Last Chance Proposal by Barbara DeLeo
A wife he needs. The woman he desires.
Cy Hathaway needs a wife, fast, to win custody of his son, Jonty. He returns home to discover the childhood sweetheart he once left behind has become a vibrant, beautiful woman. Even though wanting to sweep her off her feet wasn't part of the plan…
For Ellie, Cy's sudden reappearance awakens a flood of memories—and resentments for the way he'd abandoned her all those years ago. But she has a life now, a career. She can't simply drop everything and get hitched, even if the sight of him still makes her heart race.
But after Ellie meets his little boy, she can't refuse. Certain she has a grip on her old feelings for Cy, she agrees to marry her first love until he gains custody. But when did helping out a friend become something with the capacity to hijack her heart?
About the Author
Barbara DeLeo's first book, co-written with her best friend, was a story about beauty queens in space. She was eleven, and the sole, handwritten copy was lost years ago much to everyone's relief. It's some small miracle that she kept the faith and now lives her dream of writing sparkling contemporary romance with unforgettable characters.
Degrees in English and Psychology, and a career as an English teacher, fuelled Barbara's passion for people and stories, and a number of years living in Europe gave her a love for romantic settings.
Discovering she was having her second set of twins in two years, Barbara knew she must be paying penance for being disorganized in a previous life and was determined to get it right this time. It's amazing what being housebound with four preschoolers will do for the imagination and she decided it was time to follow her writing dream. Funnily enough, those first manuscripts had not a single child in them.
Married to her winemaker hero, Barbara's happiest when she's getting to know her latest cast of characters. She still loves telling stories about finding love in all the wrong places, but now without a beauty queen or spaceship in sight.
Read an Excerpt
Last Chance Proposal
By Barbara DeLeo, Lewis Pollak, Alethea Spiridon Hopson
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Barbara DeLeo
All rights reserved.
With the sun of a South Pacific summer's day burning through his black T-shirt, Cy Hathaway bent and peered in the old hall window. He scrubbed the heel of his hand across a fine film of dust and cobwebs, screwed one eye shut, and peered in with the other.
Rows of people in shorts and T-shirts sat on wooden benches, listening intently to the presentation. His heart began to drum deep in his chest, jet lag and the anticipation of what he was about to do scrambling his thoughts. It wasn't the meeting that had drawn him to this hall from the other side of the world. It was the speaker, Ellie Jacobs. A girl from his past, someone he hadn't seen in eight years. And if everything went according to his carefully constructed plan, the woman who'd soon be his stand-in wife.
Despite this being the longest shot known to mankind — and the most selfish thing he'd ever done in his life — he wouldn't leave New Zealand until she agreed to marry him. He'd managed to get the grandparents to give him two weeks with his son over Christmas, but after that ...
Ellie Jacobs was his last chance.
He only hoped she could forgive him for everything he'd done.
He pushed the door open and a crowd of bodies twisted as one on their regulation wooden benches. The hall hadn't changed since he'd left as a teenager. Dust motes shimmied in the air, and the place still smelled of hot sun on polished wood. Red and green Christmas decorations trailed haphazardly from the ceiling, and the portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth hung crooked on the wall.
"I'll be staying at Starfish Cottage, if anyone has more questions in the next few ..." The lyrical voice from the front faded to nothing.
"Hi." He lifted a hand and his words echoed in the quiet corners of the hall. "Sorry I'm late. Holiday traffic, and I forgot about the country roads. I'd hoped to be here earlier."
There were murmured hellos and the man next to him stood, his blue eyes twinkling under bushy brows. "Cy, great to see you. It's been a long time, son."
He smiled and took Jack Parker's extended hand, but his gaze was glued to the lectern. Was that Ellie? That stunning woman in black trousers and white blouse, fingers pressed to her lips and eyes rounded in surprise? He'd thought about her constantly since the notice of the meeting arrived like a talisman at his home in Colorado. When he'd read her explanation of the restoration she was heading in Rata Cove, when he'd seen her flowing signature at the bottom of the glossy announcement and remembered her big heart, open smile, and generous spirit, he knew she was the answer. But it was the face of the eighteen-year-old girl he'd known that filled his mind then, not this confident, poised woman. The chestnut curls she'd worn wild and free as a teenager were now pulled away in a high ponytail, her face small and eyes wide as she shook her head. "Cy, it's good to see you."
Memories of summers spent with her flooded him as he settled on the hard wooden bench. The endless games on scorching sand, snorkeling in the warm, clear water of the cove. The thought of one day in particular, the one and only time he and Ellie had made love, was stronger than any other. That day, and the life-changing consequences of their actions, seared into his memory.
Realizing Ellie and everyone in the hall was now staring at him, he pulled his thoughts to the present. "I hear there are some changes happening around here."
"Yes." Ellie cleared her throat before tapping notes on the lectern. Tortoiseshell reading glasses sat on her nose and made her look as confident and in control as she sounded. "You've heard about the restoration project?" She smiled, and the warmth on her face was a tonic to his dog-tired brain.
"I'd love to hear more."
She pushed a lock of hair from her face. "The council's employed me to lead a restoration project on some of the buildings close to the beach. The hall, the old library, the boardwalk. I'm looking for community input before I finalize my plans." She paused. "I don't recall seeing you at any of the initial meetings." She glanced down at her notes, then slowly back up at him again, and his chest constricted for the time he'd lost with her and the strangers they'd become. "I don't have a submission from you, do I?"
"No, I ... ah ... I thought I'd be more help by actually being here." He hadn't been to Rata Cove in nearly a decade, didn't have a right to be part of this, and wouldn't have returned if he didn't have to ask the biggest favor of his life. "So, where are things up to?"
Ellie glanced at her watch. "This meeting's run its course, Cy. We've been discussing my restoration plans for close to an hour and we need to move out for the New Year's pageant practice."
"I've just arrived in the cove." Weariness filtered into his voice as he dug a hand through his hair. "But I'll take you up on the offer to answer my questions at your cottage."
Ellie nodded, then after a little more general discussion, closed the meeting and people began to stand and walk from the hall into the brilliant sunshine. He moved against the flow to reach her, greeting people he hadn't seen in years. Callum Brown, one of his old surfing mates, said hi and introduced Cy to his kids, and Tom from the store slapped him on the back and told him to stop by for a chat. As he drew closer to the front, he could hear what some people were saying.
"We're so lucky to have you do this, Ellison," an elderly man said as he tipped his cap to her. "Things have been looking tired and run-down for years. We've all got faith you'll turn things around and people will start holidaying in the cove again."
"Thanks so much, Max." She touched the old guy's wrinkled hand. "It's great to have everyone's support."
"Thank you, Ellie. Harry and I can't wait to see the changes you're going to make," Betty Browning said as she shooed small children in front of her. "It only seems like yesterday you were performing in the New Year's pageant on this stage, and now look at you. All grown up and important and living round the world."
Ellie smiled at her too and waved to others.
When the last of the people had moved away he stepped forward and the air between them stilled.
"Ellie, it's great to see you."
Her back straightened, and she clasped her hands in front. Of course she wasn't going to lean in for a kiss on the cheek. He hadn't spoken to her since the day after she'd said she loved him, and he'd turned his back on her and left the cove for good, but the realization still stung. She rolled her lips together.
"To be honest, I was a bit stunned when you walked through the door. I thought you lived in the States. That's where I sent the homeowner's meeting notice, anyway. No one's been at your holiday house for ages."
Lines of tension played at the skin around the edges of her eyes as her questioning gaze drifted across his face. In eight years she'd become even more radiant, more animated than he remembered, but there was cool distance in her tone.
"It's been a long time." The words of a detached stranger had come out his mouth before he had a chance to stop them. He'd never been unsettled talking to beautiful women before, but this was Ellie, someone who, despite his best intentions, he'd hurt. "So you're an architect, right? Specializing in coastal properties?"
"Yes." A smile played at her lips as she picked up her suit jacket from the back of a chair and rested it over her arm. She shook her head and a ringlet escaped from her ponytail. "I just can't believe you're here. I've caught up with your mum and sister over the years, but we've missed seeing you back in the cove for holidays."
She'd changed so much and yet hardly at all. But there was something new, a secret, womanly power he could sense growing the longer he stood there. Of course he'd thought about her through the years, regretting they'd lost touch, wishing he'd done more to build a bridge after all they'd been through. Looking at her now, though, no one would know the dark places she'd come from. Seeing this confidence in her confirmed she was the perfect choice for his custody plan, and if that all went well, who knew how their relationship might develop? Now he just needed to choose the right time to ask her.
He slung hands in the pockets of his jeans. "I can't believe I waited so long to come back. Knowing how much you've always loved the cove I understand how important this restoration must be for you, Ellie. I'd like to know more about it."
She picked up the briefcase and held it in front of her. "I'm really sorry, but I don't have time to talk about this now. My sister Fleur and her son Louis are here for Christmas, but let's catch up sometime."
Catch up sometime? He shouldn't have expected her to be any more welcoming than that. "Fleur and Louis? Wow, he was just a baby when I last saw him."
She nodded and glanced toward the door.
"No problem," he said. "I only decided to come back to New Zealand a few weeks ago. Do you live here now?"
She laughed. "I wish. Work takes me all over the country and around the world, but I try to get back to the cove for the holidays. I'll be spending the next few months managing the start of this restoration, then I'm off to an island in Greece for the rest of the year." She grinned and lifted an eyebrow. "It's a tough job but someone's gotta do it." She flicked her wrist and looked at a bright blue watch. "Sorry, but I need to open the cottage for Fleur. You can ask any questions about the project while walking there if you like."
He nodded and followed her out into the sunshine.
* * *
When Ellie pushed her way out into the December afternoon, Cy fell into step beside her.
"Want me to carry that?" He nodded at her briefcase. "It looks impressively heavy."
She still couldn't believe he was here. The shock of seeing him again lay like a piece of cold concrete in her gut, but she wouldn't let him know how much his appearance had thrown her. "I'm fine, thanks."
He looked so different. What once had been a mess of curls kissed golden by hours in the surf, was now the salon cut of a city dweller, glossy and neat. Where multicolored boardshorts would've hung low on slim hips, tan jeans contrasted with a black T-shirt.
For so many years she'd imagined being in this moment, seeing his dazzling smile again, watching the confident way he walked into a room, but in her dreams it was never like this. Never with him standing like a stranger, asking her about a business project and she not able to think of one intelligent thing to say.
She hadn't counted on him being part of the project closest to her heart, though, and she'd have to find a way to deal with it. The longer she spent in Cy Hathaway's company, the quicker she'd fall under his spell — it had happened a hundred times before — but this time she wouldn't be telling him that. When she'd said she loved him all those years ago, he'd turned tail and run, and she'd never put herself in that position again.
"How long are you back?" She kept her attention forward, following the shade from the red-and-green pohutukawa trees nodding over the sand. Cicadas played a symphony in the background, and sea gulls screeched their guttural cries above.
"A couple weeks. There's ..." He cleared his throat. "I need to deal with some things." As he turned to her, his tone shifted. "I think what you're doing here is amazing."
Slowing her steps, she squeezed the handle of her briefcase. "Thanks. It's great that the council agreed to fund the restoration. I was really pleased to be asked to oversee it. There's not a lot of time and spare cash for the upkeep of towns like this. I approached the council last year and offered my services and they agreed to let me renovate."
He turned and stared hard at her, his blue eyes shining, and her heart did a loop. "You mean, you're doing this for nothing? That must be tough."
She lifted a shoulder and looked him in the eye. "I love this place. It has memories that would've been lost if something wasn't done. It was a no-brainer. My project in Greece should help pay the bills. As long as I get this finished in time."
"They're lucky to have you. My sister tells me you're an expert in this sort of thing."
A fizz shot up her spine and she stepped back. He'd been talking to his sister about her? "I love this place too much to let it die."
He scuffed a boot through talc-like sand. "As soon as your letter came I knew I had to get back here."
She'd never tried to contact him after he left, knew that what lay between them was too overpowering to ever be repaired. "I sent letters to all the homeowners, of course. Not just you."
He nodded and she continued. "I was surprised you were listed as owner. Did you buy your parents and sister out?"
Moving slightly, he bunched hands deep in his pockets and the fabric of his shirt pulled tight across his broad, muscled shoulders. "Mum and Kelly don't come here anymore. After Dad finally left, they found the maintenance difficult."
His father had left his mother? Cy had been so hurt by his father's affairs, the drama of his parents' relationship when they were teenagers. "How often do you get back to New Zealand from the States?"
"Not much." He looked out to sea and a muscle flexed at his jaw. That he was even more handsome than he'd been as a teenager seemed impossible, but it was true. "I own a chain of surf stores across the States, so I travel a lot. One of my competitors has been looking to buy me out, but I've worked hard to build it up, and I enjoy the challenge of running stores in different states."
He hadn't been back in the two summers since Ellie had returned from overseas. She knew because she'd lost count of the times she'd stood outside his house in a swimsuit and bare feet and imagined what it would be like if they still spent warm days here together. With his family, her sister Fleur, and nephew Louis ... and maybe a couple of kids of their own.
She shook her head to remove the crazy little fantasy that sprung itself on her when she least expected it. Years ago they'd made love one tangled, passionate time and then he'd left and never returned. She was the girl whose grief he'd made his own. He was the boy who still shared an ugly secret. She flicked a piece of hair from her face. "So, if you're here for Christmas, I guess you'll have family coming. I haven't seen your mother or Kelly in years. I'd love to spend time with them."
He picked up a shell and threw it out to sea. "They won't be making it this year."
Something tugged inside her. Cy had come all this way and wouldn't be spending Christmas with his family? Something wasn't right.
Share it with us, she almost said. Come and have an orphans' Christmas with Fleur and me and Louis while my parents riverboat down the Danube, or whichever way they'd planned to avoid Christmas at the cove for another year. But the words jammed in her mouth. Cy seemed preoccupied, closed even, and she wasn't sure how he'd respond.
His voice was hollow. "It'll just be the two of us for Christmas."
"The two of you?"
"Me and my son, Jonty."
"Your son." The beat of her heart almost hijacked any more words. "How old is he?"
A dark shadow crawled across his features. Without hearing the words come out of his mouth, she knew the answer. The grim set of his face gave it away.
The familiar vision of her brother's six-year-old body being pulled from the surf stamped for the millionth time in her mind. Her heart thudded, small and cramped in her throat. She set up the barriers as she'd always done, but the pain broke through.
"Ellie, I —"
He turned to her and she swung her attention to the sand to avoid his tortured stare. He'd been there that day, kissing her blind on a yacht when they should've been watching William. He'd know the chill dancing across her skin, the crater widening in her chest.
As her body quaked, he stepped closer before seeming to think better of it and kept on talking. "My son's never been here. Katie Newport's looking after him at the moment." He shook his head as they drew up in front of his family's holiday home. Surrounded by bleached logs and waist-high sea grass, it seemed to snooze on the sand. "I can't believe she's sixteen."
Excerpted from Last Chance Proposal by Barbara DeLeo, Lewis Pollak, Alethea Spiridon Hopson. Copyright © 2013 Barbara DeLeo. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Happy release day to Barbara DeLeo! Last Chance Proposal is the perfect book for this holiday season and takes place in the beautiful New Zealand. It made me want to hop on a plane and experience a Christmas in the summer time. I just loved how family oriented this story was and how touched I was by the father, Cy’s, love for his son, Jonty. The way Cy was described as looking at his son and caring for him touched my heart and plastered a smile on my face. I won’t lie though, when the story first started, I was a little put off by the strange request Cy had for his childhood friend, Ellie, but as I read on, I began to appreciate the desperate measures he would take for Jonty. I had admiration for Ellie and her willingness to put her life on hold for the man who broke her heart so many years beforehand. There were moments I felt I was frustrated over Cy’s actions just as much as Ellie was. Sometimes I wanted nothing more than to reach into the pages and shake him! Luckily, he finally came to his senses. :) The best way I can describe Cy and Ellie’s relationship would be a game of tug of war. While they were both hesitant and cautious, they couldn’t resist the temptation and began to let their guard down. I surely tested my patience, but in the end, it was so worth it. Such a happy ending for all involved. Truly a Christmas to remember for Ellie, Cy, and Jonty.
A Wonderful and heartwarming story. Couldn't put this book down until I finished it. Loveable characters and great dialogue. I would recommend this author and story to everyone who enjoys great romance stories. I'm looking forward to reading more by Barbara Deleo
Cy returns home to New Zealand with his son Jonty, to find a wife, to gain custody of his son. He wants to marry Ellie, a childhood friend, for a marriage of convenience.This stirs up old feeling they need to solve. I really enjoyed the dialogue between these two. The description of New Zealand was wonderful. It was interesting on Christmas celebrations. Highly recommend this book this holiday season.
I really enjoyed this book! From the wonderful setting of New Zealand and all the different terminology to thinking about how Christmas is spent in summer. The characters were intriguing and the storyline had a bit of everything. Second chance, marriage of convenience, single dad, cute kid and of course tons of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Really well written and the story moves along at a great pace. I highly recommend this for everyone.
## The hero ruined this story for me. His indifference and lack of remorse was a huge turn-off. He asks a lot of the heroine. And what does she get in return? Nada. Sorry, I can't recommend.
It was a short but fun read. Worth the time.
This book was captivating and sweet. It was just too short. I wanted it to continue.
I could not finish the book. The characters were boring and uncompatable. This one was not for me.
(3 1/2 stars, rounding up) Ultimately I enjoyed Last Chance Proposal, though at times the main characters drove me crazy. I understand where Cy is coming from--his son is autistic, he's involved in a custody battle with his in-laws--he absolutely needs to keep his priorities straight, and priority number one needs to be Jonty. However, he spent much of the novel being grossly unfair to Ellie. He gave off mixed signals left and right, totally reversing things he had done the day before once he removed himself from temptation and had time to think things over again. Frustrating. I'm not sure I would have stuck with him. Though she did a fair bit of waffling herself--she had definite reasons for insisting she'd never have children, but it really felt like she could have faced reality on that point sooner. She eventually got there, though, and with less mental drama than Cy. All's well that ends well, however, and there is a satisfyingly good ending here. Before you get to that point, the relationship between autistic Jonty and Ellie's nephew Louis is one of my favorite parts of the book. Louis has got to be one of the sweetest preteens on the planet, and the way Jonty opens up to him really makes the novel. This was my first book by Ms. DeLeo, but it won't be my last. This was a sweet, feel-good romance with a slight holiday theme (the "moment of truth" event is on New Year's). I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Are you looking for a little romance? Then Last Chance Proposal is the perfect holiday read! Barbara DeLeo brings a nice pleasant twist to the tradition romance story. Maybe it was reading about a romance set in the warm Christmas season in New Zealand from the frigid land of Chicago, but I got lost in the story of Cy and Ellie. The setting is perfect. The characters are likable. The book is definitely one to read.
I loved this book! one minute I was crying, the next I was smiling. This book makes you think about how life troubles can affect the children around us. It also shows us how they can bounce back with love and support. This book has it all. I look forward to reading more books by Barbara DeLeo
Sweet Romantic Tale Set in New Zealand! Cy Hathaway left New Zealand suddenly and without an explanation many years ago. In so doing, he left his best friend and first love, Ellie Jacobs, bereft. She has since moved on to a successful career. Now Cy is facing a custody battle with his son's grandparents and he desperately needs Ellie's help. Can she put aside her career and her feelings to help him? Does she even want to? I loved the setting in New Zealand and, through Barbara's story-telling, learned about Christmas customs there. This was an enjoyable romantic read. 3 1/2 stars!!!!!!
This was the first Barbara DeLeo book I’ve read and she impressed the heck out of me. I finished this book in less than a couple of hours and I swear, when it was done, I was floating on cloud nine. A romantic upside-down Christmas read, it made my heart clench from happiness. As a South-African, I love reading about summer about summer Christmases and this one was extraordinary. Reading and experiencing the way both characters go out of their way not to feel anything but friendship for each other, had me going. But the love they so clearly feel, not just the love for each other, but the love for the little boy who managed to capture my heart without uttering a single word, felt completely real. Barbara created characters you just can’t help loving. A man who’s trying his best to connect with a son who doesn’t speak, and as an added bonus, he is sizzling hot on top of all that. Well, that hits a girl hard. Add a woman, who is so kind and gentle, that she’d give up to help the man she’s loved for years, and you have a powerhouse combination. This book was light-hearted, fun and a fantastic holiday read. Barbara DeLeo had me falling in love with her writing, with this book, so much, that I’m not thinking twice about purchasing any of her other books.
I love second chance romances and this is a touching, captivating journey of friendship, trust, understanding and sacrifice when first loves become reacquainted. Cy Hathaway is facing a custody battle with his son's Grandparents in the US. His return home to New Zealand happens to coincide with his childhood sweetheart Ellie's own return and the poor guy is desperate to be the Dad his son deserves. He needs a wife to create the perfect family unit and he turns to the woman who was his best friend and whose heart he broke 10 years previously. Both were lovely characters and whilst their chemistry wasn't electric, it simmered realistically. Ellie is a sweet-natured, patient, determined and selfless woman yet not without her own insecurities and barriers. Cy is a kindhearted protective man and it is his own fears that are his downfall; his plight may seem selfish but is actually far from it. And his son Jonty's friendship with Ellie's nephew Louis was quite simply amazing. It is as much their book as the adults and these boys stole my heart. I have to admit I am a bit of a seasoned reader of Barbara Deleo's books but, unlike this, her previous offerings haven't kept the romantic interludes behind closed doors. I can honestly say this makes no difference because her writing style pulls you in and I became completely invested in both Cy and Ellie. And whilst I can't deny I would have liked a little more made of the fact that he left her and their shared secret, heartfelt touching moments are balanced with those that will leave you feeling complete joy and with a huge grin on your face making 'Last Chance Proposal' good addition to the Bliss line.
So, last night I finished Last Chance Proposal by Barbara DeLeo. I had to really think on my feelings about this book. Normally when I read a Bliss book I usually have a warm and fuzzy feeling afterwards, but I didn't get that. Don't get me wrong, it was a good read, but didn't have that heart melting that I was looking for. I know that second chance romances are not always the easiest to present and can be a bit a challenging. However, I didn't really feel that Cy Hathaway or Ellie Jacobs really wanted to work. Usually, you feel that one has a strong pull to be with the other and will do anything to get back together with the other. No, Cy needed to find a wife so he could get custody of his son Jonty and he figure that Ellie would be a good choice, because they once had a connection. I know that's how marriage of convenience works in stories, but I kind wish their was a little more chemistry than what was present. I didn't really feel a strong romantic connection between Cy and Ellie. Then you have Jonty who has selective mutism, which adds a little more complication to the story. So, you have a lot of themes going on in the story: custody issues, marriage of convenience, second chance love, and a past issue that both haven't come to terms. That's a lot to take into a story. I might have felt a bit overwhelm with the themes that were in the story. Bottom line: It's not a bad story. I liked it and the ending did give me a happy feeling. However, feeling that Cy and Ellie really had feelings for each other might be a challenge for me to believe. So, if you are looking for something like this, you might give Last Chance Proposal a try. Copy provided by publisher
I found this book disappointing, interesting premise but neurotic characters and a boring romance. Its main attraction was in picturing Chris Hemsworth as Cy.
3.5 Stars Last Chance Proposal by Barbara DeLeo is a sweet and slightly emotional romance about two people who fell in love when they were only eighteen. Ah, young love, so fragile and so mind blowing all at the same time. Due to a tragic event, the couple immediately separated and moved on with their respective lives. Years later, they meet again because a enormous favor is needed. Cy Hathaway, a former surfer from New Zealand, owns a chain of successful surf stores across the United States. Due to circumstances beyond his control, he needs a wife immediately, in order to obtain custody of his son Jonty. In his mind, his only choice is Ellie Jacobs, his former best friend and first love. Ellie is an extremely warm and caring woman. In addition, she has successfully carved out a career as a specialized architect. Ellie travels from project to project, sharing her renovation expertise with others. Luckily, Cy is able to convince Ellie to marry him and temporarily move to the states. Once the custody battle is over, Ellie will be able to return to her former life. However, Cy and Ellie still have very strong feelings for each other, which seem to get in the way of their individual happiness. In addition, they are both hiding a secret, that will forever bind them together. I liked this story. It is nicely paced, the characters are likeable and the setting in New Zealand is interesting. ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.