It was good to be home, Beckett Pierce decided. Even if home meant your across-the-street neighbor had put up his psychedelic Halloween homage to the sixties.
Beckett shook his head at the giant inflatable VW bus in the front yard and set an easy pace as he jogged down the sidewalk.
It was an early October evening, which in his opinion was the perfect opportunity for a run around town. Particularly since he’d been gone for ten days. A quick run after hours on a plane would let him stretch his legs and get reacquainted with his town. And since it was dark, he could do it without being stopped a dozen times by townspeople.
He loved his duties as mayor of Blue Moon Bend and the responsibilities of his law practice, but spending more than a week in the Caribbean sun at his law school friend’s wedding had been a nice break.
Even if he was sure Edward was making a mistake by hitching himself for life to Tiffani the celebrity stylist.
Now, it was time to catch up on everything that had happened while he was gone. And in Blue Moon, it was a lot. The town might be small, but it moved fast.
While Beckett was relaxing on the beach, his paralegal and right hand, Ellery, had found a tenant—a single mom of two—for his backyard guesthouse, the new owner of Half-Moon Yoga had set up shop and opened her doors, and his mother had announced she was moving in with her boyfriend Franklin Merrill.
Beckett had already decided to avoid the reality of that last change for as long as he could.
The evening was dark enough that he decided to chance his anonymity on Main Street. Most of the storefronts were closed, but he saw lights on at the yoga studio. Maris, the previous owner, had moved to Santa Fe to open her own crystal shop.
Beckett let his long legs carry him around the square to the large windows of the studio that occupied the first floor of a three-story brick building painted navy blue. It looked as though Maris’s predecessor was significantly younger. And more limber.
Surrounded by a scatter of paint cans and brushes, a lone woman with miles of fiery red curls executed a perfect headstand. The studio was a fresh shade of peacock blue and dotted with flickering candles, but Beckett only had eyes for the woman in the middle of it all.
Her legs, straight as lances, opened in an inverted split. She wobbled and then tumbled down into a graceful heap onto the mat beneath her. He could hear her laughter faintly through the glass. Fascinated, he watched as she tossed her hair over her shoulder and, undaunted, returned to her headstand. This time, her split was rock steady.
She brought her legs down into a tight tuck and then jack-knifed them toward the ceiling, lifting up into a handstand.
Power and grace, he thought stepping closer to the glass. She tucked her chin and rolled forward and down into a cross-legged position. And then gave herself a high-five.
Beckett’s phone rang in the pocket of his fleece. He pulled it out and winced at the screen. He wasn’t ready for this conversation yet.
“I heard my favorite son was back in the country,” Phoebe Pierce chirped in his ear.
“I heard my mother is getting a roommate.”
“I will if we can find a decent place to buy,” she groaned. “It’s not exactly a hot real estate market in Blue Moon right now.”
Beckett remained silent.
His mother sighed. “I had a feeling the news might not be warmly received.”
Beckett scowled at the ground. “I don’t want to argue with you, Mom.”
“We’re going to have to talk about this sooner or later, you know. Franklin is a wonderful man. I really need you to give him a chance.”
“Beckett. You’re important to me. You’re the only middle son I’ve got. And Franklin’s important to me, too. I need you to make room for him.”
Make room for a man who wasn’t his father?
John Pierce, in Beckett’s estimation, had been the greatest man to ever live. He’d taught Beckett what love and loyalty and community looked like when you lived those principles day in and day out. The idea that some restaurant owner with his loud Hawaiian shirts and his baked ziti could just step into those shoes was laughable.
Beckett chose to ignore the fact that before he found out that his mother was dating Franklin, he had actually liked the man. He was active in the Chamber of Commerce and always cheerfully giving back to the community. But none of that measured up to John Pierce’s contributions to life and family in Blue Moon.
“Moving in together is serious, Mom. I’m just trying to look out for you,” he argued.
Edward and Tiffani, his mother and Franklin. What was with people settling for incompatible partners? Successful relationships were founded upon shared similarities and goals. Not to be confused with indiscriminate physical attraction or fillers for loneliness.
He didn’t want his mom getting hurt, especially not by someone who was so obviously not her type.
“We’ve given it a lot of thought and we both feel it’s the right thing to do. I’m excited about it, and I hope you can be excited for me.”
“Can we talk about something else?” Beckett begged.
Phoebe sighed again and let him have his way. “How was your trip?”
* * *
Victoriously, Gia rolled back on the mat. Nailing the conversion from headstand to handstand was a pride-booster. But she was just as grateful for all of the stumbles and falls along the way. Earning her place with hard work and sweat was more satisfying than falling into something great, she decided. And with practice and focus, she’d learn to minimize the stumbles.
Gia stared up at the ceiling of her studio. Her very own yoga studio.
When life threw you curve ball after curve ball, eventually you had to hit one of them out of the park, she thought.
And this would be her home run. She had a gut feeling about the way everything had fallen into place. The newly available studio space. A charming rental that was walking distance to the studio. And being closer to her father was an added bonus. Growing up, she’d been so close to him as he took on the role of both father and mother—not to mention mediator when she and her sisters feuded. She’d missed him in the recent years when circumstances kept them apart.
But now, things would be different. She would be different. Life wouldn’t revolve around the whims of someone so casually careless with hearts. The foundation she’d build here would provide the much-needed stability for those who depended on her.
Blue Moon—with its good vibes and quirky traditions—would be the fresh start that she needed.
Gia stood up and stretched her arms over her head. She tugged her paint-splattered tank top down and, hands on hips, studied the space.
The paint looked good. It was colorful but soothing. The rest of the space had received a tasteful facelift with new dimmable lighting, brightly colored cushions and soft throws, and Zen-inspired art on the walls. She had repainted the smaller studio in the back and changed out the vanities in both bathrooms.
A quick, surface clean, and she would be ready for the ribbon cutting tomorrow. She’d meet more of her neighbors and celebrate this new beginning.
The ceremony was representative of more than just a new business. It was a new start. A new home, a new way of life. A steadier one, with fewer mistakes and bigger rewards.
* * *
Beckett tossed the handwritten messages in the recycling bin and reached for a glass. In ten days, he’d piled up fifteen messages from modeling agencies interested in representing him and his brothers.
He made a mental note to kill Summer when he saw her next.
Her article on his brother Carter and the family farm had garnered undue attention when it was published in a New York-based women’s magazine. The article had been edited down to the equivalent of a Playgirl pictorial. The piece earned enough attention on its own, but when Summer published the original article on her blog, it had gone viral.
He and his brothers had since attracted ridiculous offers from both modeling agencies and women. Ellery took a great deal of joy in reading aloud some of the more creative offers that arrived via his business email.
He was filling a glass straight from the tap in his kitchen when the lights in the guesthouse caught his eye. Beckett checked his watch. Eight-thirty. It was early enough to stop by and introduce himself to his new tenant.
He walked out the back door, off the porch, and crossed the small patch of grass that separated his home from the guesthouse. It was a cozy two-story built to compliment his rambling Victorian. Two bedrooms upstairs, a doll-sized kitchen downstairs, and reasonable living and dining spaces, it was cozy and charming. And had rented faster than he anticipated.
He stepped onto the narrow porch and rapped his knuckles on the glossy black door. Through the glass, he saw a kid climb off of the couch and shuffle toward him. He had sandy-colored hair and suspicious eyes.
“Yeah?” The kid said.
“Hey. I’m your landlord slash neighbor,” Beckett said jerking his thumb toward his house. “Is your mom around?”
“She’s not my mom.” The kid said it sullenly as if it were a constant point of contention.
“She kidnap you?” Beckett asked with an expression of mock concern. “If you’re being held against your will, blink twice.”
The kid’s lips twitched into a smirk.
“I know the sheriff. I can have him over here in five minutes. It’s pretty boring crime-wise here. He’d love to get his hands on a good, old-fashioned kidnapping case.”
“She’s my ex-stepmother,” he said by way of an explanation. “And she’s not here.”
“Well, I’ll stop by some other time and make sure she’s not making you scrub floors or live in the closet under the stairs.”
It was almost a smile this time.
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