Everything Changes Page 2

But first . . . cake.


The sound of a horn blaring outside dragged Grace from the far depths of sleep.

Thick paste had taken the place of saliva in her mouth, and she heard every beat of her heart between her ears.

Sun filtered through the windows of her condo with such brilliance she knew she’d missed most of the morning.

She tested her head slowly, moving it to the side to catch the time.

Ten thirteen? How did that even happen?

Slapping her lips together, she tasted a little too much of what she’d eaten, or more importantly, drunk, the night before. And the need to pee was dire.

Moving more quickly than her brain liked, she staggered through her bedroom to the adjoining bathroom. Two minutes later she stood in front of the mirror while water rushed into the sink.

Her hair stuck out in every direction, her eyes were bloodshot, and her lips were as dry as the Mojave Desert.

“That last glass was a mistake,” she said to her reflection.

Her feet still throbbed from the dancing. She’d made sure to spend the remainder of the evening dancing with anyone with a pulse. And then, when the night came to an end, because her condo was only a few blocks from the hotel in the heart of Santa Clarita, she left her car in the parking lot and walked home.

In short, her feet hurt like hell.

So did her head.

She flipped on the hot water in the shower and let it steam the room while she brushed her teeth. Even coffee didn’t sound like the right thing to add to her digestive system.

By now her brother and Parker would be on a plane. One solid week in Maui, courtesy of her parents. Lots of money spent so they could stay inside a hotel room and exercise the heck out of each other.

She smiled through the headache and stepped into the shower.

Thirty minutes later, with her thick, wavy hair pulled back in a short ponytail and a big pair of sunglasses hiding the lack of restful sleep under her eyes, she headed out for the short walk to the hotel to gather her car. Halfway there, the scent of java had her making a detour.

The coffee shop was wall-to-wall customers on a late Sunday morning. By the head count of people carrying shopping bags from the mall across the street, it looked as if most of the people there had been up for hours holiday shopping.

She rubbed the back of her neck through the turtleneck sweater she’d put on. Her headache was starting to fade.

Thank God.

The line inched slowly. As it did, her need for a large shot of caffeine grew.

And sugar. She needed sugar.

Finally, her turn came.

She looked at the menu as if she was seeing it for the first time. “Cappuccino,” she blurted out. “Double shot.”

The barista typed her order into the register.

“With pumpkin spice. Can you do that?”


“The pumpkin is sweet, right?”

“Yeah.” The kid behind the counter wasn’t amused.

“Can I get that in a large?”

He narrowed his eyes. “Do you want a latte?”

She shook her head. “No. Double shot cappuccino with pumpkin spice is fine.”

“Is that all?”

“With whip cream.”

He sighed. “How about an extra-large pumpkin latte, double shot, with whip cream?”

Someone behind her cleared their throat.


He rang her up.

“And a blueberry scone.”

“Is that all?”


“Full milk or soy?”


Whoever had cleared their throat behind her now laughed.

Grace refrained from looking around to see the face behind the laugh, paid, and stepped aside.

She pulled her cell phone from her back pocket while she waited for her coffee. Her mother had sent two text messages. Erin had left one. All were in regard to helping with moving the wedding gifts over to Colin and Parker’s place and cleaning up the mess they’d left behind the day before.

“Double shot nonfat pumpkin latte with whip cream with a blueberry scone and a complimentary side of diabetes,” the barista called out.

Grace glanced up, saw a familiar face. “Very funny, Leah.”

Leah pushed her order across the counter. “Let me guess, big Saturday night?”

“My brother’s wedding.”

“Oh, that’s right. How was it?”

“Beautiful. Of course. They both said ‘I do’ at the right time.”

The guy at the register shouted out another order.

Leah looked over her shoulder. “Come by next week during lunch. I want to see pictures.”

“I will.” Grace grabbed her coffee, pastry, and dignity and headed for the door.

“Nice to see you’re more appropriately dressed for the outdoors today.” The deep baritone voice came from her right. She took one step before realizing the words were meant for her.

Slowly, like something out of an old cartoon, she turned to the man behind the voice.

Mr. Stare Happy relaxed in a chair with his arm leaning on the table. Unlike the night before, when she couldn’t see his face clearly to tell for certain that he smiled at her, there was no mistaking it now.

He was smiling . . . if not laughing at her.

She feigned innocence. “Have we met?”

A flicker of amusement passed over his lips. “The hotel . . . last night?”

What was up with his voice? It vibrated the entire room. It was deep and salty like a jazz musician in a New Orleans club. Like a deep purr of a lion.

“You were at the hotel last night?”

He blinked and snickered.

She lifted her coffee to her lips to hide any expression that might leak through.

“And you were walking the gardens in a thin dress without a jacket.”

The sugar in her coffee reached all the right spots and gave her the words she needed.

“Oh . . . was that you who opened the door for me?”

His eyes narrowed. “No.”

“You weren’t at the wedding, right? I think I would have remembered you at the wedding.”

Mr. Stare Happy’s smile slid from his lips. “No.”

“Were you one of the waiters? There were so many—”

“No. I’m not a waiter. I saw you . . .” He stopped talking and reached for his cup before standing.

When he did, she was struck by the size of him. Close to her brother Matt’s height, but not taller than Colin. Still, since she was five three and wearing a pair of Keds, Mr. Stare Happy dwarfed her.

She looked over the edge of the sunglasses she hadn’t bothered taking off. She did a complete sweep of the man with the lion’s voice and came to rest on his amused eyes. “I’m sorry, last night was a blur. My brother got married . . . there was champagne.”

He reached a hand out. “Dameon.”

Unable to stop herself, she chuckled. “With a voice like that, I’m not surprised.”

“Excuse me?”

That was rude. Her little cat and mouse pretending to not recognize him was one thing . . . “Grace.” She shuffled the bag to her hand holding the coffee and shook his hand. It was warm, and firm . . .

She swallowed.

He looked at their hands before he let her go.

“A pleasure meeting you, Dameon. I’m sorry I don’t remember you from last night.”

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