Arch Hoffman has paid for his crimes. All he wants is to come home to rural California and start over. He’s not looking to be a hero when he rescues a wedding cake from hitting the dirt at the ranch next door. But culinary artist Mandy Allen’s irresistible smile makes him glad to save the day—and thankful that they’re neighbors.
Mandy’s just the distraction Arch needs. Her sweet voice quiets the memories that threaten his chance to be a better man, and he’s determined to help her confront her fears. But the past is its own prison, and even love might not be enough to set them free.
A sneak peek inside Home Free
He turned, surprised, and saw Mandy hurrying after him. In her hand was a paper plate piled high with an enormous slice of cake. He started back toward her, admiring how elegant she looked in that wine-colored dress.
“You saved it. You earned a slice.” She was a little out of breath, like she’d jogged, cake and all, to catch him.
Arch tried to remember the last time someone had reached out to show him a kindness like this—he couldn’t. The plate was heavy in his hand, she’d put so much cake on it. “You’re a good person.” He blurted it out like an awkward kid. He had no experience with generosity.
“I just made a whole lot of cake.” Her smile was fleeting but kind.
“Well, this will make the walk home a whole lot better.”
There was silence while they looked at each other. Total strangers who’d done each other a good deed today, and maybe found a small seed of friendship. He needed to let her get back to her sister’s wedding. “Nice to meet you, Mandy. Thanks for sticking up for me back there.”
“Of course.” She took a step back and waved “Welcome home, Arch.”
It was more of a welcome than he’d ever, in his most wishful dreams, hoped to get. He watched her walk lightly back up the drive, her full skirt swaying right down to the tops of her pretty brown cowboy boots. She was much more than a fairy like Tinker Bell. She was a guardian angel. A vision from heaven.
He looked down at the plate she’d brought him. White cake, chocolate cake, a few different kinds of icing. The first mouthful was a revelation of sugar and cream. He closed his eyes and tried to absorb the flavors. To savor such a fine taste. She might have heaped his plate, but her kindness today was sweeter than any cake. And he would never, ever get enough of sweetness like that.
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Who is Claire McEwan?
Claire McEwen lives by the ocean in Northern California with her family and a scruffy, mischievous terrier. When not dreaming up new stories, she can be found digging in her garden with a lot of enthusiasm but, unfortunately, no green thumb.
Claire enjoys discovering flea-market treasures, walking on the beach, dancing, traveling, and reading, of course! She loves to write complex heroes and heroines who grow and find themselves through their search for love.