COMING HOME: A Mirabelle Harbor Duet featuring ROCKET MAN & SOMEONE LIKE YOU – two stand-alone novellas, Mirabelle Harbor, Book 6 – Abby & Rick’s story and Chandler & Jaleina’s story
Abby had a crush on “Rocket Rick” Zimmerman way back in high school, but he was her brother’s best friend and graduated a couple of years ahead of her, leaving town for an international life of top-secret, science-nerd intrigue. She didn’t understand a fraction of what he did professionally, and he wasn’t allowed to tell her anyway. Abby, meanwhile, meandered around the country with her then-boyfriend, Chandler, eventually winding up alone and working at a couple of part-time jobs in Florida. She’d resigned herself to being single forever and living on the sunny Gulf Coast, a thousand miles away from her Midwestern origins.
SOMEONE LIKE YOU
As for Chandler, he had no intention whatsoever of coming back to Mirabelle Harbor. When he and Abby broke up, he headed north on his motorcycle from Sarasota to Atlanta, and a life on the road was how he wanted to roll. But then his twin brother, Chance, goes and gets himself engaged, and the groom insists that Chandler needs to be the best man. Fine. He’ll drive back for a few days, for the sake of his twin, but no one had better expect him to stay in town. Of course, that’s before he knows his dream woman—beautiful bookstore owner, Jaleina Longoria—is going to be at the wedding.
Jaleina is not only eight and a half years his senior, she’s also the ex-fiancée of his eldest brother, who’d broken up with her to marry someone else years earlier. That never stopped Chandler from considering Jaleina to be his Ultimate Fantasy. Getting her to stop thinking of him as the restless teen boy he’d once been, however, is going to prove quite a challenge. Especially since the restlessness is still there, even though he’s now a very passionate—and very determined—full-grown man.
Sometimes what you think you’re returning to isn’t what you’d really left behind. COMING HOME, a pair of Mirabelle Harbor stories.
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Ebook & Print
September 10, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9983964-3-9 (paperback)
As they passed through the suburbs surrounding lakeside Mirabelle Harbor and then, finally, into their hometown proper, Abby’s brother, Allan, nudged her. “Is it weird to be back?”
“A little. Sure,” she admitted. Not that she hadn’t seen her parents or her brother in the six-plus years since she drove away from Mirabelle Harbor, alongside her ex-boyfriend, Chandler Michaelsen. But it had been a long while since she’d seen her family here.
An avalanche of memories cascaded through her brain as she and Allan wound their way across town. Rick…Chandler…her younger self… Oh, hell.
Was it good to be back home—or not?
Too early to say.
With their grandparents living just outside of Louisville, most of their big family holiday gatherings were held at their house, a common meeting ground in Kentucky. A few times, her parents had flown down to Sarasota during the winter for a nice warm getaway from the Midwestern chill. And for Abby, living as she did now in the land of towering palm trees and orange groves, seeing the streets of home, lined with sugar maples, made the bittersweet memories rush through her mind even faster.
“The trees are on fire,” she observed, stating the obvious and hoping her mixed emotions weren’t too apparent to her one and only sibling. “I’ve missed that burst of color in the fall.”
“It’s a simple chemical process,” Allan said smugly. “But, I grant you, it can be stunning.” Then, after a beat, “Don’t tell me you got sick of all those tropical plants down in Florida.”
“Not a chance.” But, while she had no intention of telling her brother this, the truth was that she’d been desperately homesick for a long time. Seeing these familiar old places in Mirabelle Harbor brought back the first two decades of her life with stunning force.
And despite the painful recollections of young love found and then lost, she still felt the stirrings of nostalgia and a weird sort of awakening, just being back here.
“You, um, haven’t seen any of the Michaelsens recently, have you?” she asked.
“Any of the Michaelsens, or one particular member of the family?” Then, not waiting for her to answer, he added, “I’ve seen his brothers around town. Mostly Blake, since he likes to hang out at Max’s Pub. And I heard something about Chance getting married, but I haven’t seen his twin. I think the asshat is still in Atlanta.”
“Chandler isn’t an asshat,” she muttered automatically, although she knew he must have appeared that way to those closest to her.
“He acted like one.”
“I know, but—” She paused. “Chandler was just haunted, for want of a better word, by some ghost that possessed his spirit and made him restless. He was trying to outrun something. A memory, or maybe a nightmare.”
She’d spent the better part of five years trailing around the U.S. with him in search of a place where he could finally settle down. After nine cities, she’d had enough. When he left Sarasota to head northward, she stayed and built up a network of friends who were priceless. Even if Florida wasn’t home, precisely. She hadn’t been ready to return to Mirabelle Harbor then. Not alone.
As they drove past Sloppy Joe’s, where she and Chandler had eaten countless cheeseburgers, the meaning behind Allan’s words finally caught up with her. “Wait—you said his twin brother is engaged? To whom? And when is the wedding?”
“Do I look like the Mirabelle Harbor Gazette’s society page? Christ, Abby. I just know Chance’s fiancée is Nia Pappayiannis, daughter of the owners of that Greek restaurant and bakery downtown.”
“That’s the one. But I don’t know when they’re getting hitched.” He shrugged.
Olivia would know. Married to Derek, the eldest of the Michaelsen siblings, Olivia had the inside scoop on everything. And though Abby wasn’t nearly as close to her as Marianna was (those two had been BFFs since before Marianna moved down to Sarasota, where she was now dating Joy’s brother Gil), Abby knew Olivia well enough to ask.
Not that she wanted to call Olivia out of the blue for that reason alone. Fortunately, she had another excuse, thanks to Marianna… Of course if she ran into Sharlene, Chandler’s only sister, Shar would tell her, too. In any case, if Chance was getting married, Chandler would surely be coming back to Mirabelle Harbor for that. And Abby had to know exactly when that might be, so she could stay the hell away from town.
“Well, maybe if you run into Blake on one of your wild nights of trolling for women at Max’s, he’ll tell you,” she said to her brother.
“Well, Blake’s not one for so many nights of wildness anymore,” Allan said on a sigh. “His girlfriend is keeping him in line. Women. It’s all about control for them.”
“Oh, that’s such BS.” Her brother’s inability to keep a good relationship going was legendary, but mostly because he was still so hung up on his grad-school girlfriend, Becca, who’d broken up with him because she’d said he was acting “too jealous, too suspicious, and too possessive.” All completely true.
“Maybe,” he admitted, pulling into their parents’ driveway. “But I’m finally going to go out this Friday night and get some real action, now that I’ve got my wingman back in town.”
An icy shiver crept up her spine. There was only one friend he’d ever called his “wingman,” but it couldn’t be Rick Zimmerman, could it? The guy was off the grid. In Asia. Working on God knew what, but it had to be some intricate physics thing.
“It’s gonna be epic,” her brother declared. “Rick is back for a big physics convention in Chicago, and he always knows how to make a night a blast.” Allan laughed at his own juvenile joke.
“A blast indeed,” Abby whispered. How many objects had the two of them blown to smithereens since they became buddies in junior high? Nothing was safe when the pair of them were together. Including, but not limited to, her heart, which was racing as if she were competing in the Chicago Marathon.
Much as she’d had a complicated dating history with Chandler, her crush and intense feelings of attraction for Rick had predated even that relationship.
Suddenly, her stay in Mirabelle Harbor seemed infinitely more dangerous. “You two are, um, going out on Friday?”
“We are,” Allan replied, eyeing her curiously.
Whew. At least Rick wouldn’t be a factor in her life until then. She might not even see him, if she could convince Allan to just meet him at the bar.
“There’s no need to look so worried, Abby,” her brother continued, as they hopped out of his truck. “I’m not gonna leave you alone to watch over Mom and Dad for more than a night or two this week. Rick knows about the situation with the folks, and he knows you’re in town again, too. He said he was looking forward to catching up with you in person as well.”
She almost tripped walking on the smooth asphalt. “Did he?”
“Oh, yeah,” Allan said breezily, grabbing her suitcases and striding to the front door. He turned abruptly toward her and added with a grin, “Which is why he’s coming over for dinner tonight. Just Mom, Dad, you, me, and Rick. Like old times.”
Abby felt the blood from her head race to her feet and her brain flash with a neon slideshow of repressed memories, like a feature presentation entitled “Abby’s Most Embarrassing Moments: The Early Years.”
Holy High-School Nightmare, Batman.
Rocket Rick was back in town and, soon, he was going to be on her doorstep.
There were things you knew you couldn’t do as a member of a family. Not without consequences, anyway. Making a serious play for your brother’s former fiancée was probably one of them, even if said brother was happily married to someone else.
So, of course, I didn’t tell any of my siblings about my Thursday night dinner date with Jaleina. Not during the endless tuxedo fittings that morning. Not during the lame-ass excuse for a “bachelor party” that Chance had requested yesterday afternoon. (A healthy luncheon, for chrissake. The guy was hopeless.) And especially not during the many hours we’d all been hanging out together at Derek and Olivia’s house.
Then again, everyone in my family already thought I was a fuck up because of the whole Abby thing, so it wasn’t as though their expectations of me were all that high. Still, why rush to make my totally screwed status official?
It took half a century for six o’clock to finally arrive but, when it did, I parked my bike in front of Between the Pages and watched her from the outside looking in as she finished with her last few customers and locked up. Part of me was sorely tempted to slip inside, pull down the shades, and have my wicked way with her between the stacks. I’d had that particular Jaleina fantasy more than once, and as recently as last night in bed. But before I could act on it, she was standing next to me on the pavement, studying my bike—and me—with an expression I didn’t have a damn clue how to read.
“Hey, Chandler,” she said. “You’re right on time.”
“Of course. Been waiting all day for this.” And the whole last decade and a half, but who’s counting? She looked adorable in her black jeans and puffy down jacket—dark gray to match her mittens. I wanted to cuddle her like I would a fluffy bunny. But, instead, I just smiled at her and held out my helmet. “Put this on if you wanna ride to the restaurant on my bike. If you’d rather go by car, I’d understand, though.”
She impressed me by reaching for the helmet without hesitation and fastening it to her beautiful head. “It’s been too long since I’ve been on a motorcycle. Let’s see what you can do with this thing.”
Oh, baby. A laugh burst out of my throat. I couldn’t even fake being cool after a line like that. This woman was so fucking hot, even when she wasn’t trying. “Hop on and I’ll show you,” I said.
When I felt her thighs hug mine and her arms wrapped around my waist, it was all I could do not to groan aloud with desire. La Vida Feliz was only a few miles from here, but I wished it would’ve been three states away, just so I could feel her touching and squeezing me for hours and hours.
When she was settled behind me, I kicked the bike into gear and wove us through the streets of Mirabelle Harbor and into Glen Forest with all the smoothness and skill my Harley and I could maneuver, leaning into the curves and speeding just above the limit, so she could feel the rush. I heard her gasp and laugh in delight as the wind pushed us from the back, accelerating our journey.
And, too soon, we were there. I felt the immediate ache of her absence when she pulled her body away from mine and slid off the bike.
“That was fun,” she told me.
Fun? The word I’m thinking of is rapturous, darlin’. But I said, “Glad you liked it.” Oh, I could do so much more for you, if you’d only let me.
Soundtrack of the Stories:
Save the Last Dance for Me~Michael Bublé
Little Bit of You~Chase Bryant
Song for Another Time~Old Dominion
Let Me Go~3 Doors Down
Red, Red Wine~UB40
You and Me~Lifehouse
Down~Jay Sean (featuring Lil Wayne)
Another Brick in the Wall~Pink Floyd
Waiting All My Life~Rascal Flatts
Human Nature~Michael Jackson
Lonely No More~Rob Thomas