Read an Excerpt: Building a Surprise Family by Anna J. Stewart


Can he convince the woman of his dreams to take a chance on building a forever family with him? — Building a Surprise Family Butterfly Harbor Stories Book 10 by @AJStewartWriter

Excerpt #1

THERE WAS LITTLE Jo liked more than a challenge and there was nothing more
challenging than coming to a city or town to fix a problem that others were responsible for. Shocking one of the hometown boys into relative silence definitely ranked up there on her list of favorite things. Though, no, not a boy, she corrected herself.

A very handsome hometown man. She’d hoped to roll into town undetected, be set up and ready to go by the time anyone turned up on-site, as if she’d somehow appeared by magic. It seemed, however, that this town—or at least Ozzy Lakeman—had other ideas.

He also had her feeling a bit off-kilter with that charming, shell-shocked smile of his. Typical. She’d met enough firefighters to know that, like a lot of men in construction, they often came loaded with testosterone and more than their fair share of hero syndrome. She shook her head. Nope. Not even going to let herself contemplate any man’s testosterone level. Clearly, she should have taken her doctor’s warnings about her own amped-up hormones seriously.

Between her expanding business, this job and her baby on the way, the last thing she needed was to add anyone, especially a man, to her life. She’d learned her lesson. From here on out, she was on her own.

That said, firefighter or not, Jo imagined Ozzy Lakeman threw a lot of women off-kilter. How could he not with that thick, curly brown hair and eyes the color of a forest, dark and deep? As she moved around the truck, she couldn’t help but take inventory of Ozzy’s muscular build. It spoke of attention to fitness. That broad chest was perfect to display his firefighter logo and—Good heavens, what was wrong with her?
She wasn’t in Butterfly Harbor to ogle men or, even worse, have a fling with one of them.

Like anyone would want to fling her anywhere, anyway. Still, that didn’t stop her from glancing at the firefighter’s hand to verify he wasn’t attached. At least not legally. It doesn’t matter! He was clearly younger than she was, and at thirty-five, Jo was beyond the time of helping men in their twenties find themselves. Besides, she’d be doing plenty of reassuring and guiding once her baby was born. But she had another four-plus months before she had to start fretting about that.

She ducked her head, hiding her smile as she removed the trailer from her truck, unhooked the cords and cables and got her home connected to the appropriate lines. As if by rote she then stretched out the industrial power cable to the trailer office on the off chance her solar storage decided to get temperamental.

Jo patted the back of the house. One of the main considerations she’d paid attention to when she’d built the structure was its ease of mobility. Taking her home with her from job to job, while it created some issues, had solved far more. One flip of the main power switch had the automated trailer pylons lowering and the porch steps popping out. She reached into the truck bed.

Remembering the amount of effort it had taken her the last time to haul out her toolbox, she hesitated.

“Let me help,” Ozzy quickly offered.

Jo’s first instinct was to say no, but there was no denying the happy, almost jubilant expression on Ozzy’s fine face. “You just couldn’t wait for me to ask, could you?”

“No, ma— No,” he corrected when she narrowed her eyes. His smile seemed genuine enough. Friendly, accepting, warm. He picked up her toolbox and turned to the trailer.

***

Excerpt from Building a Surprise Family: A Clean Romance (Butterfly Harbor Stories Book 10)
by Anna J. Stewart. Copyright 2021. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

 

Excerpt #2

“THAT WAS REALLY nice what you did. For Kyle,” Ozzy said when they were back outside and headed to the diner to pick up lunch. Walking with her, being with her, felt so…natural. As if it was where he was meant to be. He wasn’t, however, under any illusions that Jo felt the same. He’d seen her look at the pictures in the sheriff’s station. The fact she hadn’t asked him about them said either she hadn’t made the connection or she didn’t care. Personally, he was hoping it was the former.

Experience suggested otherwise.

“I didn’t do it for Kyle. I did it for me. He’s a good employee.” How the sunlight caught her hair made it seem to glow like gold. “A good crew member. I can’t have too many of them if I’m going to meet my deadlines.

But moving Kyle to administrative assistant is only half the plan.”

“And what plan is that?”

She arched a brow and looked him straight in the eye. “I’m sure you’ll understand I’d like to keep a few secrets to myself.”

The bubble of hope that she hadn’t connected him to the image in those photographs burst. But there was something else along with the teasing glint in her eye that had his gaze shifting across her pink cheeks and full lips.

He couldn’t help it. He had the strangest urge to kiss that smile from her lips. The very idea was so bold, so utterly contrary to Ozzy that he found himself both grateful and nervous at the prospect. And oddly determined.

With all the dates he’d been on, all the women he’d met in the last year, women who offered everything he should want, rarely had the impulse to kiss one of them ever hit him with the force it did now.

Friends, he reminded himself. She’d made it clear she was interested in being friends. There was a reason for that, one he could only hope she’d share down the line. Her immediately shutting him down when he’d asked about her baby’s father told him she’d been burned and that the wound was still raw. Now was not the time to push. So, friends it would be. Friends was a good place to start. Beginning now.

“Secrets, huh?” Ozzy said, his usual expression of good will back in place.

“I won’t promise not to try to wheedle it out of you over lunch. You and the kidlet must be starving.”

“Beyond. Leah told me you used to be a deputy.” She seemed to notice he wanted her to set the pace downhill to Monarch Lane. “Seems like a good place to work. What made you change to being a firefighter?”

“Writing speeding tickets and answering lost pet calls got tedious after a few years.” Ozzy shoved his hands in his pockets.

“Ozzy.” It was the way she said it, part disbelief, part daring that had him admitting what he’d only recently been able to see for himself.

“I guess I wanted to be in a position to help, rather than dealing with the aftermath.” It sounded sappy when he said it. “Firefighters and deputies, we see people on their difficult days. If I can make that day easier for them to deal with, then that’s what I want to do.”

She touched his arm. “I think that’s very noble of you.”

Noble. Ozzy’s lips twitched. Not a word he’d ever associated with himself before.

“The opportunity to switch over presented itself. There were new openings at the station house and we had more than enough deputies. Too many, actually. Matt and Fletcher belong there.”

“From what I could see, you do, too.”

“The job works well for them and I didn’t want to get in the way of that. Besides—” now he finally grinned “—being a firefighter means every day is a different adventure. We never know what’s going to come across as a call.”

“Butterfly Harbor isn’t a hub of criminal activity, then? Good to know.”

***

Excerpt from Building a Surprise Family: A Clean Romance (Butterfly Harbor Stories Book 10)
by Anna J. Stewart. Copyright 2021. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

 

Building a Surprise Family
Butterfly Harbor Stories Book 10
by Anna J. Stewart
Genre: Clean Contemporary Romance


An instant family…Is life-changing!
Pregnant construction supervisor Jo Bertoletti doesn’t need anyone’s help…or another heartbreak. So she’s putting handsome, kindhearted firefighter Ozzy Lakeman firmly into the friend zone. After all, she’s just passing through Butterfly Harbor, and her life is too complicated for a summer romance. But Ozzy feels an immediate connection. Can he convince the woman of his dreams to take a chance on building a forever family with him?

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Excerpt #3

Jo shouldn’t have been surprised that when they reached the Butterfly
Diner Ozzy pulled the door open for her. She’d caught his uncertainty back at
the sheriff’s station when she’d reached for the door first. As if he hadn’t
considered a woman could open the door for herself. It had amused her to set
him off-kilter.

He’d readjusted now, seemed to have found his footing, even if he had
literally tripped a bit getting to the diner door first.

When she stepped inside, however, all other thoughts were obliterated by
the instant feeling of…well, of home.

“Did I just walk through a time portal?” Save for the surprising color
combination of black, orange and white—an ode, she instantly realized, to
the town’s monarch namesake—the eatery definitely had that old-fashioned
diner feel. Add in the distinct, excellent, growling-stomach-inducing aroma
of grilling burgers, cooked onions and the promise of caloric enhancement,
and she could understand why the diner was considered a town hub.

“Hey, Ozzy. Wherever you can grab a seat, go for it.” The tall, curvy
brunette with plates balanced with practiced ease on her arms swept past
them with a quick smile.

“We’re getting to go, actually.” Ozzy motioned toward a pair of empty
orange upholstered stools at the counter. “Let’s sit so you can peruse the
menu.”

At the far end of the counter a taller, thinner young woman flitted between
customers, topping off coffee cups and clearing plates. Her straight black hair
was tied back in a high ponytail and displayed a neon blue streak through its
length. A hint of tattoos peeked out from the short sleeves of her black T-shirt
carrying the diner’s logo on the front. She glanced their way, her gaze
landing first on Ozzy with an unsurprising smile, then flicked curiously to Jo.
“You ordering to go, Oz?”

“Thanks, Twyla. We are.” Ozzy remained on his feet rather than sitting
and handed Jo a menu. “Twyla, this is Jo Bertoletti. She’s the new supervisor
—”

“For the construction project.” Twyla let out an all-too-identifiable sigh of
relief. “Okay. That explains it. Coffee?” Twyla held up the coffeepot.

“No, thanks.” Jo was never going to get used to having to kick caffeine.
“It’s nice to meet you, Twyla.”

“You, too.” Twyla eyed Ozzy in a way that should have amused Jo. Ah, to
be twentysomething again with a massive crush on the hot single firefighter.
Twyla may as well have it tattooed on her forehead. How many times had Jo
herself issued that same lash-fluttering, cartoon heart–hammering expression
over the years? Except… Jo frowned. She really should have found Twyla’s
attention more amusing than she did.

***

Excerpt from Building a Surprise Family: A Clean Romance (Butterfly Harbor Stories Book 10)
by Anna J. Stewart. Copyright 2021. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

 

USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J Stewart writes sweet to sexy romances for Harlequin and ARC Manor’s Caezik Romance. Her sweet Heartwarming books include the Butterfly Harbor series as well as the ongoing Blackwell saga. She also writes the Honor Bound series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and contributes to the bestselling Coltons. A former Golden Heart, Daphne, and National Reader’s Choice finalist, Anna loves writing big community stories where family found is always the theme. Since her first published novella with Harlequin in 2014, Anna has released more than forty novels and novellas and hopes to branch out even more thanks to Caezik Romance. Anna lives in Northern California where (at the best times) she loves going to the movies, attending fan conventions, and heading to Disneyland, her favorite place on earth. When she’s not writing, she is usually binge-watching her newest TV addiction, re-watching her all-time favorite show, Supernatural, and wrangling two monstrous cats named Rosie and Sherlock. You can read more about Anna at her website, www.AuthorAnnaStewart.com.

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