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Bridal shop owner Meg Halloran spends her days making other women’s wedding dreams come true—and her nights dreaming of her childhood crush, hometown heartthrob Dr. Benjamin Rushford. After a lifetime of wearing her heart on her sleeve, she’s done waiting. Meg’s ready to find love, with or without him. Moving on feels right—until Ben pops an unexpected question.
To win the open ER position in Mirror Lake, Ben has to convince the board that he’s settled and ready to put down roots. His latest stroke of genius? Asking Meg, the local good girl, to be his pretend girlfriend. With her by his side, he’s a shoo-in for the job. But he’s in over his head because, as much as he tries to deny it, Meg tempts him. And if she learns the truth about a secret that has shadowed and shaped his life, will she ever be able to forgive him?
Meg is on a date with the town veterinarian, named Cole, and Ben is not happy...
Cole looked eager and intent. “Say, listen, Meg, The Palace is showing the sequel to some road trip comedy. Would you be interested in seeing it with me this weekend?”
Before she could answer, his beeper went off. He took it out of his pocket and squinted at it. “I’m not on call tonight, but sometimes the animal hospital calls me if one of my patients is admitted. Would you excuse me a moment?”
“Sure. I’ll look over the menu while you’re gone.” She didn’t need to look at it, because she’d grown up in this bar and knew the entire thing by heart. In college her standard order was nachos and beer, with girlfriends it was margaritas and quesadillas, and for date night it was a Reuben and fries. She snuck her phone out in front of the menu and kept reading her book. The rugged Navy SEAL alpha hero was just getting ready to grovel to the heroine after being an ass when Meg heard her phone suddenly ping with a text. She glanced down at the screen.
Sequels suck. From Ben.
She sucked in a breath. Perused the bar, but other than the usual patrons, she saw no one.
Another text. Never as good as the original. Besides, you’re busy.
Her heart gave a ridiculous knock against her rib cage. Every cell in her body went on alert at the sound of that voice calling her name.
No. She willed her overactive neurons to stop firing. Willed the adrenaline to stop pumping. Because she was done with him. He was what he was, and she was not going to forgive him after one mere glimpse of his killer smile.
She looked up to see Ben, dripping wet, in a navy T-shirt and shorts, standing beside the booth.
She played it casual. “Hi.” It sounded diminutive, like a squeak. Not the calm, cool, mildly annoyed hi she was aiming for.
She steeled herself against him. Hardened her resolve. He was so tall, she had to tip her head back to see him. Despite his being wet and rumpled and looking genuinely distressed, her stupid heart jolted again.
He sat down urgently across from her and seized her hands.
It felt nothing like Cole’s grasp. This one seared her straight through to her soul, made her tremble as if no guy had ever held her hand before.
His dark gaze took no prisoners. “I have to talk to you.”
Wait a minute. He’d had days to talk. She wasn’t about to drop everything for him even if the mere touch of his thumbs smoothing the back of her hand was setting her panties on fire. She pulled her hands away. “I’m on a date,” she said.
“Forget your date. This is more important.”
Oh, the arrogance! She was not caving in. Letting him off the hook. Or interrupting her date for him. “Call me tomorrow and I’ll schedule you in.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re forgiven for not wanting me. I’ve moved on. No hard feelings.”
“Please—give me a chance.”
He looked a little desperate. “Okay,” she said, relenting a little. “You have one minute before Cole comes back.”
“Come with me and let’s talk.”
“If you think I would up and abandon my date right this second for you, then you are the most egotistical . . . jerk I’ve ever met.” She paused. It was now or never. She had to take a stand. “I-I have to ask you to leave before he gets back.”
“Fine. I’ll leave. But only if you promise to meet me afterward.”
“Ben, I don’t know what I’m doing afterward.”
“What . . . do you mean?” he asked cautiously. His eyes opened wide as realization set in. He reached over and seized her shoulders. “Meggie, no. Don’t sleep with him.”
“Why shouldn’t I?” She sounded a little petulant as she shrugged out of his reach. But his desperate tone intrigued her. Made her curious. Made her hope, dammit.
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Miranda Liasson loves to write stories about courageous but flawed characters who find love despite themselves, because there’s nothing like a great love story. And if there are a few laughs along the way, even better! She’s a former Golden Heart winner who writes lighthearted contemporary romance for Montlake Publishing and also writes series romance for Entangled Publishing. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, three kids, and Posey, a rescue cat with attitude.
Miranda loves to hear from readers! Find her at mirandalisson.com, Facebook.com/MirandaLiassonAuthor or on Twitter @mirandaliasson.