Between the Lines (Paradise Bay Sweet Romance Book 1)(13)

By: Ella Linden

“Well. My degree was in marketing. I mean, I haven’t used it other than promoting my own stuff here and there, but if it would help, I could look at those.”

Lauren and Holly both looked at Olivia. “I thought your degree was in an art thing,” Lauren said.

Olivia shook her head. “I chickened out in my last year and switched to something with income potential. really, I should have just stuck with art school.”

“If you’re up for taking a look at these, I’d appreciate it. My eyes are about ready to bug out,” Holly said, closing the folder and handing it to Olivia.

Olivia spent the afternoon going through the proposals in between waiting on customers and straightening up the shop. All of the proposals were professionally done, and she could see the direction each candidate was trying to go in. But, knowing Lauren and Holly, she could also see why none of them felt right. Two of them wanted to focus on the fact that it was a woman-owned and run business, two wanted to play up the vintage comics feel Holly and Lauren had already been going with in some of their promo stuff, and three, even though they seemed fine, just felt kind of impersonal to Olivia.

She thought it over as she finished up her shift and helped Lauren put all of the new comics out for the next day.

“This is the busiest night of the week,” Lauren said as she replaced last week’s comics on the “New Releases” rack with those she was unpacking. “Most of the time, we’re out of here like fifteen minutes after the closed sign goes up, but…” she shrugged and shelved some more comics.

“It’s not a problem.”

“How are you settling in? We’ve been talking about the work stuff a lot, but other than that, I mean.”

Olivia glanced at the cover of the comic she was shelving. “Honestly, it feels like coming to life again. It’s weird. I was so sure I was happy in Detroit, at least for a little while. I thought I was going somewhere.” She smiled and pulled more comics out of the box at her feet. “But the second I pulled off of the interstate and took that road leading to Paradise Bay, it felt like parts of me that had been sleeping woke up again or something.” She laughed. “That sounds dumb.”

Lauren shook her head, then pushed her dark hair behind her ears as she studied Olivia. “I left for four years to go to school,” she said. “And then I stayed gone another three years, almost, because I felt like I’d be a failure if I gave up.”

“I remember.” Jack had left their hometown, too, going to veterinary school at Michigan State. For a while, he hadn’t been sure he was coming back.

“New York. If you can make it there…” Lauren said with a wry smile. “And there were things about the city I absolutely adored. Being able to get good takeout whenever I wanted it. Salons on every block. But I felt like I left a piece of myself here. I thought that would fade after a while, that New York would become home. I started getting gigs, and I thought it was exactly what I wanted.”

Lauren had wanted to be an actress when they were all kids. She’d gone as far as getting a few small parts in off-Broadway productions, and Olivia knew that all of their friends had been rooting for her. Jack had practically shouted the news over the phone to Olivia when she’d landed her first part.

“What happened?” Olivia asked. All she knew was that, obviously, Lauren had come home to Paradise Bay.

Lauren shrugged. “I was at this New Year’s Eve party, surrounded by gorgeous, talented people, and I felt utterly alone. I stood there, thinking about what my life would look like the next year, the next five years, the next ten. And it just depressed me, the idea of feeling so alone, of chasing something I wasn’t even sure I wanted anymore.”

Olivia listened silently, watched Lauren as she opened another box.

“And then, right at midnight, my phone rang. Jack,” she said, shooting a smile at Olivia. “He’d moved back here the year before and started his clinic. He was with the guys and Holly, and they all screamed ‘Happy New Year’ at me over the phone. And I knew, right then, what I wanted the rest of my life to look like. And it wasn’t standing alone in a room full of people I had no real interest in knowing.” She smiled again and shook her head. “So what I’m taking a really long time to say is, I get it. That feeling that something inside you comes back to life here… I get that. There’s something special about this crazy little town, and I never want to be anywhere else again.”