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4.15.2013

Take a Chance On Me ~ Blog Tour

Take a Chance on Me
A Christiansen Family Novel #1
By Susan May Warren

Ivy Madison has just moved to Deep Haven, Minnesota, as the new assistant county attorney.  Though she has no ties to the small town she is linked to Deep Haven and the tragedy that has divided it for three years.  The tragedy that has destroyed friendships, lives and families.

Three years ago Felicity Christiansen died after an argument with her husband.  But the car that took her life wasn't driven by her husband Darek, but rather by his best friend Jensen Atwood.

Jensen claimed it was an accident and that Felicity was at fault.  Darek blamed Jensen, but the evidence was circumstantial at best.  With little chance of proving his innocence Jensen is forced to accept an unusual plea bargain.  A plea bargain crafted by a young law student sentenced Jensen to 3000 hours of community service in Deep Haven.

No one in Deep Haven knows that the sentence Jensen is serving was crafted by Ivy Madison.  Jensen is running out of time to complete his hours or he will serve time behind bars.

Darek is angry.  Angry at the justice system.  Angry at his late wife.  Angry at his in-laws. His anger has made him hard and bitter.  The only sign of kindness or gentleness in Darek is his love for his son, but Ivy Madison is about to change that.

Claire Gibson's life hasn't been right since Felicity's death.  She lost not only her best friend, but also the friendship she had with Jensen and Darek.  Felicity, Darek, Jensen, and her grandfather were the stability she needed in her life with her parent's ministering in Bosnia.

Deep Haven is hurting and only the loving hand of God can change the hurting hearts that call Deep Haven home.  When a fire threatens to destroy it all, can they find it within themselves to forgive each other and themselves before it is too late?  Can Darek learn to love as he should and not view everything including the choice of wife as a contest to be won?  Can these hurting people turn their pain over to God or will they allow their pain to separate from everyone else?

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review of this book.

~~~~~~~
Q and A with Susan May Warren


1. This is the first installment in a brand new six-book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this series?
I love stories about families – watching the members interact and grow together through challenges and victories – and I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow up and deal with romance and career and futures.  I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting 
for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort. They want to 
pass on their legacy to their children…but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when those collide with real life. 

2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.
Deep Haven, Minnesota is based in a small vacation town in northern Minnesota where I spent 
my childhood. It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small 
town and home. Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps 
Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to 
escape for a vacation.

3. What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Darek Christiansen?
As I started to put together this series, I began to think about our culture and our children today. 
I started to take a look at the big questions we are faced with as parents – and as young people; 
the issues that affect us as a culture, as well as personally. I wanted these books to go beyond 
family drama, beyond a great romance to raise bigger questions and stir truths that we might 
pass along to others. This story is about our propensity in our culture to blame others for what 
goes wrong in our lives – and how this alienates us from each other, and ultimately, God. Darek 
is the oldest brother in the family; the leader and a real hero. He’s a wildland firefighter and a 
widower who’s had to give up his job to come home and run the resort and care for his young 
son. Darek doesn’t realize he has a problem – he lives with anger on his shoulder, hating the 
man who killed his wife (his best friend). His real problem is that he can’t forgive himself. In this 
first story, readers meet the family, hang out at the resort and discover that God can redeem 
even a heart of stone, if we take a chance on Him. 

4. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?

This book is for the person who feels they just can’t get past the anger they have for someone 
else to live in joy again. It’s for parents who see their children making bad choices and don’t 
know where to turn. It’s for people who believe that no one will ever really love them because of 
who they are, or the things they’ve done. It’s for people who need the courage to take a second 
chance on love and faith and family. I’m hoping readers walk away with a sense of how much 
God loves them, and that yes, He can heal the angry and broken-hearted.

5. How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to make them feel?
Great question! I love a story that brings me on an emotional journey from anger to laughter to 
hope. But most of all, I want readers to be wrapped up in joy, that feeling we get when watch 
our football team win, or when we’re hands up in a convertible on a hot summer day, or digging 
our feet into a sandy beach, or hugging our loved one when they return home. Ah. The sense 
that, just for a moment, all is right in the world and everything tastes and feels delicious. I write 
romances, and in the end it’s worth the journey to the happily ever after. 

6. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
I loved Darek’s transformation. His relationship with his son is so precious, but when he truly lets 
go of his anger, he becomes the hero I always knew he could be. I love writing about broken 
heroes who find healing. 

7. What advice do you have for budding novelists?
Read! Then write the book you’d like to read. :D But, along the way, learn the craft. In fact, a 
good writer never stops learning. 

8. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received?
Just keep writing. If you want to be a career novelist, you just have to keep writing. 

9. In your writing career, what are you most proud of?
After over forty novels, I’m always striving to keep the stories fresh and unique; so I guess I’m 
proud that every book is bathed in prayer, has a message singular to that story, and has unique 
characters and journeys. Every story is a new adventure for me, and the reader. 

~~~~~~~

Excerpt from Chapter One 
My dearest Darek,
Even as I write this letter, I know I’ll tuck it away; the words on it are more of a prayer, 
meant for the Lord more than you. Or maybe, in the scribbling upon this journal page, the 
words might somehow find your heart, a cry that extends across the bond of mother and 
child.
The firstborn child is always the one who solves the mystery of parenthood. Before I 
had you, I watched other mothers and wondered at the bond between a child and a parent, 
the strength of it, the power to mold a woman, making her put all hopes and wishes into 
this tiny bundle of life that she had the responsibility to raise.
It’s an awe-filled, wonderful, terrifying act to have a child, for you suddenly wear your 
heart on the outside of your body. You risk a little more each day as he wanders from your 
arms into the world. You, Darek, were no protector of my heart. You were born with a 
willfulness, a courage, and a bent toward adventure that would bring me to the edge of my 
faith and keep me on my knees. The day I first saw you swinging from that too-enticing oak 
tree into the lake should have told me that I would be tested.
Your brothers shortened your name to Dare, and you took it to heart. I was never so 
terrified as the day you came home from Montana, fresh from your first year as a hotshot, 
feeling your own strength. I knew your future would take you far from Evergreen Lake. I 
feared it would take you far, also, from your legacy of faith.
Watching your son leave your arms has no comparison to watching him leave God’s. 
You never seemed to question the beliefs your father and I taught you.  Perhaps that is 
what unsettled me the most, because without questioning, I wondered how there could be 
true understanding.  I held my breath against the day when it would happen—life would 
shatter you and leave your faith bereft.
And then it did.
It brought you home, in presence if not soul.  If it hadn’t been for your son, I might have 
done the unthinkable—stand in our gravel driveway and bar you from returning, from 
hiding.
Because, my courageous, bold oldest son, that is what you are doing.  Hiding.  Bitter and 
dark, you have let guilt and regret destroy your foundation, imprison you, and steal your 
joy.  You may believe you are building a future for your son, but without faith, you have 
nothing to build it on.  Evergreen Resort is not just a place.  It’s a legacy.  
A foundation.  A belief.
It’s the best of what I have to give you.  That, and my unending prayers that somehow 
God will destroy those walls you’ve constructed around your heart.
Darek, you have become a mystery to me again.  I don’t know how to help free you.  Or 
to restore all you’ve lost.  But I believe that if you give God a chance, He will heal your 
heart. He will give you a future.  He will truly lead you home.
Lovingly,     
Your mother


C h a p t e r  1

Ivy Madison would do just about anything to stay in the secluded, beautiful, innocent town of 
Deep Haven.
Even if she had to buy a man.
A bachelor, to be exact, although maybe not the one currently standing on the stage of the 
Deep Haven Emergency Services annual charity auction. He looked like a redneck from the 
woolly woods of northern Minnesota, with curly dark-blond hair, a skim of whiskers on his face, 
and a black T-shirt that read, Hug a logger—you’ll never go back to trees. Sure, he filled out his 
shirt and looked the part in a pair of ripped jeans and boots, but he wore just a little too much 
“Come and get me, girls,” in his smile.
The auctioneer on stage knew how to work his audience. He regularly called out names from 
the crowd to entice them to bid. And apparently the town of Deep Haven loved their firefighters, 
EMTs, and cops because the tiny VFW was packed, the waitresses running out orders of bacon 
cheeseburgers and hot wings to the bidding crowd.
After the show was over, a local band would take the stage. The auction was part of the 
summer solstice festival—the first of many summer celebrations Deep Haven hosted. Frankly it 
felt like the village dreamed up events to lure tourists, but Ivy counted it as her welcoming party.
Oh, how she loved this town. And she’d only lived here for roughly a day. Imagine how she’d 
love it by the end of the summer, after she’d spent three months learning the names of locals, 
investing herself into this lakeside hamlet.
Her days of hitching her measly worldly possessions—four hand-me-down suitcases; a loose 
cardboard box of pictures; a garbage bag containing The Elements of Legal Style, How to Argue 
and Win Every Time, and To Kill a Mockingbird; and most of all, her green vintage beach bike—
onto the back of her red Nissan Pathfinder were over.
Time to put down roots. Make friends.
Okay, buying a friend didn’t exactly qualify, but the fact that her money would go to help the 
local emergency services seemed like a good cause. And if Ivy had learned anything growing up 
in foster care, it was that a person had to work the system to get what she wanted.
She should be unpacking; she started work in the morning. But how long would it take, really, 
to settle into the tiny, furnished efficiency apartment over the garage behind the Footstep of 
Heaven Bookstore? And with her new job as assistant county attorney, she expected to have 
plenty of free time. So when the twilight hues of evening had lured her into the romance of a 
walk along the shoreline of the Deep Haven harbor, she couldn’t stop herself.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a lazy walk, stopping at storefronts, reading 
the real estate ads pasted to the window of a local office.
Cute, two-bedroom log cabin on Poplar Lake. She could imagine the evergreen smell 
nudging her awake every morning, the twitter of cardinals and sparrows as she took her cup of 
coffee on the front porch.
Except she loved the bustle of the Deep Haven hamlet. Nestled on the north shore of 
Minnesota, two hours from the nearest hint of civilization, the fishing village–turned–tourist 
hideaway had enough charm to sweet-talk Ivy out of her Minneapolis duplex and make her 
dream big.
Dream of home, really. A place. Friends. Maybe even a dog. And here, in a town where 
everyone belonged, she would too.
She had wandered past the fudge and gift shop, past the walk-up window of World’s Best Donuts, where the smell of cake donuts nearly made her follow her sweet tooth inside. At the 
corner, the music drew her near to the VFW. Ford F-150s, Jeeps, and a handful of SUVs jammed 
the postage-size dirt parking lot.
She’d stopped at the entrance, reading the poster for today’s activities, then peered in through 
the windows. Beyond a wood-paneled bar and a host of long rectangular tables, a man stood on 
the stage, holding up a fishing pole.
And that’s when Deep Haven reached out and hooked her.
“Are you going in?”
She’d turned toward the voice and seen a tall, solidly built middle-aged man with dark hair, 
wearing a jean jacket. A blonde woman knit her hand into his.
“I . . .”
“C’mon in,” the woman said. “We promise not to bite. Well, except for Eli here. I make no 
promises with him.” She had smiled, winked, and Ivy could feel her heart gulp it whole. Oh, why 
had she never learned to tamp down her expectations? Life had taught her better.
Eli shook his head, gave the woman a fake growl. Turned to Ivy. “Listen, it’s for a good 
cause. Our fire department could use a new engine, and the EMS squad needs more training for 
their staff, what few there are. You don’t have to buy anything, but you might help drive up the 
bids.” He winked. “Don’t tell anyone I told you that, though.”
She laughed. “I’m Ivy Madison,” she said, too much enthusiasm in her voice. “Assistant 
county attorney.”
“Of course you are. I should have guessed. Eli and Noelle Hueston.” Noelle stuck out her 
hand. “Eli’s the former sheriff. Hence the fact that we’ve come with our checkbook. C’mon, I’ll 
tell you who to bid on.”
Who to bid on?
Ivy had followed them inside, taking a look around the crowded room. Pictures of soldiers 
hung in metal frames, along with listings of member names illuminated by neon bar signs. The 
smells of deep-fried buffalo wings, beer, and war camaraderie were embedded in the darkpaneled walls.
A line formed around the pool table near the back of the room—what looked like former 
glory-day athletes lined up with their beers or colas parked on the round tables. Two men threw 
darts into an electronic board.
Then her gaze hiccuped on a man sitting alone near the jukebox, sending a jolt of familiarity 
through her.
Jensen Atwood.
For a moment, she considered talking to him—not that he’d know her, but maybe she’d 
introduce herself, tell him, I’m the one who put together your amazing plea agreement. Yes, that 
had been a hot little bit of legalese. The kind that had eventually landed her right here, in her 
dream job, dream town.
But Noelle glanced back and nodded for Ivy to follow, so she trailed behind them to an open 
table.
“Every year, on the last night of the solstice festival, we have a charity auction. It’s gotten to 
be quite an event,” Noelle said, gesturing to a waitress. She came over and Eli ordered a basket 
of wings, a couple chocolate malts. Ivy asked for a Coke.
“What do they auction?”
“Oh, fishing gear. Boats. Snowblowers. Sometimes vacation time-shares in CancĂșn. 
Whatever people want to put up for charity. But this year, they have something special on the agenda.” Noelle leaned close, her eyes twinkling. Ivy already liked her. And the way Eli had her 
hand wrapped in his. What might it be like to be in love like that? That kind of love . . . well, Ivy 
had only so many wishes, and she’d flung them all at living here, in Deep Haven.
“What?” Ivy asked.
“They’re auctioning off the local bachelors.”
And as if on cue, that’s when the lumberjack bachelor had taken the stage.
Ivy sipped her Coke, watching the frenzy.
“So are you going to bid?” Noelle asked.
Ivy raised a shoulder.
The lumberjack went for two hundred dollars, too rich for Ivy’s blood, to a woman wearing a 
moose antler headband. He flexed for her as he walked off stage, and the crowd erupted.
A clean-cut, handsome young man took the stage next, to the whoops of the younger crowd 
down front. “That’s my son,” Noelle said, clearly enjoying the spectacle. He seemed about 
nineteen or twenty, tall and wearing a University of Minnesota, Duluth, T-shirt. He was built like 
an athlete and had a swagger to match.
“He plays basketball for the UMD Bulldogs,” Noelle said. She placed the first bid and got a 
glare from the young man on stage.
A war started between factions in the front row. “Should I bid?” Ivy asked. Not that she 
would know what to do with a bachelor ten years younger than her. Maybe she could get him to 
mow her lawn.
“No. Save your money for Owen Christiansen.”
Probably another lumberjack from the woods, with a flannel shirt and the manners of a 
grizzly. Ivy affected a sort of smile.
“Maybe you’ve heard of him? He plays hockey for the Minnesota Wild.”
“No, sorry.”
“He’s something of a local celebrity. Played for our hometown team and then got picked up 
by the Wild right after high school.”
“I’m not much of a hockey fan.”
“Honey, you can’t live in Deep Haven and not be a hockey fan.” Noelle grinned, turning 
away as the wings arrived.
Ivy ignored the way the words found tender space and stabbed her in the chest. But see, she 
wanted to live in Deep Haven . . .
Noelle offered her a wing, but Ivy turned it down. “Owen’s parents, John and Ingrid Christiansen, 
run a resort about five miles out of town. It’s one of the legacy resorts—his greatgrandfather settled 
here in the early nineteen hundreds and set up a logging camp. It eventually turned into one of the 
hot recreation spots on the north shore, although in today’s economy, they’re probably struggling 
along with the rest of the Deep Haven resorts. I’m sure Owen’s appearance on the program is a bid 
for some free publicity. Owen is the youngest son of the clan, one of six children. I’m sure you’ll meet 
them—all but two still live in Deep Haven.”
A redhead won the bachelor on stage and ran up to claim her purchase. Ivy escaped to the 
ladies’ room.
What if she did bid on Owen? Truly, the last thing she needed in her life was a real bachelor. 
Someone she might fall for, someone who could so easily break her heart.
Maybe she could ask said bachelor to show her around Deep Haven. Teach her about hockey. 
Certainly it might give her a little social clout to be seen with the town celebrity.
She could faintly hear the announcer stirring up the fervor for the next contestant, then a trickle of applause for the main attraction as he took the stage. She walked out, standing by the 
bar to survey this hometown hero.
They grew them big up here in the north woods. Indeed, he looked like a hockey champion, 
with those wide shoulders, muscular arms stretching the sleeves of his deep-green shirt that read 
Evergreen Resort—memories that live forever. He stood at ease like one might do in the military, 
wearing jeans that hugged his legs all the way down to the work boots on his feet. The man 
looked like an impenetrable fortress, not a hint of marketing in his face. So much for winning the 
audience.
In fact, to use the only hockey term she knew, he looked like he’d just been checked hard into 
the boards and come up with some sort of permanent scowl, none too happy to be standing in the 
middle of the stage of the local VFW as the main attraction.
“C’mon, everyone, who will start the bidding for our Deep Haven bachelor tonight?”
Ivy looked around the room. It had hushed to a pin-drop silence, something not quite right 
simmering in the air. She glanced over to where Jensen Atwood had been sitting and found his 
seat vacant.
On stage, the man swallowed. Shifted. Pursed his lips. Oh, poor Owen. Her heart knocked her 
hard in the chest. She knew exactly what it felt like not to be wanted.
“One hundred dollars? Who has it tonight for our local hero?”
She scanned the room, saw patrons looking away as if embarrassed. Even Eli and Noelle had 
taken a sudden interest in their dinner.
Owen sighed and shook his head.
And right then, the pain of the moment squeezed the words from Ivy’s chest. “Five hundred 
dollars!”
Every eye turned toward her, and for a moment, she had the crazy but horribly predictable 
urge to flee. But the words were out, so she took a step forward, toward the stage. “I bid five 
hundred dollars,” she said again, fighting the wobble in her voice.
Ivy shot a look at Noelle, expecting approval. But Noelle wore an expression of what she 
could only pinpoint as panic. Wasn’t she the one who’d suggested Ivy buy the man?
And then from the stage, she heard, “Well, that’s good enough for me! Sold, to the pretty lady 
in the white jacket. Miss, come up to the stage and claim your prize.”
Still, no one said a word—not a cheer, not a gasp, nothing. Ivy swallowed and met the eyes of 
the man on stage. “I’ll meet him by the bar,” she said, her voice small.
Owen looked as relieved as she was that they didn’t have to create some public spectacle. He 
moved off the stage and the auctioneer mercifully introduced the band. The men in back resumed 
their pool playing.
Ivy couldn’t help it. She edged over to Noelle. “What’s the matter? I know he looks a little 
rough around the edges, but—”
“That’s not Owen,” Noelle said, wiping her fingers with a napkin. She shot a glance past Ivy, 
possibly at the stranger she’d just purchased.
“What?”
“Owen couldn’t make it. That’s Darek Christiansen. His big brother.”
Ivy turned now, found her man weaving his way through the crowd. He didn’t stop to gladhand anyone or even slap friends on the back.
In fact, it seemed she’d purchased the pariah of Deep Haven.
Noelle confirmed it. “Brace yourself, honey. You’ve just purchased the most ineligible 
eligible bachelor in town.”***
Everything inside Darek told him to keep going, right on out of the VFW until he hit his Jeep, 
and then punch the gas toward the hills.
And hide.
He would murder Owen next time he saw him, which wouldn’t be anytime soon, given the 
kid’s celebrity demands. Sorry, Bro. I can’t make it up today—I have a photo shoot. Owen 
couldn’t have thought ahead to that, maybe rearranged his oh-so-packed schedule? But Owen 
didn’t think beyond practice, improving his shot, and updating his Facebook status. Last time 
Darek checked, his twenty-year-old kid brother had 32,876 fans.
Darek had maybe thirty-eight friends on his own page. Not that he was counting, but it 
seemed like some sort of commentary on his life.
The minute Darek had hung up with Owen, he should have made himself scarce—loaded 
Tiger into the Jeep, attached the boat, and headed for some pristine lake. Except losing his head 
and forgetting his responsibilities was how he got here in the first place.
Instead he’d experienced a streak of clearly misplaced hope that the stigma, the gossip, might 
have finally died and he might once again be an eligible bachelor. Someone who just wanted to 
start over, for himself and his son.
The near silence in the room when they’d called his name, when he’d stepped up to take 
Owen’s place, confirmed that no, nothing had been forgotten.
Darek stalked past the bar, where, of course, his high school buddies gave him tight smiles.
He hadn’t seen any of the former Deep Haven Huskies getting up to sell their . . . well, it 
wasn’t exactly his body, and she certainly didn’t expect a real date, right? So he wasn’t sure what 
he was selling up there.
Darek glanced at his father, John, sitting at the end, nursing a Sprite. A linebacker-size man—
bigger than any of his boys; he’d played fullback for the Minnesota Gophers back in the day. 
That he’d ended up with hockey players could only be blamed on the skating rink he’d cleared 
on the lake every January.
“Great job, Son,” his father said, catching his arm.
“This was a bad idea,” Darek groused, slowing his exit.
“Five hundred dollars doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. You were the most expensive 
bachelor here. That will make the news.”
“Yippee,” Darek said. But his father was right—he’d created a bit of buzz, and hopefully it 
would someday turn into goodwill for their lakeside vacation spot, Evergreen Lodge Outfitter 
and Cabin Rentals, which most people shortened to Evergreen Resort.
“Do you know the woman who bid on you?”
Darek scanned the room to locate her. He couldn’t see her well from the stage with the lights 
in his face, but he thought he’d glimpsed a redhead wearing a white jean jacket, her hair in a 
messy ponytail. She wasn’t tall, maybe five foot four, and a little on the curvy side.
Now he found her, sitting next to Noelle Hueston and staring at him like she’d purchased . . . 
well, the devil.
Darek turned away, his lips a grim line. “No, I don’t know her.”
His father wisely said nothing, took a sip of his Sprite. Then, “She looks pretty.”
“Next time you want to sell your flesh and blood, pick a different son.”
He caught his father’s smirk as he turned to leave, and it only darkened his mood.
No one from Deep Haven, not a soul, had bid on him. What was so different about him from, 
say, the two previous bachelors? Okay, maybe that wasn’t a fair question. Neither of them walked 
around with the stigma of being the youngest widower in town, pity and probably the tsk of tongues 
following in their wake.
He glanced over to the chair where Jensen Atwood had sat, smug, rich, wearing a fancy 
leather jacket, his hair cut short and slicked back, contempt in his eyes. Yes, he’d seen the man 
sitting near the back, next to the jukebox, like no one would notice. He had a lot of nerve 
showing up here, and Darek had just about launched off the stage toward him. That might be a 
show the locals would bid on—a go-round between Jensen and Darek. Finally.
Instead he’d dark-eyed the guy into fleeing. It fed the heat inside him, gave Darek the strength 
to stand there like an idiot while the town shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
Until, of course, Moneybags piped up.
Five hundred dollars.
Wow, did she waste her money on him.
And what kind of woman paid five hundred dollars for a man she didn’t know? Hopefully she 
didn’t want a real date. He wasn’t a real-date kind of guy.
In fact, he was a never-date kind of guy.
Darek shook his head and headed out the door.
He paused on the sidewalk for a moment, drawing in the clean air, shaking off the reek of old 
cigarettes, whiskey, and town gossip that coated him like grime. The moon had risen, hovering 
above the town, milky light washing over the trading post, the Blue Moose CafĂ©, pooling in the 
harbor, icing the waves of the lake.
He could feel his heartbeat thundering in his chest and hated how easily his guilt took hold of 
him, turned him surly. At the least, he should swallow his pride—what was left of it—and meet 
the woman who had forked out good money for him. For charity.
Instead he moved away from the door and dug out his cell phone, about to call home.
“Hey, where are you going?”
He turned, pressing End. His “owner” had followed him out of the VFW. A fireball with 
green eyes and freckles, wearing the jean jacket he remembered over a T-shirt and a green scarf. 
She stood about to his shoulder but had no problem slamming her hands to her hips and toeing 
up to him.
“I thought we had a date.”
“Is that what you want? A date?” He didn’t mean for it to emerge so sharp, even angry, and 
didn’t blame her for the way she opened her mouth as if she’d been slapped.
“No, I, uh—”
“Then why did you buy me? And why on earth would you pay five hundred dollars? Sheesh, 
lady, you must be desperate or something.”
Wow. He must have lost control of everything decent inside him. But he didn’t like the 
feeling of being humiliated.
Or owned.
In fact, the entire thing made him feel trapped and small, and he’d had enough of that, thank 
you.
Her mouth closed. Pinched. “I’m not desperate. If you want to know the truth, I felt sorry for 
you.”
He probably deserved that, despite the way it sideswiped him. He didn’t let on, however, 
preferring to stare at her, something icy he’d learned from his years on the rink. “Okay, then, 
let’s just get this over with. What do you want?”“I—”
“You should know that I’m not like the other guys in there. If you’re looking for some kind of 
fling, I’m not your man. I can probably hook you up with one of my buddies—”
“Wow. Stay away from me.” She whirled around, heading down the sidewalk, and he knew 
he was a first-class jerk.
“Wait!”
She held up a hand. “Forget it! You’re right; this was a bad idea.”
He ran after her—boy, she had a fast walk for such a short woman. “Listen, I’m sorry. Really. 
It’s just that you don’t want a date with me. If you ask, I’ll bet you can get your money back.”
“I don’t want it back.”
She didn’t stop and he was walking fast to keep up.
“Then what do you want? Why did you buy me?”
She stopped, breathing hard. Pressed her fingers to her eyes. Oh no, she wasn’t crying, was 
she?
He swallowed, his throat on fire, hearing his words and wishing he wasn’t the kind of guy 
who ran full speed into hurting others.
You are so selfish. Felicity, in his head. Always in his head.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, shoving his hands into his pockets. The wind took his words, flung 
them toward the lake. “It’s just that I’m the last person you want to be seen in town with.”
She sighed, turning her face away from him. “Well, I don’t have anyone else.” Her voice 
emerged small and wheedled in past the anger, the annoyance.
It settled inside, in a place he reserved for Tiger, and he tempered his tone. “Are you here for 
the weekend?
“No. I live here.” She said it with a layer of determination, as if convincing herself.
Really? “I know nearly everyone in this town—”
“I moved here yesterday. I’m the new assistant county attorney.”
Uh-oh. He’d heard that the current assistant CA had resigned to stay home with her newborn 
child. He’d miss the way she tolerated his monthly phone calls. But someone had to keep tabs on 
Jensen, right? He looked at this angry sprite and grimaced, imagining her reaction next time 
Jensen threatened a restraining order.
Darek might be the one doing years of community service.
“Sorry,” he said again.
Her shoulder jerked in a halfhearted shrug.
“Maybe . . . maybe I could help you carry furniture or chop wood or mow your grass or 
something.”
She had folded her hands across her chest. “Wow, I must be a real catch for you to offer to 
mow my lawn instead of being seen in public with me.”
“No, I—”
“Like I said, you’re off the hook.”
“I don’t want to be off the hook. You bought me fair and square.”
She pursed her lips.
“I have an idea. C’mon.”
She frowned at him, and frankly he was done begging, not sure how he’d gotten to this point 
in the first place. So he turned and headed for the Jeep, parked just down the street.
He didn’t look behind him but heard her steps. When he reached the car, he held her door 
open like a gentleman, although he knew he might be a little late to resurrect any sort of real gallantry.
She looked up at him before getting in, her eyes big and shiny in the moonlight. They caught 
his and for the first time, he noticed how pretty they were, with golden flecks at the edges. 
“I’m safe, even if I’m a jerk.”
“I have friends who will hunt you down and kill you if I go missing.”
“I have no doubt.” He took a long breath and stuck out his hand. “Darek Christiansen, Deep 
Haven tour guide, at your service, milady.”
She regarded his hand for a moment, and he sensed something shifting inside her. “Ivy 
Madison.” Then she slid one of her petite hands into his and smiled.
The full force of it reached out and poured into him, hot and bold and shaking him through. 
He dropped her grip, swallowed. Stepped back.
She climbed into the Jeep and reached for the seat belt, her eyes on his as he closed the door.
Oh, boy.
Maybe he should have run when he had the chance.
***
Jensen sat outside the VFW in the Pine Acres work truck—the one he took to town when he 
wanted to hide—and watched Darek get the girl. Again.
And why not? Darek Christiansen always won.
Tonight, he’d stared Jensen down until he’d had no choice but to slink out. The last thing 
Jensen wanted was a fight. Especially with only six weeks left on his sentence. He didn’t need a 
judge deciding he wasn’t repentant enough and upgrading his community service to a stint 
behind bars.
Jensen should simply concede that Darek would always win. His streak began in fourth grade, 
when they’d both started playing hockey, and continued long after Jensen moved away, returning 
every summer as they vied for Felicity’s attention.