Authors: Zoe York
Tags: #reunited lovers, #divorce, #re-marriage, #romance series, #second chances
LOVE IN A
— SMALL TOWN —
The PINE HARBOUR Series
OTHER WORKS BY
— ZOE YORK —
THE WARDHAM SERIES
Between Then and Now
What Once Was Perfect
Where Their Hearts Collide
When They Weren’t Looking
Beyond Love and Hate
BOXED SETS AND ANTHOLOGIES
Shades of Pink
Love for the Holidays
SEALs of Summer
Welcome to Wardham
LOVE IN A
— SMALL TOWN —
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 wife no, particularly since they aren’t married anymore. She can’t hightail it out of town, though, not when they’ve finally broken through the post-divorce cold war status quo.
Olivia Minelli needs to leave Pine Harbour. It’s just too hard to see Rafe moving on without her—even if he says he doesn’t want to. But when a new and exciting job falls into her lap, she needs to choose: protect her heart, or take the new job and risk getting emotionally entangled with her ex-husband. Again.
— DEDICATION —
Believe in second chances
For my sister—look, Pan, I wrote a romance novel set in Bruce County!
— WHAT’S A TOONIE, EH? —
I use some culturally specific terms in this book. Phrases and words that are regional and national, and probably more than the two I’ve included here. Sometimes I forget that you guys didn’t all go to stag and does growing up. I sure did! I had to wait until I was nineteen to enjoy the toonie bar properly, though.
Stag and doe: fundraising party held for an engaged couple, common in rural Ontario
Toonie: two dollar Canadian coin (see, Loonie: one dollar Canadian coin)
I hope you enjoy Rafe and Olivia’s story, and I look forward to sharing more Pine Harbour books with you soon!
— ONE —
T 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.
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
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.
, 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.
She was pissed, and he deserved it, but he didn’t have time to deal with that right now. He held up his hand, cutting off whatever smart remark was about to slide out of her beautiful mouth. “It’s not what you think.”
“I think she’s wearing your shirt.” She dropped her head, like she didn’t want to look at him, and her long brown ponytail fell over her shoulder. One of the sad side effects of not living with Olivia anymore—never seeing her hair down. He liked the ponytail because it was so her, practical and cute and sporty, but he loved the dark curtain of free-falling hair that he’d only seen in private. Now reserved for his fantasies, that image of Liv completely undone, tousled and sexy, was a favourite memory. Eyes blazing, the Olivia right in front of him would light him up if she knew what he was thinking about. “I think you know better than to bring her here, but you’re more scared of your mother than you are of me, and fair enough. Your mom is frightening as all get out. And I know I have no right to care about what you do and who you do it with. I get that. So I will bite my tongue. But you don’t get to summon me back here for a chat while your new girlfriend sits out there waiting for you. That’s awful, Rafe. That’s not
Wow, she went in a different direction than he’d expected. “Okay, hold up.” He let out a sigh as his phone vibrated in his pocket. He yanked it out and swore under his breath at the call display screen. “Listen, I have to take this, but we’re not done here.”
She laughed, short and sharp and completely without humour. “Oh, we’re definitely done here.” She spun and jerked the door open, pausing in the doorway. “Your girlfriend takes her eggs scrambled, by the way.”
She’s not my anything
, he wanted to yell, but that wasn’t completely true. Natalie had been his distraction of the month the night before. He’d bought her a few drinks and let her sit on his lap. Played with the bare skin at her waist and enjoyed the way she smelled. They’d kissed, and more than once. But he walked her to her car at the end of the night of pool and pints at The Green Hedgehog in Lion’s Head—Pine Harbour not being big enough for a pub of its own—only to discover that it wouldn’t start. And her friend, who’d left with Matt Foster, wasn’t answering the phone. Rafe knew he should call her a tow truck, but it was a long tow to Owen Sound, the small city the girls lived in, and that left the problem of how her girlfriend would get home the next day.
So he’d offered her his bed. Without him in it. Something Natalie had tried to persuade him to change his mind on, a totally fair move on her part. But he hadn’t slept with anyone since Liv. Wasn’t sure when and if he’d be able to. Unlike his wife, he’d meant his wedding vows when he’d sworn to love her forever. Liv leaving him didn’t change that.
But just because he couldn’t get over her didn’t mean he shouldn’t try. He
try, and once a month he let his buddies drag him to Lion’s Head or Sauble Beach to get back in the game. This was the first time one of those pitiful attempts at a social life had played out in front of Liv, though. And he couldn’t worry about that because Dean was blowing up his phone.
“Good morning to you, too, sunshine. We got a problem.”
“It’s my day off, man.”
“Operation Paper Cut has been bumped up. Inspector Wagner wants all available officers called in.”
A major bust. There was only one answer. “Sleep first?”
“Yeah. Report at four this afternoon.”
He hung up without saying goodbye. He’d be there. But first he needed to eat, then he had two women to sort out.
When he stepped back into the main space of the diner, Liv was quietly buttering toast at the counter and resolutely not looking in his direction. Natalie stared out the window. It wasn’t her fault he was hung up on someone else, or that Pine Harbour was so small this was their only option for breakfast that didn’t involve his mother.
Anne Minelli was only Italian by marriage, but she’d adopted her husband’s culture completely, right down to happily becoming a caricature of an over-protective mother—and a nightmare of a mother-in-law to the only other woman who’d had the misfortune to marry into the Minelli clan.
Rafe wasn’t the oldest son. That privilege fell to his older brother Zander, who’d gotten the hell out of Dodge at eighteen. Where Rafe and his younger brother Tom had enlisted in the local army reserve unit after high school, Zander had gone reg force and was currently stationed in Wainwright, Alberta. The only member of their family not in the military was the baby, his sister Dani, and that wasn’t for lack of trying.
Speak of the devil
. The door chimed and in she walked. Dressed in her navy paramedic uniform, she was so focused on Liv and the coffee pot that she didn’t see him. Trailing behind her was his friend Ryan Howard, another EMS worker, who gave him a distracted nod as he checked something on his phone.