Hook, Line & Sinker by Ev Bishop
Is “true love” a fairy tale?
Brian Archer, lawyer and infamous playboy, returns to Greenridge after a long holiday to find his life in ashes. Literally. His condo has burned to the ground, and with it, his delusion that he’s a footloose, fancy-free guy who doesn’t secretly crave a home and a place to belong.
Staying with his lovebird brother and sister-in-law at River’s Sigh B & B proves unbearable, only rubbing in his deep loneliness. As does getting to know one of the other guests, a damsel determined to get herself out of distress, without any help from him. What is it about sweet, troubled Katelyn that makes Brian want to go all knight-in-shining-armor? And why is he suddenly longing for things he doesn’t even believe in, like true love, marriage . . . ?
Single mom and wannabe entrepreneur Katelyn Kellerman needs to escape from Greenridge. Her safety, and that of her children, relies on it. Plus, she knows the hazards of trusting someone all too well. So why, after meeting Brian Archer, does she wish she could just stay put and build a home? With him.
No matter how they fight their feelings, Brian and Katelyn fall for each other hook, line and sinker—but life isn’t a fairy tale. Brian can’t live in limbo forever, Katelyn’s ex is increasingly threatening, and she needs to secure a future for her and her kids. Can they beat the odds, salvage the ashes of their pasts, and risk everything for love, or are they just fishing for trouble?
Brian looked over at the luggage carousel. A small crowd had formed, but no bags spilled from the chute’s yawning mouth. He darted a look back at the young girl, who was uncomplainingly trudging forward to help her mom. He groaned inwardly. Damn it.
“You look like you have your hands full,” he said, “and my suitcase isn’t out yet. Can I help move your stuff for you?”
The rickety cart stopped. Katelyn raised her face to look at him directly, and they made eye contact for the first time since the whole debacle started. Large gray eyes with thick sooty lashes met his—and Brian finally put two and two together. Before he could stop himself, and before Katelyn nodded to accept his offer of help, he exclaimed, “Katelyn, as in Katie, as in Janet Smith’s friend and shadow all through school? Holy cow, I never would have—” He broke off, flourishing a hand at her. “I mean . . . ”
Katelyn, a.k.a. Katie, flushed. “Yeah, Janet’s shadow as you so nicely put it. No one calls me Katie anymore though—and don’t worry, I didn’t think you’d remember me.” Her shoulders jerked in a small self-deprecating shrug. “I wasn’t exactly the kind of girl you noticed.”
Brian took a step back, still mildly shocked. Katelyn. Of course. Crazy big charcoal gray eyes, large freckles on creamy skin, and a full heart-shaped mouth—that, if he remembered correctly, was quick to laugh and make sarcastic comments. She was apparently still obsessed with retro fashion, which her small frame and petite figure suited immensely. She’d been cute enough, but a year below him in school, which felt like a lot back then. Plus, Janet was a knock out. It would’ve been hard for anyone to shine next to her. Before he thought better of it, he grinned and winked. “What are you talking about? I notice every girl.”
One of Katelyn’s eyebrows arched and she shook her head derisively.
“So what do you say?” He pointed at the cart again.
The pink in Katelyn’s cheeks intensified, making the puffy, mottled effects of her recent weeping even more noticeable—but at least there were no more fresh tears.
“I say, well . . . okay. And thank you.”
Brian nodded and noticed a tiny crescent moon scar by her left eye, silvery-white against her heightened color. He figured under normal circumstances it was probably almost indiscernible. Embarrassed to find himself staring, he grabbed the handle of the cart. “Where to?”
Katelyn hesitated . . .
Back in the cabin, Katelyn headed to the bathroom to grab towels. She was only gone a minute or two, but when she descended back into the living room, towel drying her hair, Brian was grinning and holding something up.
The book she’d been reading last night. Shoot!
“I never in a million years would’ve taken you for a bodice ripper fan,” he said.
“Where did you get that?” She threw the towel she’d gotten for him at his head.
He caught it one-handed, draped it around his neck like a scarf, and wasn’t distracted from the book one bit. She noticed his thumb holding a spot near her bookmark and lunged.
He leaped onto a chair, laughing and holding the book out of reach. Then he read from his marked spot in a low growl, “His narrow hips pressed against her and through the thin muslin of her gown, every part of her female softness felt his hardness. She wanted him, but she didn’t. Or she shouldn’t. He was so bad for her, but so good—” Brian looked down and made eye contact.
Katelyn’s stupid body, completely unrelated to the chill from her damp dress, chose that dumb moment to shiver again, and Brian’s expression changed. His eyes darkened and he hopped down from the chair. When he spoke next, the teasing had left his voice, replaced by something like surprise. “Wait a minute, you really do like this stuff.”
Brian put his arm over her shoulder and she leaned in, took his hand, and laced her fingers through his. They were quiet for a long time, then Brian said, “Why does this feel more like some kind of sad good-bye than a hooray, we’ve found each other?”
Katelyn studied his face, then touched his bottom lip with her pointer finger. Her expression was anything but happy and it made his heart clench.
Before she could say anything, he spoke quickly, “You know earlier, when you asked if there was a kind of woman I hadn’t dated, and I said, at least one, but I didn’t elaborate?”
“Yeah?” Her whisper was as soft as lace brushing cotton.
“I’ve never dated anyone who convinced me two people could really be meant to tackle life together, or who made me wonder if some people are stronger together than apart. But when I’m with you—”
Katelyn winced and she pulled her hand from his. “You don’t know how simultaneously happy and destroyed that makes me feel. There’s a part of me, such a huge part of me, that wishes we could see where this goes, but . . .”
“But it’s too complicated, right?”
Katelyn’s eyes filled, and she nodded. “I’m sorry though, I really am. And I want to thank you so much.”
Brian shook his head.
“Yes, for being such a good guy, such a fun guy—and for reminding me that I’m not dead yet. Because of you, I can almost believe that someday I might have someone to really share my life with, someone I can be myself with, talk for hours to—and want to tear the clothes off of.”
Brian wanted to argue his case, to say it couldn’t be a fluke that they’d fallen for each other so strongly when they’d both been the furthest thing from interested in pursuing a serious relationship when they first met. They had to be meant for each other, or at least meant to spend some time together finding out if they were. But his gaze touched on an eight by ten frame directly across from the bravery quote. Katelyn, Lacey and Sawyer grinned out at him, dressed in outlandish clown costumes, arms wrapped around each other. And this time, he was the one who winced. He had to make life easier for Katelyn, not harder. She had enough on her plate, and he did really, really like her. Cared for her. Unfairly and paradoxically, he realized that meant he could only do one thing: back off.
Ev Bishop lives and writes in wildly beautiful British Columbia, Canada. She is a long-time columnist with the Terrace Standard, and her articles and essays have been published in a variety of magazines and journals across North America. Storytelling is her true love, however, and she writes fiction in variety of lengths and genres. To see her growing list of published short stories and poems, please visit her website.
She has six novels published through Winding Path Books:
Bigger Things, Wedding Bands (River’s Sigh B & B, Book 1),
Hooked (River’s Sigh B & B, Book 2)
Spoons (River’s Sigh B & B, Book 3)
Hook, Line & Sinker (River’s Sigh B & B, Book 4)
and One to Keep (A River’s Sigh B & B novella)
She also writes under the pen name Toni Sheridan (The Present and Drummer Boy, White Rose Publishing).
Check out her social media. She’d love to connect with you!
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