Wed
Sep 20 2017 12:11pm

RaeAnne Thayne Excerpt: Sugar Pine Trail

RaeAnne Thayne

Librarian Julia Winston is ready to ditch the quiet existence she's been living. She's made a list of new things to experience, but falling for Jamie Caine, her sexy military pilot neighbor, isn't one of them. Julia's looking to conquer life, not become the heartbreaker's latest conquest. But when two young brothers wind up in Julia's care for the holidays, she'll take any help she can get—even Jamie's.

Happy to step in, Jamie reveals a side of himself that's much harder to resist. Not only is he fantastic with kids, he provides the strength Julia needs to tackle her list. She knows their temporary family can't last beyond the holidays, but the closer she gets to Jamie, the more she wonders if things could be this merry and bright forever…

Get a sneak peek at RaeAnne Thayne's Sugar Pine Trail (available September 26, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Jamie waited for Julia’s answer with an anxiousness that he didn’t quite understand.

The idea had been one of those spur-of-the-moment things, but it suddenly seemed vitally important that she say yes.

“What do you say?” he pressed, when her silence dragged on. “Think the boys might enjoy an airplane ride? Aidan and I can keep a close eye on the three kids on the flight there. On the way back, there will be a dozen more Caines to watch them on the plane.”

“I’m not concerned about that.”

“Then what? Do you worry about my flying skills? I’m a good pilot, Julia.”

“I’m sure you are,” she answered. “It’s just … it seems such an imposition.”

“Not at all. I offered, which I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t sincerely want to take them with us.”

“All right,” she said after a moment. “I’m sure they’ll be thrilled at the adventure. Who knows? It might even help them forget they’re so angry with me.”

“Terrific! I’ll just take them with me to the airstrip with me in the morning. I’m probably leaving early, around eight.”

“That should be fine.” She paused. “As for the rest of it, while it’s kind of you to invite us to Snow Angel Cove, I’m not completely comfortable intruding on your family’s Thanksgiving.”

“Don’t worry about that for a minute. You know Eliza. She opens the house to everyone. She would be on the phone in a heartbeat inviting you herself, if she had any clue what was going on.”

“She already did invite me, weeks ago. Before I had the boys here.”

“There. You see. It won’t be a problem, I promise, but I can have Eliza call you and issue a formal invitation, if that would make you feel better. When we get back to Lake Haven, Aidan and I can take the boys to his place along with everyone else and you can meet us there when you’re done with your thing in Shelter Springs.”

“You’ve thought of everything.”

He shrugged. “When you’re a pilot, you have to think three or four steps ahead. I just want the boys to have a good holiday.”

“They will. It sounds great. I’m envious, if you want the truth.”

“Envious?”

Her cheeks turned that soft pink he was beginning to find completely adorable. “I’ve never been on an airplane. It’s on my bucket list.”

For a moment, he thought he must have misheard her. How was that even possible?

“Never?”

“My parents were homebodies and didn’t like to leave Lake Haven. When I was young, we went on a few vacations – one to Yellowstone and another to Seattle – but they preferred sticking close to home.”

“What about later, when you became an adult? You didn’t ever want to jaunt off to Paris for a week?”

“Not Paris. The Ukraine, maybe,” she said, then her blush heightened and she looked down at her hands.

That was an odd choice for a vacation. Apparently Julia Winston had a few secrets. “What was in The Ukraine?” Or, more likely, who?

“Nothing,” she said quickly. “It was impossible, anyway. My parents both had health issues toward the end of their lives. With my dad’s Alzheimer’s, it was tough for him to travel and I didn’t like to leave my mom alone to care for him as she wasn’t very strong herself.”

Jamie had a fierce urge to bundle her up along with the two little boys and fly her somewhere exciting. Tahiti would be lovely this time of year.

He wouldn’t believe her parents allowed her to sacrifice so many years of her life for them.

“You could always bow out of the nursing home thing and come with us.”

Her eyes widened. “I don’t ... I can’t. I gave my word. They’re expecting me.”

Did she always do what was expected of her? He had a purely naughty urge to entice this quiet, reserved librarian into doing all manner of wild and dangerous things.

He did his best to rein in the impulse. Julia Winston appeared to be a nice woman – caring, compassionate, willing to offer a home for two boys going through a rough time, simply because she saw a need.

She seemed sweet, vulnerable, maybe a little needy herself – exactly the kind of woman he tried his best to avoid. He didn’t quite understand why he was having such a hard tie resisting this particular temptation.

 “Next time, then. Meanwhile, I’ll take the boys with me and get them out of your hair, then you can come join us for turkey. It’s the perfect solution.”

“Are you always so sure of yourself?” Though there was a hint of tartness to her voice, like taking a bite out of a pie cherry when you were expecting a Bing, he also sensed it was sincere.

He shrugged. “Sometimes the best course of action is to come up with a plan, then try your damnedest to make it work. It’s a military thing.”

“Full throttle ahead?”

He smiled at her aviation reference. “Exactly. I’d like to be wheels-up by eight tomorrow morning. Do you think Clint and Davy could be ready by seven-thirty?”

“I’ll make sure they are.”

“There’s always room for one more,” he cajoled.

“Don’t plan on it,” she said.

“Fine.” He rose to leave, surprised at his reluctance to go back upstairs. Julia was turning out to be far more intriguing than he ever would have guessed when he moved in – which was probably the very reason he should leave, before he made a mistake he couldn’t take back.

“Thank you again for dinner,” he said.

She rose as well. “We both know I’m the one in your debt. You calmed the waters and you helped put their bunkbed together. I know dealing with two rambunctious little boys wasn’t on your agenda for the evening, but I truly would have been sunk without you.”

“My pleasure. Really.” He was quite looking forward to seeing the boys with his family. Pop would take one look at the two cute, needy little boys and would tuck them under his considerable wing.

“I’ll see you in the morning when I pick up the boys and then later at Snow Angel Cove as soon as you’re done volunteering at the care center.”

“How many of you did you say would be there?”

He laughed.  “There’s only one of me, darlin’. But I think Eliza’s planning for upwards of twenty.”

“Good gracious,” she exclaimed. He didn’t think he ever heard a woman of his generation say that particular phrase before. He found it rather adorable.

“Every time my family gets together, I think the exact same thing,” he lied. In truth, his imprecations were usually a little stronger than good gracious. “We always have a good time and the food is invariably delicious. And then when you leave, you can have one more thing to be thankful for tomorrow – that you’re not stuck with us.”

Her mouth lifted into a soft smile and Jamie had a sudden wild urge to press his lips to that lush bottom lip, to see if it tasted as delicious in reality as it did in his imagination.

What was wrong with him?

“Good night,” he said quickly. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

He hurried away before he could do something both of them would regret.

***
Copyright © 2017 by RaeAnne Thayne.
***
Learn more about or order a copy of Sugar Pine Trail by RaeAnne Thayne, available September 26, 2017:

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New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews.

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