No Foolin'

No Foolin'
Lisa Scott

November 2012 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-2149

Welcome to Willowdale, North Carolina, a small town where the folks are friendly, the romances are as sweet as the tea,and the biddies at the diner gobble up gossip like it's peach cobbler. This may be their biggest scoop ever.

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When sexy Hollywood bad-boy Teague "T-Rex” Reynolds comes to this quiet Southern town, he needs a fake girlfriend to hide the secret that brought him there. School nurse Kate Riley takes the job, but she won’t fall for a movie star, no ma’am. That’s fine with Teague. He hung a closed sign on his heart years ago.

Convincing the press they’re in love is one thing. Fooling each other they’re not is getting harder each day. Despite scandal, heartache, and misunderstandings galore, they might just find the sweet thrill of true love. Book one of The Willowdale Romances.

Lisa Scott is a former TV news anchor who now makes up stories instead of sticking to the facts. Learn more about whereherideas come from and what's on the way at


"This story was full of unique characters who came to life on the pages of the book. Definitely a page turner that was hard to put down until the final words." -- Judy DeVries, Just Judy's Jumbles

"You'll get some laughs and maybe a couple of tears but you'll certainly have some fun." -- Sara Saldana, Harlequin Junkie

"No Foolin’ is an amusing mix of small-town charm and big star flash – a rich delicacy of humor, heart and sexy fun." -- Julie Johnson, Booktrib


Chapter 1

KATE RILEY PULLED up in front of Scalia’s Bistro, ready to go in and beg for a job she didn’t want; her cut-off jeans and faded tank top made that clear. The tire of her Jeep bumped over the curb, and a hubcap clanged onto the sidewalk. She groaned. One of these days, it’s gotta get better, right?

Main Street was usually quiet in the middle of the afternoon, but a horn blared as she backed up to fix her lousy parking job. She gave the driver a friendly wave instead of the not-so-friendly finger itching to pop up. Gotta be careful in a small town like this—it was probably someone she knew. Easing back into the spot, her gas gauge lit up.

"Perfect.” She turned off the engine and slumped in her seat. Nope, this wasn’t gonna be the day a sack of cash fell from the sky. Attached to Mr. Right. Although, she’d given up on meeting him after Mr. So Very, Very Wrong kicked a hole in her heart.

Not everyone’s meant for love, sugar. That’s what Mama always said about her own sorry marriage. Kate must’ve inherited that gene—along with hips that didn’t quit.

"Thanks for the ride to work,” her stepsister, Dina, said from the passenger seat. "Except for almost running down the pedestrians.” She rolled her eyes, hopped out, and nearly tumbled over from the weight of her baby belly—not quite ready to pop, but getting there. "I’ll find a lift home, really.”

Kate leaned across the console and forced a smile. "Maybe the baby’s daddy could give you a ride home? Ready to tell us who that is?”

Dina crossed her skinny arms and tipped up her chin. "I’m not talking to or about the baby’s daddy.”

Kate let out a sigh she knew was too long and exhausted for someone her age. She sounded like Pansy Parker down at the Jelly Jar diner when they ran out of sweet potato pie. "Dina, if the cancer hadn’t killed my mama, this would have.”

Dina’s eyes narrowed, framed by eyebrows plucked pencil-thin and highlighted with too much pink eye shadow. "Well, it did, and that doesn’t suddenly make you my parent. I’m eighteen.” She rubbed her belly. "Me and the baby will be fine.”

Kate swallowed the angry knot in her throat along with the snotty comeback. "Someone’s gotta be your parent now, Dina. George may be your father, but he sure doesn’t act like it. He forgot to drive you to work today. You think he’s going to help with a baby?” She shook her head. "Any idea where he is this time? Maybe out getting a job?”

Dina shrugged. "Doubt it.” Then her lips quivered and her big blue eyes watered up. "He’s not going to jail, is he?” The kid could go from surly to sad in two seconds flat. Amazing.

"No. They won’t arrest him. They’d just take the house. But don’t worry, I’ll fix it.” She wasn’t going to let her stepfather lose her mama’s house because he was too irresponsible to pay the property taxes. If only her job as a nurse at the junior high paid more. If only she had a brother or sister to help shoulder the burden. Or a husband. Scratch that. A husband seemed like a good idea until you got one. At least that’s how it’d been for her mama. "I’ll get the money for the taxes.” Because that’s what Kate did—she fixed things, whether it was a bandage on a boo-boo or finding a stack of cash to save her house. Kate always did what she had to do, and she was proud of that.

Dina put her hand on her hip. "Then you better get inside and ask about that waitress position, or it’s gonna be filled.” And her mood snapped back, just like that, the manipulative little... "Bye,” she fluttered her fingers at Kate and lumbered into Scalia’s Bistro, her dark ponytail swinging in time with her hips.

Working with her stepsister and a bunch of surly teens at Scalia’s was going to make for a hellish summer. Plus, Kate had already worked there when she was a teenager. Not mortifying at all to come back at age twenty-six. Things definitely were not getting better, not this day, anyway.

She rested her head back on the seat and re-did the mental math. Again. She needed more than an extra ten-thousand dollars by summer’s end to pay off the taxes and fines, or the folks at the town hall were putting a lien on the house. A waitressing job wouldn’t pull that in. Double shifts, maybe—with a really tight uniform. What would that cost her pride? Plenty. Just one more reason for the chatterboxes in Willowdale, North Carolina, to talk about poor, poor Kate Riley. Being gossip fodder had never been on any bucket list of hers, yet here she was keeping the blue-hairs still chatting.

Kate looked up and down Main Street, empty of any other help-wanted signs. She’d had no luck at the hospital over in Whitesville or the residential-care facility in town. Wasn’t much available in Willowdale besides this position, unless she learned how to change oil down at the Jiffy Lube or roll perms at Tonya’s Curl E.Q. Salon. Her pal Jeanne had tried that once and had nearly run Tonya’s business into the ground. Dot Klein’s hair was just growing back after Jeanne forgot to wash out her perm.

So, Scalia’s was it.

She got out of the car, grabbed the hubcap and tossed it in her backseat. Lingering in front of the town’s fanciest restaurant, she was just putting off the inevitable. The garlicky smell of the early-bird special made her stomach curl. The smell of defeat, sister.She leaned against her car and wilted in the steamy afternoon, all sticky and warm like a long, hot yawn.

Pushing away from the car, ready to go inside—if only for the air conditioning—she spotted a man hurrying toward her: tall, drop-jaw handsome, and totally out of place with his new leather shoes, dark jeans and white linen shirt. He didn’t belong here, yet he did look familiar. You’d remember a guy like him. Hell, you’d dream about a guy like him. Without thinking, she sucked in her cheeks and her stomach and took a deep breath. Hot. Damn.

The man glanced over his shoulder then approached her. He lifted his sunglasses, cocked an eyebrow and grinned. "Can you give me a ride?”

That brought her stampeding heart to a halt. What about me screams taxi, she wondered. "A ride?” Her shoulders slumped.

"Yes. Anywhere.” His smile fell as he glanced around. "And fast.”

Kate pointed at the restaurant. "I was just going in to ask about a job.” She took a step back and looked him up and down. "And I don’t even know you.” Not that I wouldn’t like to...

He held up two fingers. "Scout’s honor, I’m a nice guy looking for a ride. And more importantly,” he said, reaching into his pocket, "I will give you five hundred dollars to drive me out of this town right now.” He plucked five one-hundred-dollar bills from his slim black wallet and spread them out like a hand of cards.

Kate wondered what kind of trouble this guy was in—and how long it would take to make five hundred dollars in tips without showing ample cleavage during happy hour. It wasn’t a bag of money attached to Mr. Right, but it certainly was an interesting development. She nibbled on her lip. What do they say about desperate times? "Get in.”

He ducked into the car and looked out the back window. "Go!”

Kate hopped in and screeched the car onto the street. "Where?”

"I’m not sure.” He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples.

Kate stole another look at him. He had dark hair threaded with glints of copper, high cheekbones and a strong jaw that would undoubtedly hold up to some serious kissing. Major muscles lurked beneath that fancy shirt, and she glanced down at his thighs. Her car veered onto the shoulder. She snapped her focus—and her wheels—back on the road. She wasn’t known as Willowdale’s best driver, and this guy certainly wasn’t helping improve her reputation.

He turned to her. "I’m sorry, I should’ve mentioned to drive without killing me.”

Kate slowed the car and jerked her thumb toward his door. "You want out?”

He held up his hands and faked a smile, showing off teeth whiter than she’d ever seen. "No, no, we’re fine. Is there somewhere we could hide out for a few hours?”

She drove faster, laughing nervously. "You’re not running from the police, are you? Cause I guarantee Police Chief Tommy Larsen will find you.” At least, he’d always had a knack for tracking her down. Kate glanced in her rearview mirror, making sure he wasn’t on her tail again. "We’re not going to get shot, are we?”

"The only thing we could get shot with today is a camera.”

"Excuse me?” I’ve picked up a narcissistic lunatic.

He dropped his head in his hands. "I’m trying to dodge the paparazzi.”

"Paparazzi? In Willowdale?” She laughed. "I doubt Ned Shaw from the Weekly Saver’s tracking anyone down, not even this week’s high bowler. Who are you?”

He looked at her and made his voice all serious. "Teague Reynolds.”

"Teague Reynolds.” She twisted her lips, thinking. "Sounds familiar.”

He let out a ragged, annoyed breath. "Teague Reynolds. I was on that TV series, Big and Bad?”

She blinked at him. Sorry your hotness, no idea.

He scrunched his eyebrows like a disappointed kid. "I got a Golden Globe Nomination this year for best supporting actor in Desperate at Midnight?”

Kate snapped her fingers. "You’re the one who dates all the young actresses. What do they call you?” She tapped a finger on the steering wheel, trying to remember.

Teague dropped his head back and groaned. "They’re not all young.”

Kate’s mind spun, searching for his nickname. "Some big, scary animal that stomps around... like all over women’s hearts... Tiger... T-Bone...”

"T-Rex,” he mumbled.

She smacked the steering wheel. "Yes! T-Rex. I know who you are.” She squinted at him. "You look different in person.” Then she frowned. "I can’t believe you dated both Cameron twins.”

His mouth opened and closed. "Not at the same time.”

"Didn’t Kimmie Cameron go for therapy after you dumped her?”

"Trust me, she needed it.”

Kate slowed the car. "Are you running from a woman? I don’t do catfights.” Kate could be foolish, but she wasn’t a totalfool.

"No! No catfight.” He crossed his arms and groaned. "Is there somewhere we can lie low, or not?”

"Quit pouting. I’m thinking.” Kate sped up. "What in the world are you doing in Willowdale, North Carolina?”

"Nothing I want anyone to know about. But someone suspects I’m here and I don’t want them to prove it and find out why.” Again, he looked back. "Yep. Same black SUV that’s been following me the last half hour. Do you have a hiding place? I’ll give you an extra five hundred dollars. Sounds like you need the cash.”

Anger snapped in her chest like a twig. It had become totally obvious to a complete stranger that she was broke, desperate, and willing to do anything for money. Well, just about anything. "A hiding place? Who do I look like, Batgirl or Buffy? I’m Kate, by the way, since you didn’t ask.” Kate Riley, chauffeur to ungrateful passengers all across the Carolinas.

He drummed his fingers on his thighs. "What about your place, Kate-by-the-way?” He pulled another stack of bills from his wallet—along with another sexy grin.

"It’s Kate Riley. And you don’t want to go to my place. My stepfather might be home, and then all bets are off.” Willowdale was too small a town to hide in. She fluttered her fingers, thinking. Unless... ughh. Could she really take him there?

"Shoot. I’ve got one place we might try.” She blushed just thinking of where she was proposing to take Hollywood’s most badly behaved boy. She’d have to remember not to let her guard down around this guy.

Teague turned back around. "You should’ve let me drive. I could shake this guy in sixty seconds.” He grinned, flashing his dimples. "I do my own stunts.”

"How special,” she said. "So do I.” Gripping the steering wheel, she zoomed around a sharp curve and under the railroad bridge. She eased the car behind the trestle bridge where Chief Larsen liked to hide, looking for speeders—and ex-girlfriends—to harass. The man just refused to give up, even five years and several girlfriends later—her friend, Tonya, included. In fact, this was probably the very spot he was hiding when he pulled her over for speeding when Tonya first moved to town.

After the black SUV tore past them, down the hill and out of sight, Kate turned the car around and headed back toward town. "Before we go searching for a hideout, you’re going to have to duck or blend in with the upholstery because I need to fill up.”

"You look filled out fine to me.” He gave her a big, cheesy smile.

She gave him her nastiest look. "I’m going to charge you extra if you keep coughing up lines like that.” Kate pulled into the gas station right outside of town and reached behind her seat to grab her purse.

Teague crouched down, but his gaze followed her breasts as she hovered over him.

She sighed. "Lord, it’s like I’m seventeen and babysitting the twelve-year-old McClacken twins again. Must’ve been a long time since you’ve seen a pair without silicone. All right, get a good look then keep your eyes to yourself.”

He raised an eyebrow. "Good to know I haven’t been picked up by a delicate flower.”

"Watch out. I’ve got a lot of weed in me.” She pulled her credit card out of her purse and hopped out to fill up. After plugging the nozzle into her gas tank, she looked up at the sky and rolled her eyes. What in the devil’s name was she doing hauling an A-list movie star around town? She had half a mind to drag him around Willowdale and show him off to her friends. But her instincts told her the sooner she got him off her hands, the better.

When she finished up, she climbed back in the car. "Okay. I’ve got a good hiding place in mind but you keep your hands and your comments to yourself.”

"Whoa, what kind of guy do you think I am?”

"T-Rex. Hollywood’s hottest heartbreaker. Said so right on last week’s tabloid I read at the beauty shop.”

Still tucked down in his seat, he looked up and narrowed his eyes at her. "Right next to the article about my alien love child, I bet.”

She stifled a laugh as they cruised through the heart of downtown and turned down an unmarked road that led into the woods.

"Where are we going?” Teague sat up.

She maneuvered the car along the bumpy road, hidden under the thick canopy of trees. "There’s this out-of-the-way spot I thought we’d try.” Her cheeks must’ve been red as an August sunset. "How long do we need to hide, anyway?”

"I’ve got a plane chartered to leave at eight over in Whitesville.”

Kate blew out her breath. "That’s over three hours to kill.”

He grinned at her. "I’ve given you a thousand dollars. Not a bad rate per hour.”

With a glare for him, she pulled into the clearing at the end of the road overlooking the valley. Gravel crunched under her tires as she parked the car, angled so she could focus on the beautiful, rolling scene below instead of the gorgeous view in the seat right next to her. "I guarantee no one’ll find us here.”

The place was deserted, with huge pine trees flanking either side of the overlook, providing plenty of privacy. A few crushed beer cans littered the ground and old tire tracks from generations of long, steamy nights left grooves in the dirt. Not that she’d know. But it must’ve looked much different beneath a moonlit sky instead of the big blazing sun. She swiped the back of her hand across her forehead even though the air conditioning was cranked on high.

A grin split his face. "This looks like a place where kids come to make out.”

Her cheeks burned and she looked away. "It is. But I figure we’re safe here on a Tuesday afternoon.” Unconsciously, she checked to see that her seatbelt was fastened. It was. Of course it was.

He set one hand against the back of her seat and leaned toward her. "Or maybe you’re just trying to take advantage of me, find out if my reputation is true.” He put his hand over his heart. "I’m hurt, really.” Then he pressed the latch on her seatbelt and smiled. "But I’ll get over it.” His breath was hot and inviting on her skin like a warm breeze at the beach. A nudie beach, she thought, probably turning five kinds of red.

She slapped away his hand and clenched her teeth. "I could always drop you off back in town.”

Both his hands shot up. "No, no. I’m kidding. We can sit here and play twenty questions. Rock, paper, scissors. Truth or dare. Whatever you want.”

She refastened her seatbelt and flicked on the radio. "Or we could sit here and ignore each other.” Which was the best thing to do with a guy like Teague Reynolds—the triple fudge brownie sundae of men: hot, irresistible, and gone before you know it. Totally bad for a girl’s heart. She was smart enough to recognize his kind.

He turned the radio off. "So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

She turned the radio back on. Her heart quickened as she glanced at the patch of silky brown hair peeking above the neckline of his shirt. Most actors waxed their chests. She hated that; real men had chest hair. Every inch of Teague Reynolds looked like a real man. And every inch of her wanted to find out for sure.

His lids lowered, watching her eyes take him in. "Well?” One eyebrow perked up, ever so slightly.

She felt her face turn red. "What?”

He smirked. "I asked what kind of job you were looking for.”

She looked past him, out the window. Now that she knew who he was, she was not interested. At least that’s what her brain was telling her; other parts were disagreeing. But no. No, no, no. He might have ten million women drooling over him, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of being number ten-million-and-one. She’d managed to salvage a little bit of self-respect through all the heartbreak she’d suffered. "I have a job.”

"I thought you said you were going to see about a job back on Main Street?”

Kate drew in a deep breath and got a whiff of warm, sexy male. How could someone so appealing be so annoying? No wonder Kimmie Cameron needed counseling. "Yes. I’m a school nurse, which pays squat, and I need something for the summer this year.”

He rubbed his stubbly chin. "This year? But not usually?”

"I never agreed to twenty questions.” She pointed a finger at him. "You’ve played a few too many cop roles.”

He turned the radio down. "I’ve only asked you three questions.”

She pinched the bridge of her nose and prayed for a dose of patience. She did not want to get to know this man; he might turn out to be even more enticing. "No, you asked me four.”

"Fine. Ask me four questions.” He shifted in his seat to face her, his arms crossed, mouth smirking, and hair curling around his shirt collar.

Kate exhaled, wishing the tight quarters in her Jeep weren’t forcing her to be so darn close to this guy. "Fine. Question one. What are you doing here in Willowdale?”

He shook his head. "No comment.”

"Hey, that’s not an answer,” Kate protested.

Teague shrugged. "I didn’t say I’d answer, I only said you could ask. Next?”


He dropped his smile. "I am not a cheater. Those rumors aren’t true.”

Trying to suppress a dramatic eye roll, she drummed the steering wheel. "Where are you going after here?”

"L.A., then the Sunshine Film Festival.” He held up two fingers. "Two more.”

"Did you really tattoo Simone Peters’ name on your butt?” She held her breath.

He leaned toward her. "I’ll let you check to find out for yourself.”

Kate closed her eyes, trying to convince herself she wouldn’t enjoy that assignment. "Who are you going out with now?”

"No one,” he said, hesitating. "But I should check People magazine first to be sure. You never know.”

His intense gaze unsettled her. She gripped the gearshift in the center console, hoping it would steady her wild, girly, hormones, which were screaming like she was in the second row at a Toby Keith concert.

He looked at her hand. "Time for rock, paper, scissors?” He hovered one palm over her fist. "Paper beats rock every time.” His hand covered hers, swallowing it with big strong fingers. "That was easy.”

She stared into his icy blue eyes, noting the amused and satisfied expression. She’d seen that look before; it made acid swoosh in her stomach. "I am not easy.”

He arched one eyebrow. "No doubt about that.”

TEAGUE HELD ONTO her as she tried to pull away. He liked the feel of her small hand in his. He imagined tracing his fingers across her palm, up her smooth, white arm. Or maybe he’d use his tongue. She looked down at her sandals and blushed like she knew his wicked thoughts. What was behind her resistance? Hell, women lined up for that kind of thing with him.

He tried to remember the last time he was with someone who hadn’t been featured on the cover of Cosmo. He couldn’t recall, but it didn’t matter. Kate had an easy beauty that intrigued him. He’d twine her long, dirty-blond hair around his finger to see if it was as silky as it looked. No fancy highlights, either—it was her natural color. Kate seemed as simple and pretty as this little town. He frowned. A town that had just seriously complicated his life.

He pulled his hand away. "How often did you come here as a teenager?”

"Sounds like we’re moving on to truth or dare.” When she stared at him, he noticed the flecks of green and amber in her blue eyes, like someone had painted them in as a final, perfect detail.

And that surprised him; he wasn’t used to noticing women’s eyes. Other parts were usually much more interesting. He leaned closer. "What color are your eyes? I thought they were blue, but now they look green.”

She shrugged. "Blue-green, I guess.”

What color are your eyes? Holy Pickup 101. Don’t flirt with her! He tugged a hand down his face and tried to shake off the feeling. Despite what the tabloids liked to say, Teague was more talk than action. Okay. There was action. But he always made it clear that he wasn’t looking for a serious relationship and never would. That didn’t deter anyone from trying, though. So Kate’s resistance was a surprising turn-on. Teague usually got what—and who—he wanted. But Kate didn’t seem to want him. Huh?

They stared at each other, as if in a standoff. And they both jumped when someone tapped on the window.

"I guarantee no one will find us here.” He did a bad imitation of Kate.

She sneered at him, glanced out the window, and slumped back. "It’s Chief Tommy Larsen. The very last person I need to see right now.” She turned and gave Teague a look that probably scared the hell out of students faking sick in her nurse’s office. "Thought he wasn’t looking for you.”

Damn, she’s even cuter when she’s mad. "Didn’t think he was.”

She rolled down her window. "Hello, Chief, what brings you out here today?”

A tall, thick man peered in the window and lowered his shades. "I should ask you two the same thing. Who you got with you there, Katie? It’s awful early to be out here at Lookout Point. Remember?”

She gave him a great big smile. "No, I sure don’t. You must be remembering all your other girls. Confusing me with Ellen, maybe?”

Chief Larsen ran his fingers through his short, dark-blond hair. "We were taking a break, remember? Ellen happened during our break.”

She crossed her arms, showing off her cleavage nicely. "That would’ve been something to mention when I asked if you’d dated anyone during our break. Lie by omission, isn’t that what they call it?”

The chief sighed. "Stupid young men deserve a second chance.”

"You want another go-round with an ex? Call Tonya. She’s still single.”

The chief swatted away a fly and let out a long sigh. "Now you know that didn’t work. Only made me realize how much I missed you.”

Kate shrugged and said, "How about Jeanne? The three of us gals all went out with LeRoy Jenkins. Although that was at the same time...”

Teague sucked in a breath and she turned to swat at him. "Not like that. The three of us went out on separate occasions.”

Teague nodded quickly like he understood, but he was mostly trying to shake the image from his brain.

The chief continued. "Now you know how Jeanne feels about my brother. Besides, I’m just teasing. I know where you stand.”

Don’t blame him for trying, Teague thought. I’d want a second shot with her. The idea startled Teague, but he shook it away. He had bigger problems than curiosity about kissing Kate; he had to figure out what to do about the baby.

And didn’t that thought quiet the fire down below.

"Aren’t there any missing cows to find? What are you doing out here?”

The chief took off his sunglasses and polished them with a handkerchief. "Just making the rounds. Got a few reports of some suspicious vehicles in town.” He planted his hands on his thighs and peered in the window. "Now let’s get back to business, ’cause you didn’t answer my question. Who’s this here with you? He’s not giving you any trouble, is he?”

Teague leaned past her and waved. "I’m an old friend in town for a visit.”

The chief folded his arms. "An old friend from where? As I recall, most of Kate’s friends are from right here in town.”

She glared at Teague. "Why don’t you explain? You tell such a good story.”

He opened his mouth and let out his deep, rumbling laugh. "Well, you see—”

The chief stepped back. "Teague Reynolds?” The chief pointed at him. "T-Rex! What are you doing here?”

He’d been meaning to kill the ETreporter who came up with his nickname. He bumbled his words and fiddled with the empty soda can in the cup holder. "Well, like I said, I’m visiting Kate.”

The chief laughed. "I must say I’m surprised. I knew T-Rex got around, but our own sweet Katie?” He rocked back on his heels and shook his head. "Can’t compete with a movie star. Maybe it really is time to give up the chase.”

Teague was surprised to feel his hands fold up into fists.

"No, it’s not what you’re thinking. Heck, you should know I’m done with men.” She frowned. "Guys like you and T-Rex, anyway. Now keep quiet about this. I don’t need people talking.”

The chief pretended to zip his lip. "Don’t you worry. I don’t want to hurt you anymore than I already have. I might be jealous, but mum’s the word on your little afternoon delight.” He turned to leave.

She tried to protest, but Tommy spun around. "Hey, T-Rex, did you really get arrested for skinny-dipping in a fountain with that supermodel out in Vegas?”

Kate glared at Teague. "Hadn’t heard that one.”

"Don’t believe everything you read.” She wasn’t a supermodel. Just a regular model, right? And a citation isn’t an arrest. He held up both hands, protesting his innocence. "You can check my record, Sheriff. No arrests. Clean as a whistle.”

Chief Larsen clucked his tongue. "Too bad, I would’ve enjoyed that story. Well, looks like you’re getting lucky today.” He winked.

Kate’s cheeks turned an adorable shade of red, which definitely made those blue-green eyes stand out. "I told you, we’re just sitting here talking. We’re about to leave.”

"We are?” Teague asked. He’d been enjoying himself, forgetting all about the problem he was so desperate to hide.

"We are now,” she growled.

"In that case, I’ll escort you,” the Chief called back, climbing in the cruiser. He waited for Kate to pull out.

She backed out of her spot and eased down the dirt road, a swirl of dust clouding their wake.

Teague tried to fight back his smile. "So, you two were an item—”

Her grip tightened on the steering wheel. "We’re just friends now.”

"But you were?”

"Twenty questions is over,” Kate snapped.

"Where to now?”

"I don’t know, but I should think about leaving town with you. That man has a big mouth.”

Leaving town with him.

The idea didn’t seem so bad.



Chapter 2

KATE CHECKED THE rearview mirror to make sure the Chief wasn’t tailing them. "How were you planning on getting back to the airport?”

"Same way I got in—a cab.” He scratched his head. "But that’s out of the question now. The photographer will be looking for it.”

"We’ve got three hours to kill.” She sighed. "I guess we’ll take the scenic route down Antique Alley. Let me know if you’d like to stop in any of the stores.” Sure Kate, he wants a tour of the local scenery.

He stared out the window for a few minutes. "Did you grow up here?” he asked.

Kate turned down the country road that led to the tiny airport in Whitesville. "Sure did. Lived here all my life.” Ramshackle shops and tiny diners dotted this road, along with the occasional farm. The mountains beyond made a beautiful backdrop. Most folks who lived along this stretch set out stuff for sale on their front lawns: fresh tomatoes and peaches, old bikes and kids’ wagons they’d fixed up, or yard sales that lasted all summer long. In between the homes were acres of farm fields. A far cry from Hollywood.

Tourists often spent the weekend poking along the road to Whitesville, searching for treasures. Her heart stung as she thought of her mother and their own Saturday antiquing expeditions. Kate figured it had been Mama’s way of coping; like Depression glass could fix a depressing marriage. She pretended to study the big scrub trees, dripping with moss and vines, set back from the road. She didn’t want Teague to see the tears pricking her eyes.

"Sure is a tiny place,” Teague said, as they stopped to let a line of cows pass.

She smiled and waved to Farmer Peterson. "If it’s so small, what are you doing here, Mr. Big Time?” Not that she expected an answer.

He ignored her. "Your family still live here?”

What’s left of it. She nodded and drove on once the cows had passed.

Her mom had married George Riley when Kate was twelve. Kate and Mama took his last name, even though he wasn’t really her daddy. She never knew any other father than him, but she had never felt the love for him she imagined a girl would feel for a real dad. The kind of man who loved his wife and daughter enough to keep from chasing any pretty blonde who crossed his path. Redheads, too. One thing she could say about George, he didn’t discriminate.

"I really appreciate this.” Teague smiled at her with one side of his mouth. Now that she knew who he was, she recognized that grin from many a magazine cover. She’d been known to toss a few of those rags on top of her grocery order when her lousy love life left her eager to gobble up some celebrity break-ups.

A bug splattered on the windshield and she flicked on her wipers. "Like you said, you’re paying me well.” She wasn’t going to let someone like Teague work his charms on her. She could thank Chief Larsen for that lesson. A pretty guy with pretty words was bad news. And Teague was pretty in every way. She needed a nice, simple guy who laid out his cards and didn’t play games. Hadn’t found a man like that so far. They probably didn’t exist.

Teague pointed to a restaurant a little ways up the road. "Let’s stop and get a drink. I haven’t seen that SUV since we drove away from your make-out point.” One eyebrow arched.

"Lookout Point. Some people just go there to look.” She pulled up to the Kissin’ Cousins diner and antique shop. It was far enough outside town that she thought it was safe. It’s not like she could take him in to the Jelly Jar in town. Half of Willowdale would show up to pose for pictures with him. Dolly Jackson would probably sneak off with him and hold him captive in her closet. "Want me to get something so you don’t have to go in?” She didn’t want anyone else to spot them together.

Teague glanced out the window at the empty gravel parking lot. "Looks pretty quiet. I’ll take a chance. Can I borrow your ball cap?” He reached to the backseat for the baseball hat she’d tossed back there. "Or maybe the hubcap?” With a quizzical look, he held up the shiny silver disk.

"It’s been a bad day.”

"I know the feeling.” He tucked his hair behind his ears and put on the hat.

She tilted her head and studied him. "You still look like Teague Reynolds.”

"So call me by a different name.”

"How about Eugene?” Unfortunately, even the nerdiest name she could think of didn’t make him any less attractive.

He screwed up his face. "Eugene’s the kid in school who eats his boogers.”

"Fine. We’ll go with T-Rex, then. It suits you.”

He narrowed one eye. "Eugene works.”

They went into the diner, and she relaxed as she scanned the big, empty room. Clatter echoed from the kitchen and the ceiling fans hummed full blast, but other than that the place was quiet enough to hear crickets. Teague grabbed a booth in back and slid onto the red leather seat.

"I thought you only wanted a drink, Eugene?” How long were they going to be here? The longer they spent together, the more nervous she got. She didn’t like the way this man made her heart beat so fast. "You’re hungry, too?”

He rubbed his hands together. "We’ve got time to kill and the smell of hot grease gets a man’s stomach working overtime.”

An older woman walked over and set two menus in front of them. "How are y’all today? Can I get you a drink?”

She looked back and forth between them and Kate tensed, waiting to see if the woman recognized Teague. He seemed unfazed and smiled at her. This time, it was his wide-eyed, broad smile. She’d seen five or six of his smiles in the few hours they’d been together. Had any of them been sincere?

He craned his neck to see the waitress’s big, yellow nametag, made up to look like a road sign. "How are you today, Delores?”

"Oh, we’re doing okay. Business is slow. You’re my first customers in three hours. What can I get you kids?” Her pen hovered over her order pad.

"I’d love a nice tall diet soda, Delores. How about you, Kate?”

"Same thing, Eugene.”

Delores left to get the drinks, and Teague flashed Kate a thumbs-up. "I think we’re in the clear.”

"Wow.” She scanned the menu, not seeing anything she wanted. "We found the one woman in America not in love with you.”

"Don’t forget I met you today. So that would make two of you.” He waggled two fingers at her and his eyes danced.

Stupid twinkly blue eyes. Kate raised her chin and said nothing.

The waitress came back with drinks and set her order pad on the table. "Don’t I know you?”

Kate’s heart sped up. Sure, they were a few towns over, but word might make its way back to Willowdale that she’d been shuttling around a superstar. Is there any way to keep a secret in this state? She blew out a breath to stay calm.

"No, I don’t think so,” Teague said, slowly unwrapping his silverware from the napkin.

Delores waved him off. "Not you, your girl. You’re Margaret Riley’s daughter, aren’t you?”

Kate winced at Mama’s name, her memory stinging like a thatch of nettles. "Yes, I’m Kate.”

Delores set a freckled hand on her shoulder. "It’s such a shame about your mama. She was a regular at our antique shop. Sure liked her Depression glass.”

Kate nodded, her heart slowing down a bit. She’d been to lots of shops with Mama, but not this one. She must have come on her own. "You should see all of it at home.” She’d been meaning to thin out the collection, but couldn’t bear to sort through it just yet.

"She had that lovely Victorian just outside of town, right?”

"Yes.” Kate forced a smile. "I moved back in when she got sick. And now I’m there helping out my stepfather and stepsister.”

Delores patted her hand. "She was real proud of you. I saw you at the funeral but we weren’t introduced. It’s been, what, eight months now, hasn’t it?”

Kate nodded. Delores certainly knew a lot about Kate and her mama. She must be plugged in to gossip central. If she found out who Teague was, they were in trouble. She was probably as bad as the gals at the Jelly Jar. Didn’t even need cell phone service the way news spread there.

Delores looked at him. "And who’s this here with you today?”

She swallowed hard. "Just a friend from out of town. Eugene.”

Teague gave her a wave. "Hello.”

"Hello, Eugene.” Delores smoothed her apron. "Enough of my chitchatting, what can I get y’all to eat?”

Kate relaxed once she realized his cover wasn’t blown. She ordered a salad and tried to push away her bad feelings. But the ache of her mother’s death was there again, like a low-level infection she couldn’t shake. And there’s no pill or potion to make that go away.

"I’ll have the burger, thanks,” he said.

Delores shuffled off and Kate let out her breath. "I don’t think she recognized you.”

Teague waved his hand in dismissal. "I’m sorry to hear about your mother. Were you close?”

Kate nodded. If she told him anything more about her mother and how her real father had died when she was just a baby, she’d probably start sobbing like a toddler on vaccination day. She certainly wasn’t going to let that happen. "What about you and your folks?”

He laughed. "Close is not how I would describe my relationship with my parents. We’ll just leave it at that.” He stared off at the old road signs hanging on the walls.

The two of them sat there, lost in private sorrows, but Delores soon bustled over with their plates of food. "You kids enjoy.”

"Looks absolutely delicious, thank you,” Teague said with one of his big, fake smiles.

Kate stabbed a tomato with her fork. This day couldn’t end soon enough. She should go right back to Scalia’s and apply for her own waitress job. One thousand dollars from Teague would certainly help pay the property taxes, but it wouldn’t dig her out of this hole. And she didn’t know what she’d do for work if she couldn’t get that job, as humiliating as it would be. If only Teague hadn’t sidetracked her, she’d probably be getting ready for the dinner crowd in that dumb Italian peasant dress the waitresses still wore. Her sadness was morphing into a hot little ball of anger: at Teague, at George, at Tommy. She glared at him.

"What?” he asked.


He pointed a French fry at her. "Listen, just because the Sheriff of Mayberry broke your heart doesn’t mean you should take it out on all men.”

Kate dropped her fork. "He didn’t...” She was too flustered for words because he was right. She had loved Tommy. Oh, the lure of the varsity jacket. They had dated in high school, then through college. Tommy was a state basketball champion and they were the most popular couple in town. Everyone loved Tommy. Especially the girl he got pregnant when he and Kate decided to take a break after college graduation. Kate snapped out of her sad stroll down memory lane and was surprised to see Teague staring at her.

"I don’t know what he did to you, but I’m sorry.”

Well, that was like an unexpected nibble of sugar in your lemonade. Then she stabbed another tomato because Teague had two things going against him: he was an actor and he was a man. And she would never believe anything either of them said. Lies and heartbreak, that’s all men were good for, which was why Kate was done with them. "Tommy taught me some hard lessons.”

"Like what?”

She pushed her salad away. "That not everyone’s meant for love. And it’s a fact, not an opinion.” Oh, she always tried to play it off like she was over it all, doing her best to be friendly with Tommy. Heck, she’d even set him up with Tonya. But when she let herself sit and think about everything that had happened, it hurt like a dozen bee stings to the heart that never went away.

Teague stared at her for a moment and Delores dropped off their check in a little black tray with a couple of peppermint candies. "You two should take a peek in our antique shop. We’ve got a sale going on. There are some nice pieces of jewelry for your girl, Eugene. I can tell you got real special feelings for her,” she said, nodding at Kate.

Teague reached for Kate’s hand. "She’s special, alright. Thank you. We’ll take a look.”

Kate’s eyes widened and she snatched her hand away when Delores walked back to the kitchen.

He shrugged and unwrapped a peppermint. "What? She thinks I’m Eugene, your boyfriend.” He popped the candy in his mouth. "I’m just playing the part.”

"Trust me. That would never happen. Not with someone like you.” The devil would get into the snow cone business before that ever went down.

TEAGUE LIFTED AN eyebrow. She talked a tough game, but there was a lot of hurt behind those pretty eyes. He wanted to tuck her hair behind her ears so he could kiss away that frown. He bounced his leg under the table, surprised by his reaction. He hadn’t been around anyone so real in a long time. It felt good. Scratch that—it felt scary as hell. Good thing he was leaving town soon. Kate Riley could be very bad news for someone like Teague.

He got coffee to go for the two of them, paid the bill—gave Delores a fifty percent tip so at least someone would be having a good day—and walked into the antique store. He went right to a display cabinet filled with old jewelry. He felt bad for Delores and this struggling shop. He had a soft spot for anyone or anything unwanted. When you’re an unwanted kid, you watched out for rejected people, discarded things. Didn’t take a trip to the psychologist to figure that one out. That’s why he’d always paired himself with confident, brash, women; the women everyone desired. His heart was certainly safe with them. They’d never need him for anything other than a good time. And that’s all he ever expected in return. So far, it had been working quite nicely.

He scanned the necklaces in the display case, imagining them looped around Kate’s long neck. He felt an odd desire to soothe her, make the ache go away. Just like he’d always wished someone would do for him when he was a kid.

He tapped the glass. "Can I see that ring in the back? The silver one with the big pearl.”

Delores handed it to him and folded her spotty hands. "It certainly is gorgeous. Just like Kate.”

Kate walked up to him, letting out a big sigh at Delores’ words.

"Can you try this on?” he asked.

She slid it on her finger and splayed her hand. "It’s lovely. I think any woman would be tickled to have this.” She took it off and set the ring on the counter.

"I’ll take it,” he said.

Maybe he’d give it to Kate, or... oh, hell. Just say her name: Jennifer, who’d toppled his world today. Maybe he’d give it to her the next time he was in town. Would he stop and see Kate, too? Maybe then they could get down to business and have a good time. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the feeling. Why was he thinking about that at a time like this? He had "the problem” to deal with. Jennifer’s big problem.

No, his big problem, now.

They walked out to the Jeep and he settled in the seat. He closed his eyes, wishing he were back in L.A., lying by his pool, maybe getting a massage from that lovely Swiss masseuse. A few more appointments with her and those massages would be much more interesting, he just knew it. He wanted to leave this town and never come back.

But that was impossible now. He’d probably have to make more trips back here after his visit today. But at least he’d gotten the call in time. The baby was due in two months and he’d have to make appropriate arrangements. But what would those arrangements be? He scratched his head. Was there any way to handle this without the entire free world finding out? Jennifer didn’t stand a chance if they did.

Kate climbed into the car and slumped back in her seat. "So you heard my history with Tommy, and you know my mama died. Do you trust me enough now to tell me what you’re doing in town?”

He shook his head and took a long gulp of not-so-horrible coffee. He couldn’t trust anyone with this secret. He’d rather die than let the news out.

"It’s crazy and it’s complicated and I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

She held up her hands. "Trust me, I’m not going to say anything to anyone. I fuel the gossip mill plenty around here, so I know what it’s like. Might help to talk it out.”

He turned and looked her in the eyes. "I’ve learned one thing in Hollywood. Trust no one.” Actually, he had learned that a long time ago, when he found out his own mother didn’t want him and gave him up for adoption—and not when he was a baby, either. No, when he was two years old, like he’d been a mistake. Like he wasn’t good enough. Well, he’d proven to the world he was good enough by now, hadn’t he? So why did he still feel so alone?

And why did this woman next to him make him feel so damn antsy?


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