August 30, 2016
Last Chance Rebel
The prodigal son of Copper Ridge, Oregon returns in a captivating new novel from USA TODAY bestselling author Maisey Yates.
The man who ruined Rebecca Bear’s life just strolled back into it with one heck of an offer. Years ago, Gage West’s recklessness left Rebecca scarred inside and out. Now he wants to make amends by gifting her the building that houses her souvenir store. Rebecca won’t take Gage’s charity, but she’s willing to make a deal with the sexy, reclusive cowboy. Yet keeping her enemy close is growing dangerously appealing…
He’s the wild West brother, the bad seed of Copper Ridge—that’s why Gage needs the absolution Rebecca offers. He just didn’t expect to need her. After years of regretting his past, he knows where his future lies—with this strong, irresistible woman who could make a black sheep come home to stay…
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Rebecca Bear finished putting the last of the Christmas decorations onto the shelf and took a step back, smiling at her work.
Changing seasons was always her favorite thing to do at the Trading Post. Getting the new stock in and arranging it on her antique furniture, adding appropriate garlands and just the right scented candle to evoke the mood. It was the kind of thing she could never do in her own house, since all of her money was poured straight back into the business. So she got it out of her system here.
The air was filled with pine, apples and cinnamon spice. She inhaled deeply, a sweet sense of satisfaction washing over her.
Her store was tiny. Rent on Copper Ridge, Oregon’s Main Street was most definitely at a premium. Which was likely why every decent building on the block was owned by the richest family in town.
But she liked her modest space, stacked from floor to ceiling with knickknacks of all varieties. From the cheesy driftwood sort tourists were always after when they came to the coast, to art and furniture handcrafted by locals.
Beyond that, she tended to collect anything that she found interesting. She turned, facing the bright blue sideboard that was up against one of the walls. That was her bird display. Little ceramic birds, teaspoons with birds engraved on the handles, mugs with birds and frivolous little statues made of pinecones and driftwood to be placed anywhere in your home. All of them arranged over a beautiful handmade doily from one of the older women in town.
She kept that display all year round, and it always made her feel cheerful. She supposed that was because it was easy to identify with birds. They could fly anywhere, but they always came back home.
The bell above her door tinkled, and she turned around, a strange, twisting sensation hitting her hard in the stomach as a man ducked his head and walked inside.
His face was obscured by a dark cowboy hat. His shoulders were broad, and so was his chest. In spite of the cold weather he was wearing nothing but a tight black T-shirt, exposing muscular arms and forearms, and a dark band tattooed on his skin.
He straightened, tilting his hat backward, revealing a face that was arresting. It really was the only word. It stopped her in her tracks, stopped her breath in her lungs.
She had never seen him before. And yet, there was something familiar about him. Like she had seen those blue eyes before in a slightly different shape. Like she had seen that square jaw, darkened with stubble in a different context.
It was so strange. She wondered for a moment if maybe he were famous and it was just such a shock seeing him in her store and not in pictures that she couldn’t place him. He was definitely good-looking enough to be a celebrity. A male model. Maybe a really hot baseball player.
“The place looks good,” he said.
“Thank you,” she responded, trying to sound polite and not weirded out.
She wasn’t used to fielding random compliments on the look of her store from men who towered over her by at least a foot. Occasionally, little old ladies complimented her on that sort of thing. But not men like him.
“You do pretty good business,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.
“Yes,” she said, taking a step backward, toward the counter. Her cellphone was over there, and while she doubted this guy was a psychopath, she didn’t take chances with much of anything.
“I’ve been looking over some of your financial information, and I’m pretty impressed.”
Her stomach turned to ice. “I…why have you been looking at my financial…anything? How do you have access to that information?”
“It’s part of the rental agreement you have with Nathan West. He’s the owner of your building.”
She knew perfectly well who the owner of her building was. It felt a lot like making a deal with the devil to rent from Nathan West, but he owned the vacant part of Main, and she’d done her best to separate her personal issues from the man who potentially held her financial future in his hands.
Anyway, she’d figured that if she didn’t rent from him—if she found a place off the beaten path—and took a financial hit for it, then she was allowing the West family to continue to damage her.
So she’d swallowed all her pride—which was spiky, injured and difficult at the best of times —and had agreed to rent the building from him.
Also, it wasn’t Nathan West she had cause to hate. Not really.
It was his son.
Suddenly, she felt rocked. Rocked by the blue eyes of the man standing in front of her. She knew why they looked familiar now. But it couldn’t be. Gage West had taken off years ago, after he’d ruined her life, and no one had ever seen him again.
He couldn’t be back now. It wasn’t possible.
Well, it was unless he was dead, but it wasn’t fair.
She drew in a breath. “I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. I’ve never cashed that chip in before, but I think today I just might.”
“Rebecca,” he said, his voice low, intense. “We need to talk.”
“No, we don’t,” she said, her throat getting tight. “Not if you’re who I think you are. We don’t need to do anything. You need to get the ever-loving hell out of my store before I grab the shotgun I keep under the counter.”
“Gage West,” he said, as though she hadn’t spoken. As though she hadn’t threatened him. “I’m acting on my father’s behalf. I don’t know if you heard, but he had a stroke a couple of days ago and is still recovering in the hospital.”
“I hadn’t heard,” she said. She couldn’t quite bring herself to say sorry. She was sort of surprised news of Nathan’s stroke hadn’t traveled to her yet, but then she imagined that was due in large part fo the fact she had been neck deep in new stock in her store, preparing for the upcoming holidays. “I don’t need to do any business with you, though.”
“That’s not the case.”
“Yes, it absolutely is. I’ve managed to rent this building from your father for seven years. And in all that time I saw him face-to-face only a couple of times, otherwise we went through a property manager. I don’t see why it has to be any different now.”
“Because things are different now.”
“Okay. Do you want to talk about things being different? I assume you know who I am.” Her voice was vibrating with rage, and she resented him. Resented him for walking into this little slice of the world that she had carved out for herself. This beautiful, serene place that was supposed to be hers and only hers. And in had walked her own personal demon in cowboy boots.
“I know who you are,” he said, his tone rough.
“Then you know I’m not kidding about the shotgun.”
“No, you look. The only thing I know about you is that you were driving a car on a rainy night seventeen years ago and caused an accident that destroyed my life. I assume that’s all you know about me too. My name. Maybe my age. Maybe how much my mother was paid to keep the whole thing quiet.”
Those blue eyes burned into hers for a moment. “I don’t know the exact amount, but my father made it clear that he paid to take care of my mistakes. And yes, I know about you too.”
“Then why are you in my store? You shouldn’t be able to look me in the eye, much less stand here and talk to me like you don’t know exactly what you did.”
He just stood there, looking a lot like a fighter resigned to taking blows. He didn’t look defeated, nor did he look properly ashamed. And it seemed as though her jabs were glancing off of him.
“I’m here because I wanted to make sure that you knew the details of the situation.”
“I’m informed,” she said, sounding weary even to her own ears. “Thank you for stopping by. Feel free to let the door hit you on the way out.”
“I’m going to buy the building.” He continued on as though she hadn’t spoken.
She felt like she had been hit by a car he was driving all over again. “You what?”
“I’ve been back in town for two days, and in that time, I’ve been going over the financial situation my family find themselves in.”
“Filthy rich with silver spoons up their asses?”
“Much less rich than my father would have people believe.” He crossed his arms over his broad chest. “And like it or not, it’s my job to fix it. From my point of view the only option he has is to start lightening the load, so to speak. It’s a sinking ship. And that means we have to throw cargo off. That means these little buildings that he owns here on Main are the first thing that need to go, from my perspective.”
She struggled to keep from losing it. To process everything he was throwing at her. Nathan West wasn’t swimming in money? And because of it she was about to lose her safe haven? “Wait a second. You think you’re qualified to make decisions like this? Where exactly did you get your degree?”
“Some online program. I printed the actual degree out at a Motel 6 in a crap town in Idaho I was passing through a few years ago.”
If it had been another man, at another time, she might have thought he was funny. As it was, she didn’t see much humor in the situation. “Right. So you’ve been out in Idaho or wherever, and for some reason you think you can step back into town and make decisions that affect Copper Ridge? A decision that affects me, and the other people who are currently tenants in your father’s little fiefdom here.”
He lifted a shoulder, maddeningly calm, as he had been from the moment he had walked in. “I don’t suppose I could ask you to trust me on that.”
“I don’t suppose you could.”
“That’s too bad, but unfortunately it doesn’t change anything. I’m not here to put you out, but we can’t hold on to any assets that are going to damage the West family finances.”
“But you said that you’re buying the building. Aren’t you the West family and its finances?”
“No,” he said, another infuriatingly opaque answer.
She narrowed her eyes. “If you’re going to hand out an eviction notice, why don’t you do it now? There’s a nice symmetry to it. Just give me one more problem to put on your shoulders, Gage West. I don’t mind. I’m happy to let you carry around my suffering.”
“I don’t want your suffering,” he said, studying her from those impenetrable eyes. “But I would like to give you the building.”