Wish I Might - Kait Nolan - E-Book

Wish I Might E-Book

Kait Nolan

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Beschreibung

An heiress in hiding...
For graphic designer Cecily Dixon, building a successful life on her own terms, independent of her family's name and wealth, has been an all-important goal. That's why she followed her boss to tiny Wishful, Mississippi. While she's fallen in love with the town and the work being done to bring it back to life, her internship is over and it's time to take the next power-house step in her career...somewhere else.

A bookstore in trouble...
Reed Campbell is Wishful born and bred. He loves his small town life, and it suits him just fine. When he needs help breathing life into his struggling bookstore, the brilliant and sexy Cecily is the last person he expects to volunteer. Since one chemistry-fueled summer weekend, she's been giving him the cold shoulder, and he can't figure out how he blew it.

A romance with an expiration date...
Working together will start the thaw, but they both know the clock is ticking and Cecily will be moving on. Or will she? Wishful is just the right size for Reed, but can he convince Cecily that his small town can support her big dreams?

Wish I Might was originally a part of the Virtually Yours anthology (now out of print). It has been expanded into a short novel.

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Wish I Might

Kait Nolan

Contents

Invite

A Letter to Readers

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Epilogue

Turn My World Around

Sneak Peek Dancing Away With My Heart

Other Books By Kait Nolan

Acknowledgments

About Kait

Wish I Might

Written and published by Kait Nolan

Cover design by Lori Jackson

Copyright 2016 Kait Nolan

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.

To everyone who’s ever screwed up in love, have hope it can be fixed.

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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

Chapter 1

“YOU KNOW HE UP and left Tyler high and dry all those years ago. Broke her heart all to pieces.”

“And now he’s back?”

“Not only back but playing leading man to her leading lady in the musical.”

“No!”

At the tone of utter disbelief from the next booth, Cecily Dixon smiled into her mocha. To her mind, one of the greatest amusements of living in a small town was eavesdropping on the gossip. And boy, were Southerners champions at gossiping.

“I thought Tucker McGee got that part.”

“He did, but he broke his leg last week. Brody was the understudy. I heard Tyler nearly left the play over it.”

“Well, who could blame her?”

For the price of her favorite coffee at The Daily Grind, Cecily got the pleasure of stepping in and out of a series of little one-act plays. Though she’d only been in Wishful for six months, Cecily found that she often recognized the names of at least some of the players mentioned in each tale. And if she didn’t, well, she had enough imagination and experience on the stage herself to fill in the gaps, even if she hadn’t been in an actual play since college.

Man, she was really going to miss this place.

Her boss, Norah Burke, was the most brilliant marketing mind Cecily had ever known. Following her from Chicago had been a no-brainer. The plan had always been to finish her internship and move on to the best position she could find, as far from her well-intentioned family as possible. To make her mark on her terms. Now that the internship was finished, Norah, the new city planner, was being kind enough to keep Cecily on for hourly wages, while she sent out resumes and interviewed for jobs elsewhere, but there was no full-time position here. That disappointed her more than she’d expected. Mississippi was just supposed to be a stopover. She hadn’t expected this tiny, quirky town to get so far under her skin.

She wondered if she’d still be around to find out the resolution of Tyler and Brody’s soap opera.

If she didn’t get off her butt and get some more resumes out and applications in, she certainly would be. Her personal savings, plus the hourly wage, was enough to get her through the end of the year, but anything beyond that would force her to dip into funds dedicated to other things. She preferred not to violate that particular personal rule if she could help it.

Another pair of women reached the top of the stairs, bringing with them a new story.

“—there’s been some support, but just not enough.” The woman’s not-quite-put-together look of yoga pants and denim jacket, hair bundled into a messy knot with what appeared to be a pair of pencils, was capped off by the extra-large coffee clutched in both hands. She and her companion sat at the booth behind Cecily.

“I thought for sure the idea would take off after you saved the Booster Club pancake breakfast with your biscuits.”

“That helped. And, in fact, it was Ginger Arnold who suggested I try opening a business. But I don’t think enough people in Wishful even know about the Kickstarter.”

Cecily’s ears perked. A local Kickstarter? That was right up her alley.

“There has to be a way to get the word out better.”

“I don’t know, but I’ve got to figure something out. Rick’s going to be in physical therapy for months, and the doctors have already said he’s not going to be able to go back to work at that job. I’m the one who has to step up and be primary breadwinner now. If the Dixieland Biscuit Company doesn’t get funded, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m a housewife, Lucy. I’ve got no work experience past the waitressing I did in high school.”

“There’s still a week left to the Kickstarter. Don’t give up hope yet.”

Cecily opened a new tab on her laptop and hit up the Kickstarter website, doing a search for Dixieland Biscuit Company.

Ah, here we go. Dixieland Biscuit Company, proposed by one Beth Carmichael. As starters for a new business went, it was a modest campaign. The goal was only $15,000, going primarily toward commercial ovens, supplies, and necessary conversion of the proposed business space. But with just over a week remaining, she was sitting at $6,350. That would hardly get it done.

One of Cecily’s tasks working for Norah was managing the city’s social media feeds. They’d built quite the connected network over this past spring, when Norah went head-to-head with GrandGoods, the big warehouse store that had tried to come into Wishful. Cecily couldn’t think of a single reason not to use it to help Beth start her business. Keeping local business local and revitalizing the local economy was what Norah was all about.

As Lucy and Beth continued to chat behind her, Cecily put together a quick social media blitz, nabbing pictures of the mouthwatering buttermilk biscuits from the Kickstarter page and crafting specialized messages for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She was just getting things laid in and scheduled as her roommate slid into the booth beside her.

“And how are you this fine day, my dearest darling?”

Cecily shot a glance at Christoff, whose usual acerbic wit had sweetened since their arrival in Mississippi back in the spring. She knew the credit for that went to Daniel Palmer, the barista who’d captured his heart.

“Someone clearly just saw his sweetheart.”

Christoff grinned, his sharp blue eyes twinkling behind the square-rimmed hipster glasses. “Speaking of, Daniel sent this up for you.” He handed over a cookie the size of a bread plate, studded with chocolate chunks and walnuts.

Cecily took a nibble and sighed. “He’s adorable, thoughtful, and has amazing abs. Why couldn’t he play for the other team?”

“Because that’s way too much fabulous to pack into a straight man frame. What are you working on here?”

“Just a quick little side project.” She finished setting up the multi-point blast for the biscuit shop and clicked back over to the Kickstarter page, logging into her own account. She input her own donation, toggling Anonymous before hitting enter and shutting down.

Christoff went brows up.

Cecily just sipped her coffee as a cell phone dinged somewhere behind them.

A mug clattered against a table. “Oh my God.”

“What’s wrong?” Lucy asked.

“This can’t be right,” Beth said.

“What? What is it?”

“Someone just donated five thousand dollars to the Kickstarter.”

“Seriously?”

“Oh my God! I have to go tell Rick!” Beth scrambled up and bolted for the stairs.

“Wait for me!”

Christoff waited until the two women had departed. “You know, I’ve seen you play a lot of roles over the years, but simple intern has to take the cake.”

“It’s not a role. I am a simple intern. Or I was before I finished the internship.”

He kept his voice low. “You are the only trust fund baby I know who insists on living off what you can earn yourself and puts all your inheritance to charity.”

She shot a look around to make sure nobody was listening and dropped her voice even lower. “I’m the only trust fund baby you know, period. And you know you’re supposed to keep that under your hat.”

“Yeah, about that.”

Cecily straightened in her seat, grabbing hold of his arm. “Did you tell Daniel?”

“No. Though even if I had, he wouldn’t spread your little secret. It’s just that the rest of your family seems less intent on letting you maintain your cover.”

“What are you talking about?”

Christoff pulled a magazine out of his interior coat pocket and laid it on the table. The latest issue of M & S. With a picture of her grandfather smack dab on the cover.

“Oh God.” Cecily’s hands fumbled as she flipped through to the article. Ten full, glossy pages, complete with family pictures. Including her. “Oh God.”

She skimmed the interview. The focus was, as usual, on the family’s diversified empire, with plenty of nods given to their charitable foundations and the fact that the family hallmark was investment in people. The bulk of the article talked about her grandfather, her mother, and uncles, including speculation on whether her Uncle Hugh was going to finally enter the gubernatorial race.

“‘Intriguingly absent from our interview was the next-generation heir apparent, Genevieve’s daughter, Cecily Dixon, a graduate of Brown University and Northwestern, founder of The Hero’s Help Alliance.’ Oh my God. I am not the heir apparent.”

“You’re the eldest grandchild. Stands to reason that at some point you are.”

“No.” Cecily shook her head vehemently. She might have been considered on that track once, but she’d blown it. “No. No. No. No. That’s not who I am. That’s not what I want. You know how hard I’ve worked to keep myself separate from all this. I can’t let this get out. I don’t want people looking at me differently. And the last thing I need is a repeat of Jefferson. Once was enough, thanks very much.”

“Sweetie, if anybody who even vaguely resembles the likes of Jeff the Jerk comes sniffing around you, you can be sure that I, as your trusty pit bull, will slice his balls off.”

“I do love you. But I’m serious. We have to round up every copy of this magazine in town.” She shoved her laptop into its satchel.

Christoff gave her the Eye. “You know that means you actually have to go to the bookstore, right?”

Inglenook Books. The place she’d been studiously avoiding for the last three months because she couldn’t bear to see its proprietor. What exactly would he think of her suddenly showing up in his shop? Cecily cringed. “You could go for me.”

“I was just there, which is where I got this copy, and it would look pretty damned weird if I went and bought up all the rest.”

Reaching out for his hand, she put on her best begging face. “Christoff, in the name of all our years of friendship, you have to help me with this. Don’t make me go in there alone.”

He squeezed her hand. “Babycakes, you know I’ve always got your back.”

Cecily relaxed. “Thank you.”

“But we’re not going in there without a plan. Here’s how this is going to work.”

“Thank you. Really. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t been willing to take a chance on hiring me.”

Reed Campbell shut the register drawer and looked at his newest employee. In her late thirties, Brenda Walker had just emerged from a vicious divorce, wherein her cheating bastard of an ex had traded her in for a younger model. Stress had whittled her down, and bitterness had carved deep grooves around what might’ve been a pretty mouth if she smiled. She had no retail experience to speak of, having spent the duration of her marriage as trophy wife to a cardiologist, but she knew books. An avid reader and long-time customer of Inglenook well before Reed bought the place, Brenda had been a familiar face as long as he could remember. She’d worked on a number of literacy campaigns with his mother over the years. Offering her a job had seemed like the obvious and kind thing to do, even before his mom started pressuring him to do it.

A good thing, too, as there was no chance of saying “no” to Anita Campbell.

“You’re a smart woman. You’d have figured something out.”

“Yes, well, I’m grateful to you that I don’t have to.” Brenda did smile then, and something about that curve of lips and the tone of her voice had a wisp of unease blooming.

Surely, she wasn’t flirting with him?

She laid a hand on his arm, her thumb lightly stroking the underside of his forearm. “It’s nice to know that there are still some kind men out there.”

Nope. He wasn’t imagining it. Brenda was actually coming onto him.

Shit.

Reed resisted the urge to jerk away. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her feelings or shatter whatever nascent confidence she’d managed to rebuild in the wake of her divorce. But he had to shut this down in a hurry. What could he do? What could he say that wouldn’t embarrass them both?

The door chime sounded, and Brenda’s hand fell away as they both turned toward it.

Saved by the bell.

All thoughts of his cougar problem evaporated, replaced by surprise as the woman stepped through the door.

Razor sharp wit, brilliant mind, and geektastic sense of humor, all wrapped up in effortless class. Cecily Dixon. The one who got away.

With a population of only a little over five thousand, Wishful was small enough that they ran into each other often—at the coffee shop, at McSweeney’s Market, on the town green. Since her boss was about to marry Reed’s cousin, Cam, he even occasionally saw Cecily at family events. But at no point in the last three months had she deliberately sought him out. So what had brought her in today?

Christoff Bergan, the other Chicago transplant who’d followed Norah below the Mason-Dixon line, came in behind her.

“Back again?” Reed asked him.

“I’m just riding shotgun with the damsel in distress.”

Cecily rolled her eyes and crossed over to the counter. When she came straight to him instead of diverting to Brenda, Reed felt a surge of curiosity and hope.

“I need your help.”

“Name it.” He’d do almost anything to make up for the crap impression he’d apparently left her with back in the summer.

“My cousin’s birthday is next week, and I’m not going to make it home for the party, so I want to send a nice care package.”

“Okay, what did you have in mind?”

“Well, she’s really into comics, but I have no idea what she’s read and what she hasn’t. And as my knowledge of the subject extends only as far as exactly how many plot holes Chris Hemsworth’s abs make up for, I thought I’d consult someone who was rather more of an expert.”

Reed felt his lips twitch. “I can’t decide if that was a compliment or an insult to both my abs and my level of pure geek.”

“You can talk pure geek when you can quote the entirety of Pitch Perfect, including all the music and choreography—”

“—while under the influence of a pitcher of strawberry daiquiris,” Christoff added.

Reed lifted a brow.

“Yeah, that happened.” Cecily shrugged and dropped her gaze to his stomach, as if she could see through the button-down he wore. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure your Captain America board shorts were a compliment to both abs and geekdom.”

He flashed back to summer, to the feel of her hand trailing up and down his chest as they lay by the lake, watching the stars and lightning bugs come out.

“So maybe you could channel some of your natural Steve Rogers and help a girl out?”

Reed blinked, coming back to the now and hoping she meant post-super serum Steve. Putting on his best Chris Evans impression, he said, “Happy to help, ma’am. Right this way.”

He led her over to the wall of comics and graphic novels. “Tell me a bit about your cousin.”

“She’s turning seventeen. She’s brilliant and independent and stubborn and fierce in the best possible way.”

“So she’s your mini me.”

Cecily cut her eyes to his, a faint wash of pink staining her cheeks. “She also towers over me by a good five inches.”

“What you lack in stature, you make up for in personality.”

She flashed a rueful smile. “Yeah, let’s go with that. Anyway, I’d love to introduce her to something new and awesome.”

“Well, if I was going for new and awesome, with fantastic art, and a serious showcase for strong women, I’d give her this.” Reed reached past her to grab an issue off the shelf.

Cecily sucked in a quiet breath, drawing his gaze to her mouth. He’d only kissed her once—a languorous exploration that’d slid a long-running flirtation into serious what the hell had taken him so long. Looking at those glossy, pink lips, he wanted to do it again. Did she still taste like honeysuckle?

Reed realized he was all up in her space, but before he eased back, he shifted toward her, just a little. She didn’t move back, and her dove gray eyes dilated before they dropped to his mouth.

Not disinterest then. Whatever had gone wrong between them hadn’t been about lack of attraction. Reed filed that away.

“Dark Defenders is a noir style comic with a lady hero. She’s kind of a ’40s vigilante—think Agent Carter meets Batman. She has a small support team a la Team Arrow, including a detective in the local precinct, who she saves from getting shot by the big crime boss.”

“Please tell me there’s a will they/won’t they almost romance.”

Is that what this is? “Naturally. It’s an indie published comic by S.J. Wayfield that’s been taking the comic world by storm. But it’s pretty new, so unless your cousin keeps up with the cutting edge, she probably hasn’t read it.”

“Works for me.”

“You want to just grab the first issue for her to try or the first collected volume? That’s the first eight.”

“Volume.”

“Excellent choice.” Reed grabbed the relevant volume, and they headed for the register. “So, how’s the job search going?”

“It’s…going. I’ve had a few interviews, but nothing that I really want.”

He sensed reluctance rather than disappointment under that statement. She loved Wishful. He knew she did. And that gave him hope that maybe, just maybe, she wanted to stay. If she did, if she could, he might get another shot.

“Well, good luck. I’m sure the right thing will come along. Brenda, you want to take this one?”

“Sure.” Brenda offered up a genuine, if rusty, smile.

Reed kept an eye on the transaction, but she rang up the purchase with no problems. She’d be fine on the register while he did some work on inventory.

Cecily lifted her bag in salute. “Thanks for the recs. I’m sure Blair will love them.”

“Happy to help.” If he asked her out right now, what would she say? He still hadn’t sorted out what had gone wrong. Better to think things through before acting.

When they’d gone, Brenda shook her head. “So strange.”

On his way back to the tiny room that housed his office, Reed paused. “What is?”

“Her friend just bought out every copy of this month’s M & S.”

“Really?” That was strange. M & S wasn’t one they usually sold out of, certainly not days after release. And Christoff had already bought a copy the first time he’d come in. “Weird.” Making a mental note to order more, he retreated to his office to hide from the cougar on the prowl.