Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Lucky in Love, Page 2

Jill Shalvis

Page 2

  Author: Jill Shalvis

  Amy wisely kept whatever smartass remark she had to herself and turned to the kitchen to go get the birthday cake. As she did, lightning flashed, followed immediately by a thundering boom. The wind howled, and the entire building shuddered, caught in the throes. It seemed to go on and on, and the three women scooted as close as they could to each other with Amy still on the other side of the counter.

  “Suddenly I can’t stop thinking about The Shining,” the blonde murmured.

  “No worries,” Amy said. “The whole horror flick thing rarely happens here in Mayberry. ”

  They all let out a weak laugh, which died when an ear-splitting crack sounded, followed immediately by shattering glass as both the front window and door blew in.

  In the shocking silence, a fallen tree limb waved obscenely at them through the new opening.

  Mallory grabbed the woman next to her and scurried behind the counter to join Amy. “Just in case more windows go,” she managed. “We’re safest right here, away from flying glass. ”

  Amy swallowed audibly. “I’ll never laugh at you about Mr. Wykowski again. ”

  “I’d like that in writing. ” Mallory rose up on her knees, taking a peek over the counter at the tree now blocking the front door.

  “I can’t reach my brownie from here,” Blondie said shakily. “I really need my brownie. ”

  “What we need,” Amy said, “is to blow this popsicle stand. ”

  Mallory shook her head. “It’s coming down too hard and fast now. It’s not safe to leave. We should call someone about the downed tree though. ”

  Blondie pulled out her cell phone and eyed her screen. “I forgot I’m in Podunk. No reception in half the town. ” She grimaced. “Sorry. I just got here today. I’m sure Lucky Harbor is a very nice Podunk. ”

  “It’s got its moments. ” Mallory slapped her pockets for her own cell before remembering. Crap. “My phone’s in the car. ”

  “Mine’s dead,” Amy said. “But we have a landline in the kitchen, as long as we still have electricity. ”

  Just then the lights flickered and went out.

  Mallory’s stomach hit her toes. “You had to say it,” she said to Amy.

  Blondie rustled around for a moment, and then there came a blue glow. “It’s a cigarette lighter app,” she said, holding up her phone, and the faux flame flickered over the screen like a real Bic lighter. “Only problem, it drains my battery really fast so I’ll keep it off until we have an emergency. ” She hit the home button and everything went really, really dark.

  Another hard gust of wind sent more of the shattered window tinkling to the floor, and the Bic lighter immediately came back on.

  “Emergency,” Blondie said as the three of them huddled together.

  “Stupid cake,” Mallory said.

  “Stupid storm,” Amy said.

  “Stupid life,” Blondie said. Pale, she looked at them. “Now would be a great time for one of you to tell me that you have a big, strong guy who’s going to come looking for you. ”

  “Yeah, not likely,” Amy said. “What’s your name?”

  “Grace Brooks. ”

  “Well, Grace, you’re new to Lucky Harbor so let me fill you in. There are lots of big, strong guys in town. But I do my own heavy lifting. ”

  Grace and Mallory both took in Amy’s short Army camo cargo skirt and her shit-kicking boots, topped with a snug tee that revealed tanned, toned arms. The entire sexy-tough ensemble was topped by an incongruous Eat Me pink apron. Amy had put her own spin on it by using red duct tape to fashion a circle around the Eat Me logo, complete with a line through it.

  “I can believe that about you,” Grace said to her.

  “My name’s Amy. ” Amy tossed her chin toward Mallory. “And that’s Mallory, my polar opposite and the town’s very own good girl. ”

  “Stop,” Mallory said, tired of hearing “good” and “girl” in the same sentence as it pertained to her.

  But of course Amy didn’t stop. “If there’s an old lady to help across the street or a kid with a skinned knee needing a Band-Aid and a kiss,” she said, “or a big, strong man looking for a sweet, warm damsel, it’s Mallory to the rescue. ”

  “So where is he then?” Grace asked. “Her big, strong man?”

  Amy shrugged. “Ask her. ”

  Mallory grimaced and admitted the truth. “As it turns out, I’m not so good at keeping any Mr. Rights. ”

  “So date a Mr. Wrong,” Amy said.

  “Shh, you. ” Not wanting to discuss her love life—or lack thereof—Mallory rose up on her knees to take another peek over the counter and outside in the hopes the snow had lightened up.

  It hadn’t.

  Gusts were blowing the heavy snow sideways, hitting the remaining windows and flying in through the ones that had broken. She craned her neck and looked behind her into the kitchen. If she went out the back door, she’d have to go around the whole building to get to her car and her phone.

  In the dark.

  But it was the best way. She got to her feet just as the two windows over the kitchen sink shattered with a suddenness that caused Mallory’s heart to stop.

  Grace’s Bic lighter came back on. “Holy shit,” she gasped, and holding onto each other, they all stared at the offending tree branch waving at them from the new opening.

  “Jan’s going to blow a gasket,” Amy said.

  Jan was the owner of the diner. She was fifty-something, grumpy on the best of days, and hated spending a single dime of her hard-earned money on anything other than her online poker habit.

  The temperature in the kitchen dropped as cold wind and snow blew over them. “Did I hear someone say cake?” Grace asked in a wobbly voice.

  They did Rock-Paper-Scissors. Amy lost, so she had to crawl to the refrigerator to retrieve the cake. “You okay with this?” she asked Mallory, handing out forks.

  Mallory looked at the cake. About a month ago, her scrubs had seemed to be getting tight so she’d given up chocolate. But sometimes there had to be exceptions. “This is a cake emergency. Joe will live. ”

  So instead of trying to get outside, and then on to the bad roads, they all dug into the cake. And there in the pitch black night, unnerved by the storm but bolstered by sugar and chocolate, they talked.

  Grace told them that when the economy had taken a nosedive, her hot career as an investment banker had vanished, along with her condo, her credit cards, and her stock portfolio. There’d been a glimmer of a job possibility in Seattle so she’d traveled across the country for it. But when she’d gotten there, she found out the job involved sleeping with the sleazeball company president. She’d told him to stuff it, and now she was thinking about maybe hitting Los Angeles. Tired, she’d stopped in Lucky Harbor earlier today. She’d found a coupon for the local B&B and was going to stay for a few days and regroup. “Or until I run out of money and end up on the street,” she said, clearly trying to sound chipper about her limited options.

  Mallory reached out for her hand and squeezed it. “You’ll find something. I know it. ”

  “I hope you’re right. ” Grace let out a long, shaky breath. “Sorry to dump on you. Guess I’d been holding on to that all by myself for too long, it just burst out of me. ”

  “Don’t be sorry. ” Amy licked frosting off her finger. “That’s what dark, stormy nights are for. Confessions. ”

  “Well, I’d feel better if you guys had one as well. ”

  Mallory wasn’t big on confessions and glanced at Amy.

  “Don’t look at me,” Amy said. “Mine isn’t anything special. ”

  Grace leaned in expectantly. “I’d love to hear it anyway. ”

  Amy shrugged, looking as reluctant as Mallory felt. “It’s just your average, run-of-the-mill riches-to-rags story. ”

  “What?” Mallory asked, surprised, her fork going still. Amy had been in town f
or months now, and although she wasn’t shy, she was extremely private. She’d never talked about her past.

  “Well rags to riches to rags would be a better way of putting it,” Amy corrected.

  “Tell us,” Grace said, reaching for another piece of cake.

  “Okay, but it’s one big bad cliché. Trailer trash girl’s mother marries rich guy, trailer trash girl pisses new step-daddy off, gets rudely ousted out of her house at age sixteen, and disinherited from any trust fund. Broke, with no skills whatsoever, she hitches her way across the country, hooking up with the wrong people and then more wrong people, until it comes down to two choices. Straighten up or die. She decides straightening up is the better option and ends up in Lucky Harbor, because her grandma spent one summer here a million years ago and it changed her life. ”

  Heart squeezing, Mallory reached for Amy’s hand, too. “Oh, Amy. ”

  “See?” Amy said to Grace. “The town sweetheart. She can’t help herself. ”

  “I can so,” Mallory said. But that was a lie. She did like to help people—which made Amy right; she really couldn’t help herself.

  “And don’t think we didn’t notice that you avoided sharing any of your vulnerability with the class,” Amy said.

  “Maybe later,” Mallory said, licking her fork. Or never. She shared just about every part of herself all the time. It was her work, and also her nature. So she held back because she had to have something that was hers alone. “I’m having another piece. ”

  “Denial is her BFF,” Amy told Grace as Mallory cut off a second hunk of cake. “I’d guess that it has something to do with her notoriously wild and crazy siblings and being the only sane one in the family. She doesn’t think that she deserves to be happy, because that chocolate seems to be the substitute for something. ”

  “Thanks, Dr. Phil. ” But it was uncomfortably close to the truth. Her family was wild and crazy, and she worked hard at keeping them together. And she did have a hard time with letting herself be totally happy and had ever since her sister Karen’s death. She shivered. “Is there a lost-and-found box around somewhere with extra jackets or something?”