Series: Gone South #1
Author: Alicia Hunter Pace
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Welcome to Merritt, Alabama, where summers are lazy, tea is sweet, and guests are always welcome.
Luke Avery needs a wife to help raise his motherless three-year old.
Candy shop owner Lanie Heaven desires a child but can never have her own.
When Luke moves into the apartment above Lanie’s shop, she can’t help falling for the sexy single dad and his sweet little girl.
Luke’s not planning to fall in love ever again–but easing the ache of loneliness with pretty Lanie isn’t falling in love. Still, proposing to her could solve all his problems and give his child what she needs.
Lanie believes her dreams of love and family are finally coming true–until she is faced with evidence that Luke’s heart is locked away tight. Can Luke learn to slay his demons and put the past to rest? Or will he lose Lanie–and any hope that he might’ve had for a sweet life–forever?
Author note: “We hope you will enjoy this re-release from the Gone South series. Sweet Gone South, a stand alone novel, was originally published by Crimson Romance in 2012.”
There were lilies on the altar, the music was soothing, and the bells rang sweet. Behind her, Lanie heard a quiet chuckle go through the crowd. Highly unusual. Episcopalians were taught at an early age not to talk, laugh, or fidget after entering the sanctuary. This was a time to prepare to worship. Lanie resisted turning around, which was also against the rules—until she felt an insistent little finger tapping her shoulder.
She gave her head a quarter turn, and there sat Emma Avery—in a bee costume, complete with antennae, yellow and black tights, and little black shoes. Lanie bit her lip and met Emma’s bright smile. Then she slid her eyes to the left. Pressed and perfect Luke Avery didn’t look so pressed and perfect this morning. He looked like a man who had fought a war—a bad one. His hair lay in messy curls all over his head, his tie was crooked, and his face was damp with perspiration. He met her eyes and shook his head helplessly.
During the children’s moment, when all the preschoolers went to the altar to gather around Father Gregory, there were more chuckles throughout the congregation. As Emma sat among the other children wearing their smocked and embroidered finery, Father Gregory smiled broadly and said something about all God’s creatures gathering on Easter Sunday. When Emma passed Lanie on the way back to Luke, she leaned in and whispered, “Buzz.” Throughout the rest of the service—hymns, sermon, prayers, communion—Lanie fought her laughter. By golly, Emma had said she was “’posed to be honeybee,” and she was.
Luke and Emma were just stepping onto the sidewalk when Lanie descended the steps.
Emma jumped up and down and waved to Lanie. Luke looked like a man who wanted to leave the country. Town matriarch, genteel Caroline Brantley stopped and laid her hand on Emma’s cheek. Emma turned her bottom toward Miss Caroline and pretended to sting her. Miss Caroline threw back her head and laughed with delight. She patted Luke’s arm before moving on.
“Lanie! Here I am!” Emma called.
“I see you.” Lanie bent to accept her hug.
“Buzzz!” She bumped Lanie’s leg with her little soft sculpture stinger.
“Ouch! You stung me,” Lanie said.
“I stinged Father Greg too!”
“Yes,” Luke said wearily. “You’ve done a fine job of stinging today.” Emma stung Luke, probably not for the first time, before turning her attention back to Lanie.
“I’m going to Beau’s house. I’ll see the Easter bunny and find eggs.”
“No kidding? Guess what? I’m going to Beau’s house too.” She’d known they were going to Missy’s Easter brunch. She’d made Emma’s chocolate place card. But lots of people were going.
“Yay!” Emma turned to Luke. “Lanie’s going to Beau’s!”
“I heard. Do you think she’s going to have her picture taken with the Easter bunny?”
Just then, Miley Sanders and her little girl, Teresa, walked by in their matching floral mother/daughter dresses. Emma studied them for a second.
“Lanie, can you to be the same as me?”
“Hmm. That might be fun. But I don’t have a honeybee suit.”
“My daddy will buy you one.”
Lanie looked at Luke, who rolled his eyes and looked heavenward.
“That might be nice,” Lanie said. “But all the stores are closed and there’s no place to buy a honeybee suit today.”
“Oh.” Emma looked disappointed.
“I might have another idea. We wouldn’t be exactly the same, but I have a blue dress and you have your beautiful new blue dress. We could go home and put them on before we go to Beau’s.”
“I’m ’posed to be honeybee.”
“And you already have been. You’ve done a wonderful job of being honeybee. Now you can be the girl who wears her new blue dress.”
She considered for a moment. “Okay.”
Luke’s eyes met Lanie’s. “Okay? Just like that? Do you have any idea what I’ve been through this morning?”
“I might,” Lanie said.
Stephanie Jones and Jean Hovey write together as Alicia Hunter Pace.
Stephanie lives in Tuscaloosa, AL, where she teaches school and wishes for a bigger bookstore. She is a native Alabamian who likes football, civil war history, and people who follow the rules. She is happy to provide a list of said rules to anyone who needs them.
Jean, a former public librarian, lives in Decatur, AL, with her husband in a hundred-year-old house that always wants something from her. She likes to cook but has discovered the joy of Mrs. Paul’s fish fillets since becoming a writer.
Stephanie and Jean are both active members in the romance writing community. They write contemporary romantic comedy. They love to hear from readers.