By Chelsea Fine
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SOMETIMES MOVING ON MEANS MOVING IN
Pixie Marshall wishes every day she could turn back time and fix the past. But she can’t. And the damage is done. She’s hoping that a summer of free room and board working with her aunt at the Willow Inn will help her forget. Except there’s a problem: the resident handyman is none other than Levi Andrews. The handsome quarterback was once her friend-and maybe more-until everything changed in a life-shattering instant. She was hoping to avoid him, possibly forever. Now he’s right down the hall and stirring up feelings Pixie thought she’d long buried . . .
Levi can’t believe he’s living with the one person who holds all his painful memories. More than anything he wants to make things right, but a simple “sorry” won’t suffice-not when the tragedy that scarred them was his fault. Levi knows Pixie’s better off without him, but every part of him screams to touch her, protect her, wrap her in his arms, and kiss away the pain. Yet even though she’s so close, Pixie’s heart seems more unreachable than ever. Seeing those stunning green eyes again has made one thing perfectly clear-he can’t live without her.
Table of Contents
Bonus Deleted Scene
A Preview of Perfect Kind of Trouble
A Preview of Right Kind of Wrong
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If my bastard neighbor uses all the hot water again, I will suffocate him in his sleep.
I listen as the shower finally goes off and huff my way around my room, gathering my shower supplies. I don't politely wait for him to leave the bathroom, oh no. I stand outside the bathroom door—which has steam escaping from the crack at the bottom—with a carefully applied scowl and wait.
The door swings open to a perfect male body emerging from a billow of hot fog. His dark hair is loose and wet and frames his face in a haphazard way that manages to look sexy despite the fact that he probably shook it out like a dog before opening the door, and of course he's wearing nothing but a towel.
Kill me now.
I peek into the bathroom, totally pissed, and block his exit with my body. "A thirty-minute shower, Levi? What the hell?"
A smile pulls at the corners of his mouth. "I was dirty."
Oh, I bet.
"I swear to God," I say, "if I have to take another cold shower—"
"You shouldn't swear to God, Pix." He brings his face close to mine and the steam from his skin dampens my nose and cheeks. "It's not nice."
This close up, I can see the tiny silver flecks in his otherwise bright blue eyes and almost feel the three-day scruff that shadows his jaw. Not that I want to feel his scruff. Ever.
I curl my lip. "I want a hot shower."
"Then shower at night."
"I'm not kidding, Levi."
"Neither am I." His eyes slide to my mouth for a moment—a split second—and there it is. The electricity. The humming vibration that never used to exist between us.
He snaps his eyes away and pulls back. The damp heat from his body pulls away as well, and some stupid, primal part of me whines in protest.
"Now, if you'll excuse me…" He waits for me to move out of his way. I don't.
I jab my finger at his chest. "I haven't had a hot shower for three days—"
Cupping my upper arms, he lifts me off the floor and moves me out of his way like I'm light as a feather. Then he walks the ten paces down the hall to his room and disappears inside without a look back.
With a muttered curse, I stomp into the small bathroom and try not to enjoy the smell of spearmint wafting into my nose and settling on my skin. Damn Levi and his hot-smelling soap.
My freshman year of college ended two weeks ago, and since Arizona State dorms don't allow students to stay during the summer, I had to find a new place to live and, consequently, a job. So I started working for my aunt Ellen at Willow Inn because one of the job perks—and I use that term loosely—is free room and board.
And my free room shares a hallway and a bathroom with the only person I was hoping to avoid for the rest of my life.
Hot guy. Handyman. My long-lost… something.
Ellen conveniently forgot to tell me that Levi lived at the inn, so the day I moved in was chock-full of surprises.
Surprise! Levi lives here too.
Surprise! You'll be sleeping next door to him.
Surprise! You'll be sharing a sink, a shower, and a daily dose of weird sexual tension with him.
Ellen is lucky I love her.
Had I known that Levi lived and worked here, I never would have taken the job, let alone moved in. But Aunt Ellen is one conniving innkeeper and, honestly, my only other option was far less appealing. So here I am, living and working right alongside a walking piece of my past.
Since we're the only two resident employees, Levi and I are the only people who sleep in the east wing—a setup that might be ideal were it not for the giant elephant we keep sidestepping during these epic encounters of ours.
Memories start creeping up the back of my neck, and a hot prickle forms behind my eyes. I quickly blink it back and turn on the shower, scanning the bathroom for safer things to focus on.
Little blue dots on the wallpaper.
Purple flowers on my bottle of shampoo.
Dots. Flowers. Shampoo.
With the threat of tears now under control, I thrust my hand into the shower and relax a tinge when hot water hits my fingers. Stripping off my pajamas, I step into the spray with high hopes, but water has just hit the right side of my neck when it goes from warm to ice-cold.
There will be suffocation tonight. There will be misery and pain and a big fat pillow over Levi's big fat scruffy face.
Biting back a howl of frustration, I turn off the water and wrap a towel around my half-wet body. No way am I taking another cold shower. I'll just have to be unclean today. I hastily grab my stuff and yank the bathroom door open just as Levi leans into the hallway.
He's traded in his towel for a pair of low-slung jeans but hasn't gotten around to throwing on a shirt, so I have to watch his chest muscles flex as he grips his bedroom doorframe.
He looks me over with a smirk. "Done so soon?"
I flip him off and enter my room, slamming the door behind me like a fourth grader.
I throw on some clothes, pull my hair into a messy ponytail, and step into my paint-stained sneakers before looking myself over in the mirror. Ugh.
I tug at the V-neck collar of my shirt for a good twenty seconds before giving up and changing into a crew-neck shirt instead. Much better.
My phone chirps on the dresser, and I knock over a jar of paintbrushes as I reach for it. As I pick up my phone, paintbrushes go rolling off the dresser and onto the floor, where they join piles of discarded clothing and crumpled college applications. I glance at the text message and frown.
It's from Matt.
Miss you too, I text back. I do miss him. Sort of.
Call me. I have news.
I start to call Matt but pause when I hear Levi's footsteps in the hallway, making their way back to the bathroom. I hear him plug something in, and the sound of his electric razor meets my ears. I set my phone back on the dresser as a wicked smile spreads across my face.
Levi should know better by now. He really should.
Casually moving around my room, I plug in every electric item I own and wait until he's halfway through shaving. Then I turn everything on at once. The electricity immediately goes out and I hear the buzz of his razor die.
Ah, the sweet sound of male irritation.
Plastering on an innocent look, I open my door and peer across the hall to the bathroom. Levi looks ridiculous standing in the doorway in just his jeans—still no shirt—glowering at me with half of his face shaved.
He stiffens his jaw. "Seriously?"
I mock a look of sympathy. "You really should charge your razor every once in a while." I exit my room and move down the hall, singing out, "Have fun rocking a half-beard all day."
As I head down the stairs, the wet side of my ponytail slaps against my neck with each step. Another smile pulls at my lips.
If Levi wants to play, it's on.
Pixie's been living here for only twelve days and I already want to stab myself with a spoon. Not because she keeps blowing the fuse, though that reoccurring shenanigan of hers is certainly stab-worthy, but because I can't do normal around Pixie.
But fighting? That I can do.
After pulling a shirt on, I march downstairs and out the back door. The large lavender field behind the inn sways in the morning breeze, and thousands of purple flowers throw their scent into the wind, reminding me of things better left forgotten. Things I used to have locked down. So much for all that.
I blame Ellen. Maybe if she'd given me a heads-up about Pixie moving in, I could have prepared better.
Another breeze blows by and shoves more lavender up my nose.
Or maybe not.
The sky hangs above me, bright blue and free of clouds, and the early sun slants across the earth, casting a long shadow behind me as I walk the length of the building. I squint up at the white siding and notice one of the panels is cracked, which is nothing new.
Willow Inn is nearly one hundred years old, and parts of it are just as broken as they are picturesque. It's a quaint place, with white cladding and a wraparound porch beneath a blue-shingled roof, and it sits on ten acres of lavender fields and swaying willow trees. It has two wings of upstairs rooms and a main floor with the usual lobby, kitchen, and dining space.
The newly remodeled west wing has seven bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. That's where all the guests stay.
The east wing has yet to be remodeled, which is why Ellen allows Pixie and me to stay there and why I'm a live-in employee. Along with my other handyman duties, I'm also helping Ellen gut the old east wing so she can have the area remodeled to accommodate private bathrooms in every room.
I reach the fuse box at the edge of the inn and, flipping a breaker I'm far too familiar with, restore electricity to the east wing.
Fortunately, all the gutting and redesigning requires the east wing to run on its own electricity and water supply, so guests are never affected by my hot water usage or Pixie's electricity tantrums, but damn. We really need to find a less immature way to be around each other.
I turn and follow my shadow back to the door, holding my breath as I pass the purple field. The wooden floors of the lobby are extra shiny as I walk inside, which means Eva, the girl who cleans the main house, probably came in early and left before anyone saw her. She's tends to work stealthily like that, finishing her work before anyone wakes. Sometimes I envy Eva that. The solitude. The invisibility.
Back inside, I see a figure up ahead, and a string of curse words line themselves up on my tongue.
I hate this douche bag and he's headed right for me.
"What's happening, Andrews?" He gives me the chin nod like we go way back. We went to the same high school and I think we had a class together senior year, but we're not pals. He looks over my partially shaved face. "What the hell happened to you?"
"Pixie," I say.
He nods and looks around. "Is Sarah here?"
Sarah is Pixie's real name. The only people who've ever called her Pixie are me and Ellen and…
"Why?" I cross my arms and eye the case of water he's carrying. "Did she order water?"
Daren is the inn gofer, delivering groceries and linens and anything else the place needs, so unfortunately he's here twice a week with his preppy-boy jeans and nine coats of cologne. And he's always looking for Pixie.
"No, but you never know." He lifts a cocky brow. "She might be thirsty."
"She's not thirsty."
He looks over my facial hair again. "Oh, I think she's thirsty."
And I think Daren's throat needs to be stepped on.
"Morning, Levi." Ellen walks up with a smile and hands me my To Do list for the day. Her long dark hair slips over her shoulder as she turns and throws a courteous smile to the gofer. "Hey, Daren."
"Hey, Miss Marshall."
As Ellen starts talking to me about the fire alarm, I watch Daren's eyes cruise down her body and linger in places they have no business lingering in.
More than his throat needs to be stepped on.
Ellen Marshall is a very attractive forty-year-old who's used to guys checking her out. Not me, of course—Ellen's like family to me and I respect her—but pretty much any other guy who sees her instantly fantasizes about her, which pisses me off.
"… because the system is outdated," Ellen says.
"Routine check on the fire alarms," I say, my eyes fixed on Daren, who is still ogling her. "Got it."
"Can I help you with something?" Ellen smiles sharply at him. "Looks like your eyes are lost."
He readjusts his gaze. "Uh, no, ma'am. I was just wondering where Sarah was."
"Sarah is working. And so are you." Her hazel eyes drop to the case of water. "Why don't you take that to the dining room? I think Angelo is stocking the bar this morning."
He gives a single nod and walks off.
Ellen turns back to me and looks over my face. "Nice beard," she says. "Pixie?"
I rub a hand down the smooth side of my jaw. "Yeah."
She lets out an exasperated sigh. "Levi—"
"I'll check out the fire alarms after I finish shaving," I say, quickly cutting her off. Because I don't have the time, or the balls, to undergo the conversation she wants to have with me. "Later." I don't give her a chance to respond as I turn and head for the stairs.
Back in the bathroom, I stare at my reflection in the mirror and shake my head. Pixie timed it perfectly, I'll give her that. My facial hair is literally half-gone. I look like a before and after razor ad.
I think back to the irritated expression on her face and a small smile tugs at my lips. She was so frustrated, waiting outside the bathroom door with her flushed cheeks and full lips and indignant green eyes…
Why does she have to be so goddamn pretty?
I turn on the razor and run the blades down my jaw, thinking back to the first time I saw those indignant eyes cut into mine. My smile fades.
Pixie was six. I was seven. And my Transformers were missing.
I remember running around the house, completely panicked that I had lost my favorite toys, until I came upon Pixie sitting cross-legged in the front room with my very manly robots set up alongside her very dumb dolls.
I immediately called in the authorities—"Mom! Pixie took my Transformers!"—and wasted no time rescuing my toys from the clutches of the pink vomit that was Barbie.
"Hey!" She tried to pry them from my hands. "Those are the protectors. They kill all the bad guys. My dolls need them!"
"Your dolls are stupid. Stop taking my things. Mom! Mom!"
Haunted eyes stare back at me in the mirror as I slowly finish shaving.
I wish I would have known back then how significant Pixie was going to be.
I wish I would have known a lot of things.
I enter the kitchen and grab my apron off the wall. It's bright yellow with dozens of red cherries all over it and trimmed with ruffles. It's the happiest apron in the world and my name is written in permanent marker on the front. Gah.
"Good morning!" Mable looks up from a bowl of egg yolks with a smile. Her thick, gray hair is pulled back in a bun, and her chubby cheeks are rosy like always. She reminds me of a sassy Mrs. Claus—minus the furry red dress and spectacles.
"Morning." I tie the yellow-and-cherry madness around my waist before moving to the industrial-sized sink in the corner to wash my hands.
I've known Mable, and pretty much every other inn employee, my entire life. Nearly everyone Ellen hires is from our hometown—a tiny dot on the map named Copper Springs. It's a typical small town, with struggling business owners, troublemaking teenagers, and churchgoing folks who pray for both. And it's a place I'd be fine never visiting again.
"How did you sleep, dear?" Mable asks, whipping the yolks with a fervor I do not share. The kitchen and I are not friends; we are simply allies in a time of war. The only position Ellen had available this summer was "prep cook," and as much as I hate cooking, I hate being broke more.
But I don't suck at cooking. Years of making food for myself and my mother, a woman who thought feeding me was a grueling chore, taught me how to put a meal together without disastrous results. At least now I'm getting paid to slave away in a kitchen.
"Aside from the blasting noise of Levi's TV?" I say. "Fine."
She eyes my half-wet ponytail. "Cold shower this morning?"
Everyone who works at the inn knows how Levi and I fight. Not just because sometimes we slam doors and yell but because everyone who works at the inn knows about us.
For the first few days after I moved in, this really bothered me. Because I knew the real reason the employees whispered, and the real reason made my chest hurt. But I don't give a damn anymore. If Levi and I provide some sort of tragic entertainment for them, so be it.
I look down at the list of menu items for the morning. "Yes. The spawn of Satan strikes again."
Mable laughs like she always does when I talk about Levi, her round cheeks glowing. Even though she's like sixty, I'm pretty sure she has a cougar crush on him. And if I didn't love Mable so much, it would totally gross me out.
"That Levi is something else," she coos.
"Something selfish, maybe."
She pours the yolks into a pan. "Something delicious."
"What's delicious?" Haley, the curvy thirty-five-year-old who runs the front desk, enters the kitchen through the back door and peers into a bowl of chocolate chips before popping a few in her mouth. Haley gossips almost as much as Mable. She also has a minor addiction to chocolate.
I watch her shovel more of the chips into her mouth.
"Levi," Mable answers, wagging her eyebrows.
"Mmm. He is scrumptious." Haley tucks her shoulder-length black hair behind her ear and gives me a dirty smile. "I'd lick him from head to toe and back to head again."
Good God. It's like I work at Hotel Horny Women.
"Levi is not scrumptious," I say, trying to think about omelet ingredients instead of how Levi's stomach muscles rippled when he leaned into the hallway this morning. "He's annoying."
"He doesn't annoy me. Does he annoy you, Mable?" Haley says.
"Not one bit." Mable smiles.
Haley reaches for more chocolate chips and I smack her hand away. "That's because you two didn't grow up with him and practically live at his house your entire childhood."
An uncomfortable silence falls over the room.
"No," Mable says after a few moments, her voice carefully quiet. "We didn't."
Haley clears her throat and forces a smile at Mable. "Got any of last night's cake left?"
Leave it to Haley to break up the tension with dessert.
I busy myself getting things ready for breakfast as Mable and Haley start gossiping about the guests.
Most guests who visit Willow Inn are retired folks who come to the country for fresh air and a quiet retreat. And some of them stay for weeks or months at a time, and make it an annual occasion.
So several of the guests staying here this summer have visited before and, since Willow Inn is a small establishment with semiregular clientele, they sometimes get to know one another, and things around here can get rather friendly.
Mable's voice is dripping with drama. "… and then Marsha Greenberg told Betsy Peterson that she was no longer welcome at their bridge table because of the incident with Mr. Clemons." She looks up from the cutting board, scandal on her face, onions in her hands. "Can you believe that? Especially after what happened with Vivian Whethers last month…" She jabbers on, Haley bobbing her head emphatically as she forks chocolate cake into her mouth.
You'd think senior citizens relaxing at a quaint inn in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona would be low-key and rather boring, but they're just as bad as college kids. They flirt and drink and sleep with one another, and it's just nasty. Entertaining. But nasty.
Haley gasps at Mable's ongoing story, which I've failed to follow because I'm busy over here actually working.
"No, she did not." Her mouth drops open in disbelief.
"Oh, honey, you know she did," Mable says, and makes a disapproving mm-huh noise. "I told you that woman was trouble."
Haley shakes her head and takes another bite. "Trouble, indeed."
Wow. Remind me never to vacation at an inn when I'm older, for fear my daily activities might become the talk of the kitchen staff.
The old-fashioned phone by the door rings with a merry ding-a-ling-a-ling, and I can't help but glance at the thing. It's red and giant and hideous and it ding-a-lings loud enough to wake the dead. Ellen thinks the spinning dial and long coiled cord add charm to the inn. I think Ellen's full of shit and just hasn't gotten around to replacing the prehistoric device yet.
On the second ring, Mable wipes her hands on her apron—which is an appropriate shade of light blue and features no fruit or fringe—and answers the antique phone with a chipper "Good morning!"
She listens for a moment before promptly disappearing through the swinging door that leads to the dining room, speaking in hushed tones. Ever the gossip, Haley strains to hear what Mable's saying through the door but gives up and turns to me.
"So." She finishes the last bite of chocolate cake. "I hear you and Levi get to have weekends off this summer. Lucky ducks."
I'm pretty sure the synchronized time off is part of Ellen's diabolical plan to get Levi and me to spend some quality time together. Joke's on her though, since I plan on ditching this place every weekend. No need to hang around Levi and our pet elephant more than necessary.
"Lucky, indeed," I say dryly.
She rounds up all the chocolate crumbs on her plate and starts smashing them with her fork until they stick. "Got any big plans this weekend?"
"Not really. Just hanging out with Jenna and Matt."
She licks the fork. "Who's Matt?"
I pull some bell peppers from the fridge. "My, uh, boyfriend."
I have this weird habit of saying "uh" before the word "boyfriend." I can't help it. It's like saying "Jiminy" before "Cricket" or "more" before "cowbell." It just falls out of my mouth.
"Oh right, the boyfriend. I almost forgot about him," Haley says. "Are you sure he's real? You don't ever talk about him and I've never seen you guys together."
"He's real." I rinse off a knife and start cutting vegetables. "It's just hard with him living down by ASU and me all the way out here."
Arizona State University is a hundred miles south of my hometown, and somewhere right in between the two, on a desolate stretch of freeway, stands Willow Inn. So yeah. Middle. Of. Nowhere.
She licks the fork again even though it's squeaky clean. "Does Levi know about this real boyfriend of yours?"
I slant my eyes at her. "I can't imagine how he wouldn't, what with the gossip grapevine around here in full bloom. And I don't know why he'd care, anyway. He's like a brother to me." My heart cringes at the word and I try not to overthink why.
"A brother." She slowly nods. "Right… right—shoot!" She looks at the clock and drops her shiny fork. "I've got to get to the front desk. See ya." She hurries from the kitchen just as Mable swings back in from the dining room.
I watch Mable hang up the phone without making eye contact with me, and my gut tightens. She moves to the counter and begins putting together a breakfast quiche. I continue chopping vegetables. Minutes pass.
With a slow inhale, Mable calmly says, "That was your mama on the phone."
I slice a bell pepper in half. "My mama can go to hell."
My statement makes the room feel thick, so I look up and try to lighten the mood. "Hey, and maybe while she's there she can ask the devil if he wants Levi back." I smile brightly, but the thickness lingers.
There's a reason I chose not to go back home after school ended, and that reason gave birth to me nineteen years ago and has regretted it every day since.
Mable finishes layering the quiche and slides the dish over to me to finish. "She says she's coming to see you in a few weeks. She wants to have dinner with you."
I grab some cheese from the fridge and mutter, "Well, that should be fun."
She gives me a tight smile because she knows how not-fun Sandra Marshall can be. One of the side effects of being from the same tiny town.
The door to the dining room swings open again and this time Levi walks through, a box of tools in his hand.
Cougar Mable immediately lights up. "Morning, Levi!"
"Morning, Mable." He smiles at her. He scowls at me.
I notice his face is now clean-shaven and a part of me misses his scruff—what? No. NO. I do not miss his scruff. Missing scruff is for weirdos.
I scowl back at him and start grating Swiss cheese.
"Where's the fire alarm in here?" he asks in his work voice. It's a very different voice than his get-out-of-my-way voice or his if-you-want-hot-water-wake-up-earlier voice.
Mable points to the wall, looking far too happy to be of service, and I keep my eyes down as he moves past me. As I sprinkle cheese over the quiche, I can't help but notice how grated Swiss kind of looks like white scruff.
I'm not a weirdo.
Quiche finished, I turn to start sautéing vegetables and my gaze automatically darts to Levi. He's so distracting. His arms are all raised, and his shoulders are all broad, and he's fixing crap, and it's just… it's just… annoying.
You know what else is annoying? The fact that the freaking fire alarm is right by the stove.
With a huff and a puff and some choice words in my head, I grab my sliced bell peppers and force my feet to the stove. I throw the vegetables into a frying pan, grab a wooden spoon, and ignore Levi's close proximity.
My body hums.
I ignore that too.
I steal a glance in his direction and watch as the corded muscles in his forearm flex as he unscrews something on the alarm box. Why does he have so many muscles in his forearm? That can't be healthy.
I drop my eyes to the frying pan and focus on bell peppers, because bell peppers are interesting and they don't have backs the size of Alaska or copious amounts of forearm muscles.
The forearm muscles that I'm not thinking about lightly brush my shoulder, and the humming inside my body knots together and zips around like a bumblebee on crack.
I casually turn down the heat on the stove, like that's the reason I'm suddenly a human vibrator, and go back to stirring. Levi goes back to screwing.
I'm thinking about bell peppers.
Levi brushes against me again, except this time his forearm grazes my breast and my body immediately goes wild, like I'm some love-starved teenager, and the humming dives low in my belly and the stove gets hotter and my breaths get shallow and suddenly bell peppers are the sexiest vegetable on earth.
Welcome to Hotel Horny Women, home of scruffy cheese and sensual produce.
- "By turns humorous and heartbreaking, Best Kind Of Broken has become one of my favorites!"—Cora Carmack, New York Times bestselling author
- "You'll fall for Pixie and Levi, just like I did!"—Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times bestselling author
- "Tangled with friendship, history and heartbreak - not to mention a huge dose of humor - Chelsea Fine's New Adult novel is not to be missed! Beyond an incredibly HOT read, Pixie and Levi's longing for each other will have you rooting for them till the very end."—JAY CROWNOVER, New York Times bestselling author of Rule
- "This book destroyed me. Tore me into little tiny pieces. But somehow with lots of laughs and some very steamy times, Chelsea put me back together again! Chelsea Fine's style is witty, visceral and fresh. All I wanted to do was crawl inside this book and live with the characters. And now all I want is MORE. "—Chelsea M. Cameron, New York Times bestselling author
- "Sandwiched between laugh out loud moments and some serious heat, Best Kind of Broken is an unforgettable story of loss and forgiveness that will leave your heart aching."—Lisa Desrochers, USA Today Bestselling author of A Little Too Far
- "Fine will win over fans of Abbi Glines and Katie McGarry with this. Eloquently written, Fine's story has a way of making even the most minor characters leap off the page."—RT Book Reviews
- On Sale
- Mar 4, 2014
- Page Count
- 336 pages