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?
“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
“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
“5 stars! Loved this new story, it has the usual smooth flow and the organic unfolding of the story I love in Ms. Cooke’s books…Loved the chemistry between [Reid and Cassie], hot and sweet and real without the angst and drama so prevalent these days. It is true in real life too, we only get to know somebody as far as they allow us to see or sometimes as far as we are willing despite having all the clues in front of us. I can’t recommend this series enough.” —SEELK Fire & Ice
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Cassie and Reid’s story was previously called Some Guys Have All the Luck. You can still find print copies of it with that cover.
It was true that no good deed went unpunished.
Reid surveyed the mess from the shattered jar of dill pickles and shook his head. “Lionel?” he called, not really expecting an answer.
There wasn’t one.
He strode to the back room of the Montrose River Shop ’n Save and got the mop and bucket. He grabbed the dustbin and broom in the other hand, yelled for Lionel one more time knowing it was an exercise in futility, and went back to the pickle aisle. Naturally, it had been the extra large size jar. He’d swept up the glass and most of the pickles by the time Lionel appeared at the end of the aisle.
The kid looked sheepish.
To be fair, Lionel always looked embarrassed or as if he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. He was a really tall kid, almost as tall as Reid even at sixteen, and so thin that if he turned sideways, he just might disappear. Reid was halfway convinced that if he looked up “nerd” in the dictionary, there’d be a picture of Lionel. He had thick glasses with masking tape in the middle as well as on one side. The poor kid’s mother really did dress him funny: his jeans were always a bit too short and his shirts were awful. Today’s choice was a plaid flannel shirt that was probably warm but its orange and turquoise pattern was painful to look upon.
He’d given the kid a job in the hope of helping him. One week in, Reid was starting to doubt his impulse.
“Sorry,” Lionel said, a familiar tremor in his voice. The kid had the biggest Adam’s apple Reid had ever seen and it worked up and down all the time.
“Where’d you go?” Reid asked as he started to mop up the brine. He reminded himself that Lionel’s looks and his clothes weren’t the kid’s fault. Even his name wasn’t his fault.
Who named a kid Lionel?
“Um, I had to leave.”
“Because there was a mess to clean up? Because you don’t like the smell of dills?”
Lionel flushed and dropped his gaze. “Sorry.”
Reid leaned on the mop. “Maybe you could tell me what happened.” He knew Lionel would tell him every detail. The kid couldn’t summarize to save his life. He either apologized, with no explanation, or delivered a lecture.
“Mrs. Lang couldn’t reach the pickles.” Lionel gestured to the top shelf, where this size of jar and brand of pickle was displayed. “She asked me to get her a jar, so I stopped unpacking the salsa.” He indicated the box of bottled salsa open and half-emptied at the other end of the aisle. “And I got a jar of pickles for her.”
“All right. So far, so good. How’d they end up on the floor?”
Lionel’s blush deepened. “When I turned around, Reyna was with her.”
“Reyna Lang, Mrs. Lang’s daughter. Okay. Did she break the jar?”
“No!” Lionel became almost incoherent in his agitation. “She was there. She was looking at me. It was Reyna! It slipped. It broke. I ran.”
Reid pushed a hand through his hair. “Does this mean you like Reyna?” He watched Lionel hang his head. “Or is it all sixteen-year-old girls who are cute?”
“Reyna,” Lionel mumbled miserably.
“So, in future, you’re only going to bolt and run when Reyna comes into the store? Because I can have Jackie make an announcement whenever the Langs come into the store, and you can hide in the back until they’re gone…”
“No!” Lionel wailed.
“Or you could actually stay out here, do your job, and talk to her.”
All the color drained from Lionel’s face. “You don’t understand, sir.”
“I do understand. But you need to man up here, Lionel, and actually do your job when you’re getting paid to do your job. And when you make a mess, you need to clean it up. Someone could slip and fall.”
“Did Mrs. Lang get her pickles?”
“I don’t know.”
“Probably not, since she couldn’t reach them.” Reid took a jar and handed it to Lionel. “Go find her, give her the pickles, apologize, and tell her they’re with my compliments.”
Lionel took a step backward, clutching the jar. “But Reyna might be with her!”
“I expect she is. You could say hi to her while you’re there.”
Lionel shook from head to toe, his eyes wide with horror. His Adam’s apple went up and down like a jammed elevator. “You don’t understand, sir. I like Reyna but she never looks at me…”
Reid interrupted him. “I’m telling you to do this because I understand perfectly. When I was your age, I worked here, doing just what you do. It was my first job. I didn’t look very different from you, either.”
“I did, sad to say.” Reid shook his head. “But I was trouble. You can ask anyone.”
“I know,” Lionel said primly.
“But there was this girl.” He inhaled, remembering. “Cassie. She was this gorgeous reckless tomboy. I worshipped her but she didn’t even know I was alive.”
Lionel gripped the jar, rapt. “What happened?”
“Nothing, because I knew better than to talk to her. She left town and is gone forever.” He leaned closer. “I missed my chance, Lionel, because I was a chicken.” Lionel swallowed. “What would she have done if I’d spoke to her?”
Reid shook his head. “Probably not. She probably would have answered me. She was a nice girl, just like Reyna is a nice girl. That might have been it, but there’s really not a lot to risk here.”
Lionel swallowed and stared past Reid down the aisle. “Really?”
“Really. Take Mrs. Lang the pickles, then come back and mop this floor one more time. I want to be sure there aren’t any glass shards anywhere.”
“Yes, sir.” Lionel walked past Reid, clutching that jar as if that would give him confidence.
Reid hoped the kid would manage to do it. He spotted a dill under the lip of the shelf down by the box of salsa and went to sweep it up. He’d only taken two steps when he heard the distinctive sound of a second jar of pickles smashing on the floor.
“Lionel!” he roared in frustration and spun.
He froze, his words dying on his lips.
There was a woman coming down the aisle, navigating her way around the pickles and an astonished Lionel. It was no wonder Lionel was staring: she was gorgeous. Dressed all in black, she was wearing a short skirt and a leather jacket. Her hair was gleaming blonde, and swept up high. Earrings glittered on her earlobes and she wore fine leather gloves. Red ones. Her lipstick was the same color of red. She looked polished and expensive.
She looked so different from the women in Montrose River that she might have come from Mars.
It was her black leather boots that stole his breath away, though. They were amazing. They had pointed toes and stiletto heels and rose so high that the tops disappeared under the hem of her skirt. Fetish boots, or as close to them as Reid had seen in a very long time.
She’d come from the city. Reid wasn’t sure which city, but it was one he really wanted to visit.
He also wanted to find the top of those boots and feel her smooth skin wherever they ended. Then he’d let his fingers wander north from there. She was a woman who made him want to be really bad, over and over again. Reid’s mouth went dry and he felt a little too much commonality with Lionel.
Because as sure as he drew breath, she was Cassie Wilson, all grown up and more beautiful than ever.
She wasn’t a tomboy anymore.
She smiled at Lionel as she passed him, spared a glance for Reid, then continued down the aisle toward the salsa.
As indifferent as ever.
“Excuse me,” she said and Reid stepped back, because he was standing in the middle of the aisle, staring.
“Don’t slip,” he managed to say before she did exactly that.
He saw her eyes widen and her lips part. He heard her heel slide on the linoleum, then he caught her around the waist just in time. He was holding her tightly against his side, his every teenage fantasy come to life, and thought he might have died and gone to heaven.
“Thank you,” she said, a little breathless, then looked at him again. Those eyes were as sparkling and blue as Reid remembered. He could have drowned in them. Then Cassie frowned a little. “Wait a minute. Aren’t you Reid Jackson?”
He’d been sure for twenty years that she didn’t even know his name.
But she did, and she was back in town, and that to Reid meant there was an opportunity to set things to rights.
He wasn’t the kind of man who let opportunity go to waste.
* * *
It was so good that Cassie had left Montrose River. After just one night in town, she knew she would have died of boredom if she’d stayed. Everything was almost exactly the same as she remembered. There was almost no work. There was a tragic quantity of practical clothing and she’d forgotten her dislike of hunting gear in camouflage orange. There were too many pick-up 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.
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 itching to leave town, wondering why she’d come on Thursday instead of Saturday, when she marched down the pickle aisle, slipped, and was caught by Reid Jackson.
Montrose River’s original bad boy.
Oh. He was still good looking—wickedly handsome actually—still talk and dark. But Reid had grown up. Big time. He still had that steady stare with a hint of challenge in it, the look that dared you to prove that you were as audacious as him. Her mother would still say he was trouble on a stick. Her cousin would still say that Reid was an accident looking for a place to happen.
Reid had been dangerously attractive back in the day but now he was hot. Reid had broad shoulders and Cassie could feel the steel of his muscles in the arm wrapped around her waist. 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 skipping. He held her against his side, a perfect male animal, 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.
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.
How was it that she hadn’t even known that his eyes were such an amazing shade of green?
“Why not?” she said lightly. “Everyone knew you and you haven’t changed that much.”
“While you have.” His admiration of that was more than clear and Cassie felt flustered in an unfamiliar was. She tried to step away but he held her a little tighter.
“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. “Better?”
“Perfect. Thanks. Why do you think I wouldn’t remember you? You were badder than bad.”
He grinned, a dazzling sight at close proximity. “Still am by all accounts. Ask your mom.”
Cassie smiled. “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 also liked the way his fingertips slid over her hip before he lifted his hand away. 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 still work here?” she asked, horrified that he’d never moved beyond that job. Maybe he managed the store or something. 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.
He seemed to bite back a smile, which Cassie didn’t understand. “You could say that.”
Cassie heard a baby howl, recognized the sound of Hope, and knew Tori would be waiting for her. “I’m looking for salsa verde. 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.
“This one’s a little more expensive, but it’s organic,” Reid said to her, indicating the two brands.
“I’ll take it, then.” She watched his hands as he lifted the jar and admired their lean strength. No rings. She had an idea of how she might make her weekend a little more exciting, but dismissed it.
She knew better than to get tangled with a guy like Reid Jackson.
He gave her the jar, feeding that tingle when their hands brushed. “Didn’t you go 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, his second long survey, 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 of that 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, Reid in a suit might seriously compromise her determination to keep her distance.
“The christening,” Cassie admitted. “Nick and Tori’s daughter, Hope.”
“Right. Just for the weekend, then.” His gaze brightened. “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.”
Hope 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 might be interesting.
She wondered if she was more wicked than Reid these days, which made her smile.
What would happen if she jumped his bones at the christening?
Tori was in line to check out, bouncing Hope in a futile effort to stop the baby from wailing. “Great!” she said, 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. Just one night in her cousin’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 get the groceries packed so they got out of the store as quickly as possible.
Hope 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.” Hope 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 springlike 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, they weren’t the most sensible choice. Tori pushed the cart toward the minivan, bouncing Hope on her hip, and Cassie followed, not really listening to her oldest friend’s update on everything and everyone.
Cassie had time to think 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, pick-up trucks and economy cars kept their distance from its gleaming perfection.
Cassie stared. “That’s an Aston-Martin,” she whispered, halfway thinking it was a mirage. The one thing Cassie 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 being allowed to drive an old Corvette that Nick had bought to fix up as one of the highlights of her childhood.
But a car like this…. Cassie wasn’t even sure she’d ever seen one in Manhattan.
She took a step closer and peered inside, noting the creamy leather upholstery, the gleaming dashboard. 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 of the navy family 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. “And 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?”
“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.”
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 in high school. 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. “Want a ride somewhere?”
Cassie glanced toward Tori and the minivan, then took a step toward Reid. His eyes lit and she took a chance, telling him what she really wanted. “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 eyes, 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.
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, surprised by her and very interested. “I didn’t think you’d go for that. My mistake.”
“But a kiss it is. You sold short, Reid.”
“Maybe I’ll have a chance to make another offer.”
“I have to get back to Tori and Nick’s for dinner.” She checked her watch. “I can’t go far in an hour.”
He nodded. “Lover’s Leap, maybe,” he said, his gaze returning to hers. “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 light 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. That wasn’t why 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, and she knew her weekend had just gotten a whole lot more interesting. She plucked the keys from Reid’s hand, their skin brushing one more time in that electric way. “Lover’s Leap it is.”
Excerpt from Some Guys Have All the Luck Copyright ©2018 Deborah A. Cooke