Authors: LuAnn McLane
PRAISE FOR LuANN McLANE'S CRICKET CREEK NOVELS
“Sweet romance with small-town Southern charm.Â .Â .Â . McLane weaves together walks in the moonlight, stolen glances, and kisses under the stars with seduction and sizzling sex, populating the carefully crafted story with a cast of affable characters.”
“A wonderful series.”
âThe Reading Cafe
“A lovely, sweetly sexy, terrifically enjoyable read.Â .Â .Â . McLane's Cricket series is similar in style to Susan Wiggs's bestselling Lakeshore Chronicles.”
“McLane nails the charm, quirks, nosiness, friendliness, and sense of community you'd experience in a small Southern town as you walk the streets of Cricket Creek.”
âThat's What I'm Talking About
“[An] excellent series.”
âDebbie's Book Bag
“Visiting Cricket Creek, Kentucky, feels like coming home once again.”
RT Book Reviews
“LuAnn McLane has a rich and unique voice that kept me laughing out loud as I read.”
“McLane packs secrets, sex, and sparks of gentle humor in an inviting picnic basket of Southern charm.”
Ft.Myers & Southwest Florida
“Charming, romanticÂ .Â .Â . This new series should be a real hit!”
“No one does Southern love like LuAnn McLane!”
âThe Romance Dish
Written in the Stars: A Cricket Creek Novel
Walking on Sunshine: A Cricket Creek Novel
Sweet Harmony: A Cricket Creek Novel
Wildflower Wedding: A Cricket Creek Novel
“Mistletoe on Main Street” in
Christmas on Main Street
Moonlight Kiss: A Cricket Creek Novel
Whisper's Edge: A Cricket Creek Novel
Pitch Perfect: A Cricket Creek Novel
Catch of a Lifetime: A Cricket Creek Novel
Playing for Keeps: A Cricket Creek Novel
He's No Prince Charming
A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action
Trick My Truck but Don't Mess with My Heart
Dancing Shoes and Honky-Tonk Blues
Dark Roots and Cowboy Boots
“Hot Whisper” in
Driven by Desire
Love, Lust, and Pixie Dust
Hot Summer Nights
Taking Care of Business
Published by New American Library,
an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
This book is an original publication of New American Library.
Copyright Â© LuAnn McLane, 2016
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eBook ISBN 9781101989814
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.
This book is dedicated to brides-to-be.
May all of your wedding wishes come
I would like to take this opportunity to thank hair stylists for their creativity and hard work behind the chair. Getting pampered at a hair salon is a treat a woman treasures, especially on her wedding day. Thanks to Cara McLane for answering all of my many questions about the hair industry. Someday I will finally learn how to French-braid your hair.
Thanks so much to the entire editorial staff at New American Library. The gorgeous cover captures the heart of Cricket Creek, bringing the story to life. Thanks so much to the copy editors for the attention to detail and grammar and to sales and marketing for getting the book on the shelf. I couldn't ask for a better team! I want to give a special thanks to my wonderful editor, Danielle Perez. From brainstorming new ideas to tackling revisions, you continue to make me a better writer.
As always I want to give a heartfelt thanks to my agent, Jenny Bent. Your knowledge of the industry and confidence in my writing made my childhood dream of becoming an author a reality.
Thanks so very much to my loyal readers. From reading my stories to posting reviews, your continued support means the world to me. My goal is to bring you love, laughter, and of course a happy
White Lace and Promises
ophia Gordon, now just what in the world are you doin' reading
? For pity's sake, that's for my older clients, not for a young cutie pie like you.”
Sophia looked over at Carrie Ann through her foil-covered bangs. “Well, there's a recipe forâ” she began, but Carrie Ann tugged the magazine from her fingers so quickly that the salon chair swiveled sideways.
“This is what you should be reading, sweet pea.” Carrie Ann placed the latest issue of
in Sophia's hands.
Sophia gazed down at the scantily clad model on the cover and looked at the hair and makeup with a critical eye. “That eye shadow is way too shimmery.”
“Oh, forget about that and turn to page thirty.”
“Page thirty?” Sophia flipped through the magazine until she was staring at a hot male model lying in bed wearing nothing but boxer briefs and a wicked smile.
“Twenty-five surefire ways to drive your man wild?” When Sophia shook her head and laughed, the foils made a light tinny sound next to her ear. “Well, unfortunately, I don't have a man to drive wild.”
“I've seen you hanging out with handsome-as-sin Avery Dean a time or two. I'm pretty sure you could drive him wild all twenty-five ways and think of a few more to add to the list.”
“We're just friends,” Sophia insisted, but her pulse beat a little bit faster at the mere suggestion. She glanced at the article with renewed interest. Number two involved a feather trailing over certain body parts. “Oh my,” Sophia said when the image of Avery popped into her head. She squeezed her eyes shut but the image remained.
“These ideas are just silly.”
“Really? I think this falls into the category of don't knock it until you've tried it.” Carrie Ann looked at Sophia in the mirror. “My motto is to always be prepared.” She arched an eyebrow. “Know what I'm sayin'?”
Sophia chuckled at the owner of A Cut Above. In her mid-fifties, Carrie Ann Spencer had the hair and curves of a vintage pinup girl and a sassy Southern attitude to match the look. She'd been styling Sophia's hair since last summer when Sophia arrived in Cricket Creek, Kentucky, to help out at her pregnant sister-in-law's Walking on Sunshine Bistro after Mattie had been put on bed rest. “You crack me up.”
Carrie Ann fisted her hands on her hips and tilted her head. Her big auburn hair was so full of product that it barely moved. “I'm serious, girl. Hey, how about me and you head over to Sully's Tavern after your hair is all done up with those highlights? I'll be your wingwoman.”
“Have you forgotten that I'm heading back to New York City soon?”
“No, but if you ask me, you don't seem in any big hurry.” Carrie Ann took a seat in the chair beside her and swiveled it around. “But now that your mama, sister, and brother all live in Cricket Creek, I was hopin' that you might consider moving to this sweet little town too. I've grown fond of your smiling face here and when I have breakfast at the bistro.” She leaned in closer. “Don't tell Mattie I said so, but I think you've mastered her melt-in-your-mouth biscuits,” she said in a low voice. “I just add some strawberry jam and it's like there's a party in my mouth.”
“Oh, thank you, Carrie Ann. And you know I'm fond of you too.” Sophia shifted in her chair and inhaled deeply. Of course she'd thought about staying in Cricket Creek, especially recently. The peace and quiet of a small town drew her in more than she'd expected and she would sorely miss living in the same town as Garret, Grace, and her mother once she moved back to the city. “But Lily is nearly six months old and Mattie is back full-time at Walking on Sunshine. And while I love cooking and had enjoyed filling in as a chef, I'm a hair stylist and makeup artist. I've worked hard to develop my clientele, and it's time for me to head back to New York before I lose them. I really need to get ready for the June wedding season. I've already extended my stay way longer than I intended and my bosses are running out of patience with me. They will only hold my position open for so long before I'm permanently replaced at the salon.”
Carrie Ann pressed her deep red lips together and gave her a level look. “And just why did you extend your visit?” she asked, but continued without waiting for an answer. “Um, maybe because you want to stay in Cricket Creek?” She raised her eyebrows. “Hmm? And you could have a chair here.” She waved her arm in a wide arc. “I could certainly use someone with your reputation and skills. Girl, after you helped out with
updos for the Snow Ball dance, requests for you started pouring in.”
“You've mentioned that a time or two.”
“Or ten.” Carrie Ann gave her a slight grin.
While Sophia loved the little salon situated in the heart of Main Street and honestly didn't miss the drama of the bridezillas she had to deal with, her expertise was in updos and makeup for elaborate events and weddings. But how could she tell Carrie Ann that working at A Cut Above wouldn't be enough of a challenge without sounding uppity and rude?
“HeyÂ .Â .Â .” Carrie Ann raised her palms upward and inclined her head. “I know what you're thinkin'. You're used to the hustle and bustle of that fancy salon in New York City and this wouldn't be enough for someone with your skills.”
“Carrie AnnÂ .Â .Â .”
“Hear me out, sweet pea.”
“Okay.” Sophia gripped the magazine and and waited.
Carrie Ann nibbled on the inside of her cheek for a few seconds as if gathering her thoughts. “We've been slow today but A Cut Above still holds its own against the chains popping up outside of town. I have lots of loyal local clients and I could use a couple more stylists.” She put her hands on her knees and leaned forward. “But I've been tinkerin' with the idea of opening a salon up in Wedding Row. You know in that pretty strip of wedding shops overlookin' the river?”
Sophia nodded her foiled head and felt a warm flash of interest. “I've been up there with Grace. If I remember right, there's a florist, jewelry store, and lovely bridal boutique, among other things.”
“You're right. From This Moment is owned by Addison Monroe, daughter of Melinda Monroe, the famous financial guru.”
“I know.” Sophia nodded slowly. “UmÂ .Â .Â . Addison was engaged to my half brother Garret before she
married Reid Greenfield. It was a messy story in the tabloids until my mom's ex-husband came to Cricket Creek to straighten out the crazy lies. Rick Ruleman was a rock legend with a reputation to match, but he would never have had an affair with Garret's fiancÃ©e.” Sophia shook her head in disgust.
Carrie Ann slapped her hand to her forehead and winced. “Well, hell's bells, how in the world could I have forgotten about that little detail?”
“Addison and Garret are on great terms now.” Sophia lifted one shoulder. “My mom and Rick have mended their fences too. I never thought I'd see the day when he'd settle down in a small town.” Sophia chuckled. “Life is so weird.”
“Tell me about it. Did you ever think that your fashion model mama would marry a bass fisherman and run a fishin' camp for underprivileged kids?”
“Not in a million years. But she loves it.”
“How about your Grace swooping in and helping Mason Mayfield save his craft brewery?” Carrie Ann picked up the mixing bowls and walked over to the sink.
“Now that I would have believed. Unlike me, Grace loves a challenge.”
“That's a whole lotta movin' and shakin' going on. I'd say your family is pretty doggone awesome.”
“Why, thank you. I totally agree,” she said with a firm nod.
“And they're all here. This is why you need to consider staying in Cricket Creek.” Carrie Ann walked over and checked one of the foils. “Not done processing yet.” She folded it back into place.
“Carrie Ann, why are you so adamant about me staying?” she asked, but had an inkling of where this conversation could be heading.
“What would you say to opening up a wedding-themed salon as partners? I'm thinking I'd like to call it White Lace and Promises,” she said in a dreamy tone.
Sophia's heart thudded with excitement but about a dozen questions popped into her head all at once. While her mom and sister were all about taking financial risks, Sophia was much more conservative. “Would there be enough weddings to keep the business brisk?”
“Good question. I spoke with Reid Greenfield's sister Sara who said that she's getting big barn weddings booked from Nashville, Tennessee, and Lexington, Kentucky. Sara's wedding reception venue with the gorgeous river setting is growing by leaps and bounds. She's also booking more intimate receptions at Wine and Diner right here on Main Street. We might be a small town but we're close to some big cities. And don't forget that there's a convention center down by the baseball stadium now. I'm sure there will be some black-tie events, which could mean even more business. Sophia, sugar, with your expertise and reputation I truly think the clientele would grow quickly.” Her voice picked up speed and her hands did the talking as she became more and more excited. “The businesses up on Wedding Row support and feed off one another. There's a shop available for lease right next to Flower Power and it's located just two doors down from the bridal boutique! And it's already set up to be a salon. Can you believe it?” She paused to take a breath. “So what do you think? Not that you have to give me an answer right now. But thoughtsÂ .Â .Â . Give me some feedback.”
“I think the idea has potential, for sure.”
“So you're interested?”
“I'mÂ .Â .Â . intrigued.”
Carrie Ann smacked her knee. “Sweet! I've been thinkin' about this ever since Wedding Row opened up but I didn't have anybody like you who could take the reins for me. And I have to keep on top of things here at A Cut Above. My mother opened this shop and I want to keep the doors open in her honor.” She raised her arms skyward. “This is so perfect! We definitely
need to head to Sully's or down to the taproom at the brewery and celebrate.”
“Carrie AnnÂ .Â .Â . I said I'm intrigued.” Sophia carefully added a note of caution to her tone. “I'm not making any promises, though.”
“Okay thenÂ .Â .Â .” Carrie Ann flipped her palm over and put her index finger to her opposite pinkie. “Let's start a list of reasons why you should do this. You'd be your own boss. I would basically let you run the whole thing. You'd live in the same town as your family. The cost of living is nothing compared to New York City. You already told me that you love your condo overlooking the river.” She leaned forward and put her hand next to her mouth and whispered, “And you already know that most of the hot Cricket Creek Cougars baseball players live there. Thought I'd toss in that tidbit.”
“I hadn't noticed,” Sophia said.
“OhÂ .Â .Â . well, maybe that's because someone else in this town has caught your eye. And that someone just might be Avery Dean.”
“PffftÂ .Â .Â . no way.” She pointed to her eyes. “Not caught. We're just friends.”
“Right. And I'm a natural redhead.”
Laughing, Sophia pointed to her own hair. “And I'm
a natural blonde.”
Carrie Ann sat back in her chair. “You're gonna look that way because of my expertise. Actually, those highlights will be just the perfect little boost to your gorgeous caramel color. A very Jennifer Aniston look. You kinda remind me of herÂ .Â .Â . So pretty but not in a flashy way.”
“Coming from one of the flashiest women I know.”
“At my age I have to pile on makeup and bling to camouflage my flaws.”
“Oh, stop! You're gorgeous.”
“Ah, bless your heart, Sophia. But, sweetheart, you're a natural beauty.”
“The girl next door, right?” While Sophia didn't have the stunning long-legged beauty of her mother and sister, Grace, she was content with her looks, for the most part, anyway. Although it was irritating that Grace could eat whatever she damn well pleased and not gain an ounce. Having a slow metabolism really sucked. While she also didn't share the big personalities of her mother and sister, Sophia was happy to stay in the background. She'd much rather do hair and makeup than be in front of the camera. But being the quiet one also gave her the ability to get away with some pretty epic practical jokes. Garret and Grace were always blamed for things first, so there was a definite upside to flying under the radar. But she thought about Carrie Ann's offer and wondered if it was about time that she busted out of her comfort zone. But decisions didn't come easy to her. Here she was a hair stylist and it had taken her two weeks to decide to add a few highlights.
“Why so quiet? Did I say something wrong?”
“Oh no.” Sophia shook her head. “Not at all. I'm just trying to process what you've thrown in my lap.”
“You mean the twenty-five ways to drive your man wild?” Carrie Ann asked with a chuckle.
“No, I'm just a little blown away that you'd want to go into business together,” Sophia replied, but glanced down at the article. Visions of Avery slid back into her brain.
Carrie Ann stood up and checked the foils again. “About another ten minutes.” She patted Sophia's shoulder. “No rush on your answer. It's good enough for me right now that you're considering my offer,” she said and hurried off to answer the ringing phone.
Because Sophia had come in rather late everyone else was gone for the day. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror and winced, thinking that she looked like an alien Medusa with the silver foils sticking out
everywhere. The blond highlights were a bit of a whim but she was glad she'd finally made the decision to go for it. Of course, hair stylists should always be up for something different, but change, even something as simple as highlights, took Sophia longer than most people and it was so frustrating sometimes.