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(Copyright 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher)

Perry Square: Where Love is Found...and Lasts Forever.

DAD TODAY, GROOM TOMORROW

DAD TODAY, GROOM TOMORROW
by Holly Jacobs

ISBN #0-373-19683-0
Silhouette Romance, 8/03

More Than Magic Finalist
Golden Quill Finalist

Eight years ago Louisa Clancy left Lyonsville, Georgia with a big check and an even bigger secret. She thought she'd put the past behind her, but one day it waltzes into her Perry Square store. When she sees Joe Delacamp her first thought is one of happiness, but right on its heels comes a feeling of terror. He could turn her entire life upside down. Not just her life...but their son's life as well.

Dr. Joe Delacamp just landed his dream job as an Emergency room doctor in Erie, Pa.. When he was young, he and Louisa had sworn they'd move somewhere where no one knew them and their dart landed in Erie. They laughingly swore to move there someday. Even though she'd left him, he was drawn to this city on the lake, but he never expected to find Louisa Clancy here. And now he wants answers, wants to know why she left him all those years ago.

All his questions disappear when a gangly seven-year-old boy walks into the store. He stares back into his own green eyes and he knows. Oh, he doesn't know the why's, but he knows that Louisa kept his son's existence a secret from him. She's had the first seven years of their son's life all to herself, and Joe won't allow her to keep the boy away from him one moment longer....

Two people must learn to put aside the past and look toward the future for their son...and maybe there's a future for themselves as well? A future that includes...a love that never died

Visit the real Perry Square

Book, Reviews, Excerpt

 

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REVIEWS:

"Masterful..." ~Cat Cody for Romance Junkies

"Holly Jacobs pens another captivating romance sure to delight readers." ~Angela Keck, RT BOOKClub

"Rich characterizations, intriguing glimpses into the past, and a child with the magic and mystery of childhood combine in a marvelous tale not to be missed. DAD TODAY, GROOM TOMORROW comes highly recommended. " ~ Wordweaving

Holly Jacobs..."has a talent for taking a common plot, twisting and turning it around with her words, until it turns out to be a unique storyline, full of everything that is characteristic of her books. Louisa and Joe are complex characters, full of flaws, but still charming and loveable. Both are dedicated to making the best life for Aaron, no matter what sacrifices they themselves have to make along the way. Both have so much love to share that it flows out of them in waves, making the reader feel for their plight and praying for them to get the happiness they long for."
~© Kelley A. Hartsell, Loves Romance

"...a sweetly romantic tale about second changes. Holly Jacobs will move readers to laughter and tears in this powerful story, and her characters come to life from the first page." ~Julie Shinger, Escape to Romance

"This is a short book, but it doesn’t read like one. It’s packed full of story and emotions, and even though you won’t find the usual humor of Holly Jacob’s tales, you will find a well-written romance sure to satisfy your reading pleasure."

~Carol Carter, Reviewer for Romance Reviews Today

"...will leave tears at your heart as you travel the road to love with Joe and Lou." ~ Helen Slifer, Writers Unlimited

"Heartwarming and sweet. How could any book that combines chocolate, a poignant reunion-romance, and award-winning author Holly Jacobs be anything less than wonderful? It can’t. For a touching summer read that you can devour while the kids play in the sprinkler, pick up Dad Today, Groom Tomorrow.” ~Susan Gable, THE MOMMY PLAN, (Superromance) 8/03

Book, Reviews, Excerpt

EXCERPT:

Dad Today, Groom Tomorrow
Perry Square: Where love is found...and lasts forever.
By Holly Jacobs
ISBN #0-373-19683-0
Silhouette Romance, 8/03

copyright 2003

"Aaron Joseph, don’t you dare eat that," Louisa Clancy called, but her grin took any menace from the words. "What have I told you about sneaking chocolates? You’re eating my inventory."

"Ah, Mom," the boy said with all the exasperation of a seven-year-old caught in the act of pilfering treats.

"I mean it," Louisa continued, resisting the urge to shake a finger in her son’s face. "I’m closing the store in fifteen minutes, and then we’re going home and eating dinner. You and I both know that if you’ve been munching chocolate, you’re not going to eat a bite."

"But it was just a taste," Aaron said, defending his act of petty larceny. "I mean, this is your new chocolate. What if it’s horrible? Then all your customers would go somewhere else. We’d be broke and then you couldn’t buy me a new video game."

"Oh, so you’re just snitching chocolate to be helpful?" she asked.

Aaron nodded his head so hard, Louisa wondered how it stayed mounted on his shoulders.

She mussed his hair.

When had he gotten so big? Every time she turned around he seemed to have grown another inch. "Well, thanks for thinking of my business. Your thoughtfulness is noted, even though I suspect you’re more worried about buying video games than living on the street."

Sighing at the injustice of being seven--or maybe sighing because of his failed robbery attempt--Aaron thumped his way out of the showroom and into the back room.

Louisa looked around her store, making sure everything was ready to close for the day.

Her store. The words sounded as sweet at the chocolate she sold. She’d owned it for less than a year, but already The Chocolate Bar and its Perry Square location felt like home.

The bell over the front door chimed merrily as Louisa slid an envelope back behind a stack of birthday cards.

She glanced at her watch. Five more minutes until she shut the doors. This was her last customer of the day.

She turned, plastered her business smile in place and said, "Hi, welcome to The Chocolate Bar."

She looked up. Her smile slowly faded as she stared into piercing green eyes she hadn’t seen in almost eight years.

"Joe," she whispered as she stared at the one man she never wanted to see again. Despite that fact, her heart sped up of its own accord.

"Hello, Lou. Fancy meeting you here."

 

Joseph Delacamp could have kicked himself.

Fancy meeting you here? What kind of lame greeting was that?

He stared at Louisa Clancy. She hadn’t changed in the past eight years. At least not much.

She still wore her auburn hair long. It was in a messy ponytail today, making her look more like eighteen than the twenty-seven he knew she was. Blue eyes darted everywhere but at him.

This was more awkward than he’d ever imagined it would be.

Not that he’d imagined walking into a candy store and running into Louisa. For years he’d imagined running into her at home in Lyonsville, Georgia, but he never had. Finally he’d simply decided she wasn’t coming back. But that hadn’t stopped him from thinking about her.

And now here she was.

"So, how are you?" What he wanted to ask was, how could you? But he didn’t.

"Fine. Fine. And yourself?"

"Fine."

So polite. After all they’d shared, they were reduced to pleasant little, meaningless social nothings.

Silence hung in the room, thick and painful.

Louisa finally broke it by asking, "So what brings you to Erie?"

"I took a job in the ER at the hospital. It was a great offer. Plus, you can walk outside and see the bay."

He wanted to ask if she remembered all the times they’d talked about Lake Erie, about living on its shores, about buying a sailboat and going out every evening to watch the sunset.

He wanted to ask, but he didn’t. Too much time had passed, and childhood dreams were long since put away.

"So, you did it then. You’re a doctor," she said. "I’m not surprised. I always knew you could, I just wasn’t sure if your parents would let you. And you’re working in an emergency room. I know your dad wanted something more in keeping with the family image. A surgeon or some other impressive specialty."

"I didn’t let my father live my life back in school, and that’s one thing that hasn’t changed." He let the underlying accusation that it was about the only thing that hadn’t changed.

Louisa might look like the girl he’d known so long ago, but she wasn’t who he’d thought she was back then, and he was sure she was even less like his imagined first love now.

"And you?" he asked. "Did you study marketing or advertising like you planned?"

"No. Things--" she stopped short.

Joe wondered what she’d been about to say.

"Well," she continued, "my plans changed. I came to work in Erie. I opened The Chocolate Bar last year. It’s all mine. At least with the bank’s help it is."

"When I came here, I never expected to find you here. After--" he forced himself to cut off any recriminations. "Well, it just never occurred to me you’d have come here. Actually, this was the last place I thought I’d find you."

"You were wrong," she said with a small shrug of her shoulders.

"What made you look for a job in Erie?"

Erie, Pennsylvania.

When they were in high school back in Lyonsville, they’d sworn they wanted to leave town. They wanted to move someplace where no one knew who the Clancys or the Delacamps were. They wanted to go someplace where they could be anonymous, where no one knew their family histories three or more generations back.

They wanted a chance to be just Joe and Louisa.

Joe remember that day when, as a joke, they’d thrown a dart at a map. It had landed on Lake Erie, just beyond the Erie shoreline.

We’ll move to Erie when I graduate, Louisa had said, laughing. All these years later, he could still hear the sound of her laughter.

Despite the hardships in her life--her father had been the town drunk before he died and had left Louisa and her mother impoverished--she’d always been laughing. A quiet, joy-filled sound that had made his heart constrict even as it had made her blue eyes light up.

There was no laughter in those eyes today. Just wariness as she answered, "It’s just that I always thought I’d live here. I’d spent such a long time dreaming about a Great Lake, about a place where I could just be me, not Clancy’s kid--you know how they used to say it with that mixture of scorn and pity in their voices. I just wanted to leave that behind."

When she’d left that behind, she’d left him behind, as well. Joe didn’t understand it then, and he didn’t now, but he was too proud to ask her why.

Why she’d left him when he would have followed her anywhere.

"I drove here on a whim. I drove to the foot of the dock. It wasn’t as touristy then as it is now. But I stood there, and could look at the peninsula across the bay, and I knew this was home, just like I’d always dreamed it would be."

"That’s how I felt, too," he said. "I’d been working at the hospital in Lyonsville, but wanted to do something different. A friend told me he knew someone who was on staff at a hospital that needed an ER doctor. When I checked it out and found it was in Erie, well, I knew it was the job for me and here I am."

"Welcome to Erie." She glanced at a door toward the back of the shop, then at her watch. "But as much as I’ve enjoyed catching up, it’s time for me to close."

"I came in to buy something for the nurses and aids in the ER. Everyone’s been so great helping me settle in, and I wanted to thank them."

"Fine, but we need to make it quick. What did you have in mind?"

She was looking at the back of the room again.

Joe looked, as well, but all he could see was a door framed by shelves, loaded with little trinkety sort of items.

"Do you have any suggestions?" he asked.

"Would you like an assortment of chocolates? That way you’re bound to have something everyone will like in the mix."

"Fine. Give me...what do you think? Five pounds?"

"Well, that would ensure that everyone got their share and then some."

"Great. Five pounds, then."

He watched as Louisa ducked behind the big glass case. She plucked handfuls of chocolate from this pile, then from that, filling up a huge box.

Five pounds of chocolate was an awful lot of chocolate. Not only could he treat the staff, but all the patients as well.

"So this is all yours?" he asked, needing to fill up the silence.

"Like I said, it’s mine and the bank’s. I bought out my old boss’s equipment when he decided to get out of the candy business."

She smiled when she mentioned her old boss. Joe felt a spurt of something hot. What was it?

No way could it be jealousy. He and Louisa hadn’t seen each other in almost a decade. They had no claims on the other. He had no cause to be jealous.

"The lease was up on his store," she continued, "so I moved everything here. Perry Square is perfect. There are so many businesses down here, and there’s been such a surge in tourism that The Chocolate Bar has done well its first year."

"I’m happy for you." He paused, looking for something else to say. "Do you ever go home?"

"No. With Mama dying six months after I left...well after that, there was nothing holding me there."

"I heard about your mother. I was sorry."

"Me too. She’d have loved--" Louisa stopped short and stared at him a moment, then gave a little shake of her head, "--to see me succeed. She always told me I could do anything I set my mind to."

"She was an amazing lady."

Louisa placed the box on the counter. "Here you go."

"How much?"

"Nothing. It’s on the house."

"I can’t take it without paying." He reached in his pocket and withdrew a bill and placed it on the counter.

Louisa looked ready to argue, but suddenly her eyes moved past him, and focused on something behind him.

"Hey, Mom, I’m done with my homework. Can I take a Mud Pie home, do you think?"

Joe turned around and found himself face-to-face with a boy...a boy who had his black hair and his green eyes.

"Aaron, you know better than to interrupt when I have a customer. Go into the back, and I’ll come get you when I’m done."

"Geez, I just want one stupid Mud Pie," the boy mumbled as he left the room.

Joe stood, unable to move or say anything, as he tried to process what he’d just seen.

No, who he’d just seen.

"Louisa?" he said as he slowly turned around and faced her.

She didn’t need to answer his unasked question. It was there in her face.

Guilt.

"Why?" he asked.

Why had she hidden the fact he had a son--he had a son!?

The boy had to be sevenish, he thought, quickly doing the math in his head.

"Why?" he repeated.

Louisa was white as a sheet. "I didn’t mean for you to ever know."

"That’s obvious," he said. He couldn’t keep the bitterness out of his voice. He didn’t want to.

Even after she’d left him without a word, Joe would have sworn that Louisa would never do anything so despicable.

"I’m sorry," she said. "I know you didn’t want kids--"

"You don’t know anything."

"I know enough. And I’m sorry this happened. I’m sorry we rocked your nice, neat little world. You can be sure that wasn’t my intention. You never wanted kids--you made that clear. I didn’t plan on Aaron, but I don’t regret him. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Just walk away and forget that you saw me, forget that you saw him. Go back to the life your parents planned and plotted for you."

When they were young and talked of a future, he’d said no children. He looked at the mess his parents and Lou’s parents had made out of raising kids and had decided he wouldn’t take the chance of following in their footsteps.

He was so young then, and all he’d wanted was the woman standing in front of him. He thought she’d known him inside and out, but if she thought he would turn away from her because she was pregnant, she’d never really known him at all.

But she was about to.

Joe needed to think. Needed to somehow find a way to breathe again. He felt as if he’d been sucker-punched and there was no oxygen left in the room.

He turned to leave. Not to walk away, but to get his feet planted firmly beneath him before he tried to decide what to do next.

He just had one more question before he left. "What’s his name?"

For a moment he didn’t think Louisa was going to answer.

She sighed and said, "Aaron. Aaron Joseph Clancy."

She hadn’t even given the boy his last name. The thought added to the pain.

He turned and walked toward the door, chocolates forgotten.

"Joe," she called. "What are you going to do?"

"I’ll let you know when I’ve figured it out."

Book, Reviews, Excerpt

From the book: Dad Today, Groom Tomorrow
By: Holly Jacobs
Imprint and Series: Silhouette Romance
Publication Date: 8/03
ISBN:  0-373-19683-0
Copyright © 2003
By: Harlequin Enterprises
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com

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