Read Not So New in Town Online

Authors: Michele Summers

Not So New in Town

BOOK: Not So New in Town
11.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Thank you for purchasing this eBook
.

At Sourcebooks we believe one thing:

BOOKS CHANGE LIVES
.

We would love to invite you to receive exclusive rewards. Sign up now for VIP savings, bonus content, early access to new ideas we're developing, and sneak peeks at our hottest titles!

Happy reading
!

SIGN UP NOW!

Copyright © 2015 by Michele Summers

Cover and internal design © 2015 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover design by John Kicksee

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

www.sourcebooks.com

To my dearest friend, Elise Wood, for your unfailing support and for always believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’re the Thelma to my Louise!

To my good friend Neal, for sharing your story and allowing me to change your ending. Thank you. BTW, I do remember the kiss…

Chapter 1

Lucy Doolan watched steam curl from beneath the hood of her seven-year-old Honda. She had always hated being called “Loco Lucy,” but right about now, she thought she might be a little nuts. Unaware of how long the red temperature light had been sending a distress signal, she had pulled her overheated car onto the shoulder of the empty two-lane highway and killed the engine, thinking she might’ve killed her car too.

“Moose muffin balls. This is not good.” Her forehead hit the steering wheel as she groaned. She’d been too busy stressing over her sudden move.

Home.

To Harmony, NC, where everyone knew your business, and where everyone remembered her as Loco Lucy.

Lucy rubbed her temples. “This is not how I pictured the end of my day…week…life.” She glared at the dead cell phone sitting next to her. So uncool for someone who made her living by phone. Dead backup cell phone in the trunk. How had she gotten to this place?

She had so many regrets, from tuning out her mechanic when he’d recommended a trade, to putting all her faith, time, and hard-earned money into a business venture that had blown up in her face. So what did Lucy do? She panicked. Cried. Freaked. Cursed. Consumed large quantities of junk food. And then she pulled on her big-girl britches and started the ball rolling for her next plan of attack.

Overloaded with supergluing fragments of her broken heart (and life) back together, Lucy had subleased her apartment and quickly patched up what was left of her business affairs, and agreed to come home.

After seventeen long years.

And now she was stuck ten miles outside of Harmony.

Gut clenching, heart racing, and palms sweating, she stepped out of the car and onto the gravel shoulder. “Come on, Luce, everything’s gonna be fine. So you’re going home. No big deal. Home is just a word. Means nothing.”

Except it meant everything.

Breathing deep, she exhaled slowly, squinting behind her large, white, speckled sunglasses. No cars had been by since she’d veered her sizzling car onto the shoulder. Wavering in the heavy July heat, she spied a crumbling, abandoned barn, sitting at the back of the grassy field off the right shoulder. It had to be ninety-nine freakin’ degrees, at least. Lucy plucked at the yellow silk tank top sticking to her chest and belly. She lifted her hair to fan her hot neck.

“Looks like I’m gonna have to hoof it.” Her white cotton skirt stuck to her thighs, and she attempted to smooth the wrinkles. She’d dressed casual but not sloppy, wanting to appear pulled together for her unexpected homecoming. Not wilted, frazzled, and covered in road dust—not her idea of a banner homecoming. Entering Main Street on foot would only give everyone more reasons to call her Loco.

Reaching back inside the sweltering car, she grabbed her purple snakeskin handbag and her emergency bag of Cheetos off the passenger seat. She might need sustenance. Ten miles was a long hike.

* * *

“What the hell?” Brogan Reese rounded the curve in his convertible. Even in the ninety-degree heat, he’d been riding with the top down. He squinted against the late-afternoon sun. Up the road a ways, a woman was digging inside her broken-down car on the side of the road and exposing a lot of leg as her short, white skirt crept up the backs of her thighs. Nice. Brogan pushed his aviator sunglasses back up the bridge of his nose as he slowed his car.

Snap
out
of
it, dumbass.

He eased off the road onto the shoulder, coming to a complete stop. His new XK Jaguar purred low and quiet. He sat for a moment as the woman shoved a purple bag over her shoulder and started down the highway in the direction of Harmony. As much as he enjoyed the sway of her hips marching toward town, he couldn’t let her go without offering a ride or, at the very least, to check under the hood. Besides, he needed the distraction. Coming home to settle his mother’s estate had morphed into a much bigger commitment than he’d planned, and it looked as if he’d be staying for a while. He pushed open his door and stepped out.

“Hey, there. Need some help?” he called to her retreating back.

Swaying hips stopped as she swung around on silver strappy sandals. Huge white sunglasses swallowed the upper half of her face. She didn’t speak, but clutched the funky bag closer to her body.

“With your car?” He motioned to the dinged-up bucket of bolts posing as a car on the side of the road.

Gravel crunched beneath her sandals as she inched closer. He still couldn’t see her eyes, but he detected wariness as lines of tension bracketed her full mouth.

“I’m no mechanic, but I can certainly take a look under the hood.” He gave an apologetic shrug. She continued to stare at him, biting into a perfect, plump bottom lip as if contemplating what to do next. “Look, I’d offer you a ride into town, but since you don’t know me, I figured you wouldn’t accept. How about I call for roadside assistance?” Brogan pulled his cell from his jeans pocket. “You can wait in your car, and I’ll wait in mine until they come. Would that help?”

Straight, layered blond hair flopped on her shoulders. The tilt of her head rang familiar, but he couldn’t quite place her.

“Better yet…you can call, if that would make you more comfortable.” Brogan extended the cell. She stepped back suddenly. “Whoa.” He raised both hands to show he meant no harm. “Okay then. Maybe not,” he said slowly. Her head moved side to side as if hunting for a place to hide. “Look, lady, only trying to help. I’m from Harmony, which is right up the road. I’m—”

“I know who you are,” she said in a flat voice, catching him off guard.

“You do?” He stared at her highlighted hair glinting in the sun and hunched shoulders as she crossed her arms. Who was this chick? Thick Southern accent meant she didn’t hail from the North, where he’d lived the last ten years. He racked his brain.

“Yeah,” she said to the gravel mashed beneath her sandals “Brogan Reese. Harmony High’s football star, homecoming king, and heartbreaker.”

Shit. Here we go again.

Chapter 2

Not him!
Lucy searched for a place to hurl herself, like a ditch or some kind of hole. She’d rather be bleeding out in shark-infested waters than standing on the side of the road talking to
him
. Brogan Reese. The guy she’d always dreamed about. Her high school crush. The stud of Harmony High. The guy who’d always been a friend until…

Lucy couldn’t think about that now. She needed to figure a way out of this embarrassing mess. Damn, Julia. If she weren’t already seven months pregnant and bedridden, Lucy would come up with more painful ways to punish her.

Julia. The bane of Lucy’s existence. Childhood nemesis. Boyfriend snatcher.

Stepsister.

“How do I know you?” Brogan interrupted her mental rant. Lucy’s head snapped up. He didn’t recognize her. At. All. She would’ve laughed, except her thudding heart, causing chest pains, prevented it. It had been a long time. She and Brogan hadn’t spoken or even seen each other since the day she’d left. She couldn’t blame him for not recognizing her; she’d changed…a lot. And to be fair, he’d had eyes for only one person in high school, and it wasn’t the gawky freshman who’d skulked the halls, hoping for a glimpse of her crush. Maybe, just maybe he wouldn’t recall the way she’d ruined his homecoming date with Julia, the homecoming queen. His girlfriend. The love of his life.

Or the night she’d practically begged for his kiss in an awkward attempt at seduction. Yack. Don’t go there…please.

At one time or other, every girl fantasized about running into an ex-boyfriend or crush. She would look marvelous, with flawless skin, coiffed hair, and major cleavage perfectly displayed. The fantasy always included flaunting great success, such as being hugely successful in some philanthropic career. Watching him grovel at her feet, begging for crumbs from her table. Lucy had millions of those fantasies tucked away—all starring Brogan Reese. But none of them featured her broken-down car steaming on the side of the road, or Lucy in her wrinkled skirt and sweaty tank top.

With furrowed brow and tilted head, he studied her, trying to place her. He’d find out sooner or later. In a small town like Harmony, everyone knew your business, from birthdays to bunion surgery. No need to prolong the suspense.

“Lucy. Lucy Doolan,” she supplied for him.

“L—”

“Don’t say it! Don’t you dare say
loco
.” She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head and narrowed her eyes.

Brogan had the good sense to appear confused as he blinked. “I was going to say
little
…Little Lucy.”

“Oh, well. That’s not so bad. But I’m not little anymore.” She cocked one hip. “As you can see.”

A grin cracked wide-open, lighting his entire face. “Uh, yeah, you are. In a short way.”

Not him. He was bigger than she remembered. Broader shoulders. Thicker arms. More gorgeous than even in her fantasies. Gone was the smooth, baby-skinned face. Replaced by dark stubble covering a strong jaw. Why couldn’t he be balding, with a doughnut expanding his middle?

His gaze moved across her face to her now sleek, straight hair, and his look of surprise changed to appreciation. “Wow. It’s really great to see you. You look amazing. Different.” He motioned toward her head. “I don’t remember your hair being so…straight?”

Or so blond. Lucy twirled a hank of hair around her finger before flipping it over her shoulder. “Thanks. I got tired of all those curls.”

“Curls. That’s it.” He snapped his fingers. “You had huge curls that bounced when you walked.” He chuckled and flashed his heart-stopping smile. Insides melting on cue. Not from the heat of the sun, but from the friendly, familiar smile she’d committed to memory and had always loved.

“What brings you to Harmony after all these years?” he asked.

Stupidity. Guilt. Loneliness.
“Change of scenery. I’ll be here for a few months,” she said.

“Everything okay?” His voice sobered as he studied her face. Brogan had this way of seeing inside her brain. Lucy could remember the feeling of flushed excitement on those rare occasions when he’d given her his undivided attention back in high school, listening to her as if he truly cared.

Right now, Lucy wished she didn’t have to answer his question, but again, it would take about five minutes before the rest of Harmony heard she was back and why. And then it hit her like a wrecking ball to the head… Brogan was probably here for the same reason.

Julia.

* * *

Little Lucy Doolan. Brogan couldn’t remember the last time he had seen her. It had to have been back in high school. Being back in Harmony had conjured up different feelings and memories, but he’d almost forgotten Julia’s younger sister. She’d always been an odd duck, but in a cute, shy way. Not in a Goth, pierced, walking dead, scary way. He was two years older, but he remembered her hanging around when he’d come by to visit Julia or spotting her in the halls at school. She’d been hard to miss. She’d had great, riotous curls. Even when she sat behind the players’ bench at the football games with her Harmony High baseball cap drawn low over her brow, you couldn’t miss the curly tail that hung out the back.

He’d known she’d harbored a crush on him back then. High school girls loved to gossip and pretend they had crushes on upperclassmen, especially the star quarterback. Brogan had been flattered, but it hadn’t meant anything. And yet, Lucy had been different. He recalled how staunchly she’d defended his stats to anyone who would listen, and how she’d blushed crimson when he’d handed her a jumbo bag of M&M’s to cheer her up after she’d lost the Clean Up Harmony High competition her freshman year. Brogan had known she’d kept a secret stash in her locker. He’d liked her, even though she was Julia’s little sister, and Julia had made things difficult. Lucy had been spunky and kind, not cruel like Julia could be on occasion.

He had liked her in a little-sister way…until that one night.

Suddenly Brogan felt even hotter, and it had nothing to do with the ninety-degree heat. A cool swim in the lake would be good right about now. Lucy shifted uncomfortably. Brogan remembered whenever he’d come by their house, she’d always seemed happy to see him. Not today. She looked like she’d rather be crunching cockroaches between her teeth than talking to him. Funny. He also recalled her being kind of shy, wearing baggy shirts, as if afraid of drawing attention. Not now. With clingy tank top, jumbo sunglasses, and short skirt, she looked like a woman who commanded attention. Male attention.

“Would you like me to check under the hood? Looks like you’re overheated. Could be low coolant or, worse, a clogged radiator. If you’re over fifty thousand miles, the radiator can get gummed up,” he said, pointing to the curls of steam still whistling from beneath her hood.

“You think that’s what the red temperature light was trying to tell me?”

“That
you’re
overheated? Absolutely.” He chuckled at the surprise lighting the backs of her exotic gray eyes. And that familiar flush creeping up her neck and onto her baby-doll cheeks. She’d always been fun to tease, but seeing the grown-up Lucy brought teasing to an entirely different level.

She cleared her throat. “Uh, yes, overheated. Aren’t we all in this wretched heat? But how bad is the real question.”

Real bad if the unwanted heaviness in his groin was any indication. Brogan gave his head a quick shake. He didn’t need to be thinking heated, sweaty thoughts of Little Lucy Doolan. Not now. Not ever. They’d been high school friends—barely. Because Julia had made darn sure she occupied most of Brogan’s time and thoughts. But not anymore. Everyone had grown up and moved on. Especially him. And that was how it should be.

He glanced at her car dying of heatstroke on the shoulder of the road. “Hard to say without checking under the hood. We should wait until it cools down before trying to start the engine.” She nodded, twirling a blond lock around her finger. He remembered that too. Whenever she got nervous, she’d twirl a curl around her finger. Something or someone was making Lucy mighty nervous.

“So, Little Lucy, how can I help you?” He smiled, because Lucy Doolan inspired smiles. He’d always liked that about her.

She stopped mid-twirl and gave him a steady look. “Pop your trunk. I need a ride into town, and I might as well do it in style.”

“By riding in my trunk?” he asked, trying not to laugh.

Pert nose lifted, as if she found his humor juvenile, she brushed past him. After trying unsuccessfully to open her trunk with the key remote, she whacked it several times with the palm of her hand until it popped up.

“This key thingy never did work,” she mumbled under her breath.

Brogan shook his head and chuckled. Cautiously, he leaned forward. Bags and more bags filled his vision. Not suitcases, but totes with various logos. Lucy shoved a bulging one in his arms.

“All this stuff yours?” he asked, slinging a clear vinyl bag imprinted with bright-yellow lemons over his shoulder. Lucy continued to rummage through mounds of crap in her trunk.

“It’s a mess, but I didn’t have time to get organized,” she said in a muffled voice, head deep inside another large bag.

“You give new meaning to ‘junk in your trunk,’” he said, chuckling louder.

“Yay! Found it.” She popped up with a jumbo box of strawberry Pop-Tarts in her hand.

Brogan’s lip curled. “You’re kidding, right? That’s the most important thing you needed to find?”

She blinked. “No point in buying more when I have some right—” She stopped talking. His expression of complete disgust must’ve registered. He couldn’t imagine anyone with a brain eating that nasty shit. Nothing but empty calories and sugar. No nutrient in sight.

“What?” She shook the oversized box. “Breakfast of champions. Pop-Tarts are awesome. Don’t tell me you’ve never had one. On super busy days, I’ve been known to eat these for lunch and dinner.”

“I can’t believe you’re still into junk food. I thought you only ate that crap when you got nervous.” He peered at her stash of boxes and bags of garbage food. Judging by the contents of her trunk, Lucy must be close to a meltdown. “What’s going on, Luce? Either you’re having a nervous breakdown, or you’re some kind of hoarder.” He silently counted six boxes of instant mac and cheese. How could she eat all that crap and stay thin? Her clogged arteries probably resembled a corn dog.

She shot him an uneasy glance. “Look, it’s nothing. I had to move out of my apartment kinda fast. And cooking has never been a priority for me. Besides, what I eat is none of your business.” She shoved a yellow-and-green tote over her shoulder and smashed a few bags farther down into the bowels of the dark trunk. “That oughta do it until I can get my poor baby towed in.” She slammed the trunk closed. “All set.”

Poor baby his ass. More like a bucket of rattling bolts. Broken-down car. Trunk full of junk food. Nervous hair twirling. Brogan remembered Lucy’s nervous habits with perfect clarity. Something big must’ve gone down for Lucy to be here, and he planned to find out what.

Lucy’s bag slipped, and he reached for it, his hand trapped for an instant between the padded strap and the smooth silk of the tank top covering her shoulder. She felt warm, and he took a moment to enjoy the sensation, wondering what it would be like to kiss her. She had a very kissable mouth. Lush, full, plump lips. The flush shading her cheeks told him she felt the same attraction…or she was dying of heatstroke. But the set to her chin and furrowed brows told him she had no intention of acting upon it. Brogan gave a mental shrug as he hefted her bag over his other shoulder. Not a good idea to start something. He had enough trouble in Harmony, trying to live down his past relationship with Julia. No need to arm the town with any more ammunition.

“Come on, pack rat. Let’s get you settled.”

* * *

Lucy followed Brogan to his sleek dark-blue convertible. Picturing him in this expensive car only enhanced her colorful fantasies. Brogan came from a lot less than she, but he’d always been hardworking and smart. Must’ve paid off. She worked hard too, but she didn’t have a flashy new convertible to show for it. Instead, she had a useless business contract, broken-down old car, and depleted savings account. Brogan’s remote popped his trunk open seamlessly. Lucy gave a silent sigh. Okay, so she had to reinvent herself…again. Not the end of the world. But to be coming home to Harmony not in the healthiest financial situation—that was a bitter pill to swallow. And for Brogan to be her first eyewitness…well, make that a bitter
horse
pill.

Brogan placed her jam-packed bags inside his pristine trunk. “Nice car. Aren’t you a little young to be having a midlife crisis? Or are you trying to overcompensate for something?” she asked.

Clear green eyes twinkled as he smiled at her. “For someone who used to be shy, you sure are mouthy.” He opened the passenger-side door. “Your carriage awaits, my lady,” he said with a mock bow.

She slid into the smooth leather seat, breathing in the new-car smell, and reached to buckle her seat belt. Brogan tossed a broken-in UNC baseball cap in her lap.

“Don’t want your hair getting tangled. What happened to your curls?”

Lucy fed her sleek hair through the hole in back of the cap as Brogan pulled onto the road. She patted her ponytail, still loving the way straight hair felt to her fingers. “Not that it’s any of your business, but my boyfriend thought straightening my hair presented a more professional image, and I happen to agree.”

He gave her an odd look. “Boyfriend?” he said, as if the mere thought of her having a boyfriend defied credibility. “Why would your boyfriend care about your professional image?”

Lucy screwed up her mouth. How could she explain? Not that she owed him or anyone an explanation, but it’d be better he heard it from her than from Dottie Duncan, or worse, Miss Sue Percy, who could spread gossip faster than a bullet train. High-speed Internet had nothing on the ladies of Harmony.

“Ex. Anthony is my ex-boyfriend. He had certain standards for taking his business to the next level.” And she’d been the perfect tool, buying into his total BS. The Jag cruised down the road at a nice clip, and Lucy tilted her face toward the sky, catching the breeze caressing her heated skin, when suddenly the car slowed to a crawl, and Lucy caught Brogan staring at her.

BOOK: Not So New in Town
11.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Ain't She Sweet? by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
The Scent of the Night by Andrea Camilleri
Three Coins for Confession by Scott Fitzgerald Gray
Your Number by J. Joseph Wright
A Question of Manhood by Robin Reardon
Striper Assassin by Nyx Smith
Sparring Partners by Leigh Morgan
Huddle Up by Liz Matis