Title August Blues
Author Amey Zeigler
Genre Contemporary Romance
Publisher The Wild Rose Press
As a daughter of a bestselling novelist, Annie Shaw is determined to establish herself as a romance author apart from her father's name. When a career-threatening review sends her on vacation at Deerbourne Inn, she wonders if she should quit writing.
Book critic Zane Barrett hates all things romance—especially novels. Every August, he travels to Willow Springs, Vermont, to cope with a loss he's never relinquished.
When the two meet in the idyllic town, even Zane admits they've fallen victim to love at first sight. But what will happen when Annie discovers her hated critic and the perfect man are one and the same?
“Can I help you?”
The voice startled her. Peering through the shelves to a darkened far corner, she noticed a cash desk. But the shelves blocked the bearer of the voice. “Just looking,” she called back.
A creak of a chair signaled movement. Then a man appeared at the end of the aisle.
His green-and-red plaid flannel shirt draped across broad shoulders. After sliding up a pair of glasses, he tucked his hands into his jean pockets.
A pair of perceptive and penetrating steel-gray eyes beamed behind the lenses, yet they seemed haunted by sadness. His face held wisdom enough to be out of his early twenties but wasn’t wrinkled enough to be too much older than Annie.
“Looking for anything in particular?” he asked.
She didn’t know what she was searching for—a sign to continue or a sign to quit? “Do you have any Hank Shaw books?” His works would be in an older store like this. He started writing more than three decades earlier at the height of horror films and novels. The man raked his fingers across fine, straight hair but it did little good. It all fell back exactly where it had been.
“You a Hank Shaw fan?” His eyes brightened.
He was attractive, in a country-bumpkin way. Annie didn’t know why the thought crossed her mind. For all she knew, he could be married. “I love him.” She squished her eyes in a slightly sarcastic way.
“Me, too.” He led her to the right of the cash desk. “Here’s our collection.”
He passed a bank of low shelving with a rainbow of her father’s titles.
“And here.” He thumped a credenza with a glass case full of books. “We even have signed first editions.”
She noted his use of “we.” Definitely married. Although he didn’t wear a ring. But a ring was only one indicator of unavailability.
She squinted into the darkened shelves of the credenza, blocking out the reflection of the windows behind her to read the titles. Her heart squeezed. Her childhood memories swirled before her. His book tours flashed in her mind. Every time one of these came out meant he left. His leaving meant Mom crying.
“Hank Shaw is one of the greatest writers of our time.”
She raised her gaze. The man’s eyes lit with fire.
He leaned closer. “His prose is incredible, and the sheer amount of thought for his characters is amazing, don’t you agree?”
A tinge of pain swept over her heart. Her review still rubbed her too raw. Hank Shaw wasn’t perfect. She knew how many mistakes he made. She edited his work, for crying out loud. But she couldn’t tell him that without exposing her identity, and she didn’t want to open that weird door between them. “You don’t think his plots lack direction? He’s obviously not a plotter.
His stories ramble in places and leave threads hanging.” The man nodded. “Maybe a few years ago, but he’s tightened his storytelling. Besides, dangling threads are common in horror.”
Clearly, this man could see no wrong in Hank Shaw. His whole face brightened in childlike simplicity. Yes, he was quite attractive.
“His genius continually improves.”
Annie bit her lip. His inadvertent compliment warmed her heart. Hank Shaw’s rambling storytelling had improved. And she knew why his plots had tightened recently.
“He has an incredible grasp of language and genre. He is the master world-builder.”
As the man continued praising her father, Annie’s head throbbed.
“His sheer brilliance in how he uses suspense is spine-tingling. I could read his books repeatedly and never tire of his prose.” His grin faltered.
Every compliment tore slashes in her heart.
“But I guess I’m boring you.”
He stopped piling on his adoration, and relief filtered through her. “Not at all.”
“As you can see, I’m a big fan.”
Ding! The bell signaled another customer, and the man excused himself.
Annie pored over the titles of her father’s books published before her sister Selena was born. Grabbing one from the low bank of shelving, she cracked it open and read, reminding herself of her father’s talent. The storekeeper’s compliments poured salt into an already festering wound. Maybe she needed to reconnect with her father’s earlier works. Perhaps she’d edited too much of his voice out of his latest books. How nice to read just for fun.
“Zane!” a female voice trilled. “How long are you in town this time?”
Annie careened her neck for a peek, but the shelves hid the newcomer.
“Just the week. How are you doing, Missy?” Zane replied.
“Is it the end of August already?” Missy’s words tumbled out. “You are so good to come back every year. So loyal. Just like your father. It must be very trying.”
Annie didn’t mean to listen in, but the conversation piqued her interest.
Zane didn’t reply. Instead, he returned to the cash desk, sitting in an old roller chair.
Missy followed him and moved into Annie’s view. Peroxide-blonde hair graced her shoulders. Her slim figure curved perfectly. Using her advantage, she leaned toward Zane. Annie rolled her eyes. She knew flirting when she saw it. She kept her head down and only pretended to read.
Missy dropped her chin and murmured, batting her lashes over sparkling blue eyes. She tugged her server uniform. “Hey, you know, Tuesday nights are half-price appetizers at the Stone Hearth Tavern. You’re welcome to come hang out. Tonight’s chef’s special is the quiche lorraine.”
“Thank you. I appreciate the invite.” He dipped his chin.
Annie smirked at the woman’s tack. Missy was testing the waters. When in public, Annie played the guess-my-pick-up-line game.
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