Today's Reading

He screeched to a stop and hopped out. "Hey, sis! About time you came home."

"Just for a visit," she clarified.

"Why go back? You lost your job."

"Thanks for reminding me," she muttered as he picked up her suitcase and carry-on and stowed them.

"So, what happened?" he asked as they pulled away from the curb.

Great. Was everyone going to ask her this? "It didn't work out." Only a month ago she'd had a different take on things—one that blamed her threatened boss and jealous, sabotaging coworker. Now she had a more balanced version, and it wasn't a story she was all that ready to tell.

"Got anything else lined up?"

"Not yet," she said.

She'd updated her LinkedIn profile, sent out résumés, made calls, and haunted job boards, so far with no success. Every blog she read said her best bet was to be a referenced candidate, but she hadn't figured out how to find any company insider to help her with that.

She'd so easily fallen into her job in New York—got it through a friend of a friend—both men, naturally. Women hated her. (As if she could help it that she had perfect hair, symmetrical features, and good taste in clothes!) Other than Josh and a couple of his buddies, the pool of people with helping hands stretched out was proving to be very shallow.

Like you are, whispered the new-and-improving Darby. She sighed.

"It'll work out," Cole said easily. "There's tons of ad agencies in Seattle, and probably lots of companies that need writers. And words are your thing."

"Yeah, you're right," she said. It was a gift.

One she'd misused often in high school and then again when she went away to college. She had a lot of rebuilding to do.

"How's school going?" she asked. "You going to graduate cum laude?"

"I'm gonna graduate," he replied with a cheeky grin.

Cole was a loveable goof—a people person and the king of charm. He'd be fine. He'd probably be a construction manager before he turned twenty-five.

"If you stay here awhile, you won't have to come all the way back for the ceremony. You are coming to my graduation, right?"

"Of course." She'd come to Erika's graduation too. Not that Erika cared about Darby being anywhere near her anymore. Who could blame her?

"Rika's already at the house. Mom made that peppermint divinity you like, and she's planning on you guys all baking cookies together tomorrow."

Yes, Mom had a whole week of fun activities planned. Cookie baking, tree decorating, a neighborhood open house. That was scheduled for Sunday, the day after next.

"Who all's coming to the open house?" she asked. Please don't say Gregory.

Sweet, loyal Gregory. Her heart gave a sick flop over how she'd treated her former childhood boy bestie. She had a lot of mean to make up for, but she hated the idea of atoning for her past by being publicly snubbed and humiliated, even if she had it coming.

Cole started rattling off names. A couple of neighbor girls she'd ignored, Mrs. Williams from two doors down. "And the Colliers," he finished.

"As in Gregory?"

"Yep. Him too."

Ugh. She wished she'd stayed in New York.

"He bought the Henrys' old place."

"I didn't know that," Darby said.

There was a lot she didn't know anymore about Gregory Collier, former nerd turned teacher.

Like why he chose to remain in Small Town, USA.
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