Caribou River Series #3
by Alexa Gregory
Cover & Excerpt Reveal
Release Date: February 16, 2022
Model: Dominic Calvani
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Trope: Small town, surprise pregnancy, firefighter, slow-burn, inspirational
Two lost, wandering souls and the chance encounter that could rewrite their future.
After a devastating heartbreak, Denton Bell is looking for a fresh start. Again. He vows to live as a reclusive carpenter on his new property by the Caribou River. Unable to ignore his caretaking and social nature, he joins the volunteer fire crew. His plans of solitude begin to crumble when he meets Maëlle, a local who doesn’t quite fit in.
It’s a rough year for Maëlle Haubois. She’s lost her beloved grandmother and her home. The last thing she needs? A surprise pregnancy. Isolated and shunned because of her past and her family’s history, Maëlle stands alone between her unborn child and her unpredictable ex. But Denton, a newcomer to town – and her landlord – shows her a side of the river she never knew.
Both adrift and searching for a place to belong, Denton and Maëlle lean on each other to recover from their respective heartbreaks. But some wounds can’t be healed by hope and love, especially when the past can’t be easily erased.
This small-town exceedingly slow-burn romance is the third book in the Caribou River series. Though it can be read as a standalone, there are spoilers from the previous books.
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Denton Bell was there.
His hair was cropped short again, though he must regret shearing the lush black-brown strands. The tips of his ears were bright red from standing out in the cold fall wind. His tall, formidable body was transformed by his formal blue firefighter uniform. The starched pants gave but a hint at his impressive thighs, while the navy jacket stretched around wide shoulders that screamed brawn.
He was always an attractive man, but in that garb, he was straight up dashing. Not that I had any complaints about his usual jeans and flannel shirt.
Not that I noticed.
Denton grinned at a pair of siblings who stopped by his table to grab some fire stickers. He helped the little boy don a bright yellow helmet as he chatted with the parents. He held the kids’ attention not only because of his size and uniform but also because he gave them his full attention.
That was heady.
When those kind brown eyes of his settled on me, I was captive.
If only I was the type of woman who attracted Denton’s attention.
Not the pity he threw my way. Something else, something I wouldn’t even let happen between me and such a paradigm of goodness.
He waved as the little ones were dragged away by their parents, his smile warmer than the absentee sun. I forced myself to look away and focus on a stand that sold hot sauces and spices.
It didn’t do much, and I looked back toward Denton – definitely the hotter and tastier of the two views.
The small red EFD tent flapped and snapped in the wind. A few pamphlets blew away, but Denton’s reflexes were quick. He grabbed them and placed them back into their stacks before using a few odds and ends as paperweights. He pointed toward the piles of paper with a warning glare.
It was so cute my heart swelled a bit.
Okay. A lot.
A man of his stature had no right being so adorable. How was I supposed to not crush on him? It was basically impossible, like asking me to put on my shoes without sitting down and grunting like an old man.
Denton looked up, probably sensing my super creepy staring. His gaze caught mine, and he smiled. Not a pitying one. It was full, bright, and made his dark brown eyes look like perfect little chestnuts.
Oh, fuck it all. My pregnancy hormones really made me wax poetic about things.
Or Denton, specifically.
He walked around the table, waving at me as he made his way over. I wanted to retreat, duck behind the vegetable booth, and disappear amongst the big gourds, but my feet were glued to the ground.
Why are you coming here? Don’t talk to me, dude. They will all hate you for it.
“Hey, Maëlle.” His smile was made of pure light, heating me from the inside out. He always made such a big effort to pronounce my name the right way.
No one ever did that.
It made me feel important. Like I was more than a hard-to-pronounce, hard-to-digest, hard-to-love person.
It made me feel like Maëlle. Like me.
“Hi,” was my marvelously witty reply.
Denton let Newton sniff his hand before he ruffled the dog’s golden hair. Newton’s tongue lolled out in bliss.
“How’s it going?”
It took a second for my brain to get back online. “Fine. You?”
He shrugged. “Can’t complain, but I’d be a hell of a lot better if we didn’t need this.” He looked back to the EFD kiosk. “We’re using the community outreach booth as a tip line for information on the arsonist.”
“Aren’t there any leads?”
Denton shook his head. “No. Not that they would tell me. It’s for the brass to know. I think the bigwigs want this booth to comfort folks. We’re on the case and doing our best.”
“Well, the river thanks you for your service.” I switched Newton’s leash from one hand to the other so I could twirl my ring around my finger.
“I haven’t been to Tankard much lately.” He pitched his voice low. “How are things?”
Do not tell him you’re basically homeless and that your ex is low-key stalking you. You’re a grown woman who’s got everything under control. You don’t need help or pity. You’re better on your own, just like Grand-Maman taught you.
I plastered on my best and biggest smirk. “Good. Busy with baby stuff.”
“Right, well…” He patted Newton. “I’ve got to get back.” He hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “Just wanted to say hey. Check to see if you’re doing better after our chat.”
Better. Worse. It didn’t matter. I was at the end of my rope with Daniel, but I couldn’t avoid him forever. My kid would need the financial support he could offer, but that would come with a price.
No doubt, Daniel would want to be a part of the kid’s life in exchange for his financial contribution, or so he claimed. I didn’t believe him, and I had stopped listening to his voicemails, deleting them after a particularly nasty one made me cry.
He didn’t deserve my tears. His fragile ego wasn’t mine to manage anymore.
Peanut was my only priority.
My silly attraction to Denton couldn’t mean anything because it wouldn’t lead anywhere. I refused to drag him down to my level. He was beloved around here. Everyone agreed that he was one of those transplants that seamlessly fit into the Caribou River like his roots were always here.
If we were seen together, he would lose that. They would hate him by association.
“Maëlle?” His handsome face folded into a frown. “I’ll see you around?”
My feigned smile faltered, and as always, he didn’t buy it. He cupped my elbow, giving it a squeeze. “You know, if you need help, you can ask.”
I wanted to crumble into the comfort of his arms and tell him everything. Every last ugly detail about who I was, what I had done.
But, but, but.
If he knew everything, Denton wouldn’t look at me like this anymore. Like I mattered. Like I was someone to know.
I wanted to buck and fight against his constant need to save me because I always saved myself in the end. I didn’t need anyone. Least of all, a man so wonderful.
“You can rest that chivalric firefighter duty, Denton,” I teased. “This wicked witch will be fine. Now, I need to go deal with my hungry familiar.” I pointed toward Newton, who sat on his haunches, back straight, a tendril of slobber curling at his mouth as he stared at the handmade dog treats.
“You got it. See ya, Maëlle.” His hand traveled up from my elbow to grip my shoulder. “Take care of yourself.”
My heart stopped, and I was sure his thumb tried to rub my neck. He leaned in just enough for me to notice the softer hue of his brown eyes. They were whirlpools of hope and kindness.
“If you think you’re the wicked witch of the Caribou River, you’ve been reading the wrong kind of stories.” His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed the rest of his thought.
I only noticed because I did the same.
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Other Titles Within this Series
Caribou River Series #1
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Caribou River Series #2
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About the Author
Alexa Gregory writes love stories for the people that fate forgot. She believes that love should bring people together, especially in the darkest of times. She began writing before knowing what words were and never stopped. The home Alexa shares with her husband is overrun with filled notebooks, stacks of sticky notes, and enough books to build a bridge to another world. She is currently working on a novel or two.
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