Well, hello! It has been a while since you’ve heard from me. But good news! I’m back and I have a holiday gift for you.
All He Wants, the first Lost Coast Harbor holiday novella, will be available on December 6th. I hope you’ll fall in love with Ivy and Parker, like I did. And because it’s Lost Coast Harbor, you can catch up with all your favorite characters from the previous books.
Take a sneak peek here at Chapter 1, and then head over to your favorite online bookseller to get your copy for only 99 cents. But hurry! That sale price is only good for a short time.
Enjoy! And welcome back to Lost Coast Harbor!
All He Wants
Ivy Montgomery deftly moved the shopping cart to the center of the aisle, where her toddler daughter couldn’t reach her targets.
“Please?” Gigi asked, this time with a hopeful smile and wide grey-green eyes peeking out from under her sandy-colored curls. Not even three years old yet, but she was already adept at getting what she wanted. And what she wanted was all the shiny, sugary holiday sweets on display.
“We’ll make Christmas cookies with Nana and Papa later,” Ivy promised, leaving the dangerous section of the big box store and heading to neutral territory—the kitchen supply section, where she could pick up the bundles of towels and find the utensils that were on her list.
With luck, she’d be able to find everything she needed and get back to Lost Coast Harbor by mid-afternoon. If Gigi took a nap on the hour-long drive home, then Ivy could actually spend a couple hours with her daughter before she had to run to work. That was a rare treat these days. Ivy’s bistro, The Vine, was at that awkward stage of a new business—busy enough that she needed to hire more staff, but not enough that she could afford that expense. Instead, Ivy was working six days a week, relying on her in-laws to watch Gigi at night, and spending every free minute with her daughter. The recent addition of a new sous chef was giving her a couple of extra hours a week with Gigi, since Simon could do most of the prep work before Ivy arrived. It was a stretch to cover his salary, but it was a necessary cost.
She grabbed two bundles of dishtowels off the shelf and pushed the cart around the corner of the aisle.
Ivy’s heart stopped in her chest at her daughter’s joyful shout. And then her pulse skipped again when she came face-to-face with her husband. Ex-husband, she reminded herself. Well, almost ex. The divorce papers were all but signed. And it wasn’t even him—just a life-sized cardboard likeness of Parker Montgomery.
“It’s just a picture, honey,” Ivy said, her pulse still racing as she studied the photograph with a sigh. Parker’s greenish-gray eyes sparkled, his wide smile showed off deep dimples, and the photograph highlighted his GQ-worthy cheekbones. He was tall and lean, with straight, broad shoulders that wore the white chef’s jacket well.
Damn if the man wasn’t built for a career on television. Handsome, with an easy charm, and he could cook, too. She was sure his face would sell dozens of the enameled cast iron skillets that bore Parker Montgomery’s signature.
The shock of running into her ex’s image faded, replaced with a familiar pang of regret, followed by a sting of rejection. He’d made his choice. She’d lost the battle for Parker to the chance to promote his kitchenwares and cookbooks and his television show.
“See Daddy later?”
Ivy reached up and ran her hand over her daughter’s unruly curls. “Yes, baby. Later.”
She handed Gigi a baggie of cereal to snack on and hurried out of the kitchen section and away from the ghosts of her past. Then her daughter’s gray-green eyes looked up at her and Gigi smiled, revealing deep dimples, and Ivy knew that trying to escape him was futile. Parker Montgomery was going to haunt her forever.
An hour later, she pulled into the driveway at her in-law’s two-story bungalow in Lost Coast Harbor. The drizzle had turned into a light rain and Ivy ran around the car to the backseat. Gigi was slumped to the side, her head resting against the car seat, sound asleep.
She unbuckled the straps and wondered how much longer she was going to be able to lift the little girl out. She was growing so fast. As she reached into the car to attempt to wrangle the toddler’s limp body out of the seat, a large hand came to rest on her shoulder.
Though unexpected, she instantly recognized the touch and her pulse quickened.
“Let me help you with her,” Parker said, his deep voice so close behind her made her body react. She closed her eyes and made a vain effort to stay calm, despite the butterflies in her stomach.
She stepped aside and Parker leaned past her. He hefted Gigi out of the car and then nestled her against his chest. Ivy watched him with their daughter, her heart breaking all over again. She’d never tire of seeing them together—the same dark blond hair, the same eyes, and even the same dimples. Parker’s eyes closed as he kissed Gigi’s head. He appeared to inhale her scent, something that Ivy understood. She found herself doing that every night when she came home and kissed her sleeping daughter goodnight.
“Hello, Parker,” she said, finding her voice finally.
His lips turned up in a small smile. “Hi, Ivy.”
Her body flushed hot at the sound of her name on his lips.
Every. Single. Time.
It had been eleven months since she’d moved out and left Los Angeles. Eleven months of loss and anger and doubt. And the sound of Parker’s voice instantly cut through all of her denials that she was fine, as well as any progress she had made in coming to terms with their pending divorce.
“I didn’t know you were coming up this week,” she said, her mind scrambling to remember the custody schedule. Had she forgotten that this was his weekend? It wouldn’t surprise her. She’d been working so much, it was difficult to keep track of what day it was, let alone the complex schedule that their lawyers had hammered out.
“It was a last minute decision. I had some time in my schedule. I should have warned you,” he said, still holding her gaze.
Damn straight he should have warned her. He was supposed to be in Los Angeles and his unexpected presence put her off balance, and that equilibrium was one that she had worked hard to achieve in the last year.
A door slammed behind her and Ivy turned to the house to see Paula and George walk out onto the porch with worried smiles. She waved and smiled to reassure them that she was fine, and hoped her ability to lie had improved.
In Parker’s arms, Gigi stirred and her eyes blinked open. In a flash, she realized who was holding her.
“Daddy!” Her arms wrapped tight around Parker’s neck and Ivy’s stomach trembled at the sight.
Her father-in-law met them at the car.
“Get that baby out of the rain, Parker. I’ll help Ivy with her bags,” George said.
Parker gave Ivy a wide smile and walked toward the house, his long legs covering ground quickly. He set Gigi down on the top step and she took his hand and led him inside the house.
“Sorry, sweetheart,” George said, his brow furrowed with concern. “He surprised us, too. Would have called you, but he pulled up minutes before you did.”
“I’m fine, George,” Ivy said, grabbing the bag of groceries that she’d picked up for Paula. George took them from her, and she grabbed her purse, another bag of items for Paula, and followed her father-in-law up the steps to the front door.
Parker was already sitting on the floor by the fireplace while Gigi pulled stuffed animals out of the toy box in the corner and brought them to him, one after the other, chattering the entire time. Her daughter’s happiness filled Ivy’s heart, even as it broke all over again.
Ivy set the bag on the dining room table, suddenly uncomfortable in the cozy living room that was as familiar as her own home only blocks away. It was Parker’s childhood home, but Ivy was the one who was here every day now—dropping Gigi off or picking her up, or having dinner with her in-laws, who treated her as if she wasn’t divorcing their son.
Paula walked out of the kitchen and peered into the bag.
“Oh, lovely girl! You found the flour sack dishtowels,” her mother-in-law said, wrapping an arm around Ivy’s waist. “Thank you, dear.”
“You’re welcome,” she said. “I think I’m going to head home since Gigi’s got someone to entertain her. If you don’t mind, of course.”
She tried hard not to take advantage of her in-laws, who were enthusiastic grandparents. Paula and George had been the ones who encouraged her to open her bistro, to put down roots in the small coastal town. They watched Gigi in the evenings so Ivy could focus on building her business.
But with Parker back, she was again on the outside of the happy family. No matter how they all pretended when Parker wasn’t here, the reality was they were his parents, and she was Parker’s ex-wife.
As if reading her mind, Paula tightened her one-armed hug around Ivy. “You’re welcome here anytime. I don’t care if Parker is here or not. We did not divorce you. You’re still our daughter.”
Ivy smiled. “Thanks, Paula. But really, I should go unpack the groceries. This gives me a little extra time.”
Paula studied her closely with narrowed eyes, then relented. “Well, okay, but only because I know you’re always busy.”
“I’ll come by before we open for dinner and say goodnight to Gigi,” Ivy said, putting her purse over her shoulder.
Parker stood when she returned to the living room.
“You’re not leaving, are you?”
“Yeah, I have some work to do to prep for tonight. I’m sure you’re going to want to spend time with your daughter,” she said, edging toward the door. Cozy was becoming claustrophobic with Parker’s close presence.
“Do you have a minute? I was hoping to talk with you,” he said, taking a step toward her. He turned to his parents. “To all of you.”
Oh, God. If Parker had news to share with his parents and her, it couldn’t be good news. A new girlfriend? Or something more serious? The ground beneath her feet shifted at that thought.
Of course he was going to move on. She had left him. He wasn’t going to pine over her forever. With their signatures on a couple more documents, their marriage would officially be over.
“Uh, sure. I guess,” Ivy said, hoping her voice didn’t betray her emotions.
Gigi stood and wrapped her arms around his legs and beamed up at her father. Parker bent and picked her up, his biceps flexing as he lifted her.
“I’m coming home to Lost Coast Harbor,” he said, flashing the crooked grin that had captured her heart years ago when they were both struggling through culinary school. Then he turned that smile on Ivy, his eyes studying her carefully and she had to remind herself to breathe.
“What? What about the TV show? The restaurant?” Paula asked.
“It’s just for a couple months,” he said. “I’ll be chef-in-residence at the Rosewood Inn through New Year’s Eve.”
Ivy’s heart started beating again as the words sunk in.
“The Rosewood?” she stammered.
The restaurant at the Rosewood Inn, a large Victorian-style bed and breakfast, was her only real competition in Lost Coast Harbor. The formal dining room at the Rosewood had hosted the residents’ special occasions for decades—weddings, proms, class reunions, and any number of anniversary celebrations. Hell, she and Parker had married in the Inn’s gardens and had their reception there.
It was why she knew that The Vine would do well in Lost Coast Harbor. The town had been ready for some variety and Ivy’s bistro, with its emphasis on local food and wine, had been steadily drawing the Rosewood Inn’s patrons since she’d opened in March. Her success hadn’t gone unnoticed by the Inn’s owner, Kenneth Snell, an irritating city councilman who liked to throw his weight around. The man had done everything he could to dissuade her from opening The Vine, and had been chilly toward her whenever they’d run into each other since then.
And now he’d hired her soon-to-be ex-husband to be the star chef for the holiday season. Ivy’s insides twisted into a knot, but she kept her expression neutral, trying her best not to reveal the inner turmoil as Parker studied her.
“Kenneth Snell asked me to do this as an experiment,” Parker said. “He gets some publicity. I get to spend time with my family.”
And she got some real competition for the first time since opening her restaurant in Lost Coast Harbor. With the man whose presence tormented her.
Parker watched Ivy’s carefully controlled expression. On the surface, it might appear that she was unaffected by his announcement. She’d given away little with her reaction—a slight nod, a twitch in her full lips, which might have been mistaken for a slight smile. Her eyes though gave her away. They always had.
She was upset. Her large dark eyes had widened slightly, and he detected the storm brewing there. Then her jaw had set and he smiled.
Yeah, he had her attention now.
“You’re here for how long?” Ivy asked.
“Six weeks, give or take. I’ll start the day after Thanksgiving and go through New Year’s Day,” Parker said.
“Oh, Park, it will so nice to have you here for the holidays,” his mother said, giving him a tight hug. “You can stay in your old room.”
He laughed. “You don’t have to do that. I know you turned it into a sewing room long ago. I’ve got a cottage at the Inn.”
“And what does a chef-in-residence do?” his father asked, sidling up to Ivy in a show of support.
He loved that his parents had embraced his wife—his ex-wife—and included her in family events. Ivy’s own parents had died when she was a teenager and Parker knew how important having a family was to her. Not just for Ivy, but for Gigi, too. It was why he wasn’t too surprised when Ivy had told him after they’d separated that she was moving to Lost Coast Harbor. He knew Ivy was still close with his brother and sister, too, both of whom would be home for Thanksgiving. But he wasn’t trying to make his family choose sides with his decision to take Snell’s offer.
“I’ll be revamping the menu, updating their kitchen, basically bringing it into the 21st Century,” Parker said.
“And will you be followed by cameras the entire time?” Ivy asked.
He shook his head. “No, it doesn’t look like it. They might send a photographer up, maybe try and get some publicity in the Bay Area papers, but the producers aren’t interested in a dusty old restaurant being brought up to date. There are plenty of other shows that do that.”
Angie Terrell, the executive producer of his series, had actually wrinkled her nose at the thought. Cute, she’d said, but not dramatic enough to send a film crew to the ends of the earth. Honestly, he’d been relieved at her response. Snell’s offer had come at the perfect time—Parker was sick to death of the path his career had taken.
He and Ivy were barely out of culinary school when Parker had made the cut for a 16-week stint on a cooking competition show. That had turned into an offer for his own TV series, which had led to a flagship restaurant, where cameras followed him and his kitchen staff. His agent had since added guest appearances on other TV shows to his schedule, and then a contract for three cookbooks in the next three years. Endorsement deals had followed, and he hadn’t felt like he could say no to any of the offers that had come his way.
And now he was burned out—tired of being trailed by a camera, sick of juggling a packed schedule, and exhausted at the thought of another year without his wife and daughter nearby. As busy as he was all day and most of the night, without Ivy and Gigi, he’d sunk into a loneliness that threatened to swallow him whole.
This break, this homecoming, was exactly what he needed. Nearly two months away from LA, in his quiet hometown, where he could relax and spend time with people he loved.
Ivy bit her lip and a warmth spread through him. Then she looked up at him with those warm, expressive eyes and the heat grew. Christ, he missed her. Each time he saw her, his instinct was to pull her to him, embrace her, kiss those lips, feel her slim body meld into his. And each time, he had to remind himself that he’d lost the chance to do that. He’d lost her.
“When did you decide to take this offer?” Ivy asked.
“Snell called last month, and we came to an agreement last week,” he said. “I didn’t want to wait until Thanksgiving to share the news.”
Gigi’s small finger poked into his ear canal and he turned to see his daughter’s wide smile. “Daddy,” she burbled, then leaned her head on his shoulder with a sigh. His heart broke wide open at the word, at the sweet gesture, even at the slight pain as she gripped his earlobe between her tiny fingers.
Ivy gave him a stiff nod, her arms crossed in front of her. “Well, this will be interesting,” she murmured.
“Not afraid of a little competition, are you?” he asked, and her head jerked up. Her eyes flashed and she raised her chin.
“No, never,” Ivy said. “Have you been by the Inn yet?”
He shook his head. “I imagine it looks the same.”
At this, Ivy’s lips turned up in the first genuine smile he’d seen in a while. His parents exchanged a glance, then each looked away and he could have sworn they were suppressing laughter.
“You’re going to have quite a job ahead of you,” Ivy said.
“I expect to still have time to spend with my family,” he said, making sure to keep eye contact with Ivy when he stressed the word family.
He wasn’t back in Lost Coast Harbor to benefit Kenneth Snell or the Rosewood Inn. He didn’t give a damn about generating publicity for his own career.
He was home for one reason—or two, really. The little girl in his arms. And the woman who was eyeing him warily from the other side of the room.
The two people he loved most in the world.
He was going to win them back.
Get your copy of All He Wants, a Lost Coast Harbor holiday novella, for only 99 cents for a limited time!