Liora Blake concludes her steamy, heartfelt True series with TRUE DIVIDE, on sale now from Pocket Star eBooks!
Lacey Mosely feels stuck: in her rural town of Crowell, Montana, at her job as manager of The Beauty Barn, and in her lackluster love life. Enter Jake Holt, one-time misfit and Lacey’s secret high school love. Ten years later, Jake is a private pilot whose travels take him all over the world, and once he shows up in Lacey’s life again—at the most unexpected time—he can’t seem to stay away. Now it’s up to Lacey to decide if she’s ready to let go of the past…and take a leap of faith for love.
Keep reading below for an excerpt from the book!
There is a fine art to opening the back door of The Beauty Barn, one I’m normally able to finesse while lugging a purse and a large canvas bag slung over my shoulder, a half-eaten snack bar in my mouth, and clutching a Styrofoam cup full of hot coffee in one hand.
Given that I’ve opened this door nearly three thousand times over the last thirteen years, when I saunter back from Deaton’s Café grasping my daily brew, I expect that on a cold November morning such as today, I need to pull on the door, stick my key in, then kick the bottom twice before it will unlock. But just as I turn the key and give the final yank on the handle I know it requires, the door breaks free. The unexpected ease with which it flies open means the door edge whacks right into my shin, a yelp follows my coffee tumbling from my hand, and my wide-open mouth means the snack bar drops into the six inches of fresh snow on the ground.
Muttering a few not-quite-obscenities, I thank God for wellies. This morning I put on a heather-gray skater skirt and a black fitted short-sleeved sweater, every intention of refusing winter with my clothing choices. However, when I stepped outside to start my car and felt the Chinook wind blustering about, I had an attack of common sense and pulled on a pair of black ribbed wool tights and a pair of shiny, glossy red wellies when I went back in the house. Despite trading bare legs and cute suede ankle boots for this look, it’s the kind of style compromise I can live with. And now, the toppled coffee manages to miss my skirt and tights, spilling only over my trusty (and cute, thank you) wellies.
After I tap the toe of my boots to brush off the last drips of coffee and collect the Styrofoam cup and snack bar from the snow, I manage to make it in the store without further incident. Inside, I switch the lights on and unlock the front door, flipping over the ancient cardboard sign that proclaims “OPEN” in delicate calligraphy. Mrs. Ruth Ann Taylor, the owner of The Beauty Barn, made that sign decades ago and even if it’s yellowing and faded, I can’t imagine using something else in its place.
When Ruth Ann opened The Beauty Barn in 1952, it was a gift from her husband, Vernon, who owned the hardware store next door. They couldn’t have kids, so Vernon gave her a business to tend to instead. They worked side by side for forty years until he died of lung cancer and Ruth Ann had to sell off the hardware store. Vernon’s old building houses a thrift store now. Instead of perfectly organized bins of wing bolts and washers, it’s full of people’s crappy castoffs strewn about in heaps and piles. Kind of depressing, if you ask me.
Lingering for a moment at the storefront, I take in the quiet of the shop and drag my finger across a strip of frost that’s coating the edge of the plate glass on the door. Weather like this signals the real arrival of winter in Montana. Nothing but mukluks and multiple layers for the next five months. While snow has its own charms, I’d still take sunny and seventy-five over anything else.
Business will likely be a little slow, given the weather, which doesn’t sound all bad. I’ve had my eye on a few new products to add to our inventory, and a quiet day means I can finally narrow the choices to place my order. The Beauty Barn is closed on Sunday and Monday, so kudos to Nic for dive-bombing his way into our lives yesterday, when I already had the day off. Although it wouldn’t matter too much if he showed up on any other day of the week. Even if our part-time employee, Sandi, couldn’t cover for me, I could have just tacked a sticky note to the front door.
Kate having her baby. Be back tomorrow.
I could do that because this is Crowell. It’s The Beauty Barn. Around here, we keep our work priorities straight and our homegrown resident loyalties straighter, so everyone would gladly wait one extra day for a box of hair dye or blue rinse if they had to.
I started working here the year I turned sixteen, kept on after school and in the summers until I headed off to Langston for my short-lived venture into higher education. I lasted one year there—and it happened to be the longest year of my ever-loving life.
I’m the manager now, although being the manager of The Beauty Barn comes with very few perks and even less cachet. No bonus plan, no sweet benefits package, not even a business card. Mostly it means that Ruth Ann lives in an old folks’ home in Missoula now and I’m like the de facto owner. Absent of the little prestige that would accompany being able to say I’m the actual owner. But I haven’t paid for a single tube of lip gloss, bottle of nail polish, or tube of mascara in years.
Beyond the beauty products we sell, I started doing manicures and pedicures a few years ago, something I swear has kept us from closing the doors. My French manicures are renowned in Stratton County because I have a steady hand and the right touch for perfect tips. But if you want a full set of those gel things, I’m not your gal. Anything that’s set with UV light and doesn’t chip when it should? Not my thing.
When I came home from Langston, Ruth Ann had just celebrated her seventieth birthday. She asked if I was staying home for good and because I was nineteen and still believed there was more left for me to do far beyond the confines of Crowell, I told her I wasn’t sure. She looked at me and smiled. I understand now that Ruth Ann knew I boomeranged my way back because Crowell is part of my essential makeup, so ingrained in who I am it’s likely part of my genetic code. This place is my home, my heart, and my only truth.
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