Between the Lines (Paradise Bay Sweet Romance Book 1)(5)

By: Ella Linden


She slipped into a nubby vintage skirt she loved and a sleeveless white blouse, then put a gray sweater over that and cinched a narrow belt at her waist. She looked herself up and down, from her light blond hair with its vibrant pink streaks to her vintage-style heels, and nodded.

She ran some serum through her thick mass of curls, then quickly did her makeup and put earrings on. Then she went back out into the main room and jotted down a few things in the small sketchbook she always kept in her bag. She’d have to stop at the market after her meeting. Her cousin had done a fabulous job making sure she was okay for a day or two, but the cabinets and fridge needed to be stocked, and she wanted to check out the little resale shop near Gutters that she’d read about to see if maybe they had a decent office chair for her desk. She added that to the list, then glanced at her phone to double-check the time.

She grabbed her bag, hunted for her car keys before finding them in her hand, and then finally was able to leave and make the short drive into town.

She drove with the windows down, the cool, clean northern Michigan air tousling her curls as she drove down the highway. She tapped the steering wheel in time to the music on the stereo, driving past parks, beaches, and shops that held memories. Good ones.

Paradise Bay was a small town, but its gorgeous location amid the bays of Lake Michigan, as well as its rise as a center for Michigan’s burgeoning vineyards, orchards, and small farms had turned it into a tourist destination for both nature lovers and foodies. Dozens of trendy little eateries and shops lined the streets of downtown Paradise Bay, and Olivia promised herself that she’d take the time to check at least some of them out in between working and trying to figure out her life.

She found the block where Gutters was located and snagged a parking spot near the corner. A quick glance told her that she was lucky to find it; the street-side parking was fairly packed. She got out and fed the meter, then she looked around. She knew from her quick check online that Gutters had a black awning and an old-fashioned red brick facade, which it shared with the three shops that neighbored it, a brewery, a tattoo parlor, and a small used book store. She spotted the brick buildings, the black awning, at the far end of the block and started walking that way. As she did, she glanced at the names and in the front windows of the businesses she passed.

Most of the cafes along the block were trendy-looking and full of customers, but she passed a little coffee and tea shop that didn’t look too crowded and promised herself she’d check that out at some point. She neared the brick-fronted buildings at the end of the block, first passing the brewery with its large plate glass windows and generally unadorned entrance, a metal sign with the name “Daniels Brothers Brewing Co.” next to the front door. A quick glance inside showed that the place was pretty busy, definitely more so than she would have expected this early on a weekday. As she passed that, she came to the front of the little secondhand bookstore, glancing in to see shelves that looked like they would burst, overstuffed with books as they were. She would definitely be going in there. Probably right after her meeting with Holly, she thought.

Then she reached the front of Gutters Comics and Books. The front of the shop had a row of windows, their panes painted a glossy black that matched the awning. The entranceway was flanked by two planters, classic urn shapes that looked like they’d been decoupaged or painted with black and white comics pages, lush green ferns swaying gracefully in the breeze.

Details. That would be Lauren’s doing, from what Olivia remembered. She glanced at the front of the shop again. It definitely didn’t look like most of the comic shops she’d visited over the years. Very upscale, perfect for a trendy tourist town.

She opened the door and stepped inside, barely having a chance to appreciate the gleaming wood floors, streamlined shelving, and bare brick walls on the inside of the shop before her inspection was interrupted by the sound of raised voices. The shop was empty except for a man and woman in the far corner of the sales floor, clearly and loudly arguing.

The woman was Holly. Olivia knew that at once. Coppery hair, tall and preppy looking. She was gesturing toward the back of the shop.