Have you guessed it?
Let's have a lookie-loo at what's in this magical piece of literary goodness known as the newsletter:
  1. Greetings and salutations
  2. Pact with a Heartbreaker, chapter 5
  3. What even am I doing with my life? 
Hey there, friend! I'm coming at you from hot-as-balls Wisconsin where when I walk outside, it feels like I've ventured straight into the devil's lair. We went from fall to maybe spring back to fall straight to summer. And I call bullshit on that. Spring is my second favorite season, and I didn't get any of it! 
But enough whining from me! It's time to read the chapter you may or may not have been waiting for...in which we find out Hudson's secret. Promise to still love me at the end? 
In case you're new to the newsletter, I'm doing something fun for the summer. I'm releasing a beach read novella via weekly installments right here for free! Chapter five is below!
Pact with a Heartbreaker can be read either as your first foray into Havenbrook, my fictional southern small town, or after you've read Second Chance Charmer because I'm crafty like that. 😉

In case you've missed any previous chapters, you can get caught up here. If you're not a fan of reading books in a serialized manner, Pact with a Heartbreaker will be released on its own sometime in the fall.
Quick disclaimer: in order to get these chapters to you every week, they are raw and unedited, so thank you for excusing any mistakes! 

Chapter 4

Hudson’s whole day had gone to shit. 

He’d planned to spend it poking and prodding Kenna until she finally called in that favor from Will. They were supposed to meet at the lake cabin tomorrow morning, and she still hadn’t told him if she was in or not. Which meant she still hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask her sister for help.

Instead, he’d spent the day at the bakery filling in because the closing shift employee was out with the flu. When his momma had first opened the bakery, there hadn’t been enough income to allow hiring on someone to share the load for several years. That meant his momma had worked fourteen-plus hour days all by herself. 

Fortunately, those times were long gone, because she didn’t have it in her to work those long shifts anymore. Being she was at the bakery bright and early by 4 a.m. every day, she was down for the count by early afternoon. So, despite her protests, he’d sent her home with assurances he could take care of everything on his own. 

And everything had gone according to plan. Except, well, his plan.

He rolled to a stop in his driveway and put his truck in park. With a sigh, he dropped his head back to the headrest. All he’d been able to think about the whole day he’d been helping out his family was that this was it. In hardly any time at all, he wouldn’t be here to pick up the slack when they’d need it, and he wouldn’t be for a damn long while. He couldn’t stop the worry creeping in over what would happen next time they needed him and he wouldn’t—couldn’t—be here. And then the guilt seeped in. 

Because leaving was his choice and his alone.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he fished it out to glance at the screen. Kenna. If anyone could pull him out of his mood, it was her. He just hoped she had good news.

“Cuttin’ it kinda close, aren’t ya?” he said instead of answering.

“You think? I figured I had another twelve hours or so before it got down to the wire…” The smile in her voice carried over the line, and he couldn’t help but mirror it.

His shoulders relaxed, the tension in his body easing simply from her voice. “Can I assume since you aren’t swearin’ up a storm, Will agreed to our nefarious plan?”

“You would be correct.” 

Hudson blew out a breath and ran a hand through his hair, unsure which emotion to focus on first. A multitude buzzed inside him, happiness and trepidation and excitement and dread. He’d get two uninterrupted days with his favorite person in the world, but those days came at a cost. One he was going to have to pay sooner rather than later.

He opened his door, stepped down from his truck, and strolled around to the back of his childhood home. “Y’all know when you’re leavin’?”

“I figured we’d head out around eight?”

He nodded, even though she couldn’t see him. “I was plannin’ on leavin’ then too, so that sounds good to me.”

Kenna hummed. “To me, it sounds like a race waitin’ to happen.”

He breathed out a laugh. Her competitive streak was unshakable and one of the many reasons he loved her. “You really wanna race the guy who could drive there in his sleep?”

“Mmm…pretty sure I do, yeah.”

With a smile on his face, he climbed the back porch steps, pulled open the unlocked screen door, and stepped into the dimly lit kitchen. “You’re on. But I’ll know if you cheat and leave earlier.”

She gasped. “How dare you. I don’t need to cheat to win, Hudson Miller, and your losing ass should know that. I’ll be wavin’ from the front porch tomorrow when you pull up.”

With that, she hung up, leaving him wanting like she always did. God, he loved her, straight down to his bones. Had loved her for so long, he didn’t remember anything else. And he had no idea how he’d leave her. Being away at State last year had nothing on what was coming, when seeing each other wouldn’t happen a couple times a month—or even a couple times a year. 

But he didn’t want to think about what was going to come of this weekend and the hard conversation they were going to have. He just had to focus on the fact that he was going to get two uninterrupted days with his best friend before leaving, and he hoped that’d be enough to make it right between them. 

He pocketed his phone and glanced up, startling when he noticed his momma sitting at the kitchen table a few feet away. She met his eyes, hers red-rimmed and glassy. 

“Momma? What’s wrong?”

He glanced around, hoping for a clue as to what the hell had happened while he’d been at the bakery, when something on the table caught his eye. An opened envelope sat in front of her, an unfolded letter atop, and without even looking too closely at it, Hudson knew in his heart exactly what it was.

All damn summer he’d made sure to intercept the mail before his momma’d had a chance to grab it. Just to avoid this very situation. The soul-crushing look in her eyes. The hunch of her shoulders as she curled over the papers. Of course, the one fucking day he couldn’t be home early was the one day something had actually been delivered.


“I didn’t mean to open your mail. It was an accident,” she said, her voice soft but firm. “I didn’t even glance at who it was addressed to, just went whippin’ through the whole pile like always.” She shook her head and glanced down at the letter. “Can’t say this wasn’t a shock.”

A shock? That was an understatement. He can’t imagine what’d gone through her head when she’d read a welcome letter addressed to her son from the Army. Especially when she’d specifically begged him to do anything with his life but follow in his daddy’s footsteps. Especially when Hudson had promised her. He’d stood right where he stood now and sworn to her that he wouldn’t enlist. 

So much for promises.


“When were you gonna tell me?” She glanced up at him, her eyes full of confusion and apprehension and…fear. For him. “Please tell me you were at least gonna give me a chance to say goodbye.”

Guilt clawed at his throat, thinking about how different the summer would’ve been if he’d told her at the beginning. The truth was, he hadn’t wanted to. It’d been selfish, and he knew that. But he’d wanted one last summer at home without her worrying eyes and fretting hands fumbling around him. He’d wanted to go off to basic training without all that sitting heavy on his chest.

Selfish fucking asshole.

“Of course I was.” He pulled up a chair next to her and sat, resting his elbows on his knees. “How could you think that?”

She tipped her chin toward the letter. “Says here you’re leavin’ in two weeks, so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume the worst.” She blew out a deep breath and shook her head, unfolding and refolding the letter over and over again. “I don’t know what I’m more hurt over. That you kept it from me, or that you felt you had to.”

Hudson dropped his head between his shoulders, the weight of her disappointment hanging around his neck like a boulder. He’d known this was coming—that at one point or another, he’d have to have this conversation with her. He just hadn’t planned on it happening so soon. He thought he’d have more time to work up to it. Plan his words and how to soften the blow. But he’d been too wrapped up in figuring out how to tell Kenna—how to break the news to her that he wouldn’t be starting back up at State next week, but instead shipping out to Fort Benning after she left. Without him.

His family should’ve been his first priority, but, just like always, Kenna had superseded everything. 

He lifted his eyes to meet his momma’s. “I’m sorry.” The words weren’t enough. They felt empty and hollow, just like they had after his momma had gotten word of his dad. They hadn’t been able to walk ten feet in town without a chorus of sorries sounding around them. 

But it was all he had.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She lifted the letter and fanned it between them. “Delayed enlistment? You’ve been sittin’ on this a lot longer than the summer.”

He nodded, shame wrapping around him like a cloak. “I didn’t want you to worry.”

She huffed out a laugh and rolled her eyes. “Honey, I worry about you drivin’ in to town. I’m your momma—that’s what I do.”

“But this is different.”

She tipped her head in agreement. “It is.”

“I tried.” He reached for her hand and cupped it between his, looking at how small it was in comparison. How delicate. But his momma was the strongest person he knew. “I put everything I had into State, but it felt like I was livin’ someone else’s life. And I couldn’t do it anymore. Not even for you.”

She was silent so long, he finally glanced up from their connected hands. She pulled hers from his hold and cupped his face between her palms. “Oh, my sweet boy. You’ve been so good to us since your father passed. Bein’ the man of the house before you even really knew what it meant.”

“I knew.”

“Ah, you’re right. ‘Course you did. Your daddy made sure of that, hadn’t he?” A sad smile lifted her lips, and she brushed her thumbs over his cheeks. “I’d keep you anchored to me and this life forever if I could, but that’s not you. Never has been. You have so much of your daddy in you, and the older you get, the more I see it. He’d be so proud of you right now.”

Hudson’s throat tightened, his heart aching over the loss their whole family had suffered years ago. He just prayed he wouldn’t follow the same fate.

She dipped her head to catch his eyes. “I’m proud of you too. Even though the thought of you enlisting and being in danger every day terrifies me, I’m so, so proud of the man you’ve become.”

He gathered her into his arms, burying his face in her shoulder and breathing in the scent he’d come to equate with comfort.

“You’re leavin’ us?” 

Hudson lifted his head and turned toward the exclamation. 

Lilah stood at the entrance to the kitchen, her hands curled into fists at her side. “After everything? After Daddy? You know what that’s gonna do to Momma.”

“Now, honey, I’m fine. This is what he wants—”

“What he wants? Selfish bastard!” She spun on her heel and stormed up the stairs before Hudson could even get a word in.

“Delilah Jane, you will not speak like that in my house!” But Lilah’s footsteps already stomped above them as she flew into her room, the door slamming shut behind her.

“That went well.” Hudson turned back to his mom, who met his look with a wry grin.

“Were you anticipating she’d send you off with a basket of muffins? She’s not mad. She’s scared to death.”

“I know. I’ll talk to her.”

She patted his cheek. “She’ll come around before you leave. I hope. Girl’s stubborn as a mule.” She sat back and folded the letter before placing it back into the envelope. “Speaking of stubborn, how’d Mac take it?”

He hadn’t been prepared for the question and couldn’t even attempt to hide his wince. He figured she’d take it about as well as his sister.

Momma gasped and smacked his head with the welcome letter. “Hudson Matthew. You haven’t told that poor girl yet? I hope you know Lilah’s little show has nothin’ on what that girl’s gonna do to you.”


So there you have it. Hudson's big secret is out in the open...now he just has to tell Mac. Come chat about Pact with a Heartbreaker in my reader group, the Brigade. Gossip on all things Havenbrook is welcomed and encouraged!

I'm down to the wire again with this chapter, sitting here typing this all up at 5:19 pm the day it's due in your inbox! So that should answer the question as to whether or not we've gotten into a rhythm in the house with school out of session.  

However, my kids leave for ten days to head up to my parents' lake cabin in northern Minnesota, so I've got a silent house in my future (assuming my multiple-device loving, guitar playing husband isn't home), and I intend to use every one of them to crank this baby out!

I spent an evening earlier in the week at the house of one of Youngest's friends, and ngl...I could totally get used to the view from their back yard. (Yes, those are fake palm trees. No, we haven't learned how to grow those in Wisconsin.)

Think they'd mind if I showed up one afternoon and asked to borrow their backyard space to write?


As always, I love to hear from readers! Reply to this e-mail or swing by Twitter, Instagram, or the reader group on Facebook to keep up with me between releases! 
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