Aidan Conley sat in his truck and re-read the text from his sister.
Will be too late. Text me pictures.
Like he was her assistant, not her brother.
Like it hadn’t taken an hour on his punching bag to get him here.
Like she didn’t remember he preferred not to come into town except to go to the firehouse. He hadn’t been in this bakery since high school—bad enough Marin had to have her highfalutin’ wedding in Somewhere, but now she was sending him to do her bride work.
Whatever was keeping her fiancé in Dallas, she should have rescheduled the cake-tasting.
The big, yellow and blue sign had been replaced with a set of red letters hanging over the building that read Meg’s Bakery. In the ten years since he’d been exiled from his own hometown, someone else had bought the bakery and changed it.
He dialed his sister’s number and she picked up on the first ring. “I’m sorry, Aidan, just don’t yell at me.”
“This is why I wanted you guys to get married in Dallas.” He ruffled the hair at the base of his neck. “You can never manage to make it down here. You know I don’t like driving in.”
“You live three miles from town, Aidan. You work at the fire station. It’s not like I asked you to drive across the country.”
He tried to push out a comeback, but the problem was, she was right. It shouldn’t be this hard.
Then why was his heart jackhammering?
“We’ll be there by six. I promise.” Something clicked on the other side, and she started talking to someone else about spreadsheets and formulas. Then back. “We’ll take the jet.”
Aidan rolled his eyes, forcing calm interest into his tone. “And how is Beckett?”
“You don’t have to say it like that, Aid.”
“Like you’re choking on it.”
He laughed. The clock read 10:59, and he slid out of the seat, locking the door behind him. “You owe me big for this.”
“I know. And I’m really sorry. But Meg did all this prep, and these meetings came up so fast for me. If I could have gotten away...”
“Just know I’m going to collect on this one.”
He pocketed the phone and yanked open the old, flimsy screen door that had always guarded the entrance to the place. Aidan paused in the entry.
Where was the damn punching bag when you needed it?
He stepped into the unusually high-ceilinged bakery, and the familiar scents of yeast rolls, cookies, and fried pastries unlocked all kinds of cavernous memories.
Not to mention everyone stared.
It wasn’t quite early enough for the usual crowd, so not every table was full. But there were enough white-hairs to shoot up his discomfort.
He tried to focus on the counter and ignore the whispers.
Small town though it was, you’d think a guy could get a reprieve from the gossip after ten years. This was why he stayed away.
At the counter, a big blond man stood in a red apron, putting caramel rolls onto a tray. When he met Aidan’s eyes, a giant smile overtook his features.
Talk about old memories.
“Captain Conley!” Berg Klein’s voice was as big as his smile, and those who hadn’t already been watching turned to gawp. Aidan ducked his head.
“Berg.” He took the offered handshake.
“I haven’t seen you in...”
“Since high school.”
“Y’know, you’re right. It has been since high school. Well, how the hell have you been?”
Aidan glanced around the big room. “I’m supposed to meet someone for a tasting thing.”
“Right. That would be my wife, Meg.” Berg thumbed behind him as though Aidan should know where Meg was.
“Should I just wait here, or...?”
“No, you can go on back. Meg just buzzed up to say she’s in the back with your other half.”
Aidan couldn’t stop his eyebrows from raising. “My what?”
“Your fiancé, or whatever. For your wedding cake tasting.”
An unconscious hand went to his pocket, where he was pretty sure the phone he hadn’t hallucinated still sat, having just disconnected from his very-much-in-Dallas-in-her-office sister. Not fiancé. He hadn’t had a fiancé in ten years.
Someone around Somewhere had her wires crossed.
His mouth hung open for a moment while he collected his thoughts. “She’s my sister, and I thought she was still in Dallas.”
“I guess not.” Berg gestured with his big hand as though he meant to take Aidan under his arm. “Come on back. I’ll show you.”
Aidan flexed his shoulders and hesitated. If this was some sort of prank—which Berg was famous for in high school—he wasn’t in the mood. And if it was a mix-up, he didn’t want to have to stay to iron out the feelings that would get hurt, even if they were his own.
He didn’t like feelings. Especially the kind that needed fixing.
“I promise, we don’t bite.” Berg’s smile hadn’t lost its wattage, and Aidan was starting to feel like there were hidden cameras somewhere.
His fists itched for the punching bag.
He joined Berg behind the counter and made his way through the giant industrial baking equipment to the small, cramped office in the back.
The door to the office was all wood, and painted white, like everything else seemed to be. The effect produced a sort of head-aching brightness that made him feel naked.
Inside, two heads bent over a desk: one red-haired, the other blonde. Neither was his sister.
Berg knocked on the glass and the red head turned around, grinning at his big Viking friend. That had to be Meg. She pointed to something else on the paper in front of them, then rose. She had on the same red apron as Berg, and he noted the lettering on her chest mirrored the lettering on top of the building.
Much fancier than he was used to in this town.
The redhead opened the door. “Well, hello. It’s so nice to finally meet you.” She ushered him into the room and leaned back toward Berg. “Have Anna bring in the tasting tray and we’ll be out when we’re done.”
They made a smooching sound, but Aidan wasn’t paying much attention anymore. His knees had locked, his heart raced, and his stomach did a Wiley Coyote off the cliff. The profile: the curve of her cheek, the curtain of straight, thick blonde hair, the long, graceful fingers tapping an unknown rhythm on her collarbone as she read.
How could he forget those features?
She was the ghost of his wife.
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