All Because I Met You ebook
All Because I Met You ebook
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- Best Friends to Lovers
- Steamy Small Town Romance
- Friends with Benefits
Best friends: Check. Roommates: Check. Lovers? Maybe
Milo Amato has had his heart broken one too many times and now refuses to do no strings attached relationships. Ever. So when he suggests it to his best friend, he never dreamed she would take it seriously. He was joking. Or was he? Now that she's kissed him, and feelings he thought he squashed resurface, he battles between what his heart and body want and what they need.
Best friends: Check.
Harper Flynn is tired. Tired of taking care of her alcoholic mom. Tired of online dating and the disastrous dates. Mostly, she's tired of her recent dry spell. After a night of taking care of herself, her best friend and roommate not only makes her aware he heard her, but also offers to help her out. Never looking at Milo as more than a friend, his suggestion opens her eyes to the possibilities, and she goes for it. Except...he had been kidding.
Milo Amato has had his heart broken one too many times and now refuses to do no strings attached relationships. Ever. When he suggests it to his best friend, he never dreamed she would take it seriously. He was joking around with her. Or was he? Now that she's kissed him, and feelings he thought he squashed in high school resurface, he battles between what his heart and body want and what they need.
With each scorching kiss and tender touch, deep-rooted feelings unravel, making their friends with benefits agreement complicated, and threatens their long-term friendship that has kept them both from falling apart.
All Because I Met You is the newest installment in the sexy small town series.
Intro Into Chapter 1
Intro Into Chapter 1
Harper Flynn had been on a shit-ton of bad dates in her quest to find love, but this one might very well take the cake. Her first clue should have been the green suspenders. It wasn’t even St Patrick’s Day. It was the third week of May. Normally she could look beyond a fashion faux pas, if it weren’t for the buffalo sauce chilling on the side of his mouth, or that he’d been talking about his ex for the last twenty-two minutes and counting.
Harper pushed the lone cherry tomato around her plate, wishing she liked the red balls of ick, so she could drown out her date’s incessant talking with her chewing. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough money in the world to make her put that in her mouth.
“And she took my dog. What kind of heartless monster do you have to be to take a man’s best friend from him?”
“Did you try talking to her?” Harper asked. The date had already taken a nosedive off a cliff. If the guy needed a therapist for the next hour, it wasn’t like she had anything better to do.
“I did. But she didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. Just because she paid the adoption fees. Like just because she has money that makes her better than me.”
Shit. That meant she was probably paying for her own dinner tonight. Thank heavens she already paid her portion of the rent this month, or she’d be cutting it close.
“I just…” His lip quivered. “Miss her so much.”
Oh God, he was crying. Harper shifted uncomfortably in her chair, pulling down the skirt she wasted thirty bucks on, and took a deep breath. “Your ex?”
“No, screw her. I’m talking about Sheila, my baby.” He took out his phone, scrolled for a second, then turned the screen to Harper. A drooling bulldog stared back at her. “She was the best.” He scrolled to another picture. This one of Sheila wearing a sombrero. And he kept scrolling.
After the nine hundredth picture, Harper smiled and excused herself to the bathroom. She hurried away from the table and breathed a sigh of relief when the door closed behind her. She plopped her bag on the sink and stared at her reflection in the mirror. “You need to stop saying yes to every guy who asks you out.”
“Bad date?” A blonde came out of the stall and went to the sink next to Harper.
“Bad doesn’t even begin to describe it.”
The woman squirted soap in her hand and turned the water on. Her head tilted toward the far right. “There’s always the window.”
Harper never had to resort to climbing out a window to escape a bad date, but there was a first time for everything. She looked down at her skirt. Not exactly ideal, but it’s not like she was in heels. Being five eight, she avoided giving herself the extra height and always opted for a comfortable pair of flats.
If she didn’t mind possibly giving a show to some unsuspecting bathroom patron, she could totally haul her ass out the window.
“Tempting,” Harper said.
“Whatever you decide, good luck.”
“Thanks.” Harper watched the woman leave and was halfway to the window when she came to a halt. “Really, you’re going to resort to this?” she said to herself. She slipped her phone out of her bag and dialed the one person who always had her back.
Milo, her roommate and best friend since sixth grade, answered on the second ring.
“Aren’t you on a date?” he asked.
“Yes, and I need you to call me in five and pretend it’s an emergency.”
He laughed. Loud. “Another winner, huh? Let me guess, mouth chewer and his parents still pay his bills.”
“No, not that. Okay, what about…oh I got it! In between jobs and is thinking about following his dream of owning an alpaca farm.”
“Are you done?”
“At least tell me if I’m hot?”
“Just call me in five minutes.” She hung up the phone, made sure the ringer was on full volume, and shoved it into her bag. Not even bothering to check her makeup in the mirror—what was the point—she headed back to her date.
He sat up when she approached, and at least he acknowledged her. He put his phone down and held a half empty glass of liquor that he did not have when she’d left for the bathroom.
“I started to wonder if you fell in,” he said, and her eyes widened before cautiously taking her seat.
“Nope. A woman had a stain on her shirt. I was helping her get it out.”
Don or Ron—she couldn’t remember—picked up his phone again. “I have more pictures I want you to see.”
She mentally sighed as she settled in for the slideshow of Sheila the drooling bulldog. Five minutes had surely gone by. Where the hell was Milo? The jerk was probably taking his sweet ass time on purpose. She was going to strangle him later if he didn’t—
Her phone rang, and she fumbled for it.
She snatched it out of her bag and answered, pretending to listen for a minute. “Oh no! Really?”
“He’s a spitter, isn’t he? Spitting all over your food while he’s yammering on and on.”
“I can be right there. It’s no problem.”
“Nail biter? Talking about the ex?”
“Oh! That’s it, isn’t it?”
“Okay. I’ll see you soon.” She hung up the phone before Milo could make any more guesses and stood.
Don or Ron looked at her, eyebrows pinching above the bridge of his nose.
“Something came up,” she said. “I am so sorry, but I have to run.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes. I mean, it will be. It’s a family thing. I had a lovely evening.”
She turned, and he called her name. She spun back around.
“We haven’t gotten the check yet, but if my calculations are right, you owe thirty-two dollars and thirteen cents.”
Did he have a calculator on his person she didn’t see him use? She’d totally called this earlier in the evening. She should have left right then and there. With a sigh, she reached into her bag, retrieved her wallet, and took out two twenties. She placed them down on the table and pointed at the money. “Just because I left extra doesn’t mean that you skimp on the tip. Got it?”
He looked at her like she was nuts, but she didn’t care. She’d waitressed for years and knew what it was like working for tips. He nodded, and she gave a final wave before hightailing it the hell out of there.
In the parking lot, she sighed a breath of relief. Her phone buzzed, but she ignored it. It was probably Milo looking for more details. She’d tell him all about it when she got home. She slipped into the driver’s seat and got the hell out of there.
Her phone buzzed again, and she came to a stop at a red light. She glanced over at the screen, but it wasn’t Milo’s name flashing back. The moment of relief she had vanished as the familiar number flashed over and over again.
Couldn’t she just have one day? Just one. That’s all she was asking. She let out a breath and answered the phone. “Hey, Jerry.” She didn’t even need the bartender to say a word. Mom’s slurred speech was loud and clear in the background. “I’ll be there in about thirty minutes.”
“Can you get here any sooner? She’s starting to scare away the clientele.”
If she didn’t agree to a date at the west end of the county, yes, but unfortunately, she was too far out and didn’t have a button she could press to turn her car into an airplane. “I’ll see what I can do.”
She dropped her phone into her lap and pushed her foot down on the gas a little harder. This wasn’t the first time Mom had drunk too much at the local dive bar, and it wouldn’t be the last. Harper had been picking her up and bringing her home since Harper was old enough to drive.
Sadness stabbed her gut. After Dad took off in the middle of the night when she was only thirteen, Harper had tried tirelessly to keep Mom from falling apart. But Mom’s pain was too much to handle. Her drinking went from a couple of beers a night to an entire case. She spent many nights away from home, drinking at the bar, while Harper took care of her little brother.
Harper held out hope that things would get better, and there would be months when she didn’t get a single call, but then they would start coming again. One or two at first and then every night. It always coincided with the summer months. She should have known, shouldn’t have gone so far for a stupid date.
But her options were limited. She’d already gone out with every acceptable guy on the dating site within a twenty-mile radius of Morgan’s Bay. She thought if she extended her reach, she’d have better luck. Meet a guy that made the travel time worth the drive. Not only did it not bring her better luck, now she was twenty-six minutes away from hauling Mom off a bar stool before she did something that would hit the town gossip mill by morning.
Her phone buzzed again, and she glanced at the caller ID. Oh no. This definitely was not good. “Hi Jerry,” she said. “I’m driving as fast as I can.”
“I’m sorry Harper, but I’m going to have to call this in. She’s getting belligerent.”
“Jerry, please I am begging you. Give me ten minutes, and I’ll have her out of there.”
She heard Jerry’s sigh on the other end, but she also heard Mom telling someone they were an idiot. “Fine. You have ten minutes.”
“Thank you, Jerry!” Harper hung up and dialed Milo for the second time tonight.
“Bad case of halitosis?” Milo asked without even a hello.
“I need a favor.”
“Haven’t I already done a favor for you today? That will be a lot of slices of pie you’re going to owe me.”
“Mi, Mom’s making a scene down at Schmidt’s. Jerry said he’s going to call the cops if I’m not there in ten minutes, but I’m still twenty-four minutes out.”
She heard keys clanging together on the other end of the phone. “I’m on it.”
The uncomfortable knots that had formed in her stomach began to unravel. “Thanks, Milo. I…”
“I know,” he said and hung up.
Relief spread through her hard and fast. It wouldn’t be the first time Milo helped her wrangle Mom. He usually had a better go at it, anyway. Mom found him charming. Harper had nothing to worry about now other than getting home.
Maybe it was time she gave up on her quest to find a man. She wasn’t even sure where the sudden need had come from. It was just a few girls from high school who had moved out of Morgan’s Bay had recently gotten engaged, and they looked so happy in their pictures. They were moving forward with their lives, and Harper felt stuck.
She was twenty-five and ready for the next step in her life. Reflecting on the seven years since high school, not much had changed. She was still the same girl who walked the hallways, frozen in time, never moving, always exactly where she’d been.
There had to be more out there. A bigger plan for her. She didn’t want to be the same girl with no career, no love life, and barely enough money in the bank to cover one month’s rent. She wanted more for herself. She doubted a man could do that for her and nor did she want a man to do it for her. But at least a man could hold her hand when things got tough, be an ally when life spiraled out of control, be a beacon of light when her world was drowning in gray.
Was it so bad to want more? To want love? No, it wasn’t. But wanting and actually getting were two totally different things.
She couldn’t leave Morgan’s Bay, though. Not when Mom was still getting wasted and her brother still needed her. Tom was her favorite person, and there was no way she would ever abandon him. The only way she was leaving Morgan’s Bay was if she could bring him with her, and she wouldn’t do that to him. He just got a job at McConnell’s Market, and he was happy. So happy. She couldn’t take him away from that.
Harper came to a stop at a red light and glanced down at her phone. Milo hadn’t called or texted, so he was either still trying to corral Mom out of the bar or trying to get her in the house.
She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, and the car behind her beeped. Her eyes popped open, taking in the green light. She put her foot on the gas and continued home.
Once she got into town, she took a drive by Schmidt’s to make sure Milo’s car wasn’t parked out front or Mom wasn’t still inside. All looked calm. Thank heavens. One more lap around town, she drove by her childhood home.
In the dark of night, she could still see the rose bushes that lined either side of the front steps, the marigolds that dotted the garden in front of the bay window. Mom might have been the town drunkard, but she also had a green thumb. While the shingles on the house were falling off and the shutters were in need of a paint job, the gardens still looked good.
The lights were out in the house, except for the porch light, which Milo would have kept on to let her know all was well. She smiled, grateful she didn’t have to deal with Mom’s antics after another horrible date, and headed home.
Her house was a small rental that sat across the street from the bay. Rent was a fortune, but having two roommates pay a majority of the cost helped. She pulled into the driveway on the other side of Milo’s car and killed the engine.
She stepped out of the driver’s seat, and the strong smell of salt in the air released the tension in her shoulders. She was home. For a moment she stood there, staring out to the water, the moon glistening above, casting light across the surface.
After a moment, she headed inside. Milo was sprawled out on the couch, and Jasper, their other roommate, had his six-foot three frame folded like a pretzel on the loveseat. A documentary about wildlife or something or other played on TV. Harper dropped her keys on the table, and Milo sat up.
His brown eyes met hers, warmth and concern shining bright. He didn’t ask how she was, though. All joking aside, he knew better. “There’s a pint of chocolate ice cream in the freezer.”
A smile curved the corner of her mouth, and she turned to the freezer, grabbing the pint and a spoon. She took the carton with her and plopped down on the couch beside Milo. “Your mom’s asleep, and Tom was playing video games.”
“Thank you,” she said.
“Don’t mention it.” He lifted his arm, and she cuddled into his side before digging into the ice cream.
“So,” Milo said, “you never told me. Was it halitosis?”
She laughed, and damn did it feel good. “Nope,” she said. “More like still clinging onto the anger of his ex and obsessed with a bulldog named Sheila. And he had wing sauce on his face for half of dinner.”
“Oh! Wing sauce.”
Jasper tilted his head toward them, light brown hair falling over his black-framed glasses that covered dark gray eyes. “Sorry your date sucked.”
“Thanks, Jasp. At least I get to come home to this.” She motioned to her two roommates, then the TV. “What are we watching?”
“Our Planet.” Milo sighed.
“Jasper’s choice tonight, huh?”
“This is really interesting,” Jasper said, but as a middle school biology teacher, Jasper’s idea of interesting and Harper’s were two totally different things. But it was his night to choose, so Harper settled in, hoping tomorrow would be a better day.
And if not, at least it would be her night to choose.