When Claire Bradshaw decides to end her dead-end relationship of several years, she only has one place to go – back home to the tiny town of Palmetto Park. Claire keeps bumping into people from her past as she struggles to shake her “better than everybody” reputation, make peace with her enemies, and even attempts to rekindle an old flame. Claire gets to know her old friends all over again and gets to know more about herself as she starts over – right back where it all started.
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“So what have you been up to since you’ve been home? I know that you’ve broken up with your boyfriend and you’re starting a business with your aunt. Anything else I should know?” Cooper asked.
Claire put her tortilla down to refill it with all of the toppings that had spilled out. “That’s really about it. We hired Polly to cook for us. And we’ve been working with Eddie to get the cottages ready. It’s been crazy.”
“Is that why I haven’t picked Eddie up in a while?” Cooper asked.
“What do you mean?” Claire stuffed the end of the rolled-up tortilla in her mouth.
“He hasn’t been at the Office much lately,” Cooper said. “Which means he hasn’t been drunk in public lately.”
Claire took a sip of her margarita. “Polly said something like that, too. I didn’t realize Eddie had that big of a drinking problem.”
“Oh yeah. The night I brought you home along with him? That wasn’t the first time that I’ve had to cart Eddie home. Not even the fifth. Or the fifteenth.”
“Really? Wow.” Claire finished one tortilla and started filling another.
“And you said Polly is going to be working with you guys too?”
“Yeah. She’s a great cook! She’s going to do our breakfasts.”
“Really?” Cooper leaned back in the booth. “That’s interesting.”
“What do you mean?” Claire asked. “Why is that interesting?”
“Because of your, um, history.”
“I know, I know. I was surprised, too. But she said she’s glad we’re friends. We’re friends now. So I think she’s able to look past the way I acted in high school.”
“Maybe she is, but not everybody is.”
Claire was about to take a bite out of her tortilla but put it back down on her plate. “Uh-oh,” she said. “What does that mean?”
“Just that there are some people who still think you were a jerk in high school.”
“I was a jerk in high school.” Claire sighed. “But who still holds that against me? That was years and years ago.”
“I know two girls who are not thrilled to have you back in town.”
Claire pushed her plate away and slid her margarita in front of her. She stirred the ice cubes with her straw and took a sip. “Who? Besides Polly?”
“Ginny, for one.”
Claire chewed on the inside of her cheek. “She’s something, huh? She doesn’t look anything like she did in high school. I didn’t think she’d turn out…” Claire stopped as she caught Cooper’s expression. “What?”
“And you wonder why she doesn’t like you?” Cooper grinned.
“You have to agree with me. She didn’t look like that in high school. She was a beanpole. She had no boobs. Now she’s … hot.”
“She is pretty hot,” Cooper agreed.
“Who’s the other one?” Claire asked.
“The other one?”
“You said there were two. Who’s the other one? Polly?”
Cooper shook his head. “Tiffany Ellicott.”
Claire slapped the table with both hands. “Ugh. I haven’t even run into her yet. How does she know I’m back?”
“Palmetto Park is a small town,” Cooper said. “She apparently thinks it’s funny that you went off to the big city thinking you were better than everybody else and then had to come back home with your tail between your legs because your boyfriend cheated on you.”
Claire’s eyes widened. “How do you know that? How does she even know that?”
“I told you. It’s a small town.”
Claire took a long sip of her drink and sat fuming for a few minutes while Cooper got up to use the restroom. She and Tiffany had been on the cheerleading squad together, but they’d never really been friends. Claire had enjoyed cheerleading, but she wasn’t one of those girls who would have killed to be squad captain, which bothered Tiffany, because she wanted to be the envy of everyone in the school. She couldn’t wait to see Tiffany and have a little chat with her.
“You mad?” Cooper asked, sitting back down.
“Kind of,” Claire said. “Tiffany always annoyed the crap out of me.”
“She has a point.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you or did you not go off to college thinking you were better than everybody else?”
Claire stared at Cooper. Was he talking about what their friends thought, or was he just referring to himself? She didn’t know what to say.
“You don’t have to answer that,” Cooper said abruptly.
Claire looked down at her lap. “I was an idiot,” she said. “I was a jerk to people.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore, Clarissa Jean.”
“It does matter. There are still people who think I’m the asshole cheerleader that I was in high school, and I’m not!” Claire insisted.
“People will get over it. Once they get to know you again.”
Claire sighed. “That doesn’t make me feel any better.” She played with her straw, twirling it between her thumb and forefinger.
“You know what would make you feel better?” Cooper asked.
“Some putt-putt.” He grinned.
Claire broke into a smile. She hadn’t played miniature golf in ages. In high school, she and Cooper used to drive to St. Augustine just to play. That was probably the last time she’d picked up a golf club. “I’m gonna kick your ass,” she said.
Claire felt like a kid again. She managed not to worry about Ginny or Tiffany for the rest of the evening, and instead concentrated on doing her best at miniature golf. She and Cooper taunted and trash-talked each other at every hole. She managed to sink two holes in one, but Cooper still beat her. “You owe me dinner next time,” he said.
Claire had butterflies in her stomach as Cooper drove her home. Next time. She’d been telling herself that this wasn’t a date, but maybe next time would be. She couldn’t help hoping it would be as she looked over at Cooper behind the wheel. He looked like he did when they were seniors in high school – but with shorter hair and a nicer truck.
When they pulled into the driveway, Claire turned to smile at Cooper. “Do you want to come in? I have beers in my little fridge,” she offered.
Cooper shook his head. “Not tonight. Maybe some other time, though. Gotta work in the morning.”
Claire tucked her hair behind her ear. “Okay. You let me know when you want dinner,” she said. “Fajitas are on me next time.”
Cooper leaned over and gave her a hug. “You got it.”
Claire climbed out of the truck and closed the door. She stood in the driveway for a minute and watched Cooper drive away. Was he interested or not? She couldn’t tell. Plus, he’d gone on a date with someone on Valentine’s Day. But he didn’t talk about it. And Claire wasn’t sure how to ask during dinner. They’d been having such a good time, just the two of them, that to bring up his date would be like inviting a third person along. But what if he was serious about whoever it was?
About the Author:
Jessica Goodwin lives in northern Virginia near Washington, DC with her husband, son, and their two cats. She likes cookies, coffee, and anything that sparkles. If she could have any animal for a pet, it would be a T-Rex. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, going wine tasting, singing in the shower, and taking pictures of the baby.
Two of Goodwin’s books, ‘Here We Go’ and ‘The One Who Got Away’ have been on the Amazon bestseller list. In March 2012, her third book, ‘One of the Guys,’ received an Honorable Mention in Sapphire Star Publishing’s Month of Romance contest. These titles were originally published on Amazon under her former name, Jessica Strassner, but have been rereleased under the name Jessica Goodwin.
Goodwin is also a mom blogger with work appearing on Scary Mommy, Baby Gaga, and Mommy Effect. She hopes to someday write a humorous parenting memoir.
Visit www.jessica-goodwin.com for more information.
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Living Life With Joy – http://www.livinglifewithjoy.com – Author Q&A
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Hello…Chick Lit – http://hellochicklit.com – Book Excerpt