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Serendipity

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Table of Contents
 
 
 
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
SERENDIPITY
 
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Berkley mass-market edition / September 2011
 
Copyright © 2011 by Karen Drogin.
 
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375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
 
ISBN : 978-1-101-54396-2
 
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Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
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In loving memory of Buddy,
my beloved wheaten and my best boy,
who taught me about unconditional love
and was there for me in good times and bad.
You are missed, Buddy boy.
More than you'll ever know.
Change is never easy but it's the people you surround yourself with that make it bearable. To the Plotmonkeys, Julie Leto, Leslie Kelly, and Janelle Denison (especially Janelle, who read and reread every word in this story more than a gazillion times), your friendship and support mean the world to me. And to Shannon Short, whose wisdom and insight I rely on daily . . . make that hourly. Thank you all for believing in me always. It goes both ways, it really truly does.
To Kim Witherspoon and David Forrer—the people who say agents put their own interests before those of their authors don't know you. Luckily for me, I do. Thank you for looking to the future when it would have been much easier to remain complacent. It's been an interesting journey. I hope it goes on and on! And to Leslie Gelbman and Cindy Hwang, thank you for having faith in Serendipity and in me!
One
Ethan Barron sped down Main Street in his hometown of Serendipity, New York, with one thought only.
You can't outrun your past.
He ought to know. He'd tried hard enough.
He was still trying, if buying the old Harrington estate under a corporate name counted. But he had his reasons. It was one thing to let his brothers know he'd returned. He didn't mind allowing the rest of the town time to squirm, wondering who'd purchased the town landmark from the SEC auction block. Ethan hoped the fate of the previous owner wasn't a bad omen for him. He'd like the next phase of his life in Serendipity to be better than the last.
Ten years after taking off, he was back to face his past and make amends, if such a thing was possible. So far, his younger brothers weren't interested in any family reunion he had to offer. His recklessness had destroyed their lives, and he'd compounded his mistakes by leaving town—and leaving them to social services. They weren't ready to forgive.
Understandable.
He was still working on forgiving himself.
Nash and Dare were adults now, but Ethan owed them and he intended to prove they could count on him for the duration. Hopefully then they'd come around. And he'd be waiting, no matter how tough the road or how long it took. Buying the most prominent house in town was his first step. Evidence that he'd made something of himself and proof he was putting down roots, no longer the selfish ass who'd caused more trouble than he cared to remember.
As he approached the turn to the house he'd only been living in for three weeks, he noticed a woman standing on the grass beside the long driveway. He turned and slowed to a stop, then climbed out of his Jaguar, another concession to his success.
He walked toward his visitor, taking her in at a glance. The woman had shoulder-length blond hair and, even in the heat of summer, wore a dark pair of denim jeans and a collarless but clearly expensive jacket. Hearing his approach, she turned toward him, her eyes shaded by large black sunglasses masking her face. He didn't recognize her and yet a flicker of
something
he couldn't name passed through him.
“Anything I can do for you?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No. I was just taking a walk.” Her soft voice touched a memory deep inside him, but it was gone just as quickly.
“Well, this is private property.” He cocked his head toward the main road, hoping she'd take the hint.
He wasn't in the mood for small talk with strangers. Although this well-put-together female definitely sparked his interest, he wasn't here for anything but family and setting the past right. No distractions. Not even sexy overdressed ones. In his experience, those kinds of women were the most dangerous.
She lifted her glasses and her golden eyes seared him straight through to his soul as she held his gaze for a long, deliberate moment. Like she was judging him.
“Yep. Still an arrogant ass,” she muttered, her previously mellow voice now pissed off and angry.
Familiar.
She slipped the sunglasses back in place, squared her shoulders, and headed down the road, turning her back on him just as he'd intended.
“Wait,” he called after her, the word coming out like a direct order.
“I'm not your damned yo-yo,” she tossed back over her shoulder and kept walking.
But he couldn't let her go. “I said wait.” He took a quick jog to catch up with her and grabbed her arm.
“What?” she snapped at him, and jerked her arm back, annoyed.
He inclined his head, unsure what had come over him. “Do I know you?” he asked, the answer niggling somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind.
“You tell me.” She lifted her glasses, this time perching them on top of her head, giving him a full view of her face and features for the first time.
Soft creamy skin with a hint of freckles, golden-brown eyes, and a perfect nose. Her pulse beat hard at the base of her throat, giving life to the memory that had been hovering just out of reach. Another hot steamy day, him on his motorcycle, her in her cheerleading outfit, walking from school to the house
he
now called home.
“Well, I'll be damned,” he muttered as more memories slammed into him.
He'd offered her a ride home that day. No one had been more shocked than him when she'd taken it. Instead of driving up the hill, he'd taken her behind an abandoned building in town and kissed her senseless. He'd wanted more. She'd rejected him.
He was right. He couldn't outrun his past.
“So you do remember,” she said, her tone clearly challenging him.
He inclined his head. “The princess from the mansion on the hill,” he mused out loud.
She placed one hand on her hip. “What does that make you as the new owner? Prince Charming?”
So word had gotten out after all. He should probably thank his housekeeper, Rosalita, for that. She'd come with the house, needed the job, and didn't like him at all. She provided him with all the gossip he didn't want to know about the town of Serendipity and its inhabitants. She talked nonstop while she worked. Of course she'd tell the prior owner's daughter who had bought their home.
“Well?” his trespasser asked, drawing him back to the present.
Ethan grinned. He liked her spunk and couldn't help but laugh. “I don't remember you being a wiseass.”
She raised a delicate eyebrow. “Maybe that's because you didn't know me all that well,” she said in the haughty tone he remembered.
“And whose fault was that?” He deliberately baited her, the memory of her rejection surprisingly strong after all these years.
Awareness and definite remembrance flickered in her gaze. He was struck by how those amber eyes still provided an open window to her soul. When he was younger, he'd been captivated, mesmerized by how pure and untouched she appeared compared to the girls he normally hung around with. Girls with a harder edge, willing to give it up to anyone but especially to him because he had a reputation for being bad and had no problem living up to it.
She'd been different. Special. Another reason her rejection had stung so badly.
Looks like I'm facing another unresolved piece of my past,
he thought, disgusted with himself for still caring. Although to be fair, she'd only been sixteen and a good girl at that. No way would she have put out for anyone, let alone him.
BOOK: Serendipity
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