Anyway, here's the latest folks. Welcome back to Hearts Haven - hope you enjoy the visit as much as I did!
Jami Mitchell has come home to Heart’s Haven to open a bookshop with the inheritance Grandma left to her. Nana’s Novel Notions is the business of her dreams until she realizes who the tenant next door is: ruthless Riley Hunter. Growing up in the small town together, she’s watched him dance through women while she’s hidden her feelings with a Teflon exterior. How will she cope, when she can’t bear being in the same town with him--let alone neighbors?
Riley Hunter has sacrificed everything to shed the poverty of his childhood. While others held Sweet-sixteen parties, he cleaned up after them. But his hard work has paid off, and he’s opened an architecture firm in the growing town. He’s had a thing for Jami since high school, but she was the privileged girl who never gave him the time of day. Now she’s come home with a wad of cash and has set up a book store in the business complex he plans to buy out. Can the two put the past behind them, or will his dream shatter hers?
Come take a peek:
One giant leap, two, but it was no use. She needed a good two feet in height, and she’d left the broom in the stockroom. Groaning, Jami stepped back a moment to survey the situation. Without further hesitation she wiggled one sandal-clad foot onto the lowest shelf and shimmied her way along the books and toward the ceiling, wishing for a little—no, a lot—more height. Standing merely a hair’s breadth over five feet tall had been perfect for her cheerleading days, but as far as life after high school, being vertically challenged was a huge disadvantage.
“Jami?” The slow southern drawl startled her as she scaled the third shelf, hanging on by one clammy hand as the other attempted to pluck the web from the ceiling. She stumbled, slipped, and with a shriek toppled toward the floor.
Into strong, secure arms.
The scent of spearmint and pine swirled like a halo, and Jami felt the tickle of hair along her cheeks as the solid arms enfolded her. Shivers rippled, despite the oppressive heat.
“You OK?” That voice again…so familiar.
“Oh—my—goodness!” It took a moment for her heart to downshift from Mach speed to cruise. “You scared the life out of me.”
“Sorry, but you were scaling those shelves like a reckless spider monkey—”
“Reckless—a monkey!” It was more a shock than a question as her voice squeaked. She was, as sure as she breathed, never reckless. And a monkey…ugh!
“That’s right. And I was afraid you might fall…”
“I was managing just fine until you sneaked up on me.” She pressed a hand to his chest, attempting to wiggle from his grasp as optic stars danced, blurring her vision. The heat wreaked havoc with her senses. Was she hallucinating, or did he sound just like—
“I didn’t sneak.” He shifted her weight, but still hung on. “The door was wide open. I—”
“Riley?” The name came as her vision cleared and a pair of eyes, dark and smoldering, stared down at her. No one could deny the deep dimple on his chin or the slight arch of a smile that was a male counterpart of the Mona Lisa. Jami’s jaw pumped, but it took a moment for the words to form. “Riley Hunter?”
“That’s right.” He shook midnight-black hair from his forehead, revealing a faded scar along his hairline—the gift of a barbed-wire fence during a high school hunting accident. “In the flesh.”
“Put me down.” She thumped a hand against his brawny shoulder as a flood of sizzling emotions coursed through her. The nape of her neck burned against a sweep of hair. “Now.”
“Whatever you say.” In one easy motion, he spun her vertical and placed her not-so-gently on her feet, making her stomach lurch. One hand lingered at her waist as she stumble-stepped forward. His voice was warm caramel and carried the full measure of mischief she remembered. “Whoa…find your land legs yet?”
“I’m fine.” She leaned against the counter while smoothing her rumpled T-shirt. What was Riley doing here? He’d left for San Diego half-a-decade ago—right after ruining her life.
“It’s been a while since your fly-girl days, hasn’t it?”
“You know I never liked when you called me that.” She frowned at the nickname he’d branded her with their freshman year of high school. “And at least I had some talent to fall back on.”
“If you call getting tossed from the top of a cheerleading pyramid while chanting incessant rhymes talent.” He shrugged so the dimple along his chin deepened. “Me, I prefer to pursue something with a little more substance.”
“Like ramming your head through a barbed-wire fence while chasing a helpless deer?”
“I had a hunting permit, and it was in season.” He took a paperback from the turn style, scanned the back cover blurb before nodding slightly and putting it back. “And there’s nothing wrong with venison. Makes great chili. But I do still owe you and your grandmother for the ride to the hospital.”
“It’s too late to thank Nana.” Jami’s throat tightened with grief. “She passed away last August.”
“Oh, I had no idea.” Riley’s voice softened as he captured a lock of her hair and tucked it behind one ear before giving her silver teardrop earring a gentle flick. “I’m so sorry. I know you two were close as Velcro.”
This story is so sweet! With so much heart! I just loved this couple! Even from this opening scene where he catches her - it's epic! He honors and protects those he loves, but when it comes to giving up his own dreams to honor hers, well, that's a tough call. You gotta read it to see how it all plays out. Wonderful story!