Title: This Time Around
Author: Tawna Fenske
Pub Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Allie Ross is not living the life she once dreamed. Her law career ended before it ever started, her parents landed in jail for running a Ponzi scheme, and she just inherited her grandmother’s B&B—which is nice, even if it is full of extra-toed cats. As for her love life…she’d rather not talk about it.
When Jack Carpenter reaches out to reconnect with Allie, the girl who broke his heart in college, his plan is to impress her with the adult he’s become. Sure, he was a deadbeat then, but life has forced him to grow up. And it’s a relief to find out that things didn’t necessarily go the way Allie expected either.
As Allie and Jack get reacquainted, they rediscover the things they loved—and hated—about each other. But who they are now isn’t who they were then, and secrets—old and new—will test whether they have a future together, or if the past is destined to repeat itself.
Allie stared at the little girl who held the hand of a tall, handsome man, dimly aware she knew them both, though not quite in this context.
“Jack,” she croaked out, finding her voice at last. “Paige. It’s so good to see you two again. What brings you here?”
“School shopping!” Paige chirped. “Daddy says this is a smart place to buy stuff if you want to dress like a rich snob but not spend stupid amounts of money.”
“Those may not have been my exact words.” Jack stepped closer, looking as surprised to see her as Allie felt seeing him. Which was saying something. He nodded at the cluster of hangers gripped in her hand. “Doing some dress shopping?”
Allie looked down at the froth of dresses looped over her arm, the silky fabrics a little too bright now that she looked at them with Jack standing this close to her. There was no point pretending she was shopping for someone else, so she shrugged like it was no big deal.
“Someone sprung a college reunion on me at the last minute, so I had to find something appropriate to wear.”
“Never figured you’d shop in a place like this.”
“Like what? A high-end boutique thrift shop?”
He shrugged, and Allie wondered if he was baiting her. Trying to make her defensive or to imply how far the mighty had fallen.
Or maybe she was reading too much into it.
“Oh, this one’s pretty!” Paige gripped the hem of one of the dresses Allie held, a fluttery, silk chiffon Vera Wang number with a V-neck and a draped skirt. “It looks like the green part of a peacock feather.”
“It kinda does,” Allie agreed. “That’s the one I like best. I’m crossing my fingers it fits.”
Paige beamed at her. “My favorite color is green, too.”
Allie glanced at the dresses, every one of them a slightly different hue of green. Heat crept into her cheeks, and she could feel Jack’s eyes on her. “Yes, uh—they do all seem to be green, don’t they?”
“A green dress?” The teasing note in Jack’s voice made her look up at him, and she wasn’t surprised to see traces of a smirk on that obnoxiously handsome face.
Allie straightened her spine. “Yes. A green dress.”
He grinned wider. “Is that in honor of our song? The one by the Barenaked Ladies?”
“No, I just—I like this color, that’s all.”
But that wasn’t all. Jack was right. She knew the song well, the one that used to make her laugh each time it got to the part about the green dress. The Barenaked Ladies had sung about the things they’d buy if they had a million dollars, and she and Jack used to sing along with them, twirling through the living room of their too-small apartment. They’d substituted words like textbooks and phone bill in place of items the singer claimed he’d buy for his sweetheart in the event of a financial windfall.
Allie felt the smile starting slow in her belly and spreading across her face. She saw the corners of Jack’s mouth tug, too.
“So,” she said, brushing hair off her forehead. “I didn’t even realize they had kids’ stuff here.”
“I can wear women’s extra-small stuff now,” Paige boasted. “And size-six shoes.”
“Impressive!” Allie smiled at the little girl, who wasn’t actually that little. She came up to Allie’s shoulder, probably four foot seven or eight. Was that above average for a ten-year-old? “You must have inherited your dad’s height.”
The second the words left her mouth, Allie wanted to kick herself. Good Lord, the girl’s mom was dead, and might have been a pro basketball player for all Allie knew.
But Paige just shrugged and looked up at her dad. “Can I go check out the jeans over there?”
“Sure. Looks like the smaller sizes are on this side. Remember what we talked about, okay?”
“I know, I know . . . nothing skintight.”
Paige wandered toward the opposite side of the store, leaving Jack and Allie alone. Allie held the dresses aloft. “I guess I should try these on.”
“You should. For the record, the skintight rule doesn’t apply to you. In fact, I encourage it. The tighter the better.”
Allie rolled her eyes. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
About the Author
Tawna Fenske is a romantic-comedy author who writes humorous fiction, risqué romance, and heartwarming love stories with quirky twists. Her offbeat brand of romance has been praised by Booklist as “a tame Carl Hiaasen on Cupid juice,” and her debut novel, Making Waves, was a nominee for RT Book Reviews’ contemporary romance of the year. She is a fourth-generation Oregonian who can peel a banana with her toes and loses an average of twenty pairs of eyeglasses per year. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband, her stepkids, and a menagerie of ill-behaved pets.