Authors: Kristan Higgins
MY ONE AND ONLY
“[A] funny, poignant romance….
Readers will be cheering for Harper all the way.”
ALL I EVER WANTED
“Higgins has a special talent
for creating characters readers love….
Fun, charming and heartfelt.”
RT Book Reviews,
THE NEXT BEST THING
“A heartwarming, multi-generational tale of lost love,
broken hearts and second chances.”
“I felt all of the emotions and was
drawn into the story as if I was there.”
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
Winner—2010 Romance Writers of America RITA
“Cheeky, cute, and satisfying, Higgins’s romance
is perfect entertainment for a girl’s night in.”
“Kristan Higgins proves that she is emerging as one of the
most creative and honest voices in contemporary romance.”
JUST ONE OF THE GUYS
“Higgins provides an amiable romp
that ends with a satisfying lump in the throat.”
CATCH OF THE DAY
Winner—2008 Romance Writers of America RITA
“A touching story brimming with smart dialogue,
sympathetic characters, an engaging narrative and the
amusing, often self-deprecating observations of the heroine.
It’s a novel with depth and a great deal of heart.”
RT Book Reviews
, Top Pick, 4½ stars
Hello! Thank you so much for choosing
Until There Was You.
Once again, you’ll find a beautiful New England town, a heroine with a huge heart (and a huge dog, in this case) and a hero to swoon over. The story gives a slightly different take on a classic theme—the return of the bad boy. Now, we all love bad boys, don’t we? I was amazed at how much fun it was to write one…that hot guy from high school with the motorcycle, the tattoo and the bad attitude. Is it any wonder that Posey, the scrawny kid who watched from the sidelines, fell for him? He was out of her league, barely noticed her…but he managed to break her heart just the same. Now he’s back and seems exactly as appealing—and potentially dangerous—as he was back then.
This book contains a first for me—the hero’s point of view! As the widowed father of a teenage girl, Liam lives in fear that his daughter is going to fall for a guy who’s just like he was. Overprotective? Just a little! He’s come back to Bellsford, New Hampshire, to be closer to family. But Liam hasn’t counted on just how much his past still matters…especially to Posey, who has to figure out if Liam’s any different than he ever was. I had a lot of fun examining the themes of what it means to belong in this book, to be chosen and loved, as well as how events from the past shape the present…and the future.
There are a lot of great secondary characters here, too—Jon, was a special favorite, as well as Brianna, the mouthy teenage girl Posey befriends. And I had such fun with Guten Tag! I hope you’ll love
Until There Was You,
and once again, thank you so much!
Eternal thanks to Maria Carvainis for her sure-handed guidance of my career, as well as to Chelsea Gilmore, Martha Guzman and Lyndsey Hemphill for all they do for me. At HQN Books and Harlequin Enterprises, thanks to my brilliant and kindhearted editor, Keyren Gerlach, as well as to Tara Parsons, Margaret Marbury O’Neill and the rest of the Harlequin family for their tremendous enthusiasm and support.
Thanks also to…
Kim Castillo, world’s best PR assistant and my favorite breakfast buddy; the wonderful, good-looking gang at CTRWA; Shaunee Cole, Karen Pinco and Kelly Morse, who once again helped me kick this bad boy off, and who made me have Liam be a motorcycle hottie instead of something girly; Jimmy Spencer, who took me out on his Harley (I’m free whenever you want to do that again, Jimmy, just saying); my dear mom, Noel Higgins, who proofreads all my manuscripts (and gave me life and raised me and all that other good stuff); Annette Willis who once again answered questions on family law; Christine Michaud, forever my consultant on all things Red Sox (may they never defeat the Yankees again so long as I draw breath); Terence Keenan, who filled in all the blanks on motorcycle parts and forced me to watch Orange County Motors; the wonderful Diana Phung, who sends me all sorts of good stuff to keep the batteries charged. And very special thanks to Dena Umberger, Lillian Lanouette and Joe Avellar, who shared their experiences on being adopted.
Biggest thanks of all to my beautiful, wonderful, brilliant kids, whom I love more than I could ever put into words, and to my husband, who is simply the best man I know. Don’t know how I got so lucky with you three, but I’m very grateful I did.
And to Digger, my faithful dog, who was by my side for every book I’ve written to date. Thanks, old friend. Miss you.
My One and Only
All I Ever Wanted
The Next Best Thing
Too Good to Be True
Just One of the Guys
Catch of the Day
Fools Rush In
This book is dedicated to Pauline Keenan,
my mother-in-law, who raised the man I love and
raised him right, who loves her grandchildren with all
her heart and who brings me chocolate whenever she
comes to visit. I owe you a lot more than a book, Polly!
VERY WOMAN HAS A
fantasy about running into the man who broke her heart. In such a fantasy, she’d be walking down the street, her well-dressed and gorgeous husband (let’s say George Clooney, shall we, circa
) caressing her, perhaps nuzzling her neck because he can’t help himself. She’d be wearing something fabulous, her hair would be glossy and perfect, she and Clooney would have just left the nicest restaurant in town, perhaps, or the poshest jewelry shop, because he
on buying her yet another token of his love—and then, oh, my goodness, who’s that? Why it’s
the first man she ever loved, the one who didn’t just break her young and loyal heart, but shattered it. He’s not looking so good these days. No, the years have not been kind. He’s gray—or, better yet, balding—and slackly overweight, his posture hunched. He looks at her, recognizing immediately that the biggest mistake of his life was dumping her. Pleasantries will be exchanged. Clooney will shake his hand, giving Adored Wife a wry look
, and as the happy couple walks away to their snazzy car, the heartbreaker of old is already forgotten. But
will gaze longingly after her, wondering how he ever could’ve been so blind.
That would’ve been nice. Much nicer, Posey Osterhagen acknowledged, than being dressed in the waitress uniform of Guten Tag, her parents’ restaurant—dirndl, ruffled skirt and vest embroidered with dwarves (yes, dwarves), not to mention the green tights and painted red clogs. Cheeks bulging with the potato dumpling she’d just crammed into her mouth, as she was at the near-fainting part of her flea-like metabolism. The back door opened and there he was, standing right in front of her.
Liam Declan Murphy, the first man she’d ever loved, and the only man who’d ever broken her heart.
No Clooney. No jewelry. Just an empty kitchen in an aging German restaurant and a fist-size dumpling practically splitting her cheeks.
Posey’s mind blipped into the blue screen of death—all data erased. Fatal error. Speaking was clearly not an option.
His eyes were still that unnerving shade of clear, glacier green. Black hair showed no signs of gray or thinning. Still tall—
obviously, Posey, people don’t usually shrink in their thirties.
Still radiating his bad-boy
You want me/I ignore you
vibe. Oh…bieber. This was just not good.
Chew, Posey, chew,
her brain instructed. She obeyed with difficulty. It was a big dumpling.
Liam was dressed in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, pretty much the same thing he wore back in high school, if memory served. And memory seemed to be wicked clear where Liam Murphy was concerned. He’d come to Bellsford to live with an uncle after getting out of juvie (squee!—okay, okay, she’d been fifteen, it had seemed uber-hot back then) for car theft. Rode an old motorcycle (come on!) and, as legend had it, had turned quite a few girls into women (gack). But, to everyone’s surprise, he’d fallen for the squeakiest-clean girl in school, just like a plotline on
Beverly Hills 90210,
Posey’s favorite show back then. When Emma Tate had gone off to college in California, Liam had followed. Eventually, they’d gotten married. It had been in the paper, before Emma’s parents had moved to Maine.
And here he was.
“Liam!” cried her mother. Stacia Osterhagen, six foot two of Germanic engineering, tromped into the kitchen, rattling the stacked dishware. “Posey! Look who’s here! We forgot to tell you! Max! Liam’s here! Liam, sweetheart, why didn’t you come in the front?”
“Force of habit, I guess,” he said with a slight smile at her mother.
“Good to see you, son,” Max said heartily, shaking their visitor’s hand.
Liam Declan Murphy.
Holy Elvis Presley.
“You remember Liam, don’t you, honey?” Stacia said.
Cheeks still bulging, Posey nodded. Could she look any more ridiculous? Not that she was exactly gifted with girliness when it came to clothes—her work required sturdy stuff, so, sure, there was a lot of flannel, a lot of Carhartt. But even that would be better than her uniform (same one from high school, still regrettably roomy in the bust, as Germans didn’t take small chests into account when designing clothes, apparently).
“Hey,” he said with the same disinterested tone she remembered with unfortunate clarity. “How are you, Cordelia?” His tone implied he really didn’t care. And
. That was another thing. He’d always called her by her real name, for some reason…a name Posey hated. Honestly—bad enough to have been stick-figure skinny in high school, but to bear the name Cordelia Wilhelmina Osterhagen (named for a half-blind great-aunt who’d died by falling into a well)… Obviously, she’d had more than her fair share of mocking.
“I’m good,” she squeaked, finally swallowing the last of the dumpling. “Hi. How are you?”
“Good! Good. Um…how’s Emma?”
“She died,” he answered coolly.
Posey’s head jerked back in shock. “What? Are you kidding?”
He gave her a glacial look. “No.”
How had she missed this news? “But…when did this happen?”
“It’ll be three years in October.”
That explained something, at least. Two and a half years ago, in October, Posey had taken a rare vacation and spent a few weeks in North Carolina. And she’d been a latecomer to Facebook, so if there’d been chatter, she’d missed it. And she and Emma hadn’t exactly run with the same people.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, her face burning.
Crikey! She’d been a nice girl. A
nice girl and a very popular girl back in high school, when such things seemed mutually exclusive. “So, what happened?” Posey asked. Then, aware that perhaps this was none of her business, she added, “I mean, you don’t have to tell me. It’s… I don’t have to know. It’s your…private, um…thing.”
“Leukemia,” Liam answered.
Posey flinched. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“A tragedy,” Max added. “Such a sweet girl.”
“He told us at Home Depot the other day,” Stacia said. “You know how the fan in the upstairs bathroom has been broken for years? Well, we thought it was time to finally fix it, since Gretchen’s coming home, and there we were and who did we see but this handsome boy! We were so sad to hear about Emma. So sad.”
Granted, not sad enough to tell Posey, despite the fact that Stacia called her every morning at 8:15. Then again, not passing on big news was a family tradition. Stacia had told Posey about Carol Antonelli’s gallbladder surgery in relentless detail, as well as how much they’d saved by driving forty miles to buy coffee at Stop & Shop instead of Hannaford’s, sure. But bigger news—deaths, births, marriages, etc.—tended to fall through the cracks.
A sudden flash of memory caused a lump to come to Posey’s throat—Emma at Sweetie Sue’s Ice Cream Parlor, loading up a waffle cone with four scoops instead of three, a conspiratorial wink as she handed it over the counter.
“I’m really sorry,” she said more quietly.
“Thanks,” Liam said, still staring with that cold, disinterested gaze.
Posey looked away, torn between sympathy, guilt for not knowing about Emma, trepidation (Liam had done some damage, after all), and, yes, lust. “You guys have a kid, right?” she asked. At least she remembered that.
“Nicole. She’s fifteen now.”
“Wow. Fifteen. That’s… Wow. Fifteen.”
Liam didn’t answer, but his look was loaded with that same disdain Posey so well remembered.
Once upon a time, when he was channeling Bono, Liam had worked right here in Guten Tag, a miraculous and agonizing time for Posey. The fact that the Osterhagens had given Liam a job at a time when his reputation was questionable (and fascinating) hadn’t caused Liam to warm up to Posey, however. Nope. He always treated her with the same interest he might give a speck of dust.
At first, anyway.
Whatever. Mom was gabbling away. “Liam, sweetheart, you haven’t changed a bit! You have to stay for a drink! You have to! Did you eat? We’ll feed you. I insist. Max, you insist, too, don’t you?”
“I also insist,” Max said, smiling.
“Just a drink,” Liam said. “I have to get back to my daughter.”
Just then Otto, a longtime waiter and accordion player at Guten Tag, poked his head through the door to the dining room. “Max, Stacia, the Schmottlachs are leaving.”
“Posey, make Liam at home, would you? Liam, this will just take a minute. Bruce and Shirley are our best friends. You remember them, don’t you?”
Liam’s mouth pulled into a reluctant smile as Stacia grabbed Max by the hand and towed him into the dining room. Said smile caused Posey’s girl parts to clench in a warm, strong squeeze.
Her stomach began flipping like an overexcited dolphin. Alone. She was
with Hottie McSin, widower. Oh, crikey, that wasn’t nice. She shouldn’t be lusting after the poor guy. Except the words
didn’t seem to apply to Liam Murphy. She swallowed, the sound louder than a gunshot in the now-quiet kitchen.
Meanwhile, God’s gift to women—because, yes, he was that good…all smoldering male beauty made all the more inaccessible by that touch of disdain—folded his arms and looked around the kitchen.
It was hard to fathom that bright, bouncy Emma Tate was gone. Posey swallowed again, her throat thick. “How’s your daughter handling things?”
“Pretty well.” He allowed her a brief glance.
“So, what brings you here? Just visiting?”
“No. We moved to be closer to Emma’s parents.” He was
Staying? “Oh. Um…that’s nice. Good. I mean, it’s good to be close to family. Good for children, I mean.”
He didn’t answer. Didn’t ask what she’d been up to, if she was married, if she had kids. Of course not. Apparently he was still way too cool to care about—
“So, what have you been up to, Cordelia?”
Oops. Strike that. “Oh, I’m just filling in tonight. I own an architectural salvage company,” she said, well aware of the pride that tinged her voice. He didn’t respond, just gave a half nod. “What about you?”
“I’m a mechanic. I build custom motorcycles.”
he was a motorcycle mechanic. This would enable him to wear leather and smell like oil and have large throbbing machines between his thighs. At the image, Posey’s legs weakened.
It wouldn’t do to wrestle him to the floor here in her parents’ kitchen. But he’d always had that effect on her—and every other female. He was like the Death Star’s tractor beam, pulling in whatever the heck it wanted. “Motorcycles. Neat-o,” she managed.
Liam’s glance bounced around the kitchen once more. He sighed, perhaps irked that there was no one else to talk to, then looked back at her. “You married?”
“Um, no. Nope. Not married. Not yet, I guess I should say. I, um…well, you know. Haven’t met the right guy.” Oh, bieber. That made her sound…unwanted. “Not yet. I mean, actually I’m seeing someone…um, and, you know, I came close once or twice, but—”
“Came close to what?” Stacia asked, banging through the kitchen doors once more.
Posey jumped. “Nothing,” she muttered, tugging at her dwarf-embroidered vest.
“Cordelia was telling me about when she almost got married,” Liam said. Was that derision in his voice? Probably.
“What? You almost
” Stacia pressed a large hand to her ample bosom. “My own child, and I don’t know this—”
“Mom, stop. It was…you know.” Posey took a deep breath. “Ron. You remember.”
“The one with the rash?”
Posey grimaced. “It cleared up very quickly.”
“He was the one who turned gay, right? Liam, honestly. Posey just cannot find a normal man, not that she tries very hard, working out at that junkyard—”
“It’s not a junkyard. It’s architectural salvage.”
And I am seeing a normal man, I just don’t want you to keel over if I tell you who.
“I always say, if she’d just clean up a little, some man would see what a beautiful, sweet—” Stacia broke off, a religious gleam beginning in her sky-blue eyes. Ruh-roh. Posey knew that look. It was the look of Matchmaker, one Posey had seen far too many times over the years. Ron the Gay with the Rash had been one of Stacia’s better picks, actually. There’d been Carol Antonelli’s nephew, who’d taken her to McDonald’s on their first date and didn’t even pay for her Big Mac. The restaurant-supply guy who’d turned out to have two families, one in New Hampshire, one in Delaware. And now, the look of Matchmaker with Liam.
Don’t do it, Mom,
Posey begged silently, hunching her shoulders to ward off the blow.
The blow came, though not the one she expected. “You’ll have to come back and meet my niece, Liam,” Stacia said. “Gretchen? From
The Barefoot Fraulein?
On the Cooking Network? She’s my late sister’s daughter. We’re so proud of her! Have you ever seen her show?”
“Can’t say that I have,” he murmured. He glanced again at Posey, eyes dropping to her costume. Just in case she forgot that she looked like an idiot.
“Well, you’ll have to come by,” Stacia said. “We were just thrilled when she told us she wanted to come work here! And she’s such a sweet, sweet girl.” Mom paused cunningly. “Very pretty, too.” Gretchen
very pretty, Posey would give her that. She looked much like Stacia—tall, blonde, blue-eyed, voluptuous—German beauty at its finest. Posey, on the other hand, was adopted—five foot three (five two and a half, why lie?), a hundred and seven pounds, dark, short, difficult hair and brown eyes. As for Gretchen’s sweetness… Posey stifled a snort.
“We could use a little help, to be honest,” her mom continued. “Ever since that—” Stacia took a meaningful breath “—that
restaurant moved in down the street, business has been a little slow.”