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The Shop Around the Corner

The Shop Around the Corner

Sweet Tea and a Southern Gentleman Series, Book 2

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I finally got Shelby back into my life and I'll be damned if I lose her again. I'll find a way to make everyone happy...I have to.

Shelby

I thought I was getting stronger, but now, I'm not so sure. Tamara is back in Miles' life and I want to say that it doesn't affect us--that he loves me and that is all that should matter--but every time I see Belle, I see myself. I would give anything to change the circumstance of my childhood and if there's a chance that Miles and Tamara can make it work, I wouldn't forgive myself if I stood in their way.

Miles thinks there's a way for everyone to be happy...but I just don't see it. And I don't think it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Abigail

I thought I was content with my life. My business is booming. I have a boyfriend. Sabrina is coming out of the darkness that seemed to have taken over her since Samuel's birth. But for some reason, I'm not happy.

I blame Bash.

I hate that he randomly shows up at the shop as if he's trying to protect me. I hate that he's in their kitchen apartment, shirtless, with a dark, hooded look in his eyes, while Anders in distracted by videos games and beer in his room. But I really hate that when I need someone the most, Bash is the only one that shows up to help me.

And when I find out what he did for Sabrina? I hate him even more.

This story is told through 4 different points of view. Shelby, Miles, Abigail, and Bash. It's a story of romance and friendships between women. If you liked the Netflix show, Sweet Magnolias, you'll love this series!

The Shop Around the Corner is chock full of romance, redemption, and forgiveness. If you're looking for a story full of romance, friendship, and heroes you'll want to gate keep, grab your copy today! It is the second book in the Sweet Tea and a Southern Gentleman series and ends on a cliff hanger.

MAIN TROPES

  • Boyfriend's Roommate
  • Small Town
  • Grumpy/Sunshine
  • Forgiveness
  • Women Friendship
  • Protective Hero

Synopsis

Shelby

I thought I was getting stronger, but now, I'm not so sure. Tamara is back in Miles' life and I want to say that it doesn't affect us--that he loves me and that is all that should matter--but every time I see Belle, I see myself. I would give anything to change the circumstance of my childhood and if there's a chance that Miles and Tamara can make it work, I wouldn't forgive myself if I stood in their way.

Miles thinks there's a way for everyone to be happy...but I'm not so sure. And I don't think it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Abigail

I thought I was content with my life. My business is booming. I have a boyfriend. Sabrina is coming out of the darkness that seemed to have taken over her since Samuel's birth. But for some reason, I'm not happy.

I blame Bash.I hate that he's randomly showing up at the shop as if he's trying to protect me. I hate that he's in their kitchen apartment, shirtless, with a dark, hooded look in his eyes, while Anders in distracted by videos games and beer in his room. But I really hate that when I need someone the most, Bash is the one that shows up to help me.And when I find out what he did for Sabrina?

I hate him even more.

This story is told through 4 different points of view. Shelby, Miles, Abigail, and Bash. It's a story of romance and friendships between women. If you liked the Netflix show, Sweet Magnolias, you'll love this series!

The Shop Around the Corner is chock full of romance, redemption, and forgiveness. If you're looking for a story full of romance, friendship, and heroes you'll want to gate keep, grab your copy today! It is the second book in the Sweet Tea and a Southern Gentleman series and ends on a cliff hanger.

Chapter One Look Inside

Miles

Shelby was in my bed.

I lay there with her curled up next to me. I could hear her soft
breaths and feel her heart pounding a slow and rhythmic beat against my arm.
Her hand was resting on my chest and her thigh was burning a spot on my leg
that I was certain would scar me forever.

I stared up at the darkness that filled my room. I cursed the
feelings that were rushing through me. I’d thought I would be able to sleep
with her next to me…I was wrong.

It was taking all of my strength not to touch her. To feel her. To
pull her into my arms and show her all the ways a man could please a woman.

I wanted to share that with her. I wanted her to be mine.

But I knew it was too soon for that. She wasn’t ready.

She needed to heal.

It wasn’t lost on me that after my declaration of love last night,
she didn’t respond with the same sentiment. I witnessed her feelings for me in
the way she kissed me, touched me…stared at me. But she never uttered those
three little words.

The words that I’d given so freely.

I love you.

I closed my eyes as my fingers found her hand resting on my chest.
I squeezed it gently before bringing it up to my lips. “I love you,” I
whispered into her knuckles.

My hand engulfed hers as I set it back down on my chest and held it
there. My heart was pounding so hard, I could feel its reverberation in my
chest. Then I turned to look at her. Her soft brown hair was pulled away from
her face, revealing the creamy skin on her neck and jawline. Memories of
pressing my lips to those spots flooded my mind. Deep in my stomach, the desire
to kiss every part of her came roaring back to life.

I dragged my gaze away from the hollows of her neck to focus on
her perfect features. Her eyelashes splayed across her cheeks, the dark brown
contrasting against her white skin. Her nose was pointed and perfect. I leaned
in and placed a soft kiss on the tip, and when I pulled back, my gaze dropped
to her lips. I knew I should look away, but I couldn’t help but stare at her
plump, pink lips and fantasize about what I would do to them. They were
beckoning me to trace their outline with my fingertips and tease them open with
my tongue.

I blew out my breath, thankful that she was asleep so she wouldn’t
witness my torture. Her mouth was relaxed, which only enhanced her beauty. She
wasn’t frowning—which I’d grown so accustomed to—but she wasn’t smiling. She
looked content.

So content that I forced myself to lie back down on my pillow and
slam my eyes shut. I knew kissing her on the lips would wake her up, and even
though every molecule in my body was screaming at me to press my lips to hers,
I remained still.

Heat burned in my body from desire. I wanted her in ways that I’d
never wanted another woman before. Even with Tamara. Even with random girls
that used to fill my calendar when I was single and searching. None of them
held a candle to how I felt for Shelby.

She was my person. I was made to love her. I was made to make love
to her. I was hers, physically, spiritually, emotionally.

My soul yearned to make her mine.

Sleep evaded me. By the time my room began to grow lighter from
the waking sun, I was ready to get out of the bed. The temptation to touch
Shelby had grown too strong, and I needed to get some distance between us if I
was going to hold to my promise to wait until she was ready.

I pulled away from her, slipping my body off the side of the bed
until I was crouching on the floor. A sigh escaped her lips, turning the fire
in my belly into a raging inferno. I wanted to pull the covers back and crawl
in next to her, but I didn’t.

Instead, I stood and stared down at her for a moment, memorizing
every part of her face while I had the chance, then turned and headed out of
the room.

Belle wouldn’t be up yet, so I grabbed the baby monitor and headed
out to the garage to work off all the pent-up energy I had inside of me.

My earbuds blared my music as I loaded my weights. I was going
heavier than I had in a long time, but with the way I was feeling toward
Shelby, my muscles needed to burn.

Sweat dripped down my face as I returned the bar to its hooks and
sat up. I reached down and grabbed my water bottle that was next to me and took
a sip.

A hand landed on my shoulder and I yelled, whipping around,
spilling water all over me and the workout bench. A set of wide, yet very
familiar, blue eyes greeted me.

“Tamara?” I wiped the water from my face and then pulled out my
earbuds. I swung one leg over the bench and then stood.

Was this a dream? It was a strange dream if it was. But the longer
I stared at her the more realization dawned on me.

Tamara was indeed standing there. She was thinner, her skin paler,
and her eyes looked tired. Her clothes were baggy on her, hanging limply off
her shoulders, but I could tell that they were clean. She looked like she’d
been put through the wringer and come out the other side.

“What are you doing here?” I asked as I returned my earbuds to
their case before giving her my undivided attention. The sense of relief that
she was okay, contrasted against all of the questions that were racing through
my mind.

“I—um…” She closed her eyes as she pressed her forefingers to her
temples. “I’m…” She squeezed her eyes like what she was about to say was
painful for her.

Hating that she was struggling, I closed the space between us and
wrapped my arm around her shoulders. “It’s okay,” I whispered. I wasn’t sure
what was going on, but it hurt me to see someone I’d cared about like this.

Her body slumped against me as I guided her toward the back door
of the inn. Once we were inside the kitchen, I sat her down next to the table
and then stood. “I’ll make us some coffee.”

Thankfully, I’d just done a load of laundry yesterday, so I was
able to locate a shirt in the dryer. Then I filled the coffee maker with water
and turned it on, the hum of the machine filling the silence in the kitchen.

I grabbed a glass of ice water and moved to sit next to Tamara at
the table. I set the baby monitor down next to me and then turned to studied
Tamara. Her shoulders rounded and she was staring off into the distance. Her
lips were pulled tight and her eyes looked tired.

She’d been a force to be reckoned with when I first met her. A
whirlwind of laughter and joy, filling my boring world. It was strange to see
the shell of a woman she’d become. She just looked worn out now. The light in
her eyes that had distracted me for months had faded.

“You okay?” I finally asked, breaking the deafening silence
between us.

She startled, whipping her gaze over to meet mine. “Hmm?” she
asked.

I gave her a weak smile. “Are you okay?”

She studied me for a moment before tears began to fill her eyes.
Her shoulders sagged even more as she tipped her gaze up to the ceiling, biting
her lip and shaking her head. “No, Miles. I’m not.”

A tear slipped down her cheek, and I reached for a napkin on the
table and handed it to her. She took it and dabbed her eyes.

“What happened?”

She let out a small sigh before she glanced back up at me. “Phil
died.”

I blinked. “Who?”

“My boyfriend, Phil.”

“He died?” Never in the few months we were together or when she’d
dropped off Belle, had she mentioned a Phil. It was strange that she came all
the way to Harmony just to tell me this. Especially since I didn’t know him.

“Six months ago, he overdosed.” She swallowed and then tipped her
gaze up to the ceiling again. She tapped her fingers on the table a few times
before turning her attention back to me. “That was rock bottom for me. I’ve
been trying to get my life together ever since then.” She closed her eyes for a
moment. “My counselor told me the best thing to do is to return to a place
where I felt safe.”

I studied her. Here? The last place she felt safe was with me? Her
gaze met mine, and that was all I needed to answer my questions. She needed me.
She needed Harmony. If she was going to get better, she needed to be here to do
that.

“Of course, Tamara. I’m happy to help.” After all, how could I
turn away the mother of my child? Especially when she looked so sad. So broken.

A smile played on her lips as the familiar twinkle in her eyes
returned. “That makes me so happy. I was worried—”

Movement in the hallway drew our attention. My stomach dropped
when I saw who was standing there. Shelby’s eyes were wide as she glanced
between Tamara and me. I cleared my throat and hurried to stand, not sure how I
was going to explain what was going on and praying that she didn’t misinterpret
Tamara’s sudden appearance.

“You’re up,” I blurted out as I started to cross the room. Then I
kicked myself for descending on her so quickly. I stopped halfway between them.
My focus was on Shelby, whose eyes were wide as she kept her gaze locked on
Tamara, who was, consequently, now staring at me.

“Who’s this?” Tamara asked.

I swallowed, all the muscles in my body tensing as I glanced between
the two of them. There was no easing anyone into what was about to happen.
There had been a few too many drunken nights when I’d stupidly confessed my
broken heart to Tamara. She was very aware of what Shelby’s return would mean
to me.

I studied Shelby, hoping she would read my gaze and not freak out.
I extended my hand toward Tamara and said, “Shelby, this is Tamara. Belle’s
mom.”

Whatever Shelby had been expecting me to say, that was not it. Her
eyes widened, and her jaw muscles flinched as she stared at me and then back to
Tamara.

Tamara was studying me, and I knew the reason why. Her gaze
screamed, Shelby? I wanted a hole to open up and swallow me as I stood
there, watching the woman I loved and the mother of my daughter stare at each
other.

“You’re Belle’s mom?” Shelby asked, extending her hand in the
direction of Belle’s room.

Tamara nodded. They shook hands for a moment before both women
stepped back. “And you’re Shelby. The Shelby.”

Shelby looked confused as she glanced over at me and then back to
Tamara. “You know who I am?” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Of course
you do. Did you know my grandmother? I mean, you were the librarian here. You
had to have heard about her.” Her words were picking up speed, and her voice
was slowly rising an octave. She was overwhelmed. It took all of my strength
not to ask Tamara to leave so I could calm Shelby down.

“Hey,” I whispered as I closed the space between us and wrapped my
arms around her. We’d had such a magical night last night, I didn’t want her to
forget that. I was here for her. I was always going to be here for her.

But Shelby didn’t melt into my embrace like I’d expected her to.
Instead, she just stood there like a rigid board. My heart ached. I’d finally
coaxed her out of her shell, the last thing I wanted was for her to climb back
in and fortify it to the point that I could never penetrate it again.

Worried that I’d overstepped, I dropped my arms and stepped back.
I couldn’t read Shelby’s gaze as she stood there, frozen to the spot.

I needed to get Tamara settled somewhere else so I could talk to
Shelby. I was trying to contain a fire, and in a few minutes, Belle was going
to be up requiring the bulk of my attention. Plus, I wasn’t ready to face how I
felt about Tamara meeting Belle. Right now, I needed to focus on Shelby and my
daughter. I’d worry about what Tamara’s return meant later.

“Let me get you a key to a room and you can get settled,” I said
as I wrapped my hands around Tamara’s shoulders and guided her through the
swinging door and out to the dining room. Just as the door swung shut, I peeked
back at Shelby. Thankfully, she didn’t instantly take off. She stood there with
her arms wrapped around her chest, staring down at the floor. My heart ached
for her as I followed behind Tamara. Shelby was most likely in shock—and I’d
brought that on her.

Pushing those thoughts from my mind for now, I grabbed a key from
behind the desk and shoved it into Tamara’s hand. She stared down at it while I
told her how to find her room and promised I would come get her later so we
could talk. I could see that she had questions, but I wasn’t ready to answer
any of them.

Thankfully, she had enough of her wits about her to nod and head
up the stairs toward her room. Now alone, I sprinted back to the kitchen to
find that Shelby had stayed right where I’d left her.

Not wanting to lose her again, I crossed the space between us and
wrapped my arms around her, burying my face into her neck. “I’m so sorry. I
didn’t mean for you to meet her like that,” I whispered as I pulled back.

Shelby glanced up at me, and I inwardly cursed when I couldn’t
read her gaze.

“How long has she been here?”

“Just this morning. She found me while I was working out.” I gave
her a weak smile, hoping she could see that Tamara meant nothing to me. That
Tamara being back here hadn't changed my feelings for her.

Shelby studied me as if she were searching for sincerity in my
gaze. It broke my heart. I wanted to be a safe place for her to land, and I
hated that my history was as tangled as it was.

“Why is she back here?”

I reached out and brushed her fingers with mine. I waited for a
moment to see if she would take my hand, and my heart sang when she spread her
fingers and let mine in. Her skin was soft and cold against mine. I stepped
closer, staring down at her with all the emotions that were coursing through
me. Out of all the ways I’d imagined this morning going, this was not one I’d
even thought possible.

“She needs some help right now. And as she’s Belle’s mom, I can’t
turn her away.” I leaned in, my voice deepening with emotion. “But we are not
getting back together. I meant what I said last night.” I reached up and tucked
her hair behind her ear, letting my fingers run from her hair down her neck,
and I finished it off with a kiss to her clavicle.

She let out a soft sigh and tipped her head back, beckoning me in.
My hand found her waist, and I pulled her against me. I trailed kisses from her
neck to her lips. She let go of my fingers and slid her hands from my chest to
my neck where she tightened her grip to deepen the kiss.

All the worry that had plagued my gut dissipated as I held her
against my body. I wanted her to know that I was here for her. I was always
going to be here for her. I broke our kiss to lean forward and whisper, “I love
you,” in her ear.

She pulled back and held my gaze. I could see the worry inside of
her, and I wanted to put that fear to rest, once and for all.

“I mean it.” My hand found her fingers, and I brought her knuckles
to my lips and pressed a kiss into them, reveling in the fact that, this time,
she was awake and watching me.

I could see her study me from over her hand, so I brought my gaze
up to meet hers. She looked less panicked, but I could tell that she was still
worried. I knew it was going to take her some time, but I could live with her
worry.

What I couldn’t live with was her leaving. And with our history,
leaving was what I’d come to expect when it came to Shelby. So even though I
was terrified that she was going to walk out on me once more, I was going to
take her staying in this kitchen, kissing me, as a positive sign.

And those three little words that she still hadn’t said to me?
Well, her standing here in front of me, letting me touch her like I was, they
were as good as spoken. It was only a matter of time before I heard those words
come from her sexy lips. And I wasn’t going anywhere until she felt safe enough
to utter them.

I was willing to spend every moment of every day proving that to
her.

I was never going to leave.

Ever.

 

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Sweet Tea and a Southern Gentleman Series

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