99 Cent Sale!! Oh, and…a New Release!

STARTING FROM ZERO is just 99 cents now through Monday! Book 1 in Starting From seems like a perfect addition to the Family Found Promotion. If you haven’t checked this series out, now might be a perfect time!

STARTING FROM ZERO is part of a multi-author promotion for books featuring Family & Found Family. There are tons of books from your favorite MM authors including…A.D. Ellis, Ana Ashley, Annabelle Jacobs, Anne Barwell, BA Tortuga, BL Maxwell, C F White, Cara Dee, Chantal Mer, Charley Descoteaux, Clare London, Colette Davison, Con Riley, Daniel May, Eli Easton, Elizabeth Noble, Elle Keaton, Garrett Leigh, Jackie Keswick, Jamie Lynn Miller, Jay Hogan, Jay Northcote, Julie Bozza, K-lee Klein, K. Evan Coles, Lane Hayes, Leta Blake, Louisa Masters, Marie Sexton, Mia Monroe, N.R. Walker, Nic Starr, Nora Phoenix, Rhys Everly, RJ Scott, Sammi Cee, Stella Shaw, Susan Scott Shelley, Tal Bauer , Talia Carmichael, V.L. Locey, and Victoria Sue

AND YES!! FOLLOWING THE RULES is LIVE!! If you’ve been waiting for your geek/jock fix, your weekend reading is now here!! FOLLOWING THE RULES is Book 1 in my brand new geeks/jocks series and this one belongs to Topher and Simon. Topher is a lovable genius with a weakness for athletes like his best friend’s brother…who wants to hire him. And Simon is professional football player struggling to figure out his path when his career goes sideways.

🏈 Nerd/Jock

👬 Brother’s Best Friend

💙Bisexual Awakening

🤓Geeky Shenanigans Galore

Happy Reading! And Happy Mother’s Day to those celebrating! Lane xo

 

 

FOLLOWING THE RULES is LIVE!

Woohoo! FOLLOWING THE RULES is here! The geek, the jock, and a new set of rules…

FOLLOWING THE RULES is Book 1 in my brand new geeks/jocks series and this one belongs to Topher and Simon. Topher is a lovable genius with a weakness for athletes like his best friend’s brother…who wants to hire him. And Simon is professional football player struggling to figure out his path when his career goes sideways.

Simon and Topher’s story is a bisexual awakening, best friend’s brother, nerd/jock romance. Find out what happens when two very different men find common ground…and a little more. Sigh… Check out the blurb below.

The geek, the jock, and a new set of rules…

Topher-

My friend’s brother needs an academic assistant and I need a job. Problem…jocks are my weakness. Seriously. I lose my ability to speak coherently around muscle-bound hotties. Oh yeah, I lose my inhibitions too—not a good look for a guy with a genius IQ. So what am I going to do about Simon? 

Simon-

Finishing college isn’t high on my list of priorities, but my future in professional football is looking bleak. I need a plan B or C, and I could use some help navigating life as an undergrad. Topher is perfect. He’s also a little strange…but in a good way. And I like the way I feel when I’m around him—as though anything is possible. Maybe if we follow our hearts, we’ll find what we’re looking for. But that means changing the rules…

Following the Rules is a MM, bisexual awakening romance starring a lovable nerd, a cool jock, and some extracurricular fun

This was such a fun story to write! I hope you enjoy Simon and Topher and a new cast of nerdy/jock hotties! And be sure to check out the excerpt at the end of the book for a sneak peek at Rules of Play (Summer 2021).

Audiobook coming very soon. Stay tuned!

Happy Reading! Lane xo

FOLLOWING THE RULES Countdown!

Just a quick reminder…3 Days till FOLLOWING THE RULES is here! Get ready to geek out with a new nerdy crew! I can’t wait to introduce you to Simon and Topher and the gang!

🏈Jock/Nerd

🤓Best Friend’s Brother

🔥Inability to speak around hotness

And yes, Book 2 is in the works and expected in July 2021. More info coming soon!

Happy Reading! Lane xo

A KIND OF TRUTH 99 Cent Sale!

A KIND OF TRUTH is on sale now for just 99 cents! Book 1 in A Kind of Stories is my first ever “geek” book. Rand and Will are nothing alike, but there’s something about the unassuming, shy college student slash guitar teacher that turns Rand inside out. Something unexpectedly special…something that feels like a kind of truth.

🎸 The cool lead singer and the musical theater geek

💋 A secret identity

🍎 And a BIG secret in the Big Apple

Don’t miss Rand and Will’s story! Available for a sweet sale price until April 27!

Ready for a geek/jock story? Just 2 weeks until FOLLOWING THE RULES is LIVE! Woohoo! I can’t wait to share this one. The geek, the jock, and a new set of rules…Preorder available now!

ALSO, after one whole year, OUT ON THE ICE has Whispersynched! If you’ve been waiting to purchase the audio, now is a great time! Thanks for your patience on that one.

Happy Reading and Listening! Lane xo

Cover Reveal for FOLLOWING THE RULES!

Ta da! The FOLLOWING THE RULES cover is revealed by and I’m in love!

FOLLOWING THE RULES will be here May 7. Check out this gorgeous cover by Sleepy Fox Studios. This is Book 1 in my brand new geeks/jocks series and this one belongs to Topher and Simon. Topher is a lovable genius with a weakness for athletes like his best friend’s brother…who wants to hire him. Cue panic…and shenanigans too! Check out the blurb below and be sure to save it on your Goodreads page. Three weeks and counting!

The geek, the jock, and a new set of rules…

Topher-

My friend’s brother needs an academic assistant and I need a job. Problem…jocks are my weakness. Seriously. I lose my ability to speak coherently around muscle-bound hotties. Oh yeah, I lose my inhibitions too—not a good look for a guy with a genius IQ. So what am I going to do about Simon? 

Simon-

Finishing college isn’t high on my list of priorities, but my future in professional football is looking bleak. I need a plan B or C and I could use some help navigating life as an undergrad. Topher is perfect. He’s also a little strange…but in a good way. And I like the way I feel when I’m around him—as though anything is possible. Maybe if we follow our hearts, we’ll find what we’re looking for. But that means changing the rules…


Following the Rules is a MM, bisexual awakening romance starring a lovable nerd, a cool jock, and some extracurricular fun. 

OUT IN WINTER is Available Wide AND Upcoming Cover Reveal News!

Just a quick note to let you know that OUT IN WINTER, Book 8 in Out in College, is now available at all reliable ebook retail stores. The rest of the series will go wide next month for a few weeks and then…I have a little Out in College surprise coming this summer! I know, I’m a terrible tease. LOL Stay tuned for more info.

The Cover Reveal for FOLLOWING THE RULES is happening this Friday, April 16! Unexpected chemistry erupts between the brainiac grad student and the jock. Nerd/jock, best friend’s brother, lots of humor too. Preorder is available now. P.S.-This is the last chance to take advantage of the sale price!

Happy Reading! Lane xo

OUT IN THE FIELD is Just 99 Cents!

⚾️OPENING DAY/WEEKEND SALE! Yes, OUT IN THE FIELD is just 99 cents! Baseball fans, it’s finally our season! ⚾️

I love baseball and wanted to be sure to include baseball in my Out in College series. Max is a college baseball player with a big secret. And Phoenix is a theater geek who isn’t opposed to a low-key sex only arrangement. This baby is just 99 cents through Sunday! Woohoo!

OUT IN THE FIELD Blurb…

The baseball player, the theater geek, and an unconventional alliance…

Max-

Baseball comes first. Always. I doubt my big-league dreams will ever come true, but I love the game and I love my team, so I’m going to make the most of my time on the field. And no, I’m not even going to think about coming out until after graduation. Relationships are messy. And after my recent colossal breakup, I need to keep things simple.

Phoenix-

What are the chances of running into the hot jock on campus? I can’t believe my good luck, seeing Max at my new school. Although, maybe not. He’s a closeted baseball person, and I’m a fabulous theater geek. We have nothing in common, and our timing is always off. I don’t know if I can play by his rules, but I like him. A lot. This could get complicated.

Out in the Field is a low-angst MM romance coming out story starring a college jock, a theater geek, a nightmare ex, and a secret worth telling…if they’re willing to risk it all…out in the field.

Starting From Family- A Starting From The Top Short is LIVE! All Parts (NSFW)

Starting From Family is complete and available to read in its entirety on your kindle or other e-reader device. Enjoy an extra glimpse into Johnny and Sean’s life. You’ll be able to revisit the boys from Zero and Jealousy this summer when Sebastian kicks off a brand new series. Details to follow! https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/pZVpXF1I

And have you listened to the Starting From The Top audio? Check out the sample/purchase link here.

Coming soon…Following the Rules! Geeks rule in my house and I’m a huge fan of the opposites-attract, nerd/jock trope. I can’t wait to introduce you to Topher and Simon. Note…the preorder link is live and the pre-cover reveal price is just $3.99. A deal! The cover/blurb reveal will be coming up in two weeks. Stay tuned!

Happy Reading/Listening! Lane xo

Starting From Family- A Starting From the Top Free Short Story – Part 2

Here you go—Part 2 of Starting From Family! I’ll post the final installment later this week. If you haven’t read Starting From The Top, you’ll definitely want to do that first and save this for later. Johnny and Sean’s story is a true standalone. You don’t have to read the other books in the series to follow this one. But you may want to meet the whole band in the Starting From Series!

*By the way, the audiobook is live AND Whispersynched! Woohoo!

Happy Reading! Lane xo

Sean-

In spite of the brutal afternoon traffic, I made it home from the desert in record time, weaving around slower moving vehicles like I was practicing for a run in the Indy 500. Hey, my people needed me. Not that there was much I could do. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I’d dealt with my share of flu bugs over the years.

But Johnny hadn’t. 

I pulled my BMW in the garage next to the Range Rover and hurried inside.

Lullah raced down the short hall off the kitchen to greet me. She let out a plaintive whimper as she plopped herself in the laundry room doorway where we kept her food. She didn’t bark, but the message was clear.

“Someone’s hungry, eh? I’ll be right back, Lu. Let me check on Pen and Johnny first.” 

I scratched her ears and moved into the oddly quiet great room, setting my briefcase on a barstool before heading into the living area where a muted SpongeBob cartoon played on the flatscreen. I peered over the sectional and stopped in my tracks. Johnny and Penny were both asleep. And damn, my heart suddenly felt a bit too big for my chest.

Call me crazy, but my daughter drooling on my lover’s shoulder with a crayon in her hand and coloring book propped between them filled empty spaces inside me. Apparently, I had nothing to worry about.

I loosened my tie, noting the bottle of Gatorade, the glass of water, and a piece of uneaten toast on the coffee table next to an iPad, a stack of coloring books, art supplies, and a paperback copy of A Wrinkle in Time. Entertainment, fluids, and a snack covered, I mused as I skirted the sofa and accidentally kicked a red pail. I picked it up, chuckling lightly at the attached Post-it note that read, “Just in case.”

“You’re home,” Johnny whispered. 

I sat beside him and kissed his lips, his nose, and both cheeks. “How are you? It looks like have everything control.”

“Well—”

“Daddy. Hi.” Penny smiled groggily then scrambled to sit up before launching herself at me. 

I pulled her onto my lap and kissed her forehead. Penny had grown an inch or more over the past year, but she was still a pipsqueak. And thankfully, she didn’t think cuddles were uncool. Yet.

“Hi there. I heard you aren’t feeling so great.”

Penny nodded solemnly, twisting a lock of hair around her finger. “My stomach was funky. But I feel better now.”

“Funky? Is that a medical term?” I teased.

“Johnny said it was funked up. Right, Johnny?”

He made a comical face and shrugged. “Yeah, something like that.”

Penny giggled then leaned over to greet the dog when she set her snout on my knee and whimpered. “Oh, Lullah! Lullah, girl, come. Did you miss me?”

I straightened the collar on her Wonder Woman pajama top. “I’m sure Lullah was worried about you, but I also think she’s hungry. I’ll feed her now and—” 

“Fu-funk-y farts.” Johnny winced as he hopped off the sofa. He set the coloring book on top of the others and picked up a stray crayon wedged between the cushions, accidentally leaving a small mark on the fabric. He stared at the unintentional sofa art with his mouth open. “Geez, I’m sorry. I’ll clean it after I feed the dog. I can’t believe I forgot. I’m sorry, Lullah.”

“Johnny, relax. I’ll do it.”

“No, it’s my chore. I’ll do it,” Penny announced, wriggling off my lap. “I really feel better. I promise I won’t yack.”

“Yack?” I laughed.

“That’s what Johnny called it,” she confirmed with a grin. “He said—”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m a riot.” Johnny tugged his black tee and swiped his fingers through his hair before pointing at the sofa. “You’re on sick leave, Pen. Park your tuchus and chill. Speaking of Park…Parker is eating dinner with his friends. He’ll be home by eight. I have no idea what time it is, but that might soon. And you’re probably hungry and Lullah’s fu— starving. Let me feed her and then I’ll feed you and clean up this mess and…Yeah, it’s all good. All good. You’re good, I’m good, the house is still standing. I got this.”

I arched my brow and watched him hurry into the adjoining room with Lullah at his heels.

“He’s okay, Daddy. He’s just worried,” she said sagely.

“I know. You had quite an afternoon, didn’t you?”

Penny sighed. “I don’t know what happened. I was okay at lunch, but I started feeling worse and worse. I got sick again after we got home, but I made it to the bathroom that time. No big deal. Johnny was super worried though. He looked up the flu on the internet and asked Tegan to buy us Gatorade and chicken noodle soup. I haven’t eaten anything yet. I’m still not hungry, but I don’t feel bad.”

“Sounds like Johnny took very good care of you.”

She fixed me with a serious look. “Very good care. I should help him with Lullah and—” 

“No, Johnny’s right. You need rest.” I kissed her forehead again and motioned for her to lie on the sofa. “I’m glad you’re feeling better and you don’t seem to have a fever anymore, but I’ll get the thermometer to be sure. I’m going to check on Johnny and change my clothes. Holler if you need one of us, Penny-pie.”

“Okay, but can I watch a different show?”

I spread a blanket over her legs and handed her the remote. “Go for it.”

I found Johnny in the laundry room with Lullah. He was singing to the dog in a low voice…something that sounded like an original tune. He had a habit of making up off-the-cuff silly songs to make the kids laugh. He’d strummed his guitar like a madman and strike rock star poses while singing, “Homework sucks, oh yeah!” They loved it.

They loved him. 

Parker and Penny were charmed by Johnny’s good-natured attitude and upbeat personality. He could take seemingly any negative and spin it into a positive. And unless I was mistaken, he was using the same tactic to apologize to the dog for forgetting to feed her. 

“…it’s gonna be a two treat night, oh yeah!”

“Two treats?”

Johnny jumped, spinning around with a scowl on his handsome face. “Geez, no sneaking.”

“I come in peace.” I held my hands up in surrender then opened my arms. “You look like you could use a hug.”

He closed his eyes briefly and sighed as he wrapped himself around me, resting his head on my shoulder. God, it was good to be home. 

“I’m glad you’re here,” he mumbled against my shirt.

“Me too. I’m sorry you had a rough day.”

“Hmph. I thought I was doing pretty good at this stand-in parent thing, but I suck.”

I held him a little tighter. “You don’t suck. You’re amazing.”

“Yeah, right,” he huffed sarcastically, pulling out of my embrace. “The good news for you is that I suck in other ways too…good ways, if you know what I mean. Hopefully, that’s enough reason to keep me around.”

That last line was barely audible, but I heard it and no, I didn’t like it at all.

“Hey, what’s going in your head?” I set my fingers under his chin. “Look at me, Johnny.”

He did…and it was impossible to miss the anguish in his beautiful brown eyes. “I’m sorry about all this. I really am.”

“There’s no reason to apologize, baby. It’s just life. Sometimes it comes at you wrapped like a Christmas present and other times, it’s a shit storm.”

“I know that, but I caused the shit storm. That’s the difference.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Yes, I—”

“Cool it.” I cradled his face in my hands and kissed the corner of his mouth. “Come upstairs. I think we need to talk.” 

“Talk?” Johnny rasped. He crossed his arms and shook his head. “I don’t want to talk.”

“Why not?”

“Sounds ominous. Like you’re gonna fire me or something.”

I rolled my eyes and smacked his ass. “Upstairs…now.”

I moved ahead of him, pausing to check on Penny again before making my way to the master suite.

I’d unbuttoned my oxford shirt, removed my shoes, unbuckled my belt, and was about to unzip my suit pants when Johnny finally waltzed in and sat on the corner of the bench in front of the bed. 

“Let’s get this over with, Sean. I don’t do well with uncertainty. I’m sure you’re worried about my ability to care for the kids and the house when you’re away…well, I guess I don’t blame you. I’m a disaster, but I can do better. I can set alarms to remind myself when they should eat and sleep. And I’ll look up doable recipes so I don’t feed them crap and—”

“Stop.” 

Silence. 

I let it grow even though I knew it made him nervous. Maybe that seemed unkind, but I needed his full attention. I needed him to listen to me and hear every word I said. 

“Say something already. Or are you trying to give me a fuckin’ heart attack?” he groused, hanging his head unhappily.

“Johnny…”

“And you need to put some fuckin’ clothes on. I can’t concentrate with you looking like that.” 

I pursed my lips to hide my smile.  “Is that a compliment?”

“Yeah, whatever. Just…what did you want to tell me?”

I sat beside him on the bench and mirrored his posture—legs spread wide, elbows on my knees. Then I glanced sideways and smiled.

“I love you.”

To be continued…

Starting From Family- A Starting From the Top Free Short Story – Part 1

As promised, here is Part 1 of my Starting From The Top short, starring Johnny, Sean and the kids. This will have three installments. Part 2 will be released later this week and the finale will be posted over the weekend or early next week. If you haven’t read Starting From The Top, you’ll definitely want to do that first and save this for later. Johnny and Sean’s story is a true standalone. You don’t have to read the other books in the series to follow this one. But you may want to meet the whole band in the Starting From Series!

*By the way, the audiobook is live too AND has already been Whispersynched! Woohoo!

Happy Reading and Listening! Lane xo

STARTING FROM FAMILY- Part 1

“Hey, princess. How’s my girl?”

“Okay.”

Penny opened the door of the Range Rover and gingerly climbed in, setting her pink unicorn bookbag on the floor at her feet before tugging the seatbelt. She whimpered in frustration when it got stuck. 

“Need help with that?” I asked. 

She shook her head and tried again. “I got it.”

“Awesome and how was school today?”

This was the part of the program where my stepdaughter burst into nonstop lively chatter. If I was a betting man, I’d guess she’d start by reminding me that she was a warrior in training or a warrior princess, but never a plain ol’ princess. She might grumble about sticky seatbelts which could take a side turn into all things sticky…tape, glue, cinnamon buns. Of course, any mention of sweets was a sure sign we should stop for ice cream or make something when we got home. 

Don’t ask me to explain. It was just Penny. Her mind worked like a well-oiled pinball machine. Always active, always fun, and always two steps ahead of everyone else. 

I braced myself for the verbal mayhem as I pulled into traffic. Instead, I got a tired sounding, “Fine.”

I shot a curious glance in the rearview mirror and frowned. 

“You okay, Pen?”

She shook her head and closed her eyes. “No, I don’t feel so good.”

Oh. Fuck. 

Okay, here’s the thing. I was the adult on duty. Me. That was bad news for anyone who needed serious adult consideration. Although according to my boyfriend, I was better at handling curveball situations than I credited myself and I was good with his kids. I wasn’t so sure about curveballs, but I loved Parker and Penny. They were sweet-natured, smart, and generally well-adjusted. It couldn’t be easy navigating living between their mom’s house and ours, but they never complained. 

Then again, they were lucky to have two parents who worked hard to build a stable, loving environment for them. Which, funny enough…included me. The boyfriend slash guy currently in charge. Oh boy.

But maybe there was no reason to panic. Maybe Penny just needed to eat something.

“Are you hungry?” I asked, lowering the volume on a Smiths classic. “We can grab milkshakes from that drive-thru burger shack you like.”

“No, thank you.”

“Do you want make something at home? Parker’s getting a ride after his science lab this afternoon, so it’s just us. Do you have any school work?”

“Yes,” she mumbled. 

I waited a beat for her to gripe about math or tell a funny anecdote about her day. Monosyllabic responses weren’t Penny’s thing. She wasn’t a drama queen when it came to friendships and playground posturing. She was a sensible, cool kid, and surprisingly mature for a ten year old. Her only real quirk was that she didn’t like silence. 

Hmm. 

I stopped at the red light and turned to get a good look at her. 

She propped her elbow on the armrest and cradled her chin on her hand. Strands of her long hair fell over her eyes, shading her face from view. I reached back to pat her knee.

“Hey, honey. Talk to me. What’s up?”

Penny flipped her hair over her shoulder and grinned. “You called me honey.”

I raised a brow and shrugged. “Is that okay?”

“Yes, it’s nice.” Her breezy smile slipped a moment later. “But I really don’t feel good, so can we just go home?”

I bit the inside of my cheek nervously and nodded. “You got it.”

I kept up a lighthearted monologue about the adventures of Lullah and Tabby to entertain her on the remainder of the drive. My cat pretty much adopted Penny when I moved into Sean’s house last summer. Lullah had been a little jealous at first so I gave the dog extra attention and unintentionally became her new best friend. Lullah followed me everywhere, sat next to me at dinner, and even conned me into letting her on the sofa when Sean wasn’t home. And yeah, I wasn’t going to tell him I let her sleep in our bed last night while he was away on business in Palm Springs. That wouldn’t go over well. 

Sean was pretty strict when it came to house rules. I wasn’t. But I obeyed the important ones. I made sure the kids did their homework, ate a healthy dinner at the usual time, and went to bed when—

Oh…I fucked up last night. I baked rubbery chicken and burnt the vegetables to an inedible crisp then gave up and made breakfast-for-dinner instead­—pancakes, eggs, bacon. The kids were happy, which was great, but I hadn’t paid attention to the time. I let them start a movie way too late and now…Penny wasn’t feeling well.  

Now I won’t claim that was entirely my fault, but staying up past your bedtime after eating syrup-laden pancakes probably didn’t help. Fuck. Sean was going to kill me.

I cast a wary gaze up and down our street as I waited for the high-tech gate in front of the house to slide open. The security team Charlie had hired would sniff out any crazies before they attempted to aim a camera at the Range Rover’s tinted windows. I was on extra alert whenever the kids were with me. I didn’t care for myself, but I did my best to shield my family from the not-so-fun aspects of living with a dude in a famous band. 

Thanks to an incredibly successful tour supporting our third album, Zero was a household name. No…better than that, we were one of the biggest band in the world. No joke. How fucking cool was that? It was amazing! However, Charlie had been right to warn us that life as we’d known it would never be the same. I wasn’t able to do a lot of the “normal” activities I’d always taken for granted—like meet friends at a coffee shop or leisurely cruise the ice cream aisle at the grocery store. 

Don’t get me wrong, I could do those things as long as I didn’t mind a security detail on my ass. It wasn’t fun having someone follow me around. I couldn’t help thinking they were secretly judging my choices. “No, not rocky road again. What’s the matter with fucking rock stars?”

Luckily, there were a few places I didn’t notice them at all. I could still pick up the kids from school and even have a drink at the Zebra Den with my buddies. The kids went to private schools that already had security measures in place and the Zebra Den was so damn dark that it was hard to see anyone clearly. 


I appreciated our fans’ enthusiasm, but I was well aware that I’d introduced a level of crazy into Sean’s life that he might not have been fully prepared for. Hell, I wasn’t prepared for it. I knew this wasn’t how normal people lived. I’d give it all up in a heartbeat to keep my family safe. Their safety and well-being were my number one priority.

Health kind of mattered too, though. And…I was obviously not doing such a great job there. I glanced over my shoulder at my almost-step-daughter then pulled into the garage and checked my watch. I had three hours to nurse her back to health before her dad got home from his business trip.

No problem.

I hopped out of the SUV and flung the rear door open. “We’re home, Penny-pie. Let’s go inside and get some homework done. Then you can fix my nails. I smudged them on a towel last night.”

She sat up gingerly, inspected the state of my nails with a solemn nod…and then threw up. 

Yeah, I was not cut out for adulting.

***

All right. I’m happy to report that I wasn’t a total disaster. My brain kicked into a gear I didn’t know I possessed. I moved Penny into the house quickly and led her directly to the bathroom. I held her hair back, assuring her in my softest voice that everything was going to be okay while she alternately dry-heaved and sobbed. On the outside, I was Mr. Cool, Calm, and Collected. On the inside, I was a hopeless wreck on the verge of stupendous breakdown. 

I must have been a decent actor. After a few minutes, Penny stopped crying and let me fuss over her. I picked out her favorite Wonder Woman pajamas and set them on the bed while she brushed her teeth, then waited in the hallway for her to dress. When she handed me her puke clothes, I didn’t flinch at all and better yet, I didn’t panic. I held her hand, led her downstairs to the chaise end of the sectional sofa and set up a makeshift bed for her. 

“Here you go…remote control and art supplies.” I set a blanket over her lap and inclined my head toward the kitchen. “I’ll get you some water then I’m gonna clean up the garage and wash your clothes. Lullah and Tabby will keep you company, but just holler if you need me. I’ll leave the door open so I can hear you, okay?”

Penny shivered and closed her eyes. 

Fuck. This wasn’t good. 

I hurried back with water then pulled out my cell on my way to the garage. Please answer, please answer. 

“Hi, baby. How are you?” 

Sean’s deep masculine voice moved through me like a magic elixir. I felt the worst of my panic ebb and subside as my subconscious sighed in relief, happily acknowledging that we’d finally found the guy in charge. 

“Terrible,” I choked. 

“What’s wrong?” his tone was sharper now. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, but Penny’s sick.” I filled him in on the last awful thirty minutes of my life as I gathered old beach towels to clean the mess beside the SUV. 


Sean let out a ragged sigh. “Fuck, I’m sorry, baby.”

“You’re sorry? It’s my fault. I did this.”

“Johnny…”

“I fed the kids crap, let them go to bed later than usual, and I even felt pretty okay about it until Penny yacked all over the garage,” I confessed, holding the gross towels away from me while I tried to decide what to do with them. “Don’t worry. I’m cleaning up now.” 

“Johnny, relax and—”

“Relax? I can’t relax! She’s sick, Sean. Sick. On my watch. The house is crumbling around my ears as we speak,” I added theatrically.

“The house?” he repeated dubiously. “What else is going on?”

“Well, nothing. Except I’m going to throw away your towels. I’ll buy you new ones and—”

“Just leave it, honey. I’ll take care of it when I get home. Now listen to me. Are you listening?”

“Yeah, but I’m still throwing the towels away,” I grumbled. 

I leaned against the doorjamb and stared unseeing at a box labeled “Christmas” on a high shelf. I’d never had a Christmas tree or owned a single ornament until I moved in with Sean. I’d never had anything sentimental worth storing and bringing out for special occasions. I’d lived in this house for almost a year now and sometimes I wondered if I was worthy of all of this. I couldn’t rationally explain my reasoning. See, I worked my ass off and knew I deserved the accolades associated with Zero’s success. But sometimes, I still wasn’t convinced I deserved to be part of a family.  

“You’re not throwing anything away,” Sean scolded, pulling me from my reverie. “Either rinse it or leave it. Take a deep breath, Johnny.”

“I can’t. I’m saving my energy for Penny. I don’t want her to see me freak out.”

Sean chuckled. I could practically feel the warm of his smile through the phone line. “You’re a good nurse.”

“I’m the worst,” I corrected with a huff. “She has a fever and she’s trembling. I gave her some water and a blanket. I’ll see if she can handle electrolytes when her stomach settles. Should I do anything else?”


“Sounds like you have everything under control. Let me talk to her.”

I stepped into the great room and paused beside the sofa where Penny was fast asleep with Lullah cuddled on one side and Tabby on the other. 

I moved out of earshot and whispered, “She’s sleeping.”

“Good. She probably needs the rest.”

“Yeah.” I pursed my lips and massaged the bridge of my nose, unsurprised that my voice cracked when I added, “Fuck, I’m so sorry, Sean.”

“Hey, kids get sick. You didn’t do anything wrong so quit blaming yourself,” he said gently. When I didn’t respond, he continued in a no-nonsense tone, “I’m not kidding, Johnny. Cool it. Look, I’m in the car now. I’ll be home in a couple of hours. Sooner if traffic cooperates. I love you.”

“I love you too.” 

I slipped my phone in my pocket and moved to Penny’s side. Her eyes fluttered open when I picked the cat up and sat next to her. 

“Hi, Johnny.”

“Hey, kiddo. How are you feeling?” I whispered.

“Better.” She reached for my hand and inspected my nails. “Can I paint them pink?”

I nodded. “Sure.”

Her sweet grin faded when she met my eyes. “Why are you sad? Does your tummy hurt too?”

“No, I’m just worried about you,” I admitted. 

“You are?”

“Yeah.” I pushed a strand of hair away from her eyes and smiled. “Rest your eyes, little one. It’s gonna be okay.” 

I hoped.

To be continued…