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A place to call home . . .
In New York City, attorney Devon Gilmore devoted all her time and energy to fast-track her career. She lost her boyfriend . . . but found herself with a surprise baby on the way. To begin a new life, Devon needs a place to settle down-a place like Cavanaugh Island, where the pace is slow, the weather is fine, and the men are even finer.
From the moment David Sullivan meets Devon, he knows he can't fight the laws of attraction. Whether it's helping fix up the old cottage she just bought on Cherry Lane or working together on a pro bono legal case, he can't help feeling a little protective. But will the most eligible bachelor in town be ready for an instant family? Only if he can convince Devon to put her heart on the line one more time-for all time.
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.
The brilliant afternoon sunlight shimmered off the numerous steeples and spires dotting Charleston’s skyline. And despite the fatigue weighing her down from more than five hours of flight delays and layovers, Devon Gilmore found herself in awe of the sight that gave the Holy City its nickname.
Reaching for her handbag, she took out enough money for the fare and tip for the taxi ride from the airport to the city’s Historic District. She felt some tension ease as the taxi drove down the broad tree-lined avenues and pulled up to the historic Francis Marion Hotel. When she’d complained to her friend Keaton Grace about the frigid snowy New York City weather, he’d suggested she come to the Lowcountry for several weeks, and this visit was exactly what she needed right now. As much as she loved the bright lights and bustle of New York City, she was ready for a change. And going to Chicago to see her parents had been an utter disaster.
The taxi driver came to a complete stop at the same time the bellhop rushed over to open the door for her. “I’ll get your luggage, ma’am.”
“Thank you.” She’d brought her large black quilted Vera Bradley spinner and matching roll-along duffel and stuffed them so full she could hardly lift them. The first order of business would be finding an outfit for the party Keaton had convinced her to attend this evening.
Devon placed a hand over her flat belly. She wasn’t showing yet, but it wouldn’t be long before her baby bump became visible. She took a deep breath. Even the air here smelled different—clean and sweet. Like a fresh start.
Devon wasn’t particularly in a party-going mood, but she’d promised Keaton she’d go to his girlfriend’s birthday party out on Cavanaugh Island. He’d reassured her that it was only going to be close family and friends. Maybe the distraction would do her good, especially the way her life was unraveling at the seams right now.
She slipped into a skirt and managed to zip and button it without too much difficulty. The waistband was tighter and tonight would probably be the last time she would be able to wear it for a while. Sitting on the chair at the table that also doubled as a desk, Devon reached for her cosmetic bag. Flicking on the table lamp, she took out a small mirror with a built-in light. She stared at her reflection, noticing that although her face was fuller, there were dark circles under her eyes. Opening a tube of concealer, she squeezed a small dot on her finger and gently patted the liquid beneath each eye, and blended it to match her natural skin tone.
When she initially found herself facing an unplanned pregnancy, Devon realized she had two options: give up the baby for adoption or do something no other woman in her family had ever done—become an unwed mother. It had taken a lot of soul-searching, but in the end she decided she would keep her baby. After all, she was already thirty-six. And her job as an entertainment attorney afforded her a comfortable lifestyle.
What she refused to dwell on was the man whose child she carried. They had slept together for more than a year, and at no time had he given her any indication that not only was he involved with another woman but he was also engaged to marry her. She sighed, straightened her shoulders, and promised herself she would try to have some fun at this party.
An hour later Devon got out of the taxi in front of the Tanners’ three-story Colonial. She walked up four steps to exquisitely carved double doors flanked by gaslight-inspired lanterns. A larger matching fixture under the portico and strategically placed in-ground lighting illuminated the residence. She’d just raised her hand to ring the doorbell when she heard the low purr of another car pulling up.
Turning around, she saw a tall man get out of a late-model Lexus sedan. He paused to slip on a suit jacket, and she couldn’t help admiring the way the fine fabric fit his lean frame and broad shoulders. As he walked her way he deftly adjusted his emerald-green silk tie. Golden light spilled over his sculpted dark face and neatly cropped hair.
“Are you here for the party?” he asked her.
The sound of his soft, drawling voice elicited a smile from Devon as she lifted her chin, staring up at him through a fringe of lashes. Not only did he have a wonderful voice, but he also smelled marvelous.
“Yes,” she answered.
He smiled, drawing her gaze to linger on his firm mouth. “I had no idea Francine had such gorgeous friends.”
Devon lowered her eyes as she bit back her own smile. The compliment had rolled off his tongue like watered silk. She wanted to tell him he was more than kind on the eyes, but she’d never been that overtly flirtatious. “Thank you.”
The tall, dark stranger inclined his head. “You’re quite welcome.” He rang the bell and then opened the door. Stepping aside, he let her precede him. “You must not be from around here because folks on the island usually don’t lock their doors until it’s time to go to bed.”
“I’m a friend of Keaton Grace. I just got in from New York.”
“Ah, well that explains it.” He extended his hand. “David Sullivan.”
A beat passed before Devon took his hand. “Devon Gilmore,” she said in introduction. Truly, she was Devon Gilmore-Collins, but just like her mother, she’d been raised to uphold the vaunted Gilmore tradition. And given her current state of being unwed and pregnant, her mother was no longer speaking to her.
“Well, it looks as if you two don’t need an introduction.”
David released Devon’s hand. “Happy birthday, Red,” he said to the tall, slender woman with a profusion of red curls framing her face. Angling his head, he kissed her cheek. Then he reached into the breast pocket of his suit jacket and handed her an envelope. “And Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, too.”
The redhead patted David’s smooth cheek. “Thank you. Everyone’s here,” she said. Turning, she offered Devon her hand. “I’m Francine Tanner.”
Devon shook her hand. “Devon Gilmore,” she said, smiling. “Thank you for inviting me to your home.”
Francine’s green eyes crinkled as she returned Devon’s smile. Her eyes matched the silk blouse she’d paired with black slacks. “Any friend of Keaton is always welcome here. He had to go upstairs and should be back at any moment.” She looped her arm through Devon’s over the sleeve of her suit jacket. “Come with me. As soon as Keaton returns he can introduce you to everyone before we sit down to eat. And David, I want to warn you that my father is making Irish coffee again this year. If it were up to him he would celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day every day.”
Devon gave Francine a sidelong glance. “Is that good or bad?”
Francine laughed. “It all depends on your tolerance for alcohol. Yours truly learned a long time ago to pass, but most folks who’ve drunk Daddy’s Irish coffee swear it’s the best they’ve ever had.”
David stared at Devon as she walked with Francine through the entryway and into the family room, his gaze lingering on her shapely legs. Pushing his hands into the pockets of his suit trousers, he followed Devon and Francine into the house. His gaze swept over Morgan and Nathaniel Shaw sitting together and talking quietly to each other, while Jeffrey and Kara Hamilton stood at the open French doors, she gesturing to the birds that had gathered to eat the seeds that had fallen from a feeder attached to a pole on the patio. Everyone was wearing green. Nearly every resident on the island celebrated the holiday even if they didn’t claim a drop of Irish blood.
Mavis Tanner was the first to notice him. “David,” she crooned softly. “Thank you for coming. I know how tied up you’ve been lately with Bobby’s case. If that lying heifer had her way, the poor boy would’ve spent at least twenty-five years in prison.”
Lowering his head, he pressed a kiss on Francine’s mother’s salt-and-pepper twists. Until yesterday, David hadn’t been certain he’d be able to attend the party. His last case had gone to trial and he’d spent every waking hour in an attempt to keep his client from going to jail for a crime David knew he did not commit. At the last possible moment before the case went to the jury for deliberation, the prosecution’s eyewitness recanted, claiming she’d lied in an act of revenge because the defendant had rejected her advances. After the judge dismissed the charges, David went home, turned off his phone, and slept for twelve uninterrupted hours.
“Well, now the witness is locked up for perjury. I’m just glad I was able to make Red’s party.”
Mavis rested a hand on his jacket sleeve. “You may as well go over to the bar and let Frank light you up with that concoction that can definitely pass for hooch.”
David lowered his head until his mouth was only inches from Mavis’s ear. “You can be honest with me, Miss Mavis. Are you certain it isn’t hooch? I heard Old Man Kennedy has a still hidden behind the shed where he butchers and smokes his hogs and sells the stuff only to a few folks that know how to mind dey mout.”
He hadn’t realized he’d spoken in dialect until the words were out. Even though he had a law degree, there were times when David couldn’t totally escape slipping in the Gullah dialect of African descendants who’d passed down the language from one generation to the next. He knew if his mother heard it she would’ve been mortified. The thought made him smile. Edna Sullivan, grande dame of Charleston’s African American social circle, was very conscious not to lapse into the dialect she’d grown up with.
Mavis rolled her eyes. “Please don’t start me lying, because you’d have to charge me with perjury, too. I’m too old to sit in jail, even though the color orange would go quite nicely with my complexion,” she said jokingly.
David’s laugh caught the attention of his cousin Jeffrey Hamilton, who was also the sheriff of Cavanaugh Island. With their six-three height, dark complexions, warm brown eyes, and cleft chins, the familial resemblance between the two men was evident.
Although he’d been raised in Charleston, David always felt more of a kinship with his relatives living on the island than those on the mainland. Perhaps it had something to do with their unpretentiousness. There were a few exceptions, but most of the islanders were down to earth, more trustworthy, and usually just more willing to help one another out than the people on the mainland.
Jeff gathered David in a rough embrace, pounding his back. “Congratulations on getting Bobby Niles off. You’re a helluva lawyer, cuz. It would’ve been a damn shame if Bobby had to spend the next two decades of his life locked away for something he didn’t do.”
David peered over his cousin’s shoulder, meeting Devon’s eyes. It was apparent she’d overheard Jeff. He pounded Jeff’s back before easing out of his bone-crushing grip. His cousin outweighed him by almost thirty pounds and it was apparent the former Marine wasn’t aware of his own strength. “It would’ve turned out differently if Larissa hadn’t recanted her testimony.”
Jeff lifted his dark eyebrows a fraction. “That’s BS and you know it. I was in the courtroom during your closing argument and from the expression on the faces of the jury, most of them were going for a not-guilty verdict.”
David wanted to tell Jeff he wished he’d been that optimistic.
“Here’s the man of the hour!” shouted Frank Tanner, as he walked across the room with two clear mugs filled with hot black coffee, Irish whiskey, and granulated sugar, topped off with whipped cream. Frank gave David one of the mugs, lifting the other one in a toast. “Congrats, Counselor. Now I know who to call if the sheriff decides to lock me up for speeding.”
Jeff smiled and shook his head. “I should lock you up for buying moonshine from Old Man Kennedy and trying to pass it off as Irish whiskey.” Everyone laughed, including Frank.
David had always liked Francine’s father. The red hair from his youth was now completely gray, but his large gray-green eyes were still striking. The former Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive end–turned–restaurateur had been a local hero back in the day. And he told anyone who stood still long enough to listen that his two greatest accomplishments were becoming a father and keeping off the fifty pounds he’d lost after his football career ended.
David took a sip of the drink, then blew out a breath. “I’m going to have to agree with my cousin. This stuff is lethal. Delicious, but definitely lethal.”
Frank took a deep swallow from his own mug, a rush of color darkening his face until it took on a cherry-red shade. “Da-a-a-yum!” he gasped. “I didn’t realize it was that strong.”
“I told Daddy that he should let Keaton make the drinks, but he wouldn’t listen to me,” Francine drawled.
Devon saw Keaton Grace enter the family room just in time to hear Francine’s pronouncement. “No, baby, you don’t want me to tend bar. I’ve always had a very heavy hand whenever I mix drinks.”
Devon knew Keaton was being truthful. He was an incredible cook but a complete failure when it came to mixing drinks. She’d had a lot of male friends in the past, but none more loyal or dependable than Keaton.
A hint of a smile tilted the corners of her mouth when she noticed the longing stare Keaton gave Francine. Only a blind person couldn’t see the tenderness in his gaze. It was a gesture she’d shared with Gregory Emerson countless times. She closed her eyes for several seconds and when she opened them she saw Keaton walking toward her.
“Don’t get up,” he said softly, hunkering down and kissing her cheek. “You’re as pretty as the first time I saw you in college.”
Devon lowered her eyes, hoping no one overheard him. She met Keaton at New York University when she was a first-year law student, while he was enrolled in the graduate program at the Tisch School of the Arts. They’d become good friends and after graduating he became her first client, and eventually she became his agent and business manager. She had to admit that time had been more than kind to Keaton. Except for a faint sprinkling of gray in his cropped black hair, he could pass for a man much younger than forty-one. His dark olive complexion, high cheekbones, lean jaw, and large, deep-set brown eyes made for an arresting face.
“Thank you. How’s the studio coming along?” As an independent filmmaker, Keaton had moved from Los Angeles to set up Lowcountry Productions.
“They just laid the foundation for the soundstage last week and now they’re framing it.”
“Have you settled into your home?” she asked.
“Yes and no,” Keaton replied. “I moved out of the Cove Inn a couple of weeks ago. Right now I’m sleeping on a blow-up mattress and I have a card table with a folding chair as a desk to work on my latest script. The decorator estimates that most of the furniture will be delivered early next month. Thankfully all of the kitchen appliances are in, so I can cook for myself.”
“Sounds like you’re incredibly busy, but I’m so proud of you.”
He kissed her cheek. “Thank you—that means a lot. I’m sorry we won’t have as much time together as I originally thought when I invited you here.”
“There’s plenty for me to do on my own. Don’t even worry.”
“We’ll talk more later,” Keaton promised. “Right now, I’d better go help play host.”
Keaton accepted a mug of Irish coffee from Francine’s father, grimacing after taking a sip. “Oh shee-eet!” he gasped. Laughter and guffaws filled the room when he clutched his chest. “I’m sorry, ladies. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that.”
Mavis frowned at her husband. “I told you they were too strong.”
Frank, grinning like a Cheshire cat, blew Mavis a kiss. “Now that everyone’s here, I think we should get the introductions out of the way before we go into the dining room and eat. Keaton, please introduce your guest.”
Keaton’s gaze swept around the room. “Ladies, gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Devon Gilmore, my agent and business manager.” He smiled at Francine. “You can introduce the others to Devon.”
Francine ran a hand through the curls falling over her forehead. “The one passing off the nitroglycerin for Irish coffee is my dad, and the beautiful woman with the twists is my mother.” Devon laughed with the others. “Grandma Dinah, who along with my mother cooked everything for tonight’s gathering, will be along shortly. She just went upstairs to get dressed.”
Devon acknowledged each person with a smile and a nod when Francine introduced her to Jeffrey Hamilton and his wife, Kara, and Morgan Shaw and her husband, Nathaniel. Francine winked at David. “Next is David Sullivan, but it appears you two already know each other.”
Devon couldn’t stop the rush of heat suffusing her face as everybody turned her way with questioning looks. She wanted to tell the others she’d just met David, but decided to let them draw their own conclusions.
Frank put an arm around Mavis’s waist. “Does anyone need a refill before we sit down to eat?”
Mavis gave her husband a glance. “Sweetheart, it’s time we eat while we’re still able to see how to pick up a fork.”
The words were barely off Mavis’s tongue when David extended his hand to Devon. Placing her hand on his outstretched palm, she permitted him to pull her gently to her feet. He tucked her hand into the bend of his elbow. She didn’t want to read too much into the gesture; maybe he just wanted to make her feel less conspicuous that she wasn’t a part of a couple. But it still felt good to be tucked against him.
She couldn’t imagine David not being able to find a date, because everything about him radiated breeding and class—qualities every Gilmore woman looked for in a suitable partner. For a brief moment she wondered how her mother would react if she showed up on her doorstep with David on her arm. Would it make her condition more acceptable?
Devon’s jaw dropped slightly when she walked into the formal dining room, feeling as if she was watching an episode of an antebellum Downton Abbey. Prisms of light from two chandeliers shimmered on the silver and crystal place settings. The table was covered with a delicately crocheted cream-colored cloth and green liner and accommodated seating for twelve. A hand-painted vase overflowing with white roses, tulips, and magnolias served as an elaborate centerpiece. A mahogany buffet server held a bevy of chafing dishes from which wafted the most delicious mouthwatering aromas.
Devon found her place card, fortuitously right next to David’s. She got a little thrill in her belly when he pulled out a chair for her. Whoever said chivalry was dead was definitely wrong, she mused. It may be considered old-fashioned in other parts of the country, but the practice was alive on Cavanaugh Island. All the women sat, while their men lined up at the buffet table to fix them a plate.
She’d lost count of the number of times men in New York lowered their heads and feigned sleep rather than get up on the bus or subway to give a woman their seat. And forget about holding a door or helping a woman into or out of her coat.
“I’ll bring you a plate,” David offered. “Is there anything you can’t eat or don’t like?”
A slight shiver of awareness swept over Devon at his proximity. David was being so kind, but it wasn’t the same as having someone who knew you inside and out bring you a plate of food. Gregory, bastard that he was for cheating on her, would’ve known that she always took extra gravy and disliked rhubarb. Although an inner voice told her that her ex-lover wasn’t worth her tears or angst, moving on wasn’t easy. After all, he’d given life to the tiny baby growing inside her. A tentative smile trembled over her mouth.
“No allergies, and I’ll eat just about anything. Thank you so much, David.”
“No problem.” He put a comforting hand on her shoulder and squeezed. Devon swore she could feel the heat right down to her toes.
Morgan caught her eye from across the table. “How long are you going to be here?” Morgan asked her.
“Probably for a month.” She didn’t tell the beautiful, tall, dark-skinned woman with the dimpled smile that she wanted to stay until northeast temperatures no longer hovered around the freezing mark. Although she’d grown up in Chicago and had managed to survive countless frigid winters in New York City, Devon felt somehow this year was different. Despite wearing multiple layers, she still found herself chilled to the bone.
“Where are you staying?” Morgan asked.
“I have a suite at the Francis Marion, but I’m hoping to move to the Cove Inn by Wednesday, so I can be closer to Keaton when we have to go over legal issues. I’ve always been a hands-on attorney when it comes to Keaton.” Devon had shepherded his career from the time he wrote scripts for daytime soaps to his becoming an independent filmmaker.
“You can stay here with us,” Francine chimed in. “I have an extra bedroom in my apartment.”
Mavis shook her head. “She can stay down here with me and Frank. We have six bedrooms in this house, and that’s not counting my mother-in-law’s and Francine’s apartments.”
Devon was in a quandary. As tempting as the invitation to sleep in the Tanners’ historic home was, she didn’t really feel up to living with strangers. But she also didn’t want to insult them by turning down their Southern hospitality. “I don’t want to impose.”
Mavis waved her hand. “Child, please. There’s no imposition. We have the room, so you just move yourself out of that hotel tomorrow and come and stay with us. And I’m not going to take no for an answer.”
Devon sat there, hands clasped together in her lap, as she attempted to bring her emotions under control. People she’d met for the first time had welcomed her into their home, while her own mother had slammed the door in her face.
Smiling, she blinked back tears. She couldn’t believe she was going to start crying when she’d earned a reputation for being a no-nonsense, hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners attorney. It had to be the hormones. “Please let me think about it. I promise to let you know after the weekend.”
A slight frown appeared between Mavis’s eyes. “I’m going to hold you to that promise.”
Francine pressed her palms together as her eyes sparkled like polished emeralds. “Even if you decide not to stay with us, I still want you to join Kara, Morgan, and me for our Monday afternoon get-together at Jack’s Fish House. It’s the only time we can get to see one another because I work at the salon Tuesday through Saturday, Kara just became a new mother, and Morgan is busy with her architectural and interior design company.”
This was a proposition Devon could easily agree to, to connect with women her own age. “What time should I meet you?”
“Twelve noon,” Kara said, smiling.
Devon returned the sheriff’s wife’s warm, open smile. She was scheduled to pick up a rental car the following morning, so she’d have the independence she needed to do some sightseeing on her own.
Five minutes later, she looked down at the plate David set in front of her. He’d selected fried chicken, red rice and sausage, collard greens with cornmeal dumplings, and a slice of corn bread. “There are also sweet potatoes, ribs, Gullah fried shrimp, perlow rice, and barbecue trotters and turkey wings,” he informed her.
“Thank you. This looks delicious. I’ll make certain to save enough room for seconds,” she said as she spread her napkin over her lap. Devon was amused that he’d referred to pig’s feet as trotters. The Gilmores eschewed pig’s feet, ears, chitterlings, cheeks, and other parts of the pig they deemed scraps. It wasn’t until she moved to New York and visited several Harlem soul food restaurants and sampled sloppin’ trotters and chitlins for the first time that she wanted to call her mother and let her know the scraps were to die for.
As David returned to the buffet, she wondered if he was always so buttoned up. Of all the men there, he was the only one wearing a suit. But then she was forced to look at herself, realizing she was the only woman wearing a skirt. Maybe it had something to do with their both being attorneys.
Devon turned down Frank’s offer of a sparkling rosé and noticed that Kara and Morgan did the same. Kara was probably nursing, but was Morgan pregnant too? It would be so nice if she could talk to another woman going through the same thing.
At that moment, Dinah Tanner entered the dining room, and the men rose to their feet to greet her. The petite, slender woman had short, graying strawberry-blond hair and wore a leaf-green shirtwaist dress. “Everyone please sit down,” she said, waving her hand in dismissal.
Frank pulled out a chair for his mother. “Do you want me to fix you a plate, Mama?”
Dinah smiled up at her son. “No thank you, Francis. I’ll get it later.”
- 4 1/2 Star Review! "This return visit to Cavanaugh Island is a whirlwind trip that brings readers up to speed on beloved characters. There are still high drama, a few (legal) fireworks and plenty of hot romance. If this is our final trip to the island, it's a very fond farewell."—RT Book Reviews on CHERRY LANE
- "In a tale that moves along smoothly with luscious, descriptive language, Alers arouses all the senses as the characters come alive in vibrant fashion...Magnolia Drive is a soothingly exciting addition to summer reading lists and will transport the reader to an idyllic setting that inspires exploration."—OnPointPress.net on Magnolia Drive
- "I enjoyed watching these characters grow and to watch their love blossom was a beautiful thing. I would recommend this wonderful story to anyone that truly loves a good second chance love story."—Harlequin Junkie on Magnolia Drive
- "4 ½ stars! Realistic and well done."—RT Book Reviews on HAVEN CREEK
- "HAVEN CREEK is a gentle, moving romance ... Alers' voice is tender, different from what I've been seeing on the romance market recently. She revives the romance of forty years ago and keeps the sexiness for modern readers."—Jandy's Books on HAVEN CREEK
- "Haven Creek is a lovely, warm-hearted romance sure to please those who love a happily-ever-after style ending!"—Crystal Book Reviews on HAVEN CREEK
- 4 1/2 STAR REVIEW! "It's always a pleasure to discover little-known facts about racial history in America. Even better, the slow build to the love affair between the leads is believable and satisfying, on all levels. Sit back and enjoy!"—RT Book Reviews on ANGELS LANDING
- "An excellent love story...a very loving and interesting summer read."—Publishers Weekly on ANGELS LANDING
- "Appealing, mature protagonists, a colorful cast of islanders, and a rewarding romance that realistically unfolds add to this fascinating, gently paced story that gradually reveals its secrets as it draws readers back to idyllic Cavanaugh Island."—Library Journal on ANGELS LANDING
- "Angels Landing is a heartwarming novel...I thoroughly enjoyed [it] and recommend it to all romantics."—Fresh Fiction on ANGELS LANDING
- "A wonderful, warm, intriguing romance."—Jill Shalvis, New York Times best-selling author of Simply Irresistible on SANCTUARY COVE
- "Sanctuary Cove is the kind of place you visit and never want to leave."—Hope Ramsay, bestselling author of Welcome to Last Chance on SANCTUARY COVE
- On Sale
- May 26, 2015
- Page Count
- 400 pages