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Crushing on Kate ebook

Crushing on Kate ebook

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Main Tropes

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Family Saga
  • Small Town Business Owners Romance
When newcomer Caleb sets up shop in the small town of Red Maple Falls, the last thing he expects is to make an enemy of Kate, the shop owner next door. But as animosity turns to chemistry, can he convince her to take a chance on love?

Synopsis

It was love at first sight until he opened his mouth.

Born and raised in the small town of Red Maple Falls, it's impossible for Kate Hayes to meet a guy she hasn't known since first grade. When she is approached by a ridiculously attractive, unfamiliar face during one of her glass blowing demonstrations, she can't help but get her hopes up. Until he opens his mouth.

Caleb James established his bike shop in the middle of nowhere to escape his past. When the owner of the adjoining business blocks his parking spots to put on her "arts and crafts hour" he has no choice but to shut her down. What he doesn't expect is the fresh-faced beauty who refuses to accommodate his requests. Nor does he expect for the small town to be filled with big personalities who feel the need to force their way into his life, refusing to leave him alone.

While Caleb continues to fight Kate, and tries to keep his distance, holding on to a vow he made to himself to never trust again, she tears down every wall he's ever built. Will the promise of a future with Kate be enough to break the promise of his past?

Intro Into Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Kate Hayes was content, but more than that, she was happy. It had taken her thirty-three years to get there, and maybe her life wasn’t exactly how she expected it to be, but she couldn’t deny the smile on her face, the warmth in her heart, and the giddy feeling she got as she stuck a metal rod into the fire surrounded by a curious audience.

She didn’t have a husband—hell, she didn’t even have a boyfriend—but she had glass blowing, her business, a large family who gave her more love and an even bigger headache than any man could, and that was all she needed.

The brisk days of winter in Red Maple Falls had melted into beautiful summer days, and she was able to hold her glass blowing demonstrations in the parking lot of her studio. She was limited by supplies when she was outside, but she was able to do the basics. Most of all, she was able to draw a crowd, and that’s what really mattered to her.

A smile played at the edges of her lips as a little girl with braided pigtails pushed through to the front of the crowd. She picked up a pair of tweezers and gave the little girl a big smile.

“Tweezers are a tool you can use to manipulate the glass,” she said as she pulled the glass like taffy. “Pretty cool, huh?”

The little girl nodded enthusiastically. Moments like these were what Kate lived for—putting smiles on people’s faces through her art, intriguing them, showing them how to create something from nothing…all the little puzzle pieces that made up her happiness.

She continued the demonstration and finished with a round of applause. Usually the small town was filled with familiar faces, but during the summer, tourists from all over visited Red Maple Falls for their picturesque hiking trails, beautiful rivers for kayaking, charming campgrounds, and a simple taste of small-town life.

Summer was when Kate made the majority of her sales. Most of the time, her summer sales could float her through the rest of the year, so it was vital to intrigue the customers into making a purchase or signing up for one of her classes.

“Thank you so much. I teach classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If anyone is interested, I have more information inside. This piece and many more are available for purchase. I hope you all enjoy your time in Red Maple Falls.”

More applause followed as the crowd broke up. She mentally patted herself on the back for a job well done. She turned to head inside when she smacked right into a hard chest. The man towered over her five-feet-eight inches, and she had to stop herself from gasping at the dark brown, smoldering eyes staring down at her.

The man was the picture of perfection, with a close shaven beard and pretty boy hair. Kate wondered how soft those chocolate brown strands actually were but restrained herself from molesting the stranger’s head.

“Hi. Can I help you?” Kate managed to say even though her throat was dry and that dark gaze of his made her forget her own name.

“Yeah, you can help me,” he barked. “Get these people out of my damn parking lot.”

The hot guy spell completely vanished. “Your parking lot? This is my parking lot. That’s my studio,” she said, pointing to the sign with the words Serenity Glass Blowing Studio written in bold letters.

“And that is my shop.” He pointed to the place next door that had been vacant after Mae from Mae’s Toys broke a hip and had no choice but to shut down. Kate had been patiently waiting—along with the rest of the town—to see who would lease the space. There was even a town bet going around.

Last month they discovered the place would sell bicycles as hired help hung the wooden sign that said The Chain and Spoke. Kate had yet to meet the owner, despite her many attempts at stopping by. The man just never seemed to be around when she was… until now. Even though he was hot as sin, that didn’t negate his less-than-stellar people skills.

“You must be Caleb James,” she said, hoping they could start fresh.

His eyebrows pulled together as he narrowed his gaze on her. “How do you know my name?”

“Welcome to Red Maple Falls, where everybody knows your business.” She held out her hand and smiled. “I’m Kate.”

“That’s nice,” he said, ignoring her offered hand.

She let her hand fall back to her side and unintentionally rolled her eyes. “Clearly you’re not from around here.”

“I’m from Massachusetts. Not that it’s any of your business…or the town’s for that matter.”

“I suppose it’s not.” Kate hoped she’d be able to turn the conversation around, but with his attitude, that was not going to happen. If he wanted to play a hard-ass, then fine. She was done being neighborly. “Are we done here?”

“Not until you get these damn people out of the parking lot. We barely have any spaces without you taking up half of it with your arts and crafts hour.”

“Arts and crafts?” That was it. “I’ll have you know, Mr. Cool Hair, that blowing glass is not just some after school arts and crafts; it’s a real art that requires a lot of training and dedication.”

“I don’t care what it is. All I care about is opening these spaces for paying customers.”

“Too damn bad. I’m out here every Saturday this summer. Mae never had a problem with it, and I suggest you find a way to get over it.”

He straightened his shoulders, making him appear even taller, but she didn’t let that intimidate her. She had three brothers and two spunky sisters; there was no way she’d let some pretty boy scare her.

“Maybe I’ll call the cops.”

She laughed. “Go ahead. I dare you. Better yet, I’ll do it for you. My brother is the Sheriff after all.” Matt would be pissed if he got called down there for a meaningless dispute, but he wouldn’t be pissed at her, which made the idea of calling him very tempting.

He diverted his eyes to the thinning crowd. “Of course he is. Why wouldn’t he be?”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

His gaze came back to hers, an arrogance in the cocky set of his jaw. “Don’t worry about it.”

She straightened her shoulders, meeting his superiority with her own. “Oh, I’m worrying about it.”

“That’s your problem, then.”

“Has anyone ever told you how delightful you are?”

He stared at her with an intensity that made her knees weak, her mouth dry, and her heart pick up speed. She swallowed down the weird desire that gaze evoked inside of her and stood her ground. “Are we done here?”

His top lip curled in what she hoped was annoyance. “For now,” he spat before turning on his expensive boat shoes and storming toward his shop.

“Asshole,” Kate muttered under her breath as her shoulders slumped. Tension pulled tight across her back, and she knew she’d be having a glass of Chardonnay as soon as she got home.

“Who’s an asshole?” Shay, her best friend and Matt’s fiancée, stepped up beside her. Kate jolted a little but wasn’t surprised to see her. Shay owned Sweet Dreams Bakery only a few doors down and stopped by when she wasn’t overloaded with custom cupcake orders.

“Him.” Kate flung her finger over her shoulder toward The Chain and Spoke, but pretty boy was already gone. “The new tenant next door.”

“Oh! You finally met him. What was he like?”

“He’s an asshole.”

She grinned. “Do you have any other adjectives to describe him?”

“Arrogant, pig-headed, mean-spirited. He has that pretty boy hair like Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles. You know what I’m talking about? That puff in the front that is perfectly coifed, but he probably rolled out of bed like that.”

“So, he’s cute.”

“He was until he opened his mouth. Figures, a cute guy moves into town, and he turns out to be an asshole.”

“Maybe he’s having a bad day. Everyone is entitled to one of those every now and again.”

“Maybe, but he didn’t have to be such a jerk. Who just walks over to someone they’ve never met and starts demanding things?”

“My mother,” Shay said with a laugh. “But she’s in her own league.”

“How is Cruella?” Kate asked, using the nickname she gave Shay’s self-entitled, money-loving mother years ago.

Shay shrugged. “Wouldn’t know.”

“I’m proud of you,” Kate said, wanting her friend to know. Shay’s mother had manipulated Shay for years until Shay had finally stood up to her. It had been a long time coming, and though Kate wished Shay would’ve told the woman to bug off years ago, she was happy she finally had.

“I know,” Shay said with a laugh. “She finally stopped calling, too. I think she got the hint.”

“Let’s just hope she doesn’t show up on your doorstep.”

“Bite your tongue!”

Kate held her hands up in front of her. “I’m just saying… I wouldn’t put it past the woman.”

“Me either, but let’s hope for once she respects my wishes.”

Kate gathered her things together while she and Shay continued to talk. Brianne, a sweet girl home from her first semester at college, was manning the register inside; Kate had a little time to waste.

“I actually came over here for a reason,” Shay said as Kate placed all of her tools into a bin.

“What’s up?”

Shay tucked a brown strand behind her ear. “Matt and I were wondering if you’d be free for dinner one day this week?”

Kate paused for a second, going over the week in her mind. “I have classes Tuesday and Thursday, but other than that I’m free.”

“Perfect. How about Wednesday? Matt’s working a double on Monday.”

“Sounds good to me. What time?”

“Seven?”

“I’ll be there, and I’ll bring the wine.” Kate arched an eyebrow and eyed Shay. “Unless you’re pregnant, and that’s why you want me to come over?”

Shay closed her eyes and shook her head, a smile tugging at both corners of her mouth. “No, I’m not pregnant. Can you let me get married first?”

Kate pouted, letting her body droop with added dramatics. “I guess so.”

“I need to head back before poor Louise quits on me.”

“That’ll never happen. The girl loves you and that bakery.”

“She does.” Shay’s eyes shone bright with happiness. With a mother like hers, she spent years of her life trying to become someone she wasn’t, surrounded by people she didn’t even like. Other than her grandparents, she didn’t have much of a family, but now the people of the town were her family. Kate loved seeing the sparkle in Shay’s eyes, the smile that was constantly on her lips, and the lightness in her step. She had always looked at Shay as another one of her sisters, and when she married Matt it would be official. Kate was more excited about their wedding than she was about ever having her own.

Shay gave Kate a wave as she headed to the bakery. Kate glanced over her shoulder at The Chain and Spoke, images of the cranky owner immediately flooding her mind.

“Too bad, Mr. Cool Hair. We could’ve had beautiful babies,” she said to herself as she gathered the rest of her supplies and headed into her studio.

***

Caleb stormed through the door of his bike shop, tension pulling tight across his neck and right into his skull. The damn headache he’d been dealing with for months pulsed to life. He’d done damn near everything to make it stop, short of cutting his head off. The doctor said it was stress, and Caleb needed to find ways to minimize and cope. Easy for the doc to say. He wasn’t the one who had his life shit all over him in the matter of months.

Though, he did heed the doctor’s advice, which was why he was in the middle of bumfuck nowhere. Red Maple Falls was a miniscule town nestled in the White Mountains. Caleb had thought moving to the middle of nowhere was a move in the right direction, until he realized that small towns were more of a nuisance than anything. He couldn’t go to the damn grocery store without half the town starting a conversation with him. Was it too much to ask to be left alone?

Just as the thought came into his mind, the bell above the door rang out. He cursed under his breath, pledging to have that obnoxious noise removed as soon as he remembered where he left his tools.

He didn’t feel much like smiling, but he needed the business. He had more than enough money to keep afloat for a long time, but he’d prefer not to post in the red every quarter. He forced a smile on his face and looked up to the potential customer. His smile warped into a scowl when he spotted the strawberry blonde he just had it out with in the parking lot.

Her eyes scanned around the space. “Definitely not Mae’s Toys anymore,” she said, running her finger along the repurposed wood wall he’d paid a fortune for. “You sell bikes?”

“What gave it away?”

“Do you always have an attitude?” She moved closer to him, her hips swaying with each step. She was tall, and being six-four himself, it was a trait he liked in a girl. She had curves for days that he could imagine sinking his fingers into while—

No. He stopped the thought right there.

Women were nothing but stress in sexy packages, manipulating and self-involved. They were the root of all evil and the number one stress factor in his life. He’d gone months without as much as glancing in a woman’s direction, and while he wasn’t completely stress-free, he had noticed a difference. Taking away the worry of someone else lessened the burden on his shoulders, and he didn’t plan to add it back any time soon.

“Why are you here?” he asked, deciding to skip the small talk and get right to the point.

She moved closer—too close—surrounding him in what he imagined sunlight would smell like: sweet with a touch of citrus. “I thought we could start over.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want our conversation in the parking lot to be your first impression of me.” Her blue-green eyes pinned him in place. She had that innocent glow about her, friendly and inviting, but it was a glow he’d fallen for before only to find out he’d been duped, and he’d be damned if he fell for it again.

“Too late. You can’t redo a first impression.”

“I’m trying to be nice here, but obviously you don’t understand the sentiment.”

“Obviously.”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Look, this is a small town. We’re neighbors, and neither of us is going anywhere anytime soon, so why don’t we forget about everything before this moment and agree to be civil?” Her eyelashes fluttered, which he guessed she threw in there for good measure.

Women were calculated creatures, and everything they did had a motive behind it. He wasn’t stupid—at least not anymore—and there was no way in hell he was going to be made a fool of again. He wasn’t going to fall for the girl next door act; beneath the baggy t-shirt and rolled up jeans, he could guarantee she was far from innocent.

“What do you say?” She flashed a smile, showing straight white teeth. She was trying hard; he’d give her that.

He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the counter. “Are you going to stop taking up my parking spots?”

“When the weather gets colder, absolutely.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

She let out an annoyed breath, her hands landing firmly on her ample hips. “I have been in that parking lot every season since I opened. I’ve become a staple to this town. My demonstrations attract customers, and I am not going to let some pretty-boy jerk take that away.”

“Pretty-boy jerk, huh? Who’s not so nice now?”

She harrumphed, and he had to bite back the laugh that tried to surface. “You’re impossible.”

“I’ve been called worse.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“That’s not very civil of you.”

Her lip curled up.

“While I’d love to sit here and listen to you call me every name under the sun,” he said, “I have a business to tend to.”

“You’re going to run it right into the ground if you don’t take that stick out of your ass.”

“Duly noted, sweet lips.”

Her eyes narrowed before she spun on her heel, her gorgeous ass swaying as she put distance between them. He might not be able to touch, but he’d be a moron not to enjoy the view.

She reached for the door and stopped, spinning back toward him. “Call me sweet lips again, and I will smack that annoying smirk off your face.”

“Is that a threat?”

“No, that’s a promise.”

She slammed the door behind her, causing the bell to clatter and the walls to shake.

He was right about one thing.

She was definitely not the average girl next door. 

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