Coming in January 2020!
This novella was previously published as The Letter in the Finders Keepers romance anthology in 2019.
He lost his true love. Will he ever find another?
Single dad Garrett Hollis is a busy mechanic running his garage in town. Since his wife died, he goes to work, picks up his active six-year-old daughter from day care, cooks and cleans, then tucks her in at night. Garrett collapses into bed exhausted. His nosy sister has tried setting him up, but who has time for dating?
Melanie Sutton is the new children’s librarian in town. She’s sworn off men after a series of dating disasters…until she notices the hot dad who’s totally devoted to his daughter. When Garrett asks Melanie out, she agrees. Maybe a date or two while he shows her around town won’t hurt.
Things heat up between Garrett and Melanie, and he’s eager to spend more time with her. Even his daughter is getting attached. But when Garrett finds out a secret Melanie’s been keeping from him, can he ever forgive her? Or will he put his walls up and retreat to the safety of being alone?
The Letter is a 23,000 word contemporary romance novella featuring a hot single dad, a cute six-year-old, and a librarian who’s almost given up on love.
Coaxing my five-year-old daughter from her hiding place behind the couch was not the best way to start a Monday.
“Sadie?” I asked, squatting beside the couch. “Come out of there. If we don’t leave in the next five minutes, we’ll be late.”
Silence. And then a shuffling sound.
“I don’t care,” she said.
I let out a long sigh and glanced at my watch. If we left now, we could make it to the dentist in time. I’d have to stay with Sadie clasping my hand in a death grip through the appointment; then I’d drop her off at school and get to work a little late.READ MORE
Getting to work late wouldn’t be a problem. My two best mechanics would be there to open the garage. But I had a ton of emails to deal with, a new order to place, three interviews for a new mechanic, and Sadie’s birthday party to plan.
“Sadie.” My voice had a bit of an edge now. “Dr. Adams is a very nice dentist. It won’t hurt. You know that. And you can pick the bubblegum tooth polish.”
Sadie’s head peeked out from behind the couch. She frowned.
“Kara had two cabidies and had to get drilled!”
“They’re called cavities, honey, and you’ve never had any before.” I could feel time ticking away. “If you come out right now, I’ll buy you some new stickers after school.”
I wasn’t above bribery, but I wasn’t about to yell, either. I tried to be patient with Sadie. She had several phobias beside the dentist, including the dark, spiders, and clowns.
“Promise?” she asked.
“Promise,” I said. “Now can you come out?”
There was a pause, and a shuffle. The curtain behind the couch moved, and Sadie stood up. Her dark, wavy hair that she’d just combed five minutes ago was messy, but at least her shirt and shorts matched today.
Score one for Dad.
I lifted my hand, and she walked over to me, placing her small hand in mine. I gave it a light squeeze, and we walked to the kitchen. I grabbed my keys, and Sadie grabbed her backpack.
She was quiet during the short ride to the dentist. I put one of Sadie’s CDs on, hoping she’d sing along in her high, clear voice, but she didn’t.
I adjusted my rearview mirror and studied her face at a red light. She was looking out the window with a somber expression. My phone rang, but I let it go to voice mail.
“Big day coming up,” I said with false cheer in my voice. “The big six! And your party on Saturday.”
Sadie wasn’t usually so quiet, but going to the dentist made her nervous. I decided not to push, and by the time we pulled into the parking lot at the dentist, she was humming to one of the songs on the CD.
I turned off the engine and touched the photo of my wife I’d clipped to the visor. The picture was only about six years old, but it was wrinkled and curling from being touched so much.
“I’m taking our baby to the dentist,” I said to the picture.
“Stop tellin’ Mama I’m a baby,” Sadie said. “I’m almost six.”
She unclipped her own seat belt and climbed out of her booster seat.
“You’re right,” I said. “Six is a big deal. In the fall you’ll be in first grade.”
“Six-year-olds aren’t afraid of the dentist,” she informed me as we crossed the parking lot.
“What about five-year-olds?”
“I’m almost six, so I’m not scared of the dentist now. I’m gonna be brave today.”
We stopped in front of the door, and I brushed my hand over her hair. Damn, she looked more like her mother every day.
“I know you will, Sadie. I know. You’re my brave girl.”
The appointment went well. Dr. Adams was really patient with Sadie, and I thanked her profusely. She smiled at me and patted my arm the way people did with widowers. I knew they meant well, but sometimes it irritated me.
That and the whispers when they thought I couldn’t hear.
“The poor thing,” they’d whisper. “All alone with that little girl.”
But I wasn’t alone. I had my sister Erica and her family, my dad, and the people at the shop, who were like family. My sister made sure to stick her nose into my business on a frequent basis. I knew she’d be in the shop today, dropping off my lunch. I was used to the guys razzing me about it, but I didn’t care.
The dentist was close to Sadie’s school, and after I dropped her off, I headed back to the shop. I parked in my usual spot behind the building, noting the number of cars lined up outside. It was a nice spring day in Vermont, and the guys had the bay doors open.
I went in the front door. A few customers were sitting in the waiting area.
“Hey, Garrett,” Amy said. “Three messages. How was the dentist?”
I took the message slips from her. “She hid behind the couch again when it was time to leave. I had to bribe her with stickers, but she got through it.”
“That’s my girl! I’ll have to get her some stickers, too.”
Amy grinned. She loved Sadie stories. With her bright smile and friendly attitude, Amy was perfect for working at the front desk. She checked in customers and took payments.
I said hello to Bruce and Greg on the way to my small office in the back. I spent about half an hour returning phone calls and emails before I went to the shop to help out. I was a hands-on boss, and I liked it that way. I loved fixing cars, but I did less and less of it these days as managerial tasks took over my days.
The rest of the morning flew by. I fixed brakes, rotated tires, and changed the oil in several cars. My stomach was growling by the time Erica came in holding a bag of food.
“Yoo hoo, where’s my baby brother?” she called.
Bruce and Greg’s laughter echoed through the large space. I put my wrench down and grabbed a rag to wipe my hands. I walked over to the counter. Erica had taken out three containers filled with food.
“They’re not all for you,” Erica said. “I brought enough for Bruce and Greg, too. Ziti and meatballs.”
“What about Amy?” I asked in mock horror. “Surely you didn’t forget her.”
“I’ve got mine.” Amy held up her container.
“Can you go stick those in the fridge for now?” I asked. “My hands are filthy.”
“Sure,” Erica said.
“Where are all the ankle-biters?” I asked. “I’m so used to seeing kids clinging to you.”
Erica’s bold laughter echoed through the reception area. “I know! I escaped. Roger’s mom came over today. She’s keeping the kids busy while I run some errands. Then I’m going to clean out the closet.”
Erica was organizing her large closet so she could put a desk inside. It was the only spot in her house that wasn’t bursting with kid stuff. She said she was also going to put a lock on the door. Her husband agreed to move his clothes to a hall closet.
“Ooh, the big closet clean-out,” Amy said.
“Yup. Today’s the day! I bought the desk. I just need somebody to come over and put it together for me.”
She looked squarely at me.
“Uh, isn’t that a job for your husband?” I asked.
Erica rolled her eyes. “Roger would put it together all wrong. Then I’d have to call you anyway…”
“Fine,” I said. “After Sadie’s birthday party.”
Erica smiled. She looked like our mother with her dimples and curly blonde hair.
“You’re a handy guy to have around, baby brother. Any woman would be lucky to have you.”
My neck heated. “Don’t you have a closet to clean?”
“Oh, that reminds me,” Erica said. She put her purse on the counter and dug out a piece of paper. “This is for you.”
I held up my greasy hands.
“I’ll just stick it right in here.” She folded it and stuck it into my shirt pocket.
“What is it?” I asked.
“A phone number. Roger’s coworker’s friend. She’s very pretty and she’s single.”
“Goodbye, Erica,” I said, walking away.
“She’s very nice. You’ll thank me later!”
I walked down the hall to the staff bathroom and started washing my hands. I looked at myself in the mirror while I scrubbed. I had bags under my eyes. My dirty-blond hair was cut short, but I had some scruff growing on my face.
My wife told me I was handsome, but what woman would want me now? I worked long hours at the garage and had a kid to take care of. I wasn’t exactly hot dating material. After Becca died, I just couldn’t fathom the idea of dating, let alone getting married again. Eventually I went on a few first and second dates, but I never got close to another woman.
I just couldn’t help comparing them to my Becca.
I dried my hands with a paper towel and tossed it in the trash. I took the paper out of my shirt pocket and looked at the name and number. The woman was probably fine, but I tossed it in the men’s room trash where Amy and Erica wouldn’t see.
Because love…it wasn’t for me. Not anymore.
And I’d made peace with that, even if my sister hadn’t.COLLAPSE