Read Her Charming Heartbreaker Online

Authors: Sonia Parin

Tags: #humor, #family, #family relationships, #love romance, #family and friends, #humor about romance, #humor about brothers

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BOOK: Her Charming Heartbreaker
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She clapped her hands.
“Hang around here long enough and the Eden Thespians will rope you
in to play the lead role in the annual theatre production. This
year they’re doing Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of… something or
other.”

“Being Earnest.” Theo
shook his head. “And that’s one way to ensure I leave immediately
and never return.”

“Oh, this is precious.
I’ve discovered your kryptonite,” she said and sent her eyes on a
happy dance around his face. “There has to be a story to that.
School theater production gone bad?”

For as long as Theo
could remember, his parents had taken turns at trying to entice him
into the fold. As far as they were concerned, life was not worth
pursuing unless part of it could be immortalized on the big screen,
or in his mother’s case, on the stage.

Theo had rebelled,
throwing himself into a lifetime of academic pursuits, earning one
degree after another. From an early age, his trust fund had
provided him with the freedom of choice. He’d chosen to learn how
to increase it, never touching the principal and only living off
what he could make, which over the years, had become a substantial
amount. While he also dabbled in film production, nothing could
have enticed him to follow in his parents’ footsteps, not even the
megabuck earnings. He simply didn’t have the ego for it.

“Something like that,”
he said. “The thought of standing in front of a crowd and
pretending to be someone else...” he shrugged, “I’m not into
putting myself on display.”

“And yet you don’t seem
to disapprove of all public displays.”

“Meaning?”

She laughed. “Women are
scheduling their morning coffees to coincide with your
jogging.”

“I haven’t
noticed.”

“And I’m not surprised.
You look in the zone. Actually, you look preoccupied. Makes one
wonder what you’re churning in your head. Plans for world
domination?”

Theo would settle for
controlling the outcome of at least one scenario. While he’d
managed to leave a message for Claire Muldoon, he doubted she would
get back to him any time soon. She hadn’t heard him out. When she’d
leaped to conclusions and had warned him to stay away, he should
have done something to change her mind right then and there.
Instead, he’d sat back and had watched her stumble into the
hairdressing salon, closing the door with so much force he’d heard
the windows rattle.

“How was your day off?”
he asked trying to give himself a break and find his way back to a
place where he could relax and refocus.

“Full of mischief. A
friend is getting married and we’ve been trying to come up with a
memorable send off.”

“I suppose you’ve
considered the obvious.”

“A male stripper?” she
asked.

“A decadent spa
retreat.”

“With a male
stripper?”

“Sounds like you should
choose a venue far away from your regular haunting ground.”

“A trip to Melbourne,”
she mused. “That’s a great idea.”

She dug inside her back
pocket and pulled out her cell phone. Theo watched her smile
brighten as she began keying in a message. Within seconds, her
phone beeped with incoming text messages.

“We’re onto a winner
here. Everyone loves the idea.” She frowned. “They want to know if
you can be our chaperone slash bodyguard slash master of
ceremonies.”

“I doubt the groom will
approve.”

“He doesn’t need to
know.”

“That’s asking for
trouble.”

“Don’t be a killjoy.
What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”

He watched her as she
skimmed through the messages. “Whatever you just read made you
blush.” And moisten her lips...

“I’d tell you but I’m
sure you’ll disapprove.”

“Try me.”

She shook her head
sending her curls into a playful dance around her shoulders. “It’s
too provocative.”

“Does it involve me
becoming part of the entertainment?” The flush of crimson on her
cheeks deepened.

She pocketed the phone
and smiled. “Give and take, my friend. If I tell you, you’ll have
to give me something in return.”

“You’re bartering for
conversation?”

“Well, since I’m the
one standing behind the bar, I’m traditionally supposed to be the
one doing the listening. So spill. What’s troubling you?”

Theo had to pull his
gaze away from Eddie before he could even try to recall the
previous day’s encounter with Claire Muldoon, the one he’d been
thinking about only a few moments before. However, even as he
stared into his cup of coffee he could still feel the effect of
Eddie’s smile. Like a soothing stroke of a hand offering comfort.
No, actually it felt more like the tingling of fingertips dancing
across his chest—

“Most people try to
find answers in the bottom of their shot glasses, not a cup of
coffee.”

Even the tone of her
voice carried her smile. Not on that first day, he thought
remembering her curtness.

“I haven’t been driven
to drink yet.”

“I bet it’s a
woman.”

Theo checked his cell
phone. Claire had had twenty-four hours to make the next move and
return his call. Mention of his father’s name had sent her fleeing
in the opposite direction. It didn’t make sense. Jon Kendrick was
an A-list movie star and even at fifty years of age, women clamored
for his attention. The tabloids had long ago accepted the fact
they’d never get a ripple of sex scandal from him, labeling him
Sweet Lothario
. No one had a bad word to say about him,
not even Theo’s mother. His parents’ divorce had been amicable and
to this day, they still got together for Christmas. Never mind that
it took Theo months of negotiating schedules to get them all in the
same place at the same time. Jon Kendrick had never married again
and, despite his lack of commitment, he always stayed sweet with
his ex-girlfriends. What had happened with Claire Muldoon?

Would another
twenty-four hours be long enough for her to change her mind and
hear him out? And what would he do in the meantime? Sweat it
out?

“What time do you get
off?” he asked.

“Are you wondering when
you can finally have some peace and quiet?”

“I can’t stop thinking
about that coffee you taunted me with. Care to show me where I can
get some?”

She took his empty cup
and placed it in the sink behind her. “You want me to come along
with you?”

“I would appreciate the
company.” He slid off the barstool and stashed his cell phone
inside his pocket thinking a watched phone never rang. When he
looked up again, Eddie was biting the edge of her lip.

“You want an answer
right now?”

“Do you need time to
weigh the pros and cons of being seen with me?”

She gave the edge of
her lip another nibble. “Since you put it like that... Yes, I
suppose I should give it some thought. Spending any time together
outside of this strictly business environment could be construed
as—” she frowned. “You’re doing it again.”

“What?”

“Not blinking. Did you
just tune out? My brothers do that and, you might as well know, I
hate it.”

“I heard every word you
said.”

“Prove it.”

“Where’s the
trust?”

“I have three brothers.
They beat it out of me.” She shrugged. “Not literally, but even to
this day they have this uncanny ability to pull the wool over my
eyes.”

“Coffee?”

“Yes. And for the
record, they also use diversionary tactics to get me to drop
whatever bone of contention... Oh, never mind.”

 

* * *

 

“A good looking guy
asks you out for coffee and you waste your time calling me?”

“This is a courtesy
heads up, get ready for a close up look at Theo Kendrick call.”
Otherwise known as a panic attack with a bit of feet dragging
thrown in because she hadn’t stopped thinking about Sophie’s
suggestion she have a fling. “He wants to try your coffee.”

Joyce laughed. “I’ll
bet anything you’ve checked your hair and tried on two different
outfits.”

“Wrong. I’m still
wearing my work jeans.”

“Would it kill you to
wear one of the two dresses you own?”

“It would be too
obvious. Besides, I need to get back out there again. I’ve already
taken too long. I told him I needed to powder my nose.”

“And that’s not
obvious? Add everything you’ve just told me together and I’d bet
anything you’ve got a case of tingles.”

“What are you talking
about?”

“That flapping of
butterfly wings in the stomach sensation you feel when your body
reacts to the presence of someone you’re attracted to. How far do
the tingles go? Is your thinking slowing down? Are you taking
longer to process information?”

Eddie frowned. “Is that
what attraction does to you?”

“I can’t remember. It’s
been so long. Okay, I’m going to grind some fresh coffee beans.
I’ll see you soon.”

 

* * *

 

“This is not what I
expected.” Theo stood in the middle of Joyce’s Café, his eyes
skating from one end to the other. “It’s like an indoor garden.”
With wrought iron furniture, dainty antique tea sets and paintings
of landscapes, gardens, and flowers hanging on every available wall
space not taken up by bookshelves. “Joyce obviously caters to a
more gentile clientele.”

Eddie snorted. “As
opposed to the roughnecks who frequent The Gloriana?”

“You have a boar’s head
hanging over the fireplace.”

“A well-earned trophy.
It took me three hours of stalking before I could get a decent shot
at it.” She laughed. “You better sit down before you fall
down.”

They settled at a table
by the window, all eyes following their progress. “Is that the only
one you’re responsible for?”

“I didn’t shoot Bambi’s
dad, if that’s what you’re asking. That came to us courtesy of
Charles Granger. He owns Willoughby Park, a deer farm not far from
town. He’s the local venison supplier.” She frowned. “Your mouth is
gaping open. What’s wrong?”

Theo shook his head.
“I’m still trying to picture you hunting a wild boar.”

“I didn’t do it for
fun. It tore apart Grandma Wilson’s vegetable garden. There was a
lot of brouhaha over who was going to hunt it down, when and how.
You know, typical male strategic game planning—” She looked up and
smiled. “Here’s Joyce.”

The café owner
approached them with a ready megawatt smile. She wore a red and
white polka dot dress and a red bandana around her pitch-black
cutie pie bob, clearly favoring some sort of fifties revival
style.

While Eddie did all the
talking, Theo noticed Joyce’s eyes narrowing.

“Theo will have what
will no doubt become his usual. A double shot espresso, and I’ll
have some tea. I’ll let you chose the blend.”

Joyce tapped her pen
against her chin. “I don’t mean to stare, but there’s something
familiar about you. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

Eddie gave him a lifted
eyebrow look. “Your secret is about to be uncovered. Care to say
something in your defense?”

“What am I being
accused of?”

“Joyce recognizes you
from somewhere. It’ll come to her and when it does, it’ll be too
late to offer explanations because we’ll have formed very strong
opinions about you.”

“That’s harsh.”

Eddie smiled. “We’ll go
easy if you fess up now.”

“I’m not hiding
anything and you’re assuming the worst about me.”

She shrugged. “It’s a
small town. We have to make our own entertainment, preferably the
type that doesn’t put me in the spotlight.”

Joyce gave him a
knowing smile and strode away to prepare the drinks, something she
did while casting her gaze his way.

“Something tells me
I’ve been brought here under false pretences.” Theo turned his
attention back to Eddie. “About that boar—”

“Changing the subject
and choosing to live on the edge? You must be a man on the run.
Hiding out? Or on a stakeout. Are you looking for someone?”

“It’s a throw of the
dice risk. This could go either way. Joyce might, or might not be
right about her hunch about recognizing me. I’ll take my
chances.”

“Your secret means that
much to you?”

His gaze dropped to his
phone. “This is what I get for wanting a cup of coffee.”

“Why do you keep
looking at your phone? Are you expecting a call? Waiting for
instructions?”

“Tell me about the
boar. Why you, why not someone else? And yes, by that I mean a
man.”

“You’re waiting for
something but you’re patient enough not to rush.” She drew in a
breath. “All right, I’ll tell you. Grandma Wilson refused to have
anyone else set foot on her property. I used a double barrel
shotgun. It was the only one she had and it nearly dislocated my
shoulder. Your turn. What brought you to Eden?”

Theo sighed.

“Sighing is a stress
reliever. I read that somewhere,” Joyce said as she set their
drinks down.

“Joyce is our local
trivia queen,” Eddie explained, “And if she hasn’t put her finger
on where she knows you from, she will... eventually.”

Theo raised his hands
in a gesture of surrender and laughed.

“We’ve backed him into
a corner,” Eddie said. “Any minute now he’ll break into a sweat and
start singing like a canary.”

His cell phone rang
bringing the conversation to a halt, but before he could excuse
himself to answer it, the call disconnected. Moments later a
message came through.

 

* * *

 

As Theo excused himself
and turned his attention to the text message, Eddie looked around
the café the way one did when trying to offer a token show of
privacy. She made eye contact with a few people, smiling and
nodding while sipping her drink.

Sending her gaze on
another round of the café, she noticed Claire Muldoon sitting at
the far end corner. The pretty brunette held her cell phone between
her hands as if waiting for a call… or a reply. And she was looking
directly at Theo.

BOOK: Her Charming Heartbreaker
11.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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