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A Better Man

Title: Better Man
Series: Of Love and Madness #4
Author: Karen Cimms
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 11, 2020


Whoever said change is good should have their head examined.

As far as Billy McDonald is concerned, he’s changed enough for one lifetime. He’s been clean and sober for two years, he’s learned to manage his anger, and he’s uprooted his life and relocated to Maine to reunite with his wife, Katie.

He’s even helped Katie create a resource center for at-risk youth, where he teaches guitar to any kid who’s interested.

He’s paid his dues. He’s evolved. He’s a better man. It was hard work, but his personal life is the best it’s ever been, and his music career is finally on track.

Life should be easier now. Smooth sailing. No surprises, right?

Yeah, well. Not so fast.

Katie wants him to become a father—again.

As the saying goes, been there, done that. He sucked as a parent the first time around, and as far as he’s concerned, you don’t get a do-over.

Too bad she doesn’t see it that way.

After everything they’ve been through and all they’ve fought to overcome, could this be the one thing they can’t get past?

Better Man is the fourth and final book in the Of Love and Madness series.

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The metal bowl rattled against the granite countertop as Kate pulverized the cooked potatoes with a potato masher. Pounding something was satisfying, but it made her only slightly less irritable.
She smashed the potatoes until her arm began to ache, then added some milk, sour cream, seasoning, and grated cheddar and stirred it all together.
She was scooping the mixture into baked potato shells when Charlie barked and raced into the mudroom, tap dancing in front of the door that led to the garage.
Billy and Tomas were home. She wiped her hands on her apron and hurried to greet them.
“How was the birthday party?” she asked Tomas, squatting down to unbutton his coat and remove his hat and gloves.
“Exhausting,” Billy answered, tugging off his jacket and hanging it on one of the pegs behind the door.
She shot him a dark look and waited for Tomas to reply.
“Fine.” Tomas gave his usual answer.
Undaunted, she plowed on. “Did you have fun?”
“I guess.”
“Did you jump on the trampolines?”
“Kinda. Can I watch cartoons?”
She let out a frustrated sigh. “Yeah, sure. You need help?”
“No, thank you.”
Any other four-year-old would’ve been hopped up on cake and adrenaline after a birthday party, but Tomas walked quietly through the foyer and down the stairs to the family room. She frowned.
For as much as she would’ve preferred to ignore her husband, she was more concerned with how Tomas had done in a new environment.
“Well? How did it go?”
“He was fine.” Billy pushed past her into the kitchen. “At first he stayed stuck to my side. I finally got him to try one of the trampolines, but I had to get on it with him. Do you have any idea how ridiculous a six-foot, four-inch man with a ponytail looks bouncing up and down on a trampoline surrounded by two dozen four- and five-year-olds?” He yanked a handful of his green sweater away from his chest. “Especially wearing this. Some little shit called me the Jolly Green Giant. And then I caught a few of the moms filming me with their phones. I guarantee there’s already video up on social media. I can imagine the captions: Bad boy rocker goes off his rocker.”
She tried not to laugh, but couldn’t help herself. It almost served him right.
“Glad you think it’s so funny.”
He pulled a bottle of sparkling water from the refrigerator and poured himself a glass. “Did Devin give you any idea who he’s bringing to dinner?”
“Not a clue.” Kate slid the tray of twice-baked potatoes into the refrigerator to chill until it was time to put them in the oven.
“Do you think it’s a girl?”
“A girl?” She gaped. “Why would you say that? You know he moved up here partly to be closer to Danielle. How could you even think such a thing?”
“I don’t know. He’s been acting strange. Keeps talking about keeping an open mind and that some things happen for the best. Yesterday he told me that life is filled with surprises and not all of them are bad.” He swirled his glass before taking a long drink. “Maybe he joined a cult.”
Kate frowned. “A cult. You’re ridiculous.”
Billy shrugged. “I don’t know what’s got into him then. He’s usually not so cryptic.”
Nonsense is what it was. A cult. Good grief.
She called for Tomas as she pulled five dinner plates from the cupboard. She wanted him to feel as though he belonged, and she’d noticed that little chores sometimes made him feel a little brighter. When he appeared, she handed him the napkins she’d ironed earlier. “Can you place these around the table at each place setting, please?”
When he finished with the napkins, she handed him the forks. To Billy, she handed the knives.
“Maybe it’s a friend from college,” Billy said.
She reached across him and tweaked the centerpiece, an antique dough bowl filled with pine cones, seashells, and white candles.
When the oven timer dinged, she slid the roast into the oven and reset the timer.
“Could you finish setting the table and keep an eye on Tomas? I want to take a shower and finish getting ready. Devin and his friend should be here in about forty-five minutes.”
Billy glanced down at what he was wearing. “Do I need to change?”
She smirked. “No need. Green is definitely your color.”

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Author Bio

Karen Cimms is a writer, editor, and music lover. She was born and raised in New Jersey and still thinks of the Garden State as home. Karen is married to her favorite lead guitar player. She currently lives in Northeast Pennsylvania, although her heart is usually in Maine.

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