Until There Was You

Until There Was You

4.2 245
by Kristan Higgins

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Posey Osterhagen can't complain. She owns a successful architectural salvaging company, she's surrounded by her lovable, if off-center, family and she has a boyfriend—sort of. Still, something's missing. Something tall, brooding and criminally good-looking…something like Liam Murphy.

When Posey was sixteen, the bad boy of Bellsford… See more details below


Posey Osterhagen can't complain. She owns a successful architectural salvaging company, she's surrounded by her lovable, if off-center, family and she has a boyfriend—sort of. Still, something's missing. Something tall, brooding and criminally good-looking…something like Liam Murphy.

When Posey was sixteen, the bad boy of Bellsford, New Hampshire, broke her heart. But now he's back, sending Posey's traitorous schoolgirl heart into overdrive once again. She should be giving him a wide berth, but it seems fate has other ideas….

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Good girl Posey Osterhagen and bad boy Liam Murphy dance around one another in a whirl of attraction, miscommunication, and personal bugaboos in Higgins’s slightly marred latest rom-com romp. Successful and content, Posey lives in her hometown amid family, friends, and people who know everything about her from childhood. All she needs is a man to round things out—but surely her high school crush, Liam, is not the one. Newly returned home with teenage daughter and tragedy in tow, Liam still takes Posey’s breath away, even as she fights the attraction that will probably break her heart all over again. Higgins (My One and Only) employs her usual breezy, intimate style, which is sure to engage her fans but also emphasizes how similar the near-farcical story is to some of her earlier (and stronger) novels. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"A funny, poignant romance....Readers will be cheering for Harper all the way."

- Publishers Weekly on My One and Only, starred review

"Higgins has a special talent for creating characters readers love... Fun, charming and heartfelt."

-RT Book Reviews on All I Ever Wanted, 4 ½ stars


Winner-2010 Romance Writers of America RITA® Award

"Cheeky, cute, and satisfying, Higgins's romance is perfect entertainment for a girl's night in."



Winner-2008 Romance Writers of America RITA® Award

"A touching story brimming with smart dialogue, sympathetic characters, an engaging narrative and the amusing, often self-deprecating observations of the heroine. It's a novel with depth and a great deal of heart."

-RT Book Reviews (Top Pick, 4½ stars)

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Every woman has a fantasy about running into the man who broke her heart. In such a fantasy, she'd be walking down the street, her well-dressed and gorgeous husband (let's say George Clooney, shall we, circa Ocean's 11) caressing her, perhaps nuzzling her neck because he can't help himself. She'd be wearing something fabulous, her hair would be glossy and perfect, she and Clooney would have just left the nicest restaurant in town, perhaps, or the poshest jewelry shop, because he insisted on buying her yet another token of his love—and then, oh, my goodness, who's that? Why it's him, the first man she ever loved, the one who didn't just break her young and loyal heart, but shattered it. He's not looking so good these days. No, the years have not been kind. He's gray—or, better yet, balding—and slackly overweight, his posture hunched. He looks at her, recognizing immediately that the biggest mistake of his life was dumping her. Pleasantries will be exchanged. Clooney will shake his hand, giving Adored Wife a wry look (Him? Really?), and as the happy couple walks away to their snazzy car, the heartbreaker of old is already forgotten. But he will gaze longingly after her, wondering how he ever could've been so blind.

That would've been nice. Much nicer, Posey Oster-hagen acknowledged, than being dressed in the waitress uniform of Guten Tag, her parents' restaurant—dirndl, ruffled skirt and vest embroidered with dwarves (yes, dwarves), not to mention the green tights and painted red clogs. Cheeks bulging with the potato dumpling she'd just crammed into her mouth, as she was at the near-fainting part of her flea-like metabolism. The back door opened and there he was, standing right in front of her.

Liam Declan Murphy, the first man she'd ever loved, and the only man who'd ever broken her heart.

No Clooney. No jewelry. Just an empty kitchen in an aging German restaurant and a fist-size dumpling practically splitting her cheeks.

Posey's mind blipped into the blue screen of death—all data erased. Fatal error. Speaking was clearly not an option.

His eyes were still that unnerving shade of clear, glacier green. Black hair showed no signs of gray or thinning. Still tall—obviously, Posey, people don't usually shrink in their thirties. Still radiating his bad-boy You want me/I ignore you vibe. Oh…bieber. This was just not good. Chew, Posey, chew, her brain instructed. She obeyed with difficulty. It was a big dumpling.

Liam was dressed in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, pretty much the same thing he wore back in high school, if memory served. And memory seemed to be wicked clear where Liam Murphy was concerned. He'd come to Bellsford to live with an uncle after getting out of juvie (squee!—okay, okay, she'd been fifteen, it had seemed uber-hot back then) for car theft. Rode an old motorcycle (come on!) and, as legend had it, had turned quite a few girls into women (gack). But, to everyone's surprise, he'd fallen for the squeakiest-clean girl in school, just like a plotline on Beverly Hills 90210, Posey's favorite show back then. When Emma Tate had gone off to college in California, Liam had followed. Eventually, they'd gotten married. It had been in the paper, before Emma's parents had moved to Maine. And here he was.

"Liam!" cried her mother. Stacia Osterhagen, six foot two of Germanic engineering, tromped into the kitchen, rattling the stacked dishware. "Posey! Look who's here! We forgot to tell you! Max! Liam's here! Liam, sweetheart, why didn't you come in the front?"

"Force of habit, I guess," he said with a slight smile at her mother.

"Good to see you, son," Max said heartily, shaking their visitor's hand. Liam Declan Murphy. Holy Elvis Presley.

"You remember Liam, don't you, honey?" Stacia said.

Cheeks still bulging, Posey nodded. Could she look any more ridiculous? Not that she was exactly gifted with girliness when it came to clothes—her work required sturdy stuff, so, sure, there was a lot of flannel, a lot of Carhartt. But even that would be better than her uniform (same one from high school, still regrettably roomy in the bust, as Germans didn't take small chests into account when designing clothes, apparently).

"Hey," he said with the same disinterested tone she remembered with unfortunate clarity. "How are you, Cordelia?" His tone implied he really didn't care. And Cordelia. That was another thing. He'd always called her by her real name, for some reason…a name Posey hated. Honestly—bad enough to have been stick-figure skinny in high school, but to bear the name Cordelia Wilhelmina Osterhagen (named for a half-blind great-aunt who'd died by falling into a well)…Obviously, she'd had more than her fair share of mocking.

"I'm good," she squeaked, finally swallowing the last of the dumpling. "Hi. How are you?" "Fine, thanks."

"Good! Good. Um…how's Emma?"

"She died," he answered coolly.

Posey's head jerked back in shock. "What? Are you kidding?"

He gave her a glacial look. "No."

How had she missed this news? "But…when did this happen?"

"It'll be three years in October."

That explained something, at least. Two and a half years ago, in October, Posey had taken a rare vacation and spent a few weeks in North Carolina. And she'd been a latecomer to Facebook, so if there'd been chatter, she'd missed it. And she and Emma hadn't exactly run with the same people.

"I'm so sorry," she said, her face burning.

Emma Tate, dead? Crikey! She'd been a nice girl. A very nice girl and a very popular girl back in high school, when such things seemed mutually exclusive. "So, what happened?" Posey asked. Then, aware that perhaps this was none of her business, she added, "I mean, you don't have to tell me. It's…I don't have to know. It's your…private, um…thing."

"Leukemia," Liam answered.

Posey flinched. "I'm so, so sorry."

"A tragedy," Max added. "Such a sweet girl."

"He told us at Home Depot the other day," Stacia said. "You know how the fan in the upstairs bathroom has been broken for years? Well, we thought it was time to finally fix it, since Gretchen's coming home, and there we were and who did we see but this handsome boy! We were so sad to hear about Emma. So sad."

Granted, not sad enough to tell Posey, despite the fact that Stacia called her every morning at 8:15. Then again, not passing on big news was a family tradition. Stacia had told Posey about Carol Antonelli's gallbladder surgery in relentless detail, as well as how much they'd saved by driving forty miles to buy coffee at Stop & Shop instead of Hannaford's, sure. But bigger news—deaths, births, marriages, etc.—tended to fall through the cracks.

A sudden flash of memory caused a lump to come to Posey's throat—Emma at Sweetie Sue's Ice Cream Parlor, loading up a waffle cone with four scoops instead of three, a conspiratorial wink as she handed it over the counter.

"I'm really sorry," she said more quietly.

"Thanks," Liam said, still staring with that cold, disinterested gaze.

Posey looked away, torn between sympathy, guilt for not knowing about Emma, trepidation (Liam had done some damage, after all), and, yes, lust. "You guys have a kid, right?" she asked. At least she remembered that.

"Nicole. She's fifteen now."

"Wow. Fifteen. That's…Wow. Fifteen."

Liam didn't answer, but his look was loaded with that same disdain Posey so well remembered.

Once upon a time, when he was channeling Bono, Liam had worked right here in Guten Tag, a miraculous and agonizing time for Posey. The fact that the Osterhagens had given Liam a job at a time when his reputation was questionable (and fascinating) hadn't caused Liam to warm up to Posey, however. Nope. He always treated her with the same interest he might give a speck of dust.

At first, anyway.

Whatever. Mom was gabbling away. "Liam, sweetheart, you haven't changed a bit! You have to stay for a drink! You have to! Did you eat? We'll feed you. I insist. Max, you insist, too, don't you?"

"I also insist," Max said, smiling.

"Just a drink," Liam said. "I have to get back to my daughter."

Just then Otto, a longtime waiter and accordion player at Guten Tag, poked his head through the door to the dining room. "Max, Stacia, the Schmottlachs are leaving."

"Posey, make Liam at home, would you? Liam, this will just take a minute. Bruce and Shirley are our best friends. You remember them, don't you?"

Liam's mouth pulled into a reluctant smile as Stacia grabbed Max by the hand and towed him into the dining room. Said smile caused Posey's girl parts to clench in a warm, strong squeeze. Hello! Her stomach began flipping like an overexcited dolphin. Alone. She was alone with Hottie McSin, widower. Oh, crikey, that wasn't nice. She shouldn't be lusting after the poor guy. Except the words poor guy didn't seem to apply to Liam Murphy. She swallowed, the sound louder than a gunshot in the now-quiet kitchen.

Meanwhile, God's gift to women—because, yes, he was that good…all smoldering male beauty made all the more inaccessible by that touch of disdain—folded his arms and looked around the kitchen.

It was hard to fathom that bright, bouncy Emma Tate was gone. Posey swallowed again, her throat thick. "How's your daughter handling things?"

"Pretty well." He allowed her a brief glance.

"So, what brings you here? Just visiting?"

"No. We moved to be closer to Emma's parents."

He was back? Staying? "Oh. Um…that's nice. Good. I mean, it's good to be close to family. Good for children, I mean."

He didn't answer. Didn't ask what she'd been up to, if she was married, if she had kids. Of course not. Apparently he was still way too cool to care about—

"So, what have you been up to, Cordelia?"

Oops. Strike that. "Oh, I'm just filling in tonight. I own an architectural salvage company," she said, well aware of the pride that tinged her voice. He didn't respond, just gave a half nod. "What about you?"

"I'm a mechanic. I build custom motorcycles."

Of course he was a motorcycle mechanic. This would enable him to wear leather and smell like oil and have large throbbing machines between his thighs. At the image, Posey's legs weakened. Down, girl. It wouldn't do to wrestle him to the floor here in her parents' kitchen. But he'd always had that effect on her—and every other female. He was like the Death Star's tractor beam, pulling in whatever the heck it wanted. "Motorcycles. Neat-o," she managed.

Liam's glance bounced around the kitchen once more. He sighed, perhaps irked that there was no one else to talk to, then looked back at her. "You married?"

"Um, no. Nope. Not married. Not yet, I guess I should say. I, um…well, you know. Haven't met the right guy." Oh, bieber. That made her sound…unwanted. "Not yet. I mean, actually I'm seeing someone…um, and, you know, I came close once or twice, but—"

"Came close to what?" Stacia asked, banging through the kitchen doors once more.

Posey jumped. "Nothing," she muttered, tugging at her dwarf-embroidered vest.

"Cordelia was telling me about when she almost got married," Liam said. Was that derision in his voice? Probably.

"What? You almost what?" Stacia pressed a large hand to her ample bosom. "My own child, and I don't know this—"

"Mom, stop. It was…you know." Posey took a deep breath. "Ron. You remember."

"The one with the rash?"

Posey grimaced. "It cleared up very quickly."

"He was the one who turned gay, right? Liam, honestly. Posey just cannot find a normal man, not that she tries very hard, working out at that junkyard—"

"It's not a junkyard. It's architectural salvage." And I am seeing a normal man, I just don't want you to keel over if I tell you who.

"I always say, if she'd just clean up a little, some man would see what a beautiful, sweet—" Stacia broke off, a religious gleam beginning in her sky-blue eyes. Ruh-roh. Posey knew that look. It was the look of Matchmaker, one Posey had seen far too many times over the years. Ron the Gay with the Rash had been one of Stacia's better picks, actually. There'd been Carol Antonelli's nephew, who'd taken her to McDonald's on their first date and didn't even pay for her Big Mac. The restaurant-supply guy who'd turned out to have two families, one in New Hampshire, one in Delaware. And now, the look of Matchmaker with Liam.

Don't do it, Mom, Posey begged silently, hunching her shoulders to ward off the blow.

The blow came, though not the one she expected. "You'll have to come back and meet my niece, Liam," Stacia said. "Gretchen? From The Barefoot Fraulein? On the Cooking Network? She's my late sister's daughter. We're so proud of her! Have you ever seen her show?"

"Can't say that I have," he murmured. He glanced again at Posey, eyes dropping to her costume. Just in case she forgot that she looked like an idiot.

"Well, you'll have to come by," Stacia said. "We were just thrilled when she told us she wanted to come work here! And she's such a sweet, sweet girl." Mom paused cunningly. "Very pretty, too."

Gretchen was very pretty, Posey would give her that. She looked much like Stacia—tall, blonde, blue-eyed, voluptuous—German beauty at its finest. Posey, on the other hand, was adopted—five foot three (five two and a half, why lie?), a hundred and seven pounds, dark, short, difficult hair and brown eyes. As for Gretchen's sweetness…Posey stifled a snort.

"We could use a little help, to be honest," her mom continued. "Ever since that—" Stacia took a meaningful breath "—that Italian restaurant moved in down the street, business has been a little slow."

Business had been slow well before Inferno opened, though Posey knew her mom would never admit it. Guten Tag's food wasn't bad, if you liked old-school German cuisine (which, it must be said, most people didn't). The slogan—We'll feed you till you're stuffed!—didn't exactly scream gourmet dining.

Inferno, on the other hand, was only six months old and had already been reviewed by the New York Times (four stars). They had a slogan, too, one that appeared on the local television stations and in swanky tourist magazines—Our life's mission: to make the best meal of your life.

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