Falling for Gracie

Falling for Gracie

4.1 193
by Susan Mallery

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First comes love, then comes marriage…

At least, that was Gracie's plan at the ripe old age of fourteen. She loved eighteen-year-old heartthrob Riley with a desperation that made her a town legend. Even now that she's all grown up, the locals in sleepy Los Lobos won't let her forget her youthful crush.

And how can she, when she's face-to-face with


First comes love, then comes marriage…

At least, that was Gracie's plan at the ripe old age of fourteen. She loved eighteen-year-old heartthrob Riley with a desperation that made her a town legend. Even now that she's all grown up, the locals in sleepy Los Lobos won't let her forget her youthful crush.

And how can she, when she's face-to-face with Riley at every turn? The onetime bad boy has come back to town seeking respectability—but the sparks that fly between them are anything but respectable! Gracie's determined to keep her distance, but when someone sets out to ruin both their reputations, the two discover that first love is sometimes better the second time around.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this diverting contemporary romance from Mallery (Someone Like You), wedding cake designer Gracie Landon was shipped off at age 14 to live with relatives when her obsessive crush on 18-year-old Riley Whitefield became a local media item and an embarrassment to her family. Now, 14 years later, she's back in Los Lobos, Calif., to create a cake for her younger sister's wedding while aching to be part of the family that turned her out. Her mother is as unloving and judgmental as ever, and both her sisters are self-absorbed drama queens. Despite her family's selfish demands, Gracie, with all her eagerness to please, bends over backwards to accommodate their requests; sister Vivian demands a fabulous wedding cake that will take weeks of preparation, while sister Alexis insists that Gracie trail her husband, Zeke, whom she believes is having an affair. Since Zeke is Riley's campaign manager in his race for mayor of Los Lobos, prowling around Riley's house seems the right place for Gracie to start, but her snooping only puts her and Riley on the front page of the local press. While dirty politics, a vengeful ex-wife and a lot of backstory drama plump up the story line, some readers may find themselves wishing for a heroine who's less of a doormat. Agent, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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"Gracie? Gracie Landon, is that you?"

Trapped, standing in the middle of her mother's front lawn, a newspaper in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other, Gracie Landon glanced longingly toward the escape that was the front door.

In theory, she could bolt for freedom, but that would mean being rude to Eunice Baxter, neighbor and octogenarian. And Gracie had been raised better than that.

She pushed her sleep-smashed hair out of her face and shuffled in her younger sister's Tweetie Bird slippers over to the low wood fence that separated the Landon property from Eunice Baxter's.

"Morning, Mrs. Baxter," she said, hoping she sounded cheerful instead of trapped. "Yes, it's me. Gracie."

"My stars, so it is. I haven't seen you in forever, but I swear, I would have recognized you anywhere. How long has it been?"

"Fourteen years." Half her life. She'd been so hopeful that people would forget her.

"Well, I'll be. You sure look pretty. When you left, and I mean this in the kindest way possible, you were a dreadfully ugly child. Even your poor mother used to worry that you wouldn't grow into your looks, but you did. You're as bright and shiny as a magazine cover model."

Gracie didn't exactly want to reminisce about her homely period—the one that had lasted for nearly six years. "Thank you," she said, inching toward the porch.

Eunice poofed her shellacked helmet of curls, then tapped her chin. "You know, I was just talking about you to my friend Wilma. We were saying that young folks today don't know how to fall in love. Not like they used to in the movies, or like you did with Riley Whitefield."

Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God. Not Riley. Anything but that. After all this time, couldn't her reputation as a young, crazed teenaged stalker be put to rest?

"I didn't exactly love him," Gracie said, wondering why she'd agreed to come home after all this time. Oh, yeah, right. Her baby sister's wedding.

"You were a testament to true love," Eunice told her. "You should be proud. You loved that boy with all your heart and you weren't afraid to show it. That takes a special kind of courage."

Or insanity, she thought as she smiled weakly. Poor Riley. She'd made his life a living hell.

"And that reporter fellow wrote about you in the town newspaper so everyone knew your story," Eunice added. "You were famous."

"More like infamous," Gracie muttered, remembering the humiliation of reading about her crush on Riley over breakfast.

"Wilma's favorite is the time you nailed his girlfriend's doors and windows shut so she couldn't get out for their date. That's a good one, but my favorite is the time you laid down right in front of his car right there." Eunice pointed to the bit of road in front of her house.

"I saw the whole thing. You told him you loved him too much to let him marry Pam and if he was going to go ahead with the engagement, he should just run you over and put you out of your misery."

Gracie held in a groan. "Yeah, that was a good one."

Why was the rest of the world allowed to live down their childhood humiliations but everyone wanted to talk about hers?

"I guess I sort of owe Riley an apology."

"He's back in town," Eunice said brightly. "Did you know?"

As pretty much everyone she'd run into in the past couple of days had made it a point to tell her, yes. "Really?"

The old woman winked. "He's single again. What about you, Gracie? Anyone special in your life?"

"No, but I'm very busy with my work right now and…"

Eunice nodded knowingly. "It's fate. That's what it is. You two have been brought together to be given a second chance."

Gracie knew she would rather be staked out naked on a fire ant hill than ever have anything to do with Riley Whitefield again. She didn't need any more humiliation where he was concerned. And who knew what tortures he would be willing to endure to avoid the likes of her?

"That's really nice, but I don't think I—"

"Could be he's still sweet on you," Eunice said.

Gracie laughed. "Mrs. Baxter, he was terrified of me. If he saw me now, he'd run screaming in the opposite direction." Honestly, who could blame him?

"Sometimes a man needs a little push." "Sometimes a man needs to be left alone." Which was exactly what she intended to do. No more running after Riley. In fact, she planned to avoid any functions where he might be. And if they did happen to bump into each other, she would be cool, polite and distant. Maybe she wouldn't even recognize him. Whatever feelings she'd once had for Riley were gone. Dead and buried. She was way over him.

Besides, she was a different woman now. Gracious. Mature. No more stalker girl for her.

"who was that?" Vivian asked when Gracie walked into the Landon family kitchen. "Did Mrs. Baxter trap you into talking to her?"

"Oh, yeah." Gracie put the paper on the counter and took a long drink of coffee. "I swear, it's as if I just left town last week instead of fourteen years ago."

"Time is different for old people," Vivian said as she shook back her cascade of strawberry-blond curls and yawned. "For one thing, they get up too early. Mom was out of here before seven this morning."

"She said something about a special Saturday sale at the store." Gracie slid onto a stool in front of the counter and set down her mug. "Which you're supposed to be helping with."

"I know." Vivian stretched. "It's my own fault for picking out a three-thousand-dollar wedding dress. My choices were to either blow the budget on that and have nothing for the guests to eat, or chip in." She grinned. "At least I'm getting a fabulous wedding cake for free."

"Lucky you."

As a sister of the bride, Gracie had volunteered one of her masterpieces for the reception. She eyed the calendar tacked up on the wall. The wedding was exactly five weeks from today. A smarter woman would have hidden out until the last minute, then shown up with the cake, enjoyed the celebration and left. But frantic phone calls from their mother, Vivian and Alexis, their other sister, had churned up enough guilt in Gracie's acid-prone stomach that she'd agreed to come home to help with the planning.

Her reward was baking all the cakes she had on order in a strange oven she wasn't sure she trusted and being tortured by old ladies who insisted on talking about Gracie's questionable past love life.

"Not my idea of a good time," she mumbled into her coffee.

Vivian grinned. "Did Mrs. Baxter mention that Riley Whitefield is back in town?"

Gracie glared at her. "Don't you have to be somewhere?"

Vivian laughed as she raced toward the stairs.

Gracie watched her go, then opened the newspaper and prepared for a quiet morning. That afternoon she would be moving into the house she'd rented for the six weeks she would be in town, but until then, there was nothing to occupy her time except—

The back door burst open.

"Oh, good. You're up." Alexis, Gracie's older sister by three years, glanced around. "Where's Vivian?"

"Getting ready to go to the hardware store."

Alexis frowned. "I thought she'd be gone already. Doesn't the sidewalk sale start at eight?"

"I haven't a clue," Gracie admitted.

She'd been home all of two days and was still finding her bearings. While Alexis and Vivian had grown up in this house, Gracie had left the summer she turned fourteen and had never been back.

Alexis poured herself a cup of coffee and took the stool next to Gracie's.

"We have to talk," her older sister said in a low voice that shook slightly. "But you can't tell Vivian. Or Mom. I don't want them to worry. Not when they already have the wedding to deal with."

"Okay," Gracie said slowly, knowing there was no point in asking if everything was all right. If things were all right, Alexis wouldn't be here demanding promises of confidentiality or looking panicked.

"It's Zeke," Alexis said, then pressed her lips together. "Dammit, I told myself I wouldn't cry."

Gracie tensed. Zeke and Alexis had been married for five years—happily from all accounts.

Alexis sucked in a breath, then let it out. "I think he's having an affair."

"What? That's not possible. He's crazy about you."

"I thought so, too." Alexis brushed her free hand across her eyes. "It's just…." She paused as they heard thumping noises from overhead. "He disappears every night and doesn't get back until three or four in the morning. When I ask him to tell me what's going on, he says he's working late on the campaign. But I don't believe him."

Gracie carefully closed the newspaper. "What campaign? Doesn't Zeke sell insurance?"

"Yes, but he's running Riley Whitefield's campaign for mayor. I thought you knew."

Gracie was more out of the loop than she'd realized. "When did that happen?"

"A few months ago. He hired Zeke because—"

Footsteps thundered on the stairs. Seconds later Vivian burst into the kitchen.

"Hey, Alexis," she said as she fastened her long hair into a braid. "Want to take my place at the store today?"

"Not really."

Vivian grinned. "It doesn't hurt to ask. I'm off to do slave labor to pay for my wedding dress. Don't have too much fun while I'm gone."

The back door slammed shut behind her. A minute later, a car engine started, sputtered, then caught.

Alexis walked to the window over the sink and stared out toward the street. "Okay, she's gone. Where were we?"

"You were telling me that your husband now works for Riley Whitefield. How did that happen?"

"Zeke spent two years after college working for a senator from Arizona." Her worry faded a little as she faced Gracie and smiled. "I was at Arizona State and he…" Alexis shook her head. "God, that was a lifetime ago. I can't believe he'd do this to me. I love him so much and I th-thought…." Her voice cracked. "What am I going to do?"

Gracie had the uneasy sensation of being trapped in the middle of a fun house. Nothing was as it seemed and she didn't know her way out.

Sure, Alexis and Vivian were her sisters. Her family. They looked enough alike that no one could mistake the genetic connection. Long blond hair—pale for Alexis, strawberry for Vivian and gold for herself— big blue eyes and the same average body build. But she'd been doing this sister thing long distance for half her life. She didn't know how to slide back into confidences and advice mode without a little warm-up.

"You don't know for sure Zeke is doing anything," Gracie said. "Maybe it is the campaign."

"I don't know, but I intend to find out." She took a step forward.

Gracie got a bad feeling in her already queasy stomach. "I'm going to hate myself for asking, but how?"

"By spying on him. He's supposed to have a meeting with Riley tonight and I'm going to be there."

"Not the best idea in the world," Gracie said as she reached for her coffee. "Trust me. I speak from experience. Riley experience."

"I'm going to do it," Alexis said, her eyes filling with tears, "and I need your help."

Gracie set down her coffee cup. "No. No. Alexis, I can't. You can't. It's crazy."

Tears trickled down her sister's cheeks. Pain darkened her blue eyes. Alexis personified agony and Gracie didn't know how to fight that. But she tried.

"It will only lead to disaster," she said firmly. "I won't be a part of that."

"I u-understand," Alexis said as her mouth quivered.

"Good. Because I'm not going with you."

late that night, Gracie found herself following her sister along a trimmed hedge just east of a massive old house.

Not just any house, either. The Whitefield family mansion, home to umpteen generations of wealthy Whitefields and now Riley's main residence.

"This is insane," Gracie whispered to her sister as they paused to crouch a few feet from a back window. "I stopped spying on Riley when I was fourteen. I can't believe I'm doing this again."

"You're not spying on Riley, you're spying on Zeke. There's a big difference."

"I doubt Riley will see that, if we're caught."

"Then we won't be caught. Did you bring your camera?"

Gracie grabbed her trusty Polaroid from under her arm and held it out. Light from the streetlamp glinted off the narrow lens.

"Get ready," Alexis said. "The library window is around the corner. You should be able to get a really good picture from there."

"Why aren't you getting the picture?" Gracie asked as dread made her legs feel as heavy as bronze.

"Because I'm going to stay here and see if any floozy bitch runs out the back way."

"If Zeke were having an affair, wouldn't he just go to a motel?" Gracie asked.

"He can't. I pay the bills. Besides, when we were dating, he let some guy use his apartment for a lunchtime rendezvous. I'm telling you, Riley's doing the same for Zeke. Who holds campaign meetings until two in the morning?"

It sounded logical in a twisted psychotic way, Gracie thought as she inched toward the side of the house. Especially if one ignored the reality of sneaking onto private property to snap pictures through an open window.

"We don't even know if they're in the library," Gracie said in a low voice.

"Zeke says they always meet there. If he's really at a campaign meeting, that's where it should take place."

"Can't I just look through the window and tell you what I see?" Gracie asked.

"I want proof."

What Gracie wanted was to be far, far from here. But she recognized Alexis's stubborn expression and her own guilt. Even if she wanted to turn her back on her sister, she couldn't. Better to simply take the pictures and get out than stay crouched and arguing.

"Get ready," Gracie said as she once again moved toward the house.

The bushes under the building were thicker than they first appeared. They scratched her bare arms and tugged at her khakis. Worse, the library window was higher than her, which meant she had to hold the camera above her head, point down into the room and take a picture without being sure what, or who, was in there.

It would just be her luck to focus the camera just as someone looked out the window.

"Here goes nothing," she muttered as she stretched up on tiptoes and pushed the red button.

Hot, bright light exploded in the night. Gracie instantly dropped to her knees as she swore under her breath. The flash! How could she have forgotten about the flash?

"Because I use the camera to take pictures of wedding cakes, not to spy on people," she muttered as she scrambled back to her feet and started running toward the car.

There was no sign of Alexis, nor did Gracie know if she'd actually gotten a picture of anything. Not that it mattered. She just wanted to get out of here before—


Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women. Publishers Weekly calls Susan’s prose “luscious and provocative,” and Booklist says “Novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling.” Susan lives in Seattle with her husband and her tiny but intrepid toy poodle. Visit her at www.SusanMallery.com.

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4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 193 reviews.
Jessi-21 More than 1 year ago
This isn't your average cookie-cutter romance plot. It's refreshingly original with likeable leads. I think every woman who has humiliated herself in the name of love will identify with Gracie and cheer her on. Very cute story recommended.
The-Ladies-Room More than 1 year ago
Falling for Gracie was a warm and spirited book. It was refreshing to read a romance filled with humour, warmth and strong characters. There were many lessons to be learned in this book a few being honesty, integrity and the art of communication. A very sensual romance, one I will read, over and over. Gracie's character was strong, spirited, fun, intelligent, and warm even though her family had sent her adrift. She will charm her way into your heart. Riley, how does one describe an alpha male at his finest? Tall, dark, handsome, aloof and because his past...mistrusting, tormented and angry. How Gracie and Riley come together begins with their knowing each other in the past but now they meet again and sparks fly, while the entire town looks on and becomes involved in their romance. I highly recommend this book. It is one of Susan Mallery's finest.-----------Reviewed by: Marilyn's Romance Reviews
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever since her teen-aged crush on Riley Whitefield developed into an embarrassing obsession that resulted in her being sent away from home, Gracie Landon has felt a need to atone to her humiliated family. It is no wonder then that she will spend weeks creating the perfect wedding cake for one sister and agree to help her other sister find out if her husband is cheating on her. Unfortunately, Gracie's brother in law is Riley's mayoral campaign manager. Thus, her investigation brings her face to face with the man for the first time in fourteen years. Both have grown up considerably. Despite the scandal their current involvement might cause should it be discovered, Riley agrees to help her investigate his employee. After all, he has a 97 million dollar inheritance riding on the outcome of the election. If his manager is doing anything to jeopardize that, he must know and stop it. He had not counted on falling for Gracie, or all the complications that arise from that attraction. History comes full circle in this tale of small towns, scandal, politics and love. .............................................. *** With enough complications and coincidences to be something straight from reality, this book has a charm that will appeal to those wanting a light read. Seeing a long delayed romance come to fruition has a sweetness that surpasses that of one of Gracie's cakes. Though there is nothing earth shattering or profound to be found herein, if you just need an escape, this will take you where you wish to be. ***
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms Mallery has given us a wonderful, wonderful book! We got a glimpse of Gracie & Riley in last year's SOMEONE LIKE YOU and now we get to spend time with them. Gracie Landon at ages 13-14 fell madly in love with her next door neighbor 18 y.o. Riley Whitefield. She 'stalks' Riley who ends up marrying Pam, she tells him she's pregnant. At about the same time Gracie is sent to her mother's family so she can get 'help'. Pam has lied so after a few months they divorce and Riley leaves town - it's 14 years later and both are back in Los Lobos. Gracie has become a Wedding Cake baker (artist, really), even featured in People magazine and back to make her sister's Wedding cake. Riley's uncle has died and Riley is the heir if he wins the Mayoral race. They meet again by accident--we get to watch their courtship. We even get to see Jill and Mac again. There's a little mystery that makes life difficult for Gracie and Riley. It's a great, fun book!!
carrielef2 More than 1 year ago
Gracie was such a great character and easily to fall for. A great, quick read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found the book very enjoyable. I would read it again, always a good sign.
Apaolaa More than 1 year ago
This is truly my favorite book of all times. I could not put it down. It's funny but yet romantic. I love both of the character and the ending was amazing. This is truly one of her best books yet. Susan Mallery is my favorite author of all times. You actually fall for Gracie :)
Tara Coon More than 1 year ago
i could't put this book down it was great!!!
Cupcake247 More than 1 year ago
It's a fun-filled book that provides a unique story line. There always seems to be some other force working against Gracie and Riley, but together they'll find a way to overcome everything...together. Find out who's working to bring them down and laugh out loud while doing it. This book truly is one of Ms. Mallery's best: lovable characters, funny situations, problems to be overcome, and an overall great story.
HollyReadsRomance More than 1 year ago
Susan Mallery is my current obsession. I'm reading her entire Fool's Gold series at the moment. This book is listed as a stand-alone on her site, but it's really the sequel to Someone Like You. Both were sweet stories. Mallery is great at writing about small towns, friendships and family gatherings. I feel like I'm there!
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Good characters, great story and funny!
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RPNKA More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book, It was an easy read!
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