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Authors: Lani Diane Rich

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #General

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BOOK: Crazy in Love
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Well, if her presence here in Scheintown had taught her anything, it was that anything was possible.

“Ready?” she asked.

Jake Tucker nodded.
“Never been readier.”

He turned and headed out of the train station, carrying her suitcase, so she had no choice but to follow him. He was moving at an easy stride, but his long legs carried him much farther per step than hers would have even without the stilettos, and Flynn had to hustle to keep pace. She finally caught up to him as he was laying her suitcase in the back of a huge, weather-beaten red pickup truck, which a kinder person than she might refer to as
“classic.” He opened the door for her and held out his hand to help her climb up, but she ignored it, managing to maneuver herself fairly well on her own, although there was a moment there where it was touch and go.
Stupid boots.
Once she was securely inside, he shut the door and walked around to the driver’s side.

They enjoyed a verbal cease-fire for a while. Flynn had nothing to say to him, and it was obvious he was only interested in badgering her, so she stared out the window as they drove in silence. The road from the train station into the village was windy and green, lined by farms and trees and low stone walls that wound lazily around the hilly terrain. She knew it was supposed to be charming, but it just creeped her out.

“Nature,” she muttered, imagining all the bugs and
rodents and slithery little things lurking in all that manure-fertilized green.

Hmmm?” Jake Tucker asked.

Nothing,” she said.

They passed through the village, and Flynn began to feel better. Scheintown wasn
’t exactly the hub of civilization, but there were sidewalks at least, and cute little boutique shops and charming Colonial streetlamps and a brick post office and an honest-to-goodness general store on the corner. There were still a fair number of trees, but they sprouted up from little stretches of ground between the sidewalk and the road, the way God intended. Flynn released a breath.

She could do this.


Then the truck pulled up in front of the biggest, whitest, most unabashedly imposing building Flynn had ever seen, which she swore looked down on her with marked distaste. The tremendous wooden swinging sign out front had
The Goodhouse Arms
hand-painted in swirly black letters—which also, somehow, seemed to judge her. Below the big letters, similar but smaller ones spelled out
Inn ~ Restaurant ~ Tavern
Just below that, in letters so small only Flynn could see them, was the simple line,
You are in way over your head. Go home

Oh, God,” Flynn groaned.

The walkway to the front door was paved with stones that had probably been there since Colonial days, and brilliant green bushes popped with roses on either side. Flynn white-knuckled the dashboard and stared. She couldn
’t do this. There was no way she could do this. She didn’t know anything about history or hotels or management or anything. She’d had at least fourteen jobs in the last eight years, and while she could flip pizza dough and announce the weather on the radio and hand out flyers in a chicken suit, none of those skills prepared her for this. Places like this were run by uptight people in expensive suits who could pull off being condescending to snooty travelers wanting to sleep in the same bed as George Washington, not unemployed dilettantes like her who couldn’t keep track of a job unless her daddy safety-pinned it to her shirt.

Flynn was so immersed in her panic that she hadn
’t even noticed Jake Tucker hop out and grab her luggage from the bed of the truck until he was there before her, suitcase in hand, opening the passenger side door.

Wow,” she said, barely able to take her eyes off the grand, disapproving columns that banked either side of the dark French doors at the mouth of this great behemoth of an inn. A bead of sweat trickled down the small of her back.

Welcome home.” His voice was softer than it had been at the train station, and Flynn had to look to make sure it was still the same guy standing there. It was. His expression was less condescending now, though, almost... sympathetic, like he could tell how panicked she was, and was making an effort to be kind. Not that she was going to let her guard down with him just yet, but she allowed the possibility that he might not be a total asshole. Only time would tell.

Oh, and...” He reached into his pocket, withdrawing a set of keys. “Here. These are yours.”

She glanced down. They were the keys to the truck. She looked back up at him.
“Why are you giving me these?”

The truck’s yours. A small gesture of independence, from the inn to you.”

She laughed out loud.
“You’re kidding, right?”

Not at the moment. Why?”

You don’t actually expect me to drive that thing, do you?”

His eyes darkened, and the condescension returned.
“Sorry, Ms. Hilton. Limo’s in the shop. You’ll have to slum it for a while.”

Flynn clutched the keys tightly in her hands and looked up at him, anger coursing through her. She was leaning back toward
total asshole.
“Excuse me?”

His eyes met hers, and they weren
’t apologetic in the least. “Esther didn’t drive, and this is the extra truck from maintenance. You want a town car and a driver, you’re gonna have to make your own arrangements.”

That’s not it,” she said tightly. “I just...” She held the keys out to him. “I don’t drive.”

He blinked, the shock clear on his face.
“You’re thirty years old and you don’t know how to drive?”

Twenty-nine.” She hopped out of the truck. “And I grew up in Boston. Anywhere I needed to go, it was either cab, T, or walk.”

A smidge of contrition crossed his face, and Flynn figured that was as close to an apology as she was likely to get from this guy.

“Well, that’s not the way it is here,” he said. “There are a few basic things within walking distance, but sooner or later, you’re gonna want the truck.”

She released a breath, and stuffed the keys in her purse.
“Fine. Thank you.”

He nodded, hitched up her suitcase, and started down the sidewalk, away from the inn.

“We’re not going inside?” Flynn asked, shuffling to keep up with his pace.

You’ll be staying at the cottage,” he said, leading her onto a cobblestone path that curled around to one side of the inn. “It’s where Esther lived. It’s just around past the east wing here—”

The east
Flynn said, realizing as they walked that the east wing stretched a good thirty yards back. Hadn’t Freya said it was a

There’s an east wing and a west wing. Three floors, thirty rooms, and two suites each. They’re connected by the lobby, bar, and restaurant. The courtyard stretches out between the wings, going back to the rose garden. And at the edge of the east corner of the courtyard is...”

He trailed off as they reached a small cottage, painted white with green shutters. The cobblestones curved toward it, leading right up to the tiny little front door, also painted green. The porch held a two-seater porch swing, and the trees that flanked the cottage on either side were turning shades of brilliant red and yellow, except for the tremendous evergreen that shaded the front porch. Some leaves had started to fall, softening the walk as they moved toward the cottage.

They reached the first porch step and Flynn put her hand to her chest over her erratically beating heart. The cottage itself looked like it had hopped off the cover of the
Saturday Evening Post,
and that was nice and everything, but all the trees and the mulchy smell of the fallen leaves made Flynn’s skin itch. Would a little cement kill these people? Seriously?

Tucker motioned down at the leaf-covered path.
“Herman doesn’t usually rake out here. Esther liked the leaves. I can tell Annabelle to send him over in the morning if you don’t like it.”

No,” Flynn swallowed, not wanting to admit that it bothered her. She could live with a few leaves. “It’s fine. It’s nice. It’s... um...”

Flynn looked up to find him watching her, a bemused smile on his face. He knew she was freaked out. How did he know? Was she that transparent? She turned away from him, cleared her throat, and hardened her voice a touch.
“This was my Aunt Esther’s?”

He nodded.
“It was the manager’s quarters back in the day, but Esther’s been here as long as anyone can remember. Mercy—she’s the chef—has put some basics in the kitchen for you, but if you need anything else, just let her know and she’ll get it for you.”

Jake unlocked the front door as he talked, then handed the key to her and moved to the side to allow her through. She stepped inside

Oh, my God,” she said without thinking. “It kinda smells like old lady in here.”

Her suitcase landed with a thunk by the front door and she could tell when she glanced behind her that Jake hadn
’t appreciated the comment.

You know, that kind of… peppermint smell. It’s not bad. I wasn’t being…”

He just stared at her, all virtuous and offended, as if he hadn
’t said a million mean things to her since picking her up at the station. She inhaled again, and decided it wouldn’t kill her to offer a tiny olive branch. After all, she couldn’t fire him for another seven days.

I mean, it’s beautiful.” She glanced around at the little living room. There was lace everywhere.
But the space was nice, and she was sure that once she opened the windows and cleared some of the knickknacks away, it would be fine. She took a step closer to the wall and squinted in the dim light to see if she was really looking at what she thought she was looking at.

Yep. It was a shelf dedicated entirely to ceramic cow creamers.

She crossed the room and poked her head in the bathroom. It was laid out in peach tile, which would take some getting used to, but it had a gorgeous claw foot tub, a stylish pedestal sink, and a door leading directly to what she assumed was the bedroom. She glanced over her shoulder as she walked toward the bedroom door.

So, they, uh... they haven’t cleared out her stuff, then?”

He shrugged.
“Her clothes and personal things are packed away, but we didn’t really have time to redecorate, no.”

Flynn nodded, poked her head into the bedroom. A big four-poster bed, large cherrywood armoire, two ornate nightstands, a lace bedspread, lace curtains. It was pretty much an even mix of nice and
She stepped back into the living room and found Jake Tucker, still standing by the door, watching her. Why wouldn’t he just leave?

Oh, sorry! Of course!” She pulled a twenty out of her purse as she crossed the room to him, then stuffed it into his hand. “Thank you. Bye.”

He leaned against the doorjamb, his arms crossed over
chest as he stared at her. What? Was he holding out for forty? Greedy bastard.

You still haven’t answered my question about whether you’re selling or not,” he said.

She put her hand to her temple, which was beginning to pound.
“Is everyone in this town so direct? Because if that’s the case, I’m going to need to find a pharmacy.”

You’ve never lived in a small town, have you?” he asked, but didn’t wait for the answer. “They all know I came to get you. The second I leave this cottage they’re going to descend on me like locusts and ask me if I think you’re going to sell the place.”

You’re kidding.”

Would that I were,” he said. “And right now, based on the way you’ve dodged my questions, I’m thinking you’re going to sell.”

No!” Flynn said. “God, no. Don’t tell them that.”

Is it the truth?”

Well.” She tried to keep a straight face as she parroted the company line Freya had given her. “We haven’t made any decisions just yet. That’s why I’m here. To help make the decisions.”

Right.” He kept looking at her, that sly little smirk on his face, and her stupid traitor heart got all fluttery under his gaze.

Knock it off,
she told herself.
Charming and handsome do not trump jerk.

Mr. Tucker…”

He smiled. For the first time, she noticed that his front teeth were slightly crooked.

I can’t call you Jake.”

His eyebrows quirked toward each other.
“Why not?”

BOOK: Crazy in Love
12.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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