The Silver Ridge Bundle
The Silver Ridge Bundle
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Grab all six books in the Silver Ridge series and get whisked away to the mountain where the North brothers run the local resort!
There's second chance romance, opposites attract, forced proximity, and more in this fun small-town romance collection.
(This series is included in the Mega Romance Bundle)
- Enemies to Lovers
- Opposites Attract
- Single Mom
- Grumpy Sunshine
- Childhood Sweethearts
- Neighbor Next Door
Emilia Hudson has never been one to consider arranged marriages, especially if it meant her fifty-five year old parents would have a say, but with her dismal love life, she’s almost reconsidering.
After her latest dating disaster, Emilia writes a simple blog post that goes viral. Worse yet, people start considering her a relationship expert, and all she feels like is a fraud.
As the emails and speaking engagements start rolling in, she realizes her only option is to take the bull by the horns and run with the unexpected fame.
What she doesn’t want to do is talk about the real reason why she won’t ever fall in love again.
However, when she gets an offer she can’t refuse from a major publisher, that’s all they want her to write about, but It isn’t until she meets the man behind the proposal that she realizes why…
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
Autumn Tucker sat gripping the steering wheel as she stared at her inheritance. The home looked nothing like the photos her late uncle’s attorney had sent her.
Nothing at all.
If it had, she probably wouldn’t be sitting in front of the dilapidated mansion, cursing her impulsiveness.
Instead, she’d left everything behind in Los Angeles—which, admittedly, wasn’t much—and moved to the small mountain town of Silver Ridge.
Autumn sucked in a deep breath and glanced in the rearview mirror of her car. Ronald had just pulled up behind her with a moving truck full of her worldly possessions.
He’d insisted on driving the rental truck up the coast for her. She hadn’t asked him to make the drive, and she’d secretly hoped he’d bail at the last minute. But only recently had she begun to notice that life rarely worked out how she hoped or planned.
Ronald Morder was a nice guy, a few years her senior with dark brown eyes and sandy blond hair. In the world of men, he was extremely attractive with a California tan, bright white teeth, and a lean body from biking most places. He looked like everything she should want, even wearing his lavender polo and khakis.
Besides, the dating app said they were perfectly matched, not that she understood why.
He was a computer programmer by day, and by night . . . well, he was still a computer programmer, and that was about all she could get from him. She was pretty certain his idea of a hobby was learning new code, but now she could add driving moving trucks to his short list of activities.
She still couldn’t figure out what in the world made him offer to help her move.
They’d gone on several dates over the last few months, and she kept waiting for that spark.
When the spark didn’t appear, she’d started hoping for an ember to glow, at the very least, but so far, she’d only been left with an ashy feeling toward him, and yet here he was by her side, helping her move out of state.
Come to think of it, maybe he felt the same way about her.
Maybe this was his way of ending it gently before it ever really began.
She doubted it though. She was seldom that lucky.
Ronald gave a quick wave, and she let out a sigh as he jumped out of the cab of the rental truck, looking extremely eager and ready to take on the world. Her stomach tensed at the thought of having to make small talk, but this was how the beginning of relationships always seemed to be. The encounters were a little clumsy and tricky to navigate until a rhythm set in.
They were obviously still in that getting-to-know-you stage, and she wasn’t sure at what point it would ever turn into something with substance, but they could continue toward that goal.
So what if the state of Oregon sat between them? People did long-distance relationships all the time.
All the time.
But did this even qualify as a relationship yet?
She grabbed her purse off the passenger seat and climbed out of her red Fiat convertible, top up, and shut the door. Now wasn’t the time to worry about semantics. This move was her new beginning, and she needed to fully embrace the positives wherever they led.
After all, the state of Washington was pulling out all the stops to welcome her. It was early evening, and the sky was sparkling blue without even a wispy cloud in sight. The brilliant green weeds in her new yard stretched for the sun with mighty determination. Contrary to what she’d heard about the soggy state of Washington, it seemed beautiful all the way up the coast and even more so once she got into the mountains.
The jagged cliffs, rushing waterfalls, and brilliantly colored wildflowers along the highway leading to Silver Ridge seemed right out of a fairy tale, and the small bit of the town she saw didn’t disappoint either. It was just this little hiccup of a house that drilled a bit of fear into her decision to move here.
“This place is something else,” Ronald said, sauntering over and giving the house a sideways glance before giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. Even though a warm breeze caressed her skin, his lips felt like a cold, wet fish and a shiver shot up her spine.
“Yes. It’s quite something.” She cleared her throat and looked up at the house with a glint of unexpected optimism in her eyes.
Maybe the inside wasn’t as bad as the outside. She hoped the opposite was true for Ronald. Maybe his insides were as great as his outside. After all, he did drive over a thousand miles to get her here.
Or maybe that was precisely the problem.
He did drive over a thousand miles to get me here, she thought.
“Not what you expected?” he asked warily, slicking his fingers through his hair.
She folded her arms over her chest and hugged herself, letting out an exhausted sigh.
“No. Not entirely.” She grimaced and shrugged. “But I’ve never shied away from a challenge before. This will be good for me. It’s time I finally set some roots down, and besides, this was meant to be.”
“How do you figure?” His brows shot up in a quizzical expression.
“For starters, I’m tired of LA. Not that I’ve been there much in recent years.” She looked up at the two-story Victorian home with the wraparound porch and wondered if she sounded as crazy as she felt when looking at the home. “But how often does a person inherit a bed-and-breakfast from an uncle they’ve never met? I can’t argue with fate.”
As she stared at the house, the peeling yellow paint wasn’t her biggest concern. It was the porch’s slight lean and the wobbly-looking steps leading up to the front door that worried her the most. It didn’t help that the roof looked like it was missing more shingles than were nailed down, and the gutters were barely hanging on.
There’d been a small cash inheritance that came along with the home, but she doubted it would cover much if the exterior was any indication of the interior.
“We should go inside before you make your final decision to stay.” He draped his arm around her shoulders, and she stiffened, but he didn’t notice. “And if you decide to give this a shot, I can start moving your stuff inside so we can get it all in before I have to catch my flight out tomorrow.”
She shook her head and untangled from his embrace. “I’ve got a couple of local guys I hired for tomorrow to unload. You’ve done far too much already. You need to relax and try to unwind from all the driving.”
Disappointment zipped through his gaze and a pinch of guilt socked Autumn in the stomach. She was hot-wired to sense others’ emotions, even though she did her best at extinguishing her own.
Her mother had always called it being emotionally intelligent, but she wasn’t sure she bought that theory. It seemed like more of an inconvenience the majority of the time, and it was a hindrance when navigating everyday life. The ability often landed her in situations like this one because she didn’t want to hurt people’s feelings.
She glanced at Ronald, and her stomach twisted into a tight knot. He definitely seemed bummed, and it made her wonder what all he’d hoped to get out of this trip, considering they hadn’t even kissed.
“I really don’t mind. I planned on helping unload the truck all night.” He bit his lip and the pang of guilt resurfaced.
“You’re a saint for driving all this way.” She reached for his hand to give a friendly squeeze and instantly regretted it the moment he linked his fingers through hers.
Before she had a chance to object, he pulled her into him and brought down an awkward kiss to her mouth. His lips parted, and her eyes immediately slammed shut.
She wasn’t sure whether she closed her eyes to block out the kiss or to imagine it better. When he slid his arms down hers, she knew it was only getting worse.
Here it was.
Their first kiss.
And every slobbery second of it made her grateful for the state of Oregon separating them. She silently reprimanded herself for being so cruel. Just because the connection hadn’t surfaced yet, didn’t mean it wasn’t on the horizon, and then she’d regret thinking thoughts like those.
When his lips left hers, she took a step back and looked into his eyes. By all appearances, he should be a good kisser, and judging by the dopey look in his eyes, he was supremely pleased with how it turned out, which only made her feel worse.
“I’ve wanted to kiss you from the moment we first met.” What he just said should be igniting every single cell in her body.
His words were romantic and sweet and absolutely everything she never wanted to hear from poor Ronald. She scolded herself for not pulling him into her and repeating, but she just couldn’t, and she really couldn’t fathom how the dating app had ever paired them together. Granted, she might have fibbed a little on some of the questions to make herself sound a little more stable and a little less unpredictable than reality, but still.
“I . . . umm.” She wiped her mouth and glanced over his shoulder at a hanging sign she couldn’t make out. “Wow. Thank you. That was—”
“You haven’t seen anything yet.” He cut her off and grinned before glancing at the house. He tipped his head as if that would make the place look better and nodded in complete satisfaction.
It was safe to say he had more on his mind than a simple road trip.
Autumn walked to the miniature trunk of her convertible and took out a small suitcase. “I should at least bring this inside before we go to dinner.”
He turned to Autumn and his eyes focused on hers.
“Seriously. Are you sure about this? It’s not too late to turn the truck around. You don’t have to save face around me. We can drive out of town and pretend this never happened. I’m sure a local realtor can put this up for sale and—”
She laughed and had to admit the idea wasn’t completely horrible sounding, but this was her time for new beginnings.
Since her parents’ deaths several years ago, Autumn had spent most of her time traveling the world. She’d made it her mission to fulfill her parents’ dreams, taking them on as her own and checking off every place they’d wanted to see when they retired.
Only, they never made it.
She drew in a silent, heavy sigh.
“Nope. Staying here feels right.”
“Then staying it is.” He nodded. “That’s why being a programmer is the perfect job. I can work from anywhere. We don’t have to let distance come between—”
His words were drowned out by a large diesel pickup truck across the street, a few homes down. It sat idling for a few long seconds before a man jumped out of the passenger side and the truck drove away. She turned her attention back to Ronald as he was grabbing her suitcase from her.
“I think at the very least, I should be the one to enter the premises first,” he continued. “Make sure there’s not a giant-size cockroach in there waiting to attack or something.” He brought his shoulders back, and she wasn’t sure if he was serious.
“They have roaches here?”
“Don’t they have them everywhere?” Ronald shrugged.
“I don’t know.” Autumn pulled out an envelope with the key inside from her purse and handed it over. “I’ll be right behind you, prepared to swing at anything that comes our way,” she assured him.
Autumn was certain he looked relieved at that bit of news, which only made her heart sink a little more.
Secretly, she’d always dreamed of dating a truly capable man. One who could swing in and save the day, battle the cockroaches, spiders, ants, and anything else that came their way. She didn’t need him riding in on a white horse or anything, but she thought it would be nice if a guy knew how to change a tire, at the very least.
Was that too much to ask?
She glanced down the sidewalk to see the guy who’d climbed out of the truck bending over and pulling a few weeds in the yard. He was too far away to get a good look, but it appeared like he was wearing a cowboy hat, possibly even cowboy boots. Within an instant, she saw the man swinging and swatting at something, and she held in a chuckle.
She brought her attention back to Ronald, who was triumphantly climbing the stairs. The sound of wood creaking and splitting made her stop in her tracks as she watched him lug her suitcase up the steps.
Ronald reached for the lock and began to wiggle the handle.
“Well, this isn’t very safe.” He turned around, holding the doorknob in his hand. “It might be a sign.”
“Nah.” Autumn squashed the thought with her hand. “It’s just a sign that I need a locksmith. Nothing more.”
“Why don’t you wait there while I figure this out and go inside?” His toothy grin didn’t hide his uneasiness, but she quickly accepted his offer.
As he fumbled with the door, trying to figure out how to unlatch it, she walked over to the sign hidden by thorn bushes. She reached toward the wooden sign and gingerly moved the vines aside to reveal a worn name.
The Blackberry Patch
Bed and Breakfast
A smile touched her lips as she let go of the thorny vines and admired the name of her new place. Judging by the thicket of vines entwined around the sign, the home was aptly named. Soon, small, juicy blackberries would be dangling from all the bushes, and she imagined herself making batches of jam for the guests. She looked up at Ronald as he stared at the knob in his hand and hoped she’d be able to get inside before it was dark. She didn’t want to step on his manhood, but as each second ticked by, she was less certain they’d actually be getting into the home anytime soon.
“Hello, neighbors.” A sexy voice from behind her surprised her, and she glanced quickly at Ronald, who turned around still holding the doorknob in his hand.
His expression soured the moment he saw whoever was behind her, so she decided to spin around and see for herself.
When she did, it was like the wind had been knocked right out of her. The man from down the street was only a foot away, and he looked sensational with his sparkling blue eyes, chiseled features, and dark hair peeking out from under his cowboy hat.
Her gaze fell to his feet, and sure enough, he was wearing the boots just like she’d suspected, and they weren’t small. A blush crept up her cheeks as she brought her gaze back to the stranger’s brilliant blue eyes.
“I’m Joel North, your neighbor from across the street and down a couple of homes.” He stuck out his hand, which she eagerly took.
She loved the way his strong grip wrapped around hers as he removed his hat to reveal his dark, mussed-up hair.
“I’m Autumn Tucker.” Her admiring eyes couldn’t be pulled from Joel’s gorgeous grin as he gave a quick nod, turning his attention to Ronald.
She stood staring at the sexy man in front of her, wondering how in the world he happened to be her neighbor, but she also knew never to get involved with the man next door—or on the same block, possibly the same city. The list of don’ts could go on.
“And you must be Mr. Tucker?” Joel asked.
“No. I’m not married.” Her green eyes were wide with determination to set the record straight.
“Not yet, anyway.” Ronald came down the stairs, knob still in hand, and reached for Joel’s hand.
“So you two are moving in?” Joel asked. “This is quite the fixer-upper.”
“I inherited it from my uncle.” Autumn’s gaze stayed fixed on this stranger even as Ronald possessively wrapped his arm around her shoulders and brought her in tightly.
“I’m sorry for your loss. He was a good man.” Joel gave a quick nod as he slid his hat back on.
“Thank you.” She nodded and glanced at the knob Ronald still clutched in his hand. Joel’s gaze followed hers, and his smile widened, which made him sinfully delicious.
“That’s a hell of a welcome to your new place.” Joel took a step closer and looked over at the front door. “Need some help?”
“I’ve got it.” Ronald shook his head and straightened up as Joel’s gaze fell to Autumn’s.
“Actually, if you have any experience with this kind of thing . . .” Her voice trailed off, and Joel couldn’t help but notice her beauty. Her auburn hair cascaded down her shoulders, and the playfulness behind her brilliant green eyes intrigued him, and he wasn’t easily captivated.
“Believe it or not, I’ve broken into my fair share of homes around town.” Joel laughed, and Ronald pulled Autumn closer. “It isn’t as—”
“I’ve got it handled.” Ronald cut Joel off, which only made Joel’s smile widen.
Autumn momentarily wavered but took a steadying breath and nodded. After all, Ronald did drive a thousand miles to get her here. The least she could do was humor him. “We don’t want to trouble you, but thanks for the offer.”
Now fully satisfied with her allegiance, Ronald let go of Autumn and made his way back up the stairs.
“So where’d you two move from?” Joel asked, folding his arms and studying her with his gaze peeking just below the tip of his hat. The way he looked at her sent the missing spark clear to her toes.
Autumn’s gaze skirted down his exquisite frame that happened to be wrapped in a plaid button-down and low-slung jeans. He appeared to be the exact opposite of any guy she’d seen in California in the last decade. Present company certainly not excluded.
“California.” Autumn turned her attention to Ronald, who was cursing at the top of the stairs, when Joel bent down and whispered.
“You know, all you have to do is put your finger in that hole, move it to the left a little, and that door will pop right open.” His mouth was close to her ear, and the softness of his breath skated across her neck, shocking her senses into a tailspin of anticipation.
For what, she didn’t know.
Her mind flicked back to the failed kiss from Ronald, and she couldn’t understand how she felt so alive just standing next to this perfect stranger.
“That’s it?” she asked, almost breathless, turning to look into his eyes.
“That’s the secret,” Joel replied before he turned and walked away, leaving Autumn to wonder what had just happened to make her luck turn around.