Addison & Clark’s Story, a Door County Romance

A Door County Romance
March 12, 2024

He’s a widower tending to a grieving heart.

She’s a tenacious journalist hellbent on getting a story, regardless of who gets hurts.

When their worlds collide, they both find something they weren’t looking for, but desperately need.


Journalist Addison Carlisle is chasing a revenge story. She’s so close to getting it she can taste it. But one man holds vital personal information about the prominent political figure at the center of her story, and he isn’t talking.

Widower Clark Johnson is lonely, but the thought of sharing his life and loving someone else is unimaginable. When he is inexplicably drawn to a determined journalist hyper-focused on landing her big story, he does his best to deny his attraction to her.

Addison makes the trip from Milwaukee to rural Door County, Wisconsin, to pressure Clark for the information, but he refuses to compromise his values. The man’s wholesomeness both irritates and intrigues Addison, and she can’t help but fall for him and his small-town charm.

Is it possible for Addison to get a great story, without jeopardizing Clark’s ethics, and win his heart at the same time?

Chapter One

Clark Johnson set his empty lunch plate and cup on the counter next to the sink and peered out the kitchen window to the barn. Counting the four calves that were born yesterday, he had now reached his goal of four hundred head of cattle. When he was a kid, his parents had run this farm with fifty. He and his late wife, Karlene, had increased that number through the years to three hundred. In the seven years since she’d passed away, he’d slowly added an additional hundred to meet their—his heart panged, and he swallowed hard—his business plan. Karlene would be so proud.

Thinking about those four little calves, he realized it was time for their feeding, and since the hired hands had left for a couple of hours—they would return for the afternoon milking—he’d care for the animals. Though he had laborers, he worked the farm as well. He loved it. He’d known from the time he was a kid, dairy farming would be his life.

Clark stepped onto the enclosed back porch that ran the length of his two-story brick farmhouse and slipped on his rubber boots. The humid air stole his breath and squeezed his lungs the second he stepped through the doorway. He glanced up. The sun was high in the cloudless sky. July in Wisconsin could be a scorcher, and this year ranked as one of the hottest and most humid in the past decade. He’d surely work up a sweat before he reached the barn, where it would be even hotter.

He admired the livestock as he walked down the aisle in the center of the barn to the calf pens. Hesitating, he took a moment to appreciate the calves before he rounded the corner to the milk room to prepare the bottles for their feedings. Bottle-feeding these newborns was one of his favorite parts of farming, especially once they learned to take the bottle more comfortably. He loved how they looked up at him with big, brown, adoring eyes as he fed them.

As he entered the first calf pen, the little creature nearly knocked him over to get to her bottle, and once she hooked on, she fastened her warm, doting gaze on him, causing him to grin.

Glancing around the barn, he studied the animals, and his cheeks stretched with his widening smile. Just as he’d planned from the beginning, he’d grown his dairy farm into a pleasant, sustainable business. His chest tightened. It was just too bad he had no one to share the success with. God, he missed his late wife so much he could hardly stand it.

The clicking of heels on the concrete floor drew his attention. He spun to see who was here, already knowing it wasn’t likely he’d see a family member or friend, as heels tapping lightly in a barn wasn’t normal. Boots thudding, yes, but heels clicking, no.

His gaze latched on to the tiny woman with long, straight blonde hair. She couldn’t be more than a couple of inches over five feet tall, and she was as thin as a rail, yet her steps echoed loudly in the barn.

He pulled the drained bottle from the calf’s mouth and exited the pen, then walked toward the woman. She wore a silky, hot pink tank top, pale green capri pants, and brown sandals with spike heels. Certainly not barn-worthy attire.

“Can I help you?” he asked, though she was still a distance away.

“It would be nice if you would,” she snipped back at him.

The second he heard her voice, he knew who she was. Addison Carlisle. Big-city reporter for The Milwaukee Times. She’d been hounding him for a week to try to get the inside scoop on the car accident in Door County that had nearly taken the life of Milwaukee Alderperson Morales and injured his passenger. Morales had been airlifted to a hospital in Green Bay and was still listed in critical condition, so he wasn’t talking. His female passenger—not his wife—appeared to have gone into hiding once she’d been released from the hospital. That left Clark and his buddy Sam, who had been the first responders on the scene, and Clark’s son-in-law, Ryan, the deputy who’d responded to the 911 call, to give her the story she desired, but none of them planned on talking.

The woman seemed to have focused her attention on him, rather than on Sam or Ryan. She’d called those two only once each, but she’d left multiple phone messages for him after they’d spoken the first time. During that conversation, he’d told her not to call him again and that she should get the details of the accident from the law enforcement report. He could only assume she’d focused on him because he was the chief of the volunteer fire department and the first responder in charge of the scene. Normally, he loved his work in the fire department and as a responder because he liked to help people, but in the past week, this woman had made him think twice about that.

She narrowed in on him and stopped just a few feet away.

Anxiety swirled in the pit of his stomach. Even the cows seemed antsy in their stalls. Animals were smart. They probably figured this woman was trouble.

Her tight facial features made her look angry, and the tapping of her toe solidified her emotions. Her light gray irises bore into him.

She obviously didn’t believe in the old saying you can catch more flies with honey, as all her intimidation tactics did right now was make him want to clam up even more.

“You’re a hard man to get a hold of,” she stated.

“Not really.”

“I’ve left you several phone messages that have gone unreturned.”


She shifted her weight to her right foot and propped her hand on her hip. So not helping her cause. “Well, since I’m here, can we talk?”

“Look, like I told you the first time you called, I don’t have anything to say. Just get the report, like all the others.”

“I have the report, and it doesn’t say anything.”

He knew what she meant by anything. It didn’t give her the details she wanted about the mystery woman. Sure, it had the gal’s name, but not why she’d been with the alderperson. Was she one of his aides? His lover? Just a person who’d needed a ride? This was what Addison was after, and he honestly didn’t know or care who the woman was. His job was simply to help the accident victims, and that’s what he’d done and where he’d left it.

“You know what I know,” he replied.

She tilted her head. “Come on, one of them must have said something to you while you helped them. You can’t tell me that Morales didn’t say something. Inquire how this Jocelyn Torres was or anything?”

“Look, you know from the report that Morales was in bad shape and had to be airlifted.”

“You’re not answering the question. Did he say anything?”

The woman was relentless, and though he and Morales actually did have a verbal exchange while the man drifted in and out of consciousness, what he’d said was none of Addison’s, or the world’s, business. The problem was, Clark was a terrible liar, and it was all he could do to ward off the reporter without lying.

“Listen, this conversation is done, and you need to leave,” Clark stated firmly.

She stomped her foot and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not leaving until you give me something to go on. Who is this woman to him?”

Clark backed up a couple of steps, lifted his arm, and pointed to the wide, open door through which she’d entered on the opposite end of the barn. “Out. Now.”


He pulled his cellphone from his pocket.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Calling the sheriff’s department to have you removed.”

He hoped he wouldn’t actually have to make the call. He’d look like a complete idiot for having to call the authorities to remove this tiny woman from his property. She couldn’t possibly weigh more than one hundred and twenty-five pounds and stood all of five foot two.

“Are you freaking kidding me?”

“Nope. You have two seconds to turn around and leave.”

Her gray gaze shot daggers at him.


“Fine. This place stinks anyhow,” she said as her pert nose crinkled.

He should have taken offense to that comment, but it was a barn.

She turned to the right and hesitated.

He braced himself for what was to come.

The cow in front of her squirmed slightly and lifted her tail.

“You’d better…”

Addison raised her hand, cutting off his words of warning regarding what was surely about to happen.

“No, you’d better—”

The cow sneezed and blew projectile poop onto the ruthless reporter, covering her face, neck, and torso.

Addison gagged, choked, bent over, and heaved.

The cow lowered her tail and went about her business as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

He’d tried to warn Addison, but she hadn’t let him. He fought to suppress his chuckle. This couldn’t have happened to a more perfect candidate.

The woman spit and gagged, then gagged some more. What little area of her cheeks not covered by poop turned pasty-white.

Fearing she’d pass out, he reached for her with no clean place to put his hands, but since this was not his first rodeo when it came to poop, it didn’t bother him that much. He’d bet his last dollar, though, that this was her first.

He wrapped his hand around her bicep to steady her, then guided her to an upright position. “You’ll be fine.”

Horror laced her gaze. Shit dripped from her pert nose.

She stood stick-straight with her arms fanned out from her sides.

“I wouldn’t open your mouth again until we get you hosed off.”

She nodded.

The thought crossed his mind to leave the poop on her just to keep her quiet, but he couldn’t.

He led her over to the water hose, leaving her to stand by the gutter, several feet away from him.

“Okay, I’m going to hose you off.”

She nodded, taking his advice to keep her mouth shut, and squeezed her eyes shut.

Admittedly, he enjoyed rinsing the shit off of this haughty woman from head to toe. She deserved exactly what she’d got.

After a few passes with the water stream, she was as clean as she would get without a thorough scrubbing, and her cute little outfit had no doubt seen its last wear. Priceless.

She crossed her arms over her chest and stood before him, soaked to the bone and shivering. Yeah, it was July, but that water was cold.

“Let’s go to the house. I can give you something else to put on.”

He wasn’t sure what clothes that would be, but he could find something.

Her blue lips parted. “My suitcase is in the trunk. If I could just change, that would be great.”

Finally, a bit of niceness in her tone. But then again, she needed something from him—a place to change.


By the time they reached the house, she’d stopped shivering. He carried the suitcase he’d pulled from her trunk through the kitchen and living room and into the master bedroom, then he pointed to the bathroom.

“If you want to shower, there are towels in the cabinet.”

“Thank you.”

Ah, Miss Haughty knew how to say thank you.

Twenty minutes later, Addison returned to his kitchen, where he sat at the table, reading the news on his tablet. Rather than manure, she now smelled of citrus with a hint of almonds. Much better.

“All good?” he asked.

A slight blush rose on her pale cheeks. “Yes. Now, can we get back to business? The accident.”

Complete disappointment rippled through him. He’d thought they’d gotten past that. But he should have known better. Her big-city attitude shone through.

“We have no business to discuss.” He stood and motioned to the door. “It’s time for you to go.”

She studied him for a moment before making her way to the door with her suitcase in hand.

Addison Carlisle was just like Alderperson Morales. Big-city attitudes, relentless, untouchable. Perhaps he should tell the story of Morales using what very well could have been his last breath to threaten him into secrecy.

No, that wasn’t his style.

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