Exclusive Excerpt: Suddenly Engaged by Julia London
Today Julia London is stopping over to share the third book in her Lake Haven series.
About the Book:
Single mother Kyra Kokinos spends her days waiting tables, her nights working on her real estate license, and every spare moment with her precocious six-year-old daughter, Ruby—especially when Ruby won’t stop pestering their grumpy next-door neighbor. At first glance, Dax Bishop seems like the kind of gruff, solitary guy who’d be unlikely to offer a cup of sugar, let alone a marriage proposal. But that’s exactly what happens when Ruby needs life-saving surgery.
Dax showed up in East Beach a year ago, fresh from a painful divorce and looking for a place where he could make furniture and avoid people. Suddenly his life is invaded by an inquisitive munchkin in sparkly cowboy boots—and her frazzled, too-tempting mother. So he presents a practical plan: his insurance will help Ruby, and then they can divorce—zero strings attached.
But soon Kyra and Dax find their engagement of convenience is simple in name only. As their attraction deepens, a figure from the past reappears, offering a way out. Can Kyra and Dax let go so easily—or has love become a preexisting condition?
“What are you doing over there, anyway?” Dax asked.
That was all she said. Apparently she was going to take a page out of his book and make him work for it. “College?” he asked.
“Nope. A real estate license.”
“Oh yeah? Going to sell some houses, huh?”
“That’s the plan,” she said, looking down at a book. “Hopefully some of these mega lake houses around here.” Her brow was furrowed as if she was trying to concentrate. Dax took that to mean that she didn’t want to talk. But then she said, “I need something with flexible hours, especially now that Ruby will be entering the first grade.”
“How close are you?” he asked.
“Hmm?” She glanced up.
“When will you get your license?”
“At this rate?” She looked at her wristwatch. “In about ten years.” She smiled. “What about you?”
“I’m not getting a real estate license.”
“Very funny,” she said. “I mean, what do you do? What’s with all the wood and iron and that little shed next door?” she asked.
“Furniture,” he said.
“I make furniture.”
Mrs. Coconuts laughed. “Do you think you could give me a little more than that? Like what kind of furniture? And for who?”
“Tables. Bureaus. Hutches. Mostly for rich people.” He looked at her sidelong. “The summer people who own those lake houses you want to sell.”
“Nice,” she said, nodding. “So that’s what you’re doing over there.”
“What’d you think?” he asked curiously.
“Oh, I don’t know. I had some theories—building crypts. Burying bodies.”
Dax stared at her, uncertain what to say to that.
She laughed. “I’m kidding. Well . . . sort of.”
Her eyes were twinkling at him, Dax thought. He liked that twinkle. It made him feel sort of twinkly himself.
“You’re kind of a mysterious guy,” she said. She’d twisted around in her seat, had crossed one leg over the other. Her foot was bouncing in time to the pencil she drummed against a thick, spiral-bound notebook. She wore a happy, amused smile that made him feel a little wobbly inside.
“I’m not mysterious,” he said. “Actually, I’m pretty boring.” He drilled the last screw in. “There you go.”
She didn’t look convinced, and stood up, walking to where he stood. She ducked around him and slipped between the door and him. With hands on hips, she looked up at the hinge, then the door. “It doesn’t close all the way,” she pointed out.
“Just adjust it,” he said.
“Just adjust it,” she repeated. “I don’t even know what this is, much less how to adjust it.”
Dax clucked his opinion of that. Everyone ought to know how to adjust things. Adjustment was part of life. He reached around her, but the hinge was a little bit out of range. He shifted, and she bumped up against his chest, and that mess of hair brushed against his cheek and made his skin tingle. “Here’s how you do it,” he said, showing her the tab.
“Aha,” she said and turned around, looking up at him with eyes the color of warm teak, crinkling in the corners because she was sort of smiling again like she was amused or happy, he didn’t know what. All he knew was that something was crackling in him, like a piece of paper thrown into a fire . . . crackling and crumbling and turning to ash. Dax couldn’t help himself; he looked at her mouth. He wanted to kiss that mouth in the worst way, wanted it so bad that he was a tiny bit fearful he might vomit with all that want churning in him.
The corners of her mouth turned up into a full-fledged smile, and Dax felt himself perilously close to doing something stupid.
“Thanks,” she said lightly, her voice reminding him of a morning bird. “I never knew how much that door annoyed me until you fixed it.”
“Yep.” He made himself look away and pick up his stuff. “Where’d the kid get off to?” he asked and risked a quick glance at Mrs. Coconuts.
She was still smiling. “She’s in her room—can’t you hear?”
All he could hear was a buzzing in his ears, Dax realized, due to the manic beating of his unused heart.
“She’s singing with her little recorder. She wants to be Katy Perry.”
“Well, if you can ever get the singing part of that to work out, she’ll be great at it,” he said.
“Okay, well . . . see you.” He opened the door and didn’t notice how soundlessly it closed behind him. He walked down the steps of the porch and tripped over one of Ruby’s toys in the yard, which he’d failed to notice right in front of him. Dax had been made deaf and blind by lust.
Okay, maybe not lust . . . but something equally precarious.
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Born in Canyon, Texas, and raised on a ranch, Julia London didn’t have her eye on writing romance right away. After graduating with a degree in political science from the University of Texas in Austin, she moved out to Washington, DC, eventually working in the White House. She later decided to take a break from government work and start writing. Today, she is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty novels. She writes historical romance and contemporary women’s fiction, and her most popular series include the Secrets of Hadley Green series, the Cabot Sisters series, the Desperate Debutantes series, the Lear Sisters series, and the Pine River series. She is a recipient of the RT Book Reviews Best Regency Historical Romance award for The Dangerous Gentleman, and a six-time finalist for the renowned RITA Award for excellence in romantic fiction. She resides in Austin, Texas.