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- Small town Romance
- Military romance
- Second Chance Romance
She’s been burned by love before. He’s not sure he has love to give.
Claudia Blake has paid the price for a short-lived but lousy marriage. Emotionally and financially, many times over during the last eighteen years. But it’s time for this retired designer to design her own small dream home in a quaint little town and live happily and quietly ever after. Preferably alone.
Richard Lintell is officially retired from the military and about to try living among civilians for the first time in . . . a long time. He plans to go home until he receives a letter saying his home has been put in foreclosure for taxes. Richard doesn’t know what has happened, but he’s going to reclaim his home. When these two cross paths, will Richard be able to compromise, and will Claudia be able to trust again?
There may be sparks of new love if they can overcome their challenges!
Count your blessings, and Get your copy today!
Intro into Chapter One
Intro into Chapter One
was a silver truck in her driveway, and it wasn’t hers. It was a muggy August
Florida night. Every so often, trees swayed with the occasional breeze that
came off of the bay. It was enough to move the fronds on the trees but not
enough to provide any relief. She knew this day was coming, and still, she had
hoped that the man in her home wouldn’t show.
Blake didn’t need another man who thought he could take something else from her
life right now or ever. She leaned back against the headrest in her car. It
wasn’t a big car. It was a green geo metro. The geo was fully equipped with
three-cylinders and a stick shift. Claudia knew people thought she rode around
in the compact due to style and fashion. The truth of it was it was all she
could afford twelve years ago. Twelve years ago, Claudia had just divorced a
rather pleasant man who had no talent in managing money. The only things she
took with her from the marriage were her memories and debt. So much debt Claudia
almost lost her interior design business.
had been a reminder of the struggles she had gone through before and after the
marriage. Her ex-husband, Thomas Lyons, had died of a heart attack. In his
usual way, he hadn’t prepared for his demise. The only will was the one she had
forced him to write and file with their lawyer fifteen years ago when they were
married. Now Thomas’ kids wanted to know why they had received nothing, and she
was named the executor of an empty will. Their father had lived up to his
larger than life lifestyle until the very end. Leaving his kids thinking there
was money to be inherited. When they found out about the debt and lack of
assets, they immediately went on the defensive to accuse her of stealing their
a day of dodging innuendos that were subtle and some flat out blatant
accusations, she had to prepare to face another man, Richard Lintell, who, no
matter how politely he put it, thought she had stolen his home on a
technicality. Claudia opened the car door, determined to get this meet and
greet over with, or if anyone was looking out for her, she’d be able to slip
into the house without running into him at all. She planted her foot on the
ground, and moments later, she heard the distinctive meow of a black cat, Midnight.
looked around to see if Midnight’s owner Michelle was anywhere around. Although
saying Midnight was owned was probably too strong a word. Midnight seemed to
stroll through the neighborhood at his leisure. Claudia had met Midnight on one
of her early visits, and the cat had taken to showing up at least three times a
week. Claudia figured the cat must have been locked out and wanted to find a
place to hole up with some air conditioning, water, and a bed. She could
totally understand that, and her house was a place that had all of those
amenities. Claudia thought the giant colonial house was magnificent. Midnight
jumped into her arms and began to purr.
so it seems that someone is laying it on thick. I can only believe that I’m the
only option available for the night,” Claudia said as she stroked his thick
coat. Midnight snuggled closer to her as if he understood. His purrs became
longer and more intense.
ham, you can stay,” Claudia said as she looked down at Midnight. As if he
understood what she was saying, he stopped and blinked his large black eyes
back at her. “You need to stay in the bedroom with me. I’ve got to find out if
our guest likes cats or not.”
truck, in her spot no less, was just another reminder of how inconvenient men
proved themselves to be. If she had the money, she would have offered to pay
for a hotel for Major Richard Lintell. Claudia snorted. Who was she kidding? There
wasn’t a good reason to deny the man inside the house. He had been vouched for
by the locals, and if the stories were true, he was a victim in this whole
affair. It wasn’t his fault that it appeared he had fallen on hard times and
lost his home.
Major Lintell’s lawyer had reached out to her to buy the house, Claudia had to
admit she felt sorry for the Major. The lawyer had explained that Major Lintell
had been in the service working in the field. After an accident, he transferred
to a desk job and a new assignment. Apparently, during that transition, his
mail didn’t catch up to him, and the payments fell behind on the Henka house.
It was from his misfortune that Claudia had been scouring the bank options and had
seen the house as available. The bank only required that the back taxes be
brought up to date. After looking at the picture and reading the description,
Claudia pulled together her funds and dropped her available cash into the
house. She had made the decision to retire, and the only thing stopping her was
finding a house that called to her.
it appeared that the two of them were saying they had a claim to the house. The
lawyer, Mr. Potts, would be returning to Grovetown in six days; they’d settle
the matter then. Major Lintell then reached out to her and asked if he could
stay at the house until Mr. Potts returned. At first, Claudia was going to say
no, but after thinking about it, how could she deny him the last chance to stay
in his childhood home. So here they were, living together for the next six days.
hefted Midnight into her arms and pulled her purse on to her shoulder. There
was a path that went from the garage to the front of the house. At night the
path was lit with solar lamps that turned various colors depending on body
heat. When she bought the lamps, it was whimsical and something her ex would have
never allowed. Then again, Thomas wasn’t really into anything she thought was
fun and creative. Now she was regretting the purchase. Claudia didn’t want the
Major to see the lights, be alerted to her presence, and come down to meet her.
Claudia needed to fortify herself before she met him.
as she quietly closed her car door, her cell phone rang. Claudia shifted
Midnight and then scrambled to grab her phone out of her purse. She didn’t
think she just squeezed the buttons on the side of the cell so it would go
silent. Then, like a guilty child, she looked up to the room where the Major
was staying on the second floor. The curtain hadn’t moved. Claudia let out a
sigh of relief and then looked down at the neon text to see who was calling.
reading who the caller was, it didn’t look like she was going to get a break at
all tonight. She took a couple of steps onto the path so the Major wouldn’t see
her from his window. It was Alex Whilton. She couldn’t tell you how, when, or
why, but Alex had appointed himself as a welcome guide and stand in protector.
She didn’t want the Major to wake up from her talking, but she also knew if she
didn’t answer this call, Alex would come over.
covered the mouthpiece and moved a little closer to the house before tapping
the answer button.
how can I help you?”
you made it back and good thing you picked up. I had begun to look for some
jeans so I could wait on the porch to make sure you got back. Is Rich still
Rich, as in Major Richard Lintell. I wasn’t sure if he would be awake when you
tried to make her voice a little scratchy and inject a yarn to help speed up
the conversation. “I just got in, and I think the light is on. He hasn’t come
down, and I didn’t see any movement. He’s probably asleep or in the bed at the
saying don’t bother tiptoeing the man sleeps light as a feather. It would
probably be best if you two met tonight just so he wouldn’t wake up to any
strange noises in the house.”
noises?” Claudia echoed. She really wanted to tell Alex that if there were any
strange noises, they wouldn’t be coming from her because it was her house and
any noises she made were supposed to happen. “I’m sure we’ll muddle through.”
chuckled. “Yes, I guess the two of you will do that indeed. Just to let you
know, Rich may not seem like the warmest person you ever ran into, but he’s got
a good heart.”
snuggled her face into Midnight's fur. Great! Somehow not only had she managed
to move into a house that this Major thought he still owned, but if she had
heard Alex right, the major was a gruff, brash military man.
sure he’s got basic manners. We only need to do this for six days, and then we
can be on our way,” Claudia stated.
lot can happen in six days.”
smile danced on her lips as she listened to Alex. “It sounds like someone has
been spending a lot of time with their sister. I hear that twins do things the
same, even if they are separated. Be careful, Alex. You’ll find yourself falling
into the role of matchmaker like your sister Anna.”
and Patricia are going to visit a friend Robert from Ben’s military days. I
think Rich may know Robert too. I’m not sure the how and where Rich and Robert
know each other, but anyway, when they come back from Robert’s, we’re going to
have a wedding. All of that is to say I’m not matchmaking, but looking at
what’s going on in Grovetown lately. There must be something in the water.”
nodded and then yawned again. It didn’t matter to her either way. Claudia was
done with men. She wasn’t being a feminist. She hadn’t decided to hate men. She
just wanted some peace in her life. Maybe she’d go on one of those silver
cruises where she could have some good conversation and talk to someone who
wasn’t looking for a home or a wife, just a friend.
alright, I’ll let you go, for now, Claudia, but I want you to know that it
hasn’t left my radar that you need to put some security on the house as well.
You won’t need it right away, but we’ll address it after the six days.”
I don’t need it now because?”
is some kind of Cybersecurity guru. As long as he’s there, I think he’ll have
some pointers on security.”
heard Alex and rolled her shoulders, trying to let the thought of being in debt
to a man flow through her. Alex meant well, and it was probably his demeanor as
a therapist that put her at ease and allowed her to look at him as less of a man
and more of a younger brother. However, she was sure that whatever happened
between her and the Major would be on her terms, and she would say what went
and what stayed.
you for calling Alex. I’ll let you know how things go with the Major.” Claudia
ended the call to the sound of Alex laughing on the other line. She silenced
her phone dropped it into her bag, and then gave a cursory look at the window.
Nothing had moved, thank goodness. She would be able to regroup and face the
Major in the morning.
took two steps, and then she heard the distinctive jangle of keys to the top
lock and the clicking of the other two bolts of the door. Claudia waited for
the door to open. When the door did open, Major Richard Lintell stood in the
doorway with grey sweats and a black tee-shirt that had the words ‘Army strong’
on the front in green. Claudia would never think of that slogan the same again.
He had turned on the foyer light, and it just spotlighted the man in exquisite
had to admit if this is what retired military looked like, maybe she had been
hanging out in the wrong places.
Major Lintell was a dashing five foot eleven, with the streaked
black and white peppered hair that couldn’t come from a bottle. He had a square
face, a broad forehead, and a square jaw. His nose was straight, and his mouth
was narrow. He was clean-shaven as if it were morning. Although Claudia
couldn’t imagine five o’clock shadow ever-darkening his face.
Major Lintell appealed to
the designer who found beauty in all things and the woman who could appreciate
a dashing figure. Instead of him seeming daunting or scary standing in the
light in her doorway, his presence evoked a sense of calm. Dealing with, the
step kids who were always accusing her of something was taking a
toll, and coming home to this was a welcome relief. Midnight wriggled out of
her arms and walked the rest of the way to the Major.
“Uh, I’m so sorry,” Claudia said as she rushed towards the Major.
This was just what she didn't need for Midnight to start to rub up against
him and then find out he hates cats. Claudia wasn’t surprised by Midnight's
forthright behavior; she just couldn't indulge him tonight. Midnight welcomed
everyone to the neighborhood. Alex had once joked that Midnight was just
keeping his options open.
Claudia grabbed Midnight before he reached the Major. Now she was
face to face with the man, and the effect was no less stunning.
“I’m sorry I didn’t ask you if you were allergic to cats,” she
said, tripping over her own words trying to elicit some response from him that
would distract those piercing eyes from pinning her in place. Clearing her
throat, she held out her hand. “Hello, I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you got
here. You’re Major Lintell?”
His eyebrow went up, and then he looked over her shoulder and down
the path to her car. When he was done with his look around, he stood in the
doorway and crossed his arms over his chest. “I am.”
Claudia was stuck between groaning from the stiffness in his voice
and laughing from the stress of the day. The first thing she thought of was a
cartoon of a serviceman who would say I am who I am. She had to just nod and
let the image pass through. Claudia thought Alex may have been right when he
warned her. The good thing was this was only temporary. He’d be here until the
lawyer returned, and then she’d have her peace and place all to herself.
She waited for him to say something, and instead, the silence
began to wear on her. So she would have to do the work, no problem. It was
nothing less than what she expected from a man.
“I’m Claudia Blake, I am the owner of the Henka house and –“
“You’re the current deed holder,” he interjected.
Claudia paused for a moment. Did he just say that? She couldn’t
correct him now. She didn’t have it in her. Tomorrow. Tomorrow she would
“This rambunctious cat is called Midnight. He actually travels
where ever he wants to as he’s an outdoor cat. I wasn’t sure if you had any
allergies to pets….”
She watched the Major cock his head to the side and then give
Midnight a rub under his chin. Midnight purred, and it took all Claudia had not
to roll her eyes at the betrayal.
“Midnight? That wasn’t the most original name, was it?” he said.
“I’m told it worked well for kids associating a color to things.”
Oh yeah, Alex’s words were filtering in her mind. Yes, this Major was
definitely a character.
“I thought you were coming in the morning.”
“I spoke to the lawyer and decided that it didn't make sense for
me to wait to come here.”
“Are you expecting anyone else to join you? Family or the such?”
At the mention of someone else, she could see his whole demeanor
“It’s just me coming home. I did my time in the Army and had all
of my ducks in a row earlier than I thought. When I learned about this
situation, I was allowed to leave right away.”
Claudia couldn’t help but feel sympathetic for him. She got the
feeling that behind that stoic façade was a man who didn't like
surprises and he now found himself in a bad situation.
“Well, when the lawyer comes back, we can address this situation,
and then we can move on,” Claudia replied.
“That’s correct. We will be able to bring this to a close in a
couple of days.”
Claudia shrugged sadly. “Lawyers tend to make light of these types
of situations, but I am sure they will be able to figure this out relatively
quickly,” Claudia thought to herself that it seemed almost cruel to not let him
stay and make peace with his home. In this case, she felt if she didn’t let him
stay, she would be the mercenary person Thomas’s step kids accused her of.
“Yes, after talking to the lawyer, I agree,” the Major said. “I’ve
got my items put away in storage until it is resolved.”
“Of course,” Claudia said, holding Midnight. He sounded so sure
and confidant that it gave her pause on two levels. It made her question if her
compassion to let him stay in the house and say goodbye was such a good idea.
The second thing that irked her was how aware of him as a man she was. Her
dating life had indeed been all but nonexistent, but she didn’t usually have
any response at all too strange men. Just being this close in proximity with
the Major was its own form of intoxication. Claudia didn’t notice until an
errant breeze went by that the Major smelled like clean soap. Who knew that
would be appealing?
Inviting him for a last visit was on her. Claudia could blame
this last-minute rash decision on Alex, as he had vouched for him, but she knew
she would have let the Major stay anyway. Claudia had spoken to the Major, and
others she trusted had spoken highly of him. Claudia believed the Major wasn’t
dangerous, but she just didn’t want to have these kinds of distractions going
on in her life right now while she was fighting Thomas’ step kids and the
will. The whole attraction thing with the Major she’d have to ignore because if
history had taught her anything when it came to reading a man, she was the
person most likely to pick wrong.
“Well, if you need anything, please let me know. I am usually at
home. I’m a designer, and I have to say I can’t wait to get my hands on this
house. It has great bones.”
“What’s so wrong with the house the way it is?”
Claudia heard the defensiveness in his voice and decided not to
answer it. She was so eager to end the conversation and let him know the
pertinent information that she let her enthusiasm spill out.
“Every house has its charm, but every designer wants to leave
their mark or thinks they see an extra pearl of beauty in it.”
“I guess it’s okay as long as the designer has good bones, too,
She looked at him, waiting for a chuckle or some hint of how she
should take that comment. It was kind of witty and authentic. If a designer
didn’t have the chops to tackle a project, they should leave it alone and find
something on their level.
“That would be fine if only a house could talk and give its
“I guess that’s what the owner of the house is for, to represent
the house’s best interest,” the Major replied.
She stood there with her mouth open, unsure of what to say.
“Let me get out of your way. I heard the car, and I wanted to make
sure all was well down here,” the Major said.
“Well, thank you for checking,” she said in a low voice.
“It’s not a problem. I think you’ll find I can be of service until
the lawyer comes,” he said with a wan smile.
Claudia saw the little uptick of the corner of his mouth and knew
this man could be dangerous on a whole different level that had nothing to do
with her bodily safety. Okay, it was definitely time to end this. Clearing her
throat, she stood a little taller and then took a step towards the Major and
the door. When she took the step, he tilted his head to the side and looked at
her. He stood there for a moment and then stepped aside to let her in. When she
walked by, it was like arcs of electricity went between the both of them. It
took all of her willpower to not look over her shoulder and not run up the
stairs to her bedroom.
With a fluttering in her stomach and a warm feeling that she was
going to credit as a hot flash, she made it into her bedroom, closed the door,
and then leaned against it. Her eyes were closed, and she heard him walk down
the hall and shut his door. When she heard the click of safety, she opened her
eyes and looked around the room.
This room and this house were her new future and her partner.
She certainly didn’t need to get into any kind of entanglement with the guy who
had just lost his home to her. She didn’t care how he renewed her patriotic
spirit and was living proof that when you take care of a body, it ages well.
* * *
had been expecting the wicked witch, and then Helen of troy showed up.
did house stealing women look so good? When it came to this house, Rich could
admit he moved first and thought second. It was a dangerous habit to have, and
one that re-emphasized he had to do this by the book if he wanted to get his
had gone over his options with legal counsel on the military base. It had all
seemed so hopeless until one of the clerks found a county bylaw in Grovetown.
It allowed up to 90 days for the original owner to pay off any liens or debts,
and then the person had to physically inhabit the property for five days in
order to get ownership back. Armed with a plan, he gave a call to Claudia Blake
and asked if he could meet with the lawyer and, if possible, could he stay at
the house. She had said yes, and at the time, Richard had thought Claudia had
said yes because she was so sure that she was going to get ownership of the
house. After meeting her tonight, he wasn’t so sure that his initial assessment
was Claudia Blake? When he had first come to the house, he could see she had
added a new coat of paint, and some of the furniture was gone. It had
solidified that she was a gold digger and had begun to sell off pieces of his
house. Now that he had met her, Rich was having a hard time reconciling the
image he had in his head with the woman he met tonight. She was a walking
had tried to get into the house and not wake him. He didn’t want to tell her
that after 20 years in the military and serving on the front lines for six of
them, it took as little as a sneeze from a raccoon to wake him up.
woman has any compassion for the man whose house she is about to steal? He had
watched her pick up the cat and then take the phone call on the side as if
moving two feet to the right would block the sound and sight of her. Under
different circumstances, he would have described her as elegant. If he had to
guess, he’d say she was about five foot nine. What he found the most
interesting was her choice of colors and clothes. The lawyer had told him she
was a designer. However, Claudia Blake dressed like she was trying to hide. Her
clothes were black and moved around her. He had the impression that if she
could, Claudia would prefer to slip in and out of rooms without anyone noticing
the way she dressed or because of it, he could see Claudia getting a lot of
male attention. She certainly fit all of the checkboxes when it came to beauty.
Claudia had clear skin, heart-shaped lips, and a soft, spoken voice. The
clothes just made a man curious what was underneath those demure clothes.
the thing that caught his attention and made him take notice of the woman was
when she bent down to pick up the cat. He had learned long ago that there will
always be attractive women on the planet, but kindness towards others was
something that you couldn’t fake. He watched her murmur to the cat when she
believed she was alone. He could see the slight droop of her shoulders, and the
sluggish way she got out of the car. None of that disturbed her holding the cat
or making sure it was comfortable in her arms. To Rich, true beauty was the
innate kindness of people to one another and other helpless creatures. It was
made him take notice to a woman like a bee to pollen.
was not so old or far gone that he didn’t notice her natural beauty. She had grey
hair that glistened with health and highlights. Her posture was straight, and
when she stood in the doorway light, he could see her skin was clear and firm.
Her mouth somehow always wound up in a small bow.
shook his head to clear it and then walked over to the side of his bed and
dropped down to do push-ups. As he did the pushups, he didn’t bother counting.
The push-ups were part of his daily routine. It allowed his mind to wander as
his body did what it had been doing for the last 20 years. His mind mulled over
what really mattered. Rich was here to make sure he kept his family house. It
was his safe place and where he wanted to retire. Rich had to keep his eye on
the prize. Not the Helen of Troy two-legged prize, but the house. He had to
remember he was here for the house. He wasn’t interested in a kind woman who
was attractive and considerate of others. No, Rich knew he was here for his
house, and he wanted her gone.
Rich listened, and her
words sunk into an open sore that he hadn't addressed and always skipped. He had no one else coming besides him. She
was right whether she realized it or not. Rich was alone. His work and
colleagues had been his family after his mother passed away. His job hadn’t
gone away. There was a need for what he
did, but since he wasn't sure he could do the job with the same level of
excellence. Rich felt there wasn't a need for him. In the morning, often he
woke thinking about what the day would bring to him as he went to his computer
to see which hacking bulletins had been reported during the night. Then after Rich
looked at the report that he still received and would for the next six years as
part of his security clearance. Rich realized he wasn't going into work, and he
was just a bystander. He read it to see if there was any historical framework he
could email in or offer to the attendant who monitored his email, but he
wouldn’t be going to fight the bad guys.
Rich had an expectation
from himself, and he knew that his standards were a bit higher. Over the last
couple of months, there had been some things he had missed. Fortunately, the
younger group he had trained caught the details. To Rich, these were signs that
maybe it was time to let that younger group step up and lead the way.
He knew he shouldn't be upset. He had been in the Army for a
long time. He had started with friends from Grovetown, just one of the reasons
why he wanted to come back home. Friends like Robert Parker, like Ben, who
lived here, would understand him. Those were the guys who he had bonded within
the Army. For a short time, they had actually worked together.
Claudia brought up the questions he didn't have an answer to.
After Rich had settled this whole problem with the house, he still wasn’t sure
what he was going to do? Rich wasn't one to sit around and do nothing, and the
concept of retirement was scarier to him than facing any enemy with a gun.