steal your heart.
Hollywood taught me everything I know about relationships—except how to be in one. As an actor, I became an expert at faking it. Faking that I wasn’t affected by my childhood. Faking that I was okay. Faking that I knew how to save the day, the girl, the whole damn world.
But I’ve always known the truth—I’m no one’s hero.
Until I’m forced to move back to Sugarloaf for six months, and Brenna Allen offers me a chance to prove otherwise. She’s everything I never knew I wanted, but can’t have. Her broken heart, perfect face, and adorable children turn my world upside down. Instead of preparing for my next leading role, I’m directing a middle school play.
All to make her smile.
The more time I spend here, the more I want to stay. Build a life in this town that I swore I’d leave—for her.
But when the world comes crashing down around us, I’m forced to decide if staying for her is the right choice or if leaving is better for the woman I love.
I get up to the house, and there’s a car there.
I park next to it, not knowing who the hell would be at the house since my brother is in the Caribbean.
As I open the door and get out, a woman emerges from the other car. Her long red hair blows softly in the spring breeze, her blue eyes lock on mine, and for a moment, I don’t know who I am. Everything escapes me. My name, where I am, the ability to breathe and think is gone.
I’ve seen beauty before.
I’ve known women who are every man’s desire, but this woman is . . . something else.
“Hi.” She waves tentatively as I stand there, staring. “Are you . . .” I watch as awareness strikes her. “Oh. You’re Jacob Arrowood. I’m . . . I didn’t think . . . I mean, I just . . . yeah, I’m Brenna Allen. I bought the house that Devney owned. It’s just down the road a bit. I guess her brother lived there before. I’m sure you know that since you’re from here and all, and . . . I’m rambling. But, anyway, I came by to bring this.” Brenna lifts a casserole dish. “It’s for Ellie, but I’m not sure where her house is since it’s a little confusing . . .”
Brenna’s voice drops, and she pulls her lower lip between her teeth. I need to say something instead of standing here like a fucking idiot. “Okay.”
That’s the best I can come up with. Jesus, I need to be slapped. I clear my throat and try again. “I mean, thank you, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”
“Is Ellie here?”
“They live a little down the road that way. It’s the third driveway.”
Brenna closes her eyes and sighs. “I’m sorry. Ellie mentioned it was past the main house, but I don’t know which one the main house is.”
“This is the main house.”
“I see that now.” Her cheeks blaze, and she ducks her head. “Well, what about Devney? I’d love to say hi since . . . I’m guessing this is her house?”
“Yeah, that would be great. I’m sure she’d love to see you, but my brother whisked her away to St. Lucia.”
“Oh! Wow. That’s one heck of a whisk.”
I smile—or, at least, that’s what I hope I do. “Yeah, my brother is a romantic at heart. He is surprising her by proposing and then marrying her in a few days.”
Brenna tucks her hair behind her ear. “That’s sweet.”
“Or really stupid if she says no and he’s paid for all of us to fly out there to celebrate a wedding that won’t happen.”
Her deep blue eyes look up, nearly taking my breath away. “Luke always said a man only asked that question when he knew the answer.” She laughs. “I would hope that your brother is confident.”
I take a step toward her, wanting to ease the look of pain in her eyes, and then stop myself. “I’m sorry to hear about Luke. I didn’t know him well. He was a few years ahead of me.”
No idea what possessed me to explain that, but at least I’m talking in full sentences.
“Thank you. We miss him a lot. It’s always so weird when people say they’re sorry.” She smiles. “I mean . . . I appreciate your saying it. It’s just that we’re finding a new normal and doing our best even though we miss him. My son, Sebastian, especially.”
I remember that. After Mom died, people were always apologizing, but we were just trying to live without the core of our family. I feel like an ass for bringing it up.
“Ellie mentioned your son is a big fan of Navigator.”
She nods. “Yes, he loves you. You play a superhero that happens to be a fighter pilot as your day job in the movie, so . . . I’m sure that’s a part of it. I don’t know why I just explained what you do since you clearly know that. Anyway, he pretty much worships the ground you walk on.”
I laugh. “That must be shaky ground then.”
Brenna’s smile is soft as she takes a step back. “I’m sure you’re worthy of the praise. After all, you’re willing to spend time with a kid you’ve never met. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”
“I lost my mother at a very young age, and I remember all too well how hard that was. I think her death shaped all of our lives in a lot of ways, so if there is a way for me to help someone through a similar situation, I’m happy to do it.”
“You’re very sweet to say that, Jacob. Or is it Jake? I never know, and I hate to assume.”
“Jacob. Only one person is allowed to call me Jake. She’s nine and pretty much owns all of her uncles.”
“I understand. Sounds like the little girl is lucky to have you.” Brenna’s smile is warm but ushers in an awkward pause. “Well, I should go, but I’m going to be late getting back, would you mind giving it to her?” She extends the tray of food toward me, and I grin. I have one meal down.
“I would, but you see, I’m living in this house by myself for a week, and well, I will starve to death if I bring this to Ellie.”
Her lips turn up, and the sadness in her eyes disappears. “So, you’re telling me that this casserole will save your life if I give it to you instead?”
“That’s what I’m saying. I’m a man in need of food, and Ellie is completely capable of cooking for herself.”
“In that case, consider it yours.”
“You’re the hero here, Brenna.”
Her smile does something to my heart. “I appreciate you thinking that.”
“I appreciate the casserole.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
She starts to walk toward her car, and there’s a need so deep to stop her, to exchange even a few more words, or see her deep blue eyes brighten, that I step forward as if to follow her.
“Brenna,” I call out, forcing her to stop.
“I’d like to meet Sebastian whenever you think it would be okay. I leave for Sean and Devney’s wedding in two days, but then I’ll be back here for six months and will have more free time than I’ll know what to do with.”
Her smile is stunning, and my throat feels tight. “He’ll love it. He’s had a rough first month at school. Well, he’s had a rough nine months in general if I’m being completely honest. Sebastian is a sweet boy who is trying to fit in somewhere he’s not sure that he does.”
I planned to make a sarcastic comment about how I’ll save him, but the look in her eyes tells me she’s past jokes. She’s suffering, tired, and overwhelmed by everything on her plate, and this deep urge to make it better fills me.
I need to stop that shit.
She’s a widow.
The widow of someone I knew and liked. Also, she shouldn’t get involved with a bachelor from Hollywood who has zero intention of ever moving here.
Not because of the past or because I am nothing like my idiot brothers who found farm life more appealing than the city, but because my life doesn’t exist here.
There’s nothing in the world that could make me stay.
So, I give her my signature grin. “Hopefully, we’ll turn it around for him.”
“I hope so too.”
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