Third in the heartfelt and charming Magnolia Brides series from Lynnette Austin
One mistake can change everything…forever
Beck Elliot and Tansy Calhoun were inseparable—until Tansy left Misty Bottoms, Georgia, promising to come back after she finished school. Beck stayed behind to save the family business, dreaming of the day when Tansy would return. Instead, his trust and his heart were broken when she inexplicably married another man and bore his child.
Five years later, Tansy comes home, a sadder and wiser woman. Despite his anger, Beck finds it hard to avoid her and her adorable little daughter—especially with all the busybodies of Misty Bottoms going out of their way to throw him and Tansy together, hoping a lingering spark will reignite their enduring flame…
After Beck ate, he kissed his mom on the cheek, waved to his dad, and left for work. Outside the lumberyard, dark glasses in place, he rested his hands, fingers laced, on top of his head. He had to get it together. Because right now? Tansy Forbes, without lifting so much as her little finger, was leading him around by the nose.
He scrubbed a hand down his face. He was mad at the world right now about the situation and determined to put an end to it.
Only one way to make that happen.
He put his truck in gear and left the lot.
It was time he had a come-to-Jesus meeting with Tansy. She’d stirred up all this mess, and damned if he was going to lug around some supersized ball of angst without at least having his say. Logistics became the problem, though. He couldn’t drive up to her mother’s house and knock at the door. Nope, this wasn’t the kind of conversation you had in front of someone’s mother or someone’s little girl, and they’d both be at the house.
This talk called for privacy. But how to arrange that was beyond him.
He turned onto Main and about swallowed his tongue.
What did you know? Maybe lady luck had hitchhiked a ride with him this morning after all.
Tansy Forbes closed the realty office’s door behind her and started down the walk.
He swerved into an empty parking space and leaned across the seat to throw open the passenger door. “Hop in, Red. We need to talk.”
She looked at him warily.
“Well, this looks familiar,” a voice said behind her. “The two of you. Just like old times.”
Tansy turned quickly. “Good morning, Walter.”
She took in his bent posture, the gnarled hand resting on his uniform’s belt. How long had he guarded the customers and staff at Coastal Plains Savings?
“Ms. Gloria said you’d been into the bank yesterday to open an account. Welcome home. I’m glad you’re back.”
Throwing a glance over her shoulder at Beck, she muttered, “That would make one.”
“Pardon?” Old Walter cupped a hand behind his ear. “Hearin’ ain’t as good as it used to be. You’ll bake one? One what?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I said—”
“She’d take one,” Beck put in. “I asked if I could give her a ride, and she said, sure, she’d take one.”
Tansy scowled at him, and he threw her that bad-boy grin that melted the soles of her shoes. Then she reminded herself he was simply putting on a show for Walter.
The grin would disappear the minute the bank guard did.
“Well, you two kids have fun.” Walter threw them a wink and headed on down the street.
“Hop in, Tansy. Don’t make a scene.”
“Me?” Openmouthed, she pointed a finger at her chest.
“Come on, get in.”
“Why do I feel like I’m stepping into a pit of quicksand?” The second she took hold of the door handle, she smelled his heat, his masculinity. With his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, a dark-blond curl falling over his forehead, the man practically stopped her heart.
She’d known last night that Beck wasn’t going to simply roll over. Still, she wasn’t ready. Taking a deep breath, she ran a damp palm along the leg of her rust-colored linen slacks, then set about chewing off the remnants of her lipstick.
The big truck idled smoothly, mirroring its owner’s power.
“I—” She wet her lips. “I understand how upset you are. But what happened between us… Beck, I have a business to start, a home to set up for Gracie. Your grandfather’s house is perfect for both.”
“It is perfect, but it’s not for you. Not anymore.” He whipped off his dark glasses, and his eyes met hers. “It was perfect for neckin’ under that big, old oak tree, away from pryin’ eyes. It was perfect for family Thanksgivings and Christmases. Like I said last night, I always figured you and I would be a family, Tanz, that we’d raise our kids there—make a lifetime of memories in that house.”
Despite herself, tears threatened, and she blinked hard to hold them back. “That’s not fair,” she whispered.
“Fair? You want to talk to me about fair? You sure that’s a discussion you want to be havin’?”
She turned to open the door, but his hand shot out and caught her arm.
“Rent Kitty’s place. It would be a lot easier for everybody.”
“Kitty’s shop isn’t what I want.” Her back stiffened, and she met and held his angry eyes. “I want your grandfather’s house.”
He shook his head. “I don’t get it.”
“I’d think our Podunk town would be too small, too tame, too hick for you.”
Hurt coursed through her. This wasn’t the Beck she’d known, but then she wasn’t the woman he’d proposed to, either. They’d both changed. A lot.
“Then maybe you never knew me at all, Beck. I love Misty Bottoms. I always have.”
“Okay, so answer me one question.”
“If I can.”
“Since you’re so dead-set on comin’ home, why work?” His forehead creased in question. “Why not stay home with that beautiful little girl of yours? Your ex is a multimillionaire. That not enough for you?”
Shame filled her. Emerson’s family was wealthy—stinking, filthy rich. But Emerson? He’d lost every cent he’d had. Lost everything he and Tansy had.
When she said nothing, he growled. “That’s what I thought. By the way, I called the mechanic about your car.”
“Yeah. Your gas cap was off and you had water in your tank. He’ll have it taken care of by late this afternoon.”
“Thanks. I’ll have Mom take me over to pick it up tomorrow morning.”
“You said you filled up at Tommy’s?”
“I’ll have him stick his tanks today and check for water. So far, nobody else seems to have had any problems.”
“What’s that mean?”
“I’m not sure.”
“You can thank me by rescinding your offer on Pops’s place.”
“I can’t do that.” Without another word, she opened her door and got out.
As he disappeared down the street, she wrapped her arms around her waist. Inside, another small part of her heart broke off. She’d hurt him, had hurt them both.
For nothing. Absolutely nothing.
As she shut the door, she heard a siren and saw Sam in his police car, lights flashing. A strange sight for Misty Bottoms. She prayed no one had had an accident.
About the Author
LYNNETTE AUSTIN gave up the classroom to write full time. An author of eight novels, she has been a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart Contest, PASIC’s Book of Your Heart Contest, and Georgia Romance Writers’ Maggie Contest. She and her husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Blairsville, GA.