Read Spring Secrets: Pine Point, Book 3 Online

Authors: Allie Boniface

Tags: #small town;teacher;gym;second chance;wrong side of the tracks

Spring Secrets: Pine Point, Book 3

Be careful where you dig for secrets…

Pine Point
, Book 3

Sienna Cruz left Pine Point at age fifteen after her mother’s untimely death. Eleven years later, a job teaching special needs kids has brought her back. At least, that’s what she wants everyone to believe.

Raised in a poverty-stricken, single-parent household, Sienna is earning her PhD with a dissertation proving even too-perfect-to-be-real Pine Point is a hotbed of small-town secrets and scandal.

Leaving Pine Point turned out to be the biggest mistake of Mike Springer’s life. After eight years on the West Coast, coming home to open a local gym is the first step toward a fresh start, this time with the support of friends and family.

Sparks fly the moment Sienna walks into Mike’s gym, and it isn’t long before they’re workout partners with benefits. Then her research not only hits too close to Mike’s fiercely guarded past, it exposes a sordid truth about skeletons Sienna didn’t know she had in her own closet.

Warning: Contains a class of cute kiddoes that will melt your heart and a sexy tattooed gym owner who can pump more than just iron...

Spring Secrets

Allie Boniface

Dedication

For everyone who’s started over…

Chapter One

Sienna tightened her hands around the steering wheel as she left the interstate and turned onto Main Street.
I can’t believe I’m back in Pine Point.
She hadn’t meant to return, but life had a funny way of spinning her around and shoving her into situations she’d never dreamed possible. She hadn’t meant to sleep on friends’ couches all through high school either, or pay her way through college by working two jobs and living in her car. But she was this close to being the first in her family to finish an advanced college degree, and if that meant returning to her childhood hometown for a few months, then so be it.

She slowed as she passed the Feed ’n Seed, the Beauty Barn, a strip mall with a Chinese food place, and cheap apartments she remembered too well. Her eyes burned with unshed tears, and she blinked to keep them from falling.
“You’re going home?”
her friends at graduate school had asked when she’d told them.
“Sounds like fun. I haven’t been home in ages.”
But a knot had tightened in the middle of her chest. Going home for Sienna meant heartache and loneliness, not reuniting with high school friends or visiting favorite childhood hangouts. She cut her speed from fifty to forty to thirty-five, as if slowing her arrival would make it more bearable.

“You were here just last month,” she said aloud. “It wasn’t any big deal back then. It won’t be any big deal now.”

But last month had been a reconnaissance trip, a whim to see if the Pine Point of her youth would turn out to be a place she could research. She’d come only at the urging of the professor advising her dissertation.
“You want to write about the psychology of small towns? You grew up in one. Start there.”

Sienna turned her head almost involuntarily as she passed the brightly lit parking lot of the Pine Point Medical Center. That shouldn’t be the last place her fifteen-year-old self remembered with any detail. And at twenty-six years old, she should have put those details out of her mind by now.

Except hearing a white-faced doctor try to explain her mother had died of a heart attack was something a girl tended to remember.

Sienna turned up the radio. She didn’t recognize the song, but that didn’t matter. Maybe the incessant bass would drive out all other thoughts. The sleeves of her coat slipped up, and the faint white scar on her left wrist stood out as she drove under the streetlights already on in the growing shadows. A few cars passed her going in the opposite direction, but traffic was light this Sunday afternoon. She’d waited until the last possible minute to make the ten-hour drive from North Carolina, and even now she wondered if she’d made a mistake.

“Tomorrow I’ll be an elementary school teacher,” she said aloud. Teacher by day, researcher by night. That was the plan. Six months from now, she’d ideally have everything she needed to prove that small towns like Pine Point really did simmer with secrets and scandal. The Peyton Place syndrome was oh so real. Even picturesque Main Streets like this one held mysteries behind their storefronts. People smiled to their neighbors and then went home and hit the bottle a little too hard, or doctored the Little League financial records to skim a little off the top, or told themselves online cheating wasn’t the same as actually sleeping with someone else. Then they went to church on Sundays and put an extra ten in the offering plate to atone.

“It’s not that I think big cities are any better,”
she once told a classmate. “
It’s just that from what I’ve seen, small towns pride themselves on being safe and conservative and good, wholesome places to raise a family, when they’re hiding just as much dirty laundry as anywhere else.”

She braked outside Springer Fitness. The one-story gray building sat on the south end of town, with a bright red sign above the door and steamed-up front windows. At the desk inside stood the owner, a broad-shouldered guy with a blond crew cut and blazing blue eyes. She’d gone out with him a couple of times last month, also on a whim, because he’d asked her with a sideways grin that had sent squiggles into her stomach. It hadn’t amounted to much, and they hadn’t slept together. She hadn’t told him she was coming back. She hadn’t told anyone at all, except the landlord of a third-floor apartment on Main Street and the elementary school principal.

Sienna pulled to the curb and parked. It was too early for a drink. It was certainly too early to climb under the covers and go to sleep. But it was the perfect time for a kick-ass workout with a guy who knew how to bench three hundred pounds and then kiss a girl until her knees buckled. She checked her reflection in the rearview mirror, grabbed her workout gear, and headed inside.

Mike Springer grunted and shoved up the chest-press bar one last time. His arms shook and sweat ran down his face, but he got it all the way up.

“Hell, man, two ninety-five.” Zane Andrews, Mike’s best friend, took the bar and set it back on the rack. “Nice job.”

Mike sat up and mopped his face. “Thanks.” He drank deeply from the bottle of water beside him and then draped the towel around his neck. “You got a shift this afternoon?”

“Nope. Day off.” Zane, who’d already finished his reps, leaned against the rack of free weights and surveyed the gym, half full at four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. “Looks good in here.”

Mike stood, legs still a little wobbly from the squats they’d done earlier. “Yep. New Year’s resolutions brought a bunch of new people in.” He hoped they wouldn’t stop coming by the time February rolled around. “I got three new classes set up starting next week. Pilates on Saturday mornings, and kickboxing Tuesday and Thursday nights.”

Only one year into the gym-owning business, he was still trying to see what appealed to Pine Point residents. For now, he kept the place open seven days a week, with shorter hours on the weekends. He experimented with the classes he offered, and slowly, his membership was growing. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t damn proud of that. He’d come back to Pine Point with nothing but twenty bucks in his wallet and a dream of leaving the last six years behind him. Eighteen months after leaving California, he was making a go of it. He owed his sanity and his livelihood to Pine Point and the people who lived here. This town had saved him.

“How are things with Becca?” he asked as they wiped down the equipment and wrapped up their workout.

“Awesome.” Zane grinned. “Think she might be the real deal, man.”

“Good for you.” Mike still couldn’t believe his buddy had settled down with one of the smartest, most grounded women in town. He couldn’t believe Zane had settled down, period. Mike himself had no intention of going down that road again.
Once is more than enough.
He scanned his arms, trying to decide on his next tattoo. Already inked from both elbows up, and from both ankles to knees, he chose more carefully now. No more impulsive decisions, not like in his late teens or early twenties, when everything he did stemmed from late nights of too much drinking or the wrong woman in his bed.

Zane wiped his face, finished his water, and headed for the door as Mike turned for the locker room. “Have a good one, man. See you tomorrow.”

“Yep. Likewise.” A few minutes later, Mike walked to the front of the gym, dressed in a clean pair of workout pants and a red-collared shirt with
Springer Fitness
embroidered over the pocket. “How’s things?” he asked Hans, the twenty-year-old kid manning the desk.

“Good. One new sign-up, and two women came in for a tour.”

Mike flipped through paperwork and glanced outside. Yesterday’s snow had finally stopped, but he could tell by the white streams coming from pedestrians’ mouths that the frigid temperatures remained.

“Days like this, don’t you miss L.A.?” Hans asked.

“Nah.”

“Seriously?” The kid rested his arms on the desk. “I’d be out there in a minute if I could afford it. Warm weather, palm trees, beaches…shit, and all those women in bikinis.” He grinned. “Is it true? Is everything out there silicone and Botox?”

Mike pulled up last month’s spreadsheets. “Most of it.”

“I don’t think I’d care. Fake or real, if I can put my hands on it, it’s good enough for me.”

“It gets old after a while,” Mike said, eyes still on his computer screen.

“How long were you out there?”

“Too long.”

Hans elbowed him. “C’mon, man.”

“Six years on the West Coast. Only three of ’em in L.A., though.” The three worst years of his life.

“All right, I’m heading out,” Hans said as he pulled on his ski jacket and hat. “See you tomorrow at nine.”

“Have a good one.”

“I will.” Hans winked. “Remember Liesel, the exchange student from Norway who’s staying with the Humphreys?”

Mike vaguely recalled a tall blond with a lilting accent who’d shown up a few times last month. “Yeah. How old is she?”

“Eighteen. Don’t worry, Dad. I won’t get myself in trouble.”

Mike flipped the kid the bird as he left.
Dad
. That was the last thing he needed anyone to call him.
I can barely take care of my own life, let alone anyone else’s
. Still, with all the shit he’d been through, he saw it as his civic duty to pass along warnings to other men when it came to getting involved with women.

He focused his attention back on the spreadsheets. Outside, daylight waned as the sun set and clouds crawled over the sky. This far north in New York State, winter lasted forever. Mike didn’t care. He’d still rather be here in Pine Point, where people had your back instead of trying to stab you in it.

The door opened with a rush of cold air, and he looked up. He hoped it might be another newcomer looking for a year-long membership, or at least someone interested in a month’s trial run. But his fingers froze on the keyboard. His dick immediately went hard. Not a newcomer. Not even close. He knew the dark-haired, dark-eyed woman who stood on the other side of the desk. Not well, certainly not as well as he’d once wanted to, but enough that when she parted her lips in hello, his traitorous heart did a backflip inside his chest.

“Hey, Mike.” Sienna Cruz, gorgeous, brilliant, and sexy as hell, tossed her curly black ponytail over one shoulder and flashed him a stunning smile. “Want to box?”

Chapter Two

Sienna began to sweat ten minutes into the workout. Didn’t help that Mike had changed into navy shorts and a black tank top that showed off every muscle in his gorgeous body.
Why didn’t we ever sleep together?
she wondered as they went through a series of punches, kicks, and a few rounds of sparring. She blew her hair from her forehead and backpedaled as he took a drink of water.

“You’re looking good,” she said.

He grinned. His gaze raked her from head to toe and turned her hotter than she already was. He adjusted his gloves and approached again, moving toward her on his toes and letting her take a few practice swings as he did. On the last swing, he ducked, moved in, and wrapped one strong arm around her waist, pulling her tight against his chest. Sienna’s breath hitched. He grinned again for a second before letting her go. “Gotta protect against that,” he said.

But she wasn’t sure she wanted to. His torso had felt pretty damn nice pressed against hers. “Give me another chance?”

He took a few steps back and spread his arms wide. Tattoos covered his skin, and their intricate designs distracted her for a moment. He had ink on both legs too, which made for one heck of a piece of artwork standing across from her.

“I’m ready,” he said.

She blinked, surprised at the desire surging through her.
So am I. You have no idea.

* * * * *

One hour later, flushed with adrenaline and good old-fashioned lust, Mike poured two high-protein smoothies into tall glasses. He slid one across the desk to Sienna.

“Thanks.” She wrapped her lips around the straw and sucked, which did nothing to cool his desire. She loosened her damp hair from its ponytail and combed it out with her fingers. “And thanks for the workout. I needed it.”

They’d spent the better part of an hour sparring, nothing crazy, just footwork and punches, but it hadn’t taken long for Mike to remember she had the form of someone who’d been doing martial arts for a long time. She also had the form of someone he’d like to take to bed.

He took a long swallow of his own smoothie. “You’re welcome.”
Look away. Don’t go there. Don’t ask where she’s been.
But the warnings echoed hollowly inside his head. “So, you gonna tell me why you’re back in town?”

He hadn’t heard a word from her since she’d left Pine Point before the holidays. He’d called once, texted twice, then left it alone. He’d been a little hurt, sure, especially after three dates and two hot-as-hell make-out sessions. But her silence had spoken volumes, and he’d finally written her off after spending New Year’s Eve solo. He sure hadn’t expected her to walk back into his gym almost a month later like they’d said goodbye the day before.

She draped a towel around her neck and didn’t meet his gaze. A narrow scar stood out on the dark brown skin of her left wrist, and though he remembered seeing it before, he’d never asked her about it.

“You want the long or short version?” she asked.

“Which do you feel like giving me?”

Something like a shadow crossed her face, and he almost expected her to say neither one. The few times they’d gone out, she’d spoken little of herself. He knew nothing except she’d once lived in Pine Point, she’d left town in high school, and she was getting her PhD in some field way beyond his realm of understanding.

“Well, I’m finishing up some research for my dissertation.”

“Ah, right. What’s that about again?”

“Personality psychology.”

He frowned. “Meaning…”

“Meaning a fancy way of saying that people are shaped by the places they grow up. Small towns, like this one, affect people differently than big cities.”

“Guess that makes sense.”

“I also got a job teaching at Pine Point Elementary. Just until June,” she added. “The regular teacher’s on maternity leave.”

If Mike hadn’t been sitting down, he probably would have fallen over. “Teaching? Really?”

Sienna arched a brow. “Really. Surprised?”

“Ah, yeah. I didn’t know you could—” He stopped as two of his buddies walked through the front door. “Hey, guys.” He lifted his chin in greeting and turned back to Sienna. “You remember Mac Herbert from high school? Think he might’ve been ahead of you a few years.”

She studied the stocky guy with the thick neck and gap between his two front teeth. “Sorry, no.”

Mac reached over and shook her hand. “Hi, there. I don’t remember you either, so we’re even.”

“Sienna Cruz. I only went to Pine Point High through tenth grade.”

“Oh, yeah? Where’d you go after that?”

She pushed her hair from her face. “Down south to live with my father and stepbrother. I graduated from a high school in North Carolina. I’ve been attending UNC on and off since then.”

Mac whistled and glanced at Mike. “A smarty pants, huh? What’s she’s doin’ here at your place? Slumming?”

Mike gave him a jab on the shoulder. “Watch it.” He gestured at the other man. “Damian Knight,” he said to Sienna. “Moved to town—what? Three, four years ago? These guys work construction.”

“Not in this shitty weather,” Mac grumbled.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Damian smiled at Sienna. “What are you studying at UNC?”

“Psychology. But I got my undergrad in special education. I’m actually here because I’m taking over a class at the elementary school until June.”

Mac nodded. “Lucy Foster’s class, right? She just had twins,” he said to Mike. “I’m not into babies, but those two kids are cute as hell.”

“Oh, yeah.” Mike still couldn’t believe Sienna was about to spend her days at Pine Point Elementary. He’d never pegged her as the teacher type. Tall, gorgeous, exotic, almond-eyed, dressed to kill, with wit and intelligence to boot? Yeah. Not someone who was about to plant seeds in egg cartons or read picture books to kids sitting on a carpet.

Mac yanked Damian’s sleeve and groaned. “C’mon. Let’s get this hell over with. Nice meeting you,” he said over his shoulder as they walked toward the locker room.

“You too.” Sienna finished her smoothie and slid the glass back across the counter. “I guess I should go,” she said. “I still have to unpack. I haven’t even been to my apartment yet.”

“Sure. Thanks for stopping in.” He cleared his throat. “Good to see you again.”

She bit her lip. “Listen, about before,” she said. “When I was in town before, I mean. I’m sorry I didn’t call or text you after I left. I thought…”

“You thought you wouldn’t see me again,” he finished for her. “You didn’t plan on coming back to Pine Point.” He got off his stool and walked behind the counter to rinse their glasses.

“You have to admit, the long-distance thing doesn’t usually work,” she said. “And we only went out a couple of times.”

“True.” He busied himself with the faucet and with soaping up and rinsing out the glasses twice more than they needed.

“I just wanted to clear the air. And apologize.”

“Apology accepted.” He set the glasses in the drainer to dry. Then, against his better judgment, he said, “Let me walk you to your car.”

She smiled, and her cheeks pinked.

He held up her coat and waited as she slipped first one slender arm and then the other inside. A touch closer and he could wrap her in his arms. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from growing hard again. Then he pulled on his own coat and followed Sienna to the door. Their breath came in long white streams the moment they stepped outside.

“I forgot how miserable this weather can be.” She unlocked her car, shivering.

He glanced up. “But take a look at that view.” Above them, a few stars studded the early evening sky.

“It’s pretty, I’ll give you that.” She blinked and looked upward as well, and her long lashes fell to her cheeks before rising again. Everything in Mike turned white-hot with desire. “I guess I’ll see you around.”

This was the moment she would turn and say goodbye, duck into her car, and leave him standing in the falling snow. Except she didn’t. She stood with her back against her cute little sports car, not moving, her chest lifting and falling, the breath still streaming from between her cherry lips, until on impulse, he leaned forward and kissed her.

He meant to kiss her once, fast and hard, but the moment he tasted her again, his hands went to her waist and pulled her tightly against him. His tongue teased her lips open, and she wound her arms around his neck and kissed him back. She smelled like something spicy and forbidden, and despite the cold, she was fire under his touch. Her cheeks and neck and every place he could feel sizzled with sexuality.

I want you. Now. Naked. Anywhere. Here.
The crazy thoughts flashed in and out of his head, and suddenly he was twenty-three again and kissing someone else who’d turned him head over heels with lust.

Mike stopped. He dropped his hands from Sienna’s face and stepped back. “Ah, sorry.”

“Don’t be.” She touched his cheek with the gloved fingers of one hand. “It’s really good to see you again.”

He didn’t answer. He couldn’t.

This time, she did leave. She slipped inside the car, buckled her seat belt, and drove toward the center of town. Mike laced his hands behind his head and watched her go. She hadn’t told him where she was renting an apartment. She hadn’t told him much of anything.

Damn mistake.
He had no intention of falling for a woman. He would not, could not, let a woman mess up his head or his heart again. He’d kissed her, okay, but that was the last time. He shook his head and forced himself to turn away from Sienna’s vanishing taillights. He’d vowed eighteen months ago to focus on his mom, then his business, then his friends, in that order. Not women. Not relationships. Sienna Cruz was only in town until June anyway. They had absolutely no reason to get involved.

The next time he saw her, he’d tell her exactly that.

Other books

The Final Page of Baker Street by Daniel D. Victor
How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
Logan: New Crusaders MC by Wilder, Brook
Darcy & Elizabeth by Linda Berdoll
PartyStarter by Kris Starr