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Between being a mom and starting her own business, Abby is too busy for love — and isn’t interested in local pub owner Braden, who’s just hired her for a renovation project. But when Abby’s daughter teams up with a group of matchmakers, will Abby and Braden give love a chance?

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They’ve always hated each other…so how could they ever fall in love?

Between raising her smart, sassy daughter and starting her own architecture firm, the last thing on Abby's mind is a relationship. Especially one with the immature owner of the local pub, who’s hired her to design his expansion. Braden doesn’t take anything seriously, and he doesn’t seem to remember that he broke Abby’s heart a long time ago.

Which is totally fine. Abby doesn’t care anyway.


Except no matter how she fights it, Braden’s easygoing smile, and fun-loving ways get under her skin. And when you add in a fill-in-father pie-eating contest, an oh-so-romantic fireworks show, and a too-smart-for-her-own-good ten year old teaming up with the town’s meddling matchmakers, these two just might get their second chance at love.

FALLING FOR THE WRONG GUY is the fun and flirty fourth book in the LOVE IN HOLIDAY JUNCTION series of standalone romances. If you love small town love stories with strong heroines, swoony heroes, and a quirky cast of characters, download today!

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“I’m dying.”

“You’re not dying.”

“I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Abigail Harper stifled a sigh as she leaned against her daughter’s bedroom door frame. “You’re ten,” she said. “You’re not having a heart attack.”

Joey lay sprawled over her messy bed, head hanging over the edge and her red hair brushing the carpet as she looked upside-down at her mother. “Maybe I have amoebic dysentery.”

Surprised, Abby snorted out a laugh. “Do you even know what that is?”

Joey shrugged, still upside down. “Not really,” she admitted, lifting her legs to point her toes at the ceiling, two band-aids crisscrossed on one of her knobby knees. “I just thought it sounded cool. Ameeeeobic dyssssentery,” she said, drawing out the words.

Abby shook her head and entered the room, nimbly dodging piles of discarded clothes, books, and various craft supplies. “Well, cool or not, amoebic dysentery isn’t going to get you out of cleaning your room,” she said. “Get up.”

Joey let out an aggravated groan and tipped her legs forward, rolling over her head and landing on her feet. With the drama at this level now, Abby couldn’t imagine what it would be like when the girl hit the teen years.

“I don’t understand why.” Joey threw up her hands. “It’s just going to get messy again.”

“So you’ll clean it . . . again.” Abby tapped her on the nose. The girl fought a smile for about two seconds before it slowly spread across her face, her eyes lighting up. The smile evoked more joy than pain these days, which Abby was grateful for. While her daughter was a smaller version of Abby in almost every way—the wild red hair, the hazel eyes and tipped-up, freckled nose—her wide, slightly crooked smile was all Daniel’s. For years, it would bring tears to Abby’s eyes, sparking a wave of grief so deep and sharp she could hardly breathe.

But now, five years since Daniel left them—was taken from them—Abby was able to see her husband’s smile on her daughter’s face and smile back.

“Tell you what,” Abby said, glancing at the cat-shaped clock on the wall. “If you get this place presentable in thirty minutes, we’ll go for ice cream.”

“Really?” Joey bounced on her toes. “Can I get a Colossal?”

“Don’t push your luck, Joanna.”

She made a face at her full name. “How about a regular sundae with hot fudge and peanut butter?”

Abby considered it. “Okay. If you’re done in twenty-five.”

Joey grabbed a pile of clothes, suddenly enthusiastic about clean-up time. “Deal.”

Abby left the room, feeling like maybe she’d been had.

Hanging on the wall outside the door was her favorite picture of Daniel. Although most people preferred the official Army photograph on the fireplace mantle in the living room, standing proudly next to the folded American flag, Abby thought this one was truer to her Daniel, the fun-loving, generous man who would do anything for his little girl.

The picture was taken at Joey’s fifth birthday party—only days before he shipped out for the last time—and Daniel held his daughter in his arms, Abby leaning in from the other side to kiss her cheek. Joey wore a birthday hat and a smudge of blue frosting on her nose, and Daniel had a red foil bow on his head from one of the presents. He wore a wide smile—Joey’s smile—as he looked at the camera, his blue eyes twinkling like he could see right out of the frame.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Abby said. “It’s not bribery. It’s . . . incentive.” She could almost hear Daniel’s reply, although his voice was growing quieter, lately.

“Yeah, well, she’s ten,” she said. “Sometimes a mom has to be creative to get things done. And a little ice cream never hurt anyone.”

“What, Mom?” Joey called.

“Nothing!” she replied, before pressing her fingertips to her lips, then to the photograph, and heading into the kitchen.


Summer was probably Abby’s favorite time of the year in Holiday Junction. Sure, winter had its attractions, with the snow, sparkling Christmas lights, and sleigh rides. Autumn had the changing leaves, hot cider, and haunted houses. Even spring with its bright colors, abundant flowers, and Easter egg hunts had its appeal.

But summer . . . summer was a respite from waking up early for school and scrambling in the afternoons to soccer practice and piano lessons and Sunshine Scouts meetings. Summer in HJ was lazy days and sun, swimming in the lake . . . picnics and camping. And, of course, ice cream. Abby may have pretended like this little jaunt was all for Joey, but Abby needed a break, too. She’d been working a lot lately—had more she probably should have been doing at that moment—but it was Sunday. It was hot. And she’d vowed a long time ago to be there for Joey when she needed her. Today, that meant a break for ice cream, even though summer still hadn’t officially begun.

Early June was a transitional period, decoration-wise, for the town. The red, white, and blue for Memorial Day was coming down as Abby navigated her car down Main Street, making way for Father’s Day preparations, although it’d be back shortly after for the Fourth of July. A banner already hung across the gazebo in the town square, advertising the Father’s Day Tournament of Champions, a three-legged-race, pie-eating-contest-type extravaganza with multiple events and a large silver trophy for the winners. Blue, green, and black was the color scheme for dads, apparently, with an abundance of ties, golf clubs, fishing tackle, and various other things dad’s stereotypically enjoyed arranged artfully in storefront windows, along with smaller displays for the upcoming Holiday Junction High School graduation.

Abby passed a man on a ladder checking a section of twinkle lights that weren’t lighting up and stopped to allow two others carrying boxes of bunting to cross the street in front of her.

“Is every town like this?” Joey asked, craning her neck to watch a woman attach miniature striped neckties to a large tree.

“No town is like this,” Abby said with a laugh. “Holiday Junction is a little piece of heaven.”

“You always say that.” Joey rolled her eyes, but her lips quirked in a smile.

“That’s because it’s true.” Abby checked both ways carefully before proceeding down the road. “Besides, where else in the world can you get ice cream better than McKenna’s?”

Joey’s eyes widened, like the idea of going anywhere where McKenna’s Creamery wasn’t within driving distance was a fate worse than death.

“I’m never leaving,” she said firmly, and Abby laughed.

“Me neither.”

The warm weather made the ice cream shop a popular spot, and cars lined the road in front of McKenna’s, forcing Abby to park a block away. Awnings blocked the heat of the sun, making the walk down the flower-pot lined sidewalk comfortable, a gentle breeze lifting Abby’s hair away from her face. She felt content, satisfied. Her architecture business was finally taking off, and Joey was happy, with many friends and activities to keep her busy. Abby loved her home, the town and her neighbors, and even the ache of missing Daniel had lessened to a gentle tug, no longer a stabbing pain that threatened to drive her to her knees.

Life was good.

As they neared McKennna’s Creamery, Abby was surprised to see the Chief of Police, Gage Turner, putting the finishing touches on a towering plywood bear wearing a green and white striped tie over a t-shirt reading Try the BEAR-y Cobbler Cone. He was holding the hand of a smaller bear—his son, apparently, if the matching t-shirt, printed with My dad says it’s PAWS-itively delicious! was any indication.

Chief Turner stood as Abby approached, a paintbrush in one hand and a smudge of green paint on his cheek. “Hello, Abby. Joey. What do you think?” He nodded toward the bears.

“Looks great,” Abby replied. “Do you come up with the puns all on your own?”

The chief grinned. “Not always, but this one’s all mine,” he said, frowning slightly. “Not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed of that fact.”

Joey’s nose wrinkled as she read the advertisement. “Does it really have bear in it?” she asked doubtfully.

Chief Turner kept a straight face. “Doesn’t that sound delicious?”

“Not really.” She hurried to add, “But if you like bear, I guess that’s okay.”

The chief laughed. “It’s only a play on words, sweetie,” he said. “It’s actually got blackberries and blueberries in it. Plus some candied nuts and little cookie pieces.”

“Ohh,” Joey said, drawing out the word as the dots connected. “I get it.” She laughed at the pun. “That sounds good, but I think I’m still going to get a sundae with hot fudge and peanut butter.”

“Good choice.” The chief leaned down toward her, lowering his voice conspiratorially. “Got a tip for you. Braden’s in there helping out. You get him instead of Lena and I bet he’ll give you an extra scoop.” He winked at her, and Joey beamed.


Abby’s stomach took a little dive at the mention of Braden McKenna. And she’d been in such a good mood.

“Why’s Braden working here?” she asked, perhaps a little more sourly than she’d intended.

“Busy day,” Chief Turner straightened, and added a touch of paint to the bear’s tie. “I think he just likes to hang out and eat ice cream. Who doesn’t?” He smirked. “But Lena could use the help since Mrs. Katswopis is on a cruise this week.”

“She’s on a cruise?” Mrs. Katswopis was an older woman who’d worked in the Creamery for years . . . decades. As long as Abby could remember, at least. “Where’d she go?”

The chief shrugged. “Somewhere in the Caribbean,” he said. “Went with a group of ladies from the senior center.”

“Mom?” Joey tugged on her sleeve, shifting from one foot to the other. “Can we go in now?”

Abby turned and caught sight of Braden through the front window. He was dipping a double-scoop cone and laughing at something. He handed the cone to a blonde woman Abby didn’t recognize—probably a tourist, since she knew pretty much everyone. He leaned against the counter, smiling at the woman flirtatiously.


She blinked. “Sure, honey. Go ahead and order. I’ll be there in a minute.” Abby needed a moment to prepare herself for dealing with Braden. He laughed again, dark eyes sparkling and muscles bulging in a too-tight t-shirt. Why couldn’t the guy buy clothes that fit properly? And why was everyone else in town so easily charmed by him?

She knew the answer, of course. Braden McKenna was the life of the party. It had always been that way, even before he took over running the town’s Irish pub, the Shamrock. And it was even worse now. He was the bartender with the million-watt smile who played in an Irish band and flirted with anything in a skirt. How could anyone resist?

Well, anyone but Abby.

Everyone loved Braden, and Abby didn’t understand why she was the only one to see what a conceited jerk he was. Or maybe he was only like that to her. Sometimes, she had to admit, it felt like it.

“Nice kid you got there,” Chief Turner said, drawing her attention from thoughts of Braden McKenna.

“Thanks.” She shoved back a thick lock of her unruly hair. “I have to agree with you, although I might be a bit biased.” Abby turned her attention back to the bears with a smile. “This is really nice of you to do for Lena.”

The chief rubbed the back of his neck, two spots of color appearing on his cheeks. He was relatively new in town—had only been the chief of police for a few months—but it hadn’t taken long for he and Lena McKenna to become an item. Only recently had the gossip wound down as people found other things to talk about. That was one thing about Holiday Junction—everybody knew everything about everybody else.

“I don’t mind,” he said. “It’s actually kind of fun.” His eyes drifted to the shop’s front window—or rather, through it—to where Lena had taken up a spot next to her brother. His gaze was soft. Thoughtful.

Lena recognized that look. She’d seen it on Daniel’s face a hundred times. A pang of longing—of loneliness—poked her in the heart. It had been a long time since she’d been looked at like that, and most likely it would never happen again.

Fighting an audible sigh, she said, “Well, I better get in there. Nice talking to you, Chief. Can’t wait to see what you have planned for the Fourth.”

“You’ll just have to wait and see.”

He turned back to his project and Abby steeled herself, squaring her shoulders before she walked into the Creamery, head held high.


“Hot fudge and peanut butter sauce,” Joey Harper told Braden gravely, as if daring him to challenge her order. The kid was cute. Smart, too. And even at only ten years old, she was someone Braden didn’t want to mess with.

Just like her mother.

Braden avoided looking out the window, where he knew he’d see Abby Harper chatting with the chief. He’d caught sight of her right away. That fiery hair was hard to miss, after all.

Braden heard the bell ring merrily over the door, but didn’t look up.

“You sure you can handle both?” he asked Joey instead. “That’s an awful lot for such a tiny person.”

Joey, bless her, drew herself up to her full height—all four and a half feet of it—and looked him straight in the eye.

“I can handle it,” she said. “You don’t have to be humongous to eat ice cream, you know.” She had her fists on her hips in challenge.

“Are you calling me humongous?” he asked. “‘Cause . . . thanks.” He flexed a bicep and grinned. His sister, Lena, snorted and went back into the kitchen.

Braden could tell Joey was trying not to smile, but she lost the battle. Giggling, she said, “You’re so weird.”

“You’re so weird,” he retorted.

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not!”

“If you’re both finished.” Abby appeared at the counter, but avoided Braden’s gaze. “Maybe we can get our ice cream.”

“It’s his fault,” Joey said, pointing at Braden.

“Is not!” he replied, lips quirking.

“Is too!”

“Is not times infinity!”

Joey burst out laughing and Braden couldn’t help but join in as he dished up her sundae. The kid was a lot of fun. In that way, she was nothing like her mother. Even at Joey’s age, Abby had been quiet. Serious. Aloof. Like she thought she was above everyone else.

It only got worse as she got older. And even now, it still drove him crazy.

“One hot fudge and peanut butter sundae with an extra scoop and extra cherries.” He slid the bowl across the counter to a wide-eyed Joey. “You drive a hard bargain, kid.” He winked at her and she giggled, picking up her sundae and carrying it carefully to the door. She smiled at a man who held it open for her and she made her way to one of the small tables outside under the awning.

“An extra scoop and extra cherries?” Abby frowned. “How’d she get you to agree to that?”

Braden folded his arms, aware of how Abby flushed slightly, but didn’t look away.

“She said it would be good advertising,” he replied. “Promised to tell all her friends that McKenna’s ice cream was the best.”

“She did?” Abby shook her head. “I’ve created a monster.”

“Eh, she’s not so bad. Knows how to get what she wants. Some would say that’s a good thing.” Braden saw her stiffen at his words, but shrugged. “So, what’ll it be?” He moved to the freezer case and slid open the door. “A triple scoop of Chocolate Cherry Madness? Triple Caramel Mousse Delight? Bubblegum Surprise?”

She wrinkled her freckled nose. “What’s the surprise?”

“If I told you that, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

Abby perused the choices, fingers tapping on her lips as she considered them. “Single scoop of vanilla, please. In a bowl.”

Braden’s mouth dropped open. “You’re kidding.”

“What’s wrong with that?” She crossed her arms.

“With all of these choices,” he waved a hand toward the various tubs, “you choose a scoop of vanilla. In a bowl. You don’t even want a sugar cone? Some sprinkles?”

She stiffened. “I happen to like vanilla.”

“You would.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.” He held up his hands defensively. “Nothing at all. One scoop of vanilla coming up. In a bowl.” He tried to keep the disdain out of his voice, but he had a feeling he didn’t succeed.

Lena emerged from the kitchen, carrying a large tub of whatever ice cream flavor she’d been working on. “I told you, Braden, you can’t hang out here if you insist on harassing the customers.”

“I’m not harassing anyone,” he retorted, shooting Abby a glance. “I’m suggesting that Abby might want to expand her ice cream horizons.”

“My horizons are just fine, thank you,” Abby said, rummaging in her purse for her wallet. “Your brother can’t accept the fact that some people know what they like, and simply want to enjoy it in peace.”

“I can accept it,” Braden said, sliding the bowl with a single scoop of vanilla toward her. “I just can’t understand it.”

“Lucky for you, you don’t have to.” Abby pulled out a twenty. “What do I owe you?”

Braden plucked the bill from her hands and held out her change.

She eyed it warily. “What about the extra scoop?”

“It’s on the house.”

Abby turned to Lena. “I need to pay for an extra scoop . . . and cherries.”

Braden huffed. What was it with this woman? Why was she such a . . . he didn’t know the word, but stick-in-the-mud was probably as close as he could get.

Lena smiled at her as she swapped out a near-empty tub for the new one. “Like he said, it’s on the house.”

“I can’t—”

“Sure you can,” Lena said, sliding the freezer case closed. “It’s only a scoop, Abby. And nobody really likes the cherries anyway. Except Joey.”

Abby glanced through the window at her daughter, who was dangling a piece of the candy-sweet red fruit over her open mouth and licking off the syrup. “She sure does. Thank you.” She flicked her eyes at Braden, as though begrudgingly including him in the thanks, and took her change.

“You’re welcome,” he said with a gallant bow.

Abby rolled her eyes, took her boring scoop of vanilla, and went outside to join Joey.

“I still don’t get it,” Lena said to Braden as she wiped a smudge off the freezer case. “What is it with you two?”
Braden shrugged. “I try to be nice, but she doesn’t like me.”

Lena cocked a brow. “You try to be nice?” she repeated, not bothering to keep the skepticism out of her voice. “You purposely goad her.”

“Goad? Me?” Braden pressed a hand to his chest, his eyes wide with mock offense. “I am not a goader. I’m an anti-goader if anything.”

“An anti-goader?” Lena tossed the towel into the basket under the sink. “And what, pray tell, does that even mean?”

He shook his head. How could his sister not understand him after all these years? “I make people comfortable,” he explained. “It’s my job. It’s in my DNA. That’s what I do.”

“Right,” she said, dragging out the word. “Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s not working on Abby Harper.”

“Never has.” He sighed, surreptitiously watching Abby and Joey as he wiped down the counter. “She’s hated me since we were kids.”

Of course, there was more to it than that. To say Braden and Abby’s history was complicated was the understatement of the century. But Braden didn’t like to talk about it, especially with his sister.

To be honest, he didn’t even like to think about it.

“I don’t think she hates you,” Lena replied, tucking a lock of brown hair back into her ponytail. “But you’ve always gotten a kick out of aggravating her. In fact, it’s almost like . . .” Her words drifted off as she studied the redhead, eyes narrowing in concentration, then cocked her head at Braden.

“What?” His stomach flipped. He didn’t like the look on her face. Like she was working out a puzzle, and he was the missing piece.

She shrugged. “It’s almost like you both doth protest too much.”

“What?” he said again, a little too loud this time. Braden cleared his throat and sent a reassuring smile toward the people looking at him in surprise before lowering his voice. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that maybe you both try to act like you hate each other to disguise the fact there might be some attraction there.”

“There is definitely no attraction there,” Braden said, trying not to scoff out loud. “Don’t be dumb.”

“You’re dumb,” Lena replied, more out of habit than anything else.

“Ha ha. Real mature.” Braden turned to scoop cones for a couple on a date before resuming the conversation.


“All I’m saying,” Lena interrupted, “is that there wouldn’t be so much conflict between you two if there wasn’t some underlying tension.”

“You’ve been reading too many romance novels.” He gave her a playful shove.

“Excuse me,” Lena said. “But there is no such thing.”

“No such thing as what?” Gage Turner approached the counter, popping over it to give Lena a kiss.

“Gross,” Braden said. “Dude, that’s my sister.”

“And this is my shop,” Lena said tartly. “If you don’t like it, go back to the Shamrock.”

“You’re not the boss of me.”

Lena smiled wickedly, and turned to Gage. “We were just talking about all the unresolved tension between Braden and Abby Harper,” she told him.

“You don’t say.” Gage cocked a brow and looked from Braden to Abby through the window, as if considering the possibility.

“On second thought, I think I will head over to the Shamrock.” Braden took off his apron and tossed it at Lena’s head. “At least people there appreciate me.”

“That’s because you give them beer!” Lena called out as Braden stalked to the door.

He ignored her laughter as he walked out, winking at Joey as he passed, but definitely not looking Abby Harper’s way.

Lena was out of her mind. There was no unresolved tension between Abby and him. They simply didn’t like each other. It happened all the time, right? They weren’t friends. He’d thought once it might be possible, and had been quickly proved wrong.

Very wrong.

But it was fine. He’d learned over the years to accept the fact and move on. Everyone didn’t have to like him. It definitely didn’t bother him.

Not at all.

And he definitely wasn’t interested in Abby that way. Absolutely not. Abby was definitely not his type, and even if she was—which she definitely wasn’t—dating a single mom meant a relationship, and relationships were not Braden’s thing. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, thank you very much. Not worth the hassle.

No, Braden preferred to keep things light these days. And he preferred women who liked to have fun. To laugh and enjoy life. Who didn’t take everything so seriously.

He turned the corner and the Shamrock came into view. Art was running the bar for him, and it looked busy, the parking lot more than half full, and the sound of Irish music drifting out anytime anyone opened the door. This was where he belonged.

Braden jogged across the street and headed into the pub, grinning at the cheery greeting that met him. He made his way behind the bar, laughed at some jokes, and poured a few pints, all thoughts of Abby Harper drifting quietly away, for the moment.


Joey swirled a maraschino cherry through hot fudge and popped it into her mouth. The sugary treat burst, letting out a stream of syrup and she let out a little mmm as she tapped her feet on the sidewalk. The sun was warm on her head, and she hurried to eat her ice cream, trying to find a balance between getting it in her mouth before it melted, and not eating so fast she got brain freeze.

Oops. Too fast. Her head ached and she pressed her tongue against the roof of her mouth.

“Want to go to the movies?” her mom asked. “I can see what’s playing at the Rialto.”

“I guess.” Joey replied with a shrug. She liked going to the Rialto, but it usually played movies she’d already seen on Netflix. They had great popcorn though, and Mom usually let her get a box of candy. She had to admit it was a bigger draw when she wasn’t stuffed full of ice cream.

“Or we could watch a movie at home,” Mom said. “It’s still early. How about a double creature feature?”

Joey smiled. She’d been obsessed with old monster movies lately. “That sounds cool. Can we get pizza?”

“You’re still hungry?”

“Not right now, but I will be again,” she replied. “And pizza is an excellent accompaniment for monster movies.”

Mom laughed. “Okay, then. Pizza it is.” She looked away across the street, and Joey watched her, sucking on another cherry. Her mom definitely seemed more relaxed since she quit her job in the city. Sure, she worked a lot—especially on Tobara, the big project in Holiday Junction she was designing—but she seemed happier. Which made Joey happy.

She looked down at her bowl, unsure if she could finish the sundae. She kind of felt like she had to now, after Braden suggested she might not be able to. It was a challenge, and Joey Harper did not back down from a challenge.

She took another bite and hoped she wouldn’t throw up. Braden would never let her live it down if he found out.

And he might never give her an extra scoop again.

“You okay?” her mom asked. “You don’t have to finish that, you know. It’s a lot.” Her jaw tightened, and Joey knew she was still irritated by Braden giving her the extra scoop.

“I know. I’m fine.” Joey wondered why her mom didn’t like him so much. She’d asked her once, and Mom said she didn’t know what she was talking about. Then she changed the subject like Joey was too dumb to realize she was changing the subject.

Joey let it go, though. Sometimes, it helped to let grownups think you were dumb.

Still, she didn’t really get it. Braden was fun and weird and always gave her an extra scoop or cherries or piles of whipped cream when he was at the shop. And sometimes she’d see him on the street, and he’d stop to talk to her, but not like grownups talk to kids. He talked to her like a person. Like he actually liked talking to her.

As long as she wasn’t with her mom.

It was weird. Braden seemed to get along with everyone. So did her mom. But they just didn’t get along with each other, and Joey didn’t understand why.

“Something bothering you, sweetie?” Mom asked, her forehead was crinkled up like she was worried.

“No, not really,” she replied. Her gaze drifted to the giant bear dad and son that Chief Turner had made, and she frowned, thinking about her own dad. She barely remembered him now. She’d only been five when he died, and that was so long ago that everything seemed hazy and unclear. Sometimes, she even wondered if what she remembered was more from pictures and videos than her own memory. She didn’t mention that to her mom, of course. She did once and it made her cry. Mom had gone into her room and closed the door, but Joey could still hear her sniffling, so she never brought it up again.

Still, sometimes she missed having a dad, even if she didn’t really remember what it was like. Her friend, Harry, had an awesome dad. Well, he was a foster dad, but he still did stuff like take Harry fishing, and go on Sunshine Scouts campouts and do the father-son three-legged-race at the Father’s Day Tournament of Champions.

Joey loved her mom. She did. But sometimes she thought it would be nice to have a mom and a dad.

A lot of kids have both. Some even have more than that, if their parents got divorced and remarried—stepdads and stepmoms, and some kids have two dads, and then there are the grandparents, and aunts and uncles . . .

Anyway, she loved her mom. But it’s just the two of them—her grandparents died before she was even born, and she didn’t have aunts or uncles or cousins . . .

Or a dad. Not anymore, anyway.

Maybe Joey was being greedy. After all, there were kids who didn’t even have one parent. But she couldn’t help how she felt, could she? She couldn’t stop wondering if she could maybe have more.

“Hey, Mom?”

“Hmm?” Mom looked up from her own bowl, tucking the last bit of melted ice cream into her mouth.

“Why don’t you ever go on a date?”

Mom choked and covered her mouth with a napkin. “Why do you ask?”

Joey shrugged. “I just wondered.”

“Well, I . . . I really don’t have time for dating.”

Joey pressed her lips together. “But don’t you want to fall in love?”

“Where is this coming from?” she asked. “Have you been watching Netflix movies without me?” She laughed, shaking her head.

“No.” Joey rolled her eyes. “I just think maybe it would be nice.” She looked down at her ragged fingernails, wishing she could stop biting them.

Her mom sighed. “Maybe it would be,” she admitted. “But honestly, sweetie, I’m serious when I say I don’t have time. With the new business and everything, dating is the last thing on my mind.” She reached across the table and squeezed Joey’s hand. “Besides, I don’t need a man to be happy. I have you and my job and my friends and that’s all I need.”

But there was something in her eyes that told Joey maybe that wasn’t exactly true.

Joey knew her mom missed her dad. And she knew she talked to him sometimes when she didn’t think Joey was listening. Her mom may not have realized that she needed someone to talk to—someone who was actually there—but Joey was getting old enough to understand that her mom was lonely. Even with all the people in her life, sometimes Mom sat out on the back deck and looked out over the yard and she seemed . . . sad.


She blinked. “Yeah?”

“Do you understand what I’m saying?”

She nodded. “Yeah.”

Her mom smiled and released her hand. “Well, then finish up your ice cream and let’s get going, okay? We have a big night ahead.”

Joey obediently spooned up the rest of her melting ice cream, but her gaze was drawn back to the giant bears—where the dad and son held paws . . . the giant bear-smiles on both of their faces.

And slowly, an idea began to take form.


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3. Follow the easy instructions to load the book onto your favorite reading device.

4. Start reading!



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