BECOMING BELLA by Sarah Hegger
The Ghost Falls Series #2
This Christmas, a good reputation can really get in a girl’s way . . .
As long as she can remember, Bella Erikson’s been the unofficial sweetheart of Ghost Falls, Utah. And ever since Nate Evans dipped her braids in purple paint in the first grade, he’s been her dream guy. Not that she minds the attention, but sometimes she wishes people saw more in her than just the girl who still has a crush on Sheriff Evans. She has a life after all, a new dress shop to run, and more mature relationships to pursue . . .
Nate knows he’s not good enough for sweet Bella. But he’s pretty sure the new guy sending her heart emojis and giant bouquets isn’t either. And when Bella’s suitor turns stalker, protecting Bella isn’t just Nate’s instinct—it’s his duty. Crammed together for safety and really talking for the first time in years, Bella and Nate can’t fight the moment their chemistry turns into pyrotechnics. Whether it will burn them out or light up the sky, only time will tell . . .
Very few things had the therapeutic value of a red dress and a great pair of heels. Bella couldn’t believe she hadn’t done this years ago. All this time wasted being too shy to go to bars. This was fun. She took another sip of her apple martini. Was it her third or fourth? She couldn’t really be sure and especially not with the two men vying to buy her the next one.
Who knew Ghost Falls could round up this many singles? Most of them came from the resort, but the crowd filled the bar and warmed the air enough to sit here comfortably in a sleeveless dress.
“Liz?” A short balding man sidled up next to them.
Liz froze, then picked up her drink and took a slow sip. She looked gorgeous tonight. Pippa had tamed her down to a tight fitting black dress that showed off all her curves but kept her skin decently covered. “Noel.”
Noel stared Liz up and down and huffed out a breath. “I thought it was you.”
“And you were right.” Liz puckered up her red mouth. She wouldn’t be Liz without a little drama. “Did you want something?”
“Um.” Noel dug a hanky out of his pocket and swiped it across his beaded top lip. “Just to say hi.”
“Really?” Swinging around on her bar stool, Liz’s knees forced Noel to take a quick step back, into the large man behind him.
“Sorry,” he muttered to the man before turning back to Liz. “Just thought I’d be friendly.”
“Hi, I’m Bella.” She stuck her hand out. The guy clearly felt uncomfortable.
“Noel.” His took hers in a clammy grip.
“My ex-husband.” Eyes glittering over the edge of her glass Liz sipped her drink. “Of course, it’s hard to recognize him without his bimbo in tow.”
“Nice to meet you.” Because what else could she say.
“Likewise.” Noel nodded and mopped his top lip again. “You look good, Liz. And you, Bella.”
“Thank you.” She turned to her hovering drink buyers. “This is Adam, and that’s…”
“Parker,” said Parker.
The men exchanged greetings. Everyone was being so nice and friendly.
“Can I talk to you, Liz?” Noel blushed and jerked his head. “Maybe alone.”
Liz turned her back on him. “I’m with my friend.”
Bella knew Noel had left Liz for a younger woman, but he looked so defenseless and nervous, she felt sorry for him. “It’s okay. You can go and talk,” she said to Liz.
“We’ll take care of her for you,” said Adam, the blond on her left and the more talkative of the two. He’d already stolen her cell phone and put his number into it, and then called himself so he had hers. So determined to see her again. See, when you spent your time squished into a mold, you missed out on what was standing right in front of you.
“I have nothing to say to Noel.” Liz motioned the bartender for another round.
“Please.” Seeming to grow taller and more present Noel locked his stare on Liz.
Pursing her lips Liz tossed her hair. “Fine!” She pressed Bella’s hand. “I’ll be right back.”
“No need to hurry. “ Adam leaned one elbow on the bar, sent her a killer smile and got closer. “So, Bella. That’s Italian for beautiful.”
Bella laughed and sipped her appletini. “But I’m not Italian.” She should really count how many she’d drunk, because she had a bit of a drinking problem. As in, no filters when she drank. The line was corny, but Adam was trying.
“You sure don’t look Italian,” Parker said.
“Nope.” Bella flipped her hair back. “But that didn’t stop my parents from calling me Bella.”
Of the two, Adam was the better looking. Tall, broad and blond with chiseled, even features and melty brown eyes. Now Parker was taller and built bigger, and he had a frat boy thing about him. Frat boys generally ignored her. Not tonight, apparently. She giggled at her own train of thought.
“There’s a story behind that smile.” Breath brushing her shoulder Adam leaned it. He smelled of Armani.
Bella peered through her lashes at him like she’d read a heroine in a book do. She rather enjoyed the peering. It gave her an air of mystery.
Jo took her glass and wiped the bar in front of her. Nate’s sister worked here now, in one of the new bars that had opened as the area grew more developed. Prior to Whispering Pines opening, the only other choice for a drink out had been Ed’s, a dingy dive at the far end of town that even the rats approached with caution.
“Another?” Adam indicated her glass.
“Bella?” Jo stared at her meaningfully. The problem with Ghost Falls was that everybody was up and in your business. Like now, Jo trying to warn her not to drink anymore. That’s because Jo had her pinned as a good girl.
“Please.” Bella smiled at Adam. Cosmo said a girl should get him talking about himself. “So, what do you do?”
“Import and export.” Adam shrugged. “Right now, I’m here to enjoy the snow over Christmas.”
“No.” He grimaced. “I’m an only child and my folks passed on a few years back.”
“Lucky you.” Bella sipped her drink. Oops, that came out a bit harsh, and her cheeks heated. Maybe Jo and her look had something. “What I meant was, sometimes family can be a bit stifling. Not that yours were, only that…” She needed a quick recovery. “I’m sorry about your parents.”
Over the edge of his scotch glass Adam grinned. “I know what you meant.”
He had the most dreamy, melty-chocolate eyes she’d ever seen. Like Colin Firth, or better yet, Theo James. Pity Adam didn’t have a British accent because those were super sexy.
“So tell me about your family,” Adam said.
“I’d rather not.” Bella wrinkled her nose. “I’m feeling way too happy right now to get into my family.”
With a bigger scowl at Adam, Jo put another drink in front of her.
Bella didn’t care. Tonight was for her, all hers. Bella of the ball.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble. Mimicking her globetrotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother. She currently lives in Colorado with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.
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