Read Third Time's the Charm Online
Authors: Heather B. Moore
Tags: #Series, #Romance, #Aliso Creek, #clean romance, #novella, #Contemporary Romance
an aliso creek novella
heather b. moore
Cover Design by Christina
Interior Design by
Edited by Julie Wright,
Melissa Marler & Sheila Staley
Published by Mirror
Copyright © 2012 by
Mirror Press, LLC
Liz, Gemma, Arie, Jess, and Drew have been best friends
since creating “the Five” at Aliso Creek High School. But that was over ten
years ago, and each is still trying to find that perfect someone . . . if
perfect is even possible.
In fact, Liz Carlson will settle for a normal man. A normal
man with a job, that is. Married twice, then divorced twice, Liz had her
rose-colored glasses fall off and shatter on the ground a long time ago. Her
main focus now is raising her six-year-old daughter and surviving long days at
work on her feet as a hairdresser. When Sloane Branden answers her call for
help, quite literally, Liz doesn’t even give him a second glance. She has sworn
off dating for as many years as it takes, and it seems that Sloane has done the
same after his own tumultuous marriage. But when Liz discovers that Sloane
defies every stereotypical deadbeat she has dated, she might just find room in
her heart and discover the third time’s the charm.
Books in the Series:
Lost then Found
The Daisy Chain
A Timeless Romance Anthology: Spring Vacation Collection
Other Works By Heather B. Moore
“I really don’t want to sound like a wench, but this is the
third time the faucet has leaked in a few days,” Liz said over the phone,
trying to keep the frustration out of her voice.
You can catch more flies
. “You’ve sent out two different guys, and both of them
guaranteed it was finally fixed.”
The man on the other end had a thick accent which was
difficult to understand. He said something about holding . . .
“Yes, I’ll hold.” Liz pulled out the rental agreement from
her file cabinet that was stashed in the corner of her six-year old daughter’s
room. She’d thought a two-bedroom apartment would give them plenty of space,
but a few months into their lease, the apartment felt as cramped as ever.
Liz readily admitted to herself that her shopping habit was
the problem: if something was on clearance and if she or her daughter, Paisley,
might need it someday, then it was too hard to pass up. As it was, Paisley’s
walk-in closet was organized and stacked with bins of clearance items.
I’ll open an eBay store or hold a massive garage sale. Or hit the lottery and
buy a mansion for all my stuff.
But that someday was crowded out with her job at a salon and
being a single mom and dating . . . well, dating up until last month. After the
David-fiasco, Liz had sworn off dating for a while. Maybe until Paisley was
eighteen. Wasn’t that what Dr. Laura had recommended? Married twice, then
divorced twice, Liz was a bit disenchanted with the whole “making it work”
thing. She had been there, done that. His—hers—ours—amounted to chaos that Liz
no longer had the heart for.
Where was Dr. Laura’s radio show now? Liz could have really
used her advice on how not to get jerked around by a maintenance company. This
experience was just another disappointment to add to her growing list.
How long have I been on hold? Five minutes now?
Liz hung up, feeling satisfied that she had done something,
even if it was just hanging up on a maintenance company. Except she really
wanted her sink fixed. Was that too much to ask? Before she became desperate
enough to watch a how-to-fix-a-faucet-leak YouTube video, she’d take one last
step—one she hesitated over.
Not wanting to be known as the nagging renter, Liz had taken
care of minor maintenance problems herself and paid out of her own pocket. She
was already getting a discount on rent by agreeing to take care of the outside
planters around the building. She had her florist friend and old-high school
buddy, Gemma, to thank for tips on how to keep the plants and flowers alive and
thriving. And the discount was the only way she could afford to upgrade from
the one-bedroom to the two-bedroom.
Liz exhaled and called the apartment administration office.
She listened to the choices and pressed 3—maintenance.
Great. Voice mail.
She started to leave her message when a man answered.
“This is Sloane.”
At least this man was one she could understand. “Oh, hello,
Be nice. Be sweet.
“I’m in apartment 208, and I’ve got a
leaking faucet in my kitchen. The maintenance company I called didn’t fix it
“You called a maintenance company?” the man said.
“Yeah, they actually came out twice, and I feel like I’ve
been given the run-around, so now I’m calling you.” She took a much-needed
Sloane was silent for a second. “Why didn’t you call here in
the first place?”
“It was so minor that I didn’t think it would turn out to be
such a big deal.”
“You mean there’s only so much
Liz was startled for a moment. Then she laughed, and the man
laughed too. Something pinged in her chest—he had quite a nice laugh.
she told herself.
I’m supposed to be moving up in the world, not
flirting with the maintenance guy. Besides, he’s probably married with three
Not that she didn’t love kids. Paisley was her entire world,
but your own kid was a completely different entity than someone else’s, which
probably explained failed marriage number two.
“Hang on, I’ll see if I can get someone up there today,” he
On hold again . . .
But Liz was willing to wait for a
guy who spoke English and made jokes. Surely he could also fix a sink. And
would definitely be nice.
“Okay, so 208?” His voice came back on the line.
“Yeah, I’m going into work in about an hour, but I can leave
the door unlocked.”
“No problem,” he said. “I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
He was coming over now?
. She should
have called the office in the first place. Liz shut the door to Paisley’s room
and scanned the living room and kitchen. They looked more decent than usual.
Not that Liz was neglectful, but by the time she recovered from being on her
feet all day and then helped Paisley with homework, all she wanted to do was
veg in front of the TV or read until she got too tired to focus.
A knock on the door startled her. That was fast. She hurried
to the bathroom and grabbed a clip to secure her curly, red hair back from her
face. She didn’t have time to check her appearance, so she went to the front door
and opened it. The man standing there definitely wasn’t a maintenance man. Maybe
he had the wrong door. He wore a button-down shirt and tie, with khaki pants.
But he held a clipboard in his hand, and when his blue-gray eyes met hers, he
said, “Elizabeth Carlson?”
“Liz,” she said automatically, surprised when the man
extended his hand.
She shook his hand, staring at him. “As in
His mouth lifted into a smile, his gaze steady on hers. She
felt something flutter in her stomach but promptly ignored it.
“Yep. That’s me,” he said. “Sorry that I’m not the regular
maintenance guy. He had a family emergency today, and since I was in the office
when you called—”
“Oh, no problem,” Liz said, flushing. She opened the door
and stepped aside. He passed by her easily and turned left toward the kitchen.
She couldn’t help but assess the man who owned a string of apartment complexes.
Not overly tall, maybe 5’11”, definitely fit, but not in the
I am so not checking him out
. . .
Sloane turned, and she glanced away.
“Have you had problems with the sink in the past?” The light
in the kitchen made his sandy-blond hair look blonder.
“Only this week.”
He nodded and crouched down to look into the cupboard under
the sink. Liz definitely wasn’t looking now. But she could still talk to him.
“So you dabble in both commercial real estate and plumbing?”
He chuckled, and the warmth of his laughter buzzed through
Liz just as it had over the phone. She folded her arms and leaned against the
kitchen table. She was glad that at least she’d wiped it down after Paisley
left for school this morning.
“We all have to start somewhere, right?” he said.
“Right.” Liz smiled, admiring his back and the breadth of
his shoulders, noticing he didn’t wear a wedding ring. Then she frowned at
herself. She had to admit it—she appreciated a good-looking man—but she didn’t
care for all the sticky-relationship stuff.
She’d been out with enough good-looking men after her first
divorce to have really learned her lesson. She’d married Nick at twenty-three.
When she found out she was pregnant, she was fully prepared to be a single mom.
But Nick had declared his undying devotion for her, and they married in one of
those corny ceremonies on Laguna Beach.
She had arrived at the ceremony with her Aliso Creek High School
friends, Arie, Gemma, Drew, and Jess—affectionately called “the Five”—and Nick
came with his half-stoned band buddies.
Paisley had been born six months later, and three months
after that, she found Nick high with another woman in their bed.
That was the worst. Liz had burned the bedding and junked the mattress, box
spring and all.
“I think I found it.” Sloane’s voice interrupted Liz’s
He twisted and smiled up at her.
Wow. Great smile. He was a braces-kid.
“Oh? What’s wrong?”
“The pipe has started to erode. So even if they replaced the
trap coupling, the leak would come back eventually.”
“So, I need a new pipe?”
“Yep.” Sloane stood, brushing off his hands. He tested the
faucet. “I’ll run and grab the part today and have it done by this afternoon.”
“Are you sure?” Liz asked. This guy owned the whole complex.
Why should he be running to the parts store? “I could pick up the pipe on the
way to work. Then maybe the maintenance guy can put it in tomorrow.”
Sloane drew his brows together as he gazed at her. “I’m
pretty picky about my pipes.”
Liz didn’t know what to say. Then he laughed. She relaxed,
although she wasn’t sure if this meant he wanted her to get the pipe. “So, what
do I ask for?”
“Don’t worry about it. Really. I’ve got it.” He walked out
of the kitchen.
Liz followed. “I feel really bad about this. I mean, you
probably have a million things to do.”
He turned, and Liz found that he was standing much closer to
her than anticipated. At this range, she could smell something
musky—aftershave? Cologne? No, it was too subtle to be cologne.
“I’m actually being quite selfish here,” Sloane said, making
no effort to put distance between them. “I’m trying to avoid a family dinner
tonight, and if I take care of this ‘emergency’ for you, then yes, it will put
me behind schedule, which also means I’ll have a legitimate excuse not to go to
This was not what Liz expected to hear. “So basically, I’m
messing up your entire day?”
His eyes glinted with amusement. “Basically yes. But maybe
we can blame the maintenance guy.”
“All right. That sounds better than blaming
said, letting a smile escape.
Sloane smiled back. “I’d never blame you. In fact, I’d like
to thank you.” His eyes looked her up and down. “You may have quite possibly
saved my sanity.”
Why is he looking at me like that? What am I wearing? Did
I even brush my teeth?
“Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever been credited with
His smile turned into a grin. “Add it to your list of good
deeds for the day.”
Liz laughed. “Done.”
I’m flirting with him! Why am I
flirting with Sloane Branden? He needs to leave. Now.
She slid around him
and opened the door. “Thanks again, Sloane.”
“No problem.” He fished his wallet out of his back pocket and
took out a card. “Call me at this number if it happens again.”
Liz took the card. It had his office number and his cell
phone number on it. Before she could say anything else, he’d taken off. She
stood at the doorway for a moment, staring after him.