Holiday Edition Book 5
USA Today Bestselling Author
Benjamin “Pops” Popovich has just finished his last mission and said goodbye to his SEAL team.
At thirty, he figured he had a few more good years left in him, but when family responsibilities call, he leaves the familiar to move back to Hope City. After years of missions and living in close quarters with his team, he’s living with his grandmother while fixing up her house while figuring out his next career move. Meeting the two irrepressible kids from next door weren’t in his plans.
Violet Mayfield is doing the best she can… uninteresting job with a lech for a boss and a townhouse that is in constant need of repairs. A widow, her joy comes from her two children. As far as she is concerned, their little trio family is all she needs.
Charlie and Lily Mayfield knew their mom was lonely. And they’d met the new neighbor. He was funny, grilled great hamburgers, and had a dog. And they noticed that his eyes always brightened when their mom was around. As far as they were concerned, he’d make a great forever dad. Now… all they need is to get the adults on board.
Ben ‘Pops’ Popovich is moving home to his Babciu’s ‘grandmother’s’, she needs help to it fix up. She’s planning on selling to move into assisted living. It’s Ben’s hope that with him there she’ll change her mind and stay in the home he has so many memories of.
There’s a new owner to the townhouse behind theirs, his Babciu told him it had been empty for a long time. No one wanted to live in a home previously owned by a bank robber. Violet Mayfield is a widow raising two children. She works as a bookkeeper while taking classes to finish her degree in Management. Since the son of her former boss had taken over, her stress level at work had gone up mostly because of his constant dinner invitations. Her children Lily and Ben are her pride and joy though like most siblings there are arguments. Her first glimpse of Ben was him standing on Anna Popovich’s deck watching her children play in the yard. She remembered Anna had mentioned her grandson coming to visit, but hadn’t mentioned how handsome he is.
After a sort of funny introduction to Violet when she’s visited Anna, Ben starts on the repairs to the house. After several rainy days he starts on the deck. This is his first real interaction with Violet’s children and it was quite informative.
This is a favorite scene.
“Hey, mister! Whatcha doing?”
Twisting his head around, Ben spied a little girl and boy standing at the back fence staring at him. Actually, they weren’t so much standing as having climbed halfway up with their feet tucked between the space in the chain-link and their arms hanging over the top, their fingers dangling. The girl was dressed from head to toe in varying shades of pink from her sneakers, shirt, and to the headband pushing her dark hair back from her face. Her blue jeans were the only nod to a different color. Next to her, the little boy was in mismatched everything, looking as though he threw on the first rumpled clothes he found on his floor… something Ben remembered doing when he was little. At least until his grandmother made him change.
Sighing at the interruption, especially when he thought his activity was obvious, he called out, “I’m building a deck.”
He’d spent the first part of the week inside, sanding and painting the bathroom cabinets while the rain kept him indoors. During a break in the weather yesterday he’d managed to rip out the old, small deck that extended straight from the back door. Not even large enough to set up a grill, it was barely more than an off-the-ground place to wipe feet before going indoors. Yesterday evening he sank the new supports into the ground, filling the holes with concrete after making sure they were level. He wanted to give them another day to cure, but with the sun now out in the cloudless sky, he’d spent the day cutting the lumber for the frame.
“It looks like it’s going to be bigger than the one that was there.”
“Yep.” He offered a slight nod of his head and turned his back to them, the interruption causing him to relook at the measurements before reaching toward the piece of wood to place on the table with his circular saw.
“My name is Charlie. What’s yours?”
Calling over his shoulder, he answered. “Ben.”
Since he’d already given his name, he thought perhaps he could keep working and just ignore the kids. As long as they stayed on their side of the fence, they wouldn’t get in his way, and he wouldn’t have to worry about them getting hurt.
“Mom says that you’re Mrs. Popovich’s grandson,” Charlie called out.
“Mrs. Popovich showed us a picture of you one time. You were wearing your uniform. You couldn’t really see your face very well because you were wearing sunglasses and had on a helmet. You also had a really big gun. My mom won’t let me have a gun. But I thought your uniform was cool. I think that’s what I want to be next Halloween. Do you think I can get a uniform in my size?”
“It would be a costume, Charlie, not a real uniform. Mom can find one at the store where we went last year.”
“Well, when I get older, it can be a real uniform. I’ll be bigger then,” Charlie announced.
Having looked at his measurements three times— and forgetting them each time— it became evident that as long as Charlie was going to continue his running monologue interrupted only by snippets from his sister, Ben was never going to get the piece of wood cut correctly. Standing, he turned and faced the fence, irritation flooding him over the interruption. “So, do you kids have anything else to do? I’m kind of busy here.”
“Nope,” Charlie declared, his smile wide as he grabbed the top of the fence and leaned his head back, letting the sunshine beam down on his face.
Lily shook her head, but her gaze remained on Ben. “Can we call you Ben, or do we have to call you Mr. Popovich?”
Jerking slightly at the unexpected question, he opened his mouth to reply then realized he had no idea how to answer. “Uh… well, Mr. Popovich sounds like my grandfather. But… uh… maybe you should ask your parents what they want you to call an adult.”
“Mom says we should be ‘spectful,” Charlie said, his gaze now back on Ben but his smile still as wide.
Lily huffed and turned her intense gaze from Ben to her brother. “Respectful, Charlie. It’s respectful.”
“Right! Mom says we should be reee… spectful,” Charlie parroted with emphasis.
Getting a closer observation of the children, Ben spied a missing front tooth in Charlie’s smile. He noted the thick, dark hair on both kids, so like their mother’s. From this distance, he couldn’t determine eye color but wondered if either had inherited Violet’s unusual hue. Or looked like their dad.
With the week’s rain chasing everyone inside, he hadn’t seen Violet since their last encounter and still hadn’t laid eyes on her husband. With another glance toward the peeling paint on their back door, he grimaced at the thought of the man who didn’t take pride in where his family lived.
“Can we watch?” Charlie asked. “We’ve never seen anyone use a saw before.”
“That’s not true, Charlie,” Lily corrected. “Mama had that man come in and fix the door that fell down and squished you.”
“A door fell on you?” The question slipped from Ben’s lips before he could stop himself. At this rate, I’ll never get the deck built.
“It was right after we moved in last year. Charlie pulled open the closet door and the whole thing fell down on top of him, and he cried.”
Charlie wrinkled his nose. “I was younger then. That’s why I cried.”
Inwardly grinning at the young boy’s defense of his tears, Ben wondered why their dad hadn’t fixed the door. “I don’t blame you for crying. I’ll bet that hurt.” He looked back at the deck before facing the kids again. “I don’t mind if you watch as long as your parents don’t mind. You have to make sure to stay on your side of the fence so you’ll be safe.”
“Mom won’t mind. It’s been raining, and we haven’t had a chance to be in the yard. Mom is cleaning the house today and told us to come outside. She said she’d like to get one mess cleaned up before we make another.”
A chuckle slipped out, Ben remembering days when he was growing up and his grandmother was doing the same thing, fussing that he needed to clean his room and then not get under her feet when she was doing the rest of the house. Unable to hold back his curiosity, he asked, “What about your dad? Is he helping your mom today?”
“We don’t have a daddy,” Charlie said. “He died.”
Ben’s gaze shot from Charlie over to Lily’s face, seeing a flash of something moving through her eyes. Gut punched at hearing their father was dead, the air rushed from his lungs as a deep memory of his parents hit him. He had no idea what to say to Charlie’s matter-of-fact pronouncement and simply stood dumbly in place with his arms hanging to his sides.
“Mama says he’s in heaven,” Charlie continued. “I’ve seen pictures of him. Mama says I kind of look like him, but everyone else says I look like her.” Tilting his head slightly to the side, he continued. “Who do you look like? You don’t look like Mrs. Popovich. She’s got gray hair!”
Still struggling with the news that their father was deceased, his gaze shot toward their back door as Violet stepped out of her house and waved. Her dark hair was pulled away from her face, and even though he couldn’t see her eyes, he could imagine them after having only discovered their unique color once before. Black leggings encased her legs, which appeared long despite her petite stature. The blue top was not form-fitting but flattering nonetheless.
“Charlie, Lily! Stop bothering Mr. Popovich. Anyway, It’s time for lunch.”
Lily twisted her head around to look at her mother. “He said we can call him Ben as long as you say it’s respectful.”
Violet was too far away for him to see her face clearly, but he could swear her lips curved slightly as her shoulders drooped. She suddenly appeared so different to him. Not just a beautiful woman, but one who knew loss. Shaking his head, he attempted to dislodge the myriad of emotions and shouted, “It’s fine with me. The kids aren’t bothering me.” Again, the words slipped out before he had a chance to think them through. Jesus, didn’t I just want to be left alone?
The matter was taken out of his hands when Violet once more called the kids in for lunch. With a wave, the kids jumped down from the fence and raced toward her. She smiled and ruffled their hair before lifting her hand and offering a little wave toward him. Before he knew it, he was once again alone, his gaze still lingering on the now-closed door where they had disappeared.
Maryann Jordan. A Forever Dad – ARC copy: SEALs in Paradise – Wedding Edition (A Hope City Crossover Novel) (Kindle Locations 474-540).
Now there’s quite a few things going on behind the scenes, and then there is Charlie’s nightmares.
The addition of a dog, some interesting interactions between Violet and Ben. Some help from folks from the Hope City series. All wrapped together with romance, sizzle and more than a few sniffles.
5 Contented Purrs for Maryann!
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I have always been an avid reader. My early memories were of my mother taking me to the library and allowing me to check out as many books as I could carry. My favorite books were checked out numerous times and read over and over. I would use my Barbie dolls to play out the scenes in books (such as Nancy Drew!).
I have written as a hobby for many years (probably since childhood). I have written devotionals, autobiographical writings about having a severely handicapped, medically fragile child, about my mother’s Alzheimer’s, and other subjects that interest me.
I joke that I “cut my romance teeth” on the old historical romance books. In 2013, I started a blog to showcase wonderful writers. In 2014, I finally gave in to the characters in my head pleading for their story to be told. Thus, Emma’s Home was created.
I worked as a counselor in a high school and was involved in education for the past 30 years, until retiring in 2015. I have been married to a wonderfully patient man for 35 years and have 2 adult, very supportive daughters. When writing, my dog or one of my cats will usually be found in my lap!