Copyright © 2011 by Diane Darcy
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover art by Kaylee Young
Book Description: She's Just Right
For Melody Chase, who likes fairy tales as much as I do. Love you, Sis.
And also for Brent, who sometimes seems confused by the need, but lets me drag him to bookstores anyway.
Someone's been sleeping in his bed...
Once upon a time, golden-haired realtor Honey Stevens fought with her fiancé before leaving for a three-week business trip to a small Northern California town. Following a map to the cabin in the woods where her important clients insist she stay, she goes inside, and--as instructed--makes herself at home to await their arrival. What she doesn't know is that some local boys, intent on revenge, tampered with the house numbers and she’s at the wrong place!
Divorced game warden Trevor Baron comes home after a long, hard day on the job in desperate need of peace, quiet, and a good hot meal. Instead he finds someone has been eating his dinner, breaking his chair, and sleeping in his bed.
...and she's still there!
It doesn’t take long for Honey to realize the wrong man is capturing her heart. The question is, can Trevor let go of the past enough to let his own heart out of hibernation?
When did Happily Ever After become so complicated?Chapter One
By the light of the moon Dylan Eley led, and his best friends Isaac and Seth followed as they crept through the trees toward the log cabin house.
It was cold, the trees were spooky, and when a noise sounded behind, a rustle in the foliage, Isaac sucked in a harsh breath. “It’s
!” he whispered. “He’s found us!”
Dylan swallowed, his heart pounded, and his grip tightened on the hammer in his hand. He turned to scowl at his friend. “No, it’s not. We’re practically in the country, right? It’s a stray cat or a skunk or something. Besides, we rode our bikes past that building he was fixing in town, remember?” His voice wavered slightly and he knew he was trying to convince himself as well as his friends. “Let’s keep going.”
Seth started to wheeze and Dylan stopped again, turned, and put a finger to his mouth. “Shh.”
His expression serious, the moonlight glinting off round-framed glasses, Seth pulled out his inhaler, sucked medicine in, held his breath, and nodded.
Dylan sighed. His friends looked as spooked as he felt. “Come on. We can do this. We’re twelve now, right? School’s almost out for the summer so we’re practically seventh graders. We’re not afraid, right?”
After a moment Seth nodded.
“I won’t be twelve ‘til July,” mumbled Isaac.
Dylan snorted. “Close enough. Now, come on.”
A dog barked nearby, then stopped. Dylan listened for a moment, then started forward again. Thankfully, the dog was fenced, or it would’ve come after them by now. Goosebumps rose on his arms as he considered the disaster that could have been. Any dog belonging to the game warden would be extremely dangerous.
Moments later they rounded trees and bushes to peer down a gravel driveway. “He’s not here,” whispered Dylan. “The truck’s gone and the house is dark.”
Headlights flashed in the distance as a car drove toward them, and they dove back into the trees, held their breath, and waited.
The car went by, and Dylan’s sigh was heartfelt. Unreasonable as it was, he was convinced that if
would find them no matter where they hid.
Sneaking out to the front of the driveway they stood under the hanging sign and Dylan read the name.
. He shivered, which made him angry and, lips tightening, he hurried forward.
Lifting the hammer, he wedged the claw onto one of the house numbers attached to the wooden post. He pulled and it popped off easier than he’d thought it would. He made quick work of the other three numbers and Isaac and Seth gathered the fallen pieces of metal and threw them into the bushes.
“We did it,” breathed Seth.
Isaac grinned. “Yeah! We finally showed him!”
Exhilarated, his heart pounding in his chest, Dylan smiled, nodded, and considered kicking over the large, carved, wooden-bear statue beside the mailbox.
Another car advanced down the long road and the light caught them.
!” Isaac choked. “
It’s the game warden
Even though there was no way Isaac could be certain, Dylan completely believed him. Explosive fear charged through his gut. “
!” he said to his friends. “
If he catches us, we’re dead! Run!
“Hi, Jess. You aren’t going to believe where I am.” Honey Stevens adjusted her cell phone between ear and shoulder so she could place her keys in a luggage pocket.
“Smart Aleck,” said Honey as she straightened. “That’s not what I meant. And technically I’m outside of Redding, sort of in the country, or maybe in the woods would be more accurate. But anyway, this is so weird. The family who I’m trying to buy property from wants me to stay with them and they aren’t here yet. They wanted me to let myself in, so I’m in their huge, log cabin home alone, and it’s creepy.”
Honey let out a breath. Talking to her friend was already relaxing her. “Well, it was completely dark when I first got here. I couldn’t find any house numbers, so I wouldn’t have even been sure I was at the right place, except there’s a sign that says Baron, a carved bear by the mailbox, and the key was under the mat as instructed.”
Honey walked over to the mantle and reached for a family photo with ten or so people posing in a park. When she lifted it down she noticed a bottle of woodworking glue hidden behind it. “And I’m used to going through people’s homes, but this is different. It feels like I’m a burglar or something.”
“Oh, so you’re the creepy one.” Jessica chuckled. “Besides, you like it and you know it. You’re a natural born snoop. Do I need to remind you of my diary?”
Honey groaned. “Give it up already. It was twenty years ago! I was nine! It was unlocked and the temptation was unbearable.” The people in the photo were a good-looking bunch. Mostly adults, and a couple of babies, the guys were dark-haired, dark-eyed, big and muscular. One had a full beard and was so big he looked like a lumberjack or something. They took after the dad who sat in the middle next to a pretty blonde wife. The girls, luckily, looked like mom. “Get over it, already.”
“The old ‘I was only nine’ excuse, again, huh,” said Jessica. “Tell me, what are you doing right now? Right this minute? Are you snooping?”
Honey set the picture back on the mantle and glanced at a few others. Fishing, hunting, camping. This family was very outdoorsy. “I’m hanging up on you.”
Jessica laughed. “I
it. I’m just saying, your overwhelming curiosity is going to get you into trouble one of these days.”
“Is your hubby there? Can he hear you? Because if you’ve told him that story about the diary, or anything else for that matter, you’re dead. Don’t forget, I have all the dirt on you, too. Does college dorm ring a bell? Victor Wilson? One in the morning? You’re not the only one with stories to tell.”
Jessica laughed again. “Okay, okay, truce.”
Honey grinned. “How’s Baby Bop doing?”
“She’s good. A handful. She misses you. She’s been asking for her Bunny. You need to come out and see her.”
A wistful feeling enveloped Honey as she thought of the chubby blonde baby. She’d like one of her own, and at twenty-nine, was anxious to start a family. “The class I’m taking lasts three weeks. I’ll come see you as soon as I’m back in Napa.”
“So now for the big question,” said Jessica. “How does Christian feel about being separated from you for that long?”
Honey blew out a breath and sank down on the leather sofa. She ran a hand across the smooth seat and thought about her fiancé. “How does he feel?” Honey couldn’t help but grimace as she thought about the fight they’d had before she left.
“I’ve actually been trying not to think about it. The short answer is, he didn’t want me to leave, but in the end it wasn’t like I had a choice. Nick was determined to send me, even though Michelle was begging for the opportunity. With the brokerage class thrown in, it seemed like too good an opportunity for me to pass up.”
“You needed this break from Christian, anyway. It’ll give you a chance to think things through, right?”
Think things through. Nice. Weren’t engaged couples supposed to be excited? Joyful? Eager? But not them. They needed to think things through. It was depressing.
“Sure,” said Honey. “But not right now. Right now it’s late, I’m starving, and apparently the clients want me to make myself at home, so I’m going to take them at their word. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“Okay. Take care. Call me if things get weirder. Or if you find any diaries or anything.”
“I’m hanging up.”
With the sound of Jessica’s laughter still ringing in her ears, Honey headed down the hall, past a half-bath, an office with what looked like a trophy fish mounted on the wall, and into the kitchen.
It was stunning. Big and spacious, it featured a gorgeous, custom-made, log dining-room table, with cushioned ladder-back log chairs. Taller ladder-back bar stools swept up under a long, black granite counter. The kitchen sported tall, light-wood cupboards and plenty of them. French doors led outside.
She really liked the layout of the house. She’d never had a taste for log cabins before, and was surprised she loved the place so much. Despite a surprising lack of frills, it felt like a home.
But to business. What was there to eat in this joint? She opened a few cupboards, hoping to find a box of cereal or the makings for toast. She wasn’t picky.
One cupboard revealed plates, another blue-tinted glasses, and finally she found the pantry. It was big, but half empty and not nearly as well-stocked as she would have suspected for people with grandchildren.
A huge bag of dog food dominated one corner of the floor. She scanned the shelves, but didn’t find any of her favorite cereals, so she lifted a box of Shredded Wheat off the shelf. It would have to do. She was hungry enough that it would probably taste like ambrosia.
Going to the counter, she found a note and lifted it to read. ‘I’ve left a plate of dinner for you in the fridge. Love, M.’
M, huh? Honey didn’t think the note was from James Bond’s superior, but you never knew. And while the love thing was kind of odd, the plate of food sounded fantastic, so she blessed M and shrugged. Some people signed everything ‘love.’ And this family did want her to stay, so they were obviously a friendly bunch.