All the books in Jena's Hero series are connected but each is complete in itself.
Book 1 Gold Medal Hero
Only a miracle can save Bailey Stoddart’s journalist job: unless she scoops some dirt on visiting Olympic gold medal rower Connor Freeman.
But Connor doesn’t give interviews.
The euphoria from his Olympic win has faded and left him depressed. He’ll lose his place in the crew if he can’t regain his enthusiasm before training resumes in a few days. The only person who could possibly help? A nosy newshound with the contacts to broadcast his problem to the world.
As their unexpected friendship develops into more, a past mistake threatens to destroy everything. Can he persuade Bailey to stay and keep up her support? Or has this challenge become even greater than winning that Olympic gold medal?
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On a higher area of track Connor stopped and pointed at the view. “Another suspension bridge.”
After joining him at the railing, Bailey looked in the same direction. "So it is."
“Should I carry you over my shoulder so you can’t see?" He pulled her into his side. “Or carry you in both arms like a sling? Or stand you on my shoes, facing me as we walk across together? Whichever way you pick, Macho Man here will keep you safe.”
“Safe is not a synonym for blind, so I’ll walk across by myself as I did last time, thank you very much.”
“Why go alone when you could have company? No fun in that.”
“You forget; I’m not looking for fun.”
“Going first or last?”
“Last, so I can watch you.”
So he started off, walking normally until he reached the middle. There, he stopped, looked down at the river and gave an almighty shiver. When he checked that Bailey watched, the cheeky woman lowered her camera.
“Disobeying orders, huh?” he shouted, advancing on her in a mock-threatening manner. “Come on! I’ll teach you to behave!” Grabbing her hand, he hauled her towards the middle of the bridge where he stopped, released his support, and turned her to face upstream, at the ice floes. How would she cope now?
Cope? Oh, yes. No scaredy-cat behaviour this time. No sound like a yelp or scream came from her, no terrified action like a grab of the side wire, and no plea for help. Not even a shiver.
Instead, the crazy woman planted her feet astride, raised her camera, and snapped. Only after taking several photos did she look up at him, laughing.
So the joke was on him. Well, good on her.
Still chuckling, she sank to the ground on the other side. Wisps of hair stuck to her damp forehead and her cap sat askew. Intuitively, he squeezed her hand. Like a magic genii, she’d answered his first wish and woken his dormant interest in rowing. If only he could keep her, but persuading her to move to Sherdon and continue giving him good vibes could be a bigger challenge than winning that Olympic gold medal.
Book 2 Unlikely Hero
Rowing coach Jeff Nicholls is trying to come to terms with a marriage breakup and the loss of access to his stepdaughter.
Teacher Lauren Whitby is trying to cope with her father’s deteriorating health and her family’s antagonism.
Their problems pull them into a relationship that’s a welcome distraction - until a devastating family secret is revealed.
Will it strengthen their friendship, or tear them apart?
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Back at his place, he set up the coffee machine. “Why can’t you do what you want without worrying about spending time with your dad? Sounds like he’s got you tied into some sort of contract.”
“No, nothing like that.” Lauren leaned against the bench. “I moved back home to be near him. My choice.”
“But why live at home?” From the cupboard he selected two cups and placed them carefully beside the machine. “Why not get a flat in town? Then you could visit whenever you want rather than ride this guilt trip—”
“It’s not a guilt trip.” She stepped sideways to allow him access to the cutlery drawer. “More a case of wanting to be there for him and I’ll stay, at least until I know his future.”
Jeff’s brows pulled together as he faced her. “His future?”
“He’s...” She sucked in a breath and tried to turn away but he gripped her shoulders, keeping her in place so she glanced sideways instead. “Not very well.”
Gentle hands slid down her arms, ending in a squeeze that brought tears to her eyes. “Go on, because there’s more, isn’t there?” His voice had changed, softened, wrapping around her like a gentle breeze.
Blast. She should never have mentioned the subject and so far today, had even managed to forget. Why had it surfaced now? “The doctor suspects a brain tumour,” she forced out, but the lump in her throat made the last word so difficult to pronounce, anyone would think she was the one with the damn problem.
Jeff’s hands dropped as he stepped back. “Se-ri-ous-ly?”
Coupled with the concern on his face, his tone implied genuine sympathy. If only he’d come close again except this time, give her a hug. Didn't anyone understand she needed a cuddle? Bailey and Gemma had both been too busy lately to oblige. “Seriously.”
“And you’re worried.”
“Course I’m worried!” She swiped away the moisture pooling in her eyes. “You would you be too if it was your dad, the one who always made you feel... special, when you were growing up. Even if I’d done something wrong he always found a way to point it out without actually telling me off. He just... always seemed to understand.” A shiver began at her shoulders and travelled down to her toes. Blast. Hadn’t meant to reveal so much.
“Cancer?” A cup of coffee slid across the bench towards her.
She dragged it closer, lifted it up and carried it into the dining room, then plonked onto a chair. “Specialist appointment tomorrow.” Her fingers wrapped around the cup’s warmth. “We’ll know more then. I... I can’t wait to find out, but at the same time, don’t wanna know.” With a shake of her head, she lifted the cup and sipped. “Just don’t want to know.”
“At least that explains why you moved back home.” Gently, he squeezed her shoulder. “The real reason, I mean.”
The combination of physical support and Jeff’s soft voice was so relaxing, the words tumbled out by themselves. “At first, we had no idea what his problem was but I wanted to be around when he found out. Dad and I have always been close and I figured if he got worse, I could help Mum look after him.” She shuddered. “Maybe.” More coffee slid down her throat, warming her. “And... And anyway, I wanted to be around in case any nasty surprises crop up. I don’t... really, really, don’t want to be fobbed off by anyone if the news is bad, or risk it being delayed because someone doesn’t know how to tell me.” She lowered the empty cup to the table. “I want to be there. To hear it first-hand.”
When she stood, he pulled her towards him and wrapped her in an embrace that was so unexpected, the breath whooshed out of her.
What comfort there was in that hug! Her body relaxed into him, her arms stretched around him and she held tight. Not even Bailey had offered an embrace when she first heard the news but something had been worrying her that day. And Gemma, when she heard about Dad, had been in a rush to visit her parents so her brief squeeze had given little reassurance. As for Mum, she never offered hugs; at least, not to this daughter. So Jeff’s embrace... well, it felt extra special.
“Why did you let me go on last night, criticising you for living with your parents?”
Lifting her head, she stepped back. “Why would I offload my problems to a stranger? Besides, it was a party, though you didn’t seem to agree with that definition.”
He rubbed his chin as if still getting used to the beard. “Yesterday, I was in a bad space. Today, not so much.” A cheeky grin flashed across his face. “You can tell me anything today.”
“I believe I’ve told you all that’s necessary.”
“Necessary.” He gave a slow nod, and she knew.
He’d figured it out already, that there was more.
“Well, thanks for coming today. You’ve given me the inspiration I need to get started on this work.” He planted a kiss on her cheek.
Wow. “Glad I could help.”
A finger under her chin lifted her head, forcing her to look him in the eye. “Tomorrow, after you’ve heard the specialist’s verdict, you’ll need someone to talk to. So how about coming for dinner. Say, six-thirty?”
“Oh, but... I should stay home.”
“Tell them I need your opinion on the progress here.”
But she shook her head. “I can’t do that to him. Thanks anyway.” She turned to leave, paused, and turned back. “He goes to bed pretty early. I could come later. Eight?”
“I’ll give you desert.” His grin was so endearing, she chuckled, reached up and planted a return kiss on his cheek.
But as she walked to her car she couldn’t help hearing Jeff’s whistling of the first few lines from ‘Kiss Me Quick’, an Elvis Presley song that had been a favourite of Dad’s before pain and worry dominated his life. She’d have to be careful with this good-looking guy. No point risking her plans for the future.