FIRST AND AGAIN today. Here's the blurb:
Bridget Grant is back in Paradise. Paradise, North Dakota, that is.
She’s swallowed her pride and moved back to her hometown with her daughter after her divorce and the loss of her catering company. Now she’s trying to navigate the strained relationships she’d left behind – including her first love, Jack Davison.
Jack never forgot Bridget, or the day she left town – and him. When Bridget caters a lunch at Jack’s tourist ranch, old flames reignite. They have more in common than ever – Jack’s also a single parent. Though they both try to keep things casual, Bridget, Jack and their girls are starting to look a lot like a family.
But Bridget’s only planning to stay in Paradise until she’s saved enough to relaunch her business. Jack’s invested too much in his ranch to leave. And with their daughters involved both have a lot more at stake than heartbreak. How can they risk falling in love?
Here's an excerpt:
Memories flooded back. Clapping madly as Jack Davison scored the winning touchdown for their high school football team. Her heart racing when he singled her out to dance at the Fall Ball. The sweetness of their first kiss. The thrill of her first love and the anguish when it ended. When I ended it.
His gaze locked with hers and she wondered how he remembered it, if he remembered it at all.
Jack looked lean and fit and very attractive. His sandy-colored hair was free of gray, and though a few lines etched his face, they only made him more handsome. His eyes, fringed by thick, dark lashes, were still the same shade of cornflower blue she’d always loved. Back in the day, one look from those beautiful eyes could turn her knees to water.
Damn it, why did he still have to look so good?
“Hello, Jack.” She extended her hand.
“Hello.” He clasped her hand in a firm shake.
Nerves skittered down her spine. “So what are you doing in Paradise?” Celia had told her years ago that he had married a girl in Houston. Her telephone conversations with her sister had been brief over the years, mostly centering on their husbands and children. She hadn’t wanted to hear news of her old life. “Are you here visiting Celia and Gavin?”
“No, I moved back to Paradise a few years ago. Gavin tells me you’re going to be living here for awhile.”
“Yes.” She started gathering empty glasses from the table, aware of the interested glances from Celia and Gavin’s friends. For the most part, they weren’t being malicious, just curious, but her private life was just that; private.
Tina smiled and leaned forward. “And you’ve been living in San Francisco all these years, Bridget. It must be exciting to live in a big city. What did you do there?”
“Lots of things, but mostly I helped run my ex-husband’s business.”
“Bridget’s being modest,” Celia said. “She’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She was head chef of the catering company she and her husband owned.”
“Really?” Bridget detected a slightly mocking tone in Tina’s voice. “I imagine you catered a lot of fancy affairs.”
“A few.” Was the emphasis on affairs some kind of dig, a double entendre? She rejected the idea. How could Tina know about Ben’s affair? She glanced toward her mother, mentally willing her to call so she’d have an excuse to leave. Unfortunately, her mother was engrossed in conversation with some older patrons, leaving her no means of escape.
“So why did you leave your catering company?”
“Tina, maybe Bridget doesn’t want to talk about it,” Celia said, a note of warning in her voice.
Tina had always had a knack for finding her weak spots and going straight for the jugular. Bridget’s only hope was to show no fear.
“That’s okay, Celia,” she said. She turned to Tina with what she hoped was a composed expression on her face. “The business went under.”
“Really? What a shame. What went wrong?”
The massive lawsuit might have had something to do with it. “It was probably the downturn in the economy.”
“That’s too bad. And I understand your husband left you after that.”
Her heart dropped into her stomach. She lifted her eyes to Tina’s and in that moment she hated the woman. Though Tina’s face was the picture of innocent inquiry, the predatory gleam in her eyes revealed the enjoyment she took in asking these humiliating questions.
“It was an amicable split.”
“But to leave you without any money and then to take up with a younger woman. Well, that’s just too much.”
She heard her sister’s sharp intake of breath before an embarrassed hush fell over the group.
“Knock it off, Tina,” Jack said.
Tina gave him an indignant glare. “I was just trying to express my sympathy for Bridget’s situation.”
He didn’t look convinced. “Sympathy, my ass.”
Bridget glanced at the horrified expression on her sister’s face. In a moment of weakness, she’d phoned and confided the circumstances of her divorce to Celia. How could Tina have known Ben had left her for a woman fifteen years younger unless Celia had told her? Was this how sisters treated each other? Did one betray confidences and then sit back and watch while the other was publicly humiliated and ridiculed?
She could never trust her again.
Gavin coughed self-consciously. He and the others at the table appeared uncomfortable, but she was past caring about anyone else’s discomfort. Anger welled up inside her, anger at Tina, at Celia, at Ben, at the world in general.
“It’s okay, Jack. Tina’s right. My husband did dump me for a younger woman. But hey, my life’s an open book. Maybe there are other details of my personal life you’d like to discuss. Perhaps you want to know my bra size or maybe my bank account balance, though I’ve got to warn you, neither is very big. Go ahead, ask me anything.”
They stared at each other for what seemed like ages until Tina shook her head, looking chastised.
“You’re right, it’s none of my business,” she said, sounding remorseful. “I just wondered what brought you back to Paradise after all these years.”
There were many reasons for coming home—poverty, hopelessness, a broken heart. But she had no intention of baring her soul to Tina Wilson.
“I came back to Paradise because I need some space. And plenty of privacy.”
She turned away, her hands shaking as she clutched the empty glasses, but not before she caught what looked like amusement in Jack Davison’s eyes. His expression made her even angrier. How dare he laugh at her?
The glasses clinked together as she haphazardly loaded them into the dishwasher behind the bar. One night in Paradise and she’d already been humiliated. Welcome home, Bridget. If she had enough money for gas and if she thought her old Chevy could withstand the return trip, she’d pack up her daughter and their few meager possessions and head back to San Francisco. Why on earth had she ever come back here?
The answer was simple. She had no place else to go.
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