I’m a huge sucker for romances with an unexpected pregnancy thrown into the mix—even more when the discovery happens once the ‘baby daddy’ is out of the picture, packing every single minute leading up to their inevitable reunion with mouth-watering angst and anticipation—but in the capable hands of a great writer, even a popular trope such as this one can feel new and exciting, and in this book, Sarina Bowen uses her undeniable talent to wring something fresh out of a well-known premise. A touching second chance romance where a strings-free summer fling between two strangers ends up unexpectedly changing both their lives, this wonderful story is speckled with so many heart-melting moments, I fell in love with every single word in it and have already re-read it multiple times. I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone looking for a riveting reading escape that is fairly low on drama, but bursting with emotion from the very first page.
And then I was naked with a perfect stranger named Dave.
Growing up as the only girl in a family of boys, Zara Rossi has been dealing with four overprotective brothers since the day she was born, growing into a fiercely private young woman who knows how to take care of herself. A former wild child with a string of meaningless sexual encounters behind her, her heart still feels bruised from her one and only attempt at turning one into something more. So finding love is the last thing on Zara’s mind when a sexy stranger walks into her bar and their one night of earth-shattering sex develops into a secret, two-week affair. His every touch makes her momentarily forget her loneliness, his powerful body igniting hers like no man has ever done before, but Zara deliberately guards her heart from him from the start, knowing that once he goes back to his own life, they’d never see each other again. Six weeks after his departure, however, Zara discovers she is pregnant.
The truth was that men didn’t date people like me. I was the girl they “hung out with.” The bartender was a good time and fun in bed, but not a forever girl.
Living on the road for most of year, Dave Beringer—professional hockey player and self-declared bachelor for life—is no stranger to random hookups with women he meets in bars and quickly forgets about the next day. So when a dark-haired beauty catches his eye during his six-week vacation in Vermont, he knows that their short-lived fling holds no future, even as he finds himself wanting to spend every single night with her for the rest of his stay there.
I was just a guy in her bar. And I liked this arrangement just fine, because she liked me as just a guy in her bar. I didn’t have to be that star and impress her… She didn’t want war stories or anybody’s signed jersey. She just wanted me.
Two years later, Dave is back in Vermont for the summer, secretly hoping to see Zara again, only to suddenly find himself the father of an adorable fifteen-month-old baby girl on his very first day there. His past and present suddenly collide in his mind, his newly discovered fatherhood stirring painful memories from his childhood that make him question his own parenting abilities, but when he realises how little Zara expects from him and how much he’s already missed of his daughter’s life, he becomes dead set on making it up to them both.
“I’m not suing anyone. That’s not why I’m telling you this.”
“Because it’s the right thing to do. I spent nearly two years fending off my family’s questions. I wouldn’t tell them who her father was, because nobody had a right to know before you did.”
But with his career soon to take him away from them again, Dave only has a few weeks to prove to Zara that he means to stay in their lives forever. With the clock ticking away on their time together, it becomes harder and harder to let go of the family he never believed he would have. Their trust and devotion force him to finally face his fears, slowly silencing the little voices in his head that’ve told him all his life that nobody would ever want him.
“What do you want from me?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s my line… I need to know what you want from me. How I can help you.”
An incredibly moving and feel-good tale of second chances, full of heart and deeply romantic, this book is the perfect example why small town romances are so irresistible to me. Sarina Bowen’s writing is crisp but never lacks warmth, her characters leaping off the pages and coming to life scene after scene. I loved Zara’s quiet tenacity and strength even during moments of sadness and uncertainty, her pragmatic personality perfectly complemented by Dave’s generous heart and impulsive nature. I loved them together, I loved them with their daughter, I loved how quickly they put their family first, above all else, and I just know I will love re-visiting them time and time again. A great read.
When I reentered the bar area, he was waiting for me, chin in hand. “You okay? You can still kick me out, you know.” He gave me a friendly smile. “I’ll only take it a little bit personally.”
That smile made me remember why I was going through with this. Wowzers. I felt a little more alive every time he looked at me. That buzz in my chest wasn’t fear, but anticipation. The man had a seriously hard body that even a polo shirt couldn’t disguise. I hadn’t had a good frolic in months.
I was due. And he was waiting.
“Come on,” I said crankily. Grumpiness came naturally to me. And I’d be damned if I’d let the man see that I was uncomfortable. “Let’s go.”
A minute later I had the bar locked up tight for the night. I put my key in the other door, the one leading to my upstairs apartment. After letting myself in, I pocketed the key and flipped the lights on over the narrow little staircase. He followed me, and it was odd having company in this cramped space. The first stair creaked as I stepped on it.
This would be the awkward part. He and I both knew what would eventually happen upstairs. But first we had to get past the small talk. I’d offer him a drink. He’d say something kind about my tiny little apartment. I’d try to figure out who was going to make the first move…
Suddenly, a warm hand reached out to curl around my forearm, stopping my progress up the stairs. Then another hand closed firmly around the length of my hair. It might have been terrifying except that warm lips softly kissed the skin at my neck. Goosebumps broke out all down my back.
“I’m not sweet,” I said in an almost normal voice, though my heart thudded as his grip tightened on my hair.
He laughed. “Touché. But keep your cute, grumpy ass right here for a second. There’s
something I need to say.”
“Then say it.”
A low, growly noise of approval came from somewhere deep in his chest, and I barely managed to contain another shiver of excitement. “You are a feisty one. I like that. I’m going to show you a very good time now,” he whispered. “But if there’s anything I do you don’t like, just say ‘time out.’”
“Okay,” I rasped, a little scared and a whole lot turned on.
“Say it for me right now. For practice.” He kissed me again on the back of the neck, his tongue touching me so tenderly.
“Time out,” I breathed.
His hands dropped away and he stepped back. Only cool air kissed my neck now. “That’s all you have to do,” he whispered. “I’m not having fun unless you’re having fun.”
“O-kay,” I stammered.
A big hand palmed my ass. “Now get up those stairs so I can get you out of these clothes.”
Well. Small talk must be off the table, then.