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Angel Falls is the last place Sara Langdon wants to be. Her hometown may be charming, but it’s also filled with memories of her “wedding-that-never-was.” Yet Sara’s grandmother needs her, and joining her dad at his medical practice gives Sara time to figure out what she wants for her future. But when her first patient turns out to be Colton Walker, the man who sabotaged her wedding, Sara starts to wonder if she’ll ever be able to escape her past.
As police chief, Colton Walker is devoted to his small town, and he’s equally determined to avoid its newest resident. He and Sara have always gotten along like oil and water, and since the bachelor party incident, he’s her Enemy #1. But after sharing an unexpected–and unexpectedly hot–kiss, Colton starts to wonder if the woman he’s always fighting with is the one he should be fighting for.
Praise for Miranda Liasson: “Liasson will make you laugh and melt your heart in this can’t miss read.”– Marina Adair, #1 bestselling author of Summer in Napa “Ably tugs at the heartstrings with this poignant contemporary”–Publishers Weekly
“Then There Was You was captivating and unputdownable.” — Under the Covers
“A delightful and sexy small-town tale of love lost and found!” — Fresh Fiction
What readers are saying about Then There Was You
“I absolutely adored this. It was a wonderful story filled with so much heart and love that completely filled me up. Excellent read!”
“This story warmed my heart…I loved the quirky small-town vibe and the characters’ strong sense of family.”
“Then There Was You is perfect for someone who enjoys romances in a small town setting. It was engaging from the beginning and above all, sweet and cozy.”
“Full of heart, sharp one-liners and some definite tear-worthy moments.”
Sometimes the last person on earth you want to be with is the one person you can't be without.
—Tagline for the movie
Pride and Prejudice, 2005
Dr. Serafina Langdon stood in the Angel Falls Community Hospital ER before the door to exam room three, squeezing her eyes shut, struggling to be a better person. Clearly a higher power was telling her she'd made the wrong decision, returning to her hometown of Angel Falls, Ohio. Because the name on the sheet of paper in her hand said that the patient occupying the room in front of her was Colton Bentley Walker.
Not him. Anyone but him. She'd hoped to ease back into town, get herself established, and then confront—on her own terms—the man who'd helped ruin her engagement a year ago. Who'd been a burr in her side for years—since she was fourteen, really. She'd known this day would come; she just hadn't expected it during her first ER shift.
Sara sucked in a deep breath. She could handle this. She reminded herself again of the reason she'd returned to this sleepy small town to join her dad's medical practice after her high-powered Ivy League training at Columbia. Her sweet, precious grandmother had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and Sara wanted to do all she could to help the woman who'd been her rock, her support, her unwavering cheerleader her whole life. She could face the demons of the past for Nonna's sake.
Sara opened her eyes. Slid the sheet of paper back into the metal pocket on the wall. She couldn't do it. Not today, and maybe not ever. She turned on the soles of her Dansko clogs and walked at a fast clip back to the nurses' station.
The ER was just as white bright at two on a Saturday morning as it was at high noon. And just as busy. Even the administrative assistant was on the phone. Sara peeked around the corner to find the doc she was sharing this shift with. Sara was a primary care doctor, but in a town as small as Angel Falls, the primary care docs worked alongside the ER docs to help staff the ER. Brian Graves, a guy from the next town over whom she knew from residency, was her partner this shift. He had one claim to fame: he'd bedded more women than an eighties rock star.
She hated to approach him, but what was worse? Asking a favor of a guy who wanted to get her in the sack or inflicting irreversible pain and suffering on the man she blamed for ruining her chance at happily ever after?
An unwanted flash of herself in her mother's wedding gown passed before her, pivoting slowly in front of the big mirror at Katie O'Hara's bridal shop, while her sisters and her grandmother and her stepmother oohed and aahed. Sorrow over the future that had come crashing down around her stabbed her in the gut, as it tended to do at the worst times. She didn't want to be reminded of all that pain, and she could not see Colton without wanting to kill him. All righty then. Brian it was.
She found him sauntering down the hall to an exam room, eyeing the butt of a nurse as she made the usual two a.m. pot of coffee.
"Trade me a patient?" Sara asked.
He reached out and took the electronic tablet she carried in her hand. "Oh, Chief Walker." He looked from the tablet to her. "You running away from the law or something?"
He chuckled at his own joke and trained his baby blues on her. Many women found them mesmerizing, but she was definitely immune to his slithery brand of charm.
Brian handed her back the tablet, but when she made to take it, he continued to hold on. "Can't do it. Sorry. Although it's an easy case, not sure why you're worried. A few stitches and a tetanus shot and you're done. Unless you're afraid you'll fall for the cop. You'd be better off with a hot doc like me. I love danger too, by the way, if that's what you're looking for."
She rolled her eyes. "I know it's an easy case, and I do not have a thing for him. What are you working on?"
"Potential cardiac arrest. Or maybe the guy just has bad heartburn from eating at that new Mexican place off Route 44. I already saw him and ordered tests, or I'd trade. Next time I'd be happy to accommodate." He let his gaze drag up and down, as if she were wearing a boob-uplifting cocktail dress instead of blue scrubs, a white coat, and a stethoscope adorned with a little fuzzy koala bear. Her best friend Kaitlyn had given her the koala as a welcome-home gift, so that the kids Sara saw wouldn't be so afraid.
"Um, OK. Thanks." He was still eyeballing her with that yucky I-want-you-babe look.
"Speaking of accommodating…"
"Not going to happen, Brian." She yanked hard on the tablet. "Thanks, though," she called over her shoulder as she walked away.
Oh, what the hell. If she could handle horny Brian, she could handle He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. So she knocked on the exam room door and walked in.
There, lying on the gurney watching late-night Spanish soccer, was Colton, his long lazy frame sprawled out, one elbow behind his head as he inclined toward the wall-mounted television. The hospital gown fell away from his arm, revealing its sinewy, tanned glory for all the world to see.
All that manly muscle distracted her momentarily from his problem, which she now saw clearly. His left arm was laid out straight, exposing the jagged edges of a bloody wound that curved around his biceps.
His very toned biceps. He was a fit man, lean but muscular. Not that she was noticing in any other manner but that of a physician evaluating her patient.
He would be handsome, if not for the fact that he was the world's biggest jerk. That he was tall and strong and broad shouldered only mattered from the standpoint that if you had him with you in a dark alley, you'd totally be covered. His hair used to be longish and thickly layered but was now cut in a no-nonsense buzz. He flicked his eyes—cool, devastatingly blue, with too-long eyelashes—from the TV to her. She saw the moment recognition set in, and hey, was that fear?
She certainly hoped so. After all, she would be the one wielding the needle. This was her territory. And Sara was not going to allow him to forget that, not for one second.
He looked her over in that bored, detached way he had, as if she were far beneath his notice. Before she could stop herself, her hand flew up to her glasses, which she suddenly remembered she was wearing for her middle-of-the-night shift. She caught herself from adjusting them in time. Reminded herself that high school was eons ago, that she wasn't that gawky, awkward girl with blazing-red frizzy hair he used to mercilessly call Sara Jane the Brain. Followed by more years of being mostly ignored and patiently tolerated, which made it especially awkward as he was her ex-fiancé Tagg's best friend.
Tagg was at the Cleveland Clinic an hour away, working as a neurologist, while she was back home in Angel Falls trying to carve out a life for herself that looked nothing like the one she'd envisioned a year ago. On the bright side, being back home with family reminded her of how much she'd missed them, although the fact that her dad was less than thrilled at having her as a partner at his practice still stung.
Sara had opened her mouth to utter what she hoped would be a professional greeting when the door opened behind her. Brian stuck his head into the room.
"Hey, Colt, great to see you, buddy," he said. "Wish I could stitch you up myself, but I'm busy with a critically ill patient. You know how that goes."
"Yeah, he needs two Tums stat," Sara said. "Better hurry."
Brian laughed. "Very clever. I like my women with spunk."
"And I'd like to get going on my work." She held the door open and gestured for him to exit. Which he did, unfortunately winking at Colton first.
"I didn't know you and Brian were an item," Colton said. Of course his first words would raise her blood pressure, his favorite pastime.
"We are not an item," she said.
"Well, I just assumed. Judging by the lovey-dovey looks you two were exchanging just now."
Lovey-dovey looks? Was the man out of his mind? "I guess you don't need great powers of deduction to be the police chief in this town."
"Ouch," Colton said, pretending to be offended. "Well, excuse me for assuming. You're a little too wild for him anyway, huh, Red?"
Sara felt her cheeks heat, the curse of the redhead. No one called her that ridiculous nickname but him, and she hadn't heard it for years. No one poked fun at her for being buttoned up and uptight except for him, and he'd taken great pleasure in doing it ever since high school.
"Grow up, Chief." She washed her hands at the sink and pulled suture materials from the drawers. "I just want to remind you that I'm going to be wielding a needle here shortly, so you might want to restrain your mouth. If you're capable."
He held up his good hand. "Hey, more than capable, Doc. You just do your job so I can get back to work, OK?"
She walked over to the exam table. "You also might want to pull a bullet out of your holster and bite on it while I'm stitching you up." He suddenly looked a little pale. She should have felt guilty, but instead she was just glad it shut him up for a minute. "So you got gashed by a rusty fence?"
"I was crawling under it to catch a perp."
"Did you catch him?" She forced her focus on the jagged bloody wound. And away from the biceps.
"I'm surprised a well-educated lady doc like you is so sexist," he said in a deep baritone that seemed to reverberate right through her. "How do you know it wasn't a she-criminal?"
"Because we sewed him up a half hour ago. What took you so long to get here?"
He grinned, but she remained totally unaffected by his bright, broad, and just-imperfect-enough-to-melt-panties smile. "Paperwork at the station."
"You were bleeding like this and you stopped to do paperwork?"
He leveled big blue eyes at her and shrugged. Which she interpreted as an "I can handle it all even if I am bleeding like a stuck pig" gesture. His arrogance didn't seem tempered even after all these years.
Her eyes flicked to his too-handsome face. Colton had been blessed with angel-kissed good looks that had been turning the heads of females since he was a boy. He'd been popular, a stellar athlete, and quarterback on the football team until an injury had sidelined him and caused him to lose his college scholarship. He was the guy who'd sat on homecoming and prom courts, and who'd always had his pick of women.
Bringing her focus back to the task at hand, she prepared a soapy solution by squirting a bottle of antiseptic scrub into a bowl and brought it over to his bedside.
"Maybe I should wait for the nurses to do that," he said, sounding a little nervous.
"They're all tied up," Sara said sweetly, holding the curved suture needle up so he got a good view of it. "Better if I do it all and get you out of here quicker. I'm going to soak your arm in the antiseptic now."
"Will it sting?"
"The last patient cried for ten minutes, but he was six. Since you're a tough guy, I'd anticipate you'd be fine in half that time."
His dark gaze met hers, his thick brows knit together. Under all that bravado, Mr. Arrogance did seem a little worried. Which made her unconscionably happy. To his credit, when she lowered his arm into the soapy tub, he didn't even flinch. Truthfully, he didn't have to, because the solution they used didn't sting at all.
As she irrigated and scrubbed, she felt his gaze on her, quiet and assessing. She didn't usually get unnerved when people watched her, but she didn't like being this close to him, smelling his spicy, woodsy smell, feeling his eyes drill a hole through her.
When she glanced at him, he steered his gaze quickly away. "Um, not to question your professional ability," he said, "but are you sure you can see out of those things? I mean, I wouldn't want you to screw up. My arm is one of my better features."
Her cheeks burned, and for an instant she was back in ninth grade, feeling the same acute anguish. You ever think about getting contacts, Brain? There just might be a pretty girl under all that glass.
He was the kind of man who used his charm and good looks to get away with acting like a jerk. Still.
She couldn't believe she'd ever expected him to have her back last year, when he'd failed to keep her fiancé from "celebrating" so hard he fell face-first into his bachelor party cake—and the woman in it. Valerie Blake had always had a thing for Tagg in high school, a fact everyone knew. Especially Colt, who'd hired her for the party.
Tagg had been Sara's first boyfriend, and he'd loved her despite her ugly duckling phase. He'd seen who she was and loved her for her brains, not despite them. She'd often wondered why someone as good-looking as Tagg would want her, and sometimes that had kept her up at night. But he'd proposed, and suddenly everything she'd ever wanted was about to come true—a great job, a loving husband, a home of her own.
Until Colton had gone and waved a half-naked Valerie in front of him. Colton had always had a way of knowing her deepest fear and shining a spotlight on it. And his actions last year hadn't just shone the spotlight, they'd blown up her entire life.
Yes, Tagg was to blame. She understood that. But Colton had lit the match. If he'd been a good best man and contained the party, Tagg would've gotten over his last-minute panic without incident. They'd be married now, all settled and enjoying life in the house they'd picked out in a pretty suburb of Cleveland. The one that Tagg was now living in with his girlfriend, aka Cake Girl.
Sara stood up straight. She couldn't afford to wallow in the past. "My glasses may not be attractive," she said, "but I can see twenty-twenty out of them. Of course, if I miss a stitch or two, the scar will just make you look a little tougher. Because you're kind of a pretty boy now."
He threw up his hand in defense. "Hey, no offense, Dr. Einstein. Just making a joke. I trust you."
He was looking at her oddly. For a moment she wondered if he felt bad for the glasses joke. Or maybe he'd made it on purpose to throw her off-kilter. It didn't matter.
Some people never grew up, never changed. Colton was obviously one of those people. But she had. And he couldn't hurt her anymore. She wouldn't let him.
* * *
Colton shouldn't have ribbed her about the glasses. He immediately saw that in her eyes. To be honest, he'd said it because he felt…uncomfortable. A little too close to Sara Langdon, who was all grown up and nothing like the shy, homely girl she'd been in high school. But to her he was still an emotionally stunted adolescent who needed to grow the hell up.
Surely Sara had to know how attractive she was now. All that thick hair the color of copper and those stunning green eyes. Not to mention her killer curves. She was Dr. Knockout, nothing like the Coke-bottle-bottom-glasses-wearing fourteen-year-old he'd known so long ago when he was a smart-mouthed hotshot and she was an easy target. Lest he soften, he reminded himself she was still the most type A personality he'd ever met. And Colt didn't do type A.
"Lie back," she said, flicking off the TV.
"Hey! Game's on," he said, but he hadn't really been paying attention to it. He knew he shouldn't be so difficult at every turn, but he couldn't seem to help himself. Irritating her was too much fun.
Warm soapy water flooded his arm and trickled into a basin she placed under it. She worked quickly and competently, and he felt his eyes closing. He was finally coming down from the adrenaline rush and it was, after all, the middle of the night. He even got pretty close to falling asleep, until he felt the sting of a needle.
He opened one eye and looked at her. "Warn a guy, will ya?"
She didn't respond, all concentration and focus. Whatever she'd injected had numbed him, so he watched her loop the needle in and out, suture and cut. Repeat. In and out, suture and cut.
"Is it bad?" he asked.
She turned her gaze on him. Even behind the big glasses he could see the soft moss green of her eyes, just as pretty as he remembered. "I think you'll live. And I'm no plastic surgeon, but the scar will be minimal."
She worked in silence for a few minutes. The ticking of the old wall clock was the loudest thing in the room. Outside in the hallway there sounded a scattered symphony of beeps and alarms, intercom noises, and even the crackling fuzz of an EMS radio announcing another ambulance on its way.
When she bent her head he could smell her hair. Lemons. Nice. It made him recall a time, long ago, when things could've been different, when the animosity that gaped so large and wide between them might've turned into something else. But then Tagg had moved in and swept her off her feet.
Sara's life had been full of choices Colton had never had. After he'd busted up his knee in high school, he'd lost his football scholarship to Penn State. The policemen who'd worked with his dad—who'd started out as an Angel Falls cop before moving to Chicago, where he'd died in the line of duty—took him under their wing and helped him get to college. After college Colton had returned home to take care of his grandmother and sister, end of story. Whereas Sara had left town to conquer the world, attending Princeton on scholarship and medical school in New York City.
The opportunity for anything more between them had long passed, and the intervening years had cemented their relationship as antagonistic. He also understood she was furious at him. That ass Tagg had gotten drunk the night of the bachelor party despite Colton's best efforts to cut him off. Colton had arranged for the cake stunt but had no idea the woman the company would send to pop out of the cake was someone Tagg had had the hots for in high school. And apparently still did.
Sara blamed Colton. After all, he'd been the best man. He was supposed to keep order and prevent things from getting out of control. What Sara didn't know was that Tagg had been nervous as a teenage shoplifter the entire week before the wedding. Colton had tried to quell his doubts and calm him down the best he could, had even driven Tagg home himself to keep him out of trouble the night of the bachelor party, but Tagg had still figured out a way to break Sara's heart.
Finally Sara was done, and he sat up, looking over her handiwork.
"Fifteen stitches," she announced, walking over to the counter.
"Thanks. Am I done?" He got ready to hop off the gurney.
"Not just yet," she said, coming to stand in front of him, blocking his exit. She pulled a syringe from her white coat pocket and uncapped it, displaying a needle that seemed to be the size of a quarter-inch drill bit. "Bend over and drop your drawers."
"No." As in, there was no way in hell he was going to drop trou in front of her.
She raised an elegant brow. "What do you mean, no?"
"I don't want it in my ass."
"Well, unless you want your arm to fall off, you probably want to do as the doctor orders." She flicked the syringe with her finger. Put her finger on the plunger.
"I've never seen a needle that big for a shot. I'll just wait until Monday when my usual doctor can see me." She didn't have all the control here…did she?
"As you like. Except by then lockjaw will have set in and you won't be able to swallow or breathe." She bit back a smile. "Oh, and did I mention the drool? There will be lots of it."
She was enjoying this way too much. But the picture her words conjured was enough to keep him planted. "You're serious, aren't you?"
Tapping the syringe with her finger, she said, "Dead serious. Drop 'em, Officer Walker."
"Chief Walker," he mumbled as he stood up and dropped his pants, leaning over the gurney.
He smelled the antiseptic scent of alcohol, felt the rub of a cotton ball on his ass cheek.
That was when he decided not to let her get the best of him. At the last minute, he cranked his head back and gave her his most charming grin. Sara glanced up, maybe even looked a little startled.
"You can turn around now," she said, cool as a cucumber.
"I'd rather watch," he said, not backing down.
"Suit yourself," she said, drawing back and stabbing the needle into his flesh.
Son of a bitch. Charm got him nowhere with her. It never had.
The needle sliced through his muscle, burning and stinging. It felt like an ice pick boring into his flesh. He bit down on the insides of his cheeks to take the pain.
Then she was talking again. "The most common side effect of a tetanus shot is pain at the injection site. You'll be fine in a week or two."
He pulled up and belted his pants before she could inflict more damage. Blew out the breath he'd been holding. "A week or two?"
"You just won't be able to sit comfortably for a while. Stitches come out in a week to ten days. Come back if anything looks red or swollen." She discarded the syringe in the red sharps container on the counter, pulled off her gloves with a snap, and tossed them in the trash. Then she wrote a few things down and handed him a clipboard. "Sign out here."
He took a step forward. His butt cheek hurt like he'd just been bitten by a yellow jacket. Still, he signed on the dotted line and managed a smile. "See you around, Doc."
She shot him a wide, innocent smile. "See you."
A light summer rain was pattering on Nonna's old slate roof when Sara awakened the next morning in her mom's old bedroom under the eaves of Nonna's little craftsman bungalow. The sound of the rain on the shingles above the sharply slanted ceiling brought her back to her childhood, when she used to snuggle and giggle with her sisters under this same patchwork quilt her grandmother had made when she was a young bride.
Desperate to know the mother they'd lost to cancer when Sara was just thirteen years old, her sisters and she used to carefully sift through her mother's childhood possessions—classic books like Little Women and Gone With the Wind, award ribbons for track and basketball, literary awards for writing and English. Air Supply and Journey posters pinned up on the closet door, endless balls of yarn and colorful handmade scarves. Every empty perfume bottle, every old notebook filled with notes and doodles was an endlessly fascinating clue to who their mother had been, a tiny piece of her to hold on to just a little bit longer.
But waking up in a shrine was lonely. She thought of Tagg, waking up under the eaves next to his girlfriend in the brand-new house he and Sara had meant to call home.
His rejection still hurt, but now her grief was more for the life she would've had rather than for Tagg himself. Being married, decorating their new home, planning a family…that was the life she mourned. After all, she was almost thirty-one years old. She'd wanted that life, dammit. A happy life with a partner she loved, settling down. Being able to do all the things she'd put off for years because she was too busy studying, working, and being broke while all her other friends already had great jobs and had started their real lives. She was tired of delayed gratification. And she wanted a dog.
For ten years she hadn't thought of her life as being any other way but with Tagg. And then suddenly…everything had changed. She'd gotten over the shock, yes. But she felt adrift, unmoored. Bobbing around in the middle of the ocean with no compass.
Her grandmother had always been her guide, and now Sara was losing her too. All the more reason to make every moment with Nonna count. To be there for Nonna the way her grandmother always had been for her.
Sara dug under the bed for her fuzzy purple slippers and tiptoed down the hall. The wooden floors creaked a little, but Sara wouldn't trade this old house for anything. She'd always dreamed of someday having a quirky house with a lot of charm, but Tagg had preferred a brand-new house in a cookie-cutter subdivision that looked like all its neighbors, and she'd gone along with it. How much else had she gone along with, not really wanting to?
It was definitely too early for soul-searching. Nonna wasn't up yet, which meant Sara had time to start the Sunday routine, one Nonna had followed without deviation for fifty years. First up was starting the coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls, then getting ready for Mass at St. Alfonso's, followed by coffee and doughnuts and socializing in the church hall, followed by a trip to the grocery store and an afternoon of cooking for Sunday dinner.
Sunday dinner was a tradition that had been going on for generations. During her years of medical school and residency, Sara had missed everything about it—the food, the easy camaraderie, the squabbling—typical family stuff that made anything else the world had to throw at you bearable. Gathering at Nonna's every week was nonnegotiable; unless you were overseas or serving a life sentence, you showed up, on pain of death.
- "Top pick! Five stars! Ms. Liasson has delivered one of the best books I've read this year so far where the chemistry between this couple was off-the-charts; the romance was full of wonderful heat and passion that show how perfect these two are together; and the ending had me loving the hero's determination to win Sara back."—HarlequinJunkie.com
- "Emotional, heartwarming romance you can't put down."—Lori Wilde, New York Times bestselling author
- "Liasson will make you laugh and melt your heart in this can't miss read."—Marina Adair, #1 bestselling author of Summer in Napa
- "Ably tugs at the heartstrings with this poignant contemporary."—Publishers Weekly
- "A delightful and sexy small-town tale of love lost and found!"—Fresh Fiction
- On Sale
- May 29, 2018
- Page Count
- 368 pages