Book 4 in the Juniper Springs Series
Part of the Camos and Cupcakes World
Join the residents of Juniper Springs as the creator of the Juniper Springs Express goes up against everyone’s favorite O’Bryan sister, Avery in the final installment of the Juniper Springs Series.
When I came to Juniper Springs, I didn’t think I would stay, but the town’s insanity got it’s hooks in me. I mean, they have GAY DUCKS. And of course, I love the LOLs (Little Old Ladies). I fell in love with the residents.
So when Jon Howard shows up accusing me of stealing his house, I declare war.
It’s easy at first. He likes spreadsheets and schedules. Order is the name of the game for my nemesis. I like to go with the flow and prefer sugary cereal for breakfast over egg whites.
Sure, it’s hard to ignore those blue eyes and his amazing body, not to mention that fact that he smells like hot guy heaven. Also, he sees beneath the funny facade I show everyone. And the kiss he gives me? Brain scrambled. When he can quote Taylor Swift lyrics to me…I start falling hard.
But I know that I’m not built for a long relationship, especially with a man who likes to keep everyone on schedule. I’m always too loud, too unorganized, too…everything. So while I know I might be falling for him, I know this has one outcome: disaster. Only, this time, I’m not sure my heart will survive the implosion.
Author Note: Hey, readers! It’s time to grab your white wine, completely with ice cubes, and snuggle in for another Juniper Springs romance. There’s visits from old friends, references that Swifties will completely understand, and two amazing cats to fall for. Avery O’Bryan is about to teach Jon Howard that love doesn’t have to be perfect to last a lifetime.
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The clank of dishes and the murmurs of customers fill the silence as I sit in one of my favorite restaurants, while my sister stares at me like I have lost my mind. This is nothing new for me. I have spent most of my life with my siblings looking at me this way.
I draw in a deep breath, enjoying some of my favorite scents. Brown sugar, cumin, and paprika with a bit of smoke. I love good barbecue, especially from my sister’s man, Mason. The place is packed, but we always have a reserved table. It is one of my happy places.
“I’m still trying to figure out how you ended up renting a house from Estella Howard,” Liv says as she digs into her salad, drawing my attention back to her.
She’s older than me by a decade, and I have always envied her. She’s a kick-ass mom, and so organized she makes me feel like a sloth. I love sloths, but sometimes I wish I was more like Liv. What would it be like to have a quiet mind? I have never had one. There has always been something going on up in my brain. And yes, that sounds like a lot of fun, but lately, I can’t seem to quieten it down up there. My brain continually works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
It’s been that way since my Grannie Pam died. In fact, the noise seems to be deafening at times. I just don’t know what to do about it.
I notice Liv giving me the look that tells me she wants more from me, so I smile. “I mentioned that I was looking for a place to rent at the last meeting, and she said I could rent her house.”
Liv could be a model with her height and her amazing hair. Oh, and she’s built like one too. Slim with just enough curves. She sets down her fork and looks at me, worry apparent on her beautiful face.
But back to the look. It’s another look all my siblings give me. Being the youngest of a family of five isn’t easy. Sure, by the time I was born, my parents were tired, which made it easier to get away with things. Example: curfew was sort of a guideline and not so much of a rule. All my siblings were old enough to care for themselves, so I got a lot more attention. My brother and sisters have always been jealous of that, but now I get the looks from all of them. It’s like they think I can’t manage my own life.
Did any of them graduate from high school at sixteen or finish their MBA while building a thriving business? No. I did that. But they still treat me as if I can’t handle my life.
Sure, I’m an acquired taste, but once people get to know me, they love me. Mostly.
“First, what meeting?”
I roll my eyes and make a face. When I would do that to my parents, they would laugh, and I would get away with changing the subject. Grannie Pam, that was another story completely. She was the one person who didn’t let me get away with everything.
I sigh and push aside the wave of sadness that hits me. I’m still trying to deal with her loss, and I can’t break down in public. Again. I’m just thankful none of my family knew about my crying jags. The cashier at the HEB was uncomfortable when I did it last Tuesday in San Antonio.
“I was at the last LOL meeting.” This is true, but it isn’t the entire truth. Estella offered me the house in a different situation altogether. Still, we first met and hit it off at the LOL meetings. I love those old broads. And yes, they love that I call them that.
Liv blinks as I continue eating. The moment the brisket hits my tastebuds, I hum in appreciation. Even if my sister didn’t love Mason, I would vote for this as the best barbecue restaurant in all of Texas, and that’s saying a lot. Barbecue is as sacred as football in this state. It’s just a plus that I get to eat here for free, and Mason cooks for me a lot at Liv’s house. And the truth is, I came here often before they started dating.
“Why were you meeting with the old women?”
I shrug. “They wanted a lesson in social media, so I taught them about Instagram and TikTok algorithms.
“And they understood?”
I frown at the skepticism in her voice. People always discount senior citizens. Don’t get me wrong. There were some challenges in the group, especially with Mrs. Finkle. She was so not getting TikTok in general—but who does? And often, the app changes as soon as you understand an algorithm. I teach people social media, and I don’t always get it. But the attitude that once a person retires, he or she has nothing to offer the world is just bullshit. It pisses me off.
“Yes. You know there is an aeronautical engineer in the group? And a few teachers?” My sharp tone garners some attention from some of the tables nearby.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
I nod as we eat in silence for a few moments. I don’t have a quick temper, but it’s hard to get back in a good mood when someone gets it going. I just hate that people throw away senior citizens, discount them, or act like once you hit sixty-five, your life is over. It isn’t, especially these days.
“Are you doing okay, Avery?”
I glance up and see the concern in her gaze. This is different from the condescending worry. This is worse. It’s her Mama Worry. She already has too much on her plate these days. She doesn’t need me to be added to the meal of obligations. I’m here to support her, not the other way around. I’m single, with no kids, and have a lot of financial freedom. Sure, I don’t feel like taking on new clients, and I might have gone dark for the most part on my social media, but it’s not like I need the money.
“Yeah, I’m good.”
“You know you can talk to me about it, right?”
I blink against the burning of unshed tears.
As much as my family irritates me, I really appreciate their support. Grannie Pam moved in with us when Mom opened her dance studio. I was five, and Grannie Pam was my whole world. Losing her messed with my mojo, but I’m getting it back. Well, I would if I could get more than a couple hours of sleep, and to do that, I need to get my brain to shut down.
“Good. As long as you know, I will always have a box of Froot Loops in my pantry for you.”
I smile, warmth filling me. I think Liv gets me the most out of all my siblings. I know I’m an odd duck in our family, which means a lot. “You’re the best.”
“I know. Sammy told me this morning.”
I chuckle. My nephew is a pill. “I’m guessing it wasn’t about gravy. He told me the other day that Mason made the best.”
She rolls her eyes and chuckles. “No. Not my gravy. Although, I swear he could get it any day of the week. Both the kids can get Mason to do almost anything for them.”
I listen to her talk about the latest schemes Sammy has dreamt up and how Callie seems to have learned to relax a little. I’m thrilled for her and the kids. They deserve it. Losing Sam, her husband, had been hard on all of them. Mason fits in nicely with them.
But now that they are settled, I feel unsettled. I felt that way before then, but I could use the distraction of helping Liv to deal with it. I know that I will have more time to think about myself and my worries, and I don’t want to do that. Not right now.
And so, in true Avery fashion, I push those thoughts aside and dig into my food. Later, I promise myself. I’ll deal with all that crap later.
End of Excerpt
For me I adored this book because I connected with both the main characters almost instantaneously.
These two were perfection together!
All of Melissa's Series
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