The Crown Prince’s Bride by Donna Alward – a Review

The Crown Prince’s Bride by Donna Alward – a Review


The Crown Prince's Bride

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A Crown Prince gets a second chance at love with the woman who’s always been there – in the next book in the prince duology from Donna Alward!

The Crown Prince of Marazur is suffering from a broken heart. After losing his wife and future queen, he knows he’ll never find love again with a partner as wonderful as her. He’s thrown himself into his duties and is trying to be a better father to his two children, but he’s lonely. Even though falling in love seems impossible, so does spending the rest of his life alone.

Stephani has been Raoul’s assistant for years. Smart, loyal, and discreet, Stephani is fantastic at her job. Except for the fact that she’s been in love with her boss since her first week of employment, not that she would ever act on it. Besides, Raoul is first in line to the throne and she’s his assistant. If Raoul ever marries again, it’ll be with someone who can be a future queen. Not someone like Stephani.

When Raoul’s date for a state dinner is unable to attend, he invites Stephani. She’s well-versed on the issues and castle protocol, and Raoul’s always been comfortable with her. But when Stephani arrives, Raoul hardly recognizes her. Is this stunning woman the same one who’s run his office for years?

The Crown Prince’s Bride is the ultimate fairy tale for readers looking for Cinderella to get her prince—and be able to keep him past midnight




The Crown Prince’s Bride by Donna Alward is the 2nd and final book in her sweet The Prince duology. Once again, Donna Alward gives us a wonderful sweet delightful romance.  The Crown Prince’s Bride continues the story of the Royal family of Marazur, with the Crown Prince, Raoul now the hero.  The story picks up close to when it left in the first book.  The wedding planning for Diego and Rose is on the way, with everyone working hard in the preparation.  Stephani, who is Raoul assistant, is working overtime time to make sure the wedding goes as planned, as well as helping Raoul with his duties.

Just a brief refresher:  a year ago, Raoul wife’s , Ceci was killed in a car crash, devastating him and his two children.  Stephani was Ceci’s cousin, and has worked for Raoul for 8 years.  Over the years working for Raoul, she knew she had fallen in love with him, but she loved Ceci and would never allow herself to push her feelings. 

Even now, with a year past, Stephani knows Raoul is still in mourning, and continues to hide her feelings, as she works hard to be the best assistant for him.   At Diego and Rose’s wedding, Stephani had to step in to be Rose’s maid of honor, and wore the fancy beautiful gown.  Raoul begins to see her in another light, besides being his trusted friend and valued assistant.  What follows, is a slow built romance that will bring them very much together, with both knowing their true feelings.  They take a week long business trip to the Rivera, and act on their lustful feelings. 

 Raoul though falling hard for Stephani, is afraid to move forward, claiming he is not ready, causing  Stephani to reevaluate her staying in Marazur.  She loves her job, and is very good at it, but she knows Raoul is afraid of moving forward, and she needs to put her own happiness to the forefront.  She makes moves to leave and find another job, because she can’t handle her feelings for Raoul, and feels he needs to find a proper Queen.

Raoul, with advice from his brother, father and friends realize that his fears are also based on losing another person he loved, and the pain it causes.  He must get past the grief and pain to  accept the joy that could come from being with someone he loves.   Will he let Stephani leave?

The Crown Prince’s Bride is a sweet, wonderful, heartwarming romance, with some heartbreaking moments. I loved this family that we got to know in the first book, and continued to spend time with in this book.  I loved Diego and Rose, and loved Raoul and Stephani equally.
Donna Alward has written a very enjoyable, sweet contemporary romance.  She always gives us great likable characters, and  from the start you will root for Stephani to get her fairy tale romance.   

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher


Deck the Halls by Donna Alward – a Review

Deck the Halls by Donna Alward – a Review


Deck the HallsAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM

In the last year, George’s life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he’s still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in-arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.

Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother’s death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected.

With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?




Deck the Halls by Donna Alward is a novella that is part of her wonderful  Darling, VT series.  Each book in this series is sweet heartwarming romances, and Deck the Halls continues this trend.  I loved this book, and the couple that we fell in love with from the start.

George, whom we met in the first book of this series, is a homeless veteran, who has PTSD.  Laurel and Aiden (the first book couple) befriended him and helped him slowly restart his life.   In Deck the Halls, George is our hero, starting to find a life working for Laurel, at the Garden Center;  living in a small apartment, and slowly allowing himself to make friends.  The past though still haunts him, which he never talks about.

Amy Merck, our heroine, comes to Darling looking for George to find closure on the death of her twin brother, who was George’s best friend and died in the Middle East.  When George sees Amy, he is shocked and immediately closes up, refusing to discuss anything with the past. When he tells her to leave, Amy sees he is not the same person.   The next day she returns, apologizing for not respecting his wishes.  She convinces him to go to lunch just to talk to each other, even if he can’t discuss what happened to change him so drastically.

What follows is a slow built romance that was very touching.  Amy herself had her own issues, having been divorced, but she was simply wonderful trying to slowly get George to open up and try to tell her what happened.  Slowly George will begin to trust Amy, and tell her how her brother died.  He blamed himself, but she knows from his descriptions that he was not at fault.  Amy was a fantastic heroine, as she did everything in her power to show George how much everyone in Darling cares about him, and to give their relationship a chance, as well as fight those demons that was destroying his life.

Donna Alward once again, gives us a wonderful story, with a fantastic couple, wonderful secondary characters, and showing us the terrible scars of PTSD.  Deck the Halls was a touching and heartwarming story, with a beautiful Christmas themed background.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher


The Playboy Prince and the Nanny by Donna Alward – Review, Tour & Guest Post

The Playboy Prince and the Nanny by Donna Alward – Review, Tour & Guest Post




The Playboy Prince and the NannyAmazon / B&N Nook / Google Play / Kobo  / iBooks

Prince Diego Navarro is the “spare” to his brother’s “heir”. While Raoul performs his crown prince duties with the appropriate sense of nobility and poise, Diego’s garnered a bit of a reputation as a playboy – despite the good he does behind the scenes with his favorite charities.

But when tragedy strikes and his sister-in-law is killed in a car accident, Diego knows it’s time for the playboy to step up. If not for his brother, then for his niece and nephew, who now find themselves without a mother.

Which is where Rose Walters comes in.

Rose isn’t intimidated by money or glitz. The veteran nanny has worked for the rich and minimally famous, but a manor house is no comparison to a castle… or the handsome princes who live there. However, the worst thing she could possibly do is fall for the gorgeous playboy with a surprising heart of gold. He’s a prince; she’s the help. He lives in the tabloids; she loves her privacy. But when her two darling charges start to play matchmaker, Diego and Rose don’t stand a chance.

The Playboy Prince and the Nanny is the first book in Donna Alward’s royal duology.



The Playboy Prince and the Nanny by Donna Alward is the first book in her Royal Duology. Once again, Donna Alward gives us a wonderful sweet delightful romance.  The Playboy Prince and the Nanny revolves around a Royal family, but this book was so much fun to read, as every single character was great, and I loved every moment of it.

Prince Diego Navarro is with his friends at a bar, living the life of a playboy prince, when he sees on the television the news of terrible tragedy in his homeland of Mazazur.  His sister in law and the nanny were killed in the horrific car crash, and Diego heads home to help his brother, Raoul, the crown prince, as well  as his niece and nephew through this trying time.  Raoul has always performed along with his father, the King all the duties required of nobility, leaving Diego to live his fun wild life.  But Diego is determined to step in and show his brother and father that he is more than capable of handling any duties required.  It will be Diego who will hire a new nanny to help with the children.

Enter Rose Walters, the new nanny, who has come with excellent references with the rich and famous.  Rose knows the rules, and is very good at her job.   Rose was wonderful with her two charges, Emilia and Max, and in a short time they come to love her, as does she, and helps them learn to adapt to the loss of their mother.  When Rose arrived, she was met by Diego, and though he was handsome, caring and totally different than his playboy image, she knew she needed to avoid him as much as possible.  Her attraction to him was real, and soon Diego will find himself enjoying the friendship he had with Rose.  Both of them find it hard to keep their distance, as Diego tried to spend time with the children and Rose. 

Of course, with a Royal family, pictures are secretly taken and Rose find herself exactly where she did not want to be; on the cover of the papers.  She was help, and he was a prince.  There could be no future.  Rose must decide if she should stay, or leave the precious children, who would get hurt again. However, the Navarro family does not let the media dictate their lives, and to her surprise, Raoul and his father are supportive, finding themselves caring about her, too.  Diego is determined to show Rose how much he loves her and that she will be accepted into the Royal family.  I loved Diego and Rose together, and I adored both Max and Emilia. 

The ending was so well done, happily emotional and very satisfactory.  If you enjoy a sweet well written romance, with so many likeable characters, you should read The Playboy Prince and the Nanny.  If you have not read Donna Alward, and you enjoy romances, you should be reading her books.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher



Guest Post-White and Aqua

The Inspiration behind the Princes of Marazur…

When it came to really sitting down and planning out the Princes of Marazur duet, I had to do some serious thinking about my princes. I’d already established them a bit in The Rancher’s Runaway Princess, but this was different. They had more of a walk-on role in that book, and now they were going to be center stage.

I knew that:

Raoul is the Crown Prince, and takes it seriously. That he’s married with a girl and a boy. That he and Diego lost their mother when they were very young, and that Lucy (their half-sister) is born of an affair.

Diego is the “Spare” heir, and he’s the one who rebelled as he grew older, establishing a reputation as a palace bad boy and playboy. Sure, he went to university, but he was more interested in the polo ponies and fillies of other sorts than really studying. I also knew that when the story started, he would need to be trying to shed that reputation, build some credibility, and be an asset to the family.

Sound like anyone else you can think of? #willandharry

I also found myself thinking about the remake of Sabrina that was out years ago, featuring Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear. Now granted, this heroine isn’t going to fall for Diego and then really realize she’s in love with Raoul. But it does represent a bit of the dynamic between the brothers, much like Linus and David in the movie. Linus doesn’t think David will ever settle down, doesn’t think he takes things seriously, and David’s used to being underestimated. In the end, Linus learns to loosen his stranglehold on his responsibilities and trust David, who is ready to grow up and show there’s more to him than his past reputation.

Of course, once I started writing, the characters took on a life of their own and simply became Diego and Raoul, with their own issues and struggles and triumphs.


About The Author

Marti Corn Photography donna alward H-R 1600


A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She is the author of Somebody Like You, Somebody’s Baby, and Someone to Love.

Social Links:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Author Blog / Pinterest

SMP St. Martins








Somebody’s Baby by Donna Alward – a Review

Somebody’s Baby by Donna Alward – a Review


Somebody's BabyAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM /

Veterinarian Rory Gallagher chose a different path from his brothers, both of whom became first responders in the lovely little town of Darling, Vermont. Rory s always had an affinity for animals and the ladies. Known for his impressive track record in breaking hearts, Rory never meant to hurt anyone; he s just never been in a hurry to settle down. It s not as if he needs to pay a visit to the town s famed Kissing Bridge to magically find love. He ll know The One when he sees her. . .right?

Oaklee Ferguson is the kid sister of Rory s best friend and, even now that she s all grown up, remains immune to the pet-doctor s charms. When she shows up at Rory s clinic late one night devastated after hitting a stray dog with her car Rory s so-called bedroom eyes are the last thing on her mind. Still, his care and kindness toward the dog, and his concern for her feelings, catches Oaklee by surprise. . .and soon the two (and rescued dog makes three!) begin to share a deep connection that neither could have ever imagined. Could it be that love has been waiting for them by the bridge all along?



Somebody’s Baby by Donna Alward is the 3rd book in her wonderful Darling, VT series.  Having enjoyed the first two books in this series, I looked forward to reading Somebody’s Baby.  Since it has become the norm for Alward, I thoroughly enjoyed Somebody’s Baby; perhaps the best one yet.

Oaklee Ferguson, our heroine, is the social butterfly, who is in charge of promoting tourism in Darling, VT.  Oakley leads a busy life, working hard for the town she loves, but her own personal life has her a bit despondent.  One night, she accidently hits a dog, and in her panic to save him, she rushes to the local vet.   

Rory Gallagher, the vet and our hero, has just closed  and is upstairs in his apartment when Oaklee arrives with the dog.   Rory, manages to treat the dog, and set his broken leg.  Though they do not hang around, both Rory and Oaklee know each other very well.  Oaklee is Rory’s best friend, Cam’s sister, whom he finds attractive, but always kept his distance, because of Cam.   Oaklee always had a thing for  Rory, but sensed his disinterest, as well as he was known as a womanizer.  Oaklee feels guilty for hurting the dog, and Rory will use that to get Oaklee to take care of Buster, until he is better and a permanent home can be found. 

What follows is slow built romances that will have Buster play a big part in bringing them together and each heart will begin to melt.  Both have their own issues that become obstacles in their budding  relationship; Rory loved a girl and her son, who left him heartbroken; Oaklee thought she found the man to spend her life with, only to have him leave her at the altar.  Despite these issues, we knew from the start that we wanted Rory and Oaklee together. They were likeable, fun, and perfect for each other.  If only they could trust each other and leave the past behind them.

Donna Alward once again gives us a wonderful couple, beautiful romance, a cute dog, great secondary characters and even some tears.  This is a fun delightful series that keeps us pining for more.  There are many other characters who can have their stories told, which I for one look forward to.  Somebody’s Baby was a wonderfully enjoyable read, which if you love romances you should be reading this series .  This does read well as a standalone, but why not start with the first book in this series, and enjoy them all.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher



Someone to Love by Donna Alward – a Review

Someone to Love by Donna Alward – a Review


Alward Something to LoveAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM / Book Depository

Ethan Gallagher is a firefighter in Darling, Vermont, who followed tradition and pledged his love on the Kissing Bridge to ensure lifelong happiness. A few years later, he s a widower with two rambunctious boys who no longer believes in magic. But even he has to admit that free-spirited Willow Dunaway fills him with wonder and an attraction he cannot deny.

Willow s come back to Darling a different girl than the one who left after high school. Overcoming her past and owning her own business has made her into a strong, independent woman. Single dad Ethan appeals to her in a way she didn t expect, even though settling down is the last thing on her mind. But after fire destroys the local food bank, the town rallies, and a fling between Ethan and Willow leads to unintended consequences. Can they find a way out of their heartbreak to make a home in each other s hearts?




Someone to Love by Donna Alward is the 2nd book in her Darling, VT series.   Willow Dunaway is our heroine, and we had met her in the first book of this series.  Willow, who runs a successful bakery café that leans on the healthy organic side, is also very likeable, independent, a hard worker and very different than your local business woman.  She has a blue or purple streak in her hair, and has a nose ring. 

Ethan Gallagher, our hero, is a widower, who lost his wife a few years ago.  He has two wonderfully adorable sons, but he remains cold and embittered by the loss of his beloved wife.  Ethan relies on his big family to help him, when he is off to work on his fire fighter duties; but when he is home, his whole life are his sons.  Ethan had met Willow at Laurel and Aiden’s wedding, as she is Laurel’s best friend.  But when he runs into her with his sons by her café, Ethan is unfriendly and rude, even if his sons take a liking to Willow.  Early on, though I understood his pain, I really didn’t like Ethan too much.  That did change as the story progressed, though he did continue to act like a jerk at times, which would have turned me off of him.  Poor Willow had her own issues to get past from her teenage years.  Despite this, she was so great with the boys, and that was a lot of fun.

What follows is a slow build romance between two unlikely people.  Both Ethan and Willow have to face the pain of their past, in order to trust their hearts to each other.  Ethan is afraid to get hurt again, but his wonderful family pushes him to move on.  Willow has told no one about her past, but she also has her best friend Laurel and Ethan’s sister to help her.  The key is for both them to open up to each and once they do, their love will bloom in a beautiful heartwarming romance.  But there are a few obstacles that will come up that can break up their relationship.   Will Ethan and Willow be able open up and help  each other to get past their issues?

The best part of this sweet story, are Ethan’s sons Connor and Ronan.  I loved them both and loved how Willow was with them.  I really loved Willow throughout the whole book.  Ethan took some time, but did get better closer to the end.  I love the Gallagher family, too, and look forward to more stories from the rest of the siblings.   If you love small town romances, family, friendship and adorable children, I suggest you read this series.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher


Somebody Like You by Donna Alward – Review, Guest Post, Tour & Giveaway

Somebody Like You by Donna Alward – Review, Guest Post & Giveaway


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A kiss to last a lifetime

Aiden Gallagher was only five years old when he appeared in a photograph on the Kissing Bridge. The town of Darling, Vermont, has used Aiden’s image on the famed bridge—local legend has it that a kiss there results in everlasting love—as part of its tourism campaign. Now, twenty years later, Aiden is asked to recreate the moment with the woman he once kissed: Laurel Stone.

Recently divorced, there’s nothing Laurel wants less than to pretend happily-ever-after with Aiden. As teenagers, their romance was no fairy tale—and Laurel has never quite forgiven Aiden for breaking her heart. But now that she is back in her hometown, and keeps bumping into police officer Aiden, Laurel can’t deny that there’s still a strong flicker between her and her old flame. Could it be that the Kissing Bridge is working its magic on Laurel and Aiden—and that all true love ever needed was a second chance?




Somebody Like You by Donna Alward is the first book in her new Darling, VT series.  This was my first book by Donna Alward, and after finishing this story, it will not be my last.  I really enjoyed Somebody Like You.  This was a sweet pure romance, with a great couple, wonderful characters, within a nice small town atmosphere. 

Laurel Stone returns home to Darling, VT after her divorce. She is starting life anew by purchasing the local gardening store, and has sworn off men.  When her store is vandalized, she comes face to face with her high school crush, Aiden Gallagher, who is now a cop.  Aiden broke Laurel’s heart in high school, and she has never forgotten or forgiven him.  Aiden tries to apologize, saying he regrets what he did when he was 17.  But Laurel coming off of her divorce is very cold and wants nothing to do with Aiden.

There is also the famous photograph promoting Darling’s Kissing Bridge of 5 year old Aiden and Laurel kissing.  That picture has been there for 20 years, and now the town has approved changing the picture.  They want a grown up Aiden and Laurel to do another one. Aiden is willing, but Laurel wants nothing to do with it. 

Despite her misgivings, Laurel keeps running into Aiden, when he comes to her rescue a few times, and together they become involved in helping, George, a homeless man.  The mystery behind the vandalism in town, and George is a nice side story. 

What follows is a heartwarming story, with Laurel slowly rekindling her feelings for Aiden.  After having been hurt during her divorce, Laurel had given up on her dreams, closing her heart to being hurt again.  At first she was angry, bitter and cold towards Aiden, but he was such a wonderful hero.  He understood where Laurel was coming from, and took his time to win her over.  It was so much fun to see her begin to change and open herself up to love.  But even to near the end, Laurel would pull back, but family and friends, as well as Aiden would work to help show her the way to happiness.

Donna Alward has written a beautiful romance, and the sweet emotional ending was simply wonderful.  If you enjoy a pure romance, with a little bit of mystery, wonderful characters, then I suggest you read Somebody Like You. 

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher


Guest postWhat Makes Small Town Romances so Special?
By Donna Alward


When I started thinking about this question—what makes small town romances so special?—I thought about the books and series that I’ve loved over the years and why. When it comes right down to it, small towns are about family. Either the family you’re born into, or the family you choose. Small towns are where people stick their noses in your business, but also where help is only a phone call away.

Small towns are vibrant and quirky and full of personality, just like most families. People look after each other. You know your neighbors. And right now we live in an age of more ways to connect and yet feeling more and more disconnected. But reading a book or a series set in a small town gives a reader a sense of connection. To place. To people. For those of us a little older, (emphasis on the “little!”) it’s a little nostalgic, perhaps reminding us of where we grew up, when times were “simpler” (though they sure didn’t seem simple at the time!). For slightly younger readers, small towns can represent the sort of place they’re longing for.

For me, it’s all about where you call home. In fact, that’s the main component of all of my stories—where my characters belong. Sometimes that’s geographical, and sometimes it’s more a matter of hearts, which is why my tagline is “Where your heart finds home.”

It’s kind of like Cheers for the romance reader. Small towns are where the characters go; where everybody knows their name. LOL

When I think about my favorite small town series, I think about places like Robyn Carr’s Virgin River, Sherryl Woods’s Chesapeake Shores. It’s the kind of place I envisioned when I wrote my first series for St. Martin’s, the Jewell Cove series set in Maine. And again with my new series, set in a cozy town called Darling in Vermont.

I’m hoping readers will open the book, step inside The Purple Pig Café, or the Ladybug Garden Center, or stroll along the Green to the Kissing Bridge, and feel like this is the sort of place they’d like to live. Set down roots. Fall in love.

I hope they start reading the pages and feel like they’re family.




By the time they were through, it was nine o’clock and time to open. Being a Saturday, business was brisk. Her dad dropped off the supplies and offered to stay to help cover the tagging, but with the heavy shopping traffic, Laurel decided to wait until things died down. For now the tarps covered the tags, and she’d focus on her customers. Otherwise her anger would get the best of her and that was bad for business. By six p.m., things had slowed considerably.
Laurel had been going flat out for ten hours, stopping for only fifteen minutes to run to The Purple Pig for a sandwich. Her stomach growled, her feet hurt, there was dirt beneath her nails and she really, really wanted a shower and a glass of wine—in that order. Laurel had just dragged out the hose to water the fruit trees when a half- ton truck drove into the lot and parked in an empty space.
The driver hopped out, and her heart slammed against her ribs as she immediately realized how she must look. Dirty jeans, mannish golf shirt that did nothing for her figure,
scrubby ponytail through a Ladybug Garden Center ball cap, and prob ably smudges of dirt on her face and arms. Not that she was trying to look nice for Aiden or anything, but it was him getting out of the truck, looking sexy as hell in faded jeans and a T- shirt that stretched across
his chest and shoulders.
She could pretend she hadn’t seen him. Resolutely she turned on the hose and started watering the apple trees.
“Hey, Laurel,” he called out, and that erased any hope of avoiding him.
She turned off the hose and faced him. “Aiden. What brings you by? Looking for a shrub or tree or something?”
Keep it businesslike, she reminded herself. The last thing she needed was for him to know that he had the ability to fluster her.
“I heard about what happened.”
Of course he had.
“Don’t even. I’m still pissed.”
“I know it’s not what you needed. Did Crystal tell you that you weren’t the only one hit?”
Crystal must be the offi cer from this morning. “She did.”
“Well, that must make you feel better.”
She stared at him. “Better? Seriously? Since I opened a month ago, I’ve had to have the driveway re- graded, I’ve had to replace shrubs that were stolen from out front, deal
with a break-in and vandalism, and now tagging. Trust me, Aiden, the only thing that would feel better is if you actually did your job and found out who was doing this.”
She turned the hose back on.
He waited. He waited a long time. Several seconds, maybe thirty. Which was really not that long at all but definitely felt that way. She was watering the third tree when he sighed. “ You’re upset.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
He met her gaze, and his eyes were soft, even though she’d basically just accused him of not doing his job. The understanding she saw there made her stomach churn. She didn’t want to lash out, but that was what she did when she was hurt. Angry.
Stopping by was kind and thoughtful. She kept trying to make him out to be a bad guy, and he kept being nice. It definitely made it difficult for her to hate him. Particularly since her biochemistry betrayed her at every turn. Even now, when she was utterly preoccupied with the day’s events, she seemed to notice everything. His hair, his eyes, the breadth of his chest, the armband tattoo that looked like some sort of Celtic braid, peeking just below the hem of his T- shirt sleeve. The shape of his lips . . .
He muttered something that was as creative a curse as she’d ever heard, and sounded suspiciously Irish. She couldn’t help but laugh, and tried to clamp her lips shut again. But not before he saw and heard, and his eyes took on an impish gleam.
“ You’re not fine. You’re tired and upset and rightfully so. You’re also just as stubborn as you always were.” He put his hands on his hips. “I take it you’re not adverse to help, just help from me in particular.”
Her face heated. Dammit.
“Maybe this could be my penance,” he suggested, giving her a quick grin. And she wished she could take him seriously, but he always seemed to be teasing. It was one of the things she’d really liked about him and hated at the same time. Particularly now, when she wanted to be, if not mad, completely unaffected. And she wasn’t. He was trying to cajole her out of her mood and it was working.
“It’s Saturday night. Don’t you have a hot date or something?” She turned on the hose again. Focused on the large plastic pot holding a cherry tree.
“Nope. Free as a bird.”
Dammit again.
“Come on, Laurel. Peace offering. Manual labor for you to stop hating me.”
She glanced over at him. “Why do you care so much?”
He was quiet for a moment, and to her surprise the teasing expression left his face. After a while he answered, his voice a little lower. “I don’t know why I care what people think so much. I always have. I don’t like anyone to be mad at me. Maybe it has something with being one of the younger siblings in the family. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t like it that you’re still so angry.” His intense blue gaze locked with hers. “It’s starting to become a personal mission to win you over. To atone for past sins.”
“Good luck,” she said dryly, more touched than she wanted to admit.
His boyish grin was back. “Come on, Laurel. You know you can’t hold out forever. You think I’m hot.” He had the audacity to wink at her.
She rolled her eyes.
“You do. You have a thing for gingers. And you have to admit, I grew up kinda good.” His hands were still on his hips and he tensed his muscles so that his shoulders and chest tightened beneath the thin T- shirt.
“I think you’re a bit taken with yourself, to be honest,” she replied. And tried not to smile. She didn’t want to be charmed, but he was incorrigible.
Damn, his voice was all silky- smooth now. “Yes, Mr. Narcissist?”
“You know damn well you want to hate me and you can’t. Besides, I saw your face just now. Maybe if I took off my shirt . . .”
“Would you like to go somewhere private to be with yourself?” she asked, biting the inside of her lip. She shouldn’t be enjoying this so much. And she wouldn’t be, if she thought he was serious. But he was teasing her.
Like he used to do when they were friends. And today . . . she swallowed against a ball of emotion. Today she needed a friend, and all she’d had were well- meaning customers.
She looked over at him. “Jeez, Aiden. You’re looking a little flushed. I think you could stand to cool off.” And before he could reply, she flicked her wrist and aimed the spray of the hose right at the center of his chest.
The abrupt shock on his face was gratifi cation enough, but then he grinned and reached to take away the hose. She danced away, still spraying him, admiring how the shirt now clung to his skin and the little droplets lit up his face and hair. A laugh bubbled up through her chest and out her mouth as she darted around the trees, dragging the hose with her. But there were too many pots and not enough room to maneuver and within seconds he caught her, wrapped one strong arm around her and wrenched the hose away with the other, spraying her in the process.
Cold water dripped from her nose, down her neck, over her bare arms. Aiden held her close against his body, close enough she could feel the hardness of his muscles, and thrilled at it. Their breaths came fast, their chests rising and falling with both laughter and the exertion of the struggle over the hose. But it was the way he was looking down at her right now that made her feel as if the lack of air was strangling her lungs. All it would take was the tiniest move and he’d be kissing her. Her gaze dropped to his lips— he’d always had fine lips— and she swallowed, nervous and scared at her reaction and turned on as hell.
She looked up, which was a mistake. Because he was staring at her lips. And his arm tightened just a little bit at the hollow of her back. Oh God . . .
A car horn honked and Laurel jumped back. He let her go, but the gravity of the moment remained.





Marti Corn Photography donna alward H-R 1600

While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!
Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

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