An unstable childhood and a bad marriage have left Nova unable to trust anyone—especially herself. She'd do anything for her young son, but feels she'll never be a good enough mother. She's got major talent as a stylist and makeup artist, but big-time success would mean leaving the safety of Martha’s Vineyard and the only family she has left. Still, she needs to kick-start her life in a new direction. The last thing she needs is her childhood frenemy, Tanner Brennan, confusing her even more.
An Ex-Army Ranger, Tanner was looking for peace and routine when he came back home to Martha's Vineyard. Scrapping with Nova reminds him of the hopeful boy he was, before secrets and guilt closed him off. But there's no way he can fight her raw vulnerability—or his longing to become part of her life. And as their all-too-fragile bond is threatened in ways they never expected, he and Nova have only one chance to finally come to terms with the past—and find the future in each other.
Praise for Jamie Pope’s Love Blooms
“This heartwarming sequel to Hope Blooms returns to Martha’s Vineyard, where the teasing, flirtatious relationship between single mother Nova Reed and ex-soldier Tanner Brennan blossoms into a steamy romance.” — Publishers Weekly
Praise for Jamie Pope’s Hope Blooms
“Beautifully written . . . a story you won’t forget.” — Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Nova Reed held her breath as she stood outside the door of the shitty one-bedroom apartment that she and her mother had been calling home for the last month. She had been there at least five minutes trying to decide if she wanted to get out of the cold more than she wanted to run away.
This place was the fourth place they had called home that year.
The word had very little meaning for her now.
They had lived in a hundred different places in her seventeen years. Never staying in one area long enough for Nova to feel comfortable, or for her to find friends, or be normal. She used to wish that they would find that one magical place where they could stay and put down roots. That place they would never again have to sneak out from in the middle of the night, dodging some pissed-off landlord looking for back rent.
But Nova gave up that hope long ago.
When your mama is a raging drunk, you learn from an early age to stop hoping. It was easier than being disappointed all the time.
Nova shivered, still rooted to the spot in front of the door. The cold had seeped through her sweatshirt and hit her bones, and even as her fingers went numb she wondered if the momentary warmth she would feel would be worth the rest of it. Worth what she would inevitably go through with her mother as soon as she stepped inside. But what other choice did she have?
She had stayed out as long as she could, working a four-hour shift at the diner after school today and a two-hour shift before. She wanted to work more but they wouldn't let her. She was still a minor, and it was a school night. So she had gone to the library after work, staying until it closed at nine. And then when there was no place else to go, no other excuses to make, she walked home. In the dark. As slowly as possible.
Mama had been chaos lately. Sick, sad chaos. It was either alcohol-fueled rages, or booze-soaked stupors. No in-between. No peace.
That's all she wanted. To sleep. Just one night of quiet, uninterrupted rest. She had a big test tomorrow. Her guidance counselor told her that if she kept up her grades he could help her get a scholarship to college. She wasn't naturally smart. School didn't come easy for her, but she was a hard worker. She put in the time.
College was her only way out of the shit hole that was her life. It was the only way her mother would let her go. In one of her rare clear moments Mama had been excited about the idea. She wanted Nova to have a fancy job. Something professional, like a lawyer or an engineer. They talked about her living in a dorm with girls her own age. Maybe she would meet a nice boy who was majoring in something like finance or prelaw and they would get married and buy one of the big old fancy white houses. They could put their kids in private school, and go to soccer games and go on boating trips. Mama had encouraged her to get there. Nova tried not to feel guilty for wanting to leave her mother so badly. But getting out was the only way she could help her. Maybe get her into one of those costly treatment programs.
She unlocked the door and walked into the dimly lit space. The smell of cigarettes and alcohol-scented sweat nearly knocked her backward. And if the smell didn't make her fall, the pile of gin bottles littering the floor would have.
But there were beer cans there tonight as well, and the hair on the back of Nova's neck stood on end.
Mama didn't drink beer.
Gin. Vodka. Moonshine when she was desperate. She must have had company today. Mama usually entertained male company when money was running low. When she didn't have enough money to get her next fix. There was no money for her to take this time because Nova kept everything important she owned on her body. Her savings account passbook. Her weekly tips. The gold necklace her grandmother had given her. It was the one that belonged to her father. She had learned her lesson the first time Mama had rummaged through her room and cleaned out her savings to go on a three-day bender with some guy she just met.
She spotted her mother passed out on the couch. Her face and body were bloated. Her bleached-blond hair plastered to her head. Nova was relieved. No raging tonight. No anger about her squandered future. No noise at all. Just sleep.
Her mother had been beautiful once. A Southern beauty queen, with waist-length dark hair and a body that women would sell their souls to get. But something happened along the way and her beauty queen mother had transformed into a drunk that could barely stand up most days.
She looked at her mother for a long moment before she pulled the quilt her grandmother had made off the back of the couch and placed it over her mother. The stench of booze coming out of her pores was enough to knock anyone backward, but Nova stayed where she was and brushed the hair out of her mother's face. She wondered what her brother would think if he could see her now. She hadn't spoken to him in a few years. They had moved so much that he had lost track of them.
Wylie had escaped life with their mother. They had different fathers and his was a good man who refused to let a sick woman take his child. Even after he died he made sure Wylie was sent to live in Connecticut with a rich family, in a house that had three floors, with people who only drove cars that cost more than most people made in two years. Wylie had gone to prom. He went on vacations. He even got to go to college. And now he was a marine, off in some foreign land, doing something good with his life. Nova almost hated him for it. She loved her big brother. He was goodness personified, but most days she hated him nearly as much because he had the life she had always dreamed of.
He got to go do things, while she was chained to their mother and her illness.
Nova kissed her mother's cheek, heavy guilt creeping up into her throat and choking her. She started to pick up the alcohol bottles and cigarette butts that littered the rooms even though she knew it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. The apartment would be a wreck again tomorrow. She should have just gone straight to bed. Her mother was sleeping. She could have her peaceful evening, but she didn't just want to walk away. This was the only time she could spend with her mother. She was drunk constantly now. Not just on the weekends. Not just after work. All the time. Every waking moment. Nova couldn't be around her then, but she could be around her when she slept.
"My baby." Nova heard her mother's slurred words and looked over to her. Her skin was a sickly yellow color, her eyes were bloodshot.
"Have you eaten anything today, Mama? You want me to fix you something?"
"My stomach is bothering me." Her words were so thick Nova had a hard time understanding them.
"Would you like some water? Maybe some juice? I can run out and get you something from the gas station."
"No, thank you, baby. You're my good girl." She rolled over and was out again, knocking the quilt that Nova had draped over her to the floor. Nova sighed, pushing down the large bubble of anxiety that swelled in her when she thought about her mother's health. About how many days her mother had left on this earth if she didn't take care of herself.
So she went into the kitchen, to toss the empties into a plastic bag. The activity would keep her mind busy. Even if she went to bed, tonight would be just as hellish as the night before. She heard the knob of the bathroom door turn. She jumped. She hadn't realized that she and her mother weren't alone. A man walked out. She recognized him.
He had been hanging around the apartment a lot since they moved to this building. He was the maintenance man here, but Nova wasn't sure what he did all day because the place was nearly inhabitable.
He was wearing just a towel around his bloated body. She hadn't heard the shower on. There were no signs that he had cleaned himself at all. She had been home for at least ten minutes. It was almost as if he was waiting for her.
"Get your clothes and get the hell out." She went back to cleaning, her head down, but one eye on him.
"Oh, baby girl, you've got a mouth on you, don't you? But it sure is a pretty one."
He stepped completely out of the bathroom and toward her. Their apartment was tiny. One more large step and he would be in her space. She tried not to glance back at her bedroom door. She could run. Try to barricade herself in her room, but she knew that wouldn't work. Even if he left her alone tonight. He would be back. Her mother would always let him in if he came bearing booze. Nova needed to stand her ground with him. Let him know that she wouldn't be pushed around. He wasn't the first friend of Mama's who tried something with her. Just one in a long line of many.
The last time it happened, her father had still been alive. He took her away from her mother and sent her to live in Martha's Vineyard with his mother. It was the kindest thing he had ever done for her. But it was almost cruel, because when he died, she had to go back to Mama. When he died, the tiny bit of peaceful life she had ended and made coming back into hell just that much worse.
Archie walked closer to her, the stench of stale beer on his breath. But Nova knew he wasn't drunk. His eyes were too clear, too calculating. "Your sweet little ass has been making me hard ever since you two moved in here," he said into her ear. His hand settled on her behind and she slapped it away, raising her fist to punch him, but he caught it. Her heart began to slam against her chest, but she refused to panic. She refused to be a victim.
"Don't make this harder than it has to be. Your bedroom is right there. We can just go inside and have a little fun."
"Fuck off, Archie. My mama is right there. You can't seriously be trying something with me."
"Your mama is a drunk. And she ain't waking up. She might be out for the next two days with the amount of booze she threw down her throat."
"And you were right here with her while she was doing it."
"I was keeping her company and waiting for you. I've got a lot of pull around here." He yanked her closer so that her body was pressed against his. "You treat me good and you won't have to worry about your rent anymore."
"We can pay our rent just fine."
"I can also throw you out just fine. You don't think word about your mama has not spread? She screwed so many landlords out of rent money, no one will take her around here. They'll take you though. I'm sure everyone wants a tight little piece." He smashed his mouth to hers and Nova shoved him as hard as she could. He stumbled backward into the stove, but that didn't stop him. It only made him angry. He came at her again, grabbing her arm and pinning her body against the counter. The towel had slipped from his hips. His erection was pressed into her.
"No." She was scared out of her skull, but the word came out firm and clear. "You're not going to force me."
"You'll like it, you little bitch." He grabbed her breast and squeezed it so hard, tears came to her eyes. "I'll show you how a real man does it. It won't hurt. With a body like this you can't be a virgin."
His hand moved toward her zipper and she reached behind her, her hand closing around a handle. She didn't give herself time to think. Her hand swung out wildly and she felt the knife in her hand sink into muscle. Archie let out a horrific scream and fell to the floor. There was so much blood and a naked man squirming on the floor.
Run, something inside her told her. Get the hell away from here.
She did and she never looked back.
"Look at who showed up. I'm surprised she even bothers to come here."
They were whispering about her again. The other mothers. As soon as she stepped her foot on the soccer fields it started. The hushed words. The critical looks. The rebel in Nova wanted to flip them off, but the mother in her thought twice about it. She wouldn't embarrass her kid any more than she already did.
Those snobby bitches could go to hell. Nova kept her head high as she walked past them to the visitors' side of the field.
Nova knew she wasn't like most of the mothers on her son's soccer team. She wasn't the wife of a rich man, transplanted here to get away from her stressful overscheduled life in Boston or New York City or wherever the people who could afford homes in the most expensive part of the island came from. She was a single mother with a sketchy past. She lived in a tiny two-bedroom apartment over a vacant store. And unlike like them, she had to work damn hard to keep a roof over her kid's head. She was a hairstylist and a makeup artist. She liked her lipstick red, her nails long, and her heels high because it made her feel powerful. It made her stand out in a world she often felt was going to swallow her up.
She was also a walking billboard for her services. She couldn't go out looking any old way and she knew that tomorrow she would get at least three of those stuffy broads in her chair asking her to make them look more desirable for their boring husbands.
She didn't care if they talked, as long as they tipped well so that she could keep socking money away for her future.
She focused on her baby boy, pushing thoughts of those unimportant people out of her mind. He was with the rest of his team, listening to his coach, looking so damn adorable in his blue and white uniform and his halo of black fluffy curls. She wanted to rush across the field and kiss the skin off his sweet round cheeks, but she stayed where she was, as far away from him as possible. She wasn't supposed to be there at all. It was man day. A bonding time with his uncle. It was important because Teo didn't have a father. And she knew that he desperately wanted someone to call Daddy. It was her fault he didn't have one. Not because of anything she had done, but because she should have known long before she conceived that her husband would never be able to be a father to anyone.
But her brother, Wylie, wasn't a bad standin. He and Teo went to games and practices and out to lunch and then the two would go back to his house to do whatever it was little boys and their uncles did together. Wylie had her son a lot. He took him on trips, gave him some discipline, and showed him how real men are supposed to act. And that's why her son loved him. Teo loved him way more than he did her. The knowledge of it depressed the hell out of her. But how could she blame her son? Wylie was a war hero, a respected man in their community, and he was a nice person.
She, on the other hand, was screwed up as they came. Way too screwed up to be a mother. Sometimes she thought her son would be better off being raised by her brother, but she just couldn't let him go. He was an accident created with the lowlife she had married when she had escaped home at seventeen. Teo probably would have had a better shot if he were raised by someone else, but Nova was too selfish to give him up. She had no idea what love was until she held him in her arms.
"Why are you all the way over here?" Her brother stomped over to her, looking every inch of the marine he was. He was annoyed with her.
But what was new?
"Hush. I don't want him to know I'm here. I'm just watching. I'm not bothering anyone. Go away."
"You're bothering me," Wylie said, his Southern accent still strong even after having moved from Alabama over fifteen years ago.
They looked as unrelated as two siblings could be. Wylie was a large man, built like a tank. He was fair skinned with hair that was golden brown and eyes almost the color of honey. She was the opposite of him in every way. The blood of her father's family ran strong through her veins. Her hair was jet black. Her skin was brown. She was Native American. Even though her mother was white, Nova connected to her Native side more. And she had come back to this island to be with her father's family. They were the only ones who ever protected her. This island was the only place she had felt close to happy.
But that wasn't true anymore. Wylie had moved here when he got out of the service to be near her. She knew without a doubt that her brother would give his life for her. But that didn't mean they got along. She was fairly certain her brother didn't like her at all.
"Go away, jarhead." She turned back to the game, her eyes glued to Teo. "You're going to give me away. Can't you go put a damper on someone else's day?"
"If you didn't want him to see you, you shouldn't have come. You aren't one of those women who blends into the crowd."
Excerpted from "Love Blooms"
Copyright © 2017 Jamie Pope.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
I really enjoyed Tanner, Nova and Teo’s story
I was glad to see that these characters could develop together and learn to love and trust. Nova especially had some major walls around her heart erected due to her past. It made her a prickly character. Martha Vineyard as a setting was interesting.
I loved every character especially Teo I couldn't put this one down!!! I liked it even more than Cas and Wylie ' s story. SO GLAD I read Nova and Tanner ' s book as well.!!!