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Just One Kiss

Just One Kiss

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"I devoured this book in one setting!The story was captivating! As with all of Freethy's characters, they are so well developed that you become completely invested in their story. They are real, not perfect and each with their own flaws!" Booklovers Anonymous 


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"Just One Kiss is my favorite story in the series so far. Barbara Freethy has once again shown that she is an amazing storyteller. I could not put it down. I loved every page. Just One Kiss is a second chance at first love story and is filled with heartbreaking and heartwarming moments." Patti - Goodreads

Hannah Stark takes care of everyone else, from the patients she nurses back to health, to her family, who can never seem to get it together. She'd love to find someone she can trust, someone she can lean on, someone she can love, but that someone will not be Jake McKenna. The ruggedly attractive owner of Adventure Sports might still make her palms sweat, but Jake broke her teenage heart years ago.

In the twelve plus years since they were a couple, Jake has given up on forgiveness from Hannah. He'd really like the chance to set the record straight, but that would mean revealing secrets he has sworn to protect. So, they dance around each other, never getting close enough to the lingering sparks to start another fire.

A stormy Christmas eve at the lake changes everything. A woman in trouble and a death-defying rescue gives them a chance to start over as they are now—if they can find the courage to trust each other. Will these two enemies turn into lovers, or will they reject the fate that has once again thrown them together? 

What the readers are saying about Just One Kiss…

"Just One Kiss is a tale of long-ago heartache that paves a way for hope in the future. Jake and Hannah bring the heart full circle with an inspiring story of forgiveness and healing. Freethy leaves an imprint on the soul with every story she writes." Isha - BookBub

"Barbara Freethy is one of my favorite authors because her books have the perfect blend of romance and suspense in every book, and Just One Kiss was no exception! This story was a heartwarming tale about second chances and forgiveness, mixed in with a mystery that kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. Right now, the real world feels like a dark place to be sometimes, and this book was the perfect escape." Kate – Goodreads



"It's just one little favor."

Hannah Stark frowned as her mother's voice came across her phone speaker. Had Katherine Stark been drinking? Were her mother's words slurred? Or was her hypervigilant scrutiny of her mom playing tricks on her? There was no reason to think her mom had fallen off the wagon. On the other hand, her mom had rarely needed a reason. Although, there had been one good reason, but all the others…those had just been excuses. 

"I really need your help," her mother continued.

"Mom—stop," she said, cutting off another plea. "I'm already on my way. You don't have to convince me."

"Oh, good. I'm sorry to give you more work, Hannah. I'm sure you've had a long day. But we're going to lose this rental if there's no hot water."

"It's fine. I'll take care of it." She turned right at the next light and headed away from her townhouse and the hot bath she'd been looking forward to for the past eight hours. 

As an ER nurse, she spent a lot of time on her feet, and today had been a rough one. It was Friday night, five days before Christmas, and Whisper Lake was full of holiday visitors eager to experience the charm of a small-town Christmas and the beautiful white powder of the surrounding mountains. Some of those visitors had already ended up in her ER with torn muscles and broken bones. The slopes were exciting but sometimes unforgiving. 

She smiled to herself, thinking that description probably fit her as well. She had a difficult time with forgiveness, especially with the people she loved the most. Her mother was at the top of that list. But despite their complicated relationship, she'd step in and help, because that's what she did. She kept the family together. She kept things on track. She'd been doing that since she was thirteen years old, and she didn't see that stopping any time soon. 

Her phone rang again. This time it was her brother, Tyler, who at twenty-four was five years younger than her. She'd been Tyler's second mom for as long as they both could remember. 

She answered the call. "Hi, Ty. What's up? I hope you're not calling to tell me you're not coming home for Christmas."


"No," she said quickly. "You promised you'd make it home. It can't be just me and Mom. We need you here."

"I'm trying to get home, but my flight for Sunday already got canceled because of the weather. The earliest flight I could rebook is Tuesday morning."

"That's Christmas Eve," she said in dismay. 

"I know, but it's all I could get. It's not just Chicago weather that's the problem; there are storms in Colorado, too. If I miss that flight, I'll probably just have to come after Christmas. I'm planning to go to Aspen for New Year's. Maybe I'll just stop in Whisper Lake first."

"No way. You have to make it for Christmas." She felt an almost desperate need to convince him. "You haven't been home since August, and you know how difficult the holidays can be, especially for Mom."

"Which is why I will do my best to be there," he promised. "You sound particularly stressed. Is there something going on I don't know about? Has Mom fallen off the wagon?"

"I don't think so. But she's still being annoying. I'm on my way up to the cabin. Apparently, the tenant is having some issue with the hot water, and I'm the only one who can deal with this crisis."

"Isn't that Mark's job?" he asked, referring to the property manager. 

"Mark left for Hawaii with his family, and his assistant left a message with Mom that she's in Denver for the day. Mom is too busy to go herself, so I'm off to save the day."

"You wear a superhero cape quite well."

"I wish I had one. Hopefully, the problem can be fixed if I relight the pilot. There's snow coming in tonight, and it is damn cold already. If I can't fix it, I'll have to find a place to move them to, which will not be easy at this time of year, and we'll lose the rental money."

"I have confidence you can fix the problem. You always do."

She appreciated his confidence in her, because she had worked damned hard to make sure her younger brother never had to live with the same fears and doubts that had plagued most of her life. "Thanks, Ty. I'll see you soon." 

As she ended the call, she let out a breath. She felt a little guilty for pressuring Tyler to come home. She wanted him to have his life, and as a third-year law student at Northwestern, he had his hands full. However, she did want him to make it home for a few days. They might not have much of a family left, but what they still had, she wanted to keep together. 

She turned on the high beams as the road wound through the mountains with the majestic peaks and thick groves of trees casting dark shadows all around her. While a drive around the lake could be beautiful and incredibly scenic, in the winter it felt dangerous and risky. The west shore highway ran high above the lake with some hairpin curves that, while familiar, still occasionally made her palms sweat. Thankfully, there was little traffic as most of the tourists were either at the ski runs or in town. 

She took the turnoff for the part of the lake known as Wicker Bay, happy to see that it had been recently plowed. While the road crew was incredibly good at keeping the main highways clear, some of the side routes could be thick with snow. 

The road to the cabin ran through more tall trees and down a fairly significant decline, eventually crossing over the Whisper River and ending at a picturesque cove where four family cabins had the bay completely to themselves. The cabin had been in her family for generations, having first been purchased by her grandfather, who had used the nearby dock to launch his fishing boat every summer morning. After her grandfather had passed, it had been used more as a vacation rental than a family getaway. 

As the air grew colder, she turned up her heater, and then gasped as a loud bang gave her a jolt, and the car began to spin and slide down the road. She hung on to the wheel, trying to remember to turn in the direction of the skid, but the car kept slipping across the ice. Thankfully, she was able to bring it to a stop before she hit anything. She let out a breath, her heart beating way too fast. 

When she got out of the car, she saw that her front tire was shredded. Damn! This was the last thing she needed right now. She could change the tire, because she'd long ago learned how to take care of herself, but she really didn't want to do it. It was freezing cold and about to snow. She reached back inside the car for her phone, but she couldn't find a signal. Reception had always been spotty between the road and the cabin. With no way to call for assistance, she was just postponing the inevitable. She would have to change the tire herself. Unless…

As headlights lit up the area around her, she whirled around. A black four-door Ford Ranger truck pulled over, and she instinctively stiffened. Whisper Lake was a pretty safe place, but they weren't immune to crime. Then she recognized the owner of the truck and she stiffened for another reason. 

As Jake McKenna stepped out of the vehicle, a wave of anger ran through her. Jake had once been her best friend, then her first crush, followed by heartbreak and a teenage humiliation she should have gotten over by now but still couldn't quite seem to get past. 

Everything between them had happened a long time ago, when they were both seventeen years old. In the twelve years since then, she'd left Whisper Lake for almost eight years to go to college and to nursing school, and Jake had also gone off on adventures that had taken him around the globe. But three years ago, she'd come back to Whisper Lake, and two years ago, Jake had made his return. She'd tried to avoid him ever since then, and most of the time she was successful. But not always. 

Jake strode toward her, wearing jeans, boots, and a navy-blue parka. "What happened?" he asked.

Her stomach tightened, which made her jump to anger so she could deny the fact that she still found him to be one of the most attractive men she'd ever met. He had brown hair and eyes and a deliciously scruffy beard. He was muscled and lean from all the exercise he did. As the owner of Adventure Sports, he was often the one leading groups on the steepest climbs and the most daring ski runs. He also had a cocky smile that she'd once loved and now hated with the same amount of passion.

"What do you think happened?" she snapped. "I got a flat."

"What are you doing out here?"

"Our cabin has a hot water problem."

"Hannah to the rescue," he said with a slight smile. "Want some help with that tire?"

She really wanted help, but she hated taking anything from him. On the other hand, it was about to snow, and she wasn't stupid even if she was hanging on to a very old grudge. "Yes, I'd like help." She opened her trunk and the compartment where the spare tire should be, only to find herself staring at an empty spot. She suddenly remembered her mother telling her about the flat she'd gotten three months earlier when she'd borrowed her car. "Damn, my mom never put the spare back. I'll have to call for help."

"If you can get through. Do you have a signal?"

She checked her phone once more. "No."

"Why don't I give you a ride to the cabin? I'm headed that way anyway. I can drop you home after that and you can figure out how to get your tire fixed tomorrow."

"Why are you going to Wicker Bay?" 

"One of my employees is staying in a cabin there, and I'm concerned about him. He's not answering his phone, and he's going through a bad breakup. Now, do you want a ride, or are you going to let your stubbornly persistent dislike of me make you say no?" 

She hated that he could read her so well. "I'll take a ride." She grabbed her bag out of her car, locked the doors and then followed him over to his truck. She hopped into the front seat, happy with how warm it was inside. She rubbed her icy hands together, wishing she'd thought to put gloves on, but she'd only planned on driving the three miles between her house and the hospital today.

"How long were you standing outside?" Jake asked.

"Not long."

"It's a good thing I came along when I did, considering you didn't have a spare."

"We don't have to talk, you know," she said curtly.

"Oh, I know. You're not one to hide your feelings, Hannah Banana," he said with a teasing reference to her childhood nickname.

She crossed her arms in front of her chest and gave him an annoyed look. "Don't call me that. Or I'll have to refer to you as Jake the Snake."

"Who called me Jake the Snake?" he asked, as he drove down the road. "Wait, let me guess, it was you."

"Actually, I think Keira came up with it, but I thought it was more than appropriate after what you did." She blew out a breath, feeling like she became seventeen again every time she saw Jake. She needed to start acting like the adult she was. "Who's your employee, the one you're concerned about?" she asked, wanting to change the subject. 

"Trevor Pelham. Do you know him?"

"I know the Pelhams own the cabin at the far end of the bay, but I don't know Trevor personally. He's a lot younger than me." 

"Trevor has had a rough time the last year. His mom died of cancer, and the girl he's been living with broke up with him two weeks ago. He thought he was going to marry her. Now he's facing a Christmas alone, and he's been on a week-long bender. He missed a couple of days of work, and I'm worried about him. He said he was going to come up here to dry out. I decided to check on him."

"I'm sorry to hear that. I knew about his mom, of course. She was a nice lady." She paused. "It's nice of you to be concerned." 

"I can be nice," he said dryly. "In fact, you used to think I was very nice."

"You were also a lot of other things."

"So were you." 

She couldn't really argue with that, and she was relieved when he headed across the short bridge that crossed the river and led into Wicker Bay. They were only a half mile from the cabin now, and she was already eager to be out of his truck. She wasn't going to think about the long trip back to town that would soon be coming. Maybe if she could get a signal in the cabin, she'd just call for roadside assistance.   

As he rounded the last curve, she could see the four cabins, spaced about a hundred yards apart, each surrounded by an isolating thicket of trees that provided a great deal of privacy. The other two cabins had changed hands many times over the years, and she had no idea who owned them now, only that they were also used for vacation rentals. 

Her cabin was to the far right, and every window was blazing with light. There was no car in front, but it was probably parked in the garage. Jake had barely come to a stop when she jumped out of the truck. She thought he'd continue down the lane, but instead he parked and followed her up to the porch.

"Why don't you check on your friend?" she asked, as she rang the bell. 

"How much experience do you have fixing water heaters?"

"I know how to relight the one in this cabin."

"And if it's not the light…"

"You think you'll know what to do?"


Since the most important thing was getting the water heater fixed fast, she let him stay. She pushed the doorbell again and then knocked. She frowned when there was no answer. But she could hear noise inside the cabin. It sounded like the television was on. 

She knocked again, then reached for the doorknob. To her surprise, it turned. She opened the door. "Hello?" 

She stepped into the living room and stopped abruptly at the sight of a little boy sitting on the floor. He had blond hair and green eyes and appeared to be about four years old. He was holding two small stuffed puppies and watching a cartoon on the TV.

She gave him a friendly smile. "Hi there. Where's your mom or your dad?"

He stared back at her but didn't answer, his gaze traveling to Jake.

Jake immediately squatted down, and she did the same, seeing the fear on the kid's face. 

"Hey, bud," Jake said. "I'm Jake. This is Hannah. What's your name?"


"Nice to meet you, Brett," Jake continued. "Where's your mom?"

"She left."

Uneasiness shot down Hannah's spine. "Who's watching you, Brett?"

"She said someone was coming to watch me. Is that you?" He held out one of his puppies. "Frisco is scared."

Her heart melted and she immediately wrapped her arms around both Brett and his puppy. "There's no reason to be scared," she assured him.

"I'm going to look around," Jake said, a thoughtful look in his eyes. 

As he headed toward the bedroom, she sat down on the floor next to Brett. "Tell me about Frisco," she said as her gaze ran down his body. He looked healthy, and his jeans and sweater were clean. His hair was combed, and he smelled like soap and shampoo. She looked around the rest of the living room. It was neat and tidy. There was no indication anything had happened here, but she had a bad feeling churning in her gut. Something was wrong. This little boy was alone. Why?  

"Mommy said Frisco will protect me," Brett told her. 

"Did your mom say where she was going?"


"What about your dad?"

"I'm hungry."

"Well, let me see what's here to eat." She got to her feet and moved into the adjacent kitchen. There was a bowl of cereal on the table as well as a glass of milk and another glass of orange juice. They were untouched. 

Brett ran into the kitchen. "Did you make me cereal?" he asked. 

"It was already here, Brett. Your mom must have left it for you."

He scrambled into the chair. "Can you pour the milk into my cereal?"

"Sure." She poured some of the milk over the cereal and left the rest for him to drink. 

As he started to eat, Jake came out of the bedroom and motioned to her. 

She joined him in the living room. "What's going on?" she asked in a quiet voice, not wanting to alarm Brett.

"You need to see for yourself." He led her down a short hallway into the one and only bedroom. There was a small suitcase on the bed that was open but completely packed. On top of the neatly folded clothing was a note. 

She picked it up and read aloud, "Please watch over my son. I'll be back as soon as I can. Don't call the police. He won't be safe if you do." She met Jake's gaze, her stomach churning. "What the hell is this?"

"Trouble," he said, meeting her gaze. 

She thought so, too.

"And by the way," he added, "the hot water works just fine. It was just a ruse to get you out here."

"But this woman had no idea how long it would take for someone to come up here. He's a small child, and she left him alone."

"What are you going to do?" 

She looked at the note once more and frowned. "She says not to call the police, but I have to." She lifted her gaze to his. "Don't I?"

Irresistible romance, compelling characters, heartwarming emotion, mystery, and drama await in the Whisper Lake Series. Set in the Colorado mountains, this small-town romance series features some of your favorite storylines including runaway bride, second chance romance, enemies to lovers and more... Along with the romance, you'll find secrets and family drama, because I love to complicate a good love story and send my characters on a life-changing journey.

Each book can be read as a standalone novel. No cliffhangers.

Don't miss any of the books in the series:

  • Always With Me
  • My Wildest Dream 
  • Can't Fight The Moonlight
  • Just One Kiss
  • If We Never Met
  • Tangled Up In You
  • Next Time I Fall