"An enjoyable, feel-good read with memorable characters who linger in your heart and mind." - Shirley Jump, New York Times bestselling author
Kayla has the perfect strategy for a broken heart: work, work, and more work. Then a storm sends her car skidding off the road, stranding her in Mount Pleasant. Fortunately, rescue comes in the form of the incredibly handsome but gruff Brent Masterson. And he's hot enough to tempt Kayla into doing something she never thought she could do...
Brent Masterson swore he would never give into the fierce attraction that's been sizzling between him and Kayla since they first met. He has his own demons, and he won't risk his heart again. Not even for someone as gorgeous and amazing as Kayla. So...how exactly did he end up in Kayla's bed last night?
Sometimes all it takes is an ice storm to show two broken hearts the way home...
Each book in the Checkerberry Inn series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Her Unexpected Detour
Book #2 Her Unexpected Engagement
Book #3 Her Unexpected Hero
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Her Unexpected Detour
A Checkerberry Inn Novel
By Kyra Jacobs, Alycia Tornetta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Kyra Jacobs
All rights reserved.
As Kayla Daniels slid into a booth at the EAT diner, she wondered how her week could have ended in such utter disaster. The image of her boss came to mind yet again, his brows furrowed and face a shade of red she hadn't known possible. How could he truly believe she intentionally sent that malicious email? She had lived and breathed everything Wayne Advertising the past four years, spent countless hours both on and off the clock, and what was her reward? A week off with no pay. So much for her spotless track record, or any hope of ever moving up in the company.
Kayla looked up to find a young waitress beside the table, notepad in hand and half apron tied tight around her hips. The woman's Barbie-like proportions, stylish pixie cut, and dyed autumn-red hair seemed out of place at the aging dive. A hypocritical thought, Kayla realized, as she didn't exactly fit in with the diner's clientele today, either. They were dressed in denim and flannel, she in silk and rayon.
"Um, yes. Please."
Pixie Cut popped her gum and walked off without another word. Yep, Kayla was overdressed. Maybe she should have stopped at home to change before coming up to see Tommy. Then again, this three-hour coffee run hadn't exactly been planned.
Oh, she'd fully intended to stay at work after receiving that royal reaming from Phillip Jacober. She had marched out of his office with her chin held high. Once she returned to her cramped cubicle, though, reality set in, and tears of betrayal had blurred her vision.
Which was ridiculous, she thought, as she worked like mad to keep them contained. Kayla was too much of a professional to have some silly breakdown over a tongue-lashing, deserved or not. All she needed was a little fresh air to clear her mind. So she'd hurried out, told the receptionist she was off to make a quick coffee run. But when the turn lane for Starbucks came into view, she kept right on driving.
Now, perched on a lumpy vinyl cushion three hours north of home, Kayla felt a twinge of guilt. She'd never bailed on work before. Then again, she'd never gotten suspended before, either. Apparently today was a day of firsts. Yet another reason to get the heck out of Dodge, before anything else in her life could go wrong.
She dragged in a deep, cleansing breath and pushed this morning's debacle from her mind. The aroma of artery-clogging comfort food was like a warm blanket to her soul and slowly began to calm her frayed nerves. EAT would never win an award for being the most pristine establishment, but the college-town eatery had something the chain restaurants never would: character. Well, that, and a permanent layer of grease coating its white linoleum-topped tables, chipped black and white tile floors, and probably even a few regular patrons planted along the bar top that ran the length of the building.
The rumble of a nearby engine drew her attention to the window beside her table. Outside, a large black Silverado pulled into the lot and parked. On its side was a logo that read Masterson Contracting. Kayla watched as the driver pushed his door open and stepped out. He was a tall, dark, beefcake kind of guy, with steel-gray eyes that matched the rain-heavy clouds looming overhead.
Now there was a guy who wouldn't have taken a load of crap from his boss this morning. No sirree. That guy probably would have taken the suspension papers and shoved them where the sun don't shine.
If only I'd had the nerve to do the same.
Then again, doing something like that would have gotten her fired, not just suspended. How could she possibly expect to hide something like that from her father, especially since he and her boss were old college buddies? No, he'd find out soon enough, and then he'd start to worry. And the last thing she wanted was for him to start worrying again — he'd gone through far more of that with her mom's illness than anyone ever should.
Mr. No-Nonsense walked beyond her line of sight, and Kayla gave herself a mental slap. Enough beating herself up. What she needed was an ear to bend, a fresh perspective, and maybe even a little sympathy. She reached for her phone and tapped a familiar number, the motion nearly on autopilot. After three and a half rings, the deep, groggy voice of her brother Tommy came on the line.
"Well, good morning to you, too," she said.
"Ugh, it's still morning?"
Kayla rolled her eyes. "If you can even call it that. It's eleven already. Are you seriously still in bed?"
"Yes, I am," he growled. "And you would be, too, if you'd stayed up until three working on a transmission for your buddy and didn't have a class until one."
"Yikes, sorry, I had no idea. Maybe I could make it up to you? Buy you lunch?"
Across the line, Tommy's mattress creaked. Kayla could picture him sitting up in bed holding the phone to his ear with one hand and rubbing his eyes with the other. Poor kid had never been a morning person. Working on cars until wee hours of the morning probably didn't help any.
"Yeah, sure. Whatever. Oh, wait — I've got plans this weekend. Could we try for n —"
"Not this weekend, Tommy. Today. As in, right now."
Tommy chuckled. "I appreciate your vote of confidence in my new engine, Kay, but the Prix can't get me to Fort Wayne that fast. Yet."
"It doesn't have to — I'm already in town. At EAT, second booth from the door on the right. "
The joking tone left his voice. "Okay, you're starting to freak me out. What's going on? You never miss work. Ever."
Day of firsts ...
"Yeah, I know. I'll explain when you get here."
Brent Masterson eased into his customary seat at EAT's counter and nodded a hello to today's waitress. The redhead. Ten to one odds she'd screw up his order again. Where the hell was Marge lately, anyway?
Maybe she'd finally woken up, escaped Mount Pleasant, Michigan before this town sucked the life right out of her. It had a way of doing that with the rest of its locals, himself included.
"Mornin'," Red said as she filled his coffee mug. "The usual?"
"I don't know. You gonna get it right this time?"
The red-haired beauty whose legs seemed to go on forever narrowed her hazel eyes. "Two eggs over easy, three strips of bacon — slightly overcooked. Two links of sausage — mild not hot. And one piece of whole wheat toast with strawberry jam, not jelly, on the side. That sound about right?"
"Sure does. Thanks, darlin'," he said with a wink. The irritated look on her face faded to a blushing grin.
Yep, Brent thought as she walked away. He still had it. Too bad he was surrounded by college kids. Plenty of eye candy to go around, just not a whole lot of mental sustenance to go along with it. Not that he was scouting for a girlfriend.
He pulled the morning paper from his back pocket and skimmed the front page. Bank robbery. Casino expansion. Crappy economy. He sighed. Same shit, different day. At least the Tigers were on a three-game winning streak. He'd shove that in Miles's face later, the damn Yankees fan.
"Thanks, but I'll wait. I'm expecting someone."
Brent slid his hand into the handle of his mug and glanced in the direction of that unfamiliar silky voice. Sitting a few booths over was a cute, young brunette he'd not seen in here before. She stuck out like a sore thumb among the diner's other patrons with her corporate look and manicured nails. Her gaze was trained on the parking lot, an expectant look on her pretty face.
No way he would have missed her before. A new professor at the college, maybe? Business traveler?
From down the bar, a cell phone burst out with "It's Raining Men." Brent turned to watch an acne-riddled co-ed scramble to silence her cell. Kids these days, he thought with a scowl. Everything was video games and smart phones, apps and tablets. He'd been able to keep up on technology while in college, but that was nearly a decade ago. A lot had changed since then. He had changed.
And the world had gone on without him.
Brent turned his attention back to the sports section, skimmed through the recap of yesterday's Tiger's game stats, then flipped to the paper's editorial section. Sure enough, there it was, just like Ruby had said on the phone this morning — a column at the top of the page, written by the paper's own chief editor, weighing the possible impact of a big name box store coming to Mount Pleasant. And damn if they didn't list a whole lot more positives than negatives.
He wondered who paid the Tribune off to publish that load of garbage, because no one around here would ever think about selling their land to a bunch of money-hungry corporate leeches. Especially not his grandmother. Though, when Miles saw this, Brent knew his cousin would start pushing her again to let the inn go.
Brent's scowl deepened. Sure, the money would be great to have, and Ruby could finally take a worry-free plunge into retirement. But she wasn't ready to give up the inn, and he'd be damned if he was going to let anyone force her into it, least of all their own flesh and blood.
Frowning, he pushed off his barstool and started for the john. Only, something collided with him before he took a single step. Something smaller than him, and softer, and ... smelling of flowers and vanilla?
Instinctively, he reached out to catch the body rebounding off his chest. A curvy, feminine body, that just happened to belong to the cute brunette. He started to give her a quick once over, to make sure she hadn't been hurt upon impact. But his gaze stalled on her sexy black heels, lean athletic legs, and tight black skirt hugging a pair of slender hips. Her light purple, button-down blouse gapped open at the top due to the awkward angle he'd caught her, revealing a glimpse of her lacy, cream-colored bra.
"I'm so sorry!" she said. "I didn't realize you were ... "
"Moving?" A pair of bright blue eyes snagged his attention. Brent swallowed hard. "Yeah, guess I forgot my turn signal. You all right?"
"I'm fine. Thank you." The hint of a grin tugged at her perfect pink lips.
"Good," he said with a nod. "Good."
Brent wanted to kick himself. He sounded like a complete idiot. When was the last time he'd gone and gotten tongue-tied at the sight of some silly woman?
He relaxed his grip, watched to make sure Legs wouldn't topple over again, then let go altogether and took a step back. Brent needed to put some space between him and that alluring scent. Away from the temptation. He'd always been a sucker for nice legs.
Her grin slipped away. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me."
Brent's gaze followed hers to each of the dirty handprints he'd left on the arms of her silky blouse. She brushed at the marks with one hand, her scowl deepening when the drywall dust refused to disappear.
"Sorry about that. Was just headed to wash up."
"It's ... don't worry about it." She ducked her head a little, stepped around him, and continued toward the restroom. "If this day gets any worse ..."
Brent blew out a sigh as he watched that tight little ass of hers saunter away. Damn, she was hot. But princess there had dismissed him in a blink, more worried about her shirt than anything else. Definitely not his type.
So why did it bother him that she'd walked away without a single glance back?
Forget it, he told himself as she disappeared into the ladies' room. Forget her. Women were trouble, every single one of them. The last thing he needed was to be distracted by some prissy out-of-towner, especially after that article in today's paper. He had enough trouble brewing as it was.CHAPTER 2
When Kayla returned to her seat, she reached for her coffee mug, then snuck a peek at the wall of a man she'd collided with on her way to the restroom. The one whose handprints she'd spent the last five minutes scrubbing out of her blouse. Of course it had to be Mr. No-Nonsense she'd tangled with, who'd turned out to be much better looking than she expected when they were all up close and personal. And scarier looking. Definitely not the kind of guy who takes orders from a corporate grouch.
She grinned. Maybe he could give her a few lessons. But only if it didn't involve any more damage to her already limited work wardrobe. She barely had enough cash to cover her rent this month, let alone a trip to the mall.
The silverware on Kayla's table began to dance and rattle. She looked up to spy her brother's car pulling into the lot, its engine loud and proud. As it should be, she thought with sisterly pride. Tommy had spent years perfecting his 2006 Grand Prix GTP. Knowing him, it was still far from finished.
He parked and headed for EAT's door, dressed in his usual attire: grease-stained jeans and a T-shirt sporting some motor company advertisement, partially covered by an unbuttoned, untucked flannel shirt. Only, his flannel looked more wrinkled than usual, and Kayla couldn't help but worry that he wasn't getting enough sleep more often than just today.
No, Tommy was a big boy. He didn't need her mothering him any more than he'd ever needed their mother doing that for him. Kayla had always been the one who'd needed that. But the gauntlet had been passed to her, far too early. Stupid cancer ...
Her brother stepped inside, spied Kayla, and smiled as he sauntered over to her booth. "Hey there, stranger." Tommy pecked a quick kiss on her cheek, then slid onto the bench seat opposite her.
"Thanks for coming. And sorry again for waking you up."
"Water under the bridge, Sis." He leaned forward, his gaze intense. "So, you gonna tell me what you're doing here when you should be at work?"
Kayla sighed. "Well, I didn't plan on playing hooky. But I got called into Jacober's office and —"
Kayla jumped as her waitress materialized beside them, hands fisted on her hips. Seriously, the woman needed to wear a bell around her neck or something. And why was Pixie Cut suddenly giving her the evil eye?
"Hey, I didn't think you were working this morning." A broad grin washed over Tommy's face as he reached out and laced his fingers through the waitress's free hand. "Heather, this is my sister, Kayla, from back in Indiana. Kayla, this is Heather."
"Oh." The daggers in Heather's eyes dulled to butter knives. "Nice to meet you."
Heather offered her a placating smile, then shifted her attention back to Tommy. "So yeah, I switched shifts with Marge since we made plans for this weekend."
A coy smile stretched across her face, and Kayla wondered what secret she was missing out on. Then again, judging by the color blossoming on her brother's cheeks, maybe she didn't want to know.
"Whatcha want, TJ? The usual?"
Tommy gave her a nod. "I think so. Kayla?"
"Um, I'd just like the oatmeal, please. And a fruit cup."
Heather looked at her like she was an alien, then jotted the order down and popped her gum. "Okay, great. I'll get that in for you two and be back to check on your coffee."
Pixie Cut strutted off, and Kayla eyed her brother. "TJ?"
His gaze cut from the retreating Heather back to hers, pink returning to his cheeks. "Yeah, you know. Sounds more appealing to the ladies." He waggled his eyebrows.
"Since when do you care about the ladies?"
"Since now," he said, grinning like a lovesick fool. Heather swung back by with a cup of joe for him on her way to another table. Once she was gone, the playful look left his eyes. "Okay, let's try this again. Why aren't you at work?"
"Let's just say I got upset."
"Upset?" He reached over to snag a sugar packet from the stash of condiments on the window side of their table. "About what?"
"About being handed a week off with no pay."
"What?" Heads turned in their direction. Tommy lowered his voice, but the rage remained in his tone. "Why the hell would they give you a week off? And with no pay? If anything they owe you a week off, all expenses paid."
"Trust me, I'm with you on that. But something blew up in our faces this morning, and Jacober thinks I'm behind all of it."
"Blew up? What happened, you accidentally miss a few typos in an ad or something? Put a logo in the wrong spot?"
Kayla offered him a weak smile. "I wish. 'Cause that I could handle. But this? This was the wrong file altogether. Someone took my team's ad and modified it to include an image of two dogs, um, making puppies. Only, the faces of our biggest client and his wife were superimposed over where the dogs' heads should be."
Excerpted from Her Unexpected Detour by Kyra Jacobs, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2015 Kyra Jacobs. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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