The third book in Devney Perry’s (writing as Willa Nash) Calamity Montana series is a ‘stranded together’ romance between Kerrigan Hale, a young woman who’s been making a name for herself in Calamity by slowly building a small real estate empire of her own one dilapidated property at a time, and Pierce Sullivan, grandson of her former investor and man who now holds her fate in his hands. Whether she writes as Devney Perry or Willa Nash, this author continues to deliver characters that are unique, interesting, and easy to love, and I have an awesome sneak peek for you.
Other than the colors of the trees, Calamity hadn’t changed in the past month. Living in a booming section of Denver, I was used to seeing new construction. Window displays were constantly updated. Store signs were swapped out regularly as businesses failed and started.
But at first glance, nothing about Calamity had changed in a month. Nothing. It was oddly comforting.
I walked down First toward The Refinery, the street deserted except for the vehicles parked in front of the coffee shop and café. The sun peeked over the roofs from across the street and glinted off the shining windows of Kerrigan’s gym.
The lights were on but the studio was empty. I went inside, escaping the morning chill, and stood by the reception desk, taking a moment to inspect the place. It, like the rest of Calamity, hadn’t changed in twenty-nine days either.
Mirrors lined the longest wall on one side of the studio, making it seem twice as big. My shoes sank into the soothing gray mats beyond the tiled entryway. In the corner, a metal cage was stuffed with exercise balls. Stacked yoga mats were piled on one of the few shelves. Opposite the mirrors, a ballet bar had been mounted to the wall and it cut a honeyed-oak line against the white paint.
The studio was open, airy, and quite similar to many of the trendy fitness locations in LoDo. It didn’t really fit in Calamity. It was too fresh. Too clean. Maybe it hadn’t been designed for the town, but for the owner herself.
Kerrigan came rushing out of a short hallway at the back of the building and the moment she spotted me, her footsteps stuttered. “You’re twenty minutes early.”
She frowned. “Morning.”
Kerrigan was in another pair of yoga pants. The gray material wrapped around her slender thighs and made her legs look a mile long. She was barefoot and her sweater draped over her shoulders, the front forming a deep V and the loose sleeves falling past her knuckles.
“One minute.” She held up a finger, then spun around, retreating the way she’d come.
With her hair twisted up, I had the perfect view of her top. The V cut just as low in the back as it did in the front. Beneath it was a bra with more straps than power poles had wires. They crisscrossed over her smooth skin, showing more toned muscle.
And her ass in those leggings was . . .
My cock jerked beneath my slacks.
“Fucking hell,” I muttered, forcing my eyes away.
I hadn’t been attracted to a woman in months. Why her? Why now?
Just don’t fucking kiss her again. I sucked in a long breath, willing myself under control. Maybe that inhale would have worked, except her scent filled the air. The same scent I’d memorized when my lips had been on hers. Honeysuckle florals. Rich and sweet.
I could not—would not—get distracted by this woman. Any woman. I’d done that once and look where that had landed me.
“What a disaster,” I muttered.
I whirled around. Kerrigan was right behind me, her hands on her hips. “I said . . . what a disaster.”
Her eyes flared and her mouth pursed into a thin line. “What, exactly, is a disaster?”
Me. I was the disaster. But answering her question with the truth would take more time than we had today. “This trip. It’s doomed to be a disaster and before you start telling me how much you hate me, let me say that the disaster has nothing to do with you.”
Not entirely true, but after a long drive yesterday and a fitful night of sleep at the motel, I didn’t have the energy to argue with Kerrigan.
“Would you like to visit here or go somewhere else?” I asked.
“I was thinking we could go to the café.”
I gestured to the door. “Lead the way.”
She grabbed her purse from behind the reception counter. Then she pulled on a pair of tennis shoes and walked to the door, locking it behind us.
The walk to the café was short and silent. She crossed her arms over her chest and walked at a pace that would require anyone with a shorter inseam to jog. But the moment we stepped inside the café, her cold demeanor evaporated.
Well, not toward me, but toward the rest of the room.
A smile broke across her face and damn it, my heart skipped. The smile lit up her face and made those pretty brown eyes dance. My dick, swelling again, thought it was beautiful too.
“Hey, Kerrigan.” A waitress waved as she carried a pot of coffee across the room. “Sit wherever you want.”
“Thanks.” Kerrigan waved back and led us to the only empty booth along the windows to the street.
I slid into my side of the table, ready to launch into the reason I was here. It would be better to get this over with before we could order and delay this meeting over the length of a meal.
“Hi, Kerrigan.” An older woman appeared at the end of our booth. She bent low to give Kerrigan a hug, not sparing me a glance. “How are you, sweetie?”
“Good, Mrs. Jones. How are you?”
“Fine and dandy. I saw your parents at church yesterday. They look so well. I tried to convince your mom to tell me what skin cream she’s using because I swear she hasn’t aged a day in ten years.”
Kerrigan laughed. “I’ll raid her bathroom and make a list, then sneak it to you.”
“You do that.” Mrs. Jones laughed, then patted Kerrigan on the shoulder. “See you soon.”
Kerrigan faced me and I opened my mouth, ready to speak, when once again, I was interrupted by a visitor. This time, it was the local sheriff if the badge and gun on his belt were anything to go by.
He glanced at me and given the scowl on his face, I’d say he knew who I was. “All good here?”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “Tell Lucy I’ll call her later.”
“Will do.” He gave me one more stern look, then walked away.
I waited this time before opening my mouth, and sure enough, the moment the sheriff was gone, another person appeared to talk to Kerrigan about a raffle happening at the daycare and wondering if Kerrigan would donate a few classes at the gym.
Person followed person. Kerrigan was genuinely nice to each, even though it was obvious they were scoping me out. But she kept that breathtaking smile on her face for every conversation, seemingly unbothered by the intrusions.
It would be easier to deal with her if she weren’t nice.
After another two visitors, the waitress finally got her own window of opportunity. She arrived with two ceramic coffee mugs, filled them both to the brim and left us with our menus.
“Popular today?” I asked when it seemed like the stream of endless guests had dried up.
Kerrigan shrugged and took a sip from her mug. “Not so much popular as just having lived here my whole life. Small town. It’s hard not to know everyone.”
“Ah.” I took my own drink and leaned my elbows on the table.
The restaurant, like her gym, surprised me. From the outside, I’d expected a ghost-town-esque diner, greasy spoons included. But the interior looked to have been remodeled within the last decade. There was a chalkboard wall complete with today’s specials. The white tile floor gleamed under the lights. And the tables, as befit the restaurant’s name, were all white oak.
The waitress returned, a pad of paper in hand. “Ready to order?”
“I’ll have the omelet special,” Kerrigan said.
The waitress pivoted in my direction. “And for you?”
With a single nod, the waitress disappeared, leaving us alone.
“You’re not eating?” Kerrigan asked.
“This won’t take long.” I held up a hand when she opened her mouth to protest. “I’m not here to discuss your contract.”
“But Gabriel gave me an extension and—”
“My grandfather asked to have a portion of his ashes scattered at his cabin in the mountains.”
She blinked and drawled, “Okay.”
“He would like you to attend.”
“Oh.” Whatever irritation and frustration she had with me fell away. Her shoulders slumped. She swallowed hard. “I’d like that.”
It was as clear as the Montana sky that she’d loved my grandfather. And for that reason, I needed to get the hell out of this booth.
Her loan was due tomorrow. We’d scatter Grandpa’s ashes tomorrow.
And then I could forget about Kerrigan Hale.