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- Second Chance Romance
- Unrequited Love
- Different Social Classes
- Holiday Romance
Ten years ago Reece broke Piper's heart; Now he stands between her and her dreams. Can they put the past behind them and work together?
Piper Daniels thinks a community garden is exactly what her younger brother needs to stay out of trouble over the summer. Finding out she would have to ask Reece Stone, the man who broke her heart a decade earlier, to use the vacant lot she wants, fills her with dread, but nothing is going to get in the way of her dream—not even Reece.
Reece had always regretted the way he had ended his relationship with Piper. When he sees her name on the request to use the empty lot, he decides to use this as an opportunity to reconnect. When he realizes their chemistry still runs as strong as before, he decides nothing is going to keep them apart this time.
Intro into Chapter One
Intro into Chapter One
Piper listened as the Croods avoided being squashed or eaten by a bevy of prehistoric animals. It was at least the hundredth time she had heard this scene, so she could nearly recite it as she finished polishing Jill’s teeth. The ten-year-old had been a pill throughout the appointment. Now she whined and fidgeted as Piper finished the last tooth. She could not wait for the dentist to come in for the final checkup. The x-rays looked fine to Piper, and if Dr. Dansie agreed, Jill wouldn’t be back for six months. Hallelujah!
“Piper, someone on the phone for you,” Lorna called from the front desk. “He said it’s important.”
“Just a minute.” Piper rinsed the teeth, having Jill spit back into the suction. “All done with that part,” she told the little girl when she was sure the residue was gone. “Wait here for the doctor to come talk to you, okay? After he has a chance to talk to you and your mom, we’ll get you a prize up front.” She said this brightly, like it would be a big treat to pick out a sticker or cheap spider ring. Only one more patient and she could clean up for the day. She liked kids—most of the time—but her work day began with a biter and hadn’t improved from there.
She gestured to Dr. Dansie, an easy-going forty-something, with a forehead that had been gaining ground on his hairline for the past few decades. “Jill’s ready when you are,” she said.
He nodded in acknowledgment over his other patient, midway through cracking one of his signature lame jokes.
Piper asked Lorna to let Jill’s mom know they were nearly done and to go on back, then picked up the phone. “Sorry about the wait,” Piper said, glad to see the person on the other end of the line hadn’t hung up. “This is Piper, can I help you?”
“This is Officer Belliston of the Crystal Creek Police Department. I have Spencer in my car.”
Piper closed her eyes. “What happened?” Spencer was a good brother who didn’t generally do anything that could get him into trouble, but his autism meant sometimes he had impulse control issues. At fourteen, he did better at managing impulses than he used to, but when his friends were around, sometimes he slipped.
“He and some friends thought it would be fun to break windows in an empty apartment building on Walnut Avenue. You know the one near Dequan’s Chinese place?”
She knew it well as she often walked past it. “Yes. The six-story that’s falling apart?” It had been empty for four or five years, since the city condemned it. Rumor was that the building was worth fixing, but whomever owned it hadn’t bothered.
“That’s the one,” Officer Belliston said. “I spoke with your mother on the phone but she can’t get off work and I can’t take him home without a responsible adult present.”
Piper managed not to growl, but barely. Of course her mom wanted Piper to drop everything to handle the problem. A peek into the waiting room showed her final patient of the day was already there, dashing her hopes that he would canceled so she could leave early. “I’ll figure something out and meet you there. Give me ten minutes.” It was only three or four minutes to her house, but she would have to make arrangements for someone to take her patient.
She turned to Lorna. “Anyone have the next little bit free?”
Lorna pushed back her stylish brown bob and consulted the schedule on her monitor. “Heidi has a twenty-minute window. Good luck.”
Piper frowned. She would need the luck. Heidi did not like working with children, even if Chandler was fifteen now and barely qualified as a kid anymore. Piper checked on Jill and her mom, but the doctor hadn’t gotten to her yet. Glad she had a few minutes, she slid into the employee lounge area where Heidi was sitting at the table, reading a fashion magazine. “Heidi, how are you doing? You have a break right now, don’t you?”
“I’m not covering for you.” Heidi lifted her hand to brush her raven curls over her shoulder. “I don’t do kids.”
Piper bit back a groan. “How did you know what I was going to ask?”
“I heard you saying you’d be home soon. It’s not my problem.” She wagged her finger in the air, though she didn’t look up.
“He’s fifteen, not a kid. He doesn’t bite or spit or anything. I really have to get home.”
“You say that now, but the second they sit in my chair, they start to spit and bite and stuff.” Pointedly, she licked a finger and flipped a magazine page.
“Come on, please. I’ll owe you, I know, but I have to get home to strangle my little brother.” Piper took the hard wooden chair beside Heidi.
Heidi glanced up, but she appeared only mildly curious. “If I work for you so you can kill your brother, does that make me an accessory?”
“Only if I get caught. But I’ll probably make him do extra chores instead. Dr. Dansie might frown on a child killer working in his office.”
Heidi set down the magazine, which was open to a page with models in retro 1920’s outfits. “I’ll cover the kid for you under one condition.” She paused for effect. “I want you to fill in for me on Friday afternoon. We’re going to Branson and I need to cut out of here early.”
Though Piper cherished her few hours of peace and quiet on Friday afternoons, she was desperate. “Fine. But you have to clean up after Jill’s appointment and set up for Chandler so I can go in a few minutes.”
“Done. How long?”
“Dansie’s about to go in to see Jill now. I’ll make sure her mom gets her goodie bag and let you know when I leave.” Piper didn’t wait for a response, hurrying back to the main hallway. Dr. Dansie was just preparing to go in to Jill and her mom. “Ready?” Piper asked cheerily.
“Anything I should know?” What was left of Dr. Dansie’s light brown hair was shot with gray and feathered over his ears. It was time for a haircut.
“She didn’t bite me this time.” Piper smiled manically, but was grateful Jill had behaved at least that much.
“Good, my workman’s comp was getting steep.” He flashed her a grin before entering the room and greeting Jill.
Fifteen minutes later Piper rushed out the door, sliding into her coat as she hoofed it to the parking lot. She frequently walked to work, but the sky had been spitting at Kansas City’s suburb of Crystal Creek when she left that morning, so she’d driven instead. Which was good, because while the apartment she shared with her mom and brother was in walking distance of work, she wasn’t sure how patient Officer Belliston was going to be.
Almost twenty minutes after her phone call, Piper pulled into the old run-down apartment building her family had been living in since she was a senior in high school and found a parking spot. The black and white was parked in their family slot in front of the building—with Officer Belliston and Spencer still sitting in the front. At least Spencer wasn’t in the back seat.
Piper glanced at the apartments in time to see the manager, Ida, part the curtains a few inches to peer out at the police car. Perfect. Piper had been saving money for first and last month’s rent at a nicer place, but thanks to some unexpected expenses, it would take another month or so and the last thing they needed was to be kicked out over something stupid like this. But Ida sometimes evicted tenants for less.
Officer Belliston stood and Piper recognized him. He was friends with her best friend Maddie’s brother. She’d known Ben was a cop, but hadn’t put two and two together when he introduced himself on the phone. She apologized before he could say anything, “Sorry, it took longer to finish up with my patient than I expected.” He was a tall, blond, and gorgeous, the planes and angles of his face would turn many a woman’s head. Surprisingly, he didn’t act as though he was aware of his good looks.
“No problem. Your mom was afraid she’d lose her job if she left now.”
“Are you surprised? It is the plastics plant. You’d think after she’s worked there five years they could cut her some slack.” Piper pushed the red hair that had escaped from her ponytail back over her ear, then tugged on her puppy-covered scrubs, feeling self-conscious.
Spencer pushed out of the passenger’s side of the front seat. “Am I going to be grounded?” His eyes were downcast, his arms hung straight at his side and his fingers tapped nervously on the legs of his threadbare, over-sized jeans—which were just the way he liked them. His hair hung down covering his eyes at this angle. She wasn’t looking forward to nagging and badgering him into another haircut.
“Only until you’re thirty-two.”