Getting LuckyBy: Beth Bolden
The Portland Pioneers Series
The Council’s weekly meeting was almost over when Maggie May King heard the knock on the door. She glanced up in surprise at the glass window framed with its frilled red curtain, but couldn’t see enough in the dark shadow of the overhang to identify the knocker. All thousand or so of Sand Point’s residents, even Drunk Frank, knew that the Café wasn’t open for dinner. So whoever was knocking definitely wasn’t from Sand Point, and that fact alone was unusual enough to grab Maggie’s interest.
“Nobody cares about knitting patterns. I don’t want them anywhere near the newsletter,” insisted Ella Pomeroy, who owned the town’s gift and curiosities shop.
This jibe was clearly directed at Loretta, the elderly busybody who’d moved from Georgia three decades earlier, but who still sounded like she’d never left the South. Loretta took an enormous amount of pride in the tiny yarn shop she ran and in the number of patterns she’d created that had been featured in Southern Knitting magazine—and that was good, Maggie thought, because like Ella said, nobody else gave a crap.
But the Council’s primary reason for existence was to develop Sand Point into a tourist destination, and maybe there were people out there who cared about knitting patterns. After all, there was a whole magazine devoted to them, and Maggie was about to say this in her normal role as mediator and general peacekeeper, but then whoever was at the door knocked again, more insistently this time.
Any other night, she might have left the mysterious visitor at the door because the sign clearly read “closed” in the elegant, yet quirky font she’d picked nearly two years ago when she’d first opened the Café. But then her best friend Cal glanced over at her, always so right and proper and annoyingly perfect, and she knew he was thinking the same thing: new visitors were the whole point of this meeting. They might as well all leave if she wasn’t going to open the door to one of them.
Maggie remembered fondly a time when all she had to worry about was whether a man would call her after a date or if she should spring for that fancy new sauté pan she’d been eyeing. Now all her mental energy was focused on a single overriding quest: to boost business enough that her small, quaint Café she’d poured all her heart, her soul and her savings into wouldn’t go under. When you took that into account, it wasn’t all that surprising that she’d said yes when the Council had come calling with their grandiose plans for a golden future with a Sand Point literally overrun with tourists.
“I’ll get it,” Maggie said to nobody in particular, because she didn’t think anyone else had even heard the knock. Ella and Loretta continued to snipe at each other over the knitting patterns. Anna, who ran the ice cream parlor and snack shop with her husband Ethan, was slumped on his shoulder, three quarters asleep, and he was maybe five minutes away from catching up to her. Lucas, who owned the only other legitimate restaurant in town and the hotel, was absorbed in his blackberry, no doubt catching up on email. Unsurprisingly, Calvin was the only other Council member who’d been paying attention to the knitting pattern debate.
Maggie had quickly learned in the last two months that the Council, while high on the idea of tourists, didn’t have any concrete plans to actually draw them to Sand Point. When she’d vented at Cal after that first disastrous meeting, he’d given her a patient look out of his kind blue eyes and then asked her if she was really surprised.
She wasn’t. Not really. Twenty seven years of living in Sand Point had taught her one thing: the people of this town were most definitely her people, but they were also unfailingly stubborn and liked nothing better than arguing—even when there was no argument to be had.
She reached the door and peered out into the darkness. A tall, male figure peered back, and Maggie only had the briefest impression of hair and eyes that nearly seemed to blend into the night before she unlocked the door and opened it, ushering the man inside.
When she’d first opened the Café, Cal had harangued her about security until he was nearly blue in the face, and so she locked the door first thing and then turned to greet the stranger. Her words of introduction died in her throat. If all tourists looked like this, she was going to work ten times harder on her ideas for the Council.
He was tall, maybe even taller than Cal, and as her older sister might have said, “built”—with rippling arm muscles that his loose t-shirt couldn’t hide. Her eyes drifted upwards and took in his chiseled jawline and narrow, flawless nose. Dark slashing eyebrows and even darker eyes punctuated his rather perfect face. Maggie almost wished that Tabitha was here to meet this guy; even if she and her sister had the sort of relationship that lent itself to chatting about the hot guys, Maggie would probably never be able to communicate just how handsome he was.
And then he smiled. “Hi, I’m Noah Fox,” he said, extending his hand, his devastating grin leaving Maggie reeling for words resembling English.
Cal saved her, of course. She was still groping around in the corners of her brain that hadn’t been short-circuited by Noah Fox’s ridiculous face and clearly even more ridiculous body, but suddenly Cal was right there, even though she hadn’t even noticed him get up from his chair. He took the man’s hand and shook it firmly.
“Calvin Keller,” Cal said. “How can we help you tonight?”
“I saw the Café was closed,” Noah said, “so I hope I’m not bothering you, but I’m looking for someone. And this is the right address.”
Maggie found her tongue, which wasn’t all that surprising because the Café was her entire life and she wasn’t about to let Cal speak for her when it came to her business. “I own this building,” she said.
“Perfect,” Noah said, and it took all her focus to not be blown away again when he turned that mega-watt smile back on her. “Then you’re just the woman I need to talk to. I’m looking for Tabitha King. Maybe you know her.”
Even though Cal was nearly completely out of her field of vision, she would have sworn he froze. Unfortunately, Maggie was way too familiar with her sister’s antics to be all that surprised. Of course the one time such an insanely handsome man turned up in their town, it would be because of Tabitha.
“I’m Maggie King. Tabitha is my sister,” she said reluctantly. “What’s this about?” She was unfortunately far too aware that this conversation had accomplished what she hadn’t been able to for the last hour—Noah Fox had gained the absolute and undivided attention of the Council.
He must have seen it too, because he glanced over at their keen observers and lowered his voice. “Is there any way we can talk about that in private?”
Maggie nodded. “This way,” she said, and led Noah right through where the Council was sitting around a group of her small tables to the kitchen. She wasn’t under any mistaken impression that this faux-privacy would actually guarantee that they wouldn’t be overheard, but it was the best she could do considering the circumstances.
Noah glanced around curiously as she flicked on the light switch, and Maggie could almost hear the hundreds of questions he wanted to ask.
Like, why do you own this tiny little Café in this tiny little town when your sister’s Tabitha King?
And, why are you so plain when your sister’s Tabitha King?
Or maybe even Maggie’s personal favorite: are you even related to Tabitha King?
She herself had wondered it more than once while they were growing up, and then many more times in adulthood. She and Tabby had so little in common it was amazing to her that they were sisters. But then, that was why Tabitha had left Sand Point—she’d had nothing in common with her family or with the rest of the town she’d grown up in.
To Noah Fox’s credit, he didn’t ask any of those questions, which boded well for him. Maggie knew precisely her own worth, and while she might not be drop dead gorgeous like Tabitha, she’d built a good and satisfying life for herself.
“I’m looking for Tabitha,” he said carefully, crossing his pretty formidable arms over a definitely formidable chest, and Maggie had to remind herself that no matter how fantastic his forearms looked, she wasn’t interested in a man who’d fallen for her sister.
“Is she missing?” Maggie asked, leaning against one of the spotless stainless steel work counters that lined one side of the kitchen.
“I take it you know where she is.” He didn’t sound very happy about that, Maggie thought, and begrudgingly gave him a little more credit. But then, he’d still come here, and that was more than any man had done so far.
She wasn’t counting all the local Sand Point hearts Tabitha had crushed to smithereens, because those had been legion.
“I might know where she is,” she said, “but if she doesn’t want to talk to you, I can’t help you with that.” Maggie tried to imagine what her older sister might have done to deserve a man literally tracking her down to her childhood town, and came up blank. This was Tabitha, after all. She might, in truth, do just about anything.
“Is she here?”