Chapter Three

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Danielle clicked off the call then pressed her hand down the clean lines of her jade green romper, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles on the outfit she'd quickly pulled on before taking the call. Then she stood very still, letting the news sink in.

When it managed to trickle through, she jumped into a giddy little happy dance on her tiptoes. Letting out a quick yip, she checked the phone again to make sure she'd hung up—she had—then followed the noise with a glorious laugh as she bounced over the bed to the second-story window. Smiling wide, she looked out across the town green that was tucked in the center of the tidy rows of businesses, but it was all a bright blur beneath her as her mind spun with excitement.

She'd done it. She'd damn well done it.

"Hi Danielle!"

She heard the chiming chorus of kid voices, glanced down, focused on them. "Happy Fourth, girls!"

Three girls waved then tumbled, rolled, and spun off toward the gazebo.

Eagerness mingled with nerves and Danielle shimmied her shoulders in a fast shiver, adding it to the happy dance she performed again. She may as well be tumbling, rolling, and spinning with the girls below. She was beaming with pride. Her parents would be so excited, her grandmother would be over the moon.

She'd damn well done it.

She'd gotten a job offer to run business operations for a small tech company in Silicon Valley, reporting to the Chief Operating Officer. She would put her hard-earned education to use, and in her first year out of the gate she would earn more money than she'd forecasted for herself—times five. It would mean more money than her parents made at their hole-in-the-wall deli in Hartford. It would mean she'd stood on their shoulders, had gotten an education afforded to her by way of a scholarship and to-the-bone hard work, and it would signal that she'd reached high for the dreams of those who came before her. She would live the dream for her family that had sacrificed so much to send her to private school, to do everything in their power to give her a good education, a solid foundation, a good life. Unbeknownst to her at the time, her parents had even been on the verge of selling their deli to pay for Yale when they'd gotten news of the scholarship.

Their faith and belief in her had propelled her through the days when the pressure to succeed and thrive in school threatened to flatten her. But she'd pushed harder, stood stronger because of them. And now, she would go off into the world and make them proud of her, send whatever money she could to them and their beloved deli. To help them as they had helped her.

She'd done it, she thought again, unable to hold down a smile.

While excitement sparked and swirled within her, she moved with the rhythm of it, dancing to her own happy beat. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Beckett below, talking to the man with the lawn mower.

And the shiny chorus of bubbles burst one by one.

A job offer in California meant leaving behind Beckett and the quaint historic town she'd considered home since moving in with her grandmother on weekends while attending Yale. By chance, she'd scored a job freshman year at the Plumber's Pub as a server. She'd thought it was fun that a sister and two brothers ran the place—after all, she came from a family-run business. And then she'd met Beckett on her very first shift.

He was built tall, solid, and strong like his brother Ben. He had a hard angled nose, a chin that looked like it could weather some punches, and gold eyes that shimmered regardless of whether or not light struck them. They had an inherent light of their own that shined regardless of shadows. And while many women had been charmed by them—she had a front row seat for that particular show working at the pub—Danielle had also seen the heart behind them. The softness beneath the flash of sexy trouble that was readily evident in that first glance.

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