Luke Maguire never thought he’d set foot back into the dull town where he'd spent his youth. But when his abusive father dies, he’s forced to return and take care of the family bar. While trying to get the people of Serenity Falls to lighten up a little, he makes an unlikely alliance with a feisty librarian, whose pages he’d really like to turn. The battle lines are being drawn and Luke may have an uphill fight on his hands, but he's determined to come out on top, tempting this good girl to be very bad.
“Readers are going to love this!”—Susan Elizabeth Phillips
“The author that readers of romantic comedy have been waiting for.”—Jayne Ann Krentz
About the Author
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Table of Contents
Praise for Cathie Linz
“Humor and warmth . . . Readers are going to love this!”—Susan Elizabeth Phillips
“Cathie Linz is the author that readers of romantic comedy have been waiting for. She knows how to do it—characters with depth, sharp dialogue, and a compelling story. The result is a charming, offbeat world, one you’ll hate to leave.”—Jayne Ann Krentz
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GOOD GIRLS DO
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Sensation edition / January 2006
eISBN : 978-1-101-01057-0
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For Jayne Krentz,
a wonderful writer
and the most amazing cheerleader
in the world!
Four years of college and two more of graduate school had gotten Julia Wright where she was today—wearing a too-tight Bo Peep costume and staring down the mayor’s belligerent adolescent son.
“Unhand the goldfish, Billy, and no one gets hurt.”
He stood at the edge of the artificially made pond and stared at her defiantly. “It’s a koi, not a goldfish.” His words bounced off the frantically wiggling fish poised right above his mouth.
Julia wanted to drop-kick him over the nearest rooftop. “Unhand the koi.” Her voice was pure Cameron Diaz in kick-butt mode. “Put it back in the water. Now!”
Billy muttered something under his breath with the rampant disgust only a twelve-year-old boy could display. But he did toss the fish back into the pond that formed the centerpiece of the public library’s grounds.
Halloween didn’t always bring out the best in people, even in a small town like Serenity Falls, Pennsylvania.
Despite that, Julia adored this town. She had from the moment she’d first come here three years ago to interview for the reference librarian position. Then and now she admired the way the town appeared to be cradled by the surrounding hills, which retained some of their fall foliage. The landscape provided the perfect backdrop for the severely beautiful steeple of the All Saint Episcopal Church located right across the street from the library. She also welcomed the neatness of white picket fences enclosing manicured lawns and well-maintained homes along streets with names like Sleepy Hollow Lane or Sassafras Way.
Yes, Julia loved Serenity Falls.
As for her Bo Peep costume, complete with stupid bonnet and wayward hoop skirt covered by miles of ruffly white material bedecked with blue ribbons . . . well, she wasn’t all that fond of it. She’d reluctantly agreed to wear it in the library’s booth at the Fall Fun Festival being held in the town square tonight—the Saturday evening before Halloween.
The library couldn’t expect more of her than that.
Plus, she’d just saved one of the library director’s prized koi.
In her book, that all added up to going above and beyond the call of duty. Because wearing costumes and sounding like a Marine drill sergeant were not her normal modus operandi.
Julia led a very careful existence here. After experiencing a chaotic roller-coaster ride for most of her life, she was entitled to a little peace and quiet for a change.
And if there was one thing Serenity Falls excelled at, it was peace and quiet.
That peace and quiet was interrupted by the sound of a male voice drawling, “I thought Bo Peep’s job was to watch the sheep, not the fish.”
Julia didn’t recognize the man or the big bad Harley parked nearby. The newcomer, dressed in black jeans and a T-shirt, was leaning against one of the oldest oak trees in Serenity Falls. She figured he must be passing through town, because he was much too dangerous-looking to be a native.
Not that she feared for her safety. The man didn’t exude that kind of danger. No, this was something much more elemental, male to female.
She couldn’t see much of his face in the shadows cast by the tree’s massive trunk, but she could tell he was tall and well built. She squinted into the fast-approaching twilight, trying to get a better look at him. He had broad shoulders, a lean waist, and long legs.
Feeling guilty for staring, she looked away. Only then did she realize that while she’d been wool-gathering, Billy had taken off, which left her alone with the newcomer.
Julia shoved the stupid bonnet off her head. “The library is closed.” She didn’t know if he cared about the library. It was just something to say. Not that he looked like a regular patron to her.
“That what you do in this town to have fun? Dress up and eat live fish? You must be pretty hard up for entertainment around here.”
She immediately defended her adopted hometown. “Serenity Falls has some wonderful entertainment venues.”
“Venues, huh?” he drawled.
So, hottie biker-man was mocking her, was he? Probably thought she was easy game, given the fact that she was dressed like a demented Bo Peep.
Too bad she’d left her shepherdess’s staff at home, or she could have yanked him right into the pond.
Okay, perhaps dunking him was a slightly intense reaction to his comment, but something about him got to her. Maybe it was the way he hadn’t bothered to step out of the shadows, or the way he still leaned against the tree as if she wasn’t worth straightening up for.
“This is a wonderful town.” She said the words with the same emphasis she’d use to state her name.
“Right.” He took a step closer.
Julia waved a cautionary hand. “You can’t leave your bike there. It’s a no parking zone.”
“I’m not parking. Just stopping for a while.”
“I doubt the police will see it that way.”
“So you’re trying to protect me from being abused by the local cops, huh?”
“Our police officers are all . . .”
“Wonderful,” he interrupted her, his mocking smile flashing in the increasing darkness. “Just like the town and the fish and the library, too, I’ll bet. All . . . wonderful.”
Normally she’d introduce herself, but because he was annoying her, she didn’t bother. “If you don’t care for it here, you’re welcome to keep on going. This road connects to the interstate in a few miles.”
“Trying to run me out of town already?”
“No. It just appeared to me that you weren’t very happy with your surroundings.”
“Happy with my surroundings?” He was doing it again, mocking her choice of words, although this time there was a touch of bitterness in his voice. “Yeah, you could say I’m not real happy with my surroundings at the moment.”
“Are you lost?”
He laughed. It wasn’t a happy sound. “Yeah, you could say that, too.”
“Maybe I can help you.”
“Why would you want to?”
Julia shrugged. “I’m a librarian. I help people find what they’re looking for.”
“That why you picked the Bo Peep costume? Because you’re good at finding things that are lost?”
“I didn’t pick it. This was the only one left that fit me.”
The people of Serenity Falls took their Fall Fun Festival seriously. So seriously that they expected members of the business community to participate in the costume celebration. Granted, the library wasn’t a business per se, but it was roped in on the event anyway.
“It fits you . . . well.”
Something about the way he said that made her immediately look down to be sure that she hadn’t had a “wardrobe malfunction.” No, both breasts were still covered. Barely.
“Something wrong?” He had the kind of voice that would sound sexy even if he were reading the phone book.
“Wrong?” she repeated. “No. Not at all.” Her voice was a bit squeaky, but then it was hard to sound totally professional when she looked like an escapee from a fractured fairy tale.
Note to self: No worries. I can handle this.
After all, Julia had plenty of experience at keeping her cool in the middle of a mess. Like the time her New Age mom had staged a sit-in at the San Bernardino Red Lobster, demanding it release its live lobsters.
She didn’t know why that incident should suddenly pop in to her head. Maybe the image of Billy holding that flopping koi over his mouth had created the crustacean connection.
Julia quickly erased the image and instead focused on her watch. She was going to be late. “I’ve got to go.”
“Want a lift?” He tilted his head toward his Harley.
The mental snapshot of her Bo Peep hoop skirt flying over her head had her quickly saying, “No, thank you.”
“Hey, Julia, wait up!” The shout came from her left. She turned to find Pam Greenley from Greenley’s Garden Center waving at her from across the street. A quick glance back at the newcomer told her he’d turned and was headed back to his Harley.
Julia felt a touch of regret at his departure. She didn’t even know the guy’s name, but she couldn’t look away. He had a way of moving—part sexy swagger, pure male—that was downright seductive. When was the last time she’d stared at a guy’s buns?
Her younger sister Skye would have whistled. She’d always been the bad girl in the family.
Julia had tried to be the dependable one. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it.
Reminding herself of that fact, Julia turned away from temptation and hurried over to the corner to meet Pam.
“Who were you talking to?”
“I don’t know.” Julia kept walking toward the town square, two blocks away. “He didn’t tell me his name.”
Pam, a runner, had no trouble keeping up even though she was wearing a Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz costume, complete with flashy red shoes that didn’t look that comfortable. But then Pam was like that. Petite and perky. Cute and cheerful. She even had T-shirts printed with both descriptions and wore them often. The only time Pam got crabby was when someone called her elfish, although the truth was that with her short dark hair, high cheekbones, and pointed chin, she did look like she should be wearing green and helping Santa. “What did he want?”
“So did you tell him where to go?”
I wish. Now that he was gone, Julia’s earlier aggravation with him returned, erasing her momentary lapse into sexual attraction.
“Well, did you?”
Julia nodded before changing the subject. “I’m beginning to think the selection process for choosing which library staff member has to attend this event in costume is flawed.”
Julia stopped in her tracks. “Really? They set me up?”
“Come on, what are the odds of your name being pulled three years in a row?”
“Last year Maudeen Entmann was supposed to go,” Julia reminded her.
“But she conveniently had to attend a wedding out of town so you took her place.”
“Only because I’m a kind person beneath my tough exterior.”
Pam laughed. “Tough?”
“Hey, I can be tough when I need to be. I’ll have you know I just saved a koi from certain death at the jaws of the mayor’s son.”
“Yeah, that’s you, defender of the underdog. Or underkoi.”
“Too bad I left my superhero costume at home.”
“The Bo Peep outfit is a nice cover. No one would guess that beneath all those ruffles lies the heart of a true superhero.”
Julia nodded. “That was my intention.”
Pam grinned. “It works for you.”
“I thought so. Now I just hope I don’t reveal anything tonight that I shouldn’t.” Julia tugged the material on the bodice.
“Just don’t lean over at the Stump the Librarian booth, and you’ll be fine.”
In the town square, crowds of people were milling about, already collecting in groups in front of the booths that offered everything from hot cider to apple-bobbing.
Julia tried to remember her friend’s advice during the next hour. Waiting at the library booth was a laptop computer provided by the library as well as a few reference books and a timer. She had ten minutes to get each answer. The questions came fast and furious.
“How many miles to the moon?”
“The moon is 238,851 miles from Earth.”
“When is Britney Spears’s birthday?”
“How many times have the Steelers won the Super Bowl?”
“When did James Dean die?”
“September 30, 1955.”
“Can the blue-footed boobie fly?”
This last question came from Mr. Soames, who had to be in his mid-eighties. He’d asked the same question of her for the past three years. And just about every time he came into the library as well. She suspected he merely liked saying boobie.
“Yes, it’s a type of sea bird found in the Galapagos, and it can fly. The name actually originates from the Spaniards, who called the bird bobo, or Spanish for ‘clown’ because of its cross-eyed appearance.” All of which she’d told him before.
Mr. Soames got this grin on his face. Julia knew what was coming, but short of duct-taping the old guy’s mouth shut, she had no way of stopping it. “I bet it would fly better if it got some Viagra.”
Which made the kid in line behind him ask Julia how to spell “erectile dysfunction” and snicker with his buddies.
Ah, the joys of being a librarian.
Finally, there was a momentary lull. Julia took a quick bite of the toffee apple Susan from the AAUW booth had brought her earlier. Yummy. She only now realized that she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Mmmm. The tart juice blended with the sweet caramel, thrilling her taste buds. She closed her eyes in ecstasy.
Julia opened them to find hottie biker-man standing in front of her booth. Blinking in surprise, she managed to quickly wipe the caramel from her chin with a paper napkin. If he mentioned Viagra, boobies, or erectile dysfunction, he was a dead man.
She could see him better in the well-lit area. He still looked tough and sexy in his white T-shirt, black jeans, and black leather jacket. But it was his face that held her attention now. There was a depth to his intensely blue eyes she hadn’t expected.
“I’m surprised to see you here.” The words were out before Julia could stop them. Damn. She thought she’d permanently cured herself of that trait. Since turning thirteen, she’d made a point of stopping to think before speaking, always making sure she said the right thing and avoided revealing anything too inflammatory or too intimate.
“I mean,” she immediately corrected herself, “I thought you would have left town by now.”
“So you’ve been thinking about me?”
He seemed entirely too pleased with the concept. Like she’d been sitting here mooning over him for hours. “Right. I’ve been waiting with baited breath.” The mocking words just came tumbling out. The man clearly had a bad effect on her.
He smiled as if he knew it, too.
That stiffened her resolve. “How may I help you?” There, that sounded very professional. Very Marian the Librarian.
He glanced up at the sign, reading the ten-minute guarantee before asking his question. “So what do you do for fun around here?”
Julia relaxed. Okay, this was a question she could handle. “As I mentioned earlier, Serenity Falls offers a wide variety of things to do.” She was about to list them when he interrupted her.
“Wrong answer. I asked what you do for fun.”
“Me? Well, I read a book.”
“Which wasn’t the original answer you gave me. So what do I get for stumping the librarian?”
“Your choice of a mug or a keychain with the library logo.” Julia refused to lose her cool and throw either one of them at him.
“The library has a logo?”
“Actually, it’s the town logo.”
“The town has a logo?”
“That’s right.” He made it sound like a criminal offense. “What’s wrong with that?”
“If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.”
Jerk. She must have been an idiot to think he was attractive. Okay, so he was an attractive jerk. “Which would you like, the mug or the keychain?”
“You’re not even offering a kiss for stumping the librarian?”
“You might want to take the keychain, because it’s smaller and won’t break when you pack it and leave.” She dangled it in front of him.
He captured her hand with his. “What makes you think I’m leaving?”
“The fact that you don’t seem to like it here.” She didn’t mention the fact that his touch was just as powerful as the rest of him.
“I like one or two things here just fine.” His rough-and-tumble sexy voice turned dangerously inviting.
He leaned forward, slowly, inexorably. Her right hand flew to her cleavage to prevent him from looking down her dress, before belatedly realizing that she was still holding the keychain . . . and that his hand was still clasped around hers. The backs of his fingers brushed against her chest, their heat blazing through the bare skin of her breasts.
And still he came closer. She tried to untangle her hand from his, her eyes from his, herself from him. But she couldn’t.
Not because he held her by force. But because of the force zinging between them.
For one spotlight moment, his mouth hovered against hers, barely touching her lips in an almost kiss that was even more enticing than the real thing.
Oh yes, there was some incredibly powerful zinging going on now.
The only thing strong enough to tear them apart was the bellowing sound of the mayor’s voice.
“Luke Maguire!” Walt Whitman—no relation to the poet—managed to instill those two words with an incredible amount of disapproval.
So hottie biker-man now had a name. And he had his hand back, because Julia yanked her fingers free.
Unfortunately, her hasty motion resulted in the library keychain sliding down her bodice.
Too bad. She wasn’t about to fish it out now.
“I’m surprised to see you here.” Walt added the words as if they’d prod Luke into speaking. It worked.
“Oh?” Luke raised one dark eyebrow, which made him look even more bad-boy sardonic. “And why’s that?”
“Well . . . I . . . That is . . .” The challenge caught the mayor off guard, which always made him sputter. “You didn’t show up for your own father’s funeral, so I didn’t expect you’d ever return home.”
“You better learn to expect the unexpected with me.” Luke turned and walked away.
“Was he bothering you?” Walt was obviously concerned.
“Not really, no.” Liar, liar. Luke had gotten to her, all right. Had he kissed her? Or seduced her? Her breast still zinged where he’d touched her. Unless that was the keychain she was feeling?
“He’s a bad seed, that one.”
Julia winced. She hated that phrase. And Walt certainly shouldn’t be casting stones, not when his son had just tried to turn one of the library director’s prized koi into sushi. But she knew from past experience that Walt believed his model son could do no wrong.
“Luke Maguire was a real hell-raiser, pardon my language, as a teenager. I can’t imaging what he’s doing back here. Unless he’s come to sell Maguire’s Pub. Which would be a blessing. He’s not the kind of business owner who would help us in our quest to get on the Top Ten Best Small Towns in America list. We really do have to focus our attention on our preparations, because we have some very stiff competition coming from other towns right here in Pennsylvania.”
Julia nodded, although her mind was still on Luke . . . and kissing and zinging.
“This is an extremely important matter for our entire town.”
She nodded again. “I’m not on the committee,” she reminded the mayor. At least this was one job she hadn’t gotten roped into. Instead, library director Frasier McGrady had that honor.
“You don’t have to be on the committee to care about the outcome of this matter. It has the potential to affect us all in a positive way. Every resident of Serenity Falls. As I said, we have stiff competition from other towns in our state. Northumberland has the Priestly House. He’s the guy who discovered oxygen, as you no doubt already know.” She did, but Walt loved proving how smart he was. “And Williamsport once had more millionaires than any other place at any other time. So they’ve got all those historic mansions on Millionaires’ Row. And don’t forget Mifflinburg. They’ve got their own buggy museum. All we’ve got is the Falls. And our town square, along with the downtown district.” He waved his hand at their surroundings.
The gazebo did look particularly charming this evening, festively decked out with gold and purple mums. Rows of pumpkins were lined up like jury members at the feet of hay bales placed around the town square. All courtesy of Greenley’s Garden Center.
“And I haven’t even mentioned Lewisburg.” Walt was clearly on a roll now. “They have woolly worms at their Fall Festival—worms that give a winter prognostication. We need a hook like that.”
A hook like woolly worms? Only in Serenity Falls . . .
“See if you can’t come up with something we could use to predict the future. Weatherwise, I mean. Look how well that Groundhog Day thing has gone for Punxsutawney—another Pennsylvania competitor. So please do some research on the Internet and find something we can use here.” Satisfied that he’d come up with a plan, Walt moved on to another booth.
Pam showed up as soon as he left and provided cover while Julia finally fished out the keychain. “I saw you with Luke Maguire earlier,” Pam noted. “He was the guy back at the library, the one asking for directions, right?”
Pam sighed. “You two looked . . . close.”
“I just met him tonight.”
“Yeah, well, you’ve heard that saying, that there are two types of men? The good guys and the ones your mother warns you about.”
The only type of men Julia’s mother had warned her about were wealthy industrialists who polluted the environment and took advantage of third-world countries. And Republicans.
“Well, Luke definitely falls under the mother warning category,” Pam continued. “When we were in high school, every mother in Serenity Falls was afraid of her daughter going out with him.”
“Because he was a rebel, constantly getting into trouble. He was always so intense. Skipping classes, drinking, smoking.”
“Are you talking about Luke Maguire?” They were joined by Edith Peterson, who taught history at the high school and had since the Ice Age, according to her students. The reality was that she was in her early sixties and had no intention of retiring. “I just heard he’s back in town. I had him in my class. He almost failed the course. Not because he was stupid, but because he didn’t apply himself. He was a very disruptive presence in school. Was a great runner, though. He won several awards at state track meets. Then at graduation he refused to wear the cap and gown to the ceremony so he was barred from the event.”
Pam nodded. “I’d almost forgotten about that.”
“He drove his motorcycle right past the front door, into the high school hallway, clear to the principal’s office to get his diploma and then he rode right out of town. No one has seen or heard from him since.”
“His dad was the nicest guy. He ran Maguire’s Pub,” Pam added.
Julia had met Tommy Maguire a number of times. Serenity Falls was a small town, where everyone knew everyone else—and most of their business. Secrets were very hard to keep, but Julia had managed so far.
“Luke didn’t even come back for his own father’s funeral a month ago.” Edith shook her head in sad disbelief. “His father’s only child. To not pay your last respects . . . I just can’t understand that way of thinking. How could anyone be that cruel?”
“What about his mom?” Julia asked.
“Oh, she passed away when he was eight or so. Very sad. She died of some sort of heart condition complicated by pneumonia. And so young. She was only in her late thirties. Apparently, she’d had the condition and never knew it until it was too late. Tommy was devastated. She was the love of his life, and he never remarried.”
“What about Luke?” Julia asked.
“He was a handful even back then. I remember the time he knocked out the lights of the Hinkler Funeral Home sign so it read Fun Home. Shot them out with a BB gun.”
“Why do you think he’s come back?” This time the question was voiced by Pam.
Edith shrugged. “It must have something to do with Maguire’s Pub, I should think. But enough about Luke. Let’s talk about something happier. How has your evening been so far, Julia? Have lots of people stopped by the library booth?”
“A fair number, yes.”
“I meant to tell you earlier that you look so nice in your costume.”
Rumors about Edith’s vision not being very good must be true. “Thanks. Yours is lovely, too.”
The teacher beamed and carefully rearranged the sleeve of her colonial period dress. “I made it myself, following a pattern that dates back to 1771.”
“I saw lots of people at your Historical Society booth.”
Edith nodded. “Because we were offering hot apple cider. That always draws people in.”
“I volunteered to help out at the bake sale table, and they were almost sold out.” Pam glanced at her watch. “Is that the time already? I’m supposed to be judging the pumpkin carving contest in three minutes.”
“And I’d best get back to our booth as well,” Edith said.
A moment later, Julia was alone with the vivid memory of the town’s bad boy and the image of his lips touching hers, his warm fingers brushing against her breast. One thing was sure, Luke Maguire made a hell of a first impression.
The devil must be mighty cold tonight, because Luke Maguire had always sworn that hell would freeze over before he’d ever step foot in Serenity Falls again. Yet here he was.
There were those in this uptight armpit of a town who’d likened him to a devil. He’d certainly done all he could as a rebellious teenager to earn his “bad boy” reputation. After a while, the stories got a life of their own, and got increasingly exaggerated with each telling.
Luke had never bothered denying any of them. What was the point? He didn’t care what people in this town thought of him.