The Lyrics of Love: A Small Town Romance (Maple Cove #4)
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Welcome to the new world from USA Today bestselling author Alexa Aston—Maple Cove—a small town on the Oregon Coast where romance is heating up!
A singer broken by his wife’s affair. An antiques dealer who is open to finding love. A sizzling attraction that leads to a lasting love . . .
Country superstar Nash Edwards comes off his latest tour and finds his wife of less than a year with his manager. Nash dumps them both and turns to drink. A DUI is his wake-up call, and he dries out and decides to come to the Oregon Coast, where the drummer in his band retreats after each tour. Nash stops to help a woman who’s run out of gas—and their encounter has him rethinking what he wants in his life.
Rylie Robinson owns and runs Antiques and Mystiques, a successful business in the Cove. She has close friends and a passion for antiques, until her passion turns to a hot, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter. Nash tells hers he’ll never marry again, having been burned once.
But Rylie is approaching thirty, and all her friends are marrying and ready to start their families. She finds herself longing to do the same. She fights her attraction to Nash, not interested in casual sex with a man who doesn’t trust women.
Will Nash come to his senses and realize Rylie is the best thing that has ever happened to him—or will his stubbornness keep them alone and apart?
Find the answer in The Lyrics of Love, Book 4 in Maple Cove.
Each book in this contemporary small town romance series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
1 – Another Chance at Love: A Small Town Romance (Maple Cove Book 1)
2 – A New Beginning: A Small Town Romance (Maple Cove Book 2)
3 – Coming Home: A Small Town Romance (Maple Cove Book 3)
4 – The Lyrics of Love: A Small Town Romance (Maple Cove Book 4)
5 – Finding Home: A Small Town Romance (Maple Cove Book 5)
Release date: August 23, 2022
Publisher: Oliver Heber Books
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Lyrics of Love: A Small Town Romance (Maple Cove #4)
Los Angeles—One year ago...
Nash Edwards sprawled in the back seat of his bass guitarist’s car. Dart sat in the passenger’s seat, while his latest girlfriend drove Nash to his L.A. home. He closed his eyes, rubbing them wearily. Coming off a year-long tour, he felt his soul had been sucked from him. He listened with one ear to the conversation between the couple in the front seat, wondering at the ease which they spoke with one another.
His relationship with his wife wasn’t close to this.
Luna had started off with him on the tour, which had kicked off in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl and gone everywhere in the US, from the San Antonio Rodeo to Madison Square Garden in New York. She bored easily, though, and flew home a few times to L.A. for auditions. One of those paid off, with Luna landing a Netflix series that started shooting immediately, causing her to remain in California for the past six months. She had only flown out for a couple of weekends to see him perform—and they had been like strangers to one another. Nothing to talk about. Nothing in common.
It let Nash know just how much of a mistake he had made with this marriage.
He rushed into it because she was hot. Period. She had flattered his ego, saying all the right things he thought he wanted to hear. He remembered waking up on his honeymoon in Tahiti, his head thick with a hangover, looking at the woman lying next to him and thinking she was a total stranger. They had known each other forty-eight days before their wedding. He had no idea how she liked her steak cooked. What her favorite flavor of ice cream was. Why she was estranged from her parents. Hell, she had said she wasn’t even born Luna. Nash didn’t know if she’d taken it as a stage name or had it legally changed. Idly, he had wondered if they were even legally wed if he’d married her under a false name.
But she’d awakened and gripped his cock, and he’d forgotten all the doubts.
They surfaced now. Big time. He was coming home to a woman he still knew very little about. So tired he couldn’t think about writing his next hit song. The physical spark had long been extinguished. He realized now that he should have gotten to know Luna before letting her talk him into a fast marriage. His heart told him he had never loved her. He didn’t even know if he knew how to love anyone except Pops.
That’s where Nash wished he could be now. In Nashville. On his farm. The one Pops tended. Not here in glitzy L.A. with a wife who was a stranger. He had no idea what he would even say to her when he saw her. He’d tried while they had been apart. Called. FaceTimed. Sent her funny memes in texts. Wrote her long e-mails late at night, after the show ended and he was too wired to sleep, pouring out his heart.
She rarely answered those revealing e-mails. Acted put-out when he called. Told him she had lines to learn and had to get up early to film the next day. She would disconnect, leaving him more alone than he was before he married her.
He decided to tell her it was over. He owed it to her. Didn’t blame her. He would shoulder that blame instead. Luna was only twenty-two. He was thirty and had known better than to think with his dick. It would be better to cut ties with her now, before the marriage dragged on any longer. He’d been alone before. Lonely, actually, which was why he’d been drawn to Luna in the first place. It had never been love, just a case of extreme lust.
Did love even exist?
Probably not beyond the songs he wrote. His parents hadn’t loved each other and certainly not him. His dad drank himself to death when Nash was eight. Mom left soon after that. Pops had stepped up and raised Nash. Was still his best friend and the wisest person he knew. Pops hadn’t liked Luna from the time they arrived at the farm for a quick visit. Thought she was too young and snooty. He realized Pops was right.
Nash sat up, rubbing his eyes. Decision made. He would let Luna know things were over between them. Do it as gently as possible. She probably wasn’t even awake since it was already half-past eleven. They would sit down like adults and discuss it tomorrow.
The car pulled up to the gate. “You want out here, Nash?” asked the girlfriend, whose name he couldn’t remember since Dart ran through women like tissues during flu season.
“This is good,” he said, getting out of the car. “Pop the trunk.”
She did so, and he claimed his duffel bag. He had half a dozen suitcases still on the tour bus, but his manager would take care of seeing those delivered to his house.
“Thanks for the ride,” he said, waving as the car backed away.
Tapping in the code, the gates swung open. He made his way down the long drive and to the house. Then he realized he didn’t have any keys with him. He hadn’t needed them on a forty-five-state tour. But there was a key in the back yard. Under one of those fake rocks. He would use it to let himself in and not wake Luna. She could be pretty grumpy if she didn’t get a ton of sleep. If she were filming tomorrow morning and he rang the bell now, he would be in deep shit. That was no way to start off his homecoming, especially since he would be asking for a divorce.
The house was lit enough outside for him to easily make his way to the back without any problems. As he got closer, though, he heard noises. Splashing. Voices. Concern filled him. His next-door neighbor had a wild teenage son. It wouldn’t surprise Nash if the kid had climbed the fence between their properties with a few of his buddies and decided to have a little party.
Rounding the corner, he dropped his duffel bag and crept forward.
And spied Luna, naked on the steps leading into the pool, Freddy Folter draped over her.
Shock rippled through him, quickly replaced by a coldness seeping deep into his bones. His brain began spinning in fast forward as he slipped his phone from his pocket and snapped a few shots of the pair frolicking. Luna had pushed Freddy away and dashed up the steps. Nash switched to video, filming them playfully tussle with one another and then wrap limbs around one another, the kiss deep and sensual.
Nash turned away, stopping the video, hurt and anger spiraling through him. He remained in the shadows as they scrambled to the hot tub and climbed in, Luna giggling.
He moved closer, so close that he started the video again, recording their sexual play and the conversation that followed. He froze as his wife talked about what a fool her husband was and how she had married him for his money. How his name opened doors for her and she couldn’t wait to dump him.
It was all the evidence he would need if she threatened a court battle.
Nash continued to record as he stepped from the shadows, wanting the upcoming conversation to be on the record.
“Hello, Luna,” he said, causing her to shriek.
Freddy’s head whipped around, spying Nash. “Nash, it’s not what you think,” his manager—now ex-manager—began.
“It’s exactly what I think, Freddy. You’re banging my wife. I may have been a fool before now, but I’ll man up and swallow that. As of this moment, you’re my former manager. Phil Mooney will contact you in the morning regarding our separation agreement.”
Freddy looked remorseful, but Nash had no sympathy. His manager had made millions off him. Freddy was a hustler. He would come out of this mostly unscathed.
“Got it, Nash.” Freddy climbed from the hot tub and padded toward a chair, grabbing his clothes and walking away.
Nash turned his attention to Luna, who stood defiantly, her hands on her hips, her chin raised. She did have a killer body—but he couldn’t let that distract him from what needed to be said. She had betrayed him in the worst way, and it was time she paid the piper.
“I was going to tell you in the morning that I wanted a divorce. I had already decided that I wanted one even before I was greeted by this little scene,” he informed her. “We have a prenup. You’ll get a little something, which is more than you deserve.”
Moving lightning fast, she jumped from the hot tub and rushed to him, slapping him hard. She raised her hand to do so again. This time he caught her wrist.
Anger sparked in her eyes. “I’ll say I was coerced to sign it.”
“Try,” he said, his gaze steady on hers.
Her mouth trembled. Tears formed in her eyes. But she was an actress, and his gut told him she was acting now.
“It was just a fling, baby,” she purred, placing a hand on his chest. “I was lonely. Freddy was around all the time. Remember, you were the one who told him to take care of me.”
“I don’t think you sucking his dick was part of the deal,” he said, referring to what had occurred in the hot tub.
Outrage filled her face, which grew bright red. She shrugged off his hand and took a step back. “You can’t do this, Nash.”
“Of course, I can. And I will. As of this moment, you are cut off from all our joint accounts.”
“I’ll sue you,” she declared.
“Then I hope Freddy will pay for the lawsuit. It will be long, drawn-out, and expensive as hell. In the end, the prenup will stand, Luna. You know Phil is the best attorney around.”
“You’re making something out of nothing,” she complained. “Everyone cheats in Hollywood.”
“But I’m a country boy from East Texas,” he told her. “One who lives in Nashville. I just happen to have a house here.”
“My career is just starting to take off, Nash. Don’t make this hard on me.”
He shook his head. “You don’t know what hard is. I do. I scraped by making a living, playing honky-tonks from the time I was fourteen.”
She snorted. “You’re just a high school drop-out who got lucky.”
He stared hard at her. “Luck had nothing to do with it, Luna. I have talent. Something you’ll never have. You’re just a pretty face in a town full of them,” he said flatly. “Go gather a few things and get out. I’ll have the maid pack up your clothes and personal items to send to you. Let Phil Mooney know where you’ll be. But it ain’t gonna be here.”
His naked wife glared daggers at him before storming into the house.
Nash sat on a nearby chaise lounge and called his attorney.
“You do realize it’s after midnight, Nash,” Phil said calmly.
“I just got home from the tour. Found Luna having sex in the pool with Freddy. I fired Freddy and sent her inside to pack. I have video we can use. What do I need to do?”
His attorney sighed. “The prenup is ironclad and clear. She’ll get a hundred K. That’s it. She’ll probably talk lawsuit, but she won’t have a leg to stand on, and she sure won’t want to blow the entire wad on a court battle. As for Freddy? He won’t help her. He’s too cheap and just a skirt chaser anyway. Freddy will lose interest if Luna is no longer riding your gravy train.”
“Our first move, then?” Nash asked.
“I’ll send a locksmith over first thing in the morning to change the locks, and I’ll file the necessary legal documents with the court tomorrow. Make sure Luna is served.” Phil paused. “If she does make noise and drags things into the media, how far do I take it, Nash?”
“Burn her to the ground,” he responded.
Nash waited an hour and then entered the house. It was quiet. He checked the security cameras and saw Luna’s Mercedes was missing from the garage. He went to the bar and picked up a bottle of Jim Beam, taking a long draw from it. Then another. And another.
He brought the bottle with him upstairs and finished it off, so tired and drunk he couldn’t even undress himself. Collapsing onto the bed, he caught the scent of Luna’s perfume on the pillowcase, his gut churning. Forcing himself from the bed, he stumbled downstairs again to sleep on the sofa. The bar called to him again, and he opened a bottle of vodka, chugging it, liquid comfort.
Nash never made it to the sofa. He passed out on the way there.
A story which would become all too familiar.
August—Maple Cove, Oregon
Rylie Robinson headed home, satisfied with her purchases from the estate sale. The mahogany Chippendale chest and the Hepplewhite dining room set had proved expensive, but she had clients in Portland and Seattle who would easily snap up the pieces.
She turned on the radio and began humming along to the tune playing as she turned on the SUV’s air conditioner. Usually, she kept the windows rolled down in the summer but being on the highway, she preferred the A/C. Mentally, she ran down her to-do list, feeling she was pretty caught up. Things were on a more even keel now with her cousin Ainsley and Ainsley’s husband. Jackson had returned to the Cove to take over the retiring Clancy Nelson’s law practice. He had been shot by a former client he had defended in L.A. The psychopath had taken Ainsley hostage, and Jackson had killed the kidnapper in self-defense.
It had caused quite a stir in the Cove, which was a small tourist town on the Oregon coast. At least Jackson’s rehab was going well. Rylie had encouraged Ainsley to see a therapist, and her cousin was doing so. Their tight circle of friends had pitched in to help the couple, who now lived in Clancy’s house a few blocks off the town square. Rylie knew if she ever needed help, those same friends would be there for her.
She thought back to last night’s conversation with Ainsley, who had confided she and Jackson were already trying for a baby, despite the fact they were newlyweds. Ainsley had always wanted children and she had married a man who was eager to start a family. Rylie supposed her other close friends, Willow and Tenley, would also do the same soon. Both women had married in the last year, men who were family-oriented and showered their wives with love.
For a moment, tears misted her eyes. Rylie was twenty-nine and not even dating anyone, much less in the position to have a baby. Finding men in the Cove to go out with proved almost impossible. The small town saw most of its younger residents leave to attend college or take jobs in a larger city. Single men were hard to find, other than Gage, a close friend who was like an older brother to her. She tried to shrug off the sudden gloom that had overtaken her. She had lots of friends and owned a business that left her fulfilled.
Maybe she should join a dating site or get on one of those dating apps. After all, Portland was only an hour away. Even if she found someone this way, though, Rylie knew she wouldn’t want to leave the Cove. It was home. She wasn’t a native but had spent every summer in the small town from the time she was four and her mom died. Her dad was on the road a lot, buying antiques for his Portland store, and he’d left Rylie with his brother’s family each summer. The Cove and the nearby Pacific Ocean were in her blood.
With her dad’s death, she had toyed with the idea of closing their Portland shop and moving to Maple Cove. Ainsley, who was studying at a famed pastry school in Paris, had graduated and decided to open a bakery in her hometown. That had helped Rylie make up her mind to relocate and settle in the Cove. It had been the best decision she had ever made, besides dumping her cheating boyfriend in her senior year of college. She loved what she did and her circle of friends.
Yet she found herself yearning for more.
Her vehicle lurched slightly. Quickly, she turned off the radio, only to hear a clicking sound as the car seemed to go dead. She steered to the right, coasting, and pulled off the two-lane highway, her eyes falling to the gas gauge.
“Oh, no!” she cried.
She had run out of gas.
Rylie wasn’t a careless person. In fact, she was quite proud of how meticulous and detail-oriented she was. Usually, she would check her gas gauge when starting out on any trip, but the twins had made two deliveries for her on Saturday. She had reminded them to fill up before they returned. Obviously, they hadn’t. Trusting two seventeen-year-olds had been her downfall. And of all things, she had left her phone on its charger when she left earlier. Calling one of her friends to help bail her out would not be an option.
At least she was only about five miles from the Cove. The only gas station was on this side of town. She could begin walking there and most likely, someone she knew would pass and give her a lift into town. Still, humiliation filled her. And the fact she wore three-inch heels with her sundress probably meant blisters if she had to walk for a while. Maybe she should take off her heels. Deciding that was a good idea, she slipped out of them.
Turning on her hazard lights, she exited the vehicle, checking to make sure the trailer she pulled was also completely off the road. Rylie had spent too much on the furniture inside it and didn’t want someone hitting it. Satisfied that she was as far off the highway as she could manage, she glanced over her shoulder before she began walking. A black truck was slowing. Maybe she wouldn’t have to walk, after all.
The truck pulled in behind her and a guy got out—almost six feet, with a lean, wiry build, shoulder-length, light-brown hair, and a beard. As he approached, she saw he had amazing hazel eyes. Though he didn’t live in the Cove, he seemed somehow familiar to her.
“You look like you need some help,” he said, his voice low, a bit of a twang in it. Maybe Texas?
Rylie could feel her cheeks heat as she said, “I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve run out of gas. I’ll act like a typical teenager and blame my teenagers for it.”
Shock filled the guy’s face. “You’ve got teenagers?”
She laughed, realizing he thought she meant her own children. “Only the ones who work for me. I have two high school boys who move furniture for me. I own an antiques store in the next town coming up. Maple Cove. My store is on the square. The twin’s granddad is my clerk.” She sighed. “I’ve always told them if the tank falls to a quarter, they should fill up. I even reminded them of that yesterday when they left to deliver furniture, thinking they were actually listening to me.”
“Teenage boys know everything,” the stranger said easily, giving her a slow smile. “I know. I was one. It took a good ten years to figure out I didn’t know much of anything.”
His dazzling smile made her grow warm, and Rylie felt her blush spreading. Quickly, she said, “I was careless and didn’t check the gauge before I left on a buying trip today. I’ll own it.” She grinned. “Unlike most teenage boys.”
“What did you buy?” he asked.
“Some really great pieces,” she said, her enthusiasm showing. “One is a Chippendale chest in mahogany. The lines are beautiful. The other is an eight-piece Hepplewhite dining set in cherry. It has the table, with six chairs and a sideboard.”
“What’s the wood? I carve a little.”
The man nodded. “Sounds pretty. You said Chippendale for the chest. What’s the dining furniture again?”
“Hepplewhite. That’s late eighteenth to early nineteenth century.”
“Heard of it. Didn’t know when it was made. So, you buy and sell antiques.”
“I do. My store is Antiques and Mystiques. I sell mostly antiques, but I also have a section for consignment furniture. And I can order furniture. New stuff. I’m a one-stop, shop-all kind of place.” She paused. “But I do need to get what I bought at today’s estate sale back to my store. The boys will be coming by to move it inside. You wouldn’t happen to carry a full gas can with you?”
“Nope. But I can drive you to the next station and bring you back here,” he offered.
“Fred Bell’s got a gas station just as you come into the Cove. It’s about five miles from here.” She offered her hand. “I’m Rylie Robinson.”
He took her hand. An electric current sparked, causing her eyes to widen slightly. As he shook her hand, he looked almost reluctant as he said, “I’m Nash.”
No last name.
But then again, Rylie wouldn’t have needed one. She clamped her jaw to keep it from falling open.
This man was Nash Edwards, one of the biggest names in country music. He owned Grammys for songwriting and performing and had been the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year twice in a row. She wasn’t much for entertainment gossip, but Rylie did recall something about a nasty divorce between this man and his actress wife. Maybe rumors about cheating. She couldn’t remember if it were on his part or of the wife’s, though a woman would be a fool to cheat on a man who looked like this and sang so movingly.
She pulled her hand from his without acknowledging she knew exactly who he was.
“I’d appreciate the ride.”
They walked back to his truck. He opened the passenger door for her as she stepped into the cab. As he came around to the driver’s seat, Rylie slipped on her shoes again.
Nash Edwards started up the truck and pulled back onto the highway.
She wondered if she should acknowledge that she recognized him. Then she thought he was a superstar in the middle of nowhere and probably liked his anonymity. She didn’t want to ruin his peace and quiet, simply because he had stopped to help a stranger.
Instead, she said, “Mind if I ask where you’re heading? I hope I’m not taking you out of your way. Of course, they do say no good deed goes unpunished.”
He chuckled low, sending a chill running through her.
“Actually, I’m headed to Maple Cove myself,” he replied. “I need to stop by a Shayla Newton’s office to pick up keys to a place I’m renting.”
Rylie noticed he didn’t say how long he would be in the Cove. “Shayla’s office is a couple of blocks off the square. I can point it out for you so you’ll know where it is when you double back.” She thought a moment. “In fact, you don’t need to take me back to my car. I can call Jerry Ellman. He’s a retired CPA who now is my fulltime clerk.”
“The grandfather of the careless twins?”
Nash Edwards had definitely been listening to her.
“Yes. Jerry’s grandsons are George and Grant. George is an inch taller than his twin and a wide receiver for the football team and a point guard on the basketball team. Grant was second-string quarterback last season, but he’ll start this fall. He also runs cross country. If either boy has a game or meet, Jerry is there, cheering them on.”
“That’s nice they have that kind of support,” he said quietly.
Though Rylie didn’t know a thing about his background, she could hear in Nash’s voice that he never had experienced that type of family support.
“I wish I had had Jerry for my grandfather,” she admitted. “My mom died when I was four, and my dad owned his own business—also an antiques store—and was constantly on the road, hitting estate sales and garage sales, looking for great buys. In fact, I spent all my summers in the Cove with my cousin Ainsley and her family so Dad could travel. I grew up here on a part-time basis.”
He glanced at her and back at the road. “It must have been hard, losing your mom when you were so young.”
“I guess. Frankly, I don’t remember her much at all. But Ainsley’s parents were always like a second mom and dad to me. I loved spending time with them each summer in the Cove.”
“You’ve said that a couple of the times. The Cove.”
Rylie chuckled. “Natives know to call it that. No one who lives here ever calls it Maple Cove. If they do, it screams tourist.”
“Huh.” After a moment, he asked, “Were you close to your dad?”
“Yes and no,” she answered honestly. “Yes, because I grew up learning about furniture and antiques from him. By the time I was seven, I could tell the difference between a Sheraton and Federal chair. I knew the different woods used in various eras. During the school year, I worked at the store when I wasn’t at basketball practice. I helped inventory items Dad bought. Learned how to restore the wood to its former glory. He taught me how to keep a record of what was bought and sold and how important provenance could be for pieces.”
“Provenance?” he asked.
“The history of an item’s ownership. It’s a record of who previously owned it. When they bought it. Whom they bought it from. A great provenance can trace a piece all the way back to its original owner and the craftsman who created it. That’s important for some pieces. You can get top dollar if you have the provenance.”
Rylie pointed out the gas station up ahead. “Turn in there. You can stay in the car. I’ll get a can from Fred.”
Nash Edwards was definitely a man of few words.
He pulled into the station, not at the pumps, but next to the building itself. She hopped out and went inside, where Fred thumbed through a copy of Sports Illustrated.
“Hi, Fred. I ran out of gas and need to fill a can. Got one I can borrow?”
“Sure thing, Rylie.”
He removed his feet from where they had been propped on the desk and shuffled from the office into the garage area. She waited where she was, noticing that Nash kept one hand on the steering wheel, his face turned from where she stood.
Fred appeared, gas can in hand, and gave it to her. “Who’d you get a ride with?”
Knowing how Fred was the biggest gossip in the Cove and would immediately send out a dozen texts if he knew Nash Edwards sat in the truck outside, she said, “A guy nice enough to stop and give me one.”
The gas station owner frowned. “You rode with a stranger? That’s not smart, Rylie. Maybe I should run you back to your car.”
“No, I’m good. But thanks anyway,” she said brightly. “I’ll return the can on my way back into town. I’ll need to gas up anyway.”
Hurrying outside, she went to one of the pumps and removed her credit card, inserting it into the pump and then filling the can. She returned to the truck and got in.
“Where’s Shayla Newton located?” Nash asked. “I’d like to head over now and get the key to the property before I drop you at your car. That way I can go straight to the house.”
“Okay.” She gave him directions to Shayla’s and he pulled out of the gas station and back onto the road leading into town.
When they reached the square, she pointed out Antiques and Mystiques. “That’s my place. My pride and joy.”
He slowed as they passed it. “Have to check it out.”
“Does your rental come furnished?”
“That’s what they told me.”
“Turn here,” she said. “Shayla is only a couple of blocks down. Several people in town have offices out of their homes. Gillian Roberts, a CPA. Pete Pulaski, a great contractor.”
Rylie had him turn again and then pointed out Shayla’s building. “She turned the dining room into a place where she meets with customers and then has her home office for her own work.”
Nash pulled the car to the curb and cut the engine. “I’ll be right back.”
She got out as he did. “I think I’m going to walk back to the square and have Jerry give me a ride. I don’t want to inconvenience you any further.” She held out her hand. “Thanks for giving a helping hand to a stranger.”
He took it—and didn’t let go.
Rylie felt a delicious warmth flood her. Their gazes met.
“Why don’t you let me take you back?” he drawled.
“Okay,” she agreed, pulling on her hand. Which he still held.
“Come in with me,” he suggested.
“Do I get my hand back if I say yes?” she teased.
Nash looked down at their joined hands. “For now.”
His words caused her to catch her breath. He released her hand and motioned. “Come on.”
They walked up the sidewalk together and rang the doorbell. Shayla answered it, her surprise obvious.
“Rylie! I didn’t know I’d be seeing you.” She glanced to Nash. “Mr. Edwards? Please come in.”
“Thank you,” he said in that low grumble.
At least Shayla Newton had confirmed it. He was Nash Edwards.
They followed her into her office, and she picked up an envelope.
“Here are your keys, Mr. Edwards. I’m happy to go over to the property with you and walk you through it.” She batted her lashes at him, and Rylie almost burst out laughing.
“No, thanks. I like to discover things myself. Thank you, Ms. Newton.”
“Oh, please. Shayla.” She smiled brightly. “Anytime.” Once more her eyes flicked to Rylie, questions in them as to why she was in the company of one of country’s superstars.
She decided to end the mystery. “I ran out of gas. The twins didn’t fill the tank for me as they were supposed to. Mr. Edwards was kind enough to stop and give me a ride to Fred’s gas station when he came upon me stranded on the road just outside of the Cove. I wanted to be helpful and return the favor, so I showed him where your office is.”
“We need to get you back to your car, Rylie,” Nash said. “And I want to go check out my rental.”
Shayla seemed satisfied by the explanation Rylie had provided. “Well, you let me know if there is anything—I mean anything—that needs to be addressed, Mr. Edwards. You have my number. Just call anytime, and I can be there.”
“Thank you again,” he said.
Rylie accompanied him back to the truck. Once again, he opened her door for her. She liked the gentlemanly gesture.
He got behind the wheel and started back toward the square. He must have a good sense of direction because he didn’t ask any questions and easily found his way back to the highway.
“You knew who I was all along, didn’t you?” he asked softly as he picked up speed.
“Yes,” she replied. “When you didn’t provide your last name, I figured you wanted your privacy. For the record? I do listen to your music. I’m a huge country fan. But no, I’m not an avid tabloid reader. I recall you got a divorce a while back. You haven’t put out any new CDs in the past year. I hope you at least got a few good songs out of your relationship.” She grinned. “And that I’ll be hearing them on the radio soon.”
He laughed, a rich laugh that made her toes curl. “I’ll admit that I have been itching to write again. I haven’t in over a year. Not since... not since Luna and I broke up. But I’m ready to do so again. My drummer, Billy Brown, is from Salty Point. He told me the Oregon coast is quiet and beautiful. The perfect place to lose myself and start writing again. That’s why I’m here. To discover if I still have something to say through my music.”
“You will. You can use your music to search for what was good about your relationship with your wife, as well as what went wrong. You can let it speak for you as you find the next chapter in your life.”
By now, they had reached her car. Nash did a one-eighty and pulled in behind her trailer again.
“You sound like you know what you’re talking about.”
“Maybe a little. Even though I majored in business, any elective I could take in English, I did so. I found I loved poetry. Reading and writing it. I had a bad break-up in college and turned to writing poems to help me get over it. Song lyrics are poetry set to music, so yes, I get it.”
He looked at her, those hazel eyes mesmerizing. It was as if he saw down to the depths of her soul.
“We just might have to write together,” he suggested.
“Me? Write... song lyrics... with you?” Rylie laughed. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Because you’re Nash Edwards. You have Grammys for songwriting. I wrote a few poems as I wallowed in misery. We are so not on the same playing field.”
“You might be surprised,” he said enigmatically.
Rylie reached for the gas can at her feet. “Thanks again for stopping to help me, Nash. I appreciate it.”
“Are you going to blister the ears of those twins?” he asked, biting back a smile.
“I will work on my speech on my way back to the Cove,” she told him, laughing.
“The Cove. I’ve got to remember to call it that.”
She climbed from the truck. “Enjoy your time here. There are all kinds of hiking trails. Biking ones, too. The beach. Surfing and SUP—stand-up paddleboarding. You’ll enjoy it here.”
“I’m going to be here a couple of months,” he volunteered. “It would be nice to see a friendly face.” He pretended to assess her a moment. “Hey, you’ve got a friendly face. Maybe you’d like to come over to my place for dinner. It’s... hard for me to... go places.”
She pictured how he must be mobbed everywhere he went. “I’d like that,” she told him.
“How about tonight?”
What had he just done?
Nash looked at Rylie Robinson, her lips slightly parted as she considered his question. He had told himself he would never again be taken in by a woman’s looks—and this woman had looks into next week. Lightly tanned, with long legs and startling periwinkle eyes, the curvy brunette appealed to him in every way. He had sworn off all women, beautiful or ugly and everything in-between. He hadn’t been with a woman during this past year of heartache and upheaval.
He told himself he had come to Maple Cove to heal and not become involved with someone. Yet Rylie was more than a pretty face. She had a sweetness about her, almost an innocence. She was very up-front, playing no games, and not flirting with him once, although she had admitted that she recognized him and kept it to herself. Well, he was going to be here at least a couple of months. That was how long the lease ran on the cottage Billy had booked for him. If he wanted a little female company, then he deserved it. He knew not to get seriously involved with a woman again, much less give his heart to her. Nash hadn’t given it to Luna, and still his ex-wife had trampled it.
“We could do takeout. Several places on the square are good.”
“I’ll cook,” he told her. “I’ve done a little of that the past few months and have come to enjoy it. Don’t laugh—but I’ve become a fan of the Food Network. That Pioneer Woman has taught me a few things.”
She smiled, warm and inviting, and he mentally threw up a barrier so as to not let her close.
“I have a friend who shot a pilot for them. He’s a former firefighter and now vlogs.”
Nash couldn’t help but grin. “You mean Carter Clark? I discovered him on YouTube. He’s fantastic. So, he’s a friend of yours?”
“Yes, Carter grew up in the Cove. I’ve known him forever. I’m also friends with his wife, Tenley. She’s a writer and will have her first novel in a fantasy trilogy released around Thanksgiving. That’s the same time Carter’s first cookbook will come out.”
“I’ve already preordered that off Amazon,” he admitted. “I thought it would be good to do more than just watch him, but actually have his cookbook to refer to. Do you think I could meet him while I’m here?”
“Carter would love that,” Rylie declared. “In fact, you could come to Game Night this Friday. He and Tenley are hosting.”
Suspicion filled him at the sudden offer. “I don’t think so,” he said abruptly. Already, he was regretting asking her to have dinner with him tonight. He had spent the past year mostly being alone and didn’t want or need to be around people.
Especially a beautiful woman.
“If you change your mind, just let me know,” she told him, picking up on his mood. Then she offered an explanation. “We get together, a small group of us, about once a month to have dinner. Play a few games. Catch up. It’s three married couples, all newlyweds, and Gage and me.”
“Gage?” he asked. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were seeing anyone,” he apologized. “Forget dinner.”
She studied him a moment, and it was as if she saw past the walls he had thrown up, ones he had so painstakingly erected to keep out others.
“I’m not seeing anyone, Nash. Gage is just a good friend. More like a protective older brother.”
“Another homegrown boy?”
“No,” she said thoughtfully. “Gage came to the Cove to heal. He’s a former Navy SEAL and now is a personal trainer. I don’t know what happened to him during his time in the military. He hasn’t shared that yet, and I would never press him. But Gage is more open now than when he first arrived in the Cove. His business is going well, and he’s made friends. If you’re interested in working out on a regular schedule, I can put you in touch with him. He does group classes, but he also trains individuals.”
She paused and then added, “I think it would be good for you, Nash. Being outdoors in Oregon, nature just finds itself seeping into your soul.”
Rylie placed her hand on the truck’s door. “Forget about dinner, I can see you regret asking me so spontaneously. No hurt feelings. Stop by the store sometime if you’d like. It was nice meeting you.”
She closed the passenger door and walked toward her SUV, unscrewing the cap on the gas can and then opening her door to pop the lid on the gas tank itself. She moved with a confidence and efficiency that he respected.
He also regretted the way things were ending now between them.
And decided to do something about it.
Opening his door, Nash got out of the truck and moved toward her. She turned her head as he approached, questions in her eyes.
“I need to apologize,” he said. “I don’t know how much you’ve heard or read about me in this past year. I married a woman I shouldn’t have, one who married me for my name and fame. I caught her cheating on me with my own manager. Even though we had a prenup that was cut and dried, she used the media to sell some pretty awful lies about me while we divorced.”
Rylie shook her head. “You don’t me any kind of explanation, Nash. You as much told me you had come to the Cove to heal. To find yourself and begin writing again. I get that. I’m sure after your experience with your ex that you don’t trust many people, let alone a woman.”
Her insight into him startled Nash.
“I’ll admit that I went off the deep end. Drank constantly for those first couple of months. Even got a DUI charge, which TMZ exploited to the fullest. It was damn embarrassing and a pretty dark time, but it proved to be the wakeup call I needed. I’ve been angry for far too long. I do need to find myself again. Maybe even learn to trust others a little again, too. You trusted me,” he pointed out. “Got in a car with a stranger. Or, practically a stranger. You knew who I was.”
She set down the gas can and reattached the cap to the tank. “No, I didn’t know who you were. Yes, I knew your name because I follow country music. I know your songs. But knowing someone’s work and public persona—especially someone famous—doesn’t mean you know them. I know nothing about Nash Edwards, the man. All I do know is that you are talented. You could be mean and spiteful. You could be the most generous soul on the planet. You could be fun-loving or shy. Moody or sentimental. But I understand the difference between knowing about you in a general way versus knowing who you are as an individual. The man you are when the lights dim and you exit the stage.”
Rylie hesitated a moment and then said quietly, “I think I would like to get to know that man.”
In that moment, Nash wanted to kiss her. He fought the urge to do so, not wanting to like her. Not wanting to let his guard down and trust her. Yet she spoke to him openly and honestly, unlike most others around him. Rylie Robinson had no pretense about her.
And Nash decided to get to know her, as well.
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