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Book 6: The Day He Came Home (Hawthorne Harbor Romance)

Book 6: The Day He Came Home (Hawthorne Harbor Romance)

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Escape to the beach today with single moms, single dads, and that one old lady that knows everyone in town...

This sweet and clean romance series is sure to have the heartfelt love stories and heartwarming women's fiction you're looking for. Travel to Hawthorne Harbor for these hometown heroes without leaving your house!


About THE DAY HE CAME HOME: A wounded Marine returns to Hawthorne Harbor years after the woman he was married to for exactly one week before she got an annulment...and then a baby nine months later. Will the day he came home open a new door for Hunter and Alice to find a way to forgive one another and build a family with their son?

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Read Chapter 1 Now!

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Hunter Magleby watched the ocean on his left-hand side, his heart slowly sinking toward his feet with every mile that passed. Well, the left one at least could still feel something. His right foot ached with a numbness the doctors said would probably never go away.

Sure, some days were better than others, and Hunter tried to keep his thoughts on the positive.

I’m still alive.

I have somewhere to live.

I got an honorable discharge from the Marines.

“Have you been to Hawthorne Harbor?” his driver asked, breaking into Hunter’s thoughts.

“Yes,” he said without looking away from the ocean. It was beautiful, and he hadn’t realized how much he’d missed the sight of it, the smell of it, the constant way it drove toward the shore.

He finally tore his eyes from the water and looked out the windshield. “I grew up there, actually.”

“Oh, is your family still here?” The driver was asking to be conversational, Hunter knew. People everywhere seemed to be extra kind to him, and he knew it was because of the uniform he wore and the cane he used. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t even look in his direction.

His anxiety tripled when he thought about how his great aunt would receive him, but he pushed it back. After all, Hunter had a ton of experience in burying emotions and getting the job done. And that was what he needed to do in Hawthorne Harbor.

“No,” he said. “Well, sort of. My parents moved when I joined the Marines. But there are plenty of Maglebys still in Hawthorne Harbor.” Too many, actually, but Hunter kept that info under his tongue. His parents lived in California now, and his sister had gotten married and Cat and her husband—another Hawthorne Harbor native, Tony Herrin—lived back east. They both worked for the Forest Service, and Hunter ached to see his only sibling.

He was looking forward to seeing Aunt Mabel, and she’d told him that Lauren lived just down the hill from the Mansion.In fact, it would be his cousin Lauren who’d fixed up the house where he’d be living, and he had a gift for her in his backpack.

The driver stopped talking then, and Hunter leaned back into the seat behind him, almost hoping time would slow enough to stop. Then he wouldn’t have to return to a town that had forgotten him. He wouldn’t have to face the past he’d left behind. He wouldn’t have to try to figure out who he was now that he wasn’t a soldier.

A sigh gathered in his chest, but he kept it contained. Another skill he’d picked up from the numerous meetings he’d endured over the years. He could keep his face completely passive for long periods of time too, and he never, ever let his emotions show if he didn’t want them to.

He felt like he’d been living behind a slab of stone since the accident that had stolen his mobility from him. Stolen his career.

You’re still alive, he started mentally reciting again. You have a good place to live. Family nearby to help. Money coming in.

The road curved, and the ocean moved behind them. The outskirts of town appeared, and Hunter steeled himself to step back in time.

The driver took him right to the house on the northwest side of town, just down from the bluff. He jumped out of the car to get Hunter’s bags, and Hunter took his time getting out of the back seat and positioning his cane to help balance himself.

“There he is.” Lauren came down the front steps, a smile on her face. She didn’t even look at his leg or the angry pink scar clawing up from underneath his collar. Her long, dark hair bounced along her shoulders, and a man Hunter didn’t recognize followed her. He took Lauren’s hand as they approached, and Hunter’s wariness returned. He hadn’t realized he’d have a whole welcoming committee.

Lauren let go of her boyfriend’s hand and embraced Hunter. “You look great.”

Ah, so his cousin was a liar now. Hunter smiled anyway. “Thanks. How long have you been back in town?” Her family had left like his, and it was almost an unwritten rule that Magleby’s didn’t live anywhere but Hawthorne Harbor.

“About seven years,” she said. “This is Trent Baker, my husband.”

“Oh, congrats,” Hunter said, leaning all of his weight on his left leg so he could extend his right hand to Trent.

“Nice to meet you,” Trent said, a smile on his face that disappeared quickly.

“Are you Army?” he asked Trent.

“No.” Trent shook his head. “I used to be a cop, but now I train dogs to be police animals.”

“Ah.” So he was in a similar field of work as Hunter. He could always spot those who had some sort of experience dealing with difficult situations, and cops made great soldiers.

“So your place is properly aired out and ready for you,” Lauren said, stepping toward the front porch, where the driver had set Hunter’s bags. “Trent, Porter, and I live just down the road. Aunt Mabel is bringing her apple twist bread by later.”

“She doesn’t have to do that,” Hunter said, looking at the eight steps that led up to the house. The thought of climbing up and down these every day made his muscles tighten and his brain tell him to find somewhere else to live.

“I know,” Lauren said. “But she insisted, and you know how Aunt Mabel can be.”

“Pushy?” Hunter said, which caused both Trent and Lauren to laugh. Neither of them reached to help him, which he appreciated. They also didn’t walk slower because of him or wait for him. They just went up the steps and into the house, and when Hunter got there, he found three dogs sitting nicely beside Trent.

“This is our welcome home gift to you,” Lauren said, beaming down at the canines.

“A dog?” Hunter asked.

“Not just a dog,” Trent said. “A trained service animal. They can do all kinds of things.”

Hunter blinked, his first reaction to decline a service animal. He wasn’t disabled. He didn’t need help. But in the back of his mind and way down deep in his heart, he knew he was disabled, and he did need help.

“Like what?” he asked.

Trent exchanged a glance with Lauren that didn’t go unnoticed by Hunter. “You balance on the couch and hand me your cane.” Trent strode forward and took it from Hunter. He put it on the table behind him and whistled at the dogs. All three of them shifted toward him, and one of them whined.

“Sh,” Trent said, and the dog quieted immediately. “You give him a command to get the cane, and he will.” Trent pointed to it and said, “Geronimo, get it.”

The big German shepherd took a few steps and put his front paws up on the table. He scrabbled around for a moment, finally getting the cane in his jaws and backing up and dropping back to all fours.

“You tell him to bring it,” Trent said.

“Bring it,” Hunter barked, and the dog trotted toward him, tilted his head back, and let Hunter take the cane from his hand.

“You can tell him to drop it,” Trent said. “He can get almost anything you want him to. Geronimo is the one I’d pick for you.” He glanced at the other two dogs. “But Clara is great too, and she really likes to cuddle during downtime. If you like that…” He let his words die there, and Lauren took over.

“Have her open the door,” she said.

“You want to see her do that?” Trent didn’t wait for Hunter to answer. He walked to the front door while he talked. “I’ll go out and ring the doorbell. You tell her to answer. Just like that. ‘Answer it, Clara,’ and she will.”

He ducked outside and closed the door behind him. A moment later the doorbell rang. All three dogs turned toward it, and Hunter said, “Answer it, Clara.”

The smaller golden retriever trotted over to the door and jumped up. With her front paws on either side of the handle, she used her chin to push it down. As she backed up, the door drifted open to reveal a very proud Trent standing there.

Hunter had no idea what to say or do. He knew the dogs made him happy, and he couldn’t help smiling. “They’re great, Trent. They must cost a lot of money.”

“Loads,” Lauren said. “So which one do you want?”

He looked at the German shepherd who’d brought him his cane, and the pretty golden retriever who’d opened the door. The third dog had laid down at Lauren’s feet, his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

“I like Clara.”

“She’s yours,” Trent said, stooping to scrub down the pup. “He chose you, you lucky girl. Yes, you’re so lucky. He wants you.”

She grinned up at him and took his praise and affection, and Hunter decided that being back in Hawthorne Harbor wasn’t so bad if he could have that pretty dog at his side—and Lauren and Trent just down the street.

* * *

The next day, Lauren pulled up to the hospital, and Hunter said, “I really can go in myself,” after she’d offered to accompany him inside.

“All right.” She grinned easily at him. “Text me when you’re done. I’m on a job site only a block away, and I’ll come get you.”

“I can probably get a ride.” He unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the door, the autumn wind practically ripping the door off its hinges.

“Really?” Lauren asked. “With who?” At least she wasn’t afraid of offending him.

“I don’t know,” he mumbled.

“Text me.”

“Fine.” He slid out of her truck, it being much easier to get to his feet from a taller vehicle. He leaned into his cane and limped into the hospital, still twenty minutes early for his appointment.

Still plenty of time, he coached himself. Lots of sick people in the hospital. Hardly anyone glanced his way. You can walk. You’re alive.

He kept up the positive self-talk all the way to the elevator and up to the third floor of the hospital, where the physical therapy unit was located. He was sure they’d put it in the farthest corner of the hospital as some sort of sick joke.

An atrium sat on his right, and the hallway beside that led down to the children’s wing. A few people sat on the benches with the plants surrounding them, eating lunch. He watched them for a moment, a smile coursing through his body and crossing his face.

A woman eating with a boy sat in the corner, and Hunter’s eyes caught on them. She lifted her head, her dark, wavy hair falling over her shoulders and that oh-so-familiar smile lighting up her face as she laughed.

Alice.

Hunter’s breath caught in his lungs, and he choked. Plenty of people around to help with that, but he knew he didn’t need physical help.

Of course he’d run into Alice Kopp. Her family were Hawthorne Harbor natives, same as his. And he’d left her here when he’d answered his summons to enter active duty, nine years ago.

His wife.

Well, ex-wife now. That marriage had only lasted seven days before Alice had gotten it annulled. Hunter had been notified first by her and then by the court, and he’d never heard from Alice again.

But that woman was definitely her. He’d know her anywhere, as she’d been the first woman he’d fallen in love with. They’d gotten married spontaneously, sure. Irrationally, even. But Hunter had thought they could make it work.

He loved her. She loved him. That was enough, wasn’t it?

Apparently not, and one of the main reasons he hadn’t come back to Hawthorne Harbor before now was sitting twenty feet from him.

Alice wore a pair of pale pink scrubs, which meant she obviously worked here, and the child she was with was probably seven or eight years old. Probably a patient, but Hunter watched as Alice checked her watch, said something to the boy, and leaned over to hug him.

They got up together and started toward him. Hunter panicked, everything in him telling him to move. Get out of the way. Disappear somehow.

Because Alice was going to see him.

Before he could even get his good leg to take a step, she looked up and right into his eyes. She froze.

He was already cemented in place. Behind him, the elevator dinged, and he thought maybe he could just fall backward and the car doors would swoop closed, concealing him.

The boy took a few more steps before turning back and saying, “Mom?”

Mom, Mom, Mom.

The word echoed endlessly in Hunter’s head. So Alice had indeed moved on. Found someone else to marry. Had a kid now.

“Well,” a woman said, and Hunter managed to turn to look at her. Alice’s mother. She hadn’t been terribly supportive of Hunter and Alice’s youthful romance, nor their shotgun wedding.

“Westin,” Alice said, coming up beside the boy quickly. Her voice rang every bell in Hunter’s system, and he hoped for a moment that they might have another chance. After all, she’d named her son after his father.

Probably a coincidence, he thought. He couldn’t even remember her mother’s name at the moment. Or his. She’s married with a kid, he told himself as he tried to find something solid to grab onto. And you’re a lame war veteran without a job or a purpose.

Her eyes widened, and she swallowed, clearly nervous to be face-to-face with Hunter. He wondered if she felt like she was seeing a ghost, the way he did.

“Isn’t this just one big family reunion?” her mother asked, her tone slightly acidic.

“Family reunion?” Hunter repeated, looking at the older woman, who had pure white hair now—something that didn’t exist in his memory.

Karen—he was honestly shocked he remembered Alice’s mother’s name—turned to her daughter. “You didn’t tell him? You promised me you’d told him.”

Alice put her arm protectively around the boy, and Hunter’s synapses were firing like cannons. He put all the pieces together quickly, always good at puzzles.

Westin had gray eyes—like his.

Westin had his mother’s dark hair, but Hunter’s sloped nose and square jaw.

“Westin,” Alice said, her voice much higher than it had just been. “This is your father, Hunter Magleby.”

Hunter felt like he was falling. Falling forever, the way he’d been when his ship had been targeted. The world spun, and he flung his arm out, trying to find something to hold onto.

“Hunter,” Alice said, grounding him as she caught hold of his hand, centering him, the way she always had. “Um, this is your son, Westin. Westin Hunter Magleby.”

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “This book brought to mind how long I let the past form my relationships and my life. One day I made the choice to say no more and let the past go just like Hunter and Alice did. I loved the characters in this book and how real to everyday life they were. Family dynamics played such a big role in this story and proved that it never hurts to say I was so wrong. Very impactful!” 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I love a good military romance. This one features a wounded veteran and his second chance family. I enjoyed the characters and the history. The family tensions that had to be worked through along with the personal hurdles to be overcome. Another story in this lovely town that we’ll have to leave all too soon.” ~Michaela

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Fall in love with hometown heroes in small-beach-town Hawthorne Harbor!

Escape to the beach today with single moms, single dads, and that one old lady that knows everyone in town... This sweet and clean romance series is sure to have the heartfelt love stories and heartwarming women's fiction you're looking for. Travel to Hawthorne Harbor for these hometown heroes without leaving your house!

  • Book 1: The Day He Left Town

    He’s waiting for a promotion to come through. She’s back in her hometown after a humiliating break-up. Can Tony and Cat make their second chance stick this time?

  • Book 2: The Day He Drove By

    A widowed florist, her ten-year-old daughter, and the paramedic who delivered the girl a decade earlier... Can Drew and Gretchen find their way toward true love?

  • Book 3: The Day He Stopped In

    A widowed park ranger, her twelve-year-old son, and the Chief of Police who's secretly kept an eye on both of them... Do Adam and Janey have the courage to take their relationship out of the friend zone?

  • Book 4: The Day He Said Hello

    A firefighter and his high school sweetheart who's returned to their beachside hometown...and doesn't want to be there. Can the day he said hello start a new relationship that will last this time?

  • Book 5: The Day He Let Go

    A K9 cop, the woman he hires to build him a deck, and the magic of Christmas that could bring Trent and Lauren together this holiday season... Can Trent learn to let go of the past so he and Lauren can find love and build a family?

  • Book 6: The Day He Came Home

    A wounded Marine returns to Hawthorne Harbor years after the woman he was married to for exactly one week before she got an annulment...and then a baby nine months later. Can Hunter and Alice make a family out of past heartache?

  • Book 7: The Day He Asked Again

    A Coast Guard captain would rather spend his time on the sea...unless he's with the woman he's been crushing on for months. If Dave asks just one more time, will Brooklynn give their second chance at romance another shot?

Meet your new best friends on Hilton Head Island!

Escape to the beaches of South Carolina with this Supper Club of ladies, each of whom is starting over in some way in their 40s. New loves, new lives, new businesses - and they're waiting for YOU, their new best friend!

Read this series if you like: 

✔ Second chance romance

✔ Later in life romance

✔ Pristine beach setting

✔ Island life

✔ He falls for her first!

✔ Walks on the beach

✔ Beach bonfire kisses

✔ Enemies to lovers

✔ Friends to lovers

✔ Single parent romance

✔ Women's friendship fiction

✔ Supper Clubs!