In the space of a few months Vanessa buried her husband, Matt, and gave birth to their son–breaking her heart while filling it with a whole new kind of love. But the one man she longs to share this love with now acts as if she doesn’t exist. Paul Haggerty lives by the marine motto: Semper Fi. Ever faithful to his best friend, he’s done right by Matt’s widow as best he can…considering he’s been secretly in love with her for years. Now, just as he’s about to make his move, another woman has staked her claim on him–a claim that will be tough to escape.
With courage, humility and not a little meddling from the good folks of Virgin River, Vanni and Paul might just get a second chance to have the love they both desire and deserve.
This book may contain explicit intimate scenes, so if you are not 18+ then I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
Paul has secretly lived Vanni for years, every since he first saw her, but he was a bit reluctant and shy to approach her, so his best friend Matt beat him to it, ending up marrying her while Paul sat on the sidelines playing friend. While serving overseas, Matt is killed in action, leaving Vanni a widow with a new baby. Even after the death of his friend, Paul still won’t tell Vanni how he really feels, thinking it not right due to her being the widow of his best friend. Throughout the book, Paul fights his feelings for her until the residents of Virgin River meddle in his business. Thinking Vanni might be seeing a new man – Cameron – ,which he doesn’t like and finally makes a move before he loses her a second time.
“What’s on your mind, son?” Paul scooted forward a bit. “Well, it’s no secret I’m in love with your daughter. I want to marry Vanni. Do I have your blessing? Your permission?” Walt shook his head and chuckled. “Haggerty, you sneak down the hall after I’m in bed every night—you’d damn sure better marry her. In fact, it might make sense for you to put the baby in that bedroom you’re not using—save a trip or two, let the child have some space…” Paul felt a stain creep to his cheeks and thought, I’m over thirty-five—how the hell does this man make me blush?
Paul was great with Vanni’s son and took on the father role quite well. He was even there for the birth in the previous book, experiencing it all right there with her even though he original didn’t want to in the beginning – he thought the whole process a bit too much to experience for him, but once the ball got rolling, he was game.
“It isn’t that funny.” “Are you kidding? It’s hilarious!” She laughed a little more and finally said, “Paul, he’s a trained interrogator. You walked right into it!” “I don’t see the humor…” “Well, if you don’t have a sense of humor, I don’t know if I can—” She was cut off by his mouth finding hers. In fact, he kept her from laughing for a long time, covering her with his body. They kissed and held on to each other. Finally he released her lips and asked, “You done laughing?” “I am. I think you worked it out of me.” He touched her swollen lips with tender fingers. “Do you think your father will shoot me?” “Probably not,” she said, smiling. “But if you hear a rifle cock, you might want to duck.” “Funny,” he said, kissing her again. “I think I have whisker burn,” she told him. “Yeah.” He grinned. “Looks good on you, too.”
Another thing I loved about this story beside Vanni and Paul is the update on Preacher and Paige. He just about drove her crazy during her labor as he was beyond excited and nervous, pacing the floors waiting for Mel to come help. You’d think a man who is 6’4, 250 lbs, faced down enemies in war could stand anything, but that isn’t true for Preacher, he could hardly stand to see Paige in pain during labor. But afterwards, when their baby girl is here, he is floored with emotion, holding both his daughter and wife while he weeps like a baby. I thought it was so sweet how a man of his stature, build, and demeanor can be turned into a puddle of mush by his family.
“What took you so long?” he asked. Jack looked at his watch. “We’re right on time, Preach.” Paige stood up from the table. “Jack, I’d like you to pour John a shot.” “No, baby. I want to be alert.” “John, you’re way beyond alert. And I don’t think I can take another minute. Do as I say!” Jack went behind the bar. “My man, when a woman is having a baby, you do everything she says, and you do it fast.” He brought down a bottle. “Just a little something to take the edge off.” “I don’t know,” Preacher said. “Preach, you’re six-four and weigh at least two-fifty. A shot isn’t going to do nearly enough good. Mel should probably have you on Xanax.”
She looked up over Paige’s raised knees and saw a most stunning sight. Big old Preacher was resting his lips against the baby’s head and crying his eyes out. Huge tears ran down his cheeks and dropped onto the newborn’s head. He slipped a meaty arm under his wife’s shoulders, holding her and the baby as one, and sobbed. Remarkable. Paige just smiled and touched her husband’s face with gentle, loving fingers. Mel was moved almost to tears herself by the big man’s emotion. He worshiped his wife, his little family, and he was so grateful, he was overwhelmed.
“Here, honey—sit down. Tell me about it. Did you have an easy time?” “I had a very long time. It wasn’t so much hard as it took forever. I was starting to think she’d never come. And John almost drove me out of my mind. After about twenty hours of labor, I was afraid he was going to go in after her.” “He must have been pretty wound up,” Joe said. “Is he pestering you for another one yet?” “Oh no, I think he’s going to lighten up on all those children he thought he had to have. The birth was kind of hard on John.” “Really?” Joe said, surprised. “Yeah, he doesn’t like to see me uncomfortable. And it turns out that this big man who can shoot and dress animals or carry wounded soldiers off the battlefield doesn’t do too well if there’s a drop of blood within ten feet of his wife.” “He’s a little on the protective side,” Joe confirmed.
Also I loved how open and accepting Paul’s parents were of Vanni and baby Matt. Even though he was biologically Paul’s, his mom and dad considered him to be their grandson right away.
He urged the horse a little faster and when he was within her hearing, he whistled. The piercing sound cut through the air and Vanni turned her mount toward him. She took one look at him, turned and kicked Chico’s flank, taking off. “Goddammit!” he swore. So, this was how it would be—not easy. He was going to have to take off the gloves. He risked being thrown by giving Liberty a snap with the end of his rein. The stallion reared. Paul hung on, then leaned low in the saddle while Liberty closed the space between them. By God, he was going to catch her, make her listen, get through to her. There was no one within shouting distance to distract them. For once in his life, he was going to finish! Even if he had to cover Vanessa’s mouth with his hand! It only took him a few minutes to catch up to her, thanks to Liberty, the champion of the stable. Pulling alongside Vanni he reached out over her hands and grabbed her reins, pulling Chico to a stop. The expression she turned on him was fierce. “What?” she demanded. “Listen to me!” he retorted. “Make it quick!” “Fine. Here’s quick. I love you. I’ve always loved you.I loved you before Matt saw you, but I didn’t have hisguts and I hung back. I’ve regretted that forever. Now I have—” “A baby coming,” she interrupted, lifting her chin. “Listen! I don’t know much about being a father! Just what I watched when I was growing up! And you know what I saw? I saw my parents with their arms around each other all the time! I saw them look at each other with all kinds of emotions—love and trust and commitment and—Vanni, here’s the ugly truth—if I made a baby, I’m not angry about that. It wasn’t on purpose, but I’m not angry. I’ll do my damn best, and I’m real sorry that I’m not in love with the baby’s mother. I’ll still take care of them—and not just by writing a check. I’ll be involved—take care of the child like a real father, support the mother the best I can. What that child is not going to see is his parents looking at each other like they’ve made a terrible mistake. I want him to see his dad with his arms around his wife and—” “Did you try?” she asked. “Did you give the woman who’s got your baby in her a chance?” “Is that what you want for her? She’s a decent person, Vanessa—she didn’t get pregnant on purpose. You want her stuck with a man who’s got another woman on his mind? I didn’t want this to happen to her—I’m not sticking her with half a husband! She deserves a chance to find someone who can give her the real thing.” “But she loves you. She does, doesn’t she? She wanted to get married.” “Vanessa, she’s scared and alone. It’s what comes to mind. She’ll be all right when she realizes I’m not going to let her down. And I’m not going to—” “All this because you couldn’t open your mouth and say how you felt, what you wanted,” she said hotly. “I wanted so little from you—just a word or gesture—some hint that you had feelings for me. Instead, you took your wounded little heart to another woman and—” She stopped her tirade as she saw his eyes narrow and his frown deepen. He glared at her for a long moment, then he jumped off the stallion, her mount’s reins still in his hands. He led the horses the short distance to the river’s edge, to a bank of trees. “What are you doing?” she asked, hanging on to the pommel. He secured the horses at a fallen tree, then reached up to her, grabbed her around the waist and pulled her none too gently out of the saddle. He whirled her around and pressed her up against a tree, holding her wrists over her head and pinioning her there with the whole length of his body. His face was close to hers. “You never opened your mouth, either,” he said. She was stunned speechless. She couldn’t remember a time Paul had ever behaved like this—aggressive, commanding. He leaned closer. “Open it now,” he demanded of her just before he covered her mouth with his.
We are also introduced to a new character whom moves back to the area, 56 year old movie star who is looking to retire, Muriel. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her and Walt.
Also I really liked Joe and Nikki. Though their parts were small, I still liked them and how it was love at first sight for him.
“I’m not interested in one night. I want it all. If that’s too much for you, tell me right now. If it’s going to scare you off, I want to know.” “All?” “I want to go to bed with you, and wake up with you.” He kissed her. “Then I want to do that again.” He kissed her. “And again. And again.” “Okay,” she said breathlessly. “I’m an idiot, but I’m in love with you.” “How do you know?” “Because I’ve never felt this bad before.” “Isn’t it supposed to feel good?” “It does, when you’re in my arms. When you’re not, it’s just awful.” “Okay,” she said. “I understand.” “You’re going to give it a chance?” “Yes,” she said, nodding. “I realize that sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to. I’ve been down that road and so have you. But I’m not going to string you along. I’ll never lie to you. Do you believe me?” “I do. Do you believe me?” “You’re not going to run out on me again, without any explanation?” “I won’t do that again, no.” “You can do anything else, you know. You can tell me you were mistaken. Tell me you changed your mind and you don’t feel it anymore. Anything but disappearing without a word. If it’s over for you, you have to finish it. Do we have a deal?” “Deal,” she said against his lips. “Where do Vanni and Paul think you are?” he asked her in a hoarse whisper. “With you,” she said. “And are you?” “Yes. Yes, Joe. I’m with you.”
Again, the updates on Mel and Jack were priceless, especially since she is expecting their second baby. Although they are funny together, you can tell he truly worships the ground she walks on and would walk to hell and back for her. When he tries to save her life, it was a very touching moment.
“For the love of God,” he said. “What?” “What the hell are you doing? If you want the bathroom cleaned, why don’t you just tell me? I know how to clean a goddamn bathroom.” “It wasn’t all that dirty, but since I’m in the cleaning mood, I thought I’d whip it into shape.” “David is ready for his nap. Why don’t you join him.” “I don’t feel like a nap. I’m going to vacuum the area rugs.” “No, you’re not,” he said. “I’ll do that if it has to be done right now.” “Okay,” Mel said, smiling. “I’ve been tricked.” “Only by yourself, darling,” she said, whirling away to get the Pledge and Windex. After that was done—and there was a lot of wood and glass and stainless steel to occupy her—she was sweeping off the porch and back steps. Not long after that, she was caught dragging the cradle into the master bedroom. “Melinda!” he shouted, startling her and making her jump. “Jack! Don’t do that!” “Let go of that thing!” He brushed her out of the way and grabbed the cradle. “Where do you want it?” “Right there,” she said. He put it beside the bed. “No,” she said. “Over there, kind of out of the way.” He put it there. “No,” she said. “Against that wall—we’ll put it where we need it when she comes.” He moved it again. “Thank you,” she said. The phone rang. “I’ll get it,” he said. He picked up a pencil and put it in her face. “If you lift anything heavier than this, I’m going to beat you.” Then he turned and left the room. He has cabin fever, she thought. Spending too much time at home with me, making sure I don’t pick up anything heavier than a pencil. He should get out more, and out of my hair. When Jack was done with the phone, she was on her knees in front of the hearth, brushing out the barely used fireplace. “Aw, Jesus Christ,” he said in frustration. “Can that not wait until at least frickin’ winter?” She sat back on her heels. “You are really getting on my last nerve. Don’t you have somewhere you can go?” “No, but we do. Go shower and get beautiful. Paul and Vanessa are back and after they view the prom couple, they’re going to the bar for dinner. We’ll all meet there, look at some pictures.” “Great,” she said. “I’m in the mood for a beer.” “Whatever you want, Melinda,” he said tiredly. “Just stop this frickin’ cleaning.” “You know I’m not going to be able to do much of this after the baby comes, so it’s good to have it all done. And the way I like it.” “You’ve always been good at cleaning. Why couldn’t you just cook?” he asked. “You don’t cook anything.” “You cook.” She smiled. “How many cooks does one house need?” “Just go shower. You have fireplace ash on your nose.” “Pain in the ass,” she said to him, getting clumsily to her feet. “Ditto,” he said.
I will say I didn’t like the story line where Paul was tricked by his friend with benefits into thinking he was the dad. I thought, oh crap, now how is this gonna play out with Vanni? I’m glad it went the way I want.