Piper O’Riley watched a silver-gray Chevy Silverado pull into the parking lot of Health Aid Pharmacy, the drugstore she managed in the small town of Harmony Hills, Pennsylvania. A tall man climbed out. His shirt displayed broad shoulders and tight abs. His jeans all but caressed his perfect butt. His close-cut black hair and the way he carried himself—his shoulders back, his movements smooth and efficient—reminded her of someone in the military. He reached into his truck, pulled out a black cowboy hat, and plopped it on his head.
Wow. Just wow. He had all the makings of the man of her dreams.
She stopped that thought. Stomped it out with the fervor of a woman determined not to make the same mistake three times. The absolute last thing in the world she wanted was to notice another man. Three short months ago, she’d left her second groom at the altar. She’d gotten halfway down the aisle to marry Ronnie Nelson, but just like with Tom Lashinsky—the first guy she’d ditched—she’d known, just known, there was “more” to love than what she felt for her groom.
And she’d bolted.
The cowboy walked up to the glass door, his head down, as if he were deep in thought, and pulled it open.
Of course, when he looked up, he saw her standing there in the middle of the aisle like an idiot. His dark brown eyes crinkled at the corners as his full lips lifted into a warm smile.
Oh, Lord help her. Where did a man get a voice like that, with a western drawl that trickled down her spine and sent goose bumps to her toes? The kind of chill bumps she’d never felt in any of her relationships. The kind of chill bumps that explained why she couldn’t marry either of her previous grooms. The kind of chill bumps that made her wish that once—just once—she could be with a man who made her shiver.
“Can you point me in the direction of the cards?”
His voice was as smooth as velvet. His smile probably dropped women’s panties from thirty feet. He wouldn’t be the kind to settle down. He didn’t have to.
Piper’s inner good girl shook her head. Was that what she really wanted? A sexy man who couldn’t settle down? Sounded like a heartbreak waiting to happen—
Which explained why she always chose safe, ready-to-settle-down men. She didn’t want to get hurt.
She pointed to aisle three.
He smiled, put his fingers on the brim of his Stetson, and walked past her.
She smelled his aftershave, felt the heat of him as his arm almost brushed hers. Her heart tripped over itself. Her stomach fell. All her nerve endings glittered like a prom queen’s tiara.
And her inner bad girl all but swooned. Usually she stayed quiet, but today she was wide awake and curious. Suffering a broken heart might be worth a few nights with this guy.
Within seconds, he was back, shiny white wedding card in hand. Maybe if she had a red-hot fling, something to satisfy this crazy feeling that she was missing out, she could stop leaving fiancés at the altar and actually get married.
“Who’s the wedding card for?”
She smiled. “If he looks anything like you, the bride’s a very lucky girl.”
There. She’d said it. She’d put it out on the table that she found him attractive. The next move was his.
He returned her smile and took a step closer. “Well, darlin’, he’s a little fairer than I am, but I think we’re in the same category.”
She drew in a quiet breath as glorious need combined with fear of the unknown and created a tingly feeling she’d never had before. A feeling that egged her on, made her say the first flirty thing that popped into her head.
“Then she is lucky.”
He laughed. The sound walked up her spine and sent that feeling through her again.
“What about you?”
“Pretty girl like you working in a drugstore. That doesn’t seem right.”
She laughed. The urge to flirt was so natural now, she couldn’t stifle it. “What do you think I should be? A stripper?”
His gaze rippled from her hair to her toes. “I’d pay to see you wind around a pole.”
That just plain stopped her breathing. Her inner good girl gasped. Women who wanted to keep their reputations did not wind around stripper poles.
But her inner bad girl sighed. She’d really like to be able to flirt without the constant nagging.
Piper found the compromise position: “I’m really not the kind to pole dance, but I might take money at the door.”
He laughed again.
Happiness surged through her. See, inner good girl? Flirting can be fun.
“You’re funny. I like that.”
She walked to the counter and slid behind the cash register. “I like a guy with a sense of humor, too.” She peeked up and caught his gaze. “And I hope it was just a joke that you thought I should work in a strip club.”
He leaned against the counter. “Man’s gotta have his fantasies. But there’s a lot to be said for living in the real world. You dating anyone?”
Her heart stumbled. Good God. He was going to ask her out. “No. Not now.”
“Which tells me there was somebody.”
She swallowed. How could he not know who she was? He had to be from out of town. “I kind of broke up with him about three months ago.”
He grinned. “Three months. That’s good timing.”
“Sure. By now the residual hurt feelings are down to a bare minimum, and you’re probably looking to move on.”
Gazing into his sexy dark eyes, she was so ready to move on.
“I’m not in town for long, though.”
She was right. He wasn’t from here, and he was telling her he wasn’t into a relationship, just a fling.
Could she do this? Have a fling? Could she try an affair, see what she was missing, and wave good-bye when he moved on?
Not quite sure what to say, she picked up his wedding card. A quick scan caused $6.99 to pop up in the digital readout of her cash register.
His eyes widened. “Seven freaking dollars for a card?”
She laughed. His façade of perfection cracked. Although, in some ways, his shock was cute. Clearly the man didn’t shop. “There are cheaper ones.”
He sighed, then winked. “I’m not cheap.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a five. “I just remembered the card when I was coming back from the diner. I spent most of my cash on breakfast for my brothers. I’ll have to go home and get more.”
“How about a bank card?”
“Don’t have that with me either. When I travel I only use it for gas. Easier to keep track of my spending that way.”
His gorgeous dark eyes met hers, and the zap of electricity that surged through her almost stopped her heart. There was no denying she felt a zing for this guy. But the things he’d said suddenly began to group together in her head.
Wedding. Finn Donovan was getting married today.
Brothers. Finn had two brothers.
When I travel…Cade, Finn’s older brother, lived out of town. In Montana. On a ranch.
Which explained the Stetson.
He might be older, his hair shorter, his face more mature, but now that Piper had put everything together, she recognized him. This cowboy was Cade Donovan.
She had to fight not to squeeze her eyes shut. She wanted to have a fling with Cade Donovan? The guy who’d left her best friend at the altar?
Wow. She couldn’t exactly remember the definition of irony, but Harmony Hills’s runaway bride being attracted to its most notorious no-show groom? That was too much gossip for one town to handle, especially since the woman he’d left, Lonnie Simmons, was her best friend. So, no. She wouldn’t be participating in that particular literary device.
But, more important than the runaway bride/no-show groom gossip was the notorious Hyatt/O’Riley feud. His grandfather had won her father’s grocery store in a poker game, and most people in town believed Richard Hyatt had cheated. Cade Donovan was the grandson of the guy who had stolen her father’s business. Taken away his livelihood. Half the people in town didn’t shop at O’Riley’s Market because they didn’t want to support a cheat. She and her mom would cross the street rather than walk by anyone in the Hyatt/Donovan family.
She and Cade Donovan weren’t just a bad bet. They were enemies.
Her spine stiffened. Her smile became cool. “There’s no need to go back for cash. We have less expensive wedding cards.” Though it was a struggle, she kept her demeanor professional. “And they’re every bit as nice.”
He smiled again, and she had to take a quiet breath to stop the surge of white-hot need that burst through her. As much as she wanted to feel this heat that she’d never felt before, she could not be attracted to him. She refused.