Authors: Anne Calhoun
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #General
“Uncommonly good storytelling.”
New York Times
“Scintillating sexual chemistry, wonderfully drawn characters—a total winner.”
New York Times
“Beautifully written and emotionally charged, Anne Calhoun’s romances define the erotic.”
—Alison Kent, author of
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF ANNE CALHOUN
“Anne Calhoun is one of the best writers of contemporary erotic fiction.”
“One of the best erotic romances I’ve read in a long time . . . An emotional read with two characters that I can fall in love with.”
The Romance Readers Connection
“Fresh and imaginative.”
The Romance Studio
Titles by Anne Calhoun
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A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Anne Calhoun.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-60994-1
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / February 2014
Cover art by Dan O’Leary.
Cover design by George Long.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This one’s for Kari and Anji: moms from the playground turned best friends, helping me keep it together since 2009.
As always, for Mark.
I could not have written this novel without the able assistance of librarians in Nebraska and South Dakota. Special thanks to Peg Williams of the Potter County Library in Potter County, South Dakota, and Barbara Hegr of the Morton-James Public Library in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Their insights into the daily routines and unique challenges facing rural libraries (and communities) fueled this novel, and I thank them for their time and generosity. Robin Rotham also provided insights into small-town life. Any mistakes are my own.
Jill Shalvis reminded me that sometimes old-school methods work best. Megan Mulry was her usual dazzling self, flinging plot ideas and character insights like holy water.
LANA WENTWORTH LOCKED
the front door to the Walkers Ford Public Library with one thing on her mind: Chief of Police Lucas Ridgeway.
She gave the brass door handle an absentminded tug to make sure it was secured before setting off at a brisk walk down the traditionally named Main Street. Lucas usually got home a few minutes after she did. With any luck she’d have just enough time to put on the opposite of her librarian clothes, a primly buttoned silk blouse and cashmere cardigan over a tweed skirt. The blue scoop-neck T-shirt with the rosettes, her 7 For All Mankind jeans, then she’d put a little extra oomph into her makeup. Figure out her strategy before his truck pulled into the driveway next door to hers.
A quick glance at her watch told her she’d left herself just enough time to get ready, but not enough time to talk herself out of what she planned to do.
She stepped lightly in the shallow depressions worn into the marble steps by thousands of residents, and turned for the house she rented from Lucas. Spring had taken a firm grip on the region. The business district’s beautification committee spent the day hanging planters full of impatiens from the green-painted light poles, set out the half barrels spilling over with tulips and crocuses, and hung the banner announcing the upcoming Spring Fling Carnival in a few weeks’ time. Alana noticed the hardy spring flowers only when a sharp knock on the Heirloom Café’s front window snapped her out of her reverie. Fifteen-year-old Carlene Winters, dressed in her green uniform, waved brightly and hurried to the café’s front door.
“Hi, Miss Wentworth! I just wanted to say thanks for the recommendation. I started
Pride and Prejudice
last night, and I can’t put it down.”
“You’re welcome,” Alana said. “I really have to—”
“The language was a little tough, but I totally got that Mr. Darcy was being mean to Lizzie,” the girl continued. “He says there aren’t any pretty girls for him to dance with, but she’s more than pretty. She’s funny, and she laughs at herself. That should count for something.”
Dear God. Normally she’d love to talk to Carlene about all the intricacies of Darcy and Lizzie’s courtship, but not tonight, not when she wanted to start a courtship of her own. Or something resembling a courtship, in a way. In a very indirect way. “It should,” Alana agreed rather desperately. “I’m sorry, but I have to get home. Come by the library tomorrow and we can talk about it then?”
“Sure! Have a good night.”
An image of Lucas from last Sunday flashed into her mind. He’d caught Alana in her thin robe and nightie, scampering barefoot down the driveway for her Sunday morning tradition of reading the
in bed with a pot of coffee and jazz on in the background. Dressed in jeans, hiking boots, and a hunter green fleece pullover, he’d loaded his retired service dog, Duke, into his truck for
Sunday morning tradition of a long hike. As usual, he’d looked unflappable during the embarrassing encounter, but when she reached the safety of the stoop and looked back, he was still watching her.
The look in his dark chocolate eyes had sent heat flickering through her despite the early morning chill. Even now, two days later, her nerves still held the charge of that look.
“I hope to,” she said to Carlene, then set off again, impatient with the delay, but mostly impatient with herself.
Once again she’d left something important until almost the last minute. Well, this wasn’t the last minute. The last minute would be two weeks from today, when her contract with the town of Walkers Ford ended and she left to drive back to Chicago. But her habitual distraction and procrastination meant yet again she was scrambling to do something she’d always meant to do, then didn’t.
Like work in a public library, the goal she’d set when she got her MLS then let slip through her fingers after graduation. The whole point of this diversion was for her to learn to be more proactive in her life, to make things happen rather than letting them happen to her. Including Lucas Ridgeway, assuming he had no objection to being one half of the oldest cliché in the book, a whirlwind affair between a repressed librarian and a cop.
She hurried down the street to her rented house as nature put on a show in the expansive sky at the end of the street. There was the Hanford house five doors down, then there was nascent twilight streaked with the sunset’s reds, oranges, and pinks. It should have clashed horridly, but the prairie sky wore the colors with a magnificent lack of concern that reminded her of her sister, Freddie. Freddie wore jeans, ballet flats, and a faded blue button-down shirt in front of fifty thousand people, and within minutes #preppiestyle trended on Twitter all over North America and Europe.
Nothing ever happened to Freddie. Freddie made things happen. Their mother often complained that one daughter got all the initiative and the other got all the absentmindedness.
She hurried up the driveway, trying to remember if the shirt with the rosettes was in her dresser or on the closet shelf, when Lucas’s police department Blazer passed her and pulled into the driveway next to her. The transmission ground when he shifted into park and cut the engine.
Too late. The story of her life, but she resisted the urge to write off the rest of the night. Instead, she climbed the front step and waited, pretending to thumb through the mail while she watched him greet Duke, his Belgian Malinois. Maybe it was the untempered affection he had for the dog that tugged at her heart. He hunkered down to scratch the dog’s throat and whisper
You’re a good boy, yes you are
into his upturned muzzle. Duke spent his days on the screened-in front porch of his house next door. Every time Lucas came home, Duke pranced and danced, rubbed his white-furred snout against Lucas’s legs, his fawn-colored tail wagging frantically. The raw blast of emotion from the dog and Lucas’s gentle scratching tightened Alana’s throat every time she saw it.
Tonight was no exception. When the reunion ended, Lucas got to his feet, then glanced her way. He wore a navy suit and a gray tie, with his badge and service weapon clipped to his belt.
“Evening, Chief,” she said.