Last Chance Rebel (Copper Ridge #6) - Maisey Yates
REBECCA BEAR FINISHED putting the last of the Christmas decorations onto the shelf and took a step back, smiling at her work.
Changing seasons was always her favorite thing to do at the Trading Post. Getting the new stock in and arranging it on her antique furniture, adding appropriate garlands and just the right scented candle to evoke the mood. It was the kind of thing she could never do in her own house, since all of her money was poured straight back into the business. So she got it out of her system here.
The air was filled with pine, apples and cinnamon spice. She inhaled deeply, a sweet sense of satisfaction washing over her.
Her store was tiny. Rent on Main Street, Copper Ridge, Oregon, was most definitely at a premium. Which was likely why every decent building on the block was owned by the richest family in town.
But she liked her modest space, stacked from floor to ceiling with knickknacks of all varieties. From the cheesy driftwood sort tourists were always after when they came to the coast, to art and furniture handcrafted by locals.
Beyond that, she tended to collect anything that she found interesting. She turned, facing the bright blue sideboard that was up against one of the walls. That was her bird display. Little ceramic birds, teaspoons with birds engraved on the handles, mugs with birds and frivolous little statues made of pinecones and driftwood to be placed anywhere in your home. All of them arranged over a beautiful handmade doily from one of the older women in town.
She kept that display all year round, and it always made her feel cheerful. She supposed that was because it was easy to identify with birds. They could fly anywhere, but they always came back home.
The bell above her door tinkled, and she turned around, a strange, twisting sensation hitting her hard in the stomach as a man ducked his head and walked inside.
His face was obscured by a dark cowboy hat. His shoulders were broad, and so was his chest. In spite of the cold weather he was wearing nothing but a tight black T-shirt, exposing muscular arms and forearms, and a dark band tattooed on his skin.
He straightened, tilting his hat backward, revealing a face that was arresting. It really was the only word. It stopped her in her tracks, stopped her breath in her lungs.
She had never seen him before. And yet, there was something familiar about him. Like she had seen those blue eyes before in a slightly different shape. Like she had seen that square jaw, darkened with stubble in a different context.
It was so strange. She wondered for a moment if maybe he were famous and it was just such a shock seeing him in her store and not in pictures that she couldn’t place him. He was definitely good-looking enough to be a celebrity. A male model. Maybe a really hot baseball player.
“The place looks good,” he said.
“Thank you,” she responded, trying to sound polite and not weirded out.
She wasn’t used to fielding random compliments on the look of her store from men who towered over her by at least a foot. Occasionally, little old ladies complimented her on that sort of thing. But not men like him.
“You do pretty good business,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.
“Yes,” she said, taking a step backward, toward the counter. Her cellphone was over there, and while she doubted this guy was a psychopath, she didn’t take chances with much of anything.
“I’ve been looking over some of your financial information, and I’m pretty impressed.”
Her stomach turned to ice. “I...why have you been looking at my financial...anything? How do you have access to that information?”
“It’s part of the rental agreement you have with Nathan West. He’s the owner of your building.”
She knew perfectly well who the owner of her building was. It felt a lot like making a deal with the devil to rent from Nathan West, but he owned the vacant part of Main, and she’d done her best to separate her personal issues from the man who potentially held her financial future in his hands.
Anyway, she’d figured that if she didn’t rent from him—if she found a place off the beaten path—and took a financial hit for it, then she was allowing the West family to continue to damage her.
So she’d swallowed all her pride—which was spiky, injured and difficult at the best of times—and had agreed to rent the building from him.