Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

A Charm Like You

Sharla Lovelace


  Table of Contents


  Dear Reader Letter

























  About the Author

  A Charm Like You

  Sharla Lovelace


  Kensington Publishing Corp.

  Lyrical Press books are published by

  Kensington Publishing Corp. 119 West 40th Street New York, NY 10018

  Copyright © 2018 by Sharla Lovelace

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

  All Kensington titles, imprints, and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund- raising, and educational or institutional use.

  To the extent that the image or images on the cover of this book depict a person or persons, such person or persons are merely models, and are not intended to portray any character or characters featured in the book.

  Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Special Sales Manager:

  Kensington Publishing Corp.

  119 West 40th Street

  New York, NY 10018

  Attn. Special Sales Department. Phone: 1-800-221-2647.

  Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

  LYRICAL PRESS Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

  Lyrical Press and the L logo are trademarks of Kensington Publishing Corp.

  First Electronic Edition: December 2018

  eISBN-13: 978-1-5161-0703-2

  eISBN-10: 1-5161-0703-9

  First Print Edition: December 2018

  ISBN-13: 978-1-5161-0704-9

  ISBN-10: 1-5161-0704-7

  Printed in the United States of America


  To Troy, the man who shows me every day what a hero is. Who built me a place to manifest my dreams, and claps the loudest when they fly. I love you, baby.

  Dear Reader Letter

  Hello, my dear reader!! Guess what? Your favorite crazy, honey-slathered, slightly off-center and possibly magical little Texas town is back once again for one more round! And oh…what it has in store for you! Remember Gabi from the florist shop with the cheating hubby? Well, my friend, she’s about to get her due, and give him his! :) AND find her own very special (and surprising) hero.

  I’ve loved writing this series and it was SO MUCH FUN to get to know the crazy zany cast of beloved Charmed characters. I hope you are loving them, too!

  I hope you enjoy A CHARM LIKE YOU, with feisty Gabi and oh-so-sexy Thatcher as much as I did. :) And as always, please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or through my website’s contact form, or on social media, and let me know how you liked it! I love hearing from my readers, it’s one of my favorite parts of this gig!

  Love y’all!




  I made a cursory sweep through the parking lot, then escaped out the side exit to circle the block so it wouldn’t look like I needed to be there.

  I didn’t need it.

  I just needed to not murder my ex-husband, and this was a means to that end—according to my mother.


  A word so diabolical that it has group meetings to keep nice, normal people like me from becoming homicidal. Or at least that was my reason. I couldn’t imagine why else anyone would want to spend a Thursday night listening to strangers whine about their lives. As I peered at the office building in front of me, windows glowing with warm light, that’s what I pictured inside. Sad, depressed, bitter, whiny people.

  That wasn’t me.

  There’d better be cookies.

  “Well, this should be fun,” I said under my breath as I turned off the ignition.

  I dropped my keys into a big shoulder bag large enough to dive into or fake-pull important things out of if things got too hairy, and opened the door to the damp, chilly, January air. Was it my imagination, or was it colder here in Denning?

  My little town of Charmed, Texas, may only be fifteen minutes down the highway, but it sure felt chillier here. Open. Exposed. Also, anonymous. I could have probably found a group there at home if I’d looked hard enough, but I’d much rather not sit around airing my dirty laundry to people I went to kindergarten with. Or customers from my family’s business, Graham’s Florist. Or friends of my sister, or friends of the butcher’s neighbor’s first cousin twice removed. Charmed was gossip-heavy enough without adding my extracurricular activities.

  I pulled my hoodie tighter around me and zipped it up, listening to the squeak of my sneakers on the wet pavement.

  Yeah, I’d gone all out for this escapade. A T-shirt, jeans, a purple hoodie jacket I’d stolen from my sister because I loved the color, and sneakers that had probably seen better days since I started wearing them to cultivate my new wildflower field. I figured meeting up with bitter people required comfort, and besides, I wanted to blend. Like—into the furniture if I could at all help it.

  There was a large darkish truck parked right at the building’s entrance, still running with someone sitting at the wheel. Probably someone who came early to score a good parking spot, but knew he could wait till the last possible second and still score a cookie.

  Just as I made it past his bumper, however, the engine cut and the driver door opened, blocking my path and sending a momentary shot of panic through my chest. Time slowed down and my steps halted as my eyes darted around in the dark for a graceful reroute. Lifetime movies and after-school specials ran through my mind on fast-forward. What kind of responsible female walked right up beside a stranger’s vehicle like that? What was I thinking?

  Over six feet of black boots, dark jeans, and a black leather jacket stepped out then, the man wearing them stopping at the sight of me twitching in indecision.

  “Sorry,” he said, glancing from the door to me. He moved out of the way quickly and shut his door so I could pass.

  “No problem,” I said, trying not to do a double-take as I gave him a polite smile on my way by.

  Good God, if he had been out to kill me, I would have been easy prey, smiling like a smitten girl instead of keeping my guard up, or—hey, how about going another direction.

  The man was hot, in that unassuming way some people have when they have no idea just how hot they are. Short brown hair and sharp, kind eyes registered with me in the few seconds we looked at each other, as well as the slight aroma of something woodsy. Like he’d sprayed one spritz of it that morning and it was still barely there. Or it was just soap and I was fantasizing way too much
into it.

  I fantasized a lot lately, since after ten years of marriage, six of which I spent with my legs in the air trying to conceive before we found out we couldn’t—or that I couldn’t—my now-ex-husband left me for the twenty-one-year-old he was screwing at the office. A girl I’d babysat for when I was fifteen and she was a toddler. Missing signs like that clearly signified that my judgment was too flawed and damaged to trust myself with real people.

  I scooted past Hot Guy, shaking my head. Get a grip, Gabi. I stepped up onto the wooden walkway, and headed toward the door that sported Aspen Aldridge, Orthodontic Surgeon emblazoned on a sign. I felt his boots hit the wood a few steps behind me, and I refused to turn around and look paranoid. Keep moving. The door opened for me when I reached for the knob, as a stunning woman with short dark hair and a loose sexy pink sweater over perky braless boobs gave her apologies with a smile and a bigger one for my new shadow.

  “Hi!” she said, casting her gaze past me to the golden boy back there. She dipped her head with a tilt and a husky chuckle. Seductress 101. Her big blue eyes shifted to me then as she probably realized the lump in front of him was breathing. “Hello!” she said, holding out a hand. “I’m Aspen! Welcome!”

  “You’re the doctor?” I asked, pointing at the sign.

  “Guilty,” she said, rolling her eyes and grinning.

  “How are you tonight?” Hot Guy said from behind me, the deep rumble of his voice surprising me.

  “I’m wonderful,” she said, laying a hand against the swell of her breasts as if he’d just offered her the moon. My orthodontist never looked like her. Mine had pock marks on his face and chronic halitosis. I could imagine teenage boys all over Denning begging for braces and popping bands on purpose just to have the good doctor leaning in close and putting her fingers in their mouths.

  “Hi,” I said, holding out my hand. “I’m—”

  “Nope,” she said, Gabi Graham sticking in my throat as she stopped me with a hand up like a traffic cop. “No real names here.”

  I felt my eyebrows raise. “No—what?”

  Aspen pointed to a table a few feet away where an elderly lady with a long white side-ponytail was arranging things. “Adelaide will show you. There are name tags and colored markers. We use pretend names to protect the innocent.” She laughed at her own joke. “Seriously, it’s just a way to be whoever you want for the night, so have fun with it.”

  I pointed to her nameplate on the door. “You don’t play?”

  She shrugged endearingly. “I used to, but once I started hosting…well, it’s hard to be anonymous when you’re hosting in your own office.” She winked and laid a hand on Hot Guy’s arm as she moved on. “Will you excuse me? I need to get something from my car.”

  I knew that was really flirt code for hey big boy, can you come help me with your big strong muscles, but he didn’t seem to pick up on it. His expression said that he’d probably had a long day and wasn’t in the mood to be a packhorse. I gave him a quick once-over when he turned his head, and I had to agree. He was too shiny to be a packhorse. In fact, as I glanced around the room at the three other men and possibly a dozen women—all looking like they were going out on the town afterward—I suddenly felt like a street urchin. Thank God I’d at least put on a face and didn’t go with the hair-up-in-a-hat idea I’d originally planned.

  “Um, I just remembered I have a thing,” I said, turning back for the door.

  “I don’t think so,” Hot Guy said, looping a finger in the hood of my hoodie.

  “What the—”

  “Don’t leave me here with the vultures,” he said under his breath, giving the material a gentle tug. “The newbie spotlight isn’t as hot if it’s spread out.”

  I blinked up at him. Was Hot Guy flirting with me? “You seem pretty able to hold your own. I think Dentist Barbie back there would probably hold your hand if you got scared.”

  “Hey, you two,” said a loud, gruff voice suddenly at my right, making me jump.

  “Shit,” I muttered.

  “Sorry,” the sweet-looking white-ponytailed lady said, patting my arm as she worked at peeling a nametag sticker from its backing. “I have that effect. Welcome to life after signing I don’t. We’re a pretty friendly group, but a few really like to talk and they can get annoying. Are you big talkers?”

  Both of us shook our heads as if on command.

  “Now, you’re welcome to share anything you want, or just listen, that’s good too,” she said. “I wish some people would just listen now and then.” She cut her eyes toward a cluster of women probably in their forties who were dressed like they were twenty-one and club-hopping. “Aspen hosts us now, and she likes us to make up silly names instead of using our own.” She slapped hers onto her shirt, patting it a couple of times. It said CHER.

  “I thought she said you were Adelaide,” I said.

  “Not tonight,” she said. “Tonight, I’m Cher.”

  I nodded. “Cool, can I be Madonna?”

  Cher just looked at me. “No.” Her eyes took me in, head to toe. “Lois Lane.”

  I coughed. “What? Do I look like a Lois Lane to you?”

  “No, you look like you need a little boost,” she said, turning around to grab a couple of tags and a marker. “And you?” she said, eyeing Hot Guy and scribbling onto another nametag. She peeled mine off and patted it onto my jacket, doing the same with his.

  In all caps, his read Clark Kent.

  “Really?” I said.

  “All that perfection, but he’s at a divorce group,” she said. “So, pick your mask, but he’s hiding something.”

  “He’s—right here,” Hot Guy—er—Clark said, holding up a finger. “Then again,” he added, peeling the tag off his jacket. “He’s not.”

  “Oh, no no no,” I said softly, looping my arm through his as he turned on his heel, momentum pulling me with him a step as he headed for the door. “Vultures. Spotlights. Remember those?”

  “You were leaving two seconds ago,” he said.

  “And now it’s kind of a challenge, Superman,” I said. “Come on, if I can be told I’m so homely I need a boost, then you can handle a little criticism.”

  “No criticism,” Cher said. “I’m just saying if anyone says they wouldn’t like to see GQ Superman here with a little scruff, shirt sleeves up, and faded jeans, they’re lying.”

  There were no words as Superman and I stood there gaping at her.

  “Anyway, there’s cookies if you hurry,” Cher said in a loud whisper, backhanding me in the arm.

  I spurred back into movement, holding up a hand. “And there’s cookies.”

  “But you have to hurry,” she repeated. “I brought them, but people are going to scavenge them quickly. Aspen only brings healthy shit.”

  “Seriously?” I said. “To a divorce group crowd? Shouldn’t it be like brownies and ice cream and—”

  “An ice cream bar,” Superman said. “With glasses and root beer so people can make—”

  “Oh my God, ice cream floats,” I said. “My best friend makes me one every time I’m having a horrible day. Can you imagine how mellow everyone would be at this if they got to slurp on an ice cream float while they sit there?”

  A low, rumbling laugh made his eyes crinkle at the corners, and the sight made my insides go all warm. In the light of the room, he had morphed from just simply hot to drop dead scorching. Short, no-nonsense hair, eyes that flickered between light brown and hazel. Chiseled everything and clean shaven, not one wrinkle in the black button-down shirt he wore when he slid the jacket off, evidently giving in to stay. I felt the group sigh of every woman in the room, and on that point, I was actually on their side. Whoever he was, he was beautiful.

  “Does sound like a good idea,” Cher said. “When Aspen took over hosting a couple of months ago, it went from donuts and cookies to fruit and vegetable

  I turned to see Aspen come back in toting a large fresh fruit tray, stunning in all the vibrant colors. The fruit, not Aspen, although she ran a close second.

  “That’s awful,” I mumbled under my breath. “I mean, it’s pretty, but you can’t eat pretty.”

  “That needs to be on a bumper sticker,” he said, attempting to reapply the nametag to his shirt.

  “No,” I said, pulling it off. “It’s all mangled. Let’s do a new one.” I grabbed a blank tag. “Are you sure you want to stick with Clark?”

  “It wasn’t my idea,” he said. “Kathy Bates over there nailed it on me with her hidden mallet.”

  I laughed and covered my mouth. “She is scary.”

  “You have a better idea?” he asked. “Go for it.”

  “Elmer Fudd?”



  He gave a slow grin. “Only if you’re Olive.”

  Little tingles shot to my belly.

  Nope. There would be no tingles tonight. I may be off men for the next ten years, but I wasn’t off sex, and I didn’t need to be tingling toward anything naked with a man from a divorce group meeting that I might have to face again. That was not only baggage meeting baggage, but the Titanic meeting the iceberg.

  “Oh, I’m nobody’s Olive,” I said. “I’m not even crazy about being anyone’s Lois. I’d rather be a Jane Doe and be on my own.”

  “Please,” he said. “You’re about as Jane Doe as I am.” His gaze slid over me quickly. “And she called me out for hiding. You should have gone for Wonder Woman.”

  I frowned. “You think I’m hiding? Dude, you don’t even know me.”

  Two palms went up. “No, I don’t. So, let’s just go back to where this was easy. Make me Clark Kent again, and let’s eat.”

  “Works for me,” I said, feeling some of the flirty fun fizzle away as I wrote up the new tag.

  Hiding, my ass.

  I slapped it against his chest, and patted it for good measure, completely ignoring the heat coming through the fabric.