It Began with a Crush (Harlequin Special Edition Series #2307) [NOOK Book]


Gorgeous Joe Capelli is back in town! Will a summer fling with former classmate Mary Jane Cherry lead to something more? Find out in the new installment of Lilian Darcy's The Cherry Sisters miniseries!

Fifteen years ago, Joe Capelli left town to make his way in Hollywood—leaving Mary Jane Cherry behind to nurse her secret crush. So why is he suddenly back in town, working at his dad's garage—on her car? With twin little daughters, no less?


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It Began with a Crush (Harlequin Special Edition Series #2307)

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Gorgeous Joe Capelli is back in town! Will a summer fling with former classmate Mary Jane Cherry lead to something more? Find out in the new installment of Lilian Darcy's The Cherry Sisters miniseries!

Fifteen years ago, Joe Capelli left town to make his way in Hollywood—leaving Mary Jane Cherry behind to nurse her secret crush. So why is he suddenly back in town, working at his dad's garage—on her car? With twin little daughters, no less?

All Mary Jane's ever wanted is a husband and family. She knows that desire normally sends guys running in the opposite direction. Yet as her old crush on Joe revives itself, dare she believe that gorgeous Joe actually wants her, too—and for more than just a steamy summer affair?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781460324103
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 1/1/2014
  • Series: Cherry Sisters
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 70,884
  • File size: 269 KB

Meet the Author

Lilian Darcy has now written over eighty books for Harlequin. She has received four nominations for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious Rita Award, as well as a Reviewer's Choice Award from RT Magazine for Best Silhouette Special Edition 2008. Lilian loves to write emotional, life-affirming stories with complex and believable characters. For more about Lilian go to her website at or her blog at

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Read an Excerpt

Mr. Capelli was not going to be happy.

Turning into the driveway of Capelli Auto, Mary Jane was already rehearsing her excuses. She knew her little blue car was overdue for a service, but it was the start of the summer season and they'd been so busy at Spruce Bay Resort. The car had been making a strange noise for a while, she would have to admit it, but the noise was definitely louder now than it had been at first, so it wasn't as if she'd been ignoring something so blatant all this time.

Even in her own head, it all sounded feeble, and Mr. Capelli was so good at that tolerant yet reproachful look of his. The Cherry family had been bringing their vehicles to him for service and repair for as long as she could remember.

The garage, an old-fashioned and very reassuring place, was on a quiet backstreet. Art Capelli was the kind of mechanic who told you the truth and never overcharged. He didn't deserve Mary Jane's embarrassingly neglectful attitude toward her car. Dad was always so scrupulous about maintenance, but she…

She was the worst of sinners in that department, and she knew it.

Right now, she felt as remorseful about the noise in the engine as she would have felt about bringing the vet a mangy and half-starved kitten with a splinter in its infected paw.

She parked out front of the repair shop with its brightly painted Capelli Auto sign, leaving the car windows down and the key in the ignition. There was no one in the office but she could hear sounds coming from the workshop so she went through, needing to pause for a moment or two so her eyes could adjust to the light because it was dimmer in here.

A pair of legs clad in oil-stained dark blue overalls stuck out from beneath a red pickup truck. She addressed them tentatively. "Mr. Capelli?"

There came a grunt and an inarticulate noise that probably meant, "Give me a second."

She awaited her moment of shame. Really, the noise had only gotten so bad these past few days, although it had been sounding on and off since… Oh, shoot, since her three-day spa vacation in Vermont, and that was back in mid-March, three months ago.

Problem was, when the noise occasionally stopped for a few days, she thought the car had—well—healed itself.

What? Cars didn't do that?

There was another grunt, and the overall-clad legs suddenly shot toward her. A pair of sturdy tan work boots fetched up inches from her shins.

"Hi, Mr—" She stopped. It wasn't Art Capelli, with his tanned and lined sixtysomething face, his wiry gray hair and fatherly brown eyes. It was Joe, his son.

Joe, whom she hadn't seen in probably fourteen years. Longer.

Joe, with the sinfully gorgeous looks that began with his thick dark hair and ended with his perfect olive-skinned body, and encompassed pretty much every other desirable male attribute in between.

Cocky, egotistical Joe, who'd always known all too well how irresistible he was and had played on it for everything he was worth.

Possibly, she was blushing already.

"Hi," he said. They looked at each other. He lifted his head from the wheeled roller-thingy that allowed him to slide easily beneath a vehicle. "Mary Jane, right?"


"I saw your name in the book." And probably wouldn't have recognized her in a police lineup if he hadn't.

"Where's your dad?" she asked, and it sounded abrupt and clumsy.

He didn't answer right away, occupied with levering his strong body up off the roller-thingy so he could stand. "I'm helping him now. Taking over, really. His health isn't that great."

Once he was standing, she could see him a lot more clearly. He hadn't changed, she quickly concluded. He was every bit as good-looking as he'd been in high school. Better-looking, in fact. Her own eye for a man's looks had matured with the years, and she liked the laugh lines around his eyes and mouth, and the fine, scattered threads of silver in the short but still thick hair that framed the top half of his face.

"Right. I'm sorry to hear that," she answered him. "I mean, that he's not well. Not sorry you're helping out. Obviously."

Smooth, Mary Jane. Real smooth.

There were a hundred questions she wanted to ask. What happened to the Hollywood plan? Was Joe back here for good, or just as an interim arrangement because his dad wasn't well? Wasn't there someone else who could take over the garage? What had gone wrong?

It was ridiculous how shocked she felt at seeing him, and how instinctively she'd gone back in time about eighteen years to when they were in high school together and she'd loathed him more than any other guy in school.

Yes, loathed him.

Insist on that a little more, Mary Jane. Protesting too much? Never!

She'd loathed her own reaction to him even more. He'd been so cocky back then, so magnetic and sure of himself, wearing his sense of his own sparkling future like an Armani suit. No, wait a minute. Not a suit. He was rougher than that. Make it a biker jacket, black Italian leather.

She'd tried so hard not to look at him, not to notice him, and to stay immune to the charm that oozed from him, the—what were they called, pheromones or something—that made her heart beat faster if they merely passed each other in a corridor.

The ones that made her tongue turn into a flapping fish in her mouth, and made her blush and giggle if he said something arrogant and cheeky in class. Arrogant and cheeky and usually pretty dumb, because he never did the required reading. If he ever happened to catch her looking at him after one of those smart-mouth comments, she always glared back, just to make sure he wasn't in the slightest danger of thinking she might have a crush on him.

And now here he was in his father's dilapidated garage, where he used to help out in his teens, hands stained with engine grease, forehead lightly sheened with grimy sweat, fixing cars for a living.

While she struggled to find the right thing to say, he pulled the overalls down to his waist, laying bare a dark blue T-shirt that molded to his chest and casually showed off the toned muscles and washboard abs. He grabbed a water bottle from a benchtop and took a gulp, then took a towel and wiped it across the sweaty, grimy forehead.

She thought she should probably feel sorry for him for being here, or maybe maliciously pleased at the contrast between his openly paraded ambitions of wealth and Hollywood stardom back in high school, and the place he'd ended up. Right back where he'd started in his dad's garage.

And yet she didn't feel any of that. Instead, the emotions that washed through her were curious and empathetic and wry and—

"Life's a funny thing, huh?" Joe said quietly with a half smile, and she felt the blush heating her cheeks in reality now, not simply in her imagination. How long since she'd done that? Blushed? A hundred years?

"Um, yes. Yes, it is." She took in a dragging breath and breathed in him, along with the air—his slightly salt scent, his body heat, a hint of some tangy and irresistible male grooming product, and the faint odor of engine oil that should have been off-putting but for some reason wasn't.

Jeepers, how did the man do this? Less than a minute in his company and she'd already been knocked sideways by the way he looked, and even the way he smelled, for pity's sake.

She cleared her throat quickly, and there was a shift as they both pulled back onto a businesslike footing. She really was not going to ask all those questions about what he'd been doing since college and why he wasn't by this time a Hollywood heartthrob on the level of George Cloo-ney, Bradley Cooper or Johnny Depp, or maybe a high-powered casting agent or film director.

And if she wasn't going to ask, then even less did he look as if he wanted to tell her.

"So, the car," he said. "Regular service, you said, plus you've been having a couple of problems with it?"

"It's making a noise."

He gave her his father's look, the tolerant and reproachful one, but with an additional hint of smoke that Mr. Capelli had never worn on his face in his life. Again, it took Mary Jane right back to high school and made her furious with herself. Back then, she used to think he did it on purpose—and maybe he had—because the girls fell for it like ninepins. She'd bent over backward to make sure it never worked on her.

If it was physically possible for a pair of male eyebrows and the corners of a male mouth to give the equivalent of a seductive drawl, then that was what his were doing, then and now. But today he didn't look as if he was doing it on purpose. It was just part of his face, an unconscious habit, something that betrayed a dry sense of humor.

"A noise," he said patiently.

"Yes." She tried to produce it. "Rgrk-rgrk-rgrk. Like that. Sort of."

To her relief, he didn't laugh, just said very plainly, "I'll take a look, and give you a call when I know what's going on."

"Uh, thanks, Cap. Yes, that would be great."

There was a silence as she realized what she'd said. Cap. Everyone had called him that in high school, but she had no idea if they did anymore.

He'd noticed the nickname, too. "Make it Joe," he said.

"I'm sorry."

"Cap is… Yeah. I don't go by that now."

"Sorry," she said again. And for some reason remembered something she'd learned in passing—she couldn't remember where or when—that Joe Capelli was also the name of a character in a shoot-'em-up video game.

"No big deal," the non-computer-generated Joe said. "Do you need a ride somewhere?"

"My sister's picking me up. She should be here any minute."

"I'll call you later, then, when I know what's going on with the engine."

"Thanks. Um, say hi to your dad for me. Give him my best wishes."

"Will do."

She got herself out of the grease-smelling workshop and into the June air, just as her sister Lee pulled onto the concrete apron at the front of the garage.

Lee was engaged to be married and five and a half months pregnant, beyond the tired and queasy first trimester and not yet into the big and uncomfortable third trimester, and she looked radiantly energetic, happy and alive. Her caramel-colored hair was thick and shiny in its casual ponytail, and her skin was glowing. "So what's the noise?" she said, after Mary Jane had slid into the front passenger seat.

"Don't know yet. He'll take a look at it and call to let me know."

"He must be getting pretty old for lying around under cars."

"It wasn't Mr. Capelli. It was his son. Joe."

"Joe. Wow!" Lee said. "I thought he was in Hollywood, being a movie star."

"You remember that? You were two years behind us in school."

"The whole school knew about Joe Capelli's plans. I think everyone believed in them, too."

"Really?" Mary Jane infused a watery amount of skepticism into her voice for appearance's sake, and yet she had believed in his plans just as much as everyone else. Had believed in them utterly, to the point where she looked for his face on TV or in movies for years afterward, and even once thought she'd spotted him on screen, playing a gangster's henchman who died under dramatic movie gunfire without speaking a line.

"Don't you remember him in West Side Story?" Lee said. "Every girl in the audience was practically moaning out loud."

"Not me."

"Well, you weren't the moaning type. I never understood why he hadn't gotten the lead role."

"Because he couldn't sing in the right range," Mary Jane answered. "He's a baritone, not a tenor."

"You do remember."

"But you're right, I wasn't the moaning type," Mary Jane hastened to emphasize. "I couldn't stand him."

"He did think he was God's gift to womankind, I seem to remember. Bit of a joke where he's ended up, compared to what he planned."

"Not a joke. And not the end, either. He's only thirtyfive."

"Now you're defending him."

"Because I'm sure he must know what everyone is thinking," Mary Jane retorted. "He was a bit of a jerk, maybe, a bit arrogant and cocky, but he doesn't deserve that. He wasn't a bad person, just."

"Way too much ego. Isn't that almost the definition of jerk? You mean he doesn't deserve people thinking that being back in his father's garage is a far cry from what he expected?"

"From what we all expected."

"I know what you mean. When some people say, 'I'm gonna be a star!' you roll your eyes, but with him."

"We were rolling our eyes for other reasons," Mary Jane agreed.

"The arrogance."

"Exactly. I never doubted he'd make it big."

Just as she'd never doubted her own future—no grand ambitions, in her case, just the usual one—the triple play of decent marriage, beautiful and welcoming home, healthy kids. Enough of a win in the lottery of life for anyone, she'd always considered.

So far, she'd scored just one out of the three.

A few minutes later, Lee turned into the driveway that led to Spruce Bay Resort and Mary Jane thought she could hardly ask for a more beautiful place to live, surrounded by pristine white snow in winter and glorious views of mountain and forest and lake in spring, summer and fall.

And yet she would have exchanged it in a heartbeat for a two-bedroom apartment over a dingy little store if it meant she got the decent marriage and healthy kids instead.

It was embarrassing. Painfully embarrassing. Way more embarrassing than Joe Capelli working in his dad's old-fashioned garage.

Incredibly embarrassing that she wanted something so outwardly ordinary and conventional and yet still it hadn't happened.

Embarrassing…and painful…and horrible…that she could feel the bitterness kicking in. She had to try so hard, sometimes, not to mind that both her younger sisters were now happily in love, married or engaged, with babies on the way.

She had a secret little chart tucked away in her head, and mentally awarded herself a gold star for every day she went without feeling jealous, or saying something pointed and mean, or wallowing in regret.

And even though the mental chart had quite a few gold stars on it, she hated that it existed in the first place, and no matter how much she'd disliked…well, tried to dislike… "Cap" Capelli in high school, she understood so well what he'd meant when he'd said with that wry drawl and quirked mouth, "Life's a funny thing."

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