Brian “Boomer” Ward believes in sheltering strays. After all, the men and women of McKay-Taggart made him family when he had none. So when the kid next door needs help one night, he thinks nothing of protecting her until her mom gets home. But when he meets Daphne Carlton, the thoughts hit him hard. She’s stunning and hardworking and obviously in need of someone to put her first. It doesn’t hurt that she’s as sweet as the cupcakes she bakes.

Daphne Carlton’s life revolves around two things—her kid and her business. Daphne’s Delights is her dream—to take the recipes of her childhood and share them with the world. Her daughter, Lou, is the best kid she could have hoped for. Lula’s got a genius-level intelligence and a heart of gold. But she also has two grandparents who control her access to private school and the fortune her father left behind. They’re impossible to please, and Daphne worries that one wrong move on her part could cost her daughter the life she deserves.

As Daphne and Boomer find themselves getting closer, outside forces put pressure on the new couple. But if they make it through the storm, love will just be the icing on the cake because family is the real prize.

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Excerpt: Delighted
By Lexi Blake

Excerpt: Delighted

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake comes a new story in her Masters and Mercenaries series. DELIGHTED is out this week and I’m thrilled to share a sneak peek below!

There was another knock, and she realized her cheeks were wet. She was crying. Yep, that tracked. It was her default state these days.

She wiped away the tears and moved toward the door.

That was when she realized the mail was wrong. She’d placed the mail on the entryway table yesterday, and she knew the letter from the accountant who’d set up her business accounts had been on top. She’d put it there specifically because she wanted to remember to deal with it as soon as she could.

Damn it. Was Lou reading her mail now? She sighed. It was yet another thing she would have to deal with. Lou was going through something, and she needed to decide how to handle her.

She wished she could have a wistful thought about Dennis—that her heart could long for her husband to be here to help her with Lou. But he’d never been that man. Even if he was alive today, he’d shrug and tell her kids were her department and then get back to his very important research.

Daphne shook off the maudlin thought that she was alone and always had been. No one was going to magically ride in and make her life easier.

The key was getting through the tough moments and getting to…

She wasn’t sure she believed there was something great on the other side.

Still, she opened the door because it was what she was supposed to do, and Boomer was there, a reusable grocery bag in his hand. He’d turned and was starting to walk away, giving her a view of his back. And it was amazing. She was not some hormonal, sex-crazed woman who looked at men’s butts, but there was zero denying that his was spectacular.

Boomer turned, and then a magnificent smile crossed his face. “Oh, hey. I thought you weren’t going to answer. I know you said you didn’t want any, but I kind of thought you could use a break. That was probably some kind of mom lecture you gave, and that can take it out of you. I know because Big Tag is always tired after he yells at us for doing stupid shi…things. So I put together dinner for you and Lou. It’s not poison or anything. I’m actually a pretty good cook.”

She was not going to cry. She was not going to cry. She was not going to cry.

Instead she sniffled. “This is so nice of you, but I have to ask. Why would you mention poison?”

That smile deepened, giving the creases that proved he smiled a lot. “Well, in my line of business, it comes up more often than you think. We might have gotten off on a strange foot. I know it’s supposed to be the wrong foot, but it wasn’t wrong to let Lou in. I hope you see that.”

She took the bag he’d offered. “I appreciate everything you did for her this afternoon.”

He held out a big hand. “Let’s start over. I’m Brian Ward, but I’ve been called Boomer since I was in the Army. I live next door.”

She shook it. His hand was warm and big and callused. It enveloped hers and sent a surge of awareness through her. “Daphne Carlton. It’s nice to meet you.”

He held her hand in his for a moment. “It’s nice to meet you, too, Daphne. I hope you enjoy dinner, and please let me know if you need help with Lou. My door is always open. Good night.”

He stepped back and then he was walking away and she was staring at his backside. His muscular, works-out-a-lot backside. He probably had a six-pack. And those notchy things at his hips.

And a girlfriend.

Not probably on the girlfriend. He totally had one of those, and while she looked sweet and pretty, she hadn’t taken any crap. She worked security, too, so she could probably kick a little ass.

Daphne shook her head because that was a ridiculous thought. Like she would even think about hitting on someone so out of her league. She didn’t hit on anyone, much less a gorgeous god of a man with the sweetest damn smile she’d ever seen.

She stepped inside and let the door close between them.

And locked it.

She did not live in a world of sweet, gorgeous men who were thoughtful and kind. It was good to know there was at least one of them out there.

But he wasn’t for her.

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