My Life as a Holiday Album: A Small-town Romance
From award-winning author LJ Evans comes a heartwarming, standalone, holiday romance full of hidden secrets and the real meaning of family…
“She was the bow to my present, the universe of stars to my small round Earth.”
Edie is so pregnant she's about to burst when she comes back to her small town in Tennessee minus her Scottish, whiskey-distillery-owning husband. She doesn't plan on telling anyone that her marriage may be over before it's had a chance to really begin.
Khiley and Stephen have been soulmates since they could crawl. Unfortunately, the secret they're keeping may be the one thing to tear them apart forever.
Ty is tired of being compared to his dead, football god of an uncle. He wants to be recognized for his own talent and passion. The chip he's wearing on his shoulder may be the one thing to keep him from getting the woman he loves and his future in the pros.
Eliza is ready to step into a future with the one man who's loved her for who she is rather than her famous family. The secret she shares with her Air Force cadet boyfriend is sure to knock everyone for a loop.
Joining Watery Reflection has been an experience most musicians would give a right eye for, but to Mayson it’s a threat to everything he holds dear, especially his relationship with Grace. Can he set things right before he loses her completely?
Ginny is the family member who keeps everyone else’s dreams on course. She's the shoulder to cry on and the conscience to guide the way. But when Cole walks into the room, she sees something she wants for herself. Can she have him without sacrificing her family's happiness?
If you loved any of the Album Series books, you won't want to miss this soul-filling, wintery goodness inspired by Lady A's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."
Release date: December 7, 2020
Publisher: LJ Evans Book
Print pages: 385
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Behind the book
The children of the original cast of characters are back with secrets sure to make the holidays go off with a bang that has nothing to do with fireworks.
My Life as a Holiday Album: A Small-town Romance
“Don't you know that I'm so lonely this Christmas?“
Performed by Leona Lewis
Written by Howes / Purcell / Ashurst / Lewis / Stannard
The chaos of Eliza’s elopement had taken over the house. Mama was a bag of emotions, going from tears of joy, to tears of hurt, and back to tears of joy. Daddy was quieter than normal, watching Brett as he took care of Eliza. Watching to make sure he could fulfill his promise of taking care of my parents’ baby.
I watched the hubbub, helping out as I could. While Mama was throwing half her kitchen into moving boxes, I carried more of them into Eliza’s room, and Eliza joined me there.
“She’s not going to have anything left in the kitchen if she keeps giving everything to Brett and me,” Eliza said with a small frown.
“Where is Brett?” I asked.
“He left with Ty to get more boxes and packing tape,” she said as she pulled a bunch of clothes from her closet. It made me wonder what her room in our apartment in Knoxville looked like. She must have cleaned it out after I’d already left to come home. I was going to miss having her there with me. I’d be alone, and the thought made my heart tug.
“You trust Ty with him?” I teased.
Eliza froze. “You don’t think he’ll dunk him in the lake like they did Edie’s old boyfriend, do you?”
I shrugged. “You never know with Ty.”
“But you do know. You and Ty have that sixth-sense-twin thing going on.”
She was right and wrong. Even though we’d always been opposite ends of a candle, we’d still been able to read each other’s thoughts when we were younger. But as we’d grown up, the ties binding us had melted away, causing our twin-sense to fade, almost surprising us when it did raise its head on the rare occasion these days.
I was fighting a strange melancholy I was determined not to show. I wasn’t downright depressed, but a sadness had settled into my bones. Everyone was moving on. To something bigger and brighter. Dreams coming true. What did I have? Just another year and a half at UTK before I came home and went to work with Mama at the dealership. Nothing extreme. Nothing to cause the parents to freak out.
The majority of my list left uncrossed.
My phone buzzed. It was our group text.
EDIE: We need to meet at Grandma Marina’s house. ASAP.
ME: What’s up?
EDIE: The roof fell in on the Elks Lodge.
TY: *** laughing emoji ***
Edie had rented the Elks Lodge for the surprise party we were holding on New Year’s Eve for all the family turning fifty. The lodge had been available because there’d been no official Elks Club New Year’s Eve celebration since Mr. Langston had jumped off the roof―drunk―and almost died. He’d sued the Elks, they’d lost, and they’d stopped holding parties.
KHI: Oh no!
STEPHEN: Don’t be a dick, Ty.
ME: Do we have a Plan B?
EDIE: This is why we need to meet. We need to divide and conquer. See if anyone still has space available that will hold all of us.
ELIZA: I’m not sure Mama will let me escape the house without becoming suspicious.
TY: You’ll be lucky to get away on the first.
EDIE: Anyone know where Mayson is? Has he even surfaced from his time with Gracie-Lou?
ME: He’s here at our house. I’ll grab him on our way.
TY: I’ll drop Brett back home and then come over.
ELIZA: You didn’t do anything stupid with my husband, did you?
TY: Wouldn’t you like to know?
ELIZA: I kind of like him with all his body parts, thank you.
TY: I don’t need to know anything about you and him and his body parts.
ME: Ewww. Don’t be gross, Ty.
TY: We need to have a brother-sister, birds-and-bees discussion if you think it’s gross.
EDIE: Can we please FOCUS on the critical issue here. We have a hundred people showing up for a party and no place to hold it!!!!
STEPHEN: Don’t stress, Eds. We’ll find something.
EDIE: I’m leaving now. DO NOT MAKE ME WAIT, PEOPLE.
I folded the last couple dresses into the box I’d been packing before turning to look at the mess that was Eliza’s room.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Don’t worry about it. We still have plenty of time, and Brett will help me when he gets back.”
“We can finish tonight.”
“Go, before Edie gets so stressed she shoots that baby out early,” Eliza said, pushing her dark hair out of her face, and it hit me how grown-up she looked. Like she’d suddenly gone from my preteen sister to this much older version of herself.
More change I wasn’t prepared for.
I hugged her impulsively, tightly, surprising her. It took her a second, but then she hugged me back equally as hard before I left, heading down the stairs to the studio to look for Mayson. He’d been better about texting with all of us before he’d moved to Los Angeles. But after he’d left, he rarely replied to the group texts anymore. Gone in more than just his physical form.
I reached the bottom of the stairs just as Daddy started up. He was on the phone with his manager. He smiled at me and ruffled my hair as he went past. I heard him say something about Mayson’s replacement, and I turned to watch him take the stairs two at a time.
Mayson wasn’t staying with the band? This was news. More change our family probably couldn’t handle at the moment. We’d had enough big news for the week.
When I entered the studio, there was one more body than I’d expected there. Mayson and Grace were at the piano, his arms wrapped around her middle, but it was the tall, tall, tall man who stood next to them I didn’t recognize. You could tell from the look on Grace’s face she was harassing the giant. The few times I’d met Grace, she’d always been serious, almost moody, full of a don’t-mess-with-me vibe. Seeing her with a wide smile that lit up her blue eyes was a surprise.
“Hey,” I said, as I approached the piano. “I’ve been sent to fetch you.”
The man with them turned, and friendly eyes took me in. Happy. Welcoming. I felt like I should have known him, but I couldn’t remember ever having met someone so tall before. He was, like, basketball-player kind of tall. He’d dwarf even Ty, who was the largest of our entire crew.
“Hey, Ginny,” Grace said. “It’s good to see you.”
“You, too.” I smiled back before turning to Mayson. “Did you not follow the group text at all?”
Mayson sighed a heavy sigh as if just the thought of the exchange was exhausting. “I was kind of busy having a talk with your dad.”
I nodded. “Why does Daddy need to replace you?”
“Mayson is making a movie with Cole and me. We got a deal with Dylan’s production company,” Grace said.
A movie! Holy smokes. My face broke into a smile that matched theirs.
“Wow! That’s incredible! Congratulations.”
Grace’s fingers found their way to Mayson’s, and he pulled their joined hands to his mouth to kiss the back of hers. I wasn’t quite ready to puke from all the love flowing through everyone this week, but I was close. Love and jobs and dreams. My stomach flipped. I was being left behind in more ways than one. I didn’t let my feelings show. Instead, I just kept my smile, forcing it to stay in place.
Mayson and Grace untangled their limbs and rose from the piano. I hugged Mayson and then her. I stuck my hand out to the tall man who must have been Cole.
“I’m Ginny,” I said.
“Cole.” He shook my hand and heat shot through me, causing me to pull my hand back quickly, and I masked my surprise by turning back to my cousin.
“Why have you been sent to fetch me?” Mayson asked, returning to my initial comments.
“Roof caved in on the Elks Lodge. Now we have to find a Plan B location for the party.”
“Shit! Edie must be going nuts.”
“Hence the need to come get you. We’re all meeting up at Grandma’s house.”
“Hence?” Mayson laughed.
“Have you been reading Jane Austen again?” he teased, as we all started up the stairs. I felt eyes on me, and I had to resist the urge to look over my shoulder as well as the urge to check my panty line.
“No,” I replied, flicking the back of his shoulder.
“Georgette Heyer, then?”
I was surprised Mayson remembered the books from my high school years. I’d devoured practically every historical romance novel that existed.
“I haven’t been reading at all. Who has time with everyone dropping mics every time I turn around?”
We grabbed our coats from the mudroom and headed out the back door.
“You riding with us?” Mayson asked.
“It is if you feel like risking your life,” Cole said, looking down at me with a wink.
I didn’t know how to respond to those twinkling eyes that were such a soft shade of green you almost expected to see chocolate flakes in them, like my favorite ice cream: mint chocolate chip.
Grace punched Cole in the shoulder with so much force he actually took a step backward.
“I don’t put anyone’s life at risk,” she huffed and then unlocked the doors on a tiny black rental car.
“That hurt,” Cole said, rubbing his shoulder.
“Wuss,” Grace muttered.
I got into the back seat, used to being in the rear of cars with my short legs. There was always room for me. When Cole joined me, I couldn’t help a small smile at the vision he made with his legs bent back almost onto his chest.
Cole saw my smirk and matched it with a lazy grin that hit me in my gut. “You’re laughing at me being crammed in here, right? You should be applauding, because I’m sacrificing myself for true love.”
“Twhooo love,” Grace hollered from the front. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You’ve killed my father. Prepare to die.”
And Cole hollered out over her, “Inconceivable! As you wish, Princess Buttercup!” And when Grace finished her lines ahead of him, he added on, “Damn!”
Grace was snickering. “You owe me a drink.”
“You’re not going to like it!”
“Don’t make me angry―” Grace started, and he hollered over her, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
“You’re giving Ginny the completely wrong idea about the two of you. She’s going to think you’re missing some brain cells,” Mayson said.
“But you still love us,” Grace responded.
“You. I love you. Him”—Mayson flung a thumb toward Cole—“I could take or leave.”
“I’m taking all my great screenplays to a new production company,” Cole said.
“Those are half mine, so good luck,” Grace added.
Cole turned to me. “What’s it like growing up with a twin brother? Is it anything like growing up with a cousin who is a year and a half younger than you but likes to call all the shots?”
I smiled at him. It was hard not to. As he spoke, all the pieces fell into place, and I realized who he was. “You’re Mayson’s roommate?”
“Took me a minute to put it all together, sorry,” I said.
“Why on earth would you be sorry?”
“I just… I should have recognized you.”
His turn to frown. “Have we met and I was in a catatonic state or something? Because I’m sure I would have remembered you.”
“Your charm is wasted on Ginny,” Mayson said. “She will not be reeled in that easily.”
Cole brushed a hand through his hair as if he were embarrassed. I was embarrassed, too, because I was ninety-nine percent sure Cole had just been making conversation and not flirting.
“Ignore the oldest jerk-alert in the front seat,” I said, trying to ease both our embarrassment. “I just meant I’m sure I’ve seen pictures of you or something that I should have remembered.”
“I’m not the oldest. Edie is,” Mayson threw back.
“Why don’t you just have a conversation with your lady love and leave the lady in the back seat to me,” Cole said.
“Okay, but I’m telling you, you aren’t going to make any progress with Ginny. She’s not a flutternutter.”
“Jerk,” Cole said, but he turned the full force of his gaze back to me.
It made me nervous. It made me want to tuck my hair behind my ear, straighten my blouse, and swipe my lips with lip gloss. None of which was my normal response to men. My normal response was…well…indifference.
My reaction to him and the way the three of them interacted—a rapid-fire exchange—was throwing me for a loop. The bond between them was strong and visible. It hit me with force. Mayson had found a home with people who understood him better than anyone here had. Better than the football-loving, contract-making people in our family. Sure, he’d shared Daddy’s musical genius, but he’d never shown an interest in Watery Reflection until he’d toured with them these last few months. I’d honestly been surprised when he’d agreed to take over for Mitch at all.
The melancholy hit me again. Everyone really was finding their place. Their home. I’d always thought mine was here, but as all my cousins and siblings found new paths, the thought of returning here when I graduated kind of felt like going backward instead of forward. The thought of all the items on my list that hadn’t been accomplished made my stomach lurch in a strange way.
“Hey, you okay?” Cole’s voice dropped a notch, whispering.
I turned and gave him my very best fake smile and nodded, even though I wasn’t sure I was okay. I didn’t know if I could handle being the one lost instead of the one guiding the way.
SHAKE UP CHRISTMAS
“And let me meet a girl one day,
That wants to spread some love this way.
We can let our souls run free,
And she can open some happiness with me.”
Performed by Train
Written by Walker / Monahan
There was this gorgeous brunette in the back seat of Grace’s rental with me, and all I could think about was how she smelled of maple and brown sugar, and how it felt like the holidays just sitting with her. Like the very best anticipation and cheer rolled into one.
She was stunningly beautiful. But she looked like she was about to cry. I suddenly needed to help with that. I suddenly needed to make sure she was all right. It was an odd feeling to have for a stranger.
When I asked if she was okay, she nodded and gave me a fake smile. I knew it was fake because I’d seen her real smile just moments before when she’d been looking at Mayson, Grace, and me like we were two shots short of a barrel of whiskey.
Ginny. Her name was Ginny. If I even breathed it to Grace, she’d tease me about the teenage fantasy I’d had about Ginny Weasley, a stunning, redheaded witch. What smart boy wouldn’t have had a fantasy about her? And I’d always been a smart boy.
We pulled into the driveway of an older ranch house with a beautiful Southern porch, festooned with a swing and all. Ginny led the way, knocking and then opening the door without waiting for a response. The noise inside was already loud. Like it had been when we’d gotten to the Waters’ house earlier. Or like being at Dad’s gym when multiple classes were going on. A hum of energy you couldn’t escape.
I was better with silence. Too much noise normally had me retreating into myself, becoming a watcher instead of a participant.
“We’re not having it in the barn,” a strawberry-blonde, whose stomach looked like it was ready to burst out an alien, said with disgust to the football jock I knew as Ty.
All eyes turned to us as we walked in, and I was scrutinized as the interloper I was to the group.
“Who's this?” Ty asked with a wave of his head in my direction.
“This is Cole. My roommate. Grace’s cousin.” Mayson rolled his eyes. “You actually met him when you came out to L.A. when UCLA was recruiting you.”
Ty took me in, and I found myself coming to my full height, which I rarely did. I was always squashing myself down into normal-person range. Ty said, “Right. It’s been a long time. Did you come with Grace?”
I gave a curt nod. I wouldn’t be intimidated by him. The first time I’d met him, his ego had been large enough to surf on. Now it seemed even bigger.
“Cole, this is Edie and my grandma, Marina,” Mayson introduced me to the pregnant woman and the older, gray-haired lady standing next to her before turning to a redheaded male twined with his sister, Khiley. “Khiley’s other half is Stephen, and the superhuman with Ty is his girlfriend, Maleena.” He turned to me with a fake whisper, “We call her superhuman because no one else could put up with Ty’s monstrosity of an ego and survive.”
Ty flipped Mayson off and grinned before turning back to Edie.
“Uncle Matt would absolutely let us use the barn,” he argued.
“The forecast says it’ll be eighteen degrees on New Year’s Eve,” Ginny retorted. “I don’t think we can hold it in the barn.”
“Or anywhere outside,” Khiley agreed.
I was taken back by all the couples in the group. Mayson and Grace. Ty and the superhuman, Maleena. Khiley and Stephen. And back at the house, the couple who’d eloped. Ginny was the only one not attached, assuming the bursting stomach meant Edie was also in a relationship. I wondered how that made Ginny feel. To be the sole single person. I wondered if that was why she was sad.
But then, what did I know? Maybe she, too, had a partner who was going to come jumping from the woodwork at any moment, and I’d be the only single one amongst them. I’d been single for too long now. Way too long.
“Everybody, calm down,” the elderly woman said with a smile. “Edie, show them your list. I doubt any of them are going to be a yes, but we might as well try.”
“Right,” Edie said. “I’ve broken the locations down so we can divide and conquer. Ty and Ginny, I’m pretty sure the clubhouse at the new golf course will be a hard no, but if anyone can sway them, it’ll be Ty. While you’re out that way, see if the Catholic church has the hall already booked.”
“Are you sure you should send Ty into a church?” Stephen guffawed.
“He might get hit with a bolt of lightning.” Mayson grinned.
Ty’s fingers went to work again, flipping them both off.
“Stephen and Khiley, I’m sending you to the rest of the churches in town,” Edie said, handing them a slip of paper.
“Won’t they get hit with lightning, too? After all, Khi did get knocked up out of wedlock,” Ty said, getting a dig in with a smile.
Khiley rolled her eyes. “Is that all you got, QB?”
She didn’t seem upset, and she also didn’t look pregnant. It surprised me that Grace and I hadn’t heard about it from Mayson, because he was close to his sister. Maybe not as close as Grace and I, even though we were cousins instead of siblings, but Mayson still talked with Khiley often enough to be at the top of his message box. I wondered if the pregnancy was one of the surprises Derek had mentioned back at the Waters’ house.
“Mayson, I’m hoping you might be able to use your influence with Mr. Clark to get us one of the school gyms.” Edie handed Mayson the last paper.
“Oh, come on, he liked Ty better than he ever liked me,” Mayson groaned.
“That was before Ty TP’d his house, his car, and his horse our senior year,” Ginny said dryly.
Ty tried to hide his grin behind his hand, but it was obvious he was enjoying the walk down memory lane. I couldn’t imagine how he and Ginny were twins. They were complete opposites. Female, male. Short, tall. Charming, asshole.
“I was going to have Eliza hit up the restaurants downtown with me,” Edie said. “But I guess I’ll have to do those on my own.”
“I’ve got Maleena with me, so I don’t need Ginny. Take her with you,” Ty said.
Ginny looked away, and I could tell the words had stabbed at her. The fact that her twin didn’t need her.
Edie narrowed her eyes at Ty.
Maleena saw Edie’s glance and put her hand on Ty’s arm. “I promise I won’t let him piss anyone off too badly.”
Edie nodded and turned to Ginny. “It’s a lot of restaurants, but I think we can get through them quick―” A gasp interrupted her words, and she touched her hand to her baby belly.
Everyone seemed to hold their breath.
“Cripey. That hurt,” Edie said, her face relaxing.
“Did you just have a contraction?” Ginny asked.
Edie was shaking her head. “Just a Braxton Hicks one, I’m sure. The baby isn’t due for another eight days.”
Marina laughed. “You do realize that babies rarely arrive on schedule, right?”
Edie’s eyes widened. “Don’t even say that. I have way too much to get done before this baby shows up, and…”
Her voice shriveled up.
“Garrett’s still in Scotland,” Stephen finished for her, worry creasing his forehead as I finally placed the two as siblings. Their red hair should have been enough, but there was an easy affection between them as well.
Edie looked like she was about to cry, but then a fierce determination crossed her face. “Anywho, let’s get going.”
She stood up, heading toward the door with everyone following her, only to stop as she grabbed the back of the couch and doubled over. She panted through the pain as everyone looked on in a frozen stupor.
“You’re not going anywhere, young lady,” Marina said, putting an arm around Edie’s shoulders, forcing her around the couch and onto it. Edie sat with a stunned look on her face.
“This absolutely cannot be the baby.” Edie was shaking her head.
“We’re calling the doctor anyway,” Marina said, heading off, presumably, to find a phone.
“We’ll be fine,” Ginny chimed in, patting Edie’s shoulder. “We’ve got this, Eds. Don’t worry.”
“Well, whoever finishes their list first needs to go help Ginny. She’s got the bulk of the work because I’d planned on doing it myself.”
“I can help,” I found myself saying before I’d even thought it through. All the eyes turned to look at me, confusion evident on all their faces as to why I would volunteer to help when I barely knew them. I couldn’t blame them. I was puzzled as well. All I knew was Ginny had been calling to me like a siren since the moment I’d seen her in the basement studio. No. Not a siren. A witch. She really must have been one.
“Why don’t the four of us just go together? We can hit downtown after the schools,” Mayson suggested.
“No, there are way too many spots to get through before they close. You’ll never make it if you go together,” Edie protested.
“I’ll start. You can join me when you’re done,” Ginny said, taking charge. “I’ll just need to borrow your car, Eds. I rode here with Mayson.”
“Fine,” Edie handed the keys that were in her hand to Ginny. “But I need updates from everyone as you go.”
She grimaced and put a hand to her belly as pain washed over her face again. When the contraction seemed to have passed, her eyes focused on the crowd standing in front of her. “What are you still doing here? Go. Go.”
And we did. The crowd dove into waiting cars until it was just Mayson, Grace, Ginny, and me left. Grace made her way to the rental.
Mayson looked between Ginny and me. Ginny turned to me. “Thanks for offering. It made Edie feel better, but I’ve got this. Why don’t you just go with Mayson and Grace? We’ll all meet up when you’ve begged, bartered, and pleaded with the superintendent.”
She was nervous, the keys in her hand twirling around and around on a finger. I wondered why I made her nervous. Was it because she felt the same invisible pull to me as I felt toward her?
“You saw what it was like with the lovebirds in the car. They hardly acknowledge my presence. You’re actually doing me a favor by letting me tag along,” I said.
I didn’t have to look at my cousin to feel her smirk. I didn’t have to look at Mayson to feel his frown. Tit for tat. His cousin for my cousin. Seemed like a fair trade to me.
The door of the house opened, and Edie appeared. “Why are you still here? Is everything okay?”
Ginny jumped like a startled bird, moving toward a behemoth of an SUV sitting in the driveway. “We’re leaving. Go talk to the doctor.”
I went to the passenger door and waited for the telltale sound of the lock popping before I opened the door and climbed in. I turned my head toward Mayson and Grace, who were still standing by the rental. I winked at them before turning back to Ginny with a smile. She was adjusting the seat. Her short limbs were barely able to reach the pedals even once the seat reached its limit.
“You don’t have to come with me,” she said.
I nodded. “You’re saving my legs by letting me come. Look at all the room I have in here.” I waved to the space between me and the dashboard. It was huge. Even my obnoxious length fit easily.
She backed out of the drive, looking nervous.
“You okay?” I asked.
She nodded. “I hate driving other people’s cars. And Edie’s might as well be the Titanic.”
“It doesn’t fit her,” I said with a nod.
“Why’s that?” she asked.
“I pegged her as more of a small SUV type. Like a Forester or something,” I said.
She gave me a quick glance before focusing on the road, heading toward the downtown area I’d only gotten a glimpse of yesterday. Small town, old town. Brick. Wrought iron. White, steepled churches. That kind of thing. Americana at its best.
“She actually used to have an Escape before Garrett bought her this. That’s weird.”
“Weird I knew or weird that she had one?”
“Weird that you knew.”
I smiled. “It’s my secret skill. I can almost always associate people with their vehicles. I might be off by a brand, but I’m always right about the type of car. Flashy two-seater or family car, luxury model or farm mobile.”
“Farm mobile? What on earth is a farm mobile?”
“You know. A truck. Not a pretty, perfectly new truck, but one that’s actually used for hauling stuff and throwing dirt in the back.”
She laughed, and I felt like I had a new calling.
“Dirt in the back.” Her chuckle died away, but the smile remained. “You can’t be serious, though. There’s no way you can judge what kind of car people have after just meeting them.”
“I beg to differ. Your brother, the classic muscle car, totally nailed it.”
“You just saw him get into it. That’s hardly fair,” she teased.
“But I knew what it would be before I even saw him walk toward it.”
“Okay, you haven’t seen mine. It’s tucked in the garage at home, so what car do I drive?” she asked.
It allowed me to take her in again. From the top of her dark, wavy hair, to her multi-colored eyes and full, lush lips, to her curves―all round and full like I liked―down to her toes and back up. When I got back to her face, she flushed a brilliant pink at my appraisal, and I almost wanted to start over and do it again, just to see if I could make her even pinker.
She cleared her throat. “So?”
“Sedan. Probably a Camry or Civic. Something dependable. Something that will be around for a long time.”
She shrugged. “That’s a pretty safe bet. They’re one of the top-selling cars in the country.”
She probably knew this for a fact seeing as the family owned the car dealership in town.
“True. But I bet it’s white and not red.”
“Why is that?”
“You like to be safe, dependable, and blend in. You don’t want to cause anyone problems, so you got the car because of its reputation for not breaking down. And you got white so that it stays clean longer. No extra expense at taking it through the car wash,” I explained.
She winced as if I’d just insulted her.
“Thanks,” she said dryly.
“I insulted you. I’m sorry. Why?” I certainly hadn’t wanted to. I didn’t want to see anything but smiles on that beautiful face.
“Dependable. Clean. Safe,” she said with disgust.
“You act like I called you a liar and a thief.”
She didn’t respond right away. She concentrated on navigating the huge car into one of the tiny parking spots slanted at an angle along the main street.
“Sometimes… Sometimes you want to be seen as the one who will do something wild. Break all the molds. Someone who takes off to Tahiti and never comes back.”
She got out of the car, and I joined her on the sidewalk.
“There’s nothing wrong with being dependable.”
“Maybe, but it certainly doesn’t make life any fun.”
“Dependable isn’t boring,” I told her, because that was what she was making it sound like. “For example, I’m very dependable.”
She rolled her eyes as she headed toward a busy diner.
“You think I’m boring?” I asked.
“I don’t even know you, so there’s no way I could make that assumption.”
She shrugged as if she wasn’t sure, and I felt the sudden need to show her just how unboring I was. What would she do if, for example, I pulled her into an embrace and kissed those perfectly formed lips? I barely held myself back from doing it as I reminded myself I wasn’t that guy. I wasn’t the kiss-‘em-and-leave-‘em type. Plus, she was Mayson’s cousin, and no matter if he was banging my cousin, I wasn’t going to return the favor.
I put all those thoughts out of my head and just walked with her as she went into every single possible party location along the street. An hour later, we’d had no luck. We’d just come out of the last restaurant when she glanced across at a two-story building with a flashing neon shamrock sign and sighed.
“I guess we should try the bar,” she said.
I followed her across the street and took two extra steps so I could open the door for her. She ducked her head and murmured, “Thanks,” like she had every time I’d gotten the doors along the way.
I watched her as she went by. The entirety of her could fit under my arm. She was almost as tiny as my cousin. But where Grace was all lean muscle, this woman… This woman had every curve a woman was supposed to have. Not quite voluptuous, just perfect. Her tight black jeans showed off the curve of her hips, and her forest green Henley was tucked in, putting her full, round breasts on display. I loved it, and as I walked into the bar behind her, my brain filled with images it shouldn’t have. Images of just what it would be like to touch those parts of her. How she would fit on me in certain ways. How we might have to make adjustments because of our heights, but just how sexy those adjustments could be. I lost my vision for a moment before coming to in the middle of a bar that looked like it had been exported from Ireland.
It was the exact hole-in-the-wall type of place you’d find in one of the local neighborhoods of Dublin. Away from the tourists and the crowds. A real pub. Like the ones I’d be visiting again in a few days on my fourth trip there.
After we were done in Tennessee, I was going back to L.A. briefly before flying out for a few weeks of solitude. While in Ireland, I intended to finish my screenplay about a famous Dublin pub owner. It was a story that was solely mine. One Grace hadn’t had a hand in. Her writing was beautiful and unmistakable, but sometimes it left me wondering if I had any style of my own, or if my gift was simply to enhance her words. I needed to do this for myself. Prove I really did have something to offer our little team…and the world.
I turned around, taking every aspect of the bar in, and when I turned back to Ginny, she was returning my stare from earlier in the car. From the top of my head, down every inch of me to my toes, and then back up. When she got back to my face, I smiled a full smile at her, and she turned pink again.
Thoughts of Ireland and screenplays flew out of my head, replaced by a smile and a desire so strong it felt like I’d lost sight of the shore. Suddenly, nothing else in the world seemed important. Just this woman and getting to know her.
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