USA Today Bestselling Author
She was only supposed to help with his son…
only she showed him what family and love was truly about.
Toby Tillman was done. He’d put up with his soon-to-be ex-wife’s shenanigans for long enough. It was time to take matters into his own hands. He’d do whatever it took to ensure TJ grew up in a loving environment, with a father who put him first.
He wasn’t prepared, however, for Zinfandel River – all grown up and ready to take on the world. Not only was she willing to put herself in the line of fire, but she was also ready to take on a troubled teenager – all while walking away with Toby’s heart.
Separated from his wife and with divorce and also a custody hearing in the works, Toby Tillman needs help to get TJ to and from school and also to the rink for hockey practices.
Zinfandel ‘Zinny’ River has been TJ’s babysitter for years, now she steps up to the plate to help Toby as he gets his life in order. Even working two jobs she has the time in her schedule to fill in where TJ needs rides or even just someone to talk to.
After a Sunday family dinner at the River’s, Toby’s son TJ goes to a friend’s house to spend the night. Toby walks Zinny home, to her apartment on the Winery’s property not far from the main family home. On the walk he goes back and forth over beginning a relationship with her.
Zinny has developed more than a crush on Toby. She’s always dated older men, but Toby is so much more to her. Now she has to get him to see her as an adult, not the teenage babysitter. This would prove to be easier than she thought.
They need to be discrete. They don’t want to put more on TJ’s plate and of course there are her parents. She’s not sure how they will take to the idea of her and Toby together.
Then there’s Serena, his soon to be ex-wife who is facing trial for the mishandling of Chablis’ medical records.
With Zinny spending more time with TJ, the relationship between her and Toby grows.
This is a favorite scene.
Zinny finished clearing the dinner dishes and brought them into the kitchen. She stood in front of the sink and started rinsing before loading the dishwasher.
“What are you doing?” Toby asked as he came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her neck.
She closed her eyes and leaned back, taking in a deep breath, enjoying the stolen moment. “Where’s TJ?”
“Taking the trash and recycle to the street.”
She turned, snuggling in, stealing a brief passionate kiss, keeping her ears open for the back door.
About fifteen seconds later, it opened.
Toby took a step back, wiping his mouth. He winked.
It had been a week since they slept together, and she wondered if it was going to happen again. His days were filled with work, and it was impossible for him to take time off right now. She tried to entice him with sexy texts in the morning to see if he could meet her for lunch, but he couldn’t even do that most days. And other than a kiss here and there, and two dinners, she expected things wouldn’t heat up for a while again.
“Hey, Dad,” TJ called. “I need the new iTunes password. For some reason it’s not saved on the downstairs computer.”
“I don’t usually give him any of the passwords.” Toby sighed. “I bought new phones for us back when Serena moved out. All new accounts. I needed to separate everything. I’ve changed the password twice. I’m being paranoid.”
“No. You’re being smart,” Zinny said.
“Dad?” TJ stepped into the kitchen. “Can you either give it to me or come into the den and enter it?”
“You can’t give this out—”
“I’m not going to,” TJ interrupted his father. He rolled his eyes.
Zinny wanted to laugh, but instead, she managed to keep a straight face, something her father had never been too good at when it came to her childhood. Her dad told her he’d been able to do it with her older siblings, but never her and it drove her mom crazy.
“Okay. It’s BOSTON39! RiverSt,” Toby said.
TJ narrowed his stare. “I get Boston. That’s where you went to college and 39 was your hockey number, but what’s River St stand for?”
“My senior year I lived off campus and that was the name of the street.” Toby ducked his head in the fridge and snagged a beer, offering one to Zinny.
She thought about it for about a half a second, then nodded.
“Really? I thought maybe it was for Zinny. It is her last name.” TJ smiled like he knew something everyone else in the room didn’t.
That’s what Zinny was afraid of. She took a chug of her beer.
“Nope.” Toby laughed. “I have a box full of stuff in the attic, and I believe I still have the street sign I stole.”
“Real mature, Dad.” TJ turned and strolled toward the den, laughing.
“River street? Seriously? Or can I let that one go to my head?”
Toby lifted his beverage. His lips curled over the longneck, and he sipped. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed.
Zinny had it bad.
“I feel a little bad bursting your bubble, but I lived on River Street with three other hockey players. It was a hellhole. Probably the most disgusting place I’ve ever lived, so, really, you don’t want to associate it with your beautiful name.” He lowered his gaze slowly, as if he were undressing her. “Or the rest of you.”
“You’re making me all tingly.”
He chuckled. “I think I might have to take you up on lunch tomorrow, but that feels so cheap.”
“Are you kidding me? It’s sexy. Hot.”
“In some ways, it is. But there’s a part of me that feels like if we have to sneak around, then we shouldn’t be doing it.”
“You sound like my mother,” Zinny said with an arched brow. “She used to give me that lecture all the time and I’d toss back at her how she’d done that her entire life.”
“You’re not helping the cause,” he said.
“Why do you have to overanalyze everything? Why can’t we just enjoy this?” She set the dish towel on the counter, took her beer, and dragged him to the back patio where they wouldn’t have to worry about TJ overhearing the conversation.
The warm New Jersey air coated her skin. June could be a crapshoot when it came to weather.
She adjusted her chair while Toby lit the fire pit. The moon and the stars filled the dark sky. Leaning back, she stretched out her legs and soaked up the ambiance. Toby lived on the outskirts of town in one of the nicer neighborhoods. His house used to be overstated, but Serena took all the pretentiousness with her when she moved out.
Toby tapped her shoulder as he sat back. “I don’t want this to be about a quickie in the back seat, hoping someone doesn’t catch us like we’re doing something wrong, and that’s how it feels when you start talking. I’m a little old-fashioned and I don’t want to treat you like you’re a piece of meat.”
“You’re not and trust me, I’ll either walk out that door or tell you if you are.” She glanced over his shoulder and took his hand. “You’ve been nothing but kind and sweet and insanely respectful of me.”
“There’s more to it than that.” Toby tugged his hand away and shifted his chair so he faced her. “I have TJ to consider. Growing up, my role models for relationships sucked. My parents only showed me what a bad one looked like and I mimicked that something good.”
“It’s not like my parents have a traditional marriage. Hell, they aren’t even married. They had three kids after they got divorced. There isn’t anything normal about that.” Zinny understood where Toby was coming from. She really did. But he couldn’t change the past. He couldn’t fix his parents’ broken relationship.
Nor could he change what happened between him and Serena. All he could do was be a better man moving forward.
“I get that, but they are kind and decent people who worked together. My parents couldn’t do that, and Serena and I screwed up royally. I don’t want to do that anymore.”
She wanted to reach out and hold him, but she knew this wasn’t the time or place. They needed to be completely alone and that wasn’t going to happen until TJ spent the night with his grandma. That usually happened once a week. TJ was a good boy to humor his grandma that way. And he seemed to still enjoy it.
Toby’s mom had gone from an angry, bitter old woman to a kinder, gentler version of that. She was still bitter. But her frustration over her life had dissipated.
“You’re not. You’re an excellent father.”
“Sometimes I don’t think so.”
“Well, you are,” Zinny said. “And what you’re going through is temporary.”
“Now you sound like your father.”
Zinny smiled. “I’ve got the best of both my parents.” She leaned forward, pushing her breasts together.
Toby groaned. “You’re the devil thought.”
She laughed. “So, lunch tomorrow?”
“Oh yeah. It’s a date.”
Jen Talty. Lips of an Angel (Kindle Locations 333-391).
As the trial nears, there’s lots of tension all around. Serena has been cooperative and that says more than if she was threatening.
I couldn’t stop reading this book it has plenty of romance, tension, accusations and sizzle. All set in beautiful Candlewood Falls.
5 Contented Purrs for Jen!
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Welcome to my World! I’m a USA Today Bestseller of Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, and Paranormal Romance.
I first started writing while carting my kids to one hockey rink after the other, averaging 170 games per year between 3 kids in 2 countries and 5 states. My first book, IN TWO WEEKS was originally published in 2007. In 2010 I helped form a publishing company (Cool Gus Publishing) with NY Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer where I ran the technical side of the business through 2016.
I’m currently enjoying the next phase of my life…the empty NESTER! My husband and I spend our winters in Jupiter, Florida and our summers in Rochester, NY. We have three amazing children who have all gone off to carve out their places in the world, while I continue to craft stories that I hope will make you readers feel good and put a smile on your face.