Two best friends. One night that changes it all.
Nicola Samuels kissed the sexiest man she knows—her best friend. The man who veers away from commitment as though it’s scarier than a pit of snakes. The man who, she believes, has only ever seen her as his backpacking travel buddy.
The man she hasn’t spoken to since The Kiss.
But Nicola’s ready for the next step in life—career, marriage, family. And she knows just the man who will fit by her side—the man who makes her laugh and her heart sing. Todd Haber, her commitment-phobe BBF and the best kisser she’s ever met.
Can Nicola find a way to tame the untameable? Or will her intentions send her best friend fleeing, breaking her heart in the process?
Tequila & Candy Drops is the sixth book in the Blueberry Springs series. Read it as a standalone or a part of the full series!
Note to the reader: This is a sweet romance with no cliffhangers and can be read as a standalone. While it is clean, it is not inspirational—although it may inspire you to laugh out loud as it does have some humor triggers. It also contains a cute rescue dog of questionable heritage, undergarments serving double duty as handbags, and a requisite number heartwarming moments. Warning: This series can be addictive.
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SNEAK PEEK: CHAPTER 1
“You should marry me.”
Nicola Samuels squinted against the hot summer sun, trying to focus on her friend Devon Mattson, who she knew had to be kidding.
He’d proposed at least five times by her count. Six including today.
And so far he hadn’t been serious even once. He was Mr. Daredevil Adventure Boy and she was Miss Planner. Sure, they had become good friends and both lived in Blueberry Springs. They were single and didn’t mind some excitement from time to time. But a rest-of-your-life-together-in-holy-matrimony kind of adventure? Nope, he wasn’t signing up for that—not in a million years.
One of these days she was going to say yes just for the fun of watching him flip his lid. But today his joking simply reminded her of her best friend, Todd Haber—another man who, despite his joking about marrying her at thirty (if they were both still single)—was never going to settle down. For a moment last February she’d thought maybe he’d wanted what she did—to move from friends to something more. So she’d blithely waltzed right across the friend line, and as a result they’d barely spoken since.
But that moment on the dance floor…it had felt incredibly right. The connection between them had positively sizzled. It was something she’d never felt before, something she now knew she wanted—needed—in her life. However, the look in Todd’s eyes and the way he’d quickly retreated had told her everything. He definitely didn’t want what she did.
“What do you think? Married on a mountaintop?”
“Devon, I’m really not in the mood.”
“That’s what you’re supposed to say after we’ve been married a few years,” he teased, delivering a friendly elbow nudge.
She gave him an unimpressed look. She’d turned him down numerous times during the community Love Extravaganza she’d organized for the small town of Blueberry Springs last Valentine’s Day. The event and his jokes had been fun, heady, silly. But today his prank-like proposals only brought back memories of the moment that had changed everything between her and Todd—as well as the sting of his rejection.
“Well?” Devon prompted.
“What else is going to get your mind off Todd—”
“Who said I was thinking about him?”
Devon raised his brows and continued as though she hadn’t interrupted. “So I propose you plan a huge wedding and limber up for a honeymoon with me.” He did a few exaggerated lunges down the sunny sidewalk, his muscled runner’s legs flexing in a way that would give most women hot flashes that weren’t related to the late summer heat.
He stopped and posed like a bodybuilder showing off his biceps. “Who wouldn’t want to sign up for a lifetime with this?”
Nicola walked past him, knowing he could never put his money where his mouth was when it came to uttering I do. Not that she wanted him to—at least not with her. Her heart, it seemed, belonged solely to Todd. And anyway, she had a sneaking suspicion that Devon was hung up on someone from deep in his past, nulling his eligibly despite the way he carried on.
“Come on. I need one of your sister’s heavenly whiskey-and-gumdrop brownies.”
Devon caught her by the arm, swinging her to face him, looking surprisingly serious.
Her heart plunged. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m worried about you.”
“Me?” She tried to shrug out of his grip. “Don’t be.”
“You’ve lost a ton of weight and rarely smile anymore. You don’t even talk about when you’re going to return to backpacking.”
“I smile.” She tried for a big, happy grin, which made her face feel like it was cracking. “And I just need a longer break at home than I thought. I still plan to see Norway and Tibet.”
She’d been living in Blueberry Springs for eight months now. Originally, when she’d returned from her two-year backpacking stint with Todd, she’d thought six months would recharge her batteries and then she’d be ready to see the world again. But now the urge to take off waned with each passing month that she stayed in her comfy little apartment above the pharmacy on Main Street. It was starting to seem as though she was going to need a bit longer. Quite a bit longer.
“You should come on a date with me. That’ll fix you up.”
“Most of your dates end in the ER,” she retorted. That wasn’t entirely true, but it was well known that he often pushed the line with his daredevil ways and sometimes needed a few stitches to put him back together.
“You’re always talking about how many adventures you and Todd had. If you want adventure, I can give it to you. I’m the one who’s here. I’m the one drooling over you. Let me distract you.”
She narrowed her eyes at her friend, who was definitely not drooling. “What are you playing at, Devon Mattson?” Had one of their friends set him up to this?
“Ooh, I like it when you use my full name. For future reference my middle name is Adam.”
“Your initials are DAM?”
He grinned. A man with issues. That’s what he was.
“I’m looking for someone I can have a pile of kids with,” she said, sidling up to him while adding a twist to her hips. “You up for that?”
Devon laughed at her ploy to send him running. “You’re too much of a free spirit, with all those backpacking adventures in your past.”
“Exactly. In my past.” She slowly eased closer, backing him against Wanda’s Bridal Shop’s display window. Nicola trailed a finger down his hard chest. “Kids, Devon. Lots of ’em. Everyone else is doing it.”
It wasn’t a bad idea, really. Although not with Devon—with Todd. The two of them would make the distance if she could convince him to give a relationship a whirl. She’d have to get him to start talking to her again first though.
A shadow of doubt crossed Devon’s features as she pressed closer. He paled beneath his summer tan.
Ha! She had him now.
“Don’t you want a houseful of little Nicolas and Devons? Maybe buy me that fluffy dress in the window behind you?”
He studied her, his face brightening suddenly. “I know what you’re doing. Nice try, but you can’t scare me off.” He slung an arm across her shoulders, full of purpose once again. “You’re a woman in distress, and luckily, I’m here to distract you. You know,” he confided amicably, “the whole best-friends-to-lovers thing always works in Blueberry Springs. Look at my sister and Frankie.”
Nicola leaned away. “Who says you’re my best friend?”
“Well, if Todd is still your bestie you might want to reconsider. Best friends usually talk more often than every five months.”
She shoved his arm off her. “Friends also don’t kiss each other like lovers and then say it was a mistake.”
“He kissed you?” Devon was suddenly all ears.
“You kissed him?”
She tried to ignore Devon’s enthusiasm and avoided his high five.
“What? Did you bite his lip?” He came closer, giving her a playful growl. “Because some men like it when a woman gets frisky.”
“I didn’t bite him,” she said with exaggerated patience. “I kissed him.”
“Maybe you need some tips. I can help.” He closed his eyes, puckering his lips.
She pushed him away. “Seriously. It’s like being friends with a nine-year-old. I’m moving you off the friend list.”
“And onto the lovers list. Nice. Very nice.”
She gave an exaggerated sigh, knowing he was only trying to lighten her mood.
“So why did you say the kiss was a mistake?” he asked, shifting into a more serious mood again.
“Because we’re friends. Friends don’t cross that line, and he hated it.”
“And you’re sure the kiss was the problem?”
She sighed again and let her head fall to the side as she stared at him. “Yes.”
“I’m driving you to the city.”
“I don’t want to look at boring engine parts with you,” she declared. “I want one of your sister’s brownies. Plus, her café has air-conditioning.” Nicola fanned her face for effect.
“No, we’re going to talk to Todd. Resolve this once and for all.” Devon began tugging her in the opposite direction. “I can’t handle seeing you so miserable.”
“No way.” She dug in her feet. She’d be completely destroyed if Todd rejected her again—especially face-to-face. She’d rather deal with the pained, awkward silence that had descended between them, because at least it gave her hope that one day they might be friends again. Once he realized she wasn’t going to tackle him and force him into matrimony or something. Just sex.
No, not sex. Man, what was wrong with her brain?
They were friends. Sort of.
“It’s been months, Nicola. You obviously love the guy, since you keep saying no to me.”
She let out an unladylike snort. “You’ve never once been serious about dating me, and both you and I know it.”
He gave an amicable shrug. “Taking you around the block for a week wouldn’t be a hardship even though we don’t seem to have that spark that sets my skin on fire whenever we touch.”
She glared at him, feeling insulted even though she felt the same way.
He gave her a confiding wink. “Don’t worry, nobody else sets my skin on fire anymore either.”
She raised a brow, leaning closer, all ears. “But someone out there still does?”
Devon stared into the distance for a split second—a sure sign he was thinking of a past love. He flashed Nicola a smile, returning to business, his eyes lighting up with the joy of a new plan. “What we’re going to do is find Todd and explain how you got swept away by the romantic essence of the Hallmark holiday.”
“And that will fix the friendship.”
“I think it’s a little more complicated than that. I kissed him.”
“Guys aren’t complicated. You go in there and tell him how it is. Fix it. Done.”
“Because… Because…” Okay, there really had to be a better excuse than she was afraid she’d kiss Todd again and he’d go running so far into the hills that she’d never see him again. “I need to go home and figure out what my next Blueberry Springs event is going to be, so I don’t lose my job as the town’s community planner.”
“It’s the weekend.”
“It’s called working for a living.”
Devon pulled out his phone. “What’s his address, you big chicken?”
“I’m not a chicken.”
And she wasn’t. Well, not completely. She was simply trying to be rational about it all. Todd was a big part of her life and the kiss had simply confused things when it had flipped a switch inside her. All around her friends were hooking up and making it look wonderful and cozy. Who wouldn’t want that?
Logically, she knew she didn’t want the whole nine yards right now anyway. She was just getting started with her career and settling into the town. The kiss combined with seeing her friends nesting simply brought home the fact that she missed having someone close, someone who knew her history and sense of humor as well as their own. She’d gone from being with Todd twenty-four/seven to barely talking to him. That would mess up anyone.
And when it came right down to it, it wasn’t being a chicken, it was sanity that kept her from running to Todd. Because, really, who fell in love with their best friend—a man who would rather jump out of a plane than settle down? Nobody sane, that’s who.
And Nicola, last she’d checked, wasn’t a funny farm candidate.
“Come on, Nicola,” Devon said. “You can’t leave it like this.”
“I won’t. I just need time, okay?”
“It’s been months.”
“I know. Please?”
Devon watched her for a long minute. “You a dog person?” he asked.
Nicola frowned, trying to catch up with the sudden change in topic. “Why?”
“If it’s furry and won’t bite my head off—or my hand—I’ll like it. Why?”
“Good. I know someone who needs help.”
“Who? With what?” She felt herself perking up at the possibility of a new distraction. She was already helping her pregnant friend, Jen Kulak, by taking over some of her guided mountain hikes on weekends, but there were still plenty of hours to get caught up in unhealthy Todd fantasies.
Scott Malone, the local police officer, was her friend Amber Thompson’s fiancé. He also ran an animal shelter and was one of the few people in town who liked his mother’s meat loaf. Amber was absolutely crazy about him—even with his dismal culinary palate—which made him a-okay in Nicola’s book.
“He needs people to foster a few dogs. Gwen Hart just moved into the nursing home and she has five dogs that need homes, but his shelter’s full.”
“Has he talked to Janet Martin? She likes to pet sit for people. Maybe she can help.”
“She’s already got the puppies he found abandoned out near avalanche control.” That sounded like Janet. She was great with pets and people, and loved to help out when she could. “He’s hoping to find more people who can foster.”
“My apartment allows pets—I could take one.”
“Awesome.” Devon pointed a finger at her, looking serious once more. “But I’m not letting you off the hook. You talk to Todd by the end of next week or I’m cooking up a plan for you two. Enough is enough.”
Nicola nodded slowly, letting him know she’d heard him. Noting his I-mean-business expression, she didn’t know whether to hug him or book herself on the next flight to Tibet.
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Copyright © 2017 Jean Oram. All Rights Reserved. Not to be copied or distributed in any form without explicit permission from the author Jean Oram. Contact her to inquire further.