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Authors: Tracy March

Should've Said No

BOOK: Should've Said No
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Should’ve Said No
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Loveswept eBook Original

Copyright © 2015 by Tracy March

Excerpt from
Just Say Maybe
by Tracy March copyright © 2015 by Tracy March

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark and the LOVESWEPT colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
Just Say Maybe
by Tracy March. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

eBook ISBN 9781101884997

Cover design: Diane Luger

Cover photograph: Ammentorp Photography / Shutterstock

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Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Dedication

Acknowledgments

By Tracy March

About the Author

The Editor’s Corner

Excerpt from
Just Say Maybe

Chapter 1

After three days of sunup to sundown driving in a wobbly U-Haul truck, Lindsey Simms worried that her hands might be permanently stuck in the ten-and-two position. She’d had no idea what she was getting into when she started this road trip. A year of unemployment had led to lots of changes in her life, but this one was the craziest by far:
1839 miles, to be exact.

Heavyhearted, she’d left her big-city life in D.C. in the rearview mirror just two weeks after she was offered a job in Thistle Bend, Colorado—population 1519. Now she’d finally arrived, the truck packed with everything she owned, small-town life straight ahead.

Welcome to Thistle Bend, Wildflower Capital of Colorado.

Lindsey gazed at the sign next to the two-lane road, fighting the emotion welling in her throat. The view might be spectacular—soaring peaks and rolling ranch land surrounding a tiny town nestled in the valley—but nearly everyone and everything she knew were more than a thousand miles away. How could she possibly be happy here?

At least there’ll be wildflowers.

And a paycheck.

She gripped the wheel of the U-Haul as if she were still trying to keep it on the road through the narrow, winding mountain passes. She’d never driven anything bigger than her grandma’s 1970 Cadillac DeVille convertible, the car she’d gotten around in during her high school days in Richmond, Virginia. The memory tugged at the corners of her mouth, coaxing a winsome smile. Spending summers with the top down had brightened her long blond hair with sun-kissed highlights, and kept her slender arms tan. Her mom had always said that Lindsey’s eyes got two shades greener in the summertime.

Lindsey had left the Cadillac behind when she headed for college in D.C., then landed a job at the Smithsonian and lived in the city—no car required. Thank goodness she hadn’t had that kind of debt hanging over her when she got laid off a year ago. Even so, her slim savings account had dwindled too fast, and she’d found out who her real friends were when she couldn’t afford to go out anymore.

She squinted at the sky, the sunset painting blazing streaks of orange, yellow, and pink. Around the next curve, a herd of cows blocked the road, leisurely making their way across. She slowed the U-Haul to a stop behind several other cars and SUVs.

Seriously?

Windows down, she took a deep breath of the cool, thin mountain air. Eager to connect with someone familiar, she grabbed her phone, snapped a picture of the black-and-white cows, and set it to send along with a text to Becca, her best friend back in D.C.

My new neighbors. Eat mor chikin?

LOL. They’re blocking the road?

Yep.

Tell them to mooove it or it’s steak for dinner!

I wish. Miss u.

Lindsey’s heart thudded, and not just because of the altitude. She might’ve arrived, but this was no place like home. No high-rises. No monuments. No museums. At least until she got the Thistle Bend Mountain Heritage Museum up and running. Despite the fresher air here, she hoped this would be a short detour and she’d get back on track. Proving herself here would pave her way to landing a museum job back in D.C. Or even Richmond. She’d lived her entire life in those two cities. Returning to either place would feel like going home.

Chewing on a piece of gum that had lost its flavor hours ago, she tipped her head back and stared at the dingy ceiling of the truck cab. Had she lost her mind deciding to come to a place where cows blocked the roads? She’d really had no choice, since she was determined to utilize her degree in Museum Studies, and work in the career field she loved.

Lindsey rolled her head to the side and caught sight of the envelope tucked beneath her purse on the seat, the return address written in her great-aunt’s pointed script.

Oscar and Tansy Karlsson
103 Checkermallow Lane
Thistle Bend, Colorado 81224

Lindsey had seen her great-aunt and -uncle only twice in her life, but her grandma mentioned them every so often, mostly questioning how they were able to keep a restaurant in business with only one entrée on the menu.

“Not everyone likes fried chicken,” she’d say every time without fail. “And if chicken’s the only thing you serve, then why call the place The Canary?” She’d shake her head. “I always figured Oscar’s family was a couple eggs short of a dozen.”

“It’s a mining reference, Grandma,” Lindsey explained. “Hasn’t the place been open since the coal mining days?”

“Lord knows how. That restaurant keeps them busy
all
the time—even with just chicken to cook. But Tansy did it to herself. When she accepted Oscar’s proposal, I warned her she’d be marrying that restaurant, too.”

Lindsey reached for the envelope and pulled out the card she’d received last week.

Dear Lindsey,
Your recent thank-you note was sweet, yet unnecessary. All we did was share the news about the opportunity at the new Thistle Bend Mountain Heritage Museum. You landed the job! We’re excited to have another family member in town, but please remember…no one can find out that you’re related to a Karlsson. Keep that confidential, and things will go well for you in Thistle Bend.
Fondly,
Aunt Tansy and Uncle Oscar

Curious about the all the mystery, Lindsey had called her aunt Tansy to chat. Come to find out, Tansy served on the town council. “You got the job because of your education and experience,” Tansy had said. “Not because you’re related to someone in high places. We want people to give you the credit you deserve. I assure you, things will work out better if you don’t tell anyone you’re a Karlsson.”

The wording in Tansy’s note had given Lindsey the strange feeling that there was more to it than that. It wouldn’t be long before she found out if she was right. Not one for keeping secrets, she’d reluctantly agreed to her great-aunt’s request. She was confident she could prove herself on the job no matter who had put in a good word for her along the way. But Tansy had insisted, and Lindsey didn’t want to be at odds with her great-aunt and -uncle—the only people she kind of knew in Thistle Bend.

What could keeping the secret really hurt, after all? Lindsey and her great-aunt and -uncle were distant relatives. Tansy was her grandmother’s sister. If anyone cared to—and Lindsey couldn’t imagine why they would—they’d have to do some digging to connect her to Tansy and Oscar Karlsson. Even then, there was no blood relation between them. Lindsey had been adopted as an infant, becoming the only child of her loving and supportive parents. So loving and supportive that they’d offered all kinds of assistance while she’d been unemployed. They’d even invited her to come back and live in her old bedroom upstairs in the white-brick colonial where she’d grown up. Lindsey adored her parents, but at twenty-eight, she was determined not to move back in with them. Dedicated to making it on her own, she had thanked them, pinched her pennies tighter, and declined.

Lindsey put the card back in the envelope. Since the cows blocking the road were in no hurry, she checked the printed map and directions to the cottage she’d rented. The map of the entire town fit neatly on one page, every street name and landmark legible. She bunched her lips and concentrated on the circle she’d drawn on the grid:
410 Primrose Street.
In a mile or two she could park the U-Haul and get started on the journey that would lead her back to D.C.

After the last cow stepped off the pavement, Lindsey put the truck in gear and rounded the bend, to find a large, reasonably modern school complex set away from the road on her right.

Thistle Bend School. Welcoming Grades K–12.

Lindsey read the sign twice, the reality of small town life sinking in.
One
school for all the kids?
The
school appeared nice and well kept—flanked by a playground, a soccer field, and a baseball diamond where, at the moment, people were gathered watching an adult softball game. A cacophony of cheers and boos resounded from the field, rising into the twilight. The scene reminded Lindsey of summer evenings she’d spent playing kickball on the National Mall with her team from the Smithsonian.

Next she passed the modest-sized Center for the Performing Arts, pleased to see that there was one. The front of the building formed a stage, and a large lawn stretched out before it. Signs advertised a summer concerts-on-the-lawn series. Lindsey perked up. Could there be hope that Thistle Bend offered some of the activities she’d enjoyed in D.C., just on a much smaller scale?

BOOK: Should've Said No
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