Unplanned love a love in.., p.19

Unplanned Love: A Love In Spring novel, page 19

 

Unplanned Love: A Love In Spring novel
 


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  Myles said goodbye and walked on, but three steps later another voice calling her name drew her attention. On the other side of the street, a tall, dark-haired guy waved at her. It took her a moment to recognize Cayden, Kean’s firefighter cousin. She waved back, and he told her from his side of the road that he was going home after a night shift at the firehouse. She wished him goodnight and walked on.

  “Morning, Miss Charli.”

  How did everyone in town know her name? She squinted a little, trying to put a name to the middle-aged man in front of her but failing. She knew she’d seen him somewhere, but…

  “I’m Ambrose. I work at the grocery store.” He smiled, and she finally recognized him. He’d been there and greeted her when she’d walked into the small store last week, but they’d barely said hello—how did he even know her name? “Did you like that wine you bought? Because we’ve just received a delivery of Merlot I’m sure you’d like.”

  Okay, this was bordering on stalking. Did the man know all of his customers’ purchases? Because, in that case, she might want to go shopping for other items at the mall outside town. Also, she should probably make sure Kean shopped for protection outside town or next thing she knew, the whole town would be talking about her sex life.

  “Yeah, uh… I’ll stop by and check it out. Thanks.”

  He smiled and with a nod, he walked on, leaving her slightly dumbfounded and wondering whether he was some kind of stalker or was simply being polite.

  “Hey, Charli!”

  “What now?” She whirled around to face the umpteenth resident who’d decided to spoil her morning. “What’s a girl got to do to get her breakfast around here?”

  “Uh-oh. Got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning?” Jared, the funny journalist-slash-rocker, stared at her with his head tilted to the side and a cheeky grin on his face. Despite her annoyance at the interruption, she couldn’t help smiling back.

  “Sorry. I was trying to grab some breakfast, but it seems like an impossible task in small towns.” He frowned, and she shrugged. “People stopped to say hi and chat. The guy from the grocery store even remembered I’d bought a bottle of wine last week and promptly informed me he had a delivery of some other wine I might like.” She shuddered. “Creepy.”

  Jared laughed. “Yeah, Ambrose is very efficient and takes his job seriously. Well, welcome to Spring. You definitely can’t be a face in the crowd here.” He stepped closer and cupped his mouth with his hand, lowering his voice. “Just make sure you keep your secrets inside a bolted safe if you don’t want to end up on the front page of the Gazette.”

  Her eyes widened in pure horror just thinking of an all-caps title about Kean and her sleeping together. Jared laughed harder at her reaction.

  “I was kidding—about the Gazette. The rest is true.” He shrugged. “Perks of small-town life. We’re like one big happy family.”

  “Yeah, well, I prefer city-life anonymity, especially when I’ve yet to have my coffee.”

  “In that case,” he bowed and offered her a hand, “please let me escort you to Spring Delights, so you’re sure to get your dose of caffeine without further interruptions.”

  She curtsied in response and took his proffered hand. “I gladly accept, my lord.”

  They walked into the bakery, and Kean’s mom looked up from the muffins she was placing into the display counter.

  “Hello, Charli. Jared.” Her smile was bright and genuine. In a way, it resembled Kean’s. It was probably the only similarity with her son, since his hair and eye colors were the same as his father’s. She wondered if the woman would still smile at her like that if she knew what Charli had been up to all night with her older son.

  “Good morning, Mrs. Cavanagh.”

  “Will you ever just call me Enya?”

  Charli chuckled. “Sorry, you’re right. Can I please get a latte and the biggest muffin you have, Enya? I’m starving.”

  “It took her half a day to get from the parking lot at the Shark’s Tail to here.” Enya frowned at Jared’s comment, and he smiled. “Charli discovered the perks of being a person with a name, not just a face in an anonymous city.”

  Enya chuckled as she reached for a muffin in the display case. “That’s always been my favorite thing about Spring, although to a city girl it might seem a little… overwhelming at first. You’ll get used to it, love.”

  What was with all this calling her ‘love’? Was it an Irish thing or just a Cavanagh thing? This wasn’t the first time one of them had used the term of endearment with her, but luckily it had never been Kean. It would’ve been odd to say the least. Because what they had was far from love.

  She wasn’t planning on staying long enough to get used to it—although she obviously refrained from saying that out loud. Then the swinging door leading to the kitchen opened and Lauren’s mom, Jenna, walked out, carrying a tray of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. The smell wafted in the air and Charli’s stomach grumbled loudly.

  “You’re just in time for some fresh treats.” Jenna smiled broadly as she placed the tray on the counter and reached for the tongs.

  “I’ll have two of those with the muffin, please.” The words tumbled out of her mouth as if her stomach had taken full control of her voice. With her genetic tendency of slow metabolism and ease at gaining weight, she should probably keep her sweet tooth in check, but ever since discovering the bakery she’d had a hard time giving herself the usual pep talks she’d become so good at when she was in San Francisco. Lousy Pig had never wasted the chance to point out her round hips whenever she’d wanted to treat herself to dessert or an extra pastry. Kean, on the other hand, hadn’t stopped praising her “luscious curves” as he called them, and had shown her more than once how much he appreciated them. Besides, she’d burned quite a few calories last night and, if Ellie or Adam didn’t get in the way, she planned on burning many more tonight. So, yeah, she deserved those rolls.

  “Take a seat. I’ll bring your order right away.” Enya went to operate the professional coffee machine, and Jared tilted his head at Charli.

  “Fancy a bit of company, or were you hoping for a quiet, lonely, and probably miserable breakfast? Because I can totally sit at another table, you know.” His grin was infectious. In the short time she’d known him, she’d come to love the guy’s liveliness.

  “How could I refuse the company of such an esteemed member of the community? I’d be crazy not to jump at the chance to have breakfast with you.”

  And to be totally honest, she wasn’t looking forward to her conversation with Ellie. Lingering in town a little longer might help them both cool down and avoid a heated discussion about Charli’s romps with Kean. Or at least, she hoped it would.

  Chapter 17

  Once she’d gotten home, the morning they got caught, Charli had sat Ellie down and told her about how the thing between Kean and her started, and how Charli couldn’t seem to be able stay away from him even if she knew it was temporary. She didn’t share the intimate details of their encounters, of course, but Ellie had always been the one person Charli could speak to without inhibitions, and the feeling was mutual. So, even though Kean was Ellie’s brother-in-law and she probably didn’t need, or want, to be privy to what he was like between the sheets, Charli hadn’t been able to keep the insane attraction and scorching chemistry to herself. She’d needed to let it all out in the open, to hear someone tell her she wasn’t possessed by a pervy ghost who made her want to stay in Kean’s bed for days on end, ignoring responsibilities and forgetting about the rest of the world.

  Her friend’s stance had softened a little then, even though the hurt in her eyes for being lied to had lingered for a few more hours. Knowing Ellie like she did, Charli was sure her die-hard romantic friend had completely ignored the temporary nature of Kean and Charli’s agreement and was already envisioning a white wedding for the two of them.

  After she’d spilled the beans, she’d made Ellie and Adam promise they would keep her and Kean’s secret,
just to make sure they wouldn’t be fodder for the gossip mill, if she and Kean agreed to keep quiet about the pregnancy. Ellie wanted to wait until she was sure everything would be fine and she was no longer at risk of an early miscarriage, and Charli was only too happy to have some kind of bargaining chip she could use to make sure her secret wouldn’t be plastered all over town.

  But the more time she spent with Kean, the harder it became to act like her normal self when they were in the same place with people around them. Her fingers itched to touch him, even just to hold his hand or skim his stubbled jaw, her lips craved his, and whenever he winked and grinned mischievously at her when nobody was looking, it was all she could do to not close the distance between them and claim his lips. When she’d spent the day of the festival with the Cavanaghs, it had taken all her willpower, and about every sweet treat she could get her hands on, to keep her mind busy with something other than how much she wanted to have Kean’s strong arms wrapped around her, keeping her against him while they stood on the sidewalk watching the parade. Sophie had been a godsend that day. Her endless supply of energy and excitement had been mostly directed at Charli, before and after the parade, but Charli had never been happier to spend time with the little girl. That, together with every other town resident stopping her to either thank her or commend her on the great job she’d done, had been enough to push the dirty thoughts about the handsome contractor to the back of her mind. At least until she could be with him that night.

  But after two weeks of secretly showing up at his place after sunset and sneaking out at the crack of dawn, she was almost relieved when his mother caught them kissing goodbye on his front porch while she was running after one of the puppies. The squeals must have reached the next town over, and Charli had felt a little self-conscious at being caught with her hands tangled in Enya’s son’s hair. But when Enya hugged her and told her what a delightful surprise it was, she hadn’t been able to hold back a smile. Something warm had wrapped around her heart then, although she’d been quick to brush it away.

  After that day, she’d no longer been allowed to skip Sunday lunch at the Cavanaghs’ like she’d tried to do a few times in the two and a half months she’d been in town. Small-town hospitality coupled with the Cavanaghs’ motto ‘we’re all one big family even if we’re not related’ had made it hard for her to decline Enya’s invitations before, knowing the woman would be hurt by the rejection. Now that the whole family knew she was dating Kean, she had no excuse to skip the family gathering.

  “Oh, look, there’s Uncle Kean!” Sophie squealed as soon as she got out of the car, and took off toward the tall, dark, and incredibly handsome man in jeans and a dark sweatshirt walking out onto the porch. Kean’s face cracked into a bright smile and he opened his arms, lifting his niece off the ground as soon as she was within arm’s reach.

  “Uncle Kean, can we go widing? I can wide wif Daddy and you can wide wif Auntie Charli so she don’t fall off.”

  “That sounds like a good idea.” His eyes were alight with amusement as they settled on her. “Fancy a ride, Auntie Charli?”

  Her face heated at his clear innuendo, supported by the cheeky waggle of his dark brows. Yes, both Adam and Ellie knew she and Kean weren’t exactly playing Monopoly the morning Adam caught her at his brother’s place the day before the festival, but that didn’t mean she wanted the whole family to know she was sleeping with him.

  She glared at him, lifting her chin. “No, thanks. I’m good.”

  “Oh, well. Maybe another time.” The grin he gave her made her insides quiver. It was full of mischief and promises, so sexy it made her want to skip his family’s lunch and drag him to his cabin. She swallowed, and he must have noticed her reaction to his words, because he winked and laughed as he hoisted Sophie over his head and set her on his shoulders.

  Charli was pulled in as soon as she stepped through the door, as if she already belonged to the family, when in fact, she was only sleeping with the eldest son with absolutely zero plans for a future together.

  Lunch at the Cavanaghs’ reminded her of her own family, with her three rowdy brothers always bickering over food or trivialities, and her mother playing the peacemaker. Technically, the Cavanagh brothers were only two today, but the cousins seemed happy to join in the banter. She sat between Kean and Sophie who, as usual, had all but ordered Charli to sit next to her. Strangely enough, Kean behaved throughout lunch, and spent the time teasing his cousins and making jokes at his brother’s expense. But when dessert was being served, his hand went underneath the tablecloth and his palm rubbed up and down her thigh—up rather than down. She choked on the water she’d been sipping, and he chuckled.

  “You, um… have a beautiful house, Enya,” Charli said, needing a distraction when everyone’s eyes settled on her, thanks to Kean.

  Enya smiled as she placed a slice of apple pie on Charli’s plate. “It was a run-down ranch when we bought it, but since we were planning to have a big family one day, it was the only big house we could afford at the time.” She looked at her husband Finn with adoration in her eyes. It was kind of cute that after the thirty-something years they’d been married, they still looked at each other with so much love. They reminded Charli of her own parents. “Finn and Eamon did a lot of renovations over the weekends, and year after year we managed to bring it to a livable condition.”

  “Although I’m a vet, growing up with a master craftsman forced me to learn the trade,” Finn said, winking as he tilted his head to his right, where his father was seated. “Unfortunately, the gene skipped me and I was never more than a mere apprentice, but I somehow managed to pass it on to my kids.”

  “You did a great job, though. The house is truly charming.”

  Enya sat back in her chair and let out a sigh. “We’ll have to sell it sometime soon, though. It’s too big for just the three of us now.”

  Charli was touched by the sadness in the woman’s tone. It was clear she’d rather cut off her arm than sell the house she’d lived in all of her married life, but she could understand how much work went into keeping such a big house tidy and neat. The inn where her mother used to work was slightly bigger than this, and it took her hours to clean it and make it presentable.

  “Did you ever consider turning it into a B&B? I think it has great potential.” The idea hadn’t stopped spinning in Charli’s head ever since she’d set foot on the property the first time.

  “It could be a good idea for extra income,” Enya said, cutting a chunk of cake with her fork. “But I would have to leave the bakery and I couldn’t do that, not unless I had four or five grandchildren to take care of.” She threw a glance at Adam first and then at Kean. Adam smiled, while Kean rolled his eyes and looked away.

  “Well, you could buy it. You’ve always wanted to run an inn, haven’t you?” Ellie interjected, no doubt to keep her husband from blurting out their little secret. Everyone looked at Charli.

  She shrugged. “I used to when I was a child. My mom worked as a maid at an inn, and I spent a lot of time there with her. It was a cute place, so I used to dream that when I grew up, I’d buy a small house and turn it into a cozy inn. But that was just a dream.”

  “You have a degree in hospitality. You would know how to turn it into a successful B&B,” Ellie said, bringing her fork to her lips.

  Charli shook her head, reaching for her glass. “I’ve never been a small-town girl—I need the hustle and bustle of the city. I couldn’t live here.”

  An awkward silence descended upon the room. Had she said something wrong? They all knew she wasn’t exactly fond of small-town life, and that she’d never intended to stay. Maybe now that everyone knew about Kean and her, they thought she’d stay?

  Um, yeah. Not going to happen.

  “I guess I would’ve loved for one of my children, or my nephews or nieces, to buy the house so it would stay in the family. But I understand everyone wants to have a fresh start with their families.” Enya looked pointedly at Adam, and he smiled. “
I can’t really ask them to move into this place. There are lots of memories here, most of them are good, but some of them aren’t.” Again, she looked at Adam. This time his expression turned more somber. It was clear she was referring to the years he’d spent in this house when he came home from Seattle after his wife was shot. It mustn’t be easy for Adam, and it wouldn’t be easy for Ellie either. Moving here, with the ghost of a woman who’d been the biggest part of Adam’s life, could potentially destroy their marriage. So she could understand why Adam didn’t want to buy his parents’ house, no matter how much it hurt his mother to leave the house to a stranger.

  “You know you don’t have to sell the house, Mom,” Kean said, his tone annoyed. Charli frowned. She’d never heard him use that tone with his mother before. Was there something she didn’t know? Had they had a fight? “You’d only need to let me work on it, and I could take care of the renovations it needs.”

  “Not now, Kean. The game’s about to start.” Enya stood up and reached for the empty plates around the table. “Everyone, go into the living room. I’ll bring the coffees in a minute.”

  Finn, Eamon, and Kean’s cousins all stood up without arguing. Adam looked at Kean and shook his head, in a silent ‘let her be’ gesture. Okay, she was definitely missing something here, and the fact Kean didn’t want her to be privy to the details hurt a little. But what was she expecting? She wasn’t his girlfriend, after all. He didn’t owe her anything.

  And for the first time since she’d started sleeping with him, the thought hurt.

  * * *

  Kean swallowed the ugly feeling the chat about selling the house had caused and walked into the living room, where the whole family was ready for the baseball game. This would be Kyle’s last season in the Minor League. The Milwaukee Brewers had shown interest in him, and he’d be starting in the Major League next season. Although he no longer needed to prove his worth as a player, the whole family knew he would give his all until the very last game of the season, because that was just how Kyle was—competitive and always wanting to prove that he was good.

 
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