HOLT MEDALLION 2020 FINALIST IN EROTIC ROMANCE
CAROLYN READER’S CHOICE AWARD FINALIST IN EROTIC ROMANCE
Fleeing from the altar three times brands Flint McKay as “the perpetual proposer.” He swears each proposal is genuine and real. Yet, when it comes time to tie the knot, his heart isn’t in it. What drives him away from marriage? He has no clue. No, the answer doesn’t lie with Cassandra Wells, star of stage and screen. Or at least that’s what Flint tells himself.
After sixteen years setting records at the box office, winning Tony Awards, and rising like the brightest star in the sky, stardom no longer appeals to Cassandra Wells. At 32, she wants to trade in her greasepaint for a new life. The first step is escaping the people controlling her. Would old friendships rekindled, and secrets revealed allow Cassie to rewrite the stars?
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“Well?” She tipped her chin up, her gaze darted to the window and back. She drummed her fingers on the table.
“It’s about Gram’s general store.”
“What?” Her eyes widened.
“Gram’s general store.” Once the words were out, he realized how feeble they sounded. After her grandmother had died, the town had notified Cassie—or said they did. She never responded, so the store was put up for auction. Flint had bought it for a pittance, which was good because it wasn’t even worth what he’d paid.
Suddenly, he realized it wasn’t that Cassie had been too busy with her career to get in touch with the town of Pine Grove about the store. She hadn’t given a flying fuck. Humiliation washed over him. What was he doing here?
Convinced she had an emotional connection to the old shop, he’d gone out of his way to keep the place decent enough to remain standing, holding on to it until she got around to returning to claim her property.
One look at her face, and it became apparent she simply didn’t care and had no idea what he was talking about. The desire to escape overwhelmed him. He pushed to his feet.
“This was a mistake. I’m sorry. Sorry to waste your time.”
She tugged on his sleeve. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
“Home.” He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “Take care. Good luck. Again, sorry to bother you.”
“Sit down!” Fire flashed in her eyes.
“Sit down! Damn it! You’re not leaving until you tell me what you came here to say.”
“This was a mistake.”
“I ditched my mother, my brother, and my fiancé to be with you. You’re not brushing me off. Don’t be an asshole. Sit down.”
When the waiter returned, Cassie faced him. “I’ll have a vodka tonic and a cheeseburger.”
Flint took his seat. “Same.”
“Thanks,” the man said, collecting the menus.
“Now. Where were we? Gram’s store? What about Gram’s store?”
The waiter delivered their drinks. Cassie took a big sip.
Flint took a deep breath. Truth time. Total truth.
“When the town didn’t hear from you, they put the place up for auction. I bought it for pennies on the dollar.”
“So you want me to reimburse you? How much?” She rummaged in her handbag. Flint’s hand stopped hers.
“No.” If she had shot an arrow directly into his heart, it wouldn’t hurt as much as her words. Fuck. This wasn’t about money. Not by a long shot.
“Then what do you want? The suspense is killing me.”
He reached into the breast pocket of his suit jacket and slapped a photo on the table. Anger bubbled up in his chest, tightening his muscles. “I want to know if you want the place. If you do, it needs work. Serious work. I’ll help you get it in shape. If you don’t want it, I’ll let the town demolish it, like they want to. We have to either fix it or let it go.”
“Demolish? Like destroy?”
“Oh no. No. I don’t think so.”
“This is your last chance. Words aren’t enough.”
“Money?” She raised her gaze to lock with his.
“Among other things.”
“I have no idea.”
“So you come here to present…nothing? You don’t have the facts. Come back when you do.” She pushed to her feet. The waiter appeared, putting her plate down. “Can you bag it to go?”
“Sure.” He leaned over to pick up the plate.
“She’s only kidding. Aren’t you, dear?” Flint shot her a steely stare. “She’ll eat it here.” He grabbed her forearm in a firm grip. “Sit down, sweetheart.” The last word dripped sarcasm.