Love in a Small Town
(A Pine Harbour Novel)
by Zoe York
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Six years. Two break ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.
Police officer and army reservist Rafe Minelli knows better than to tell his his wife no, particularly since they aren't married anymore. But when she decides it's time to leave Pine Harbour for good, he puts his foot down. Unfortunately, Liv doesn’t seem to notice. She keeps packing until a last-minute job offer stalls her out, and Rafe realizes he's got one last chance to make things right if he wants to keep her here permanently.
Olivia Jackson can’t wait to leave Pine Harbour, but she’s just been handed her dream job in exchange for staying. Now she’s torn. If she leaves she’ll have to settle for a position with low pay and few prospects, but if she stays she’ll have to face Rafe’s renewed advances—and the ire of her ex-mother-in-law.
Now Rafe’s pulling out all the stops to convince Liv he’s changed—and he’s worth taking another chance on. Liv’s working hard to keep him at arm’s length to protect her heart.
Will love finally bridge the distance between them? Or will the next break up be their last?
Chapter One Excerpt:IT was bad enough that after going through a very public divorce from the man Olivia still loved, she had to serve him breakfast four times a week. That she looked forward to those mornings…well, that wasn’t great either. But Rafe worked two jobs and lived in a tiny one-room apartment. And the other option for eggs and bacon was his mother’s café.
Liv shuddered at the thought of spending even one morning a week with her ex-mother-in-law. So she couldn’t fault Rafe for keeping his regular stool at the diner she worked at, even if it didn’t help the official party line held by all six hundred people in their small town of Pine Harbour—that their split had been her fault and Rafe was completely innocent.
The former point was true. The latter was not. Parsing the difference with the town busy-bodies was a futile effort though, so she let the whispers slide. They just added to the steaming pile of crap that was her life.
But the absolute worst was that today, Rafe had brought a date to breakfast.
And she’d serve him eggs and paste on a smile, but then she was calling a real estate agent. Whatever cosmic joke had made her fall in love with Rafe Minelli had delivered its final punch line.
He wasn’t in uniform today—either of them—but he still looked achingly good. Faded blue jeans that she recognized from the irregular rip on one of his solid thighs. Old enough that she’d washed them many times. The denim would be soft, and when he turned around, his wallet would be clearly imprinted in his back right pocket. And even though she wanted to grab a butter knife and gouge his heart out, first she wanted one more look at his magnificent ass.
Because she was a glutton for punishment, and Rafe delivered in bucket loads. Tall, dark, and handsome didn’t do him justice. Olivia grabbed a washcloth and wiped down the counter as she watched him guide his date to a booth under the window.
No! She wanted to shout. You sit at the counter and ask me if it’s been busy. I bug you that you need a haircut and we both remember that time I gave you a trim in the bathroom. How you slid your hands under my shirt and teased my nipples while I squealed for you to hold still. The walk down memory lane cut sharper than usual because it wasn’t shared. Even though she knew she needed to move on, let go of Rafe and start dating again, she wasn’t prepared to see him do just that. And the pretty blonde woman sitting across from him twisting the shit out of a sugar packet was wearing one of his plaid shirts, so Olivia couldn’t even pretend it was a breakfast meeting—not that Rafe would ever have business that needed to be discussed in a diner.
He was a full-time police officer and a part-time soldier. Had been a full-time son and a part-time husband, too. No room for a wife, definitely no room for a side job. No, this was definitely a morning-after-a-sleep-over breakfast and Olivia had to serve him fucking coffee. She wrenched the carafe from the warmer, grabbed two menus from under the counter, and pasted on her sweetest eat-shit-and-die smile before squaring her shoulders and approaching the couple.
They both nodded and Olivia silently lifted each of their white ceramic mugs and poured. For someone who just got laid, Rafe didn’t look happy. His eyebrows were pulled together, hooding his gaze, and he had faint dark circles under his eyes. Maybe he was realizing just how awful a human being he was to bring…
“Do you need to see a menu, Natalie?” His voice sounded strained too. He dumped two creamers in his cup and stirred roughly.
Natalie, huh? Olivia swung her gaze to the other woman. She looked nervous. Had he told her that he used to be married to their waitress? Used to wake her up with his tongue and his hands and his love, but not as often as he didn’t—he’d have to be home for that—and now they pretended to be friends a few times a week?
“I’ll just have some toast, please,” she said quietly.
Rafe sighed. “Don’t be silly.” He looked up at Olivia, his dark brown eyes unreadable.
“Two breakfast specials please, one with bacon, one with—” He broke off and turned back to Natalie. “Sausage? Ham?”
“Sausage, I guess. Look, I can just wait for my friend outside, we don’t need to have breakfast.”
“It’s fine.” He reached across the table and squeezed her hand before looking back at Olivia again. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“We’re swamped,” she said breezily, waving at the mostly empty diner. “I’ve got ketchup bottles to refill and napkins to stack, so—”
“One minute, Liv.” He pushed out of the booth and towered over her. “In private.”
He didn’t wait for her to respond, stalking to the small office behind the washrooms like he owned the place. Well, he could wait. She had a job to do, even if it wasn’t exciting or overly important.
“Natalie, is it? How did you want your eggs?” Rafe wanted his over-easy. At some point in the future, she’d forget all the stupid little things she knew about him. She hoped. Hadn’t happened yet.
“Scrambled. And rye toast if you have it.”
“Sure thing. Be right back.” She went straight to the pass-through window, dinged the bell and tacked the order up on the carousel. Frank gave her a knowing look from his perch at the grill. “Shut up,” she told her boss without malice. “I need five minutes.”
“I’ll holler if anyone comes in, I guess.”
If anyone came in, they’d pour themselves a cup of coffee and wait. She wasn’t worried. It wouldn’t be the first time Pine Harbour had heard Rafe and Olivia Minelli have a knock-down, drag-out fight. Probably wouldn’t be the last. Another reason she needed to leave. This couldn’t be her future—petty jealousy and tension-filled terse conversations with her ex. She took a deep breath and shoved the office door open.
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Zoe York is a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. Her debut novel, What Once Was Perfect, started the popular Wardham series, and her first military romance, Fall Out, was released as part of the international bestselling SEALs of Summer super bundle.
She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform.