Saturday Excerpt: Sugar Pine Trail by RaeAnne Thayne

Happy Saturday! Start your weekend off right with a look at the latest from RaeAnne Thayne!

About Sugar Pine Trail:

Sugar Pine Trail“I’ve been following RaeAnne Thayne for some time now, and have watched her readership grow with each title. She’s a rising star in the romance world. Her books are wonderfully romantic, feel-good reads that end with me sighing over the last pages.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber

An unlikely attraction brings comfort, joy and unforgettable romance this holiday season!

Librarian Julia Winston is ready to ditch the quiet existence she’s been living. She’s made a list of new things to experience, but falling for Jamie Caine, her sexy military pilot neighbor, isn’t one of them. Julia’s looking to conquer life, not become the heartbreaker’s latest conquest. But when two young brothers wind up in Julia’s care for the holidays, she’ll take any help she can get—even Jamie’s.

Happy to step in, Jamie reveals a side of himself that’s much harder to resist. Not only is he fantastic with kids, he provides the strength Julia needs to tackle her list. She knows their temporary family can’t last beyond the holidays, but the closer she gets to Jamie, the more she wonders if things could be this merry and bright forever…

***

This was going to be a disaster.

Julia Winston stood in her front room looking out the lace curtains framing her bay window at the gleaming black SUV parked in her driveway like a sleek, preda- tory beast.

Her stomach jumped with nerves, and she rubbed suddenly clammy hands down her skirt. Under what crazy moon had she ever thought this might be a good idea? She must have been temporarily out of her head. Those nerves jumped into overtime when a man stepped out of the vehicle and stood for a moment, looking up at her house.

Jamie Caine.

Tall, lean, hungry. Gorgeous.

Now the nerves felt more like nausea. What had she done? The moment Eliza Caine called and asked her if her brother-in-law could rent the upstairs apartment of Winston House, she should have told her friend in no uncertain terms that the idea was preposterous. Utterly impossible.

As usual, Julia had been weak and indecisive, and when Eliza told her it was only for six weeks—until January, when the condominium Jamie Caine was buying in a new development along the lake would be finished— she had wavered.

He needed a place to live, and she did need the money. Anyway, it was only for six weeks. Surely she could tolerate having the man living upstairs in her apartment for six weeks—especially since he would be out of town for much of those six weeks, as part of his duties as lead pilot for the Caine Tech company jet fleet. The reality of it all was just beginning to sink in, though. Jamie Caine, upstairs from her, in all his sexy, masculine glory.

She fanned herself with her hand, wondering if she was having a premature-onset hot flash or if her new furnace could be on the fritz. The temperature in here seemed suddenly off the charts.

How would she tolerate having him here, spending her evenings knowing he was only a few steps away and that she would have to do her best to hide the absolutely ridiculous, truly humiliating crush she had on the man?

This was such a mistake.

Heart pounding, she watched through the frothy curtains as he pulled a long black duffel bag from the back of his SUV and slung it over his shoulder, lifted a laptop case over the other shoulder, then closed the cargo door and headed for the front steps.

A moment later, her old-fashioned musical doorbell echoed through the house. If she hadn’t been so nervous, she might have laughed at the instant reaction of the three cats, previously lounging in various states of boredom around the room. The moment the doorbell rang, Empress and Tabitha both jumped off the sofa as if an electric current had just zipped through it while Audrey Hepburn arched her back and bushed out her tail.

“That’s right, girls. We’ve got company. It’s a man, believe it or not, and he’s moving in upstairs. Get ready.” The cats sniffed at her with their usual disdainful look. Empress ran in front of her, almost tripping her on the way to answer the door—on purpose, she was quite sure.

With her mother’s cats darting out ahead of her, Julia walked out into what used to be the foyer of the house before she had created the upstairs apartment and now served as an entryway to both residences. She opened the front door, doing her best to ignore the rapid tripping of her heartbeat.

“Hi. You’re Julia, right?”

As his sister-in-law was one of her dearest friends, she and Jamie had met numerous times at various events at Snow Angel Cove and elsewhere, but she didn’t bother reminding him of that. Julia knew she was eminently forgettable. Most of the time, that was just the way she liked it.

“Yes. Hello, Mr. Caine.”

He aimed his high-wattage killer smile at her. “Please. Jamie. Nobody calls me Mr. Caine.”

Julia was grimly aware of her pulse pounding in her ears and a strange hitch in her lungs. Up close, Jamie Caine was, in a word, breathtaking. He was Mr. Darcy, Atticus Finch, Rhett Butler and Tom Cruise in Top Gun, all rolled into one glorious package.

Dark hair, blue eyes, and that utterly charming Caine smile he shared with Aidan, Eliza’s husband, and the other Caine brothers she had met at various events.

“You were expecting me, right?” he said, after an awkward pause. She jolted, suddenly aware she was staring and had left him standing entirely too long on her front step. She was an idiot. “Yes. Of course. Come in. I’m sorry.”

Pull yourself together. He’s just a guy who happens to be gorgeous.

So far she was seriously failing at Landlady 101. She sucked in a breath and summoned her most brisk keep- your-voice-down-please librarian persona.

“As you can see, we will share the entry. Because the home is on the registry of historical buildings, I couldn’t put in an outside entrance to your apartment, as I might have preferred. The house was built in 1880, one of the earliest brick homes on Lake Haven. It was constructed by an ancestor of mine, Sir Robert Winston, who came from a wealthy British family and made his own fortune supplying timber to the railroads. He also invested in one of the first hot springs resorts in the area. The home is Victorian, specifically in the spindled Queen Anne style. It consists of seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. When those bathrooms were added in the 1920s, they provided some of the first indoor plumbing in the region.”

“Interesting,” he said, though his expression indi- cated he found it anything but.

She was rambling, she realized, as she tended to do when she was nervous.

She cleared her throat and pointed to the doorway where the three cats were lined up like sentinels, watching him with unblinking stares. “Anyway, through those doors is my apartment and yours is upstairs. I have keys to both doors for you along with a packet of information here.”

She glanced toward the ornate marble-top table in the entryway—that her mother claimed once graced the mansion of Leland Stanford on Nob Hill in San Francisco—where she thought she had left the information. Unfortunately, it was bare. “Oh. Where did I put that? I must have left it inside, in my living room. Just a moment.”

The cats weren’t inclined to get out of her way, so she stepped over them, wondering if she came across as eccentric to him as she felt, a spinster librarian living with cats in a crumbling house crammed with antiques, a space much too big for one person.

After a mad scan of the room, she finally found the two keys along with the carefully prepared file folder of instructions atop the mantel, nestled amid her col- lection of porcelain angels. She had no recollection of moving it there, probably due to her own nervousness at having Jamie Caine moving upstairs.

She swooped it up and hurried back to the entry, where she found two of the cats curled around his leg while Audrey was in his arms, currently being petted by his long, square-tipped fingers.

She stared. The cats had no time or interest in her. She only kept them around because her mother had adored them, and Julia couldn’t bring herself to give away Mariah’s adored pets. Apparently no female— human or feline—was immune to Jamie Caine. She should have expected it.

“Nice cats.”

Julia frowned. “Not usually. They’re standoffish and bad-tempered to most people.”

“I guess I must have the magic touch.”

So the Haven Point rumor mill said about him, any- way. “I guess you do,” she said. “I found your keys and information about the apartment. If you would like, I can show you around upstairs.”

“Lead on.”

He offered a friendly smile, and she told herself that shiver rippling down her spine was only because the entryway was cooler than her rooms.

“This is a lovely house,” he said as he followed her up the staircase. “Have you lived here long?”

“Thirty-two years in February. All my life, in other words.”

Except the first few days, anyway, when she had still been in the Oregon hospital where her parents adopted her, and the three years she had spent at Boise State.

“It’s always been in my family,” she continued. “My father was born here and his father before him.”

She was a Winston only by adoption but claimed her parents’ family trees as her own and respected and admired their ancestors and the elegant home they had built here.

At the second floor landing, she unlocked the apartment that had been hers until she moved down to take care of her mother after Mariah’s first stroke, two years ago. A few years after taking the job at the Haven Point library, she had redecorated the upstairs floor of the house. It had been her way of carving out her own space.

Yes, she was an adult living with her parents. Even as she might have longed for some degree of indepen- dence, she couldn’t justify moving out when her mother so desperately needed her help with Julia’s ailing father.

Anyway, she had always figured it wasn’t the same as most young adults who lived in their parents’ apartments. She had an entire self-contained floor to her- self. If she wished, she could shop on her own, cook on her own, entertain her friends, all without bothering her parents.

Really, it had been the best of all situations—close enough to help, yet removed enough to live her own life. Then her father died and her mother became frail herself, and Julia had felt obligated to move downstairs to be closer, in case her mother needed her.

Now, as she looked at her once-cherished apartment, she tried to imagine how Jamie Caine would see these rooms, with the graceful reproduction furniture and the pastel wall colors and the soft carpet and curtains. Oddly, the feminine decorations only served to emphasize how very male Jamie Caine was, in contrast. She did her best to ignore that unwanted observation. “This is basically the same floor plan as my rooms below, with three bedrooms, as well as the living room and kitchen,” she explained. “You’ve got an en suite bathroom off the largest bedroom and another one for the other two bedrooms.”

“Wow. That’s a lot of room for one guy.”

“It’s a big house,” she said with a shrug. She had even more room downstairs, factoring in the extra bedroom in one addition and the large south-facing sunroom.

Winston House was entirely too rambling for one single woman and three bad-tempered cats. It had been too big for an older couple and their adopted daughter. It had been too large when it was just her and her mother, after her father died.

Related Posts
Leave a reply