Authors: Linda Joffe Hull
No such thing as a better half any better than you.
hank you, first and foremost, to my editor, publisher, fellow writer, and dear friend, Ben LeRoy. Your spirit, guidance, intelligence, and friendship are a daily blessing.
Thanks to Josh Getzler for believing in me and being an all-around mensch.
I am forever indebted to Monica Poole for showing me the way from the very start. To Kay Bergstrom, Joel Reiff, and Terri Bischoff for your friendship and constant support. To Alison Dasho for your superior editing skills. To Cary Cazzanigi for making everything work so I can. To Becky Stevens, Carleen Evanoff, and Julie Goldsmith for a million reasons.
I could not have written, much less finished this or any other book, were it not for the help of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, the Hand Hotel gang, and especially the Capital Hill critique group, including (but not at all limited to) Scott Brendel, Robert Buettner, Janet Lane, Chris Jorgenson, Terry Wright, Alex Kalinchuk, Jedeane McDonald, Steve Reinsma, Dave Jackson, Luke Dutka, Brianna Martray, Jan Gurney, and Mark Stevens.
To Piper Stevens, Ellen Rosenblum, Wendy Kelly, Doug Webster, Caryn McClelland, Rick Anderson, Angie Lancaster, Judy Bloomberg Schenkein, Rachel Greenwald, Sue Aaronson, Beth Hooper, Marc Kerman, Susan Hennes, Ruchi Brunvand, and the gang at OMHD for being there in a variety of ways, some of you for a long time.
To Bill Joffe, Elizabeth Heller, Bob Moskowitz, Ron Hull, Naomi Hull, Kathryn Hull, Brian Hull, Kevin Hull, Dan Mitchell, Donavon Mitchell, Jacob Hendrickson, and Elliot Springer. Love you guys!
To my sisters Nancy Mitchell, Laura Hendrickson, Jenny Springer, and Rachel Moskowitz—thanks for always agreeing to listen, read, give feedback, and play sisterly shrinks.
Special thanks to my mom, Marjorie Moskowitz—your enthusiasm, input, and insight have been beyond invaluable.
To Andrew, Evan, and Eliza for believing in me through it all. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be your mom.
And, finally to Brandon. Thank you for the years of love, encouragement, patience, unflagging optimism, and never, ever buying into Lawndale as the path of development.
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rom the moment Hope first looked into Jim Jordan’s blue eyes, all she could think about were the gorgeous, flaxen-haired children he’d make.
They’d make together.
The tongue-tied awe he inspired in everyone, from her sorority sisters to store clerks to even her mother’s friends on their wedding day, kept her from admitting the one thing she suspected from their first conversation: God had been so taken by the sheer magnificence of Her creation, She figured there wasn’t much more needed in the way of filler.
If only he had a little more in the way of get-the-job-done sperm.
Hope Jordan capped the ovulation prediction test and carried it from her bathroom toward her walk-in closet. Lifting the false drawer at the back of her dresser, she opened her keepsake box and replaced last month’s disappointment with this one’s promise. The most promising yet, thanks to the optimal dosage of Clomid now flowing through her system.
In the drawer above, wrapped in a cushion of lavender tissue, was the most potent fertility-enhancing lingerie in her arsenal. She lifted the La Perla sticker without causing so much as a hairline tear in the paper and removed the black silk and lace babydoll top and matching panties.
Clipping the tags with a snip of her nail scissors, she lifted the top over her head, settled into the lace cups, set the spaghetti straps atop each shoulder, and stepped into the tiny triangle of panty. Before she turned for the mirror, she closed her eyes, and as she’d done for the last nine ovulation cycles, visualized the onslaught of robust candidates all vying for her big, healthy, ripe egg.
She opened her eyes, turned for the mirrored bathroom wall, and smiled at the overall effect. In a year, she’d happily weather the extra pounds, loose skin, and stretch marks. But for now, if she couldn’t get pregnant wearing this…
She grabbed some roses from the bouquet on her nightstand, plucked the petals, spread a handful on the bed, and left a multicolored breadcrumb path behind her as she started toward the open bedroom door.
Will Pierce-Cohn scraped a stray chunk of Mini-Wheat from the front of his shirt, zipped his Patagonia fleece, and headed for a house identical to his own, except for the Sunset Taupe accent trim.
And the woman who lived inside.
For once, Will Pierce-Cohn wished Hope Jordan lived anywhere else but across the street. The thought of her forced smile made his guts churn, but he had to get his playground petition in front of every neighbor in the development before the April homeowner’s board meeting. Before reverend-cum-homeowner’s-board-president Frank Griffin waxed too eloquent and the HOB rubber-stamped his environmentally questionable, proposed location change.
Will took a deep breath.
Starting with Hope.
Before he stepped onto the top step to equalize any height disadvantage, Will allowed himself a quick peek through the potted plant on her front steps and into her accent window.
He made a point not to look at other women in
If he spotted Hope across the grocery store in low-rise jeans, he waved and diverted his cart in the other direction. At aerobics class, he only allowed himself a split-second glance at the silhouette of her butt in yoga pants before dropping his Bosu Ball and weights behind hers. He even saved friendly conversation for the odd morning when she appeared at the community mailboxes in loose sweats.
Before he could knock, he spotted her on the landing at the top of the steps.
He gasped silently.
She definitely wasn’t wearing sweats.
Backlit, with her golden hair billowing around her head like a halo, Hope wore nothing but a flowing, sheer black top.
And matching panties.
He thought about averting his eyes.
Clearly, she was dressed for a fertility day
with her husband. She’d told him months ago they were trying to get pregnant. Still, how many times had he accidentally imagined her creamy skin and the pale blush of her nipples, perky through her sweat-dampened sports bra? To see her, all of her, in near touching distance—more spectacular than he’d ever dared imagine.
Sheer lace clung to her narrow waist.
Her flat belly.
If Meg ever wore anything to bed besides a
-shirt… if, every so often, she came home from work thinking about his needs instead of her own… if, for once, she let him make the first move before reaching for his…
He let his gaze drop to Hope’s downy landing strip.
His clipboard slipped from his hand and clattered on the concrete stoop.
echoed through the hallway.
There was no time to duck. It was too late to make a run for it. If he didn’t do something quickly, she was going to find him standing there like a garden-variety peeper with an erection. Beads of sweat dribbled down his back.
Astros, Mariners, Cardinals, Rockies
He stood like a statue, unable to force his knuckle to the door.
The dead bolt flipped open with a familiar hollow metal
In a surge of arousal-deadening panic, he managed a split-second trouser adjustment, placed his clipboard at a strategic angle, and attempted a casual expression.
The door opened a crack.
Hope’s lips, pink, pouty, and full, shimmered in the morning sun. Her sweet floral scent intermingled with the early spring air and the heady aroma of warm, baked goods.
“H… Hope. I…” He hadn’t stuttered since elementary school. “You answered before I had a chance to knock.”
“This isn’t a great time, Will.”
“Sorry,” he said. The thought of her body pressed against the opposite side of the hollow door separating them sent a heat wave across his face. “I’ll only take a second.”
His face felt engulfed in flames.
“Is this about the ice cream truck ban?”
“No, no.” Thanks to Frank Griffin and his mini-sermon on vanishing Americana, Will’s solution to sobering statistics about ice-cream truck operator DMV and criminal records was voted down at the last homeowner’s board meeting. Will turned away toward the empty parcel of land next to the Estridge home to compose himself as much as to make his point. “The playground.”
“I see,” she said, not looking.