Today I am so pleased to welcome Roan Parrish to Joyfully Jay. Roan has come to talk to us about her latest release, The Lights on Knockbridge Lane. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Adam followed his daughter to Wes’ front door. It opened faster this time, and Wes looked less confused to find them there.
“Hi,” he said, his frown only at twenty-five percent this time.
“We’re hanging Christmas lights,” Gus announced. “Wanna help?”
“Oh, honey, that’s not— We don’t— I thought— Um, we were wondering if you had a ladder we could borrow. You don’t have to— That is, you can if you want, but—”
Adam physically forced his lips together to prevent more gibberish from leaking out. Wes was looking at him intently. Then he glanced at Gus. She was vibrating in place like a whippet in a snowstorm, eyes huge and hopeful.
“Um. Okay,” Wes said.
“Yay! Yes! Yay!” Gus cried, and darted inside.
Wes smiled for the first time and it was like nothing Adam had ever seen.
His face lit with tender humor, eyes crinkling at the corners and full lips parting to reveal charmingly crooked teeth. Damn, he was beautiful.
Adam sank down to sit at the top step and wait. The sun was setting, and it painted the expanse of Knockbridge Lane in muted pinks and purples. The mountains rose to the west, and to the north and east were trees. A Cooper’s hawk glided in a wide arc high above the tallest branches.
Wes came out carrying a ladder, a hammer, and some nails.
“Penny nails,” Adam said absently.
When they’d lugged the ladder across the street and stood in front of their house, Adam said, “Okay, Gus, your call. Where are they going?”
“Can I go on the ladder?” she asked excitedly, eyes wide.
“Er, no, baby. Sorry, it’s too dangerous.” She pouted but shrugged. “Because I might have a heart attack,” he muttered.
“Let me guess,” Wes said. “You don’t like heights?”
Adam rounded on him, instantly defensive.
“Why would you say that?”
His whole life people had looked at his small stature and his sexual orientation and his sensitivity and assumed he was weak and scared.
And yeah, okay, he was afraid of some things. But it was natural to be afraid. There was nothing wrong with it. Tarantulas and snakes could be poisonous. It was self-preservation to fear them. He wasn’t upset that he was afraid of things; he was upset that people thought being afraid meant being weak.
And Adam Mills was definitely not weak.
Wes looked taken aback. “You just seemed really worried about Gus going up, so I thought… I don’t know. Sorry.”
Adam internally cringed at himself for being so defensive.
“Oh. Right. Um, no problem. That’s just because she’s, you know, a very small child.”
“I don’t really know much about children.”
“Surely you at least were one?” Adam said, trying to lighten the mood he’d cast in darkness.
Wes just blinked. “Not this kind.”
He shrugged, and walked onto the porch, then around the side of the house.
“Here’s your outlet,” he said.
Gus pointed to the front of the house. “Let’s put them there, like an outline of light.”
Adam nodded and gathered the lights under his arm. Then he began to ascend the ladder.
The truth? Was that Adam was afraid of heights. But he would be goddamned if he was going to admit that in front of Wes now.
“Are you okay, Daddy?”
Gus sounded concerned and Adam realized he’d stopped four rungs up the ladder.
“Uh-huh, fine.” His voice broke but he made himself keep climbing.
From the top of the ladder, Adam surveyed the neighborhood below him.
This, it turned out, was a huge mistake.
“Oh god, oh god, ohgod, ohgodohgod. It’s tall. This is tall. High. Up here. This is dangerous! How many people die each year in routine Christmas decorating accidents?!”
“Careful, Daddy,” Gus said.
Wes said, “Three hundred ladder-related fatalities annually in the US. Hmm, I would’ve thought it’d be higher.”
Adam squeezed his eyes shut and forced himself to unclench the claw of his fist from around the lights enough to find the end of the strand.
“Here’s ten years of Christmas-related injuries.” Wes scrolled on his phone. “Wow, 134,281 people were sent to the E.R. with holiday decoration-related injuries from 2008 to 2017. God, who knew.”
Adam’s whole body was rigid, and he heard himself make a tiny whimpering sound that he hoped didn’t reach the ground.
“They’re not straight, Daddy,” Gus called helpfully from the ground.
Adam, who was at the moment trying to figure out how on earth it was humanly possible to lift a string of lights, unpocket a nail, hammer in said nail, string the lights on the nail, and move the ladder to another position without falling to his death, just said, “Thank you, baby.”
After a great deal of ladder moving (because no, thank you, Wes, Adam did not want to simply climb onto the roof), thumb hammering, and light adjusting, Adam got all ten strands of lights hung.
He climbed down the ladder slowly, feeling extremely pleased with himself. Triumphant, even!
He let out a pleased sigh, slung his arm around Gus’ shoulders, and looked up at what he’d just accomplished.
And tilted his head and looked some more.
“Huh,” he said.
“Hmm, Wes echoed.
The ten strands of lights barely outlined the front triangle of the roof, and even though they twinkled merrily in the darkness, the lights looked sparse against the clear sky full of stars.
“That,” Gus declared, “is not the most lights in the world.”
Which, frankly, was what they were all thinking.
“We’ll get more, sweetie,” Adam said, wanting to cling to the sense of triumph he’d felt only seconds before. “This is just a start.”
Gus nodded seriously.
“Okay,” she said.
The okay got him. Gus trusted that if he said something would happen, it would happen. He treasured her trust more even than her love. It was something he would never betray.
Which just meant he needed to figure out a way to acquire more lights. Lots more. So many more that whenever Gus looked at them, she would stop thinking about Boulder and their house there. She would stop thinking about the friends she’d left behind. And most of all, she’d stop thinking about Mason, her papa who, when Adam’s ultimatum came—be a part of their family or have no say in it, chose a life of freedom over being a father.
So many more that Gus would gaze at them and think only about how beautiful it was here, and how cozy their little house was. What a great holiday they would have together. And how very, very much Adam loved her.
Now if he could just figure out how to do that without bankrupting them—or becoming the 301st ladder-related fatality of the year—in the process.
Can one man’s crowded, messy life fill another man’s empty heart?
Raising a family was always Adam Mills’ dream, although solo parenting and moving back to tiny Garnet Run certainly were not. After a messy breakup, Adam is doing his best to give his young daughter the life she deserves—including accepting help from their new, reclusive neighbor to fulfill her Christmas wish.
Though the little house may not have “the most lights ever,” the Mills home begins to brighten as handsome Wes Mobray spends more time there and slowly sheds his protective layers. But when the eye-catching house ends up in the news, Wes has to make a choice: hide from the darkness of his unusual past or embrace the light of a future—and a family—with Adam.
From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.
- Book 1: Better Than People
- Book 2: Best Laid Plans
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.
When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.
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