Everyone in Mangrove, Florida, knows Fire Chief Essien Dodd is a saint. He took care of his ex-wife until she died, is raising his teenage daughter alone, and is the kind of man who pulls kittens from trees. All in all, the man’s a catch. But Roark Hammond has sworn off getting involved with a man who’s been hurt before because he can’t guarantee he won’t hurt his prospective love again. If only he could get Essien out of his mind long enough to focus on anyone, or anything, else. Strong emotions are in play. Essien is lonely but determined to focus on Ivy; Ivy wants her father to have a new life so much that, to his horror, she’s trying to find him a man; and Roark is so scared of the present and past, he won’t allow himself to commit. To have any chance of sleeping ’til sunrise and greeting each new day together, Essien and Roark will have to rethink how they’re living their lives and focus on what’s most important.
“OOOH DAD,” Ivy exclaimed. “I just had the best idea ever!”
Oh God. “No.”
“You don’t even know what I was gonna say,” she argued.
“What? How did I know you didn’t like blonds?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
Even though I loved her, Ivy could try the patience of a saint. Since I wasn’t one, I was this close to throttling her. The matchmaking had to stop. Even though she meant well, I was starting to cringe whenever I came home and smelled something cooking as I walked into the house.
“Craig was adorable,” she cooed.
He was also, easily, twenty years my junior. And even though the school counselor had put his hands all over me when my daughter left the kitchen to set the dinner table, showing me in no uncertain terms that he was more than interested, I was not. I wasn’t in the market for a boy; I was looking for a man. Or more precisely, if I was, in fact, searching for anyone, it would have been a grown-up.
“Stop trying to set me up,” I enunciated for her.
Her eyes blinking as though she were all innocent sweetness… was a crock. “Stop bringing strange men home.”
Jesus, what had I just said?
“I bet you didn’t think you’d be saying that to me until I was eighteen, huh?”
I was horrified. “That’s so not funny. Don’t ever say that to me again.”
Her cackle was evil. “I wouldn’t have to bring home strangers if you’d just put on your big boy pants and take a chance.”
I stopped walking. “I’m sorry?”
She whined, “Come on, Dad, it’s time already.”
It was a blessing that Ivy, who thought she missed nothing, considered me boring and stalwart and…