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Authors: Christy Newton

Tags: #romance, #contemporary

Begin Again

BOOK: Begin Again
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Begin Again
Christy Newton

Avon, Massachusetts

This edition published by

Crimson Romance

an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.

10151 Carver Road, Suite 200

Blue Ash, Ohio 45242

www.crimsonromance.com

Copyright © 2013 by Christy Newton

ISBN 10: 1-4405-7162-7

ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-7162-6

eISBN 10: 1-4405-7163-5

eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-7163-3

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author's imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.

Cover art © istock.com/Denis Raev

For any animal that has ever touched our lives. Casper, Rex, Max, Whiskers, Harry, Kipton, Sugar, Kit-Kat, Happy, and Simon, this book is for you.

Contents

Dedication

Acknowledgments

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

Epilogue

About The Author

A Sneak Peek from Crimson Romance

Also Available

Acknowledgments

I need to thank so many people! My husband and two lovely daughters, my mom and brother and the rest of my fam, my critique partner, and beta reader. The team at Crimson Romance: Jennifer Lawler, Nina Ricker, Julie Sturgeon, and Jess Verdi. And all the writers out there that have become my extended family. Thank you with all my heart.

CHAPTER 1

“What … is that?” Maisie Scott asked as she eyed a white cardboard box poked with tiny holes sitting on one of the tables inside Ginger Snaps, the diner on Main Street.

“It's a gift.” Her sister, Cady, pushed the small box toward her with pleading hazel eyes. “You need something to take care of.”

Maisie shook her head, hands on her hips. “I have plenty to take care of.” She tilted her head toward the half-full diner. “See all these customers?”

Cady frowned. “That's not the same, and you know it.” She gave the carton another tiny push toward her. “Start small and work your way up.”

Sighing, Maisie looked down at the matte pink and white checked floor. She'd known something like this was coming when her sister asked her out for a girls' night last weekend. As much as Cady had tried giving her space, they both knew she couldn't keep quiet much longer.

Ginger, the diner's owner, picked a great time to walk out of the back. “No critters in here. You want the board of health after me?” She was a stern but fair woman, and Maisie enjoyed working for her. Ginger gave her plenty of hours, so Maisie's savings had continued to grow, getting her closer to her goal of buying a house.

With unbelievable speed, Cady scooped up the box and held it close to her chest. “No critter here.” She turned to Maisie and smiled the same way she always did when she knew she'd get her way. “I'll put him in his cage and you can name your hamster when you get home.”

Maisie ignored her busybody older sister and continued to wipe down the tables with a terry cloth towel. Her heart sank at the thought of what would be waiting for her when she got back to the apartment she was renting in her sister's basement. She wasn't ready for a pet. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

“Excuse me, can I have a refill?” A gray-haired lady with way too much makeup held up her lipstick-stained coffee cup, interrupting Maisie's thoughts.

“Sure, I'll be right there.” Maisie blinked away her tears and shoved the towel inside her apron pocket while she walked back to the coffeemaker. First, Cady had insisted she start going to therapy, and now she had gone out and bought her a mouth to feed. Why couldn't her sister just see she needed more time?

Maisie rushed the pot of steaming coffee over to the lady, hoping for a good tip. A few more months of saving and she might have enough money for a down payment on a place where she would have the privacy to hide in her shell as long as she wanted. Too bad Cady hadn't gotten her a turtle, then they could hide in their shells together.

“Thanks, doll.” The lady smiled and winked at her with a glittery eyelid that any Vegas showgirl would envy.

Maisie pressed her full lips together and did a quick nod. “You're welcome.”

She went behind the counter to grab more napkins for a little boy having a hard time finding his mouth, by the look of all the red sauce on his chin and the table. Maisie bent down to grab a handful, and when she looked up from the stainless steel counter, she noticed a customer had just sat down with his laptop. All she could see was the top of his blond head.

“Be right back.” She whisked the napkins over to the thankful mom and rushed back to take the guy's order. They were short-handed today because the other daytime waitress, Lola, had called in … again.

“What can I get ya?” She blew a stray lock of red hair out of her eyes.

Laptop guy looked up from his computer with a smile that reached all the way up to his dazzling blue eyes. “I was told you had the best apple pie in town.” His dark blond, wavy hair fell just over his ears and framed his masculine, tanned face. His snug-fitting, olive green polo shirt, with two of the buttons undone, made her heart rate speed up.

Maisie swallowed and tried to find her voice. “Sure do. Would you like coffee with your pie?” Suddenly conscience of the coffee stain on her white T-shirt, she lifted her hand to cover it.

He put down the menu and looked at her. “I'll pass on the coffee, but I would like a glass of milk.”

Maisie nodded, “Be right back.” She hurried to the kitchen to get his drink and was thankful to be behind closed doors so she could pull herself together. Dazzling Eyes was the first guy she had really noticed in the last two years. She had looked into those blue eyes and felt her heart skip a beat, but the moment had passed as quickly as it had come, replaced with guilt. She poured the milk, straightened her apron, and walked back out to the counter to find that he had put his laptop away. Trying not to look at him, she cut a large slice of pie and brought him his order.

“Apple pie and milk.” She placed the plate and glass in front of him.

He held up his fork, eyeing the pie like it was an old friend. “Thank you.”

She nodded and wiped her palms on her faded blue jeans. “Sure. Let me know if you need anything else.”

Maisie looked up at the sterling silver clock to see that her shift was over in ten minutes. She nodded at the elderly man in the corner. He was in this diner as much as she was. A couple of regulars came in and sat down at a gray vinyl booth underneath an oversized picture of cookies. The diner's walls were lined with black and white canvases of sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, snicker doodles and, of course, ginger snaps.

Already knowing what they wanted, she called back to the cook, “Two cheeseburgers — the works — and two orders of home fries.” She'd leave right after she got this order out. After placing her regulars' sodas in front of them, Maisie went back up to the counter to give Dazzling Eyes his bill.

“Best apple pie I've had since I left home,” he said, handing her a folded up twenty. “Keep the change.” This time when he smiled, she noticed a dimple in his left clean-shaven cheek.

He had just given her the best tip she'd ever gotten. She wondered where home was but didn't ask. “Thanks,” she said, taking the money over to the register to cash out her gratuity.

“Order up,” the cook called as he passed it through the window.

She watched the door close behind her big tipper.
And there he goes, probably never to be seen again.
She sighed and lifted the tray.

• • •

Ryan Tucker pushed open the diner door and walked back down the sidewalk to his SUV parked around the corner in his clinic's parking lot. Budding Bradford pear trees lined the walkway, and a blanket of newly risen, yellow crocuses smothered the faded mulch. Pleasant Valley, Indiana, wasn't too bad so far.

He had opened his veterinary clinic for exotic animals last week, and today his assistant, Alice, mentioned Ginger Snaps Diner after he told her about missing his momma's apple pie more than anything. The diner was right around the corner, so after work he'd walked down to give it a try.

When he'd arrived in Pleasant Valley, he hadn't been so sure about this small town that had more corn and soy fields than he'd ever seen. But he wanted to open his clinic where there was a need. So far he was the only vet for exotic pets in town, which should be great for business. Not to mention, after the secret he'd been hiding from his family for the last six months, a new start was welcome. As much as he loved his family, there was one embarrassment he'd like to keep from them.

Ryan was ready to settle down and planned on making the town his home. Having pie almost as good as momma's only a couple blocks away from his clinic would make the transition that much easier. The pretty waitress with bobbed, red hair wouldn't hurt either. He'd not missed the haunted look in her eyes, though, and usually when he smiled at a woman, she smiled back. Ryan wasn't only good at reading animals but also people. Maybe somehow he could bring some sparkle into those jade-colored eyes.

He pulled into the driveway of the bungalow he was renting until he could get settled and build a new house. The decor was multiple shades of beige, unsuitable to his personality. He'd do better with the new house. Ryan set the junk mail on the foyer table then kicked off his shoes and headed to the living room to check on his pet rat that was recovering from bumblefoot.

“Hey there, Rex.” He lifted the dark gray dumbo rat out of his large cage to check the blisters on the pads of his back feet. From the looks of it, the antibiotic was working fine. Rex yawned a hello and climbed onto his shoulder.

“Okay, I know you want your treat.” He walked into his kitchen with his pet sitting on his shoulder and opened the stainless steel refrigerator to get a carrot. Rex took the vegetable from him with both paws and nibbled it.

After Rex finished his snack, Ryan carried him back to his cage. Most rats didn't like to live alone, but Rex seemed to like people more than other critters. When his former owner had brought him in because he couldn't get along with his rat brothers, Ryan hadn't been able to turn the little guy away.

Ryan sat down on his sofa and looked around at the drab walls. Back home in Illinois, someone was always stopping by. His best friend had lived right next door and his parents ten minutes away. Here he felt the silence surround him. It was unsettling. He tried to watch a TV show, but his mind kept wandering back to the diner waitress. Her motions had been almost robotic. Tomorrow night he'd try to get a smile out of her.

• • •

Exhausted and smelling of grease, Maisie pulled her cosmic gray sedan onto the driveway of her sister's brick ranch home. She missed her own house, though it hadn't been as nice as Cady's. Unshed tears suddenly stung her eyes. She blinked and pushed her feelings down to the dark pit that had become her heart. Letting out a deep breath to compose herself, she went inside to find Cady and Sam, her husband, reading on their sectional. Reading side by side was one of their favorite pastimes.

“How was work?” Cady asked, closing her nonfiction book. Her sister liked the boring stuff. Maisie had enough of real life; if she were going to read, it would be something to take her away from reality.

She shrugged out of her jacket and hung it on the coat hook behind the door. “Busy.”

BOOK: Begin Again
13.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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