The Cottage on Pumpkin and Vine

Read More Kate Angell
Sweet Spot
(Richmond Rogues)
No Tan Lines
(Barefoot William)
He's the One
No Strings Attached
(Barefoot William)
No Sunshine When She's Gone
(Barefoot William)
The Sugar Cookie Sweethearts Swap
No One Like You
(Barefoot William)
No Breaking My Heart
(Barefoot William)
Read More Jennifer Dawson
As Good As New
The Name of the Game
The Winner Takes It All
Take a Chance on Me
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp.
The Cottage on Pumpkin and Vine
Kate Angell
Jennifer Dawson
Sharla Lovelace
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
KENSINGTON BOOKS are published by
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
Compilation copyright © 2016 by Kensington Publishing Corp.
“Charmed by You” © 2016 by Kate Angell
“Mesmerized by You” © 2016 by Jennifer Dawson
“Enchanted by You” © 2016 by Sharla Lovelace
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.
eISBN-13: 978-1-4967-0690-4
eISBN-10: 1-4967-0690-0
First Kensington Electronic Edition: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4967-0688-1
ISBN-10: 1-4967-0688-9
Charmed by You
To my readers who celebrate Halloween:
Ghosts and Goblins
Spooks Galore
Scary Witches
At Your Door
Smiling Bright
Wishing You A
Haunting Night
Alicia Condon, editorial director,
once again, and always,
thanks for everything!
Chapter 1
Moonbright, Maine
on't roll the pumpkins, haul them on the industrial dollies. The pumpkins are carved. They bruise and dent easily. You're squinting eyes and breaking teeth. Be more careful,” cautioned Grace Alden, the local party planner and owner of Charade, “A costume shop for all reasons and seasons.” She'd been hired by her godmother, Amelia Rose, to decorate her B&B, Rose Cottage, for Halloween. She tapped the face on her watch, reminding the workers for the hundredth time of her tight two-day schedule. “Work faster, please. The exterior isn't close to being finished. The interior is next. There's a lot of furniture to rearrange. Decorations to be displayed.”
Work the fuck faster?
Cade Maxwell straightened from rolling his pumpkin. He stretched his arms over his head, cracked his back. Then his knuckles. The woman was a ballbuster. No slack. She'd hired his moving company and muscle to drive to a local pumpkin patch at dawn to pick up an order for twenty 100-pound, professionally carved pumpkins. Orange and round would line the cobblestone sidewalk leading to the bed-and-breakfast, lit from the inside by flameless candles. Each pumpkin was unique. Some smiled; others smirked. One looked downright evil. Then there was Cinderella's pumpkin, set closest to the porch stairs. Ready to be transformed into a carriage with a pair of glass slippers at the base.
Three Men and a Truck were doing their job, as instructed. Still Grace hovered. She didn't trust anyone. Not him or his two cousins. She had to be on top of every little detail. Pointing out minor mistakes as if they were major. She wanted things done with the snap of her fingers. Lady had done a lot of snapping. His men responded by slowing down. He didn't blame them. There'd been no breaks, and it was nearly noon. Hunger made men grumpy. Clumsy. Cade caught their side-glares and grumbles from the south side of the lawn.
“Lunch,” he announced. He didn't have to tell them twice. Kyle and Jake stopped what they were doing and headed for their trucks, parked at the curb. They couldn't get away fast enough.
“One hour,” he called, as they burned rubber.
He hoped they'd both return. Kyle was debatable. The younger man often got distracted by the cute waitress at the Kopper Kettle, his regular lunch spot. He ate his way through the afternoon. Left a big tip. He needed to ask her out soon. His shyness had packed on fifteen pounds. Jake only worked enough hours each week to pay his rent and stock his refrigerator. He wasn't out to get rich. He bordered on lazy.
His cousins were good guys. They came together and completed most jobs. Grace, however, rode their last nerve. They didn't like being bossed around by a woman, not even an attractive one.
Cade set his back teeth, tightened his jaw. He wasn't into Halloween. He never had been. Never would be. He found it ridiculous. A total waste of time. He could do without the costumes, gauzy spiderwebs, and rubber black bats. He would tolerate the nonsense for two days. No more. His contract with Grace was lucrative. He'd purposely jacked up the price to discourage her. She hadn't blinked an eye. She'd written him a check on the spot. He was in the transport business, although loading and delivering pumpkins was a first for him. A decorating addendum was included in the charge. One he'd anticipated, but hadn't realized would become so complicated. No amount of money was worth what he faced right now. Sadly, his signature was binding.
Grace came down the stone sidewalk toward him, her steps quick and precise. He'd known her a long time. She hadn't changed. Much. She walked the same way now as she had in first grade. In control and going about her business. Even on the playground she'd planned activities. Timed to when the bell rang. He'd often teased her. She always blew him off.
He took a moment and checked her out now. Not as a business contact, but as a man would eye a woman. She was a brunette with blue eyes, arching eyebrows, and high cheekbones. Full lips. It was fifty-five degrees, and her curves hid beneath a bulky knit sweater and baggy wool slacks. Short-heeled boots lifted her to five-two, if she was lucky, standing next to his six-four.
She was pretty. Also pushy. He could think of better uses for her mouth than ordering him around. He liked his women patient, tolerant, and able to exhale. Not jacked up on Halloween.
She momentarily stood beside him, deep in thought. Worrying her bottom lip. A light breeze rustled the leaves on the trees, the scent of fall heavy on the air. A hint of her perfume drifted his way. He breathed her in. Vanilla and linen. Clean. Subtle. Memorable. He wanted no memories of this day. He turned his head away from her. Inhaled the faint wafting smoke from across the street, as a neighbor burned a pile of fallen leaves.
She clasped her hands before her, thoughtful. “Every year Amelia throws the biggest and best Halloween party in town. It starts at five and goes to the witching hour. Both locals and guests at the inn show up in costume. It's an incredible night.”
Cade listened, but didn't comment. What she thought incredible, he found idiotic. There'd be no changing his mind.
She closed her eyes for a beat, then opened them slowly, envisioning the decorations. “I want the front yard creatively spooky, but tasteful,” she said. “The pumpkins are in place, once you coordinate the final one. A few more feet, move it gently. Turn the dent away from the sidewalk.”
Hardly. It was barely a dimple. He was cautious. Treating the freakin' pumpkin like porcelain. He settled it in line. Made sure it was perfectly spaced. Then stood back, and rubbed his hands together. Checked out his handiwork.
Despite his dislike of Halloween, he had to admit the sidewalk looked good. The carved pumpkins would come alive at night. Lit up and glowing, they'd make a nice entry to the party. Guests would be impressed.
She tapped her finger against her chin. Short nails, clear polish. “We have otherworldly figures with glowing eyes and haunting faceless specters. Graveyard tombstones. Zombies crawling out of the ground for the yard. We'll wrap mini–orange twinkle lights about the trees. A gigantic inflatable spider will hang from a gauze cobweb off the porch.” She paused, cut him a look. “Perhaps a witch or hellhound. I'll fill you in as we go.”
Fill him in?
The corners of his mouth tightened. She had sufficient creepy and spooky—how much more did she want? He ran one hand through his hair. Halloween had taken on a life of its own. He could already hear ghostly boos and cackling witches. The howl of a demon black dog. He needed to clear his head.
Stepping back, he said, “We'll discuss this further after lunch.”
Her eyes rounded. “You're stopping? Now?”
Damn straight. “I'm not working while holding a sandwich.”
“Amelia will fix you something. That way you won't have to go far.”
sounded good to him. Clear across town worked best. Truth be told, he didn't want to impose on Amelia. The Kopper Kettle had a New Englander's fish and chips special that couldn't be beat. The clam chowder was thick, creamy, and stuck to his ribs. The blueberry pie was homemade. He turned slightly, not wanting to offend Grace, yet needing to make like a ghost and disappear for an hour. “I've got other plans.”
Or so he thought. The front door opened, and Amelia called to them from the porch, “Grace, Cade, join me for lunch. Lobster rolls.”
He sucked air. He hadn't made his escape fast enough. He could walk away from Grace, but not Amelia. Declining her offer would appear rude. He was fond of the older woman, despite her eccentricities. She was known about town for her fortune-telling. Reading tarot cards and gazing into a crystal ball. Some people scoffed at her abilities. Others believed her every word. Especially when the unexplained and undefined became reality. Her predictions gave him goose bumps.
Still, he liked lobster. And Amelia served generous portions. He waved to her. “Be right there.” He glanced at Grace. “You coming?”
She blew out a breath, debated. “I should keep working.”
“The yard isn't going anywhere,” he stated. “Time to recharge.”
She pointed to a ladder leaning against a red maple. “I could have the twinkle lights up before you're done eating.”
How much did she think he ate? “You're not using my ladder,” he said firmly. “It's too dangerous. You might fall.”
Her hands settled on her hips. Her chin lifted. Stubbornly. “I've climbed many ladders. I've decorated two-story roofs. Hung banners and streamers from municipal streetlights. A tree is nothing to me.”
It was something to him. “Think about the inn and not yourself,” he pointed out. “An accident, a broken leg, a hospital stay, and decorating comes to a halt. Amelia would be stuck with no more than a pumpkin walkway.”
Concern creased her brow. “You wouldn't finish the job for me?”
He didn't have to think twice. “Contract terminated. Your fault. No refund.”
“I don't like you much.”
“Feeling's mutual, babe.”
She huffed, turned toward the inn. Power walked. The heels on her boots clicked on the cobblestones, providing a soundtrack to her mood. He didn't care whether she was angry or not. They both needed a break. He more than her. She would go nonstop if he let her. He put his foot down.
He followed Grace, but his thoughts were on the Thirsty Raven, a small, cramped, and tucked-away tavern off Haystack Lane. It catered to blue-collar workers. Some called it a dive. Others, happy hour's finest. Quarter drafts, half-pound burgers, and a sexy bartender drew Cade. He dated Dakota on occasion. Nothing serious. Just sex. They both enjoyed a good time.
His thoughts shifted from the bar to the B&B. He scuffed his work boots on the bristled welcome mat, so as not to track in dirt. Then stomped his feet. One step inside Rose Cottage, and he traveled back in time. The place reminded him of a museum with its priceless antiques and Victorian ambience. In his experience, these kinds of rooms were labeled,
Look, but don't touch
. He jammed his hands in his jean pockets. Stood off to the side.
* * *
Grace's own thoughts touched on Amelia and her welcoming warmth as she ushered them inside. “How's my goddaughter?” she asked Grace, extending a hug and kiss on her cheek.
“Fine,” Grace responded. “We've gotten a good start on prepping for the Halloween party. I have lots of ideas.”
“Lots,” Cade muttered behind her.
“I'm sure you do, dear.” Amelia sounded pleased.
Cade offered his hand, and Amelia held it between both her own. Amelia was
him, Grace realized. Her godmother was intuitive, picking up vibes through touch. Interesting.
Grace adored Amelia. The older woman was a close friend of her grandmother and mother, and a constant in Grace's life. She visited Amelia often. The inn was her second home.
As a child she'd always raced up the stairs and raided Amelia's bedroom closet, and Amelia had encouraged her unconventional behavior. Grace had loved dressing up in vintage clothing. Attempting to walk in a pair of high button shoes. Amelia was the first to recognize Grace's love of costume. Her enjoyment of tea parties. She'd supported Grace's dream of opening her business, Charade, when Grace sought a career. From birthdays to holidays, the costume shop was popular and successful. Grace couldn't have been happier.
She admired Amelia now. Her long, braided hair was the same soft gray as her eyes. Years accumulated, but never seemed to touch her. She appeared youthful, ageless, in a sage-green tunic, belted over a paisley gauze skirt in shades of cranberry, green, and gold. Elaborate gold hoops hung at her ears, ones designed with silver beads and tiny gold bells. The thin metal chains on her three-tiered necklace sparkled with lavender rhinestones and reflective mirror discs. Bangles of charms looped her wrist. A thick, hammered-silver bracelet curved near her right elbow. A triple gold ring with three pearls arched from her index finger to her fourth. She sparkled.
Her cottage was spectacular. The décor merged the past and present, and brought out the best in both. Grace couldn't wait to decorate. Cade was big and strong, all wide-shouldered and solid. He could easily rearrange the furniture into small social circles all by himself, if it came down to One Man and a Truck.
She wasn't sure his cousins would return after lunch. They hadn't seemed taken with the project. Or with her, for that matter. She'd seen them frown. Heard their grumbles. Maybe she had snapped her fingers one too many times. No matter; she wanted Halloween perfect for Amelia. She'd keep her eye on Cade. Wouldn't let him stray far. Definitely nowhere near his vehicle.
“This way.” Amelia motioned them toward the kitchen.
Grace cut across an Oriental rug done in a plum, navy, and cream geometric pattern. The colors in the carpet pulled the richness of the furniture together. She noticed that Cade walked the perimeter of the room, sticking to the hardwood floor.
Off to the right, a glassed-in sunroom caught the first rays of sunshine from the overcast day. The forest-green wicker furniture, abundant greenery, and a small bookcase with monthly magazines and mystery novels offered peace and solitude.
Reception was a vintage rolltop desk. A 1900s-era candlestick telephone took calls. Grace had been fascinated by the phone as a kid. It featured a mouthpiece mounted at the top of the stand, and a receiver that was held to the ear during conversation. When the telephone was not in use, the receiver rested in the fork of the switch hook protruding to the side of the stand. Grace had run to answer the phone each time it rang whenever she'd visited.

Other books

To Love a Wicked Scoundrel by Anabelle Bryant
The Fourth Horseman by Sarah Woodbury
Walking with Abel by Anna Badkhen
Catch Me When I Fall by Vicki Leigh
Night Driving by Lori Wilde
Once Upon a Summertime by Melody Carlson
The Deep Zone: A Novel by James M. Tabor