Thursday, April 11, 2013

Take A Chance On Me

Visit the author's site:Susan May Warren. Susan May Warren is the RITA Award-winning author of more than thirty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable
characters have won acclaim with readers and
reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four
children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before
she and her family returned home to the States. She
now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on
Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of
her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times and won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Four of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in our lives. Visit Susan's website at

Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren. A Christiansen family book.
My review:
Take a Chance on MeBook description: Darek Christiansen is almost a dream bachelor—oldest son in the large Christiansen clan, heir to their historic Evergreen Lake Resort, and doting father. But he’s also wounded and angry since the tragic death of his wife, Felicity. No woman in Deep Haven dares come near.

New assistant county attorney Ivy Madison simply doesn’t know any better when she bids on Darek at the charity auction. Nor does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain three years ago to keep Jensen Atwood out of jail and in Deep Haven fulfilling community service, she was releasing the man responsible for Felicity’s death. All Ivy knows is that the Christiansens feel like the family she’s always longed for. And once she gets past Darek’s tough exterior, she finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with. Which scares her almost as much as Darek learning of her involvement in his wife’s case.

Caught between new love and old grudges, Darek must decide if he can set aside the past for a future with Ivy—a future more and more at risk as an approaching wildfire threatens to wipe out the Christiansen resort and Deep Haven itself.

Objectionable:Premarital sex mentioned (past), several kisses, characters think over the possibility of a affair in the past. A brief fight, injuries,  a car accident (past), an attack in a foreign country in the past as well and a fire coming extremely close to the town.

Thoughts:This is such a sweet story of forgiveness and second chances! With one accident and one women's death a whole town takes sides and lives are changed and filled with bitterness. This is the story of how that changes when several things happen...Ivy comes to town and bets on the wrong bachelor, who may just be able to give her the family she came to Deep Haven looking for after feeling unwanted in the foster care system. Darek left his wife and newborn son to have adventure fighting fires. When he returns their marriage was falling apart and after a fight she killed in a car accident. That was three years ago, he's know come to love his son and realize how special family is. He has also met Ivy and started to believe that he could find life and love once again. Jensen is the guy everyone in Deep Haven hates, who was driving the car that night and who killed Darek's wife. He's been doing community service for three years, he's suffering and bitter, but totally sorry. Claire is the missionary's kid who has suffered trauma and just wants everything to be right. She doesn't want to leave Deep Haven even though her parents are pressuring her. Deep Haven was the only place she felt safe. Everything is changing as characters come together and the aftermath of one accident is undone.

This was my first time reading the author's books and I was very happy with this book. Okay I loved it. The characters came to life and were so sweet and lovable. I couldn't really pick a favorite out of them, they were all great! I got a feeling of family and closeness from this book and the town it was set in. The writing was good and the plot exciting. I was really surprised and interested in how one car accident could just create all these plot lines and secrets that affected so many other characters! The whole book was kinda about how the family of Felicity, her husband, her friends and her town recovered from her death. Although she isn't in the book you kinda get to know her too. The descriptions and setting were lovely, I want to visit Minnesota now! Overall I enjoyed this book and the character tons! I had no problems at all, this is a pretty clean book for YA readers and definitely an enjoyable one! I would recommend to YA+ girls who love sweet stories about families, lives changing and redemption.
Characters:The characters were probably the best part of this story. They shone and they were very well written. Like I said I couldn't pick a favorite because they were all interesting and I really liked all of them :) Jensen was misunderstood and at times conflicted, but he really wanted to do the right thing. One of my favorite scenes is where he is talking about what happened, how he isn't guilty, but he is sorry and he's playing checkers with Claire's grandfather. It's a great scene :) Claire is a strong girl who makes people happy and is just overall sweet. She and Jensen were so cute together! Ivy was a great girl who just wanted to be loved, I was really able to relate to her. Darek was a kinda lumberjack type guy who loves the woods. And he's pretty smart around a fire too! And the scenes with his son, Tiger, made me smile :)
Cover:Perfect. It's sweet and definitely goes with the story :) I love the fonts and the colors too.
Tyndale Blog Network
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher and the views I've expressed are my own.

Here is an interview that was done (not be me) with the author:
1. This is the first installment in a brand new six-book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this

I love stories about families – watching the members interact and grow together through
challenges and victories – and I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow
up and deal with romance and career and futures. I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting
for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort. They want to
pass on their legacy to their children…but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a
parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to
decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when
those collide with real life.

2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.

Deep Haven, Minnesota is based in a small vacation town in northern Minnesota where I spent
my childhood. It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small
town and home. Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps
Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to
escape for a vacation.

3. What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Darek Christiansen?

As I started to put together this series, I began to think about our culture and our children today.
I started to take a look at the big questions we are faced with as parents – and as young people;
the issues that affect us as a culture, as well as personally. I wanted these books to go beyond
family drama, beyond a great romance to raise bigger questions and stir truths that we might
pass along to others. This story is about our propensity in our culture to blame others for what
goes wrong in our lives – and how this alienates us from each other, and ultimately, God. Darek
is the oldest brother in the family; the leader and a real hero. He’s a wildland firefighter and a
widower who’s had to give up his job to come home and run the resort and care for his young
son. Darek doesn’t realize he has a problem – he lives with anger on his shoulder, hating the
man who killed his wife (his best friend). His real problem is that he can’t forgive himself. In this
first story, readers meet the family, hang out at the resort and discover that God can redeem
even a heart of stone, if we take a chance on Him.

4. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?

This book is for the person who feels they just can’t get past the anger they have for someone
else to live in joy again. It’s for parents who see their children making bad choices and don’t
know where to turn. It’s for people who believe that no one will ever really love them because of
who they are, or the things they’ve done. It’s for people who need the courage to take a second
chance on love and faith and family. I’m hoping readers walk away with a sense of how much
God loves them, and that yes, He can heal the angry and broken-hearted.

5. How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to
make them feel?

Great question! I love a story that brings me on an emotional journey from anger to laughter to
hope. But most of all, I want readers to be wrapped up in joy, that feeling we get when watch
our football team win, or when we’re hands up in a convertible on a hot summer day, or digging
our feet into a sandy beach, or hugging our loved one when they return home. Ah. The sense
that, just for a moment, all is right in the world and everything tastes and feels delicious. I write
romances, and in the end it’s worth the journey to the happily ever after.

6. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?

I loved Darek’s transformation. His relationship with his son is so precious, but when he truly lets
go of his anger, he becomes the hero I always knew he could be. I love writing about broken
heroes who find healing.

7. What advice do you have for budding novelists?

Read! Then write the book you’d like to read.  But, along the way, learn the craft. In fact, a
good writer never stops learning.

8. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received?

Just keep writing. If you want to be a career novelist, you just have to keep writing.

9. In your writing career, what are you most proud of?

After over forty novels, I’m always striving to keep the stories fresh and unique; so I guess I’m
proud that every book is bathed in prayer, has a message singular to that story, and has unique
characters and journeys. Every story is a new adventure for me, and the reader.
And here is an excerpt of the first chapter:
My dearest Darek,
Even as I write this letter, I know I’ll tuck it away; the words on it are more of a prayer,
meant for the Lord more than you. Or maybe, in the scribbling upon this journal page, the
words might somehow find your heart, a cry that extends across the bond of mother and
The firstborn child is always the one who solves the mystery of parenthood. Before I
had you, I watched other mothers and wondered at the bond between a child and a parent,
the strength of it, the power to mold a woman, making her put all hopes and wishes into
this tiny bundle of life that she had the responsibility to raise.
It’s an awe-filled, wonderful, terrifying act to have a child, for you suddenly wear your
heart on the outside of your body. You risk a little more each day as he wanders from your
arms into the world. You, Darek, were no protector of my heart. You were born with a
willfulness, a courage, and a bent toward adventure that would bring me to the edge of my
faith and keep me on my knees. The day I first saw you swinging from that too-enticing oak
tree into the lake should have told me that I would be tested.
Your brothers shortened your name to Dare, and you took it to heart. I was never so
terrified as the day you came home from Montana, fresh from your first year as a hotshot,
feeling your own strength. I knew your future would take you far from Evergreen Lake. I
feared it would take you far, also, from your legacy of faith.
Watching your son leave your arms has no comparison to watching him leave God’s.
You never seemed to question the beliefs your father and I taught you. Perhaps that is
what unsettled me the most, because without questioning, I wondered how there could be
true understanding. I held my breath against the day when it would happen—life would
shatter you and leave your faith bereft.
And then it did.
It brought you home, in presence if not soul. If it hadn’t been for your son, I might have
done the unthinkable—stand in our gravel driveway and bar you from returning, from
Because, my courageous, bold oldest son, that is what you are doing. Hiding. Bitter and
dark, you have let guilt and regret destroy your foundation, imprison you, and steal your
joy. You may believe you are building a future for your son, but without faith, you have
nothing to build it on. Evergreen Resort is not just a place. It’s a legacy. A foundation. A
It’s the best of what I have to give you. That, and my unending prayers that somehow
God will destroy those walls you’ve constructed around your heart.
Darek, you have become a mystery to me again. I don’t know how to help free you. Or
to restore all you’ve lost. But I believe that if you give God a chance, He will heal your
heart. He will give you a future. He will truly lead you home.
Your mother

Chapter 1

Ivy Madison would do just about anything to stay in the secluded, beautiful, innocent town of
Deep Haven.
Even if she had to buy a man.
A bachelor, to be exact, although maybe not the one currently standing on the stage of the
Deep Haven Emergency Services annual charity auction. He looked like a redneck from the
woolly woods of northern Minnesota, with curly dark-blond hair, a skim of whiskers on his face,
and a black T-shirt that read, Hug a logger—you’ll never go back to trees. Sure, he filled out his
shirt and looked the part in a pair of ripped jeans and boots, but he wore just a little too much
“Come and get me, girls,” in his smile.
The auctioneer on stage knew how to work his audience. He regularly called out names from
the crowd to entice them to bid. And apparently the town of Deep Haven loved their firefighters,
EMTs, and cops because the tiny VFW was packed, the waitresses running out orders of bacon
cheeseburgers and hot wings to the bidding crowd.
After the show was over, a local band would take the stage. The auction was part of the
summer solstice festival—the first of many summer celebrations Deep Haven hosted. Frankly it
felt like the village dreamed up events to lure tourists, but Ivy counted it as her welcoming party.
Oh, how she loved this town. And she’d only lived here for roughly a day. Imagine how she’d
love it by the end of the summer, after she’d spent three months learning the names of locals,
investing herself into this lakeside hamlet.
Her days of hitching her measly worldly possessions—four hand-me-down suitcases; a loose
cardboard box of pictures; a garbage bag containing The Elements of Legal Style, How to Argue
and Win Every Time, and To Kill a Mockingbird; and most of all, her green vintage beach bike—
onto the back of her red Nissan Pathfinder were over.
Time to put down roots. Make friends.
Okay, buying a friend didn’t exactly qualify, but the fact that her money would go to help the
local emergency services seemed like a good cause. And if Ivy had learned anything growing up
in foster care, it was that a person had to work the system to get what she wanted.
She should be unpacking; she started work in the morning. But how long would it take, really,
to settle into the tiny, furnished efficiency apartment over the garage behind the Footstep of
Heaven Bookstore? And with her new job as assistant county attorney, she expected to have
plenty of free time. So when the twilight hues of evening had lured her into the romance of a
walk along the shoreline of the Deep Haven harbor, she couldn’t stop herself.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a lazy walk, stopping at storefronts, reading
the real estate ads pasted to the window of a local office.
Cute, two-bedroom log cabin on Poplar Lake. She could imagine the evergreen smell
nudging her awake every morning, the twitter of cardinals and sparrows as she took her cup of
coffee on the front porch.
Except she loved the bustle of the Deep Haven hamlet. Nestled on the north shore of
Minnesota, two hours from the nearest hint of civilization, the fishing village–turned–tourist
hideaway had enough charm to sweet-talk Ivy out of her Minneapolis duplex and make her
dream big.
Dream of home, really. A place. Friends. Maybe even a dog. And here, in a town where
everyone belonged, she would too.
She had wandered past the fudge and gift shop, past the walk-up window of World’s Best

Donuts, where the smell of cake donuts nearly made her follow her sweet tooth inside. At the
corner, the music drew her near to the VFW. Ford F-150s, Jeeps, and a handful of SUVs jammed
the postage-size dirt parking lot.
She’d stopped at the entrance, reading the poster for today’s activities, then peered in through
the windows. Beyond a wood-paneled bar and a host of long rectangular tables, a man stood on
the stage, holding up a fishing pole.
And that’s when Deep Haven reached out and hooked her.
“Are you going in?”
She’d turned toward the voice and seen a tall, solidly built middle-aged man with dark hair,
wearing a jean jacket. A blonde woman knit her hand into his.
“I . . .”
“C’mon in,” the woman said. “We promise not to bite. Well, except for Eli here. I make no
promises with him.” She had smiled, winked, and Ivy could feel her heart gulp it whole. Oh, why
had she never learned to tamp down her expectations? Life had taught her better.
Eli shook his head, gave the woman a fake growl. Turned to Ivy. “Listen, it’s for a good
cause. Our fire department could use a new engine, and the EMS squad needs more training for
their staff, what few there are. You don’t have to buy anything, but you might help drive up the
bids.” He winked. “Don’t tell anyone I told you that, though.”
She laughed. “I’m Ivy Madison,” she said, too much enthusiasm in her voice. “Assistant
county attorney.”
“Of course you are. I should have guessed. Eli and Noelle Hueston.” Noelle stuck out her
hand. “Eli’s the former sheriff. Hence the fact that we’ve come with our checkbook. C’mon, I’ll
tell you who to bid on.”
Who to bid on?
Ivy had followed them inside, taking a look around the crowded room. Pictures of soldiers
hung in metal frames, along with listings of member names illuminated by neon bar signs. The
smells of deep-fried buffalo wings, beer, and war camaraderie were embedded in the dark-
paneled walls.
A line formed around the pool table near the back of the room—what looked like former
glory-day athletes lined up with their beers or colas parked on the round tables. Two men threw
darts into an electronic board.
Then her gaze hiccuped on a man sitting alone near the jukebox, sending a jolt of familiarity
through her.
Jensen Atwood.
For a moment, she considered talking to him—not that he’d know her, but maybe she’d
introduce herself, tell him, I’m the one who put together your amazing plea agreement. Yes, that
had been a hot little bit of legalese. The kind that had eventually landed her right here, in her
dream job, dream town.
But Noelle glanced back and nodded for Ivy to follow, so she trailed behind them to an open
“Every year, on the last night of the solstice festival, we have a charity auction. It’s gotten to
be quite an event,” Noelle said, gesturing to a waitress. She came over and Eli ordered a basket
of wings, a couple chocolate malts. Ivy asked for a Coke.
“What do they auction?”
“Oh, fishing gear. Boats. Snowblowers. Sometimes vacation time-shares in Cancún.
Whatever people want to put up for charity. But this year, they have something special on the

agenda.” Noelle leaned close, her eyes twinkling. Ivy already liked her. And the way Eli had her
hand wrapped in his. What might it be like to be in love like that? That kind of love . . . well, Ivy
had only so many wishes, and she’d flung them all at living here, in Deep Haven.
“What?” Ivy asked.
“They’re auctioning off the local bachelors.”
And as if on cue, that’s when the lumberjack bachelor had taken the stage.
Ivy sipped her Coke, watching the frenzy.
“So are you going to bid?” Noelle asked.
Ivy raised a shoulder.
The lumberjack went for two hundred dollars, too rich for Ivy’s blood, to a woman wearing a
moose antler headband. He flexed for her as he walked off stage, and the crowd erupted.
A clean-cut, handsome young man took the stage next, to the whoops of the younger crowd
down front. “That’s my son,” Noelle said, clearly enjoying the spectacle. He seemed about
nineteen or twenty, tall and wearing a University of Minnesota, Duluth, T-shirt. He was built like
an athlete and had a swagger to match.
“He plays basketball for the UMD Bulldogs,” Noelle said. She placed the first bid and got a
glare from the young man on stage.
A war started between factions in the front row. “Should I bid?” Ivy asked. Not that she
would know what to do with a bachelor ten years younger than her. Maybe she could get him to
mow her lawn.
“No. Save your money for Owen Christiansen.”
Probably another lumberjack from the woods, with a flannel shirt and the manners of a
grizzly. Ivy affected a sort of smile.
“Maybe you’ve heard of him? He plays hockey for the Minnesota Wild.”
“No, sorry.”
“He’s something of a local celebrity. Played for our hometown team and then got picked up
by the Wild right after high school.”
“I’m not much of a hockey fan.”
“Honey, you can’t live in Deep Haven and not be a hockey fan.” Noelle grinned, turning
away as the wings arrived.
Ivy ignored the way the words found tender space and stabbed her in the chest. But see, she
wanted to live in Deep Haven . . .
Noelle offered her a wing, but Ivy turned it down. “Owen’s parents, John and Ingrid
Christiansen, run a resort about five miles out of town. It’s one of the legacy resorts—his great-
grandfather settled here in the early nineteen hundreds and set up a logging camp. It eventually
turned into one of the hot recreation spots on the north shore, although in today’s economy,
they’re probably struggling along with the rest of the Deep Haven resorts. I’m sure Owen’s
appearance on the program is a bid for some free publicity. Owen is the youngest son of the clan,
one of six children. I’m sure you’ll meet them—all but two still live in Deep Haven.”
A redhead won the bachelor on stage and ran up to claim her purchase. Ivy escaped to the
ladies’ room.
What if she did bid on Owen? Truly, the last thing she needed in her life was a real bachelor.
Someone she might fall for, someone who could so easily break her heart.
Maybe she could ask said bachelor to show her around Deep Haven. Teach her about hockey.
Certainly it might give her a little social clout to be seen with the town celebrity.
She could faintly hear the announcer stirring up the fervor for the next contestant, then a

trickle of applause for the main attraction as he took the stage. She walked out, standing by the
bar to survey this hometown hero.
They grew them big up here in the north woods. Indeed, he looked like a hockey champion,
with those wide shoulders, muscular arms stretching the sleeves of his deep-green shirt that read
Evergreen Resort—memories that live forever. He stood at ease like one might do in the military,
wearing jeans that hugged his legs all the way down to the work boots on his feet. The man
looked like an impenetrable fortress, not a hint of marketing in his face. So much for winning the
In fact, to use the only hockey term she knew, he looked like he’d just been checked hard into
the boards and come up with some sort of permanent scowl, none too happy to be standing in the
middle of the stage of the local VFW as the main attraction.
“C’mon, everyone, who will start the bidding for our Deep Haven bachelor tonight?”
Ivy looked around the room. It had hushed to a pin-drop silence, something not quite right
simmering in the air. She glanced over to where Jensen Atwood had been sitting and found his
seat vacant.
On stage, the man swallowed. Shifted. Pursed his lips. Oh, poor Owen. Her heart knocked her
hard in the chest. She knew exactly what it felt like not to be wanted.
“One hundred dollars? Who has it tonight for our local hero?”
She scanned the room, saw patrons looking away as if embarrassed. Even Eli and Noelle had
taken a sudden interest in their dinner.
Owen sighed and shook his head.
And right then, the pain of the moment squeezed the words from Ivy’s chest. “Five hundred
Every eye turned toward her, and for a moment, she had the crazy but horribly predictable
urge to flee. But the words were out, so she took a step forward, toward the stage. “I bid five
hundred dollars,” she said again, fighting the wobble in her voice.
Ivy shot a look at Noelle, expecting approval. But Noelle wore an expression of what she
could only pinpoint as panic. Wasn’t she the one who’d suggested Ivy buy the man?
And then from the stage, she heard, “Well, that’s good enough for me! Sold, to the pretty lady
in the white jacket. Miss, come up to the stage and claim your prize.”
Still, no one said a word—not a cheer, not a gasp, nothing. Ivy swallowed and met the eyes of
the man on stage. “I’ll meet him by the bar,” she said, her voice small.
Owen looked as relieved as she was that they didn’t have to create some public spectacle. He
moved off the stage and the auctioneer mercifully introduced the band. The men in back resumed
their pool playing.
Ivy couldn’t help it. She edged over to Noelle. “What’s the matter? I know he looks a little
rough around the edges, but—”
“That’s not Owen,” Noelle said, wiping her fingers with a napkin. She shot a glance past Ivy,
possibly at the stranger she’d just purchased.
“Owen couldn’t make it. That’s Darek Christiansen. His big brother.”
Ivy turned now, found her man weaving his way through the crowd. He didn’t stop to glad-
hand anyone or even slap friends on the back.
In fact, it seemed she’d purchased the pariah of Deep Haven.
Noelle confirmed it. “Brace yourself, honey. You’ve just purchased the most ineligible
eligible bachelor in town.”

* * *

Everything inside Darek told him to keep going, right on out of the VFW until he hit his Jeep,
and then punch the gas toward the hills.
And hide.
He would murder Owen next time he saw him, which wouldn’t be anytime soon, given the
kid’s celebrity demands. Sorry, Bro. I can’t make it up today—I have a photo shoot. Owen
couldn’t have thought ahead to that, maybe rearranged his oh-so-packed schedule? But Owen
didn’t think beyond practice, improving his shot, and updating his Facebook status. Last time
Darek checked, his twenty-year-old kid brother had 32,876 fans.
Darek had maybe thirty-eight friends on his own page. Not that he was counting, but it
seemed like some sort of commentary on his life.
The minute Darek had hung up with Owen, he should have made himself scarce—loaded
Tiger into the Jeep, attached the boat, and headed for some pristine lake. Except losing his head
and forgetting his responsibilities was how he got here in the first place.
Instead he’d experienced a streak of clearly misplaced hope that the stigma, the gossip, might
have finally died and he might once again be an eligible bachelor. Someone who just wanted to
start over, for himself and his son.
The near silence in the room when they’d called his name, when he’d stepped up to take
Owen’s place, confirmed that no, nothing had been forgotten.
Darek stalked past the bar, where, of course, his high school buddies gave him tight smiles.
He hadn’t seen any of the former Deep Haven Huskies getting up to sell their . . . well, it
wasn’t exactly his body, and she certainly didn’t expect a real date, right? So he wasn’t sure what
he was selling up there.
Darek glanced at his father, John, sitting at the end, nursing a Sprite. A linebacker-size man—
bigger than any of his boys; he’d played fullback for the Minnesota Gophers back in the day.
That he’d ended up with hockey players could only be blamed on the skating rink he’d cleared
on the lake every January.
“Great job, Son,” his father said, catching his arm.
“This was a bad idea,” Darek groused, slowing his exit.
“Five hundred dollars doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. You were the most expensive
bachelor here. That will make the news.”
“Yippee,” Darek said. But his father was right—he’d created a bit of buzz, and hopefully it
would someday turn into goodwill for their lakeside vacation spot, Evergreen Lodge Outfitter
and Cabin Rentals, which most people shortened to Evergreen Resort.
“Do you know the woman who bid on you?”
Darek scanned the room to locate her. He couldn’t see her well from the stage with the lights
in his face, but he thought he’d glimpsed a redhead wearing a white jean jacket, her hair in a
messy ponytail. She wasn’t tall, maybe five foot four, and a little on the curvy side.
Now he found her, sitting next to Noelle Hueston and staring at him like she’d purchased . . .
well, the devil.
Darek turned away, his lips a grim line. “No, I don’t know her.”
His father wisely said nothing, took a sip of his Sprite. Then, “She looks pretty.”
“Next time you want to sell your flesh and blood, pick a different son.”
He caught his father’s smirk as he turned to leave, and it only darkened his mood.
No one from Deep Haven, not a soul, had bid on him. What was so different about him from,
say, the two previous bachelors?

Okay, maybe that wasn’t a fair question. Neither of them walked around with the stigma of
being the youngest widower in town, pity and probably the tsk of tongues following in their
He glanced over to the chair where Jensen Atwood had sat, smug, rich, wearing a fancy
leather jacket, his hair cut short and slicked back, contempt in his eyes. Yes, he’d seen the man
sitting near the back, next to the jukebox, like no one would notice. He had a lot of nerve
showing up here, and Darek had just about launched off the stage toward him. That might be a
show the locals would bid on—a go-round between Jensen and Darek. Finally.
Instead he’d dark-eyed the guy into fleeing. It fed the heat inside him, gave Darek the strength
to stand there like an idiot while the town shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
Until, of course, Moneybags piped up.
Five hundred dollars.
Wow, did she waste her money on him.
And what kind of woman paid five hundred dollars for a man she didn’t know? Hopefully she
didn’t want a real date. He wasn’t a real-date kind of guy.
In fact, he was a never-date kind of guy.
Darek shook his head and headed out the door.
He paused on the sidewalk for a moment, drawing in the clean air, shaking off the reek of old
cigarettes, whiskey, and town gossip that coated him like grime. The moon had risen, hovering
above the town, milky light washing over the trading post, the Blue Moose Café, pooling in the
harbor, icing the waves of the lake.
He could feel his heartbeat thundering in his chest and hated how easily his guilt took hold of
him, turned him surly. At the least, he should swallow his pride—what was left of it—and meet
the woman who had forked out good money for him. For charity.
Instead he moved away from the door and dug out his cell phone, about to call home.
“Hey, where are you going?”
He turned, pressing End. His “owner” had followed him out of the VFW. A fireball with
green eyes and freckles, wearing the jean jacket he remembered over a T-shirt and a green scarf.
She stood about to his shoulder but had no problem slamming her hands to her hips and toeing
up to him.
“I thought we had a date.”
“Is that what you want? A date?” He didn’t mean for it to emerge so sharp, even angry, and
didn’t blame her for the way she opened her mouth as if she’d been slapped.
“No, I, uh—”
“Then why did you buy me? And why on earth would you pay five hundred dollars? Sheesh,
lady, you must be desperate or something.”
Wow. He must have lost control of everything decent inside him. But he didn’t like the
feeling of being humiliated.
Or owned.
In fact, the entire thing made him feel trapped and small, and he’d had enough of that, thank
Her mouth closed. Pinched. “I’m not desperate. If you want to know the truth, I felt sorry for
He probably deserved that, despite the way it sideswiped him. He didn’t let on, however,
preferring to stare at her, something icy he’d learned from his years on the rink. “Okay, then,
let’s just get this over with. What do you want?”

“You should know that I’m not like the other guys in there. If you’re looking for some kind of
fling, I’m not your man. I can probably hook you up with one of my buddies—”
“Wow. Stay away from me.” She whirled around, heading down the sidewalk, and he knew
he was a first-class jerk.
She held up a hand. “Forget it! You’re right; this was a bad idea.”
He ran after her—boy, she had a fast walk for such a short woman. “Listen, I’m sorry. Really.
It’s just that you don’t want a date with me. If you ask, I’ll bet you can get your money back.”
“I don’t want it back.”
She didn’t stop and he was walking fast to keep up.
“Then what do you want? Why did you buy me?”
She stopped, breathing hard. Pressed her fingers to her eyes. Oh no, she wasn’t crying, was
He swallowed, his throat on fire, hearing his words and wishing he wasn’t the kind of guy
who ran full speed into hurting others.
You are so selfish. Felicity, in his head. Always in his head.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, shoving his hands into his pockets. The wind took his words, flung
them toward the lake. “It’s just that I’m the last person you want to be seen in town with.”
She sighed, turning her face away from him. “Well, I don’t have anyone else.” Her voice
emerged small and wheedled in past the anger, the annoyance.
It settled inside, in a place he reserved for Tiger, and he tempered his tone. “Are you here for
the weekend?
“No. I live here.” She said it with a layer of determination, as if convincing herself.
Really? “I know nearly everyone in this town—”
“I moved here yesterday. I’m the new assistant county attorney.”
Uh-oh. He’d heard that the current assistant CA had resigned to stay home with her newborn
child. He’d miss the way she tolerated his monthly phone calls. But someone had to keep tabs on
Jensen, right? He looked at this angry sprite and grimaced, imagining her reaction next time
Jensen threatened a restraining order.
Darek might be the one doing years of community service.
“Sorry,” he said again.
Her shoulder jerked in a halfhearted shrug.
“Maybe . . . maybe I could help you carry furniture or chop wood or mow your grass or
She had folded her hands across her chest. “Wow, I must be a real catch for you to offer to
mow my lawn instead of being seen in public with me.”
“No, I—”
“Like I said, you’re off the hook.”
“I don’t want to be off the hook. You bought me fair and square.”
She pursed her lips.
“I have an idea. C’mon.”
She frowned at him, and frankly he was done begging, not sure how he’d gotten to this point
in the first place. So he turned and headed for the Jeep, parked just down the street.
He didn’t look behind him but heard her steps. When he reached the car, he held her door
open like a gentleman, although he knew he might be a little late to resurrect any sort of real

She looked up at him before getting in, her eyes big and shiny in the moonlight. They caught
his and for the first time, he noticed how pretty they were, with golden flecks at the edges.
“I’m safe, even if I’m a jerk.”
“I have friends who will hunt you down and kill you if I go missing.”
“I have no doubt.” He took a long breath and stuck out his hand. “Darek Christiansen, Deep
Haven tour guide, at your service, milady.”
She regarded his hand for a moment, and he sensed something shifting inside her. “Ivy
Madison.” Then she slid one of her petite hands into his and smiled.
The full force of it reached out and poured into him, hot and bold and shaking him through.
He dropped her grip, swallowed. Stepped back.
She climbed into the Jeep and reached for the seat belt, her eyes on his as he closed the door.
Oh, boy.
Maybe he should have run when he had the chance.

* * *

Jensen sat outside the VFW in the Pine Acres work truck—the one he took to town when he
wanted to hide—and watched Darek get the girl. Again.
And why not? Darek Christiansen always won.
Tonight, he’d stared Jensen down until he’d had no choice but to slink out. The last thing
Jensen wanted was a fight. Especially with only six weeks left on his sentence. He didn’t need a
judge deciding he wasn’t repentant enough and upgrading his community service to a stint
behind bars.
Jensen should simply concede that Darek would always win. His streak began in fourth grade,
when they’d both started playing hockey, and continued long after Jensen moved away, returning
every summer as they vied for Felicity’s attention.
Sure, Jensen had a few glimmering moments. Like the summer Darek escaped to Montana to
fight the fire in Glacier National Park with the Jude County Hotshots, after Jensen had given up
his own firefighting dreams. Jensen and Felicity had nearly become something that stuck then—
probably would have if Darek hadn’t returned home tan and triumphant.
And of course, there was the simple fact that in the end Darek had married Felicity. Jensen
hadn’t quite seen that one coming. But then again, he doubted Darek had either.
He watched as Darek and the redhead headed out of town in his Jeep Wrangler. For a
moment, he debated going back inside to listen to the Blue Monkeys. After all, that’s why he’d
braved the auction—Jensen normally slunk in late for the band’s events, sitting in the shadows so
no one saw him. But today he’d misjudged the time, the auction ran over, and well, creeping
back in now felt too much like tucking his tail between his legs.
He had at least a smidgen of pride left.
Jensen put the truck into gear and pulled out.
One hundred hours and he’d be free; he could leave Deep Haven and never look back. Maybe
keep driving all the way to California or Mexico, where he could change his name and leave his
past in the dust.
On top of the hill over the town, Jensen resisted the urge to glance out the passenger window
at the scattering of lights that made up Deep Haven. Eyes, watching him, blinking, accusing.
He kept his gaze on the road, slowing as he took the truck around a curve carved through the
granite, where the shoulder disappeared. His hands slickened and he caught himself holding his

He couldn’t wait to leave. But to do that, he’d have to find a few more places where he could
go, hat in hand, begging for hours. Deep Haven seemed determined to keep him from fulfilling
his community service, especially lately. Volunteer jobs had fizzled to ten hours a week and
some places, like the after-school tutoring program, had turned him away.
Apparently the fact that he had graduated from college and managed two years of law school
didn’t matter to the English teachers struggling to teach their sixth graders to read.
No, if the citizens of Deep Haven had their way, he would have been their first public stoning.
He turned south where the road split around Evergreen Lake and took the paved road to the
end, pulling in to the gated community of Pine Acres. The electronic gate and pass card could
probably be considered overkill, but his father had promoted safety for the vacation homes when
he jumped into the world of property development and created the luxury vacation community,
and he kept his word. At least to the residents of the community.
As Jensen drove through the gates, he noticed that deer had snacked on the currant bushes by
the entrance. He’d have to reshape them, maybe spray. A bulb was out on the automatic entry
lights, and he spotted a tree down along one of the wooded drives. He’d come by tomorrow on
the four-wheeler and clean it up.
He had to mow, anyway, and finish painting the Millers’ garage—a project his father thought
might fill time and create some goodwill. After all, the Millers were one of his father’s largest
clients in the Cities with their string of cinemas.
Jensen crawled into the driveway of his father’s massive vacation home and parked the truck
outside. As he got out, the stars created a canopy of brilliance, innocent and bright. They felt so
close he wanted to reach up and touch one. The wind hushed in the white pine and birch, the
poplar and willow that surrounded the property.
Motion sensor lights flickered on as Jensen moved toward the service door, blinding him for a
moment. Then he let himself into the darkness of the garage and didn’t bother to turn on the
lights, toeing off his shoes and moving from memory up the stairs to the great room. At the top,
moonlight streamed through the grand windows that overlooked the lake, waxing the wood floor
with light. The ceiling rose two stories, trapping the silences of the grand house, and the place
smelled of the walleye he’d cooked for lunch in butter and dill. He dropped his keys onto the
granite countertop and opened the double-door stainless fridge, peering inside for something.
Grabbing a root beer in a tall bottle, he twisted off the cap and padded out to the deck.
The lake rippled in the darkness, fingers of light feathering over the surface. He could barely
make out Gibs’s light next door, trickling through the woods and across the sandy beach. He
should check on the old man. A canoe lay moored on the sand, evidence of a recent visit by his
granddaughter, Claire. How she loved to canoe the length of the lake.
Jensen didn’t mean to stalk, but he loved watching her. And what else did he have to do,
Across the lake, almost directly from Pine Acres, the lights of the Evergreen Resort main
lodge blazed.
Once upon a time, he and Darek had been the kings of Evergreen Lake.
He set his root beer on the railing and dug out his harmonica.
The sound echoed across the lake, long and twangy, Johnny Cash’s “Cry! Cry! Cry!” Maybe
it was a little indulgent, but tonight, he couldn’t help it. “You’ll call for me but I’m gonna tell
you, bye, bye, bye . . .”

He listened to the last of the sound lingering as he finished. It was so easy, sometimes, to just
close his eyes, lose himself in memories. The heat of the sun on his skin, the taste of trouble in
his laughter. Standing on the bow of the canoe, his feet balanced on the edges. Claire and Felicity
on the seat in the middle, and at the stern, facing him, similarly balanced, stood Darek.
Jensen had seen that sparking of challenge in Darek’s eyes as he said, “You can’t knock me
“Watch me.” Jensen gave the canoe a playful jerk.
Felicity squealed. The summer had turned her hair a rich, luscious blonde, and with her
skimpy bikini, he could barely keep his eyes in his head. She faced him, grinning, and he
wondered if she could hear his heart pounding in his chest.
Claire grabbed for her side of the seat, and he caught her gaze on him. She always made him
feel a little naughty, even when he wasn’t thinking anything he shouldn’t. Then again, he
supposed that’s what a missionary kid was supposed to do. Make you behave.
But on days like this, with the sun streaming down his back and both girls smiling up at him,
he didn’t care about behaving.
Just winning.
Jensen jerked the canoe hard, and Darek’s arms windmilled. He nearly went over but found
his balance and stamped his foot, making the canoe lurch the other direction.
Jensen caught himself and jerked it back, this time fast, hard and—
Darek leaned into it, and suddenly Jensen found himself in the air. The chill of lake water
swept away his breath, and he kicked hard to right himself.
He found Darek’s hand reaching for him when he came up. Jensen took it. And yanked.
Darek flipped over his head and into the lake. Darek came up sputtering, then launched
himself at Jensen. They wrestled until they both hung on the side of the canoe, breathing hard.
“Let’s take your dad’s boat out, get some dinner down at the Landing,” Felicity said as Darek
reached for her. She swatted him. Glanced at Jensen. “Please?”
Claire reached out and helped Jensen into the canoe. Darek climbed in after him and they
paddled back to shore.
Thankfully, his father wouldn’t be back until the weekend to grouse about the boat. Claire and
Felicity met him in sundresses and they picked up Darek across the lake, then motored down to
the outside grill and restaurant, Jensen’s knee propped on the diver’s chair as he guided the boat.
“Faster, Jens!” Felicity said, so he pushed up the throttle. Darek frowned, his eyes darkening,
but Felicity was laughing and Jensen could feel it in his chest.
Her laughter always felt sweetly dangerous, like if he hung on too long, it might burn him. He
could still hear her sometimes, in the darkness across the lake. Taste the memory of that curious
summer when he had her all to himself, feel the texture of her kisses. What a fool he’d been,
gobbling up the idea that if he did it right, she might belong to him. Believing that he even really
wanted that.
Because she’d never belonged to him. Not then, not later.
He opened his eyes, staring into the night, at the lights across the lake, pressing into the
He should have remembered that Darek Christiansen always won. 

This is a great book and I hope anyone who picks it up enjoy it!
Love, Sierra


  1. This sounds like such a sweet story. And wow, 6 books! Thank you so much for sharing! :)

  2. So excited you liked this one, Sierra - and I am excited to read all six of these books. It's always fun when the series expands beyond the usual "three-book" trend. :)


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