In the space of a minute, Nick Brennan learns he has a nine-year-old daughterand that she desperately needs his help. All this time, his high school sweetheart, single mother Josie Peretti, thought he knew about their child. And that he just didn't care. About the ill little girlor Josie, the woman he's never forgotten. But Nick made a long-ago promise never to forsake his family the way his father did. A promise he vows to make good on now if only Josie will bless him with a second chance.
About the Author
Married over 20 years to her real life hero, Lisa Jordan knows a thing or two about romance. She and her husband have two college-aged sons. Lisa is an early childhood educator and an award-winning contemporary romance novelist with Love Inspired. She enjoys good books, romantic comedies, crafting with friends and feeding her NCIS addiction. To learn more about Lisa, visit www.lisajordanbooks.com.
Read an Excerpt
Josie had spent the past ten years trying to forget Nickolas Brennan existed. And now she needed him more than ever.
Hard to believe after all this time he worked less than two hours from where she lived.
She climbed out of her car, slammed the door and pulled her wool coat tighter. Flipping up the collar to ward off the chill slithering down her spine, Josie slid her purse over her shoulder and trudged through the slushy parking lot toward Twain Hall. The aged brick building, which housed the English department, crested a small knoll with a familiarity to the campus as worn leather patches on a tweed blazer.
Freezing rain stung her cheeks as she waited at the corner for a snow plow to lumber past, leaving a trail of salt on the icy blacktop.
She'd give up her family's secret Italian doughnut recipe to be lying on a tropical beach somewhere. Anywhere. Didn't matter as long as sun, sand and surf were involved. And she and Hannah could build sand castles that withstood the constant crashes of life's harsh realities.
She hurried across the street and stared at Twain Hall, with its arched stone doorway and faded redbrick exterior. Evergreen shrubs lipped the building. Two stout trees guarded the wide steps, their bare limbs hunching over the sidewalk, bearing winter's burden. No going back now.
Passing through the double doors, she paused to wipe her wet feet on the nubby industrial mat. The scent of disinfectant scorched her throat. Varnished wood molding, walls painted the color of aged parchment and gleaming tile floors greeted her. Photos in heavy wooden frames of men and women wearing stern expressions eyed her from the opposite wall as she passed by. Was Nick's picture among them? She didn't stop to check.
Upholstered chairs clustered around a circular table dotted with Starbucks cups where a small group of students gathered. Several balanced open laptops while leafing through textbooks and scribbling in notebooks. One guy lounged with his stretched-out legs crossed at the ankles and head back. His snores bounced off the frosted windows.
A woman, who appeared to be a little older than the other students, sat away from them, but watched with a wistful expression on her face. Josie caught her gaze and smiled, totally understanding how it felt to be on the outside of the circle.
While her friends had shopped for homecoming gowns and pedicures, Josie had bought maternity clothes and put together a nursery. Forget about graduation. Too humiliated to return to school, she had begged her father to homeschool her during her senior year. Her diploma came in the mail.
Josie shelved the memory and focused on her reason for being on campus. She followed the signs to the office and nearly choked on the floral perfume that saturated the air.
A young woman with straight salon-highlighted hair and wearing a black-and-silver Linwood Park Knights hoodie stood behind a counter, texting on her cell phone. Seeing Josie, she closed her phone and tucked it into the back pocket of her skinny jeans. "May I help you?"
Josie closed her fingers around the scrap of paper with Nick's office address, gripping it as if it were a lifeline. "I'm, uh, looking for Dr. Brennan."
"He's not in." The girl, probably a work-study student, pulled out her phone as if to say their conversation was over.
Not so fast, honey.
She should've called. But she couldn't risk him refusing to see her. He had to say yes. Had to.
Josie peeled off her turquoise leather gloves and shoved them in her coat pocket. "Do you know when he will be back?"
"He has class on Monday at eight." She blew a pink bubble and popped it, not even bothering to look up from her texting.
She couldn't wait until Monday. She needed to talk to him now.
Josie gripped the edge of the counter and fought to keep her voice calm. "Is there a way to reach him?"
"Leave him a voice mail, I guess."
"I really need to talk to Dr. Brennan." Josie cringed at the desperation seeping into her voice. She paused a second to regroup. "If I leave my number with you, would you call him and ask him to contact me as quickly as possible?"
"I guess." Again, she didn't bother looking up from where her thumbs danced across the keypad.
Josie balled her hands to keep from reaching over the counter and snatching the phone out of the girl's hands. "You guess? Listen, honey. Talking with Dr. Brennan is about the last thing on my want-to-do list for today, but my daughter's life depends on it. So, how about if you stow your phone along with your snotty attitude and try to be a little helpful?"
Campus Barbie rolled her eyes. She closed her phone and shoved it into her back pocket. She flashed a toothpaste commercial smile. "How can I help you?"
If she didn't need to see Nick so badly, she'd tell the girl exactly how she could help. But Hannah depended on her.
Josie pulled out a business card, scribbled her cell phone number on the back and slid it across the counter. "He can reach me at this numberday or night. Please contact him and have him call me as quickly as possible."
The girl took her card and nodded toward an older woman wearing a navy suit sitting at a computer with a phone cradled on her shoulder. "I'll give it to Irene. I have to head to class in ten minutes."
Josie forced a smile of thanks and strode out of the office, her leather boot heels clicking against the tile. She headed for the front door, passing the row of framed staff photos, then paused. Scanning the faces, she searched for Nick's. Had he changed much in the past decade?
There. Bottom left. Out of all the photos, he was the only one smiling. Glare from the overhead lights reflected off the glass, blocking a good look at his face. She glanced over her shoulders. Seeing no one in the corridor, she stretched on her tiptoes and pulled his picture down.
With one shoulder leaning against the wall, she stared at his face, turning back time to her junior year when he'd meet her at her locker, sling an arm over her shoulder and walk her to class. After classes, they'd hang out in the school newspaper office and work on the Ridgefield Review.
She traced a finger over the glass covering the onedimensional image of the only man she loved enough to hand over her heart. He returned it in pieces before he left for college, claiming it was for the best. Yeah, for him.
"I don't think those are to take."
A deep voice corded with humor startled her. She hadn't heard anyone walking behind her. Heat scalded her throat at getting caught staring at her past.
She jerked away from the wall and stretched to hook the frame back on its anchor. The picture caught on the nail. She dropped her hand only to watch the slow-motion descent of the frame smashing to the floor.
"Oh, no!" She crouched and picked up the frame. Cracks webbed from corner to corner, covering his face. A piece of the wood broke off and skittered across the floor. The man trapped it under his polished black loafer.
Josie wanted to pull her coat over her head and scurry out of the building. Unfortunately life taught her that running from her problems solved nothing.
She stood, refusing to make eye contact with the guy until her face no longer resembled the strawberry smoothie she'd sucked down that morning. Gripping the picture, she turned to face him.
And nearly dropped the frame.
The man standing in front of her with hair the color of her finest Columbian roast and chocolate-drop eyes crinkling around the edges like her homemade snicker-doodles mirrored the image pressed under the cracked glass. And that smile. It could melt the frosting off her homemade eclairs. For a second, the warmth in his eyes made her feel safe.
Instead of a black-and-white Ridgefield Panthers letter-man jacket and jeans, he wore a black suit, white dress shirt and blue-and-green diamond-patterned tie. The lanky boy she had fallen in love with over ten years ago had matured into a man who had the potential to break her heart all over again.
"Nick." His name came out as a gasp. Her heart raced.
"Yes, but most of my students call me Dr. Brennan." He took the frame from her hands and shook his head. "It's official. I've cracked."
Didn't Campus Barbie say he was out?
"I'm, ah, not one of your students." She swallowed back the rest of her words. She couldn't blurt out her reason for coming. Not here in the middle of the hall. She pulled out her gloves and slowly slipped them on, hoping to warm her suddenly chilled fingers.
"Oh, sorry. I just assumed you were a student. Do you make it a habit of removing pictures from walls?"
Was he laughing at her?
"What? No. I just " What could she say? She wanted a better look at the man who broke her heart? A better look at the man she desperately needed to save her daughter's life?
He glanced at his watch then the door, as if he had to be someplace. "I was just kidding. I'll take this back to my office and get it fixed. I need to head out to an appointment. Watch out for falling photographs." He walked backward a few steps, sent her another one of those dazzling smiles, then rotated on his heel to head back to his office.
"Wait." She hurried to catch up with him, trying not to let the fact that he didn't recognize her weigh down her heart.
Nick stopped and turned. His eyes swept over her. He stiffened. She saw the second recognition lit the lightbulb inside his head. A slow smile spread across his face. "Josie Peretti."
Her stomach shimmied. Only Nick could make her name flow like melted caramel.
"You look amazing."
"I'd love to stay and catch up, but I really must run. I'm late for an appointment."
She fished through her purse for another business card, took ten precious seconds to scrawl her cell phone number on the back and thrust it at him. "Please call me after your appointment. It's important. Please."
Nick glanced at the card, then tucked it in the inside pocket of his suit jacket. "Okay. I'll do that."
Josie's shoulders sagged as he disappeared into his office. Would he follow through? The Nick she knew once upon a time was always true to his word. She had no idea who he had become.
But it had to be enough.
Okay, God, you opened the door. Please push him through. For Hannah.
Heart thrumming, she hurried back to her car and unlocked it with the remote. As soon as it chirped, she wrenched the door open, hurled herself behind the wheel and slammed the door. She drew in several deep breaths.
If it weren't for Hannah, she'd walk away and not look back. But it didn't matter what skeletons the past held, she needed to dig them up to save her daughter's life.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sweet and heartfelt! This was a sweet and heartfelt story. Josie and Nick were high school sweethearts but their relationship ended after Nick left for college and she was a junior in high school. Flash forward 9 years, Josie own her own bakery and is trying to save her daughter Hannah's life, who has cancer. She seeks out Nick hoping he is a match even though he has not once asked about Hannah nor assisted her financially. Well, not a surprise, but rather a romance trope, Nick didn't know about Hannah. Though Josie had sough Nick out when she first found out, his mother refused to provide her with his mailing address and assured her that she would let Nick know. Unfortunately, Nick's mom never told him and she died 8 years ago in a car accident that left his brother mentally disabled and he was the one driving. Needless to say, there's a lot of bantering between Nick and Josie and of course Josie trying to protect her daughter. Nick wants to be there for Hannah as her Dad and realizes he still loves Josie. Each much move forward and leave the past behind them and this is part of that journey. A simple and fast read with a sweet story.
He jumped over the log into battle(resault 10).
4 STARS Lakeside Family has a mother's worst nightmare, Her nine year old daughter has cancer. Her remission is over and now needs a bonemarrow transplant. So far cant find a match. Josie Peretti has been a single mother since her Junior year in high school. Now she has to find Hannah's father to see if he is a match. She has not seen him since he left for collage and broke up with her. Not a word about his daughter or gift for 9 year old Hannah. Nick Brennan did not recongize Josie when he saw her again for a few minutes. He was glad to see her. He was in a hurry to get to a meetimg but he did promise to call her when he was done. Instead of calling he came to her work since the address was on the card she left. Nick was sorry to hear that she had a daughter who had cancer. He wanted to know how that made her want to seek out him. Josie could not believe how he could not see why she needed him again. She said because he was a father and might be a match Nick was surprised and angry she kept that from him for 9 years. Josie had not kept it a secret. She went to Nick's mother and asked for his address at school. His mother would not give it to her but agreed to tell him. Nick had no idea and is mother died 8 years ago from an car accident. He was driving and blames himself for ruining his family. Nick wants to be active father to Hannah. He taught collage two hours from them and Had to move his brother to a group home in that city after his old one needed to close. Nick might lose his jub because he did not marry and had a nine year old daughter (hich I don't think its right that he lose a job because he found out he has a nine year old who is fighting cancer. I don't believe its right to have to have sex without marriage, but he is trying now that he knows to do whats right) Isn't funny how we can be so envolved in a story that we want to say something to a character or that makes you cry or laugh. Lakeside Family got me envolved in the story. I wanted things to work out for everyone. Quick read, no sex scenes or swearing. I will read more from Lisa Jordan in the future. I was given this ebook to read in exchange for honest review from Netgalley. 07/31/2012 PUB Harlequin imprint Harlequin Love Inspired
Lakeside Family by Lisa Jordan ISBN: 9780373877621 Josie has contacted Nick Breman requesting he get a blood test to maybe help Hannah. She had a one night stand with Nick the night her mom was buried, and he left shortly after for college. Josie had contacted his mother and told her she was pregnant and he was not told. 10 years later he's been informed and he wants to help out, his solution is for Josie to marry him. That will take care of the financial and medical problems for them. Very detailed descriptions for every sense make this a truly enjoyable read. Josie owns her own bakery shop and she has a helper who bakes. Her grandfather lives in her house and is able to watch out for Hannah. Nick has to take care of making sure his disabled brother gets into a new group home as circumstances have changed in his care. With health and money issues and building problems she is about to lose the business. She does have good family support for her decisions. She finds out in time who paid the mortgage for the next 3 months. Nick is going through job problems and because of his new family situation he may have to go elsewhere for work and closer to where his brother lives. He's hiding a lot of old secrets that he knows he will have to tell Josie about very soon.