Read An Excerpt

by Beth Ciotta

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

 | Read Book Review

Kylie blew into Boone’s Bar and Grill, knowing Max and gang typically met there for lunch on Saturday afternoons.  It had been their routine for the past ten years and sure enough there they were.  Max, J.J., Keystone, and Mayor Wilson, chowing down on burgers and fries.

“Why?” That’s all she got out. Her throat was clogged with frustration and road dust.

Four of Eden’s most esteemed silver-haired citizens calmly abandoned their Wanda Wonder-Burgers.

“Told ya she’d be peeved,” said J.J.

“I was hoping she’d be thankful,” said Keystone.

Max wagged an arthritic finger. “We did you a favor, kiddo.”

She clenched her fists at her side. “I risked serious injury or—hello—death climbing that tower to make a statement.  There are all kinds of apples, gentleman.  Delicious.  Granny. McIntosh. They don’t all look, smell, or taste the same. And yet every apple on that tower is red.”

“That’s because the tower represents one tree,” said J.J.  “When have you ever seen a yellow and red apple on the same tree?”

Kylie gawked. “That’s not the point.”

“Your point isn’t Eden’s point,” said Mayor Wilson.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means don’t sabotage this town just because you’ve got a bug up your butt.  That tower is part of Eden’s history.  A conversation piece.  Starting Monday,” the mayor went on, “people from all over will be driving in and out of Eden for a week’s worth of clean-cut hoopla. We want them talking about the church-sponsored Chicken Noodle Dinner and craft bizarre. The flea market, the Little Miss Eden Pageant, the tractor races, and the parade.”

“Don’t forget about the firehouse hog roast,” said Max, “and the car and truck show.”

“The apple pie and cake baking contest, monster arm wrestling, and live music in the Pavilion,” said J.J.

“The moonlight sock-hop, square-dancing, and carnival rides,” said Keystone.

“Every business in Eden benefits from the Apple Festival,” said the mayor. “People return again and again and spend oodles of money.  They return expecting to see the same quaint town and to experience the same old-fashioned fun.”

“Tradition,” said Max.

Mayor Wilson punctuated the air with a French fry.  “The last thing we want is for folks to leave here lamenting the modernized look of one of the stores on the historical block and a vandalized water tower. We do not want folks worrying that Eden’s going to hell in an apple bushel and maybe choosing to go elsewhere next year.”

“The citizens and business folk would not be happy,” said Keystone.

“They’d blame you,” said J.J.

“That’s why we covered up your statement,” said Max.

“We’ve known you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper,” said Keystone. “We care about you, Kylie.”

J.J. frowned. “Was a time, you cared about us, too.”

Kylie’s shoulders slumped.  How was she supposed to argue with their calm logic?  On top of it, like Faye, they made her feel like she’d been insensitive and selfish. “I do care about you,” she said in a soft voice. She’d known these men all her life.  All good friends of her grandpa and dad.  Good men, period.  Until her birthday meltdown, they’d never shared cross words. “I’m still me,” she went on, aware that everyone in the bar was listening. “I’m still . . . nice.  I just want . . . I want something more.  Something different.”

Mayor Wilson raised a bushy brow. “Heard you have a date with Chief Reynolds.”

The four men smiled.

The mayor added, “That’s something more.”

J.J. winked. “That’s different.”

There were murmurs throughout the bar and Kylie knew everyone was gossiping about the lusty kiss Max and the emergency team had witnessed last night at the tower. Eden’s Busybody Squad may have covered up her artwork but they couldn’t erase the memory of that kiss. That was something.

“Can we buy you lunch?” J.J. asked.

“Maybe we can help you sort through this life crisis,” said Mayor Wilson.

“Lord knows I’ve had my share of upsets,” said Keystone.

“I’m thinking we should give her some dating tips,” said Max.

Kylie’s cheeks burned. First of all, they thought she needed dating advice?  Second: It would be like discussing sex with her grandpa.  Self-conscious, she fussed with her ponytail.   “Um. Thanks, but—”

“Right off, I’d tell you to let your hair down,” J.J. said.

“In more ways than one,” said Keystone.

“At least it’s no longer orange,” said the mayor.

“The black is sort of nice,” Max said, squinting at her new hair color. “Exotic. Men like exotic.”

“Show some cleavage. Men love that.”

“Maybe you should buy one of the marvel bras.”

“Wonder bras. Good idea.”

“And don’t talk about your past boyfriends. Men hate that.”

“Don’t play hard to get.”

“But don’t be too clingy.”

“Don’t, uh, do the deed on the first date.”

“But don’t wait too long.”

“And make sure Jack wears a rubber,” said Max.

J.J. elbowed him. “The polite term is condom.”

“Or prophylactic,” said Mayor Wilson.

“I always called it a love glove,” said Keystone.

Kylie had wanted to excuse herself the moment the mayor had suggested a marvel bra. Now she wanted to die.


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