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It Had to Be You: Special Bonus Edition with free novel Blue Flame (Lucky Harbor)

Jill Shalvis

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  Table of Contents

  It Had to Be You

  Free Book: Blue Flame

  A Preview of Always on My Mind

  A Preview of Seeing Red


  Copyright Page

  In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at [email protected]. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  Dear Readers,

  I’m so pleased to share this special edition with you. It contains my latest Lucky Harbor novel, It Had to Be You, as well as the free, full-length novel Blue Flame.

  It Had to Be You is brand new. Blue Flame was first published years ago, was unavailable for a long time, and never made it to the digital age—until now. So, as the saying goes, you have something old, something new, and something blue! But whether old or new, both have a hot hero and a happily ever after.

  Hope you enjoy them.

  Best wishes,

  Chapter 1

  Some things were set in stone: The sun would rise every morning, the tide would come in and out without fail, and a girl needed to check herself out in the mirror before a date no matter the obstacle. To that end, Ali Winters climbed up on the toilet seat to get a full view of herself in the tiny bathroom mirror of the flower shop where she worked. Ducking so that she didn’t hit her head on the low ceiling, she took in her reflection. Not bad from the front, she decided, and carefully spun around to catch the hind view of herself in her vintage—aka thrift store—little black dress.

  Also not bad.

  She’d closed up Lucky Harbor Flowers thirty minutes ago to get ready for the town’s big fundraiser tonight, where they were hopefully going to raise the last of the money for the new community center. Earlier, she’d spent several hours delivering and decorating Town Hall with huge floral arrangements from the shop, as well as setting up a display of her pottery for the auction. She was excited about the night ahead, but Teddy was late.

  Nothing unusual. Her boyfriend of four months was perpetually late but such a charmer it never seemed to matter. He was the town clerk, and on top of being widely beloved by just about everyone who’d ever met him, he was also a very busy guy. He’d been in charge of the funding for the new community center, a huge undertaking, so most likely, he’d just forgotten that he’d promised to pick her up. Hopefully.

  Still precariously balanced, she eyed herself again, just as there was a sudden knock on the bathroom door. Jerking upright in surprise, she hit her head on the ceiling and nearly toppled to the floor. Hissing in a breath, she gripped her head and carefully stepped down. Managing that without killing herself, she opened the door to her boss, Russell, the proprietor of Lucky Harbor Flowers.

  Russell was in his mid-thirties and reed thin, with spiked blond hair, bringing him to just above her own almost-but-not-quite, five foot five. He was wearing red skinny pants and a half tucked–in red-and-white checkered polo shirt. These were his favorite golf clothes, though he didn’t golf, because he objected to sweating. He was holding a ceramic pot filled with an artful array of flowers in each hand.

  Ali took in the two arrangements, both colorful and cheerful, and—if she said so herself—every bit as pretty as the pots, which were hers too.

  “What’s wrong with this picture?” Russell asked.

  She let go of the top of her head. “Um, they’re all kinds of awesome?”

  “Correct,” Russell said with an answering smile. “But they’re also all kinds of waste. No one ordered these, Ali.”

  “Yes, but they’ll look fantastic in the window display.” An age-old argument. “They’ll draw people in,” she said, “and then someone will order them.”

  Russell sighed with dramatic flair. The flower shop had been his sister Mindy’s until two years ago, when he’d bought it from her so that she could move to Los Angeles with her new boyfriend. “Sweetkins, I pay you to make floral arrangements because no one in Lucky Harbor does it better. I love your ceramic-ware and think you’re a creative genius. I also think that genius is completely wasted on the volunteer classes you give at the senior center, but that’s another matter entirely. You already know that I think you give too much of yourself to others. Regardless of that big, warm heart of yours, you make the arrangements. I run the business.”

  Ali bit her tongue so she wouldn’t say what she wanted to. If he would listen to her ideas, they’d increase business. She was sure of it.

  “And speaking of the shop,” he went on, “we need to talk sometime soon. Um, you might want to fix your hair.”

  She turned her neck and glanced in the mirror. Eek. Her wildly wavy hair did need some taming. She quickly worked on that. “Better?”

  “Some,” Russell said with a smile, and put the flowers down to fix her hair himself. “Where’s your cutie-pie, live-in boyfriend?”

  Two months ago, her apartment building had been scheduled for lengthy renovations, and Ali had needed a place to stay. Teddy had generously offered to share his place. He was like that, open and warm and generous. And fun. There hadn’t been a lot of that in her life. And then there was the pride of being in a real, adult relationship.

  So she’d happily moved into his beach house rental, and suddenly everything she’d ever dreamed of growing up—safety, security, and stability—was right there. Her three favorite S’s. “Teddy’s late,” she said. “I’ll just meet him there.”

  Russell peered at her over the top of his square, black-rimmed glasses. “Don’t tell me that Hot Stuff stood you up again.”

  “Okay, I won’t tell you.”

  “Dammit.” He sighed. “The sexy ones are all such unreliable bitches.” He hugged her. “Forgive me for my complaint about the fabulous arrangements?”

  “Of course. What did you want to talk about?”

  A shadow passed over Russell’s face but he quickly plastered on a smile. “It can wait. Come on, I’ll take you to the auction myself. I want to get there before all the good appetizers are gone.”

  “How do you know there’ll be good appetizers?”

  “Tara’s cooking.”

  Tara Daniels Walker ran the local B&B with her sisters, and she was the best chef in the county. Definitely worth rushing for.

  Russell drove them in his Prius. Lucky Harbor was a picturesque little Washington beach town nestled in a rocky cove with the Olympic Mountains at its back and the Pacific Ocean at its front. The town itself was a quirky, eclectic mix of the old and new. The main drag was lined with Victorian buildings painted in bright colors, housing cute shops and a bar and grill called The Love Shack, along with the requisite grocery store, post office, gas station, and hardware store. A long pier jutted out into the water, and lining the beach was a café named Eat Me, an arcade, an ice cream shop, and a huge Ferris wheel.

  People came to Lucky Harbor looking for something, some to start over and some for the gorgeous scenery of the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Ali was one of those looking for a new start. The locals were hardy, resilient, and, as a rule, stubborn as hell. She had all three of these characteristics in spades, especially the stubborn as hell part.

  They parked at the Town Hall building at the end of the commercial row, and fou
nd the place filled to capacity.

  “Look at all the finery,” Russell said as they walked in, sounding amused. “For that matter, look at us. We’re smoking hot, Cookie.”

  “That we are.”

  “Not bad for a pair of trailer park kids, huh?”

  Ali had grown up in a rough area of White Center, which was west of Seattle. Russell had done the same but in Vegas, though he’d made himself a more-than-decent living in his wild twenties as an Elvis impersonator. About ten years ago, he moved to Lucky Harbor with his sister. Ali actually hadn’t ever lived in a trailer park, but in a series of falling down, post–WWII cracker-box houses that were possibly even worse. Lucky Harbor was a sweet little slice of life that neither of them had imagined for themselves. “Not bad at all,” she agreed.

  They entered the hall to the tune of laughter and music and the clink of glasses. Ali caught a fleeting glimpse of Teddy working the crowd, gorgeous as ever in a suit and good-old-boy smile, which he flashed often. His light brown hair was sun kissed from weekends golfing, fishing, hiking, and whatever other adventures he chose. Extremely active and fit, he’d try anything that was in the vicinity of fun. It was one of the things that had drawn her to him.

  He caught sight of her and smiled, and Ali’s heart sighed just looking at him. She called it the Teddy Phenomenon, because it wasn’t just her—everyone seemed to respond to him that way.

  But then she realized he was smiling at the pretty server behind her, who then turned and walked into a wall. Ali shook her head and sipped her champagne. She got it. It was his job, pleasing the public. And he did have a way of making a girl feel like the most beautiful woman in a crowded room.

  Mayor Tony Medina took the stage and tapped on the mic to get everyone’s attention. A financial advisor, he’d been mayor for coming up on two years now, having taken over when the previous mayor, Jax Cullen, had stepped down from the position to concentrate on his first loves—his family and carpentry.

  “Good evening, Lucky Harbor!” Tony called out. “Thanks for coming! Let’s all raise our glasses to our very own Ted Marshall, who worked incredibly hard at raising the funds for our new community center.”

  At that, the crowd whooped and hollered, and Russell nudged Ali. “You worked hard too. Where’s your credit?”

  “I don’t need credit,” Ali said, and she didn’t. She’d assisted by running car washes and other donation drives to help Teddy behind the scenes, where she was content to stay.

  “As you know,” Tony went on, “the town council promised to match the funds raised tonight. So without further ado, we’re adding a total of fifty thousand dollars to the pot tonight.”

  Everyone cheered.

  Teddy hopped up onto the stage with the mayor, hoisting a very large aluminum briefcase. He’d worked damn hard at getting this rec center built for the town, and it was within his sights now. Looking right at home, he smiled. “The build is an official go,” he said into the mic. He opened the briefcase and showed off the fifty thousand, neatly stacked and wrapped in bill bands. Obviously it’d come straight from the bank for the reveal, but the crowd ate it up anyway.

  After the ceremony, Ali went looking for Teddy. She needed a ride home, not to mention it’d be nice to see her boyfriend. She circled the large room twice to no avail, and then finally headed down the hallway to the offices to check there. She could see the light under Teddy’s door, but to her surprise it was locked. Lifting a hand to knock, she went shock still at the low, throaty female moan from within. Wait…that couldn’t be…

  And then came a deeper, huskier moan.


  Ali blinked. No. No, he wouldn’t be with someone else…in his office…

  “Oh, babe, yeah, just like that…”

  It was Teddy’s sex voice, and Ali got really cold, and then really warm, and she realized she had far bigger problems than finding a ride home.

  Ali woke the next morning, alone. A sympathetic Russell had driven her home. In the dark, she’d paced the big house for a while, steam coming out her ears.

  When Teddy hadn’t shown up, she’d called her very soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, twice, but there hadn’t been a return call. She did, however, now have a waiting text:

  Babe, this isn’t working. It’s not you. It’s all me. I just need to be alone right now. FYI, our lease ended on 5/31. So no worries, you’re free to leave right away.

  Ali stared at the words in shock. She hadn’t had caffeine yet so her brain wasn’t exactly kicking in, but she was pretty sure he’d just broken up with her—by text—and that he’d also rendered her homeless.

  Ali pulled up the calendar app on her phone. Yep. Yesterday had been May thirty-first. Flopping back on the bed, she stared up at the ceiling, trying to sort her tumbling emotions.

  He’d beaten her to the break up, and after last night, hearing him in the throes and calling someone else “babe,” she’d really needed to be the dumper not the dumpee. “Damn,” she whispered, and sat up.

  You’re free to leave right away.

  Magnanimous of him. And also a vivid reminder. Men came and went. That was the way of it for the Winters women. She’d nearly forgotten that it was a lifetime goal of hers to not perpetuate this pattern, that she needed to be more careful.

  She’d remember now. And while she’d like to lie around and plot Teddy’s slow, painful death, and maybe wallow with a day in front of the TV and a huge bag of popcorn, she had work to do. She had to get back to Town Hall and take down the floral designs and collect whatever ceramics hadn’t sold at the silent auction.

  Then she apparently needed to figure out her living situation.

  Still stunned, she showered and dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt for loading up boxes and then headed out. The rental house she’d shared with Teddy was high on the cliffs on the far north face of the harbor. It was isolated and not easy to get to, but she didn’t mind the narrow road or being off the beaten path. The house itself was old and more than a little creaky, but full of character. Ali loved it and loved the view, and after a childhood of city noises, she loved sleeping to the sound of the waves hitting the rocks.

  Normally, early mornings were her favorite part of living in Lucky Harbor. Cool and crisp, the sun was just peeking over the rugged mountains, casting the ocean in a glorious kaleidoscope of light. Beyond the surf, the water was still, a sheet of glass, perfectly reflecting the sky above. A brand new beginning. Every single morning.

  Never more so than this morning…

  She parked in front of the Town Hall. The place was locked, but Gus the janitor let her in. Mumbling something about getting back to his work, he vanished, and Ali began lugging the heavy floral arrangements out of the building, down the steps, and into her truck by herself. Then she carefully packed up the pottery that hadn’t been sold and took that out as well. With every pass she made, she had to walk by Teddy’s office, and each time her emotions—mostly anger—coiled tighter and tighter. Her mom and sister had the quick fuses in the family. Ali had always been more of a slow burn, but today she’d gone straight to red-hot ticked off.

  When she was finally finished, she searched out Gus again, finding him indeed very busy—kicking back in the staff room watching a ball game on his phone. In his thirties, six feet four and big as a tank, Gus hadn’t shaved since sometime last year. He looked like a tough mountain man who belonged on a History Channel show hauling logs—except for the tiny kitten in his big palm.

  “Aw,” Ali said, softening. “So cute.”

  At her voice, Gus startled, and with a little girl–like squeal, fell right out of the chair. Still carefully cradling the unharmed kitten, he glared at Ali. “Christ Almighty, woman, make some noise next time. You scared Sweetheart here half to death.”

  Sweetheart had her eyes half closed in ecstasy. “Yes, I can see that,” Ali said wryly, reaching out to pet the adorable gray ball of fluff. “I can also see how very hard the two of you are working back here.”

he couldn’t tell if Gus blushed behind the thick, black beard, but he did have the good grace to at least look a little bit abashed as he lumbered to his feet. “I wanted to help you,” he said, “but I had Sweetheart in my pocket, and the boss told me twice already not to bring her here. But she howls when I leave her home, and my roommate said if I didn’t take her with me today, she was going to be his Doberman’s afternoon snack.”

  “Sweetheart’s secret is safe with me,” Ali said. “I just need to get into Teddy’s office for a minute.”

  Gus scratched his beard. “I’m not supposed to let anyone into the offices.”

  “I know,” Ali said, “and I wouldn’t ask, except I left something in there.” She’d made Teddy a ceramic pot. It was a knotty pine tree trunk that held pens and pencils, and she’d signed it with her initials inside a heart. There was no way she was leaving it in his possession. He didn’t deserve it. “Please, Gus? I’ll only be a minute.”

  He sighed. “Okay, but only because you guys are always real nice to me. Teddy knows about Sweetheart, and he didn’t rat me out.” He set the sweet little kitten on his shoulder, where she happily perched, and then led the way to Teddy’s office. There he pulled out a key ring that was bigger around than Ali’s head, located the correct key by some mysterious system, and opened the office door. “Lock up behind you.”

  “Will do,” Ali said, and as Gus left her, she went straight to Teddy’s desk.

  No knotty pine pot with the little heart she’d cut into the bottom. She turned in a slow circle. The office was masculine and projected success, and the few times she’d been here, she’d always felt such pride for Teddy.

  That’s not what she was feeling now. In fact, she sneezed twice in a row at some unseen dust, annoying herself as she looked for the pot. She finally located it in the credenza behind the desk, shoved in the very bottom beneath a bunch of crap. It was the shape of a Silver Pine tree trunk, every last detail lovingly recreated down to the knots and rings around the base. For a minute, Ali stared at the pot she’d been so proud of, shame and embarrassment clogging her throat. Swallowing both, she grabbed it, locked the door as she’d promised, found and thanked Gus, and left.