Chapter One - Second Beginning
Abigail Cooper knew it was rude to stare. Sitting at the corner table in Jean’s Diner, a tiny little hole in the wall in the even tinier hole-in-the-wall town of Cold Springs, New York, she waited for her breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon to arrive. She couldn’t help but gawk at the man sitting across the room from her.
Biker boots, tight jeans, blue tee shirt, leather jacket draped over the back of his chair. His jet black hair was trimmed short but his bangs curled over one eye, giving him an edgy appearance. Straight out of a biker bar. Not that she frequented biker bars or listened to conversations between perfect strangers.
This man was dangerous. Despite the fact that he had the Sunday comics laid out on the table in front of him.
“What do you mean it was rigged? That was a perfect pitch.” Biker Guy waved his fork around in wild, exaggerated gestures as he spoke. He had long fingers. They were clean, not grease stained like she might expect a biker’s hands to be.
An old man sat beside him. Not the type of person she’d expect a guy like that to hang around. Biker Guy was maybe late twenties, early thirties. The other man was well past his seventies. Had to be his father or grandfather. Biker Guy would have rebel friends, friends with sketchy pasts or prison records, not small-town old men who drank coffee from a cup that said “Crabby til I get my coffee” with the name “Burt” printed along the bottom.
The waitress, whom everyone was calling Sam, brought Abby’s food. Scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon, and toast. “Here we are. Can I get you more coffee?”
“If it’s not too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all.” She headed back to the counter and returned with the coffee pot. “Chrissy, do you think you can find time to help me?”
Abby couldn’t help but notice Sam’s annoyance at the young waitress, who was sitting with a tableful of men. She giggled, brushed a lock of hair back from one man’s eyes. “Coming.”
“That play was a foul and that’s all I got to say about that,” the man called Burt shouted above all other conversations.
“Shh,” Sam said to Burt and Biker Guy.
Biker Guy looked apologetic. “Sorry.”
Abby had never heard a biker apologize before. John’s biker friends had been full of arrogant confidence that would make anyone cringe.
Burt, however, didn’t look the slightest bit apologetic. “I could be quieter if I had a refill on my coffee.”
“I’m charging you for refills.”
“Put it on my tab.”
Sam glared at the other waitress. “Chrissy, if you’d stop flirting for five seconds, I need your help.”
Abby watched Biker Guy as she silently ate her eggs. She couldn’t take her eyes off him.
Lord help her, she wa attracted to this man. She knew exactly why too, which made it all the worse. He reminded her of John. Somehow he was nothing like John and everything like him. And being reminded of John was something she didn’t want—or need. After twelve months she still couldn’t get used to being single. John was gone, never coming back, and she was alone. Perhaps that was what she was always destined to be. Alone.
“Can I get you anything else?” Sam brought her bill, startling her.
“No, thank you.” She smiled at the petite blonde. “Oh, more coffee please. I’m waiting for someone. At least I don’t think she’s here. I’m not sure what she looks like.”
Abby gave a self-conscious laugh. Words kept spilling out of her mouth, and she felt her face redden as it always did when she was nervous.
“Oh, who is she? This town’s pretty small. I probably know her.” As if she didn’t find Abby’s conversation stupid at all, Sam set her coffee pot down on the table and held out her hand. “I’m Sam Stone, by the way. Owner of this fine establishment.”
“Hi.” Abby took her hand, greatly relieved by the friendly gesture. “Abby Cooper. I just moved here. I’m supposed to meet Stephanie Taylor. She’s my real estate agent.”
“Oh, okay. She comes in for lunch a lot.” Sam’s eyes scanned the crowded diner. “She’s not here now, but she—”
A woman walked in just then. She wore a black skirt and blazer and bore the stereotypical look of a real estate agent. She waved to Sam.
“Speak of the devil. Here’s your girl.” Sam picked up her coffee pot. “It was nice to meet you, Abby. I hope to see you again.”
“You too, Sam,” Abby called as Sam hurriedly filled the coffee cups of other customers.
Abby turned to Stephanie Taylor and held out her hand. “Hi, Stephanie. I’m Abby Cooper.”
“Hi, Abby.” Stephanie surprisingly caught her in a hug. “It’s so nice to finally meet you in person.”
Abby returned the embrace, stunned to find people so friendly. So different from California. The realization filled her with sudden hope. Maybe everything would work out for the best. Perhaps friendship was possible. To think that the gut-wrenching loneliness would pass filled her with a sudden rush of happiness.
“I’ll get this.” Stephanie snagged the check from her. “It’s the least I can do for making you wait. I’m so sorry. Kids, you know.” She laughed, as if Abby should understand what her life was like.
Abby was the last person capable of sympathizing about motherhood or anything involving children, for that matter. She’d never been around them growing up, had none of her own, and that was just fine with her.
Abby followed her agent up to the counter where Sam checked her out. Biker Guy made brief eye contact, his gaze quickly leaving Abby’s to make a sweeping assessment of her. She’d just gotten off a plane and was exhausted, no doubt a wreck in her most worn jeans, tee shirt, and sweater with her hair thrown into a haphazard bun on top of her head.
Guilt hit her unexpectedly. This was the first time she’d felt self-conscious over a man since John’s passing. She had no right caring what some biker thought of her. John’s memory hadn’t even had a chance to fade yet.
Biker Guy stood, all six feet of him stretched as if biking had him cramped for days. He grabbed his leather jacket off the back of the chair and shrugged it on. “I gotta run,” he told the man called Burt, clamping a huge hand on Burt’s shoulder. “Take it easy, man.”
“What’s your hurry? You still—”
“Lots of work to do.” Biker Guy cut Burt off mid-sentence. Rude. Abby’s mind flashed to John again. How many times had John cut her off like that? Had John even heard a word she said to him? Bikers were all the same.
She followed Stephanie outside, Biker Guy trailing behind them.
Just as Abby expected, he hopped on a huge Harley, kicked it to life, and rode off as if hell was on his heels.
Abby and Stephanie got in their respective vehicles and made the quick drive across town to the building Abby had purchased sight unseen. The drive was only two blocks away from Jean’s Diner. Trees lined both sides of the street. There were sidewalks, giving the town a quaint, cozy feeling. The perfect place to open a bookstore.
She rounded the corner, saw a two-story brick building, and immediately knew it was hers. The building looked more like a warehouse than a store. The front of the building, however, was exactly what she had expected—a simple storefront with large glass windows, perfect for displaying books.
Abby parked her car in front of the building behind her agent’s SUV and got out. The sidewalk and the concrete in the front of the building were broken, with grass growing at least a foot high from the cracks. An old sign hung over the door. It was rusted so badly she could no longer make out what it had once advertised. It creaked and groaned as it swayed in the breeze. One strong wind and it could fall on a customer’s head. She had thought the building would be on Main Street, not the small, residential side street where she now stood.
But she had taken marketing classes. She could advertise and get customers here. She would hold events to bring them in from other towns. If her store was great, people would drive the distance and location wouldn’t matter.
Across the street was a large white Victorian house. Huge oak trees dotted the edge of the long, winding driveway. A beautiful setting, but the sign in the center of the lawn left a little to be desired: Carver Funeral Home.
She’d bought a future bookstore across from a funeral home.
Well…at least it wasn’t a cemetery. Although a cemetery might be less conspicuous. Funerals would be held here. People would be sad and crying. It would be depressing for her customers, and they might not come back.
Her heart fell. This was a mistake. Everything she owned was packed in two suitcases. She’d bought a one-way ticket from California to upstate New York. Nothing left in California to return to. No family. No friends. She couldn’t go back.
She stared up at the ramshackle brick building that was now her property. She didn’t have a choice. She had to make this work.