Trinity Fallsby Regina Hart
"Rich and satisfying." LuAnn McLane, author of Whisper's Edge
Ean Fever is burned out by the hectic pace of New York City and his cutthroat law career. Longing for a sense of community, he's returned to his hometown of Trinity Falls, Ohio. Maybe he can even help save the Town Center from greedy developers looking to destroy its small/i>… See more details below
"Rich and satisfying." LuAnn McLane, author of Whisper's Edge
Ean Fever is burned out by the hectic pace of New York City and his cutthroat law career. Longing for a sense of community, he's returned to his hometown of Trinity Falls, Ohio. Maybe he can even help save the Town Center from greedy developers looking to destroy its small businesseslike Books & Bakery, owned by Megan McCloud. Megan was once an awkward girl next door, but Ean discovers she's grown into a strong-willed, beautiful woman. . .
Megan isn't the only strong-willed McCloud. Her cousin, Ramona, is the town mayor. And as usual, Ramona is trying to take away what Megan wants most. As teenagers, that meant Ean. Now Ramona wants to take away her business. But Megan has learned how to fight. And she soon realizes that Ean is ready to fight with herand for her. Because when Ean finds himself falling for the woman who's adored him all along, he'll have to convince her that he's not leaving again. At least not without her.
Praise for Regina Hart's Keeping Score
"The writing is clever and funny." RT Book Reviews
"Hart raises issues such as love, trust, commitment, family, work, marriage and dreams." APOOO Book Club
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By REGINA HART
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Patricia Sargeant-Matthews
All rights reserved.
"I can't do this." Ean Fever closed the client folder. He leaned forward and laid it on Hugh Bolden's imposing teakwood desk. Hugh was his boss and one of the principal partners with the New York law firm of Craven, Bolden & Arnez.
"Why not?" From the other side of the desk, Hugh's laser blue eyes took aim at Ean's face. His frown deepened the fine wrinkles between his thick gray brows. "It's like all the other corporate litigation cases you've worked."
"I can't represent this client." Ean steeled himself for his boss's reaction.
"'Can't' or 'won't'?" Hugh seemed more curious than confrontational.
The walls were closing in on him. Ean freed his gaze from the older man's steely regard to take in the spacious office. It smelled like power and prestige. Thick silver carpeting complemented the teakwood furnishings—conversation table with four white-cushioned chairs, executive desk, cabinetries and bookcases. The entertainment center, including the high-definition television, was black lacquer. The picture window behind Hugh framed several Manhattan skyscrapers as they pierced the hot August sky.
Commendations and civic awards decorated the walls and shelves. But the partner's office didn't give any insight into the man: his loved ones, his hobbies, his beverages of choice. And after almost seven years with the firm, Ean knew the older man little better than on the day he'd interviewed with him.
Hugh shifted in his chair. He crossed his right leg over his left and adjusted the crease in the pants of his navy Armani power suit. "What's on your mind, Ean? You haven't been yourself for months."
Six months. Since his father's death in February, after a long illness Ean had been unaware of. Why hadn't anyone told him? "I need a change, Hugh."
"To what? Employment law? Contracts? Torts?"
Ean shook his head as Hugh rattled off the divisions within the firm. "I have to go home."
Hugh's gaze flickered. His frown deepened. "Is your mother sick?"
Ean appreciated his boss's concern. "No." At least, not as far as he knew.
"Then why do you have to go home?"
"I'm doing this for myself."
Silence stretched. Hugh took his measure, much as the seasoned litigator did during meetings with opposing counsel.
Tension ebbed from Ean's neck and shoulders as he gained confidence in his decision. He hadn't made this choice lightly. He'd spent the past five months weighing the pros and cons, what he felt against what he knew. In the end, the two were the same. He felt the need to return to Trinity Falls, Ohio, and knew he had to make the move now.
Would someone like Hugh Bolden understand that? The firm appeared to be everything the partner wanted. Ean couldn't allow that to happen to him.
Hugh sat back in the tall executive seat made of brown leather. His expression cleared. "Do you want a leave of absence?"
"No." Ean rose, gathering his writing tablet and silver Cross pen from the table. "You'll have my resignation before the end of the day."
He checked his bronze Omega wristwatch. It was almost ten o'clock on the last Friday morning in August. He'd already put in more than four hours.
Hugh stood. Concern was evident in his expression. "You're resigning? Isn't this sudden?"
"I don't think so." Ean slid his hands into the front pockets of his dark gray Hugo Boss pants. "I appreciate the opportunities you've given me, Hugh, including the partnership two years ago."
Hugh shook his head. "You earned the partnership. You're a brilliant lawyer, Ean. I've enjoyed working with you. Are you sure you want to resign? Maybe you just need some time."
His family or his career, those were Ean's choices. He already knew how it felt to lose a family member. "Craven, Bolden and Arnez is one of the best firms in the country. But my life needs to go in a different direction."
"Are you sure this is what your father would have wanted for you?" The question was surprisingly gentle coming from such a gruff man.
Ean tightened his grip on his writing tablet. No, he wasn't. Was that the reason everyone had kept him in the dark regarding his father's terminal cancer? Because his father was afraid Ean would risk his career to help care for him?
"I don't know."
Another long, silent scrutiny from Hugh's sharp eyes. "I understand. I'm sure this decision wasn't easy for you. But everything will work out. You'll make sure of it."
"Thank you." Every muscle in Ean's body relaxed with the other man's words. "It'll take me a few weeks to wrap up my open cases. I'll get Wendy up to speed on my new matters."
The second-year associate eyed his cases—and his office—with something close to lust. Would she be able to mask her pleasure at the announcement of Ean's resignation?
"What will you do back in Trinity Falls, Ohio?"
Ean offered a weak smile. "I don't know that, either."
"Stay in touch." Hugh extended his right hand. "If you need anything—a recommendation, your job back, anything at all—call me."
Ean clasped the other man's hand. His face eased into a smile. "I appreciate that."
As he turned to leave, his black Bruno Magli shoes sank into the plush carpet. He had a lot to do, but his thoughts kept turning to his late father, widowed mother, childhood friends and the woman who'd broken his heart six years before.
"You're full of energy." Megan McCloud huffed a breath. She picked up her pace as she jogged with Doreen Fever through Trinity Falls's Freedom Park Saturday morning. She'd thought they'd have an easy jog on the last day of August, enjoying the turning foliage and waning summer. Her friend must have had other ideas.
Doreen pulled back her pace. "Ean called last night."
Megan's heart hopped once at the name of her teenage crush. "How is he?"
"He's quit his job. He's coming home. Permanently."
Megan tripped over nothing on the winding dirt path. She caught her balance and her breath. "When?"
"That was my reaction." Doreen's warm brown eyes twinkled with humor.
In her lemon yellow jersey and black running pants, Ean's mother looked at least a decade younger than her sixty years.
Megan forced her numb limbs to keep up with Doreen as they continued jogging. "He's coming back to Trinity Falls?" Seriously? "Why?"
"Didn't say." There was maternal concern in the older woman's breathy voice. "He thinks it'll take eight weeks—give or take—to finish his cases and move."
Megan's heart reacted like that fourteen-year-old girl she'd been as she called to mind the eighteen-year-old Ean. He'd been larger than life to her adoring eyes: long, fluid muscles, broad shoulders and a sexy smile. But his almond-shaped olive eyes had never noticed her. All he'd seen was her older cousin, Ramona.
The path veered left around a group of bushes lit by one of the park's many security lamps. They followed the trail deeper, past morning walkers and a few other joggers.
Megan drew in the scent of warm air and packed dirt. "Is he all right?"
"He said he is." Doreen didn't seem convinced. "He sounded fine. Better than he has in a long time."
The last time Megan had seen Ean was during his father's funeral, more than six months ago. Did he even remember their exchange? She'd shaken his hand and expressed her condolences. But Ean's eyes had looked so lost—not even Ramona's touch reached him. Megan knew well the pain of losing a beloved family member. She'd lost two—four, if you included the parents she barely remembered.
Megan's thoughts returned to the present. "Did you have any idea he'd been thinking of coming back?" Had Ramona?
Megan couldn't wrap her mind around the news. "Ever since high school, all Ean's wanted to do was leave Trinity Falls. Why is he moving back?"
Doreen chuckled. "Paul used to say Ean had been born with a road map out of town."
Megan smiled at the mention of her friend's late husband. "Ean always had a plan, which is another reason this decision is so out of character."
"I know. My son has never been spontaneous." Doreen paused as they jogged past two women speed walking on the trail. "He chose his college when he was in elementary school. And he selected his law school before he graduated from high school."
Megan had been devastated when he'd picked New York University's law school. It had seemed so far away. "It was always his dream to become a partner with a prestigious New York City firm. Now that he's achieved that dream, he's going to throw it away to return to Trinity Falls, Ohio, population less than fifteen hundred?"
In the seven years since Ean had been working for that law firm, Megan could count on her hands the number of times he'd come home.
"I don't understand his decision, either. But I'm glad that he's coming home."
Megan's face warmed with guilt. Doreen's response put this situation in its proper perspective. She reined in her panic and focused on her friend. "I know you've missed him."
Doreen was silent for several paces. "A lot has changed since he's spent any real time here." She wasn't talking about the new buildings and wider roads.
Megan reacted to the tension in the other woman's voice. She reached out, giving her friend's shoulder a bracing squeeze. "As long as you're happy, Ean will be, too."
Doreen's expression was hopeful. "Do you really believe that?"
Megan let her hand drop. "How you choose to live your life is your decision, Doreen. Ean can either get on board with it or not."
Doreen mustered a halfhearted smile. "I hope he gets on board. It'll be nice to have him home again."
It would be nice for Doreen. And for Megan? That would depend on whether Ean and her cousin picked up where they'd left off.
A little more than an hour later, Megan opened Books & Bakery, her combination bookstore and café, for business. As soon as the doors opened, two of her regular customers strolled in.
"Morning, ladies." Darius Knight greeted Megan and Doreen. The local newspaper reporter slipped onto his usual chair at the bakery counter.
"Good morning, Megan, Ms. Doreen." Dr. Quincy Spates followed Darius to the counter. The Trinity Falls University history professor took the seat beside his childhood friend.
Megan studied the two men on the other side of the counter. They'd been friends with Ean since birth or at least as long as she'd been alive. Tall, fit, intelligent and attractive, they were brothers in every way but by blood.
Darius's midnight eyes gleamed with excitement. "Have you heard the news?"
Doreen served both men a mug of coffee. "If you're talking about Ean coming home, of course, I have. I'm his mother. And I've already told Megan. When did you two find out?"
Darius added cream and way too much sugar to his coffee. "Ean e-mailed us late last night." He inclined his head toward Quincy.
Quincy swallowed half his cup of coffee. "What do you make of his coming home?"
Megan frowned. Had he also e-mailed Ramona? What was her cousin's reaction to Ean's plans?
Doreen laid a china dish bearing a sizable square of Trinity Falls Fudge Walnut Brownie in front of Quincy. "I think the people of this good town should fear having the three of you together again."
"It's been fourteen years. I'd like to think we've matured." Darius reached toward Quincy's plate.
Quincy paused with his cup near his lips. "Touch my brownie and you'll pull back a stump."
"Yes, very mature." Doreen shook her head.
Darius dropped his hand. "What do you think, Megan?"
She thought fourteen years should have been enough time to get over her crush. Then why did her heart race every time she heard Ean's name?
Megan brought Darius his own Trinity Falls Fudge Walnut Brownie. "I think you three can be trusted to stay out of trouble this time around."
"It may not be the three of us, though. It may only be two." Darius took a big bite of the brownie.
"What do you mean?" Megan looked to Quincy. Her eyes grew wide. "Did you apply for the faculty position with the University of Pennsylvania?"
Quincy used his fork to cut a corner of the brownie. "Yes, but I'm sure they'll have a huge pool of candidates for the position."
Megan grinned. "You'll make the final round."
Quincy shrugged broad shoulders covered in a lightweight black sweater. "I won't know anything until the fall. I may not even get a phone interview."
Megan reached out to squeeze Quincy's forearm. "They'd be foolish not to hire you."
Quincy ran a hand over his clean-shaven brown head. "It's a big decision, Megan. I'm not sure I'll take it."
Darius snorted. "You've been pining after teaching at your alma mater since you got your doctorate."
Quincy arched a brow. "No, I haven't."
"You make my ears bleed." Darius gestured with his brownie. "Your whole family moved to Florida years ago. What's keeping you here?"
Megan blinked at the challenge in Darius's question. Quincy visited his family in Florida several times a year. But something—someone?—always brought him home to Trinity Falls. Was Darius challenging Quincy to admit that?
"Did you like the university?" Doreen's question ended the awkward silence.
Quincy sliced another piece of his pastry. "It's a great institution. The faculty and staff are committed to the students."
"Does the position pay more?" Darius stuffed the last of the brownie into his mouth.
Quincy shot him a wry look. "Yes."
"Then take the job. What's the problem?" The reporter drained his coffee.
"Megan's right. They would be lucky to have you." Doreen refilled both men's mugs. "It's just too bad that you'll be leaving just as Ean's finally coming home."
Quincy dropped his dark gaze to the plate of his half-eaten pastry. Megan studied his still, silent posture. He hadn't said much about Ean's imminent return.
Megan turned her attention to Darius. "I read your article about the town council's plan to find a high-end real estate broker to buy the town center."
Darius smoothed the tight curls of his dark hair. "They're still working out the details, so I can't add anything that's not already in my article."
Megan poured herself some coffee. Steam from the drink blew across her face. "Did they at least tell you whether the current center businesses' rental agreements will be renewed?"
"No." Darius's response was succinct and tinged with regret. It added to Megan's tension.
"High-end stores in Trinity Falls?" Doreen collected Darius's empty plate. "Ramona knows the town's culture won't support exclusive labels and fashions. What is she thinking?"
"She wants to bring the big-city lifestyle to our little town." Megan's voice was tight with frustration. She carried her coffee to the counter and added cream and sweetener. "I should have realized this would happen as soon as the original center owners defaulted on the town's loan."
Her older cousin's reasons for not staying in New York when Ean had asked her to marry him were still a mystery. It was now compounded by the puzzle of her goal to bring a piece of Fifth Avenue to their sleepy little town.
"How were you supposed to know?" Darius drained his second mug of coffee. "I wonder how Ean's return will affect Ramona's plans to gentrify Trinity Falls."
Quincy stood abruptly. He put several bills on the counter. "Keep the change, Ms. Doreen."
Doreen looked as startled as Megan felt. "Thank you, Quincy. Enjoy the rest of your day."
"You do the same." Quincy waved over his shoulder as he strode to the door.
Doreen stared after Quincy. "What was that about?"
Megan remained silent, but something told her Ean's return wouldn't affect only her unrequited crush.
Ean jogged down the deserted, quiet street of his hometown early Monday morning. He'd arrived in Trinity Falls late Sunday night, with only enough time to fall into his childhood bed to sleep. He drew a deep breath of the chilly mid-October air as he approached his parents' home—now his mother's house.
The buildings and lamps winding through the neighborhood displayed banners heralding next year's Trinity Falls Sesquicentennial, the 150th birthday of his hometown. They read: 150 YEARS STRONG. He'd already caught the community's excitement. Was the sole heir of the town's founding family also excited? Last he'd heard, Jackson Sansbury had withdrawn from the town.
Excerpted from Trinity Falls by REGINA HART. Copyright © 2013 Patricia Sargeant-Matthews. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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