Broke, pregnant and deserted by her boyfriend, Maddie Barrymore swerves to avoid a kitten while driving in a Wisconsin blizzard--and her life takes another turn. Like Puss in Boots, she stays in an empty house. She has the baby, the kitten, gets a job and a degree...yet every day she's ready to flee if the real owner shows up.
Five years later, he does...
Dumped by the woman he loves, film producer Logan MacLeesh's heart is as dark as one of his movies. He plans to hole up in his grandmother's old mansion and throw himself into his work...until he discovers the sexy squatter and her four-year-old son. Before he can call the sheriff, Maddie's tale of how she ended up there entertains him. They make a deal that as long as she tells him a story every night, she and her son can stay. Even the cat, though Logan's always been a dog person.
A dog in need of saving...
Far away in another state, a homeless dog lifts his head, sniffs...and smells him. The human who's meant for him. As he heads through the snow toward the scent, his journey seems impossible, even though it's Christmas, a time when miracles happen.
*PLEASE NOTE: 25ȼ from every CHRISTMAS AT ANGEL LAKE book sold will go to the Washington County Humane Society in Wisconsin. It has a 5-star rating and, like most rescue associations, badly needs the money.
Ginger’s plaintive meow warned Maddie that something was wrong. She stopped her frantic packing and heard the door open then close.
Every muscle in her body tensed.
It wasn’t Alma or Dexter. They would call before they came. And even then, they’d ring the doorbell. They wouldn’t just walk right in. After five years, they considered it her house, though Maddie always remembered she was a liar and a lawbreaker.
She was almost glad it was at an end. She’d been ready to leave so often—and then someone else would need a temporary home. Her way to pay it forward for her lucky break.
And now her luck had run out. Her last guests, Cindy and her baby, had left two months ago to stay with Cindy’s mother-in-law in Atlanta. The only other person staying with her was Zach—also known as the best boy in the world.
Most of the time.
And the smartest boy in the world.
Most of the time.
And the boy she loved more than any other in the world.
All of the time.
Zach was in his kindergarten classroom with the other four-year-olds, so it couldn’t be him.
Her heart pounded. It had to be him. The mysterious owner. Alma had called her less than an hour ago to tell her the owner was on his way. That’s all the lawyers had told her; they hadn’t given her any specific time or even a general time.
For all Maddie knew, “on the way” might have meant a day away.
Or ten minutes away.
So she’d left work and sped to the place she’d claimed as her own for the last five years.
She straightened her shoulders now. Maybe whoever it was wouldn’t charge her with anything. The neighbors thought the late owner’s professor son had inherited it. Maybe he would be a kindly older man—a philanthropist—who would find her story humorous. Or touching. Who would admire her for the help she’d given to other people. Who would appreciate the way she’d fixed up the place.
Or would consider her a thief, a cheat, and a squatter.
Her head held high, she strode out of her bedroom then down the hall to the living room.
A man was taking off a leather jacket, exposing a tallish, slender frame except for his wide shoulders, his back to her, hanging the jacket on the coat rack by the front door. About five eleven, he wasn’t bad to look at from the backside. Then he turned, and her breath sucked in, and it felt as if someone had kicked her in the stomach.
Maybe because this mattered so much, a pivotal moment in her life and her son’s life, time slowed, and the seconds dragged out to moments, the details imprinting in her brain. His eyes, flame-blue and deep-set. Her gaze clung to his, yet she noted the shadows under his cheekbones, his full mouth, and the clean lines of his jaw. His black hair shot with premature gray belied his skin, firm and unlined. An anomaly.
She suspected this man had many anomalies.
Her second suspicion was that a man that good-looking wouldn’t be as sympathetic to her plight as an ugly one.
Why oh why couldn’t he have been deformed and ugly?
Squaring her shoulders, she took a deep breath and headed toward him with a wide smile and her hand out, as if she were sent here as the town’s official greeter. “Hi! It’s nice to meet you. I’m Maddie Barrymore.” She may as well tell him her real name. He could easily find out what it was.
His eyebrows rose, but he shook her hand. “Related to the acting Barrymores?”
“Not that I know, though my stepmother claims we connect somewhere.”
“As in the wicked stepmother?”
“Not really. I wish she and my dad lived nearby, but my dad is stationed in Alaska. You’re Mr. MacLeesh, aren’t you?”
“Logan MacLeesh. Are you going to ask me for identification?”
“Yes.” She was taking a chance here, but she’d taken a chance every day she’d lived in his house. She’d never thought of herself as a risk taker, but she’d lived as one for five years already, so perhaps she was fooling herself.
The look he gave her now was amused. No question about it. He slid his wallet out of his back pocket and took out something, stepping closer to hand it to her.
She grasped the plastic card and saw it was a California driver’s license. Even his driver’s license picture looked good. Nothing like hers, which could be used as a “don’t” image for photographers. From his birth date, she saw he was thirty-three, only six years older than her.
Not that the age difference mattered.
Or that there was no ring on his left hand.
She handed the license back to him. “Would you like me to take you on a tour of the place?”
She kept the polite smile on her face. “Yes.”
“My lawyer told me the caretakers were an older couple. Did they ask you to show it to me?”
Her smile dipped. He wasn’t falling for her show of confidence. He knew. Damn it, he knew.
“No, they have nothing to do with my presence here.”
He nodded, not taking his eyes off her, pursing his lips—especially the full lower lip—as if considering what to do with her.
She knew what she needed to do. Bluff him into letting her go without punishing anyone else. Already she held her head higher, a gesture of poise instead of worry, her smile fixed in place. The one that said I-like-you-and-I-know-you-like-me-too.
“So, you realize I’ve been living here?” she asked.
“You mean squatting.” His striking blue eyes roamed down her body, very slowly, then up again. Like she was a piece of meat.
She hated it. Yet her body didn’t hate it, her skin prickling, hormones waking up after a long sleep.
Christmas at Angel Lake can be purchased from:
The Rescued Hearts Series
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In my stories, miracles are interrupted…but sometimes a few sneak through. I like to think miracles happen in life, too. Part of the reason I feel this way is because I was weaned on fairy tales. But when my mother unleashed me into the aisles of my local library, I gravitated to Nancy Drew. I also devoured comic books about Wonder Woman and Super Girl. My penchant for strong heroines who don’t wait for men to save them is reflected in my books.
I started my writing career selling short stories for mystery magazines and anthologies. I’ve published quite a few paranormal romances and I’ve even tiptoed into the sci fi romance genre. Now I write contemporary romance with heart and attitude and magic. I love writing a magical realism series set in the small village of Miracle, Wisconsin. These are stand-alone books, and anything can and does happen. Everyone gets a chance to tell their story, from a cat to a young blogger to a young woman to young seniors.
I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with this series. I hope my readers feel the same way. My goal is to make readers laugh a little, cry a little, and feel happy a lot.
I live in southeastern Wisconsin with my husband, dog and a very special cat.