Authors: Jill Sanders
ALSO BY JILL SANDERS
The Pride Series
Red Hot Christmas
My Sweet Valentine
Return To Me
The Secret Series
The West Series
The Grayton Series
In Too Deep
The Lucky Series
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2016 Jill Sanders
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Shasti O’Leari Soudant/SOS Creative LLC
To my wonderful man, who’s made me a very lucky woman . . .
Kristen Collins was in love. Not just love, but LOVE. Sure, she was only eight years old and her best friend, Amelia, kept trying to tell her that Bobby Hurst was a no-good, booger-picking boy. She didn’t care. She was in love.
Maybe it was the way Bobby walked or the fact that he always smiled at her, even though he was still missing his right front tooth. It could have had to do with his deep blue eyes; Kristen was a sucker for blue eyes. Anyway, Bobby was cute enough to win her third-grade heart for an entire week until Kristen saw him holding Jennifer Taylor’s hand in the halls.
Amelia was there to help her through the rough spot and mend her broken heart, and Kristen learned a valuable lesson that day. Not only did boys lie, but they would come and go. The only thing that she could count on was Amelia’s friendship, which was going to last forever.
Fifteen years later
. . .
There weren’t enough four-leaf clovers in the world to save her now, Kristen thought as the police photographer took what seemed like a hundred pictures of her new apartment. She leaned against the empty wall and felt like crying.
“Miss Collins?” A rather large female officer approached her from outside. “There is someone here to see you.”
“Yes?” She turned and almost squealed when she saw Amy standing behind the woman.
Amelia Walker, Amy for short, had and always would be Kristen’s best friend.
The two women looked like they would have nothing in common.
Amy was put together. Everything she did was perfect, down to her shiny toenails. She never had a hair out of place. It was how Amy had always been.
Kristen, for her part, looked more like a gypsy. Her clothes were bright and colorful, and usually turned a few heads in her direction. Amy always said it was Kristen’s artistic side showing through.
For the last year and a half, Kristen had been fulfilling her lifelong dream of working as an interior designer for Row and Stein Architecture Firm in downtown Denver. With her imagination and her eye for color, the job was perfect for her. Plus, the firm was full of like-minded people with whom she got along great.
“I warned you about Rod.” Amy pulled her into a quick hug, then handed Kristen a tissue.
“I know.” She groaned and walked Amy into her empty apartment.
“Oh, Kristen!” Amy shook her head, sending her perfect hair swaying with the movement. She turned and hugged Kristen again. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered into her ear. This time, Kristen did need the tissue.
“I suppose I should have seen this coming. You know, after the incident,” she mumbled.
Amy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “There’s no such thing as bad juju.”
Kristen laughed sarcastically and motioned around the room.
Amy patted her on the arm. “This is not just bad luck in love. You picked a loser. You have a knack for picking losers.”
“That’s not true,” she said as one of the police officers glanced her way. “Well,” she whispered, “I guess this time you were right.”
Amy started ticking off her fingers. “First it was Bobby what’s-his-name.”
“Hurst.” Kristen supplied the last name.
“Right.” Amy nodded. “Then Tom . . .” She glanced Kristen’s way and waited.
“Next it was Brian . . .”
Amy shook her head. “He was a real winner. Didn’t he leave you in the mall parking lot at eleven at night when you wouldn’t—” She broke off and made a vulgar motion with her fist.
Kristen almost laughed, but it had been truly scary standing in the Aurora Mall parking lot in the middle of the night until Amy had come and picked her up.
“Yeah.” She frowned and looked down at her hands.
“You were sixteen. You could have been—” She took a deep breath. “Then it was Tyler.” She threw up her hands. “Then . . . more guys than I can remember. And now, Rod.” She sighed and looked around.
“I’m not one hundred percent sure that this was him.” She motioned around her nearly empty apartment.
Amy continued to look at her in silence. Her eyes told Kristen exactly what she was thinking. Then she stopped a police officer who was walking past them out of the room.
“Was this a break-in?”
“No, ma’am. There isn’t any forced entry. Besides, the lady next door gave us a description of Miss Collins’s boyfriend as the one who was driving the U-Haul truck. He and two other men told her that Miss Collins was moving out.”
She closed her eyes, wishing cops would keep their mouths shut. She’d heard the news forty minutes ago when her neighbor had told them the story in the first place.
Amy handed her another tissue from her purse.
“Well, don’t worry. I’ve got plenty of room in my spare—”
Kristen shook her head. “I’m not staying at your place.”
Amy frowned. “You’re not staying here.” She looked around.
“Why not? It’s not like he’s going to come back for the carpet,” she said.
Amy chuckled, then looked Kristen in the eyes. They’d known each other long enough for Amy to know that she wasn’t backing down. Finally, Amy conceded. “Fine, but you’re having the locks changed, and we’re going to go buy you some basics.”
She quickly hugged her friend again.
After waiting an hour for the locksmith to install new locks on Kristen’s apartment door, they headed out to the mall to get toiletries and some new clothes.
Three hours later, just as snow was starting to fall, they walked back up the stairs toward her apartment. It was an old building in an older part of downtown, and Kristen loved every inch of the place. Sure, the carpet was a little worn and it took five minutes for the water to heat up, but she wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Especially when she looked out her living room windows and saw the panoramic view of Denver.
The Rockies spread from one side of the large windows to the next. Well, at least on days when it wasn’t snowing or cloudy.
The apartment was minutes to her office and she loved riding the light rail every day, even when it was cold and snowy.
On their first stop, they had gone to a giant outdoor sporting goods store, and she was now the proud owner of an air mattress, a small digital alarm clock, and an extra-fluffy sleeping bag. Then they had gone to the mall downtown where they had started to make a dent in replacing her lost items. The jerk had even stolen most of her clothes. Amy had different taste in clothing than she did, which made clothes shopping with her interesting. Somehow, her friend always talked her into buying stuff that Kristen wouldn’t have picked out for herself. Things that looked more professional. Tailored skirts, silk blouses—she’d even convinced her to buy a blazer. What was she going to do with a blazer?
“What do you think he wants with my shoes?” she asked as Amy helped her unload her items.
“Maybe he’s really a cross-dresser and wanted a new wardrobe.” Amy tried to hide a smile.
Kristen shrugged. “It would never work. I wear a size eight shoe, he’s a size ten in men’s.”
They both laughed.
“It’s going to take some time to replace everything.” Kristen put her hands on her hips as she looked around her empty place. They had bought two big beanbags for her living room. The older television, which they had picked up from her mother’s place, sat on a small table across the room. At least now she could sit back and relax comfortably until the insurance check arrived and she could afford a new sofa and more furniture.
“Don’t worry; insurance will pay for most of it. We can make a run to the furniture store this weekend, if you want.”
She thought about how much time she’d spent picking out her last furniture. Then she remembered she already had plans and stifled a groan. “I’ve got that thing with my folks.”
“Oh right.” Amy’s parents had divorced when she was twelve, so she didn’t have to attend monthly dinners with the two of them. But Kristen’s folks, despite some drama recently, were still happily together. It made Kristen want to run in the opposite direction every time she had to sit through a hand-holding, kissy-face, monthly dinner. Even though her parents were legally separated, they had started dating each other again and acted like lovestruck teenagers around her.
She loved her parents, really. She just wished they would act their ages instead of like hormonal teenagers who needed to get a room.
“I’ll go through my closet and drop off some clothes for you later this week.”
“Don’t you dare.” She glared at her friend. “I know what that means.”
“What?” Amy turned toward her and tried to look innocent.
“When you say, ‘I’ll go through my closet,’ what you really mean is, ‘I’ll go clothes shopping for you and buy you what I think will look good on you.’”
“Oh, come on. It gives me a great excuse to go shopping. Besides, you look smoking in the blazer.” Amy winked at her. “You’re going to need so much. We only bought you three pairs of shoes.” Amy held her hand over her forehead and faked a faint by rolling her eyes back.
She giggled. “
may need six dozen pairs of shoes, but
was happily content—” She stopped and gasped. “He took my UGGs!” She felt like crying all over again.
“Good riddance,” Amy said under her breath, causing Kristen to narrow her eyes at her.
“I’ve had those since high school. They were my most comfortable—”
“Shabby, nasty looking things,” Amy supplied. “Besides, you were due for a new pair. I can . . .”
“No.” She turned and held up her hand to her friend. “I will buy my own wardrobe.” Amy nodded, but Kristen knew there was no stopping the flow of clothing that would be coming her way.
“What about groceries?” Amy asked, walking into her kitchen. “Dishes?” She groaned as she opened the empty cabinets. “Man, he cleaned you out completely. Not that you had a lot of stuff.” She glanced at Kristen over her shoulder.
“I was working on it. Besides, I enjoyed finding everything I had.”
It was true; Kristen loved finding unique items and was a sucker for brightly colored, mismatched dishes.
Her designs for clients might be clean with calm colors, but in her own life, Kristen loved the wild and unique.
“Well, at least let me give you my old dishes.”
“Old? Did you buy new ones?”
Amy turned to her with a smile. “Just yesterday. They’re cream with blue flowers.”
Kristen thought about how much Amy loved to shop. “I think you have a problem.” Kristen opened the fridge and stuck her head inside, then groaned when she saw that it was completely empty. “Maybe I need to stage an intervention to curb your habit.”
Amy laughed. “No, what I need is a man.”
Kristen peeked over at her. “I’m off of those for a while. Maybe I’ll take up shopping instead.”
“Right.” Amy shook her head at her. “I give you two weeks.”
“Two weeks for what?”
“Two weeks until you call me up and tell me that you’ve found ‘the one.’” Her friend made air quotes.
“Can I help it if I fall in love easily?”
“Yes, yes, you can.”
“I’m hungry,” she said, changing the subject. “We didn’t get any food. What do you say to buying me some tacos?”
Amy laughed at her for changing the subject and then smiled. “Tacos, it is. And I think a margarita is in order as well.”
It took Kristen precisely three weeks to get over Rod. That’s when she’d bumped into Christian, and she’d quickly forgotten all about her troubles over the last month. When she’d seen his blue eyes and his smile, she’d simply melted.
He’d been a complete gentleman and had let her cut in line at Starbucks after she’d almost knocked him over. His hand had rested on hers, and she’d felt her heart skip.
Their first date—if you could call it that—had been the very next day at the same spot. He’d bought her coffee and a muffin and they had sat in the back booth talking. He was a lawyer of some type, working for a firm downtown. She didn’t really get much information since he didn’t like to talk about himself.
Instead, he’d asked her question after question and had seemed really interested in her life. He listened intently and she had just gotten more lost in those blue eyes of his and rambled on.
When he’d asked her to meet him again, the next day, same time, same place, she hadn’t even blinked an eye. She’d rushed out after work that night and had bought herself a new outfit to wear the following day.
Their relationship continued to grow in the coffee shop over the next week, and when he finally asked her to dinner, she was both nervous and excited.
“I really think this is the one,” she told Amy over the phone as she finished putting on her makeup.
“Well, he’s a step up from an unemployed auto mechanic.”
“I just liked Rod for his body.” She smiled, remembering how sexy all his tattoos and muscles had been.
“And look at where that got you,” Amy said dryly. “Does that mean this man is an overweight middle-aged guy?”
“No, just the opposite. Think Ryan Gosling in
.” She sighed dreamily again, thinking about it.
“Uh-oh,” Amy said.
“Nothing.” The line was silent for a while.
“No, what does ‘uh-oh’ mean?” She set down her brush and stared at her reflection. She loved the way her new teal shirt looked with the flowing cream-colored skirt she wore.
She’d left her caramel hair down, letting her curls fall naturally around her face.
“It just means that you’ve done it again.”
“What?” She frowned at her reflection.
“Fallen for the same type of guy.”
“Uh, hello. He’s a lawyer. I’ve never fallen for a lawyer before. You can’t go wrong with a name like Christian Bower the Second. He has a number at the end of his name.” She almost squealed the last part.
“Just wait, just watch. Something will happen. He’ll end up being a janitor at a law firm or . . .” She groaned a little. “Worse, he’ll steal your personal information and max out all your credit cards.”
Kristen laughed. “I do have bad luck with men, but the bad streak is over. I can just tell.”