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How is it possible that perfect Gage Buchanan is still single after all these years?

He can’t quite figure it out himself. Perhaps he hasn’t met the right woman. Maybe he’s spent too many years focusing on work—or maybe he just isn’t as perfect as everyone thinks he is.

Gage thought he left his days of one-night stands behind him, however something about the gorgeous cocktail waitress in a town three hours away is far too intriguing. But when she shows up weeks later in his hometown, Calliope, pretending to be an art appraiser, Gage is completely blindsided—not to mention still very attracted to the (apparent) little liar. He can’t figure her out: not her angle nor the persistent pull between them.

Aurora “Rory” Casteel is determined to find her father. All she knows from her late mother is that he lives in Calliope and he’s an important part of the town. So when Rory’s gallery-owning friend offers to run cover for her while she sleuths around town, she jumps at the chance. But she doesn’t anticipate the man she spent one wild night with turning out to be a local.

Sure, it puts a wrinkle in Rory’s plan, but she can work around Gage Buchanan. Even as it gets harder to pretend her heart doesn’t flip every time he’s in the room. She has a suspicion he isn’t everything he seems, either, but maybe it’s “perfect” Gage’s flaws that are what she’s really drawn to.


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Falling for Gage

Mia Sheridan

Expected Release Date: 23 April 2024

Book Series: 

Mia Sheridan is taking us back to Pelion, Maine with a brand new story set in the same world as Archer’s Voice and Travis, and I have a sneak peek for you from this heartfelt new small town romance, out next week.

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Excerpt

“What can I get for you?” the woman with the dark hair and incredible blue eyes asked as she came up to our table. A wave of mild dizziness overcame me again. She was beautiful, and those eyes…I’d never seen any eyes that shade of blue before. But I’d seen lots of beautiful women in my time. I’d dated many of them. And yet, I’d never become woozy in their presence.

“Gage? Gage, come back to us.”

I snapped to, realizing the other guys had ordered and everyone was waiting for me to speak. What were we doing again? Right. Ordering…“Food.”

That dark brow arched again. “Is there a particular type of food you’d like, or should I just guess?”

I let out a thin laugh. “Sorry. It’s been a long night. Ah. A burger would be great. Medium rare. And a shot of your best bourbon.”

She stuck her pad back in the apron tied around her waist and looked at Aidan. “By the way, it’s dead as a doornail.”

“Huh?” Aidan said.

“You said your phone was dead as a doorknob. But the saying is dead as a doornail. I’ve never had the chance to correct a Harvard grad and it sort of just fell into my lap, so I had to take the opportunity.”

Aidan shook his head and pulled his phone up again as if to google it and then dropped it to the table when memory dawned. She turned on her heel and walked away. I watched her hips sway as she walked away. My God.

“She’s misinformed, of course,” Aidan said. “But she sure is one gorgeous piece of—”

“Applesauce.” At the one word that released on a growl, I felt three pairs of eyes turn my way.

Aidan laughed. “Oh shit, Gage has got a thing for the hot bar wench.” He raised his hands as if in surrender and then flashed his wedding band. “Well, lucky for you, I’m already taken, and these two losers couldn’t compete with you on their best day.”

Bar wench. Why did the slight make me want to punch Aidan in the face? Grant and Trent did some mild grumbling in response to Aidan’s comment but neither challenged it. I took a deep breath. I hadn’t even meant to spit out that word, the one we’d agreed to use in college if we were calling dibs on a woman. The one I’d never used even once…until now. It’d just sort of…made its way up my throat of its own accord. Which was completely stupid for a couple of reasons, one being that she didn’t seem to have any interest in me whatsoever. “Listen, we’re eating a meal here and leaving,” I told them. “There’s no competition for anything.” Speaking of which…I caught the woman’s eye as she turned away from the bar with a tray full of drinks and gave her a short wave.

If she thought her eye roll had been discreet, she wasn’t very good at discreet. “Yes?” she asked with contrived sweetness when she arrived back at our table and began setting the cocktails in front of each of us in turn.

“Apparently none of our phones are in working order,” I said. “Do you have one we can use to call this Jim you mentioned who has a tow company?”

“Oh, Jim doesn’t have a tow company, just a personal truck with a hitch on the back.”

I stared. “Okay, well, can I use your phone to call Jim with the truck?”

She shook her head. “Jim’s sleeping by now.” She set the tray down and put her palms on the table, leaning toward me. I caught a whiff of her and without even meaning to, I drew in more of her scent, my gaze drooping as the fragrances separated and drew back together. Orchid. Jasmine. Saltwater. And beneath all that, a delicate understated musk that I couldn’t put my finger on but was the thing that made me woozy. I inched forward, trying to inhale more of it while also maintaining some form of public decorum. “But I’ll tell you what, Ivy League,” she said, breaking me from my fragrance trance, “if you buy the bar a round, I’ll call his wife, Patrice, who’s almost certainly up watching one of her Netflix shows right now, and she’ll rouse him for me.”

Patrice? Who is Patrice? My brain scrambled, quickly putting together what she’d said. Jim. Truck. Patrice. Right. So she was playing games with me. An odd thrill whirled through my blood. I leaned closer until our faces were only inches apart. I narrowed my eyes and in response, she narrowed hers and we engaged in a short stare down, invisible sparks igniting my blood, that delicious smell washing over me, through me. “Are you blackmailing me, Cakes?”

She raised her eyes and put her tongue on her top teeth as though considering my word choice. I almost groaned at the sight of the pink tip of her tongue so close to me but swallowed it down. She pushed up off the table and crossed her arms. “That’s a big word, Ivy League. I demand nothing. The choice is yours.” She sighed as she raised her hands to study her nails. “I just hope Patrice didn’t decide to turn in early on this one. Particular. Night.”

I chuckled. What an act. “Fine. I’ll buy a round for the bar.” I held eye contact as I took my credit card from my damp wallet and handed it to her. “If you could kindly have Patrice rouse Jim with the hitch on his truck, we would greatly appreciate it.”

She flashed me a smile, plucking the card from my hand and turning away. Little schemer.

“I don’t think she likes you,” Trent noted before tipping his beer back and taking a long swallow.

“Everyone likes me,” I murmured. It was true. I never gave anyone reason to dislike me. Sure, there’d been a few people over the years who’d misinterpreted my drive as dismissal, but those people were few and far between. I strived for peace over strife and I didn’t enjoy hurting people’s feelings.

And I hadn’t been rude to the beautiful server. I’d made sure to only allow my gaze to wander down her shirt when she was looking the other way, and she hadn’t been able to see me checking out her ass, unless she had eyes in the back of her head.

So the only possible reason for her disdainful reaction was that she’d misjudged me due to some personal bias.

Ivy League.

The nickname made me suspect she thought I was a stuck-up rich boy who considered himself better than the working-class people in this bar. Calling this place a dive bar by the docks upon entering had probably not helped.

“How about a game of pool?” Aidan asked.

“Sure. Why not?” Grant answered. I sighed and then threw back the shot of bourbon. I’d expected it to burn, but the smooth flavor glided down my throat, the nutty, vanilla aftertaste a welcome surprise. My false assumptions took another hit and I was happy to be proven an ass. This bar knew good liquor.

“I play winner,” Trent said.

I turned slightly in my chair and watched Aidan rack the balls. Thirty minutes later, the woman came out of a hallway on the other side of the room and headed in our direction. Took you long enough. “You’re in luck,” she said. “Patrice was up, and she’s woken Jim.”

Imagine that. “Thank you,” I said as kindly as possible. “We really appreciate your help.”

She gave me a small smirk. “Where’s the car?”

“Mile marker fourteen,” Grant said from beside the pool table. He raised a hand and circled his finger behind him. “On that dark as hell road that turns into town.”

Her gaze moved to him. “Make and model?”

“Lexus LS.”

She let out a short grunt. “Keys?”

“We can give Jim the keys when he comes by,” I said.

She looked up. “Oh, um…well, Jim’s not coming by. Because see…his truck is too wide for the narrow streets down here. But,” she smiled, “another round of drinks will buy you key delivery service out to Jim and Patrice’s house.”

“Who will deliver the keys?

“Who?”

“Yes, who runs this key delivery service?”

“Hmm, well, Ernest…next door is about to close up his shop and he lives up the road from them.”

“Ernest?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“What’s his last name?”

She paused a beat, her eyes sliding to the side. “Ernest…Buffalobeam.”

“Ernest Buffalobeam?” I looked off behind me at the bourbon barrel tops decorating the walls, sporting logos such as Buffalo Trace and Jim Beam.

“And what business does this Ernest Buffalobeam run next door, exactly?”

“He sells…” Her eyes slid behind us again, darting to the ceiling and then back to me. “Lights.”

“Lights. Really? Ernest Buffalobeam sells lights next door?”

“Everyone needs lights,” she said, pressing her lips together. “They help us see in the dark.”

“Brilliant.” We held eye contact for a beat, then two, both our eyes narrowing slightly as we tried not to smile. I would have bet anything that Jim’s truck fit just fine down these streets and she was just trying to milk me for another round of drinks. “Trent, hand the keys over to the lady,” I said.

“What if this Ernest Buffalobeam never comes back?” Trent asked skeptically.

“Where’s he gonna go with a car with only three working tires?” Aidan asked.

“He might steal our stuff,” Trent said. He leaned toward Aidan and “whispered,” “We left all our bags in it.”

“Listen, Ernest is full up on Polo shirts and Calvin Klein boxer briefs, and he’s no thief.”

I let out a low whistle. “That’s pretty judgmental, Cakes,” I said.

“How’d she know what I packed?” Trent “whispered” again to which Aidan shoved him in the arm. “Ouch,” Trent murmured before taking his keys from his pocket and handing them to the server.

She turned away and shouted to the bar at large, “Who wants another round?” to which a loud cheer went up.

We played a game of pool and drank the drinks that had been delivered to us as part of the round I’d paid for and then she came back with our food. “Jim just called and said he’s got your car and is delivering it to the repair shop. I’m sure they’ll fit you in in the morning. Another round?”

“Why not?” Aidan said. “We’re not driving!”

The waitress turned away with smile and a wink and it suddenly occurred to me that our car was here, which meant that even if we had a working cell—which we currently did not—taking an Uber to Claremont Landing would mean having to take one back in the morning. Whether one of our phones turned on or not, an hour round trip seemed impractical, especially being that our luggage would be unavailable to us until morning. Perhaps I should have inquired as to whether this Jim person with the truck hitch could retrieve and deliver our bags, but that ship had sailed.

I saw the woman come out of the kitchen and put my pool cue down as I made my way over to where she was now spraying a table and wiping it down.

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” I said to her when she looked up, her brows raising, “but since our car is here in your town, we’ll need a place to stay.”

She tossed the towel over her shoulder, stuck the spray bottle in the large pocket on the side of her apron and smiled prettily. “Mimi Jenkins rents a room over her garage to out-of-towners. I could see if it’s available.”

A room over a garage? I almost scoffed, but I refused to play into her obvious assumption that we were snooty Ivy League types. Also, it was only for one measly night. I could cope. “How many rounds will it cost me?”

“Not more than two.”

I laughed. “You’re a shyster.”

She laughed too, shooting me another wink over her shoulder as she walked away. I returned to my table, catching sight of myself in the glass of a framed photograph on the wall and realizing I was still smiling. Apparently, I liked being bamboozled.

By her. You like that saucy little smile and those crystal-blue eyes. And you like it when she turns them in your direction, even if it means another swipe of your credit card.

Pitiful. And I’d rarely been pitiful. I was always tempered, always even-keeled. And yet…

“What are you smiling like a loon about?” Aidan asked.

“I’m happy because I’m about to kick your ass in pool,” I said, picking up the cue and chalking it. “Move aside.”

Another couple rounds of shots showed up and I decided to forgo both so that one of us remained sober. I mopped the table with Grant, both because I was better than him and he was beginning to slur his words and when I sunk the eight ball, I looked up to see the little shyster herself delivering yet another round. “Mimi is leaving the key under the mat,” she said, as she set the last shot on the table. “There’s a dryer in the garage and your room is up the stairs to the left. Throw your clothes in the dryer before you go to bed. Don’t mind the dog. He’s…mostly friendly. I vouched for you, so don’t make me look bad.”

“Why’d you vouch for us?” Despite having no problem charging me for rounds for the locals, she didn’t seem to like us all that much.

She tapped her tray against her thigh. “You don’t look like the types to stiff an old lady on a bill, Ivy League.”

I leaned closer. “Assumptions can be dangerous, Cakes.”

Her smile was slow and knowing and made me feel like she’d taken a sledgehammer to my chest and knocked the air from my lungs. “Don’t I know it,” she returned smoothly.

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