Cassie has everything she wants…
Cassie Wilson’s life is pretty much perfect, with a dream job, great partners—and the freedom to do as she pleases. The last thing she wants is to go back to Montrose River, the town she couldn’t wait to leave, and revisit the past. But when her oldest friend asks her to be a godmother, Cassie sees an opportunity to make a difference in Emily’s life. Maybe teaching Emily to dream big will be her legacy. Besides, one weekend in the Midwest won’t kill her. She’ll be back in Manhattan so quickly that they won’t have time to miss her at Flatiron Five Fitness.
Reid knows what he wants…
Reid Jackson is convinced that luck has to be made. Keeping his eyes open has been the secret to his triumph over his past, along with a lot of hard work. He might have come from the wrong side of the tracks, and he might have the reputation of being bad to the bone, but he’s built his own brand of success. When Cassie Wilson comes breezing back into town, Reid is ready to find out if she really is different from everyone else. Cassie turns his expectations inside out, fulfilling his dreams and shaking up his routine. But when Cassie decides she wants more than a fling, Reid knows he’s not the man she wants him to be—can Cassie convince him to hope for more?
“The premise is heart breaking, emotional and entertaining; the characters are broken, animated and embittered; the romance is sensual, spicy and hot… A raw, gritty and sensitive story.”—The Reading Cafe
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“I truly love this series. If you have read any of Deborah’s other series or genres, it is amazing how different they are and how different her style of writing is with F5 versus her historical, for example. Such a diverse author. Out of all the series I have read of her’s, this is definitely my absolute favorite series….Loved every second. Loved that they took their time. Loved that the book had plenty of passion and romance and emotional tension and just great plot elements that came together to create a great story. Loved also getting to witness Kyle and Lauren’s wedding, which was so beautiful. Just. Plain. Loved. It.”—Rendezvous with a Romance
An earlier version of Cassie and Reid’s story was published under the title Some Guys Have All the Luck. This version includes changes made for consistency with the new series starter, Just One Fake Date. If you bought Some Guys Have All the Luck in ebook, you should be able to download Just One Hometown Hero as an update from the portal where you made your purchase. The update will replace the old book on your reading device.
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An excerpt from Just One Hometown Hero:
It was good that Cassie had left Montrose River. Within hours of her arrival, she was feeling a familiar desperation to run. She knew she would have died of boredom by now if she’d stayed one minute longer than she had. Everything was exactly the same as she remembered. There was almost no work. There was a tragic quantity of warm, practical clothing and she’d forgotten her dislike of hunting gear in camouflage orange. There were too many pickup trucks, and not one restaurant that would have survived a New York minute in Manhattan. Even the music in the Shop ’n Save was the same.
She’d also forgotten about Huey Lewis and the News.
She’d liked their music once, in another lifetime.
If this is it…
The scary thing was that she remembered the words.
Coming home was a step into the past, which meant Cassie hated Montrose River more than she had as a teenager. There were more stores boarded up on Main Street, and the ones she remembered looked tired. She found it depressing, and even though the Shop ’n Save had been updated a bit, it was close enough to being the same.
She was already wondering why she’d come on Thursday instead of Saturday. She’d had a bad travel day, with a delayed flight from New York meaning that she’d missed her connection at O’Hare. She was trying to remember why she’d decided that staying with Nick and Tori was a good idea and doing her best to be cheerful and helpful to her friend when she marched down the pickle aisle, slipped, and was caught by Reid Jackson.
Montrose River’s original bad boy.
And its only superstar.
What the hell was he doing here?
He was still good looking—wickedly handsome, actually—still tall and dark with those glinting eyes. But Reid had grown up.
Big time. He’d kept that steady stare with a hint of challenge in it, the look that dared you to prove that you were as audacious as he was. You could see that his nose had been broken once, but now she understood why he’d never gotten it fixed. It gave him a dangerous air, one that suited him well. He had two days’ growth of beard, which made him look like a pirate, but it wasn’t sloppy. She’d guess he spent a lot of time trimming his beard so it was just so. Her mother would still say he was trouble on a stick—or maybe that he was an accident looking for a place to happen.
He still made Cassie’s heart skip.
She remembered how much he’d intrigued her. How was it possible for a person to not care about anything? At all? He’d been cavalier, audacious, rebellious and willing to do anything. He should have been in jail by now.
But there had been football. Cassie remembered watching him play. On the field, he’d been a brilliant, almost psychic, quarterback. It was the one place he shone. She remembered how he’d been picked by a Big Ten college team and how everyone in town had been so proud of him—conveniently forgetting all their convictions of his doomed future.
She also remembered the news reports when Reid had ruined not one but both knees and had to retire from football before even finishing college. She’d felt badly for him at the time, as any chance of a pro contract evaporated.
Maybe that was why he’d come back to Montrose River.
Maybe he had nowhere else to go.
Reid had been dangerously attractive back in the day but now he was hot. He had broad shoulders and Cassie could feel the steel of his muscles in the arm wrapped around her waist. She told herself that her interest was professional, seeing as she was part owner in a fitness club.
He must work out. A lot.
She reminded herself that he must have fathered a dozen kids in town by now, but stared into his eyes and tingled instead.
That cocky confidence he’d possessed in high school seemed to have multiplied tenfold and Cassie’s heart was racing as a result. He held her against his side as if he had no intention of letting her go, and smiled down at her, as if she was on his menu for lunch. The look in his eyes made Cassie yearn to be gobbled up by this big bad wolf.
Maybe she should gobble him up. She wasn’t the girl she’d been once upon a time—and she didn’t have to follow anybody’s rules anymore.
She was only in Montrose River for the weekend, after all.
“I wouldn’t have expected you to recognize me, Cassie Wilson,” he said and his voice was a lot deeper than she remembered.
She actually felt it rumble in his chest, right against hers, and her nipples tightened.
How was it that she hadn’t even known that his eyes were such an amazing shade of green?
“Why not?” she said lightly. “You haven’t changed that much.”
He seemed to find that amusing. “While you have.” His admiration of that was more than clear and Cassie felt flustered in an unfamiliar way.
“Well, it’s been fifteen years.” She tried to step away but Reid held her a little tighter.
Cassie liked it a lot more than she knew she should.
“You’ll slip here,” he said, his voice low and silky, then practically carried her down the aisle to a place where the floor was dry.
He was rock solid. That took dedication and many, many hours in the gym. Cassie respected that and the result. “Better?”
“Perfect. Thanks.” Cassie reminded herself to lift her hands away from his shoulders. The way Reid’s eyes twinkled told her that he’d noticed the delay and that only increased her agitation. “Why don’t you think I’d remember you? You were so notorious, badder than bad, and then you were famous.”
He grinned, a dazzling sight at close proximity. “Still am bad by all accounts. Ask your mom.”
Cassie smiled, sensing that he didn’t want to talk about his career that had stopped before it really started. “Did you fulfill expectations and go to prison yet?”
“Not for long,” he said easily, and she didn’t know if it was a joke or not. She cleared her throat and he released her, his hand moving to her elbow. She liked that he made sure she was steady on her feet before dropping his hand. There was something delicious about a man who was protective.
She liked men who were thorough, too.
She also liked the way his fingertips slid over her hip before he lifted his hand away. It was a quick gesture, one that no one else would have noticed, but Cassie nearly shivered from that stroke. It was easy to imagine those hands on her bare skin.
There was something even more delicious about a man wicked enough to make his desires clear.
“Looking for something in particular?” he asked, his tone just as light as hers.
Cassie refused to see any innuendo in his question, although there was a gleam in Reid’s eyes. She realized then that he’d been holding a mop.
“Wait. You work here?” she asked, horrified that he’d never moved beyond that job in her uncle’s store. “Still? Again?” Maybe he managed the store or something. She didn’t remember who had taken over the store when Uncle Marty retired. She assumed it had been sold when he died. Cassie reminded herself that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity in a small town but she was still disappointed.
Knowing what she did of Reid, this job was probably just a cover. Maybe he fenced electronics or fleeced little old ladies these days.
Maybe he had a rich girlfriend.
He seemed to bite back a smile, which Cassie didn’t understand. “You could say that.”
Cassie heard a baby howl, recognized it as Emily, and knew Tori would be waiting for her. She was supposed to be part of the solution to Tori hosting a baby christening despite a desperate lack of sleep. “I’m looking for salsa verde,” she said to Reid.
“Do you have any?”
“Two brands. Right here.” He gave the teenager a hard look. “Pickles to Mrs. Lang, Lionel, then come back and clean up this mess.”
So, he did manage the store. Cassie tried to respect that and failed.
In fact, she felt a bit sorry for Reid. He’d almost escaped Montrose River with that college deal, but had ended up back here just the same.
As if opportunity had never come knocking.
“This one’s a little more expensive, but it’s organic,” Reid said to her, indicating the one jar.
“But a higher level of heat. I’ll take both, just to be sure.” She watched his hands as he lifted the jar and admired their lean strength. No rings. Did she dare make her weekend a little more exciting? It was tempting but she should know better than to tangle with a guy like Reid Jackson.
He gave her the jars, feeding that tingle when their hands brushed. “Didn’t you move to Chicago?”
“It looks like life is treating you well.” The appreciation in his gaze was undisguised. He had a good look at her boots and Cassie smiled. Apparently, they shared an affection for tall black boots.
“I’m a part-owner of a fitness club,” she said. “I like it.”
“Good for you.” His gaze drifted down to the boots again.
“Like them?” she asked, posing a little.
“Very much.” His gaze met hers again and a devilish smile curved his lips. “I can’t see quite how high they go, though.”
“That’s for me to know.”
“And maybe me to find out.” He grinned when Cassie flushed a little. “Not a tomboy anymore,” he murmured, his opinion more than clear.
“No. I’m all girl now.”
“Woman,” Reid corrected and shook his head. “All woman, Cassie, and it’s a very good thing.” His gaze rose to hers again even as she blushed. “And you’re back for…?”
It was a damn shame that he was wearing jeans and not a suit. In a tux, she knew he’d steal her breath away.
She was having a hard time taking a full breath even now.
In fact, the sight of Reid turned out might seriously compromise her determination to keep her distance.
A tux, or even a suit, and she’d be his for the taking, reputation be damned.
“The christening,” Cassie admitted. “Nick and Tori’s daughter, Emily.”
“Right. Just for the weekend, then.” He nodded. “Takes high stakes to bring you back, Cassie Wilson,” he continued, his tone teasing. “I don’t remember you coming for the wedding, even though it was your cousin and best friend getting hitched.”
“They stopped in New York on their honeymoon so I didn’t have to.”
“Bet your mom loved that decision.”
“I was working,” Cassie said, hearing a familiar bit of defensiveness in her tone. Why did everyone find it so hard to believe that Montrose River wasn’t a draw for her? “Even now, I’m just here until Sunday night.”
Emily wailed so loudly that both Cassie and Reid looked toward the check-out.
“Well, maybe our paths will cross again. Enjoy,” Reid said, indicating the salsa, then turned back to the mop.
Cassie treated herself to a look at his butt, telling herself that her interest was professional, then walked carefully down the aisle. She felt Reid watching her and wondered if she would see him again. She had just about nothing to lose in town now, and indulging her curiosity about the baddest boy in town was a serious temptation.
She wondered if she was more wicked than Reid these days, which made her smile.
Would he be at the christening? She expected that pretty much everyone in town would be. Would he wear a suit? What would happen if she jumped his bones at the christening?
She’d leave them with something to talk about in town, at least.
She could be brave in Montrose River, since her tormentor had moved away and wasn’t coming for the christening. She’d double-checked that he’d be absent, just to make sure.
Tori was in line to check out, bouncing Emily in a futile effort to stop the baby from getting even louder. “Great!” she said when Cassie came into view. She was clearly desperate to get out of the store before the baby barfed or howled or whatever it was that babies did when they were upset. Mere hours in her cousin Nick’s house had nearly convinced Cassie to make it surgically impossible for her to reproduce. Clearly, she lacked the baby love gene.
“Thanks!” Cassie helped to pack the groceries so they got out of the store as quickly as possible.
Emily calmed down as soon as they were outside.
“I knew it,” Tori said, cuddling the baby under the chin. “She was just too warm in there.” Emily gurgled and drooled and Cassie averted her gaze.
To think that people conceived by choice. It was beyond belief.
The outside air wasn’t nearly as spring-like as Cassie had expected it to be in April. It had been balmy in Manhattan but not in Montrose River. As much as she loved her boots, she had to admit that they weren’t the most sensible choice here. Tori pushed the cart toward the minivan, carrying the cooing Emily. Cassie followed, picking her path with care, not really listening to her oldest friend’s update on everything and everyone.
She had time to decide that Sunday night couldn’t come soon enough—and then she saw the car.
It was a sleek sports car in cherry red, polished to a gleam. It looked completely out of place in the parking lot of the Shop ’n Save, and the other drivers knew it, because there was a space around it, as if it was on display. Untouchable. The minivans, pickup trucks, and economy cars kept their distance from its gleaming perfection.
“That’s an Aston Martin,” Cassie whispered, halfway thinking it was a mirage. The one thing she didn’t like about Manhattan was that it made no sense to have a car. She loved cars. She’d grown up hanging around her uncle’s garage, the garage that now belonged to her cousin Nick, running errands and sometimes being allowed to help with repairs.
Cassie missed cars, especially the fabulous ones. She’d learned to drive at the garage and had been allowed to move vehicles from the lot into the bay and back, once she’d shown a talent for parking with accuracy. She remembered the chance to drive an old Corvette that Nick had bought to fix up as one of the highlights of her life here.
But a car like this… Cassie wasn’t even sure she’d ever seen one in person before.
She took a step closer and peered inside, noting the creamy leather upholstery. It was meticulously maintained, as if it was brand new.
She wondered whose.
It had to be a visitor in town—but why would anyone with this much money visit this town by choice?
“Yes, that’s his latest,” Tori said, fishing in her purse for her keys.
Cassie was shocked and skeptical. “Reid Jackson owns this car?”
“Yup.” Tori pushed the remote and the back hatch of the navy minivan opened. “I think he’s only had it since Christmas.”
“But he’s still working at the Shop ’n Save!”
Tori laughed. “He owns the Shop ’n Save, Cassie.” She gestured with her keys. “He bought it from Uncle Marty.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“And he owns Monroe’s Hardware, and the gas station, and the liquor store, and about three quarters of the rental real estate in town. He built those new apartments on the other side of town a few years ago, too.”
Cassie had a hard time making sense of her friend’s words. “Reid is rich?”
“Doesn’t Ally tell you anything?” Tori demanded, referring to Cassie’s younger sister.
“No.” Cassie bit off the word and got a hard look from her friend. The last thing she wanted to do was talk about her sister, except maybe talk to her sister.
“She’s coming Sunday, you know.”
“I’m sure we can manage to avoid each other, even in close proximity.”
“We were talking about Reid,” she reminded her friend.
Tori cocked a finger at her. “No, we were talking about Reid being rich. I guess he is. He’s worked hard for it, though. No one gave him anything. And he’s a nice guy, too. He gave my cousin a break on her rent when she was sick.”
“Reid is rich and he’s nice?” Cassie couldn’t quite comprehend that both things could be true.
Tori laughed. “I know! There are plenty of people in town who still don’t believe it.”
Montrose River wasn’t very big, but it had still had a wrong side of the tracks. Reid had been from that part of town and Cassie knew he’d been very poor. He’d had a chance with that football scholarship, but it hadn’t amounted to anything, thanks to his knees. She turned to glance back at the independent grocery store, seeing it with new eyes. It had been updated and the parking lot had been repaved.
Reid himself came out of the store and smiled when he saw her beside the car. “Like it?”
“It’s gorgeous. My cousins would kill to touch an Aston Martin.”
“Oh, they’re getting used to it,” Reid said easily. “This is my third, and they do the oil changes for me. One of them always takes it for a spin.” He tossed his keys and caught them. “Want a ride somewhere?”
Cassie glanced toward Tori and the minivan, then at Reid. His eyes lit and she took a chance, telling him what she really wanted. “No. I want to drive it.”
After all, her cousins had driven it already.
“But you aren’t going to change the oil, are you?” Reid murmured. There was mischief in his expression, mischief that tempted Cassie to have him name his price.
“You want something in exchange?” she asked, having a very good idea what she might suggest. She was feeling the need to be a bit wild and it looked like Reid might meet her halfway.
He was, by far, the most interesting thing about returning to Montrose River so far.
And she wanted very badly to surprise him.
“One kiss,” he said and tossed the keys into the air, catching them again. “You can drive it wherever you want for one kiss.”
Cassie shook her head. “That’s it? I expected a tougher bargain from you, Reid.”
“Like what?” His voice was low and soft, his gaze unswerving.
“I thought you’d want to find out where my boots end.”
He laughed out loud, obviously surprised by her comment. His eyes glowed with interest. “I didn’t think you’d go for that. My mistake.”
“But a kiss it is. You sold yourself short, Reid.”
“Maybe I’ll have a chance to make another offer,” he murmured.
“I should help Tori,” she said, remembering why she was in town.
“Go!” Tori called, obviously having overheard their conversation. Her eyes were sparkling. “Dinner in one hour.” She pointed at Cassie. “I expect you to be on time and then do the dishes for this.”
“Looks like you’re free, after all,” Reid said.
Cassie dropped her voice low. “Don’t be fooled. I’m very expensive.”
Reid laughed. “But worth every penny, I’m sure.”
His gaze was so hot that Cassie had to avert her gaze. She checked her watch. “We can’t go far.”
He nodded. “Lover’s Leap, maybe,” he said, his gaze returning to hers. There was a dare in his expression. “The road has some nice curves on the way there. It’s good for getting a feel for the gearbox.”
Their gazes met and locked, the gleam in his eyes making Cassie’s heart pound. She’d never made out at Lover’s Leap. She’d never liked a guy enough to do it—or the ones she’d liked hadn’t liked her enough to offer.
The curves in the road weren’t the real reason Reid wanted to go there and she knew it.
“Uh huh,” Cassie said. “You just want to get more than we agreed upon.”
“And I’m prepared to give more for it.” His grin widened as he leaned closer, giving Cassie the sense that she’d made a deal with the devil himself. His voice dropped low. “You can collect anything you want from me, anytime, Cassie Wilson.”
Cassie’s heart stopped, then raced. She plucked the keys from Reid’s hand, their skin brushing one more time in that electric way. “Lover’s Leap it is.”
An excerpt from Just One Hometown Hero
Copyright ©2018, 2020 Deborah A. Cooke
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