Be Careful, It's My Heart - Kait Nolan - E-Book

Be Careful, It's My Heart E-Book

Kait Nolan

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Beschreibung

The best things happen while you’re acting…

The historic Madrigal theater, in the heart of downtown Wishful, is about to close its doors forever.  A last ditch fund-raising effort, a production of White Christmas, is probably the only thing that could bring Tyler Edison out of retirement.  She fell in love on that stage, but when Brody Jensen abandoned her, she lost the heart to sing and dance for the crowd.  Maybe it’s time to take that back…

It seems like pure chance when Brody’s job, which has taken him all over the world, brings him back to his little hometown to oversee his boss’s latest secret project.  Brody’s looking for closure, planning to sell the house his parents left him and finally put his past, and his memories of Tyler, behind him.  What better way than to be a part of this last show?  Even though his leading lady is surely long gone…

Put on your dancing shoes, auditions start at six o’clock.

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Contents

Invite

A Letter to Readers

1. Casting Call

2. Auditions

3. 9 Weeks 'Til Show

4. 8 Weeks 'Til Show

5. 7 Weeks 'Til Show

6. 6 Weeks 'Til Show

7. 5 Weeks 'Til Show

8. 4 Weeks 'Til Show

9. 3 Weeks 'Til Show

10. 2 Weeks 'Til Show

11. 1 Week 'Til Show

12. Opening Night

Newsletter Exclusive Offer

Just For This Moment

Other Books By Kait Nolan

Acknowledgments

About Kait

BE CAREFUL, IT’S MY HEART

Written and published by Kait Nolan

Copyright 2013 Kait Nolan

Cover design by Lori Jackson

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is a work of fiction. All people, places, and events are purely products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is entirely coincidental.

In memory of Daisy. You were a fighter and a joy and I miss you every day.

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A Letter to Readers

Dear Reader,

This book is set in the Deep South. As such, it contains a great deal of colorful, colloquial, and occasionally grammatically incorrect language. This is a deliberate choice on my part as an author to most accurately represent the region where I have lived my entire life. This book also contains swearing and pre-marital sex between the lead couple, as those things are part of the realistic lives of characters of this generation, and of many of my readers.

If any of these things are not your cup of tea, please consider that you may not be the right audience for this book. There are scores of other books out there that are written with you in mind. In fact, I’ve got a list of some of my favorite authors who write on the sweeter side on my website at https://kaitnolan.com/on-the-sweeter-side/

If you choose to stick with me, I hope you enjoy!

Happy reading!

Kait

Casting Call

“I REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR help with this, Tyler.” Norah Burke passed over the caramel macchiato she’d brought as bribery. “It’s so last minute, and I’m going to need all the hands I can get to pull it off.”

“It’s a whole month away,” said Tyler, setting down the coffee and cutting open a box of new cabinet hardware. “We’ve got time.”

“A month in city event planning language is, like, tomorrow. But it’s so rare Halloween falls on a weekend, and I can’t pass up the opportunity to do something.”

Sipping the coffee and slipping the knobs and drawer pulls into bins, Tyler listened as her friend laid out the concept she’d developed for a new fall festival.

“It’ll be an all-day event. A 5k run/walk in the morning to kick things off—I’ll need to come up with some catchy name that will look good on T-shirts, and get sponsors.” She made another note. “Then maybe a combination harvest and arts festival on the green. Something that’ll bring out the local artisans and farmers. We’ll get the businesses around the square to host trick or treating for the kids—which will make the parents happy since it’ll be well lit and centralized.”

“You should have a station set up for fall pictures,” Tyler said. “Something with hay bales and pumpkins so the parents can plunk down their kiddos and get quick pictures. Zach Warren can set up a booth. You could call it Pumpkinpalooza.”

“Oh, that’s good!” Norah made more notes. “It’ll appeal to everybody, even those super religious folks who have some conscientious objection to Halloween.”

“I’ll be getting in my stock of hay bales and pumpkins next week. I’ll talk to Logan to make sure there’s plenty fresh for that weekend.” Tyler scribbled a reminder for herself as the bell above the door jangled and Lorna Van Buren walked in. “Afternoon, Mrs. Van Buren. Let me know if I can help you with anything.”

The older woman waved and headed for the paint section.

“Now here’s the part I’m really going to need help with,” Norah said. “The old department store is empty. On the market, of course, but it’s a huge space and nobody’s biting yet. I got the owner to let us use the first floor to make a haunted house. We’ll charge a cover to get in, and I’m planning to talk each of the main businesses in town into sponsoring a room, so to speak. Then we’ll have the people vote for whichever room is scariest. They’ll be responsible for their own costs and materials, but we’ll still need to build something to divide up the space.”

“The most economical way to do it would be to set up giant fabric partitions. It’d be pretty cheap to do it with PVC. You don’t want to create anything permanent, unless you’ve got some future uses in mind.”

“Good point. See, this is why I needed another brain to bounce ideas off of.”

Mrs. Van Buren stepped up, several paint brushes in hand. “Oh, I love a good haunted house! Camilla Dixon at The Calico Cottage can order you the fabric. Something black, I’d think. And I bet the Quilting Queens would volunteer to sew them up.”

“The Quilting Queens?” Norah asked.

“It’s this big inter-church group of ladies who quilt. Nobody has room in their house to host that big a group, so they rotate through the fellowship halls of all the churches in town. They meet once a week and make quilts to donate to folks. You should talk to Nancy McAlpin. She’s their current president.”

“Come to think of it, they have a lot of PVC frames for their annual show. They might be willing to loan them out,” Tyler said.

Norah grinned as she scribbled. “God, I love this town.”

Lorna shifted her attention to Tyler. “I wanted to pick your brain. See I have this dresser I want to refinish. Hank already stripped it for me, and I’ve picked out the color stain I want, but I don’t know what kind of brushes I need or what supplies I might be forgetting.”

“Let me help you with that.” Tyler rose and led her back to the paint supplies.

Ten minutes later she was ringing up Lorna’s purchases.

The bell rang again as a brunette whirlwind bounced through the door, singing, “Dust off your dancing shoes, we have a mission.”

Tyler barely spared her best friend a glance as she continued to bag up Lorna’s varnish, stain, lint-free cloths, and new paint brushes. “Now remember, the natural bristle brushes are for oil-based paint only. These synthetic ones you bought can go for oil or water-based, but for the varnish you’re going to use on that dresser, the natural bristles will give you a smoother finish.”

The older woman grinned. “This is going to look so good! I’ll be sure to take pictures.”

“You do that. Be sure to tag us on Facebook!” Tyler called.

“I will!” Lorna waved and pushed her way out the front door of the shop with a jingle.

Piper hopped up on the counter and swung her legs. “Did you hear what I said?” she demanded.

With a bland stare, Tyler passed right by her and continued to stock the new selection of cabinet hardware. “I’m pretty sure you’re the only one who remembers I ever wore dancing shoes.”

“Not the truth and so not the point,” Piper insisted.

“And what is the point? You know I don’t dance anymore.” In public, anyway.

“You will for this. The Madrigal is in danger.”

Tyler paused, a drawer pull in her hand as her heart twisted. The historic Madrigal Theater was an institution in downtown Wishful. It was a central feature of the best memories from her past. Though “past” was the operative term. “That’s terrible! But what does it have to do with me?”

“They’ve agreed to let us make one last effort to raise the money to save it. To prove that it can be a sound investment. Nate is directing a production of White Christmas. And you’re going to unearth your dancing shoes from whatever graveyard you left them in to audition for it with me.”

“You used to dance?” asked Norah with interest.

“I haven’t danced or sung since college.”

Piper hopped down from the counter and pointed an accusatory finger. “You lie. You’ve sung and danced with me as recently as last month.”

“What we do in the privacy of my living room under the influence of a pitcher of margaritas is between you and me and no one else. And wipe that considering smirk off your face, Norah.”

“What smirk?”

“The one that says you’re trying to figure out how you can use that in your next community development scheme.” She shoved plastic wrapped hardware into the Plexiglas bins with more force than necessary.

“Oh, come on, Tyler,” Piper said. “It’s not like you’ve lost your chops. You’d be a shoe-in for Judy. And I would make the perfect Betty.”

“Give me one good reason why I should come out of retirement,” Tyler said.

“Let’s just say, we’re doing it for a pal in the Army.”

Tyler fisted a hand on her hip and leveled a Look at Piper.

“What? It was appropriate,” Piper said, unabashed. “We’re doing it in the name of the good old days. Think of how many great memories we have of the Madrigal. Our first show. Our first lead roles. My first kiss, with Robert Hudson in Meet Me In St. Louis. Where you first fell in love with—” Piper cut herself off. “Okay, so maybe that one’s not good to remind you about, but you can’t hold his asshatishness against the Madrigal.”

“Whose asshatishness?” Norah inquired.

“He who will not be named,” Piper informed her, in a tone that suggested she’d be happy to name and tell Norah all at the first opportunity. As long as it was away from Tyler. Fine. It would save Tyler the trouble.

“I’m not holding anything against the Madrigal,” she said. As soon as it was out of her mouth, she knew she’d have to put her dance shoes where her mouth was. She sighed. “When are auditions?”

“Tonight at six.”

“Tonight! Piper, I’ve got to close. I’ve got nothing to wear here and no time to go home and get my shoes, not to mention I’ve got nothing prepared for an audition.”

“So tell me where your shoes are and what you want, and I’ll go by and pick everything up for you.”

“I still don’t have anything prepared.”

“Oh come on. As if you can’t sing every single number from the show in your sleep.”

Given that the two of them had been having sing-a-long viewings of the movie for the last twenty years, this was not deniable.

“It’s not the singing part that has me worried.”

“Tyler,” Piper drew out the plea to five syllables and folded her hands in prayer, complete with the puppy dog eyes that had, over the years, successfully convinced Tyler to go skydiving, be in a bachelorette auction for a hospital fundraiser, and add a set of very purple, very unfortunate highlights to her blonde hair.

Tyler scowled. “You don’t fight fair.”

“It’s the Madrigal,” Piper insisted.

“Fine. I’ll be there, but I’ll be a little late. We don’t close until six.”

“Fabulous! I’ll meet you there with your shoes and your outfit. Where are they?”

Tyler sighed. “Top shelf of my closet, in the blue box.”

Piper squealed in delight and wrapped Tyler in a rib-cracking hug. “I’ll meet you there! Bye, Norah.” Without another word, she whirled and bounced out the door.

Tyler stared after her, shaking her head.

“I need to get on too,” Norah said. “I’ve got a meeting with Sandra in half an hour.”

“Would that be a meeting with her as mayor or as your future mother-in-law for wedding planning?”

“Some of both. We’ve taken to planning at the office. When we do it at home, Cam starts looking like he wants to bolt. As if we actually expect him to have some opinion on napkins and invitation designs.”

Tyler laughed. “As long as he’s learned the valuable lesson of ‘Yes dear,’ he’ll be fine.”

Norah grinned. “Exactly.”

“If you’ll get me a number of how many businesses you expect to volunteer, I’ll swing by the site later this week, take some measurements and figure out what you’ll need to make the partitions if the Quilting Queens don’t have frames you can use.”

“I’ll let you know as soon as I do. And don’t forget, dress shopping this weekend!”

“I’ll be there, if only to make sure you don’t put me in robin’s egg blue.”

Norah waved and headed out.

Finished with the display, Tyler hauled the box to the dumpster out back. In the storeroom, she shot a wary look around before executing an experimental series of alsicones. If only they could see me now, she thought. Solid, dependable, Tyler Edison, pillar of the community. Only Piper could get me to do this again in public.

It wasn’t that she had stage fright. There was something glorious about being on stage, under the lights. Putting on someone else’s life for a few hours a week during the run of a show. Singing music from bygone days and soaking in the adulation of the crowd. She used to live for it. She used to live for a lot of things. But the days since she felt like arbitrarily bursting into song and dance were long past, put away like childish things. Her life was a good one. And if she felt, from time to time, as if something was missing, it was fleeting.

Still, as the front bell jangled again, Tyler decided it couldn’t hurt to take a walk down memory lane in the name of a good cause.

“We’re on a schedule here, guys. Now, I’m not talking about cutting any kind of corners. Quality and safety come first, but I have it on good authority that, if we can pick up the pace and knock this out before Christmas, there’s a bonus in it for all of you.”

A pleased murmur ran through the crowd.

There, thought Brody, that got their attention.

Not that he hadn’t had their attention. But for the past two days, he’d been ignoring the curious looks, the low-voiced murmurs, the unasked questions lingering in the eyes of the locals who remembered him. He was eager to distract them. Those unasked questions weren’t ones he wanted—or even knew how—to answer.

“If you’ve got any questions or concerns,” he continued, “or even better, suggestions for how to make this run smoother, I’m in this for the long haul until we’re through.”

Dismissing the crew back to their labors, Brody decided he could do with an early lunch. He’d missed breakfast, and the coffee he’d grabbed on the way to the job site had long since worn off. After work today, he really had to make time to go by the grocery and get actual food to stock the kitchen. His forty-eight hours in Wishful had been full of meetings and reports, familiarizing himself with the job, the crew, and all the variables that he needed to tweak to make sure this project was completed on time. It was a strange choice of location for one of Gerald Peyton’s projects, but Brody wasn’t in the habit of questioning his boss. Project management was what he did best, why Peyton sent him all over the country to pick up the reins on jobs that weren’t meeting the company standard. The itinerant lifestyle suited his wanderlust, giving him a new skyline, new faces, new places every few months. It was downright irony that this time the job had brought him home.

And that just made him feel itchy. He’d made a great deal of effort to avoid Wishful, to cut all ties.

He told himself that the fact that he hadn’t sold his parents’ house wasn’t a mark of any lingering attachment. After they’d died, it was easy to let the management company take care of things. The house was paid for, and the monthly income from rent had provided a tidy little boost to his bank account during those lean, first years. He hadn’t needed that boost in quite some time, but he was a busy man, and there’d been no opportunity to deal with the house from long distance. He hadn’t made an opportunity, he admitted. That the house had been empty for the last six months was convenient, really. He could save up some more money and, at the end of the job, he’d list it with a local Realtor, get the show on the road. The job would only last until the end of the year. Then he’d be off somewhere new for good this time.

He started to head for his truck, to drive out to the highway and the fast food chains that would get him in and out in a hurry, to avoid the million and one things sparking bittersweet memories of his old life here. Disliking the taste of cowardice, he shoved his keys in his pocket and cut across the town green to see what had changed in the last eight years.

The fountain in the center of the green had been dry as a bone when he’d left. Fed somehow or other from Hope Springs on the outskirts of town, the assumption was that the pipes had been damaged. They were near to a hundred and fifty years old, so that wasn’t outside the realm of possibility. A trickle of water dribbled out of the stone nymph’s flute, dripping steadily down into a shallow pool in the basin. It wasn’t a flood, but it was something. Maybe they’d finally sussed out where the blockage was and started the repairs. Brody found himself oddly nostalgic as he took in the coins that winked beneath the water. Wishes. Hundreds of them cast into the water symbolizing hope itself. He’d thrown in his own the day he left town. Maybe the poor saps who’d bought into the legend since then had had better luck.

One hand jingled the change in his pocket. Tugging out a quarter, Brody rolled it along his knuckles, wondering if he should make a new wish.

What would be the point? he thought. It didn’t do me any good the first time.

He slipped the quarter back into his pocket and strode off the other side of the green.

They’d upgraded Main Street. Brody approved of the stamped concrete now marching the three-block stretch of road in front of a newly refaced City Hall. Charm and function over the formerly crumbling brick that had been in residence when he’d left. Decorative wrought iron street lights provided elegant accents, boasting signs proclaiming Wishful to be Where Hope Springs Eternal. Interspersed between them were Bradford pear trees just getting tall enough to dapple the late morning sunlight on the sidewalk. Most of the businesses had been given face lifts. New awnings, shiny new signs, and fresh paint made each shop front stand out like an eager kid on the first day of school. Planters spilled over with bright-faced pansies and petunias. A few seasonally-minded souls had created autumnal displays with hay bales and scarecrows, despite the temperatures that hovered near eighty. September in Mississippi was, after all, still the tail end of summer. Whoever was heading up the community restoration project down here had great taste. The overall effect was charming.

Dinner Belles had a crisp coat of new white paint over the repointed bricks, but as soon as Brody stepped through the glass door to the jingle of a bell, he was back in the past. The black and white checkerboard tiles were worn, but they still shone with a mirrored gleam. The booths were green vinyl now instead of maroon, but they still marched along the outside walls in matching L’s that flanked the front door. A smattering of Formica tables dotted the middle. A few of them were occupied—some old timers still camped out with their omnipresent cup of coffee, newspaper, and crossword, and a trio of middle-aged women with shopping bags tucked neatly around their feet. Everybody glanced up as he bypassed the central seating and headed straight for the wide counter in front of the kitchen, but none of them were familiar faces.