(Lake Haven #3)
by Julia London
Date Released: July 25, 2017
About Suddenly Engaged
Single mother Kyra Kokinos spends her days waiting tables, her nights working on her real estate license, and every spare moment with her precocious six-year-old daughter, Ruby—especially when Ruby won’t stop pestering their grumpy next-door neighbor. At first glance, Dax Bishop seems like the kind of gruff, solitary guy who’d be unlikely to offer a cup of sugar, let alone a marriage proposal. But that’s exactly what happens when Ruby needs life-saving surgery.
Dax showed up in East Beach a year ago, fresh from a painful divorce and looking for a place where he could make furniture and avoid people. Suddenly his life is invaded by an inquisitive munchkin in sparkly cowboy boots—and her frazzled, too-tempting mother. So he presents a practical plan: his insurance will help Ruby, and then they can divorce—zero strings attached.
But soon Kyra and Dax find their engagement of convenience is simple in name only. As their attraction deepens, a figure from the past reappears, offering a way out. Can Kyra and Dax let go so easily—or has love become a preexisting condition?
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An Excerpt from Suddenly Engaged
He walked to the back screen door and opened it. He’d installed a dog door, but Otto refused to use it. No, Otto was a precious buttercup of a dog that liked to have his doors opened for him, and he assumed that anytime his master neared the door, Dax was opening it for him. He assumed so now, stepping in front of Dax—pausing to stretch after his snoring nap—before sauntering out and down the back porch steps to sniff something at the bottom.
Dax walked out onto the porch and stood with his hands on his hips as the girl brazenly advanced.
“Hi!” she said.
She was about to learn that she couldn’t make a little girl’s social call whenever she wanted. There were rules in this world, and Dax had no compunction about teaching them to her. Clearly someone needed to. He responded to her greeting with a glower.
“Hi!” she said again, shouting this time, as if he hadn’t heard her from the tremendous distance of about six feet.
“What’d I tell you yesterday?” he asked.
“To stay on the other side of the fence.”
“Then why are you over here?”
“I forgot.” She rocked back on her heels and balanced on them, toes up. “Do you live there?”
“No, I just stand on the porch and guard the fence. Yes, I live here. And I work here. And I don’t want visitors. Now go home.”
“My name is Ruby Kokinos. What’s yours?”
What was wrong with this kid? “Where is your mother?”
“Then is your dad home?”
“My daddy is in Africa. He teaches cats to do tricks,” she said, pausing to twirl around on one heel. “Big cats, not little cats. They have really big cats in Africa.”
“Whatever,” he said impatiently. “Who is home with you right now?”
“Mrs. Miller. She’s watching TV. She said I could go outside.”
Great. A babysitter. “Go home,” he said, pointing to Number Three as Otto wandered over to examine Ruby Coconuts, or whatever her name was. “Go home and tell Mrs. Miller that you’re not allowed to come over or under that fence. Do you understand me?”
“What’s your dog’s name?” she asked, petting that lazy, useless mutt.
“Did you hear me?” Dax asked.
“Yes.” She giggled as Otto began to lick her hand, and went down on her knees to hug him. “I always always wanted a dog, but Mommy says I can’t have one now. Maybe when I’m big.” She stroked Otto’s nose, and the dog sat, settling in for some attention.
“Don’t pet the dog,” Dax said. “I just told you to go home. What else did I tell you to do?”
“To, um, to tell Mrs. Miller to stay over there,” she said, as she continued to pet the dog. “What’s her name?”
“It’s a he, and his name is Otto. And I told you to tell Mrs. Miller that you are supposed to stay over there. Now go on.”
She stopped petting the dog, and Otto, not ready for the gravy train of attention to end, began to lick her face. Ruby giggled with delight. Otto licked harder, like she’d been handling red meat. Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise Dax if she had—the kid seemed like the type to be into everything. She was laughing uncontrollably now and fell onto her back. Otto straddled her, his tail wagging as hard as her feet were kicking, trying to lick her while she tried to hold him off.
Nope, this was not going to happen. Those two useless beings were not making friends. Dax marched down off the porch and grabbed Otto’s collar, shoving him out of the way. “Go,” he said to the dog, pointing to his cottage. Otto obediently lumbered away.
Dax turned his attention to the girl with the fantastically dark red hair in two uneven pigtails and, now that he was close to her, he could see her clear blue eyes through the round lenses of her blue plastic eyeglasses, which were strapped to her face with a headband. She looked like a very young little old lady. “Listen to me, kid. I don’t want you over here. I work here. Serious work. I can’t be entertaining little girls.”
She hopped to her feet. “What’s your name?”
Dax sighed. “If I tell you my name, will you go home?”
She nodded, her, long pigtails bouncing around her.
She stared at him.
“That’s my name,” he said with a shrug.
Ruby giggled and began to sway side to side. “That’s not a real name!”
“It’s as real as Ruby Coconuts.”
“Not Coconuts!” She squealed with delight. “It’s Ruby Kokinos.”
“Yeah, okay, but I’m pretty sure you said Coconuts. Now go home.”
Julia London is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than forty romance novels. Her historical titles include the popular Desperate Debutantes series, the Cabot Sisters series, and the Highland Grooms series. Her contemporary works include the Lake Haven series, the Pine River series, and the Cedar Springs series. She has won the RT Book Club Award for Best Historical Romance and has been a six-time finalist for the prestigious RITA Award for excellence in romantic fiction. She lives in Austin, Texas.
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