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As the successful and driven CEO of Lewis Sporting Goods, Dillon rarely has time to eat a home cooked meal, let alone put any time or effort into maintaining an actual relationship. He's been living on fumes and casual encounters for so long that finding love and starting a family never even crossed his mind, until his cousins Gabe and Reardon found women who gave them both. Laurel has been in love with Dillon since she was nine years old. Unfortunately, he's always seen her as his little sister's pesky best friend. She can't stop her heart from beating frantically whenever he's near, but she's become an expert at keeping her feelings from everyone, especially Dillon. Her secret has been safe, until now...When Laurel needs help with her business plan, her best friend urges her to seek help from Dillon. Determined to push her feelings aside and focus on her fledgling business, Laurel knows she needs to do whatever it takes to succeed, even if it means being treated to indifference and big brother teasing from the man she loves. Can Laurel work with Dillon and still keep her heart intact, or will things get Too Distracting when Dillon realizes what a beautiful, kind, and generous woman she has become?Too Distracting is the third in an all-new small-town romance series by Bethany Lopez. Follow the Lewis cousins as they learn about love and loss in Cherry Springs, the kind of place where there are festivals for every occasion and everyone knows your business.
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Copyright 2017 Bethany Lopez
Published April 2017
ISBN - 978-1978092587
Cover Design by Makeready Designs
Editing by Red Road Editing / Kristina Circelli
Proofreading by KMS Freelance Editing
Formatting by Bethany Lopez
Print Formatting by Type A Formatting
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Epilogue - Laurel
Love The Lewis Cousins? Check out The Time for Love Series!
About the Author
Also by Bethany Lopez
Looking out my office window at my hometown of Cherry Springs, I felt a sense of peace overcome me.
It was good to be back.
Usually, I took a week every summer to go down to Camp Gabriel Lewis, my cousins football camp, to help get it ready for the incoming campers, but this year, business had kept me away.
Instead of having fun in the sun with my family, my twin sister, Jasmine, and I had split up to look at expanding our company. Jasmine had gone to Seattle, while I had gone to San Francisco. And, while she’d finished up her trip in time to head to camp, I’d been delayed in San Francisco.
Luckily, things had turned out well on my trip, and it looked like an expansion to San Francisco would be a good move. I needed to gather my notes and put together a proposal for the board, but I was feeling confident.
Lewis Sporting Goods had been in our family for generations, and the board consisted of my parents and Reardon’s dad. When our grandparents had passed, they’d left the company to all four of their sons, but Gabe’s parents ran the local bar and grill, and Serena’s parents had moved away years ago. They still owned shares of the company, but were now silent partners, and didn’t sit on the board.
It was the same with my cousins, who were more like brothers and sisters, since we’d all been raised together. When it came to the business, they’d chosen to do other things and leave Lewis Sporting Goods to Jazzy and me.
Gabe, our oldest cousin, had been an NFL player, but was now retired and focused on his family. Reardon, the person I was closest to, other than Jazzy of course, was the lawyer in our small town and had just started a family of his own. Serena, our youngest cousin, moved away during middle school, but had come back for vacations and holidays, and was a very talented artist.
While our cousins had followed their passions, Jasmine and I had been happy to take over the family business. It wasn’t always easy, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Picking up the phone, I pressed the button to my executive secretary.
“Carol, do I have anything pressing this afternoon? I haven’t been to my house yet and wanted to drop off my bags and freshen up. I’ll be back later to play catch up, but if there’s something I need to be here for, I can stay.”
“You have a four o’clock with Laurel Turner, but I assumed you’d come here first, rather than go home, and kept your afternoon clear.”
I grinned and said, “You’re the best.”
Carol had been with our company since I was a little boy, and she probably knew me just as well as my own mother.
“Don’t I know it,” she quipped, then disconnected.
I chuckled as I hung up, then frowned when the name of the appointment penetrated.
That name brought up plenty of memories, none of them good.
“I’m going to kill you,” I yelled as I chased my jerk of a sister and her annoying friend, Laurel, through the kitchen and out the back door.
“Dillon Lewis,” my mother’s scolding voice called from somewhere in the house. “You be nice to the girls.”
I scowled as I watched Jazzy’s bright-red hair and Laurel’s sunny blonde get further away as they ran toward the fields, their peals of laughter floating back toward me in the wind. We’d just had our ninth birthday, and I’d cherished the bike my parents had given me. When I’d gone outside that morning to ride over to Reardon’s to meet him and Gabe to head to the springs, I’d found my perfect, red bike had been spray-painted purple with flowers painted on it.
Not in a good way either, so I knew Rena hadn’t been involved; her flowers would actually look like flowers. No, I’d known immediately that it had been Jazzy and Laurel, and I vowed right there on my back porch that I’d make them pay.
Now, logically, I knew that we were all grownups, and neither Jazzy nor I were the same people. In fact, Jasmine and I were very close now, even though she still liked to press my buttons. I was sure that Laurel had grown up as well. But, I didn’t know that for sure. Laurel had left town after high school and moved to Houston after college, so I hadn’t seen her in years.
The last time I had seen her, however, had been at high school graduation, when she and Jazzy had painted Honk, Cause I’m Horny, on the back window of my cherished Jeep and I hadn’t been able to get it off.
I’d had honks following me all the way from Cherry Springs to my college dorm, and although it had been a prank that actually ended in me getting laid my first week at school, that didn’t change the fact that whenever I thought of Laurel, I wanted to run away.
Fast and far.
Although a small part of me wanted to tell Carol to cancel the appointment, because I wanted to be in the same room with Laurel about as much as I wanted to get a rectal exam, I’d promised Jasmine that I’d hear Laurel out and possibly help her with her business plan.
Just the thought put a scowl on my face.
Maybe this would be the perfect opportunity to start getting some of that revenge you always promised, I thought, and my scowl was quickly replaced by a grin as I gathered my things and told Carol I’d be back.
I don’t think I can do this,” I said, wringing my hands together as I paced the floor in my flower shop.
“You can,” my friend and new employee, Chloe, assured me as she took my hands and held them between us. “Dillon is a great guy, Laurel, and yes, you guys have known each other forever and you were a bit of a wild child, but you’re an adult now. You’ve both changed. Plus, he’s agreed to help you. He wouldn’t do that if he hated you, right?”
“I guess so,” I muttered, but my stomach was still in knots, and I’d started sweating all over the place. I mean, really sweating. If I didn’t calm down I’d have to go home and shower before my appointment with Dillon.
“Well, I know so,” Chloe said firmly, and I let out a deep breath.
“I haven’t really talked to him since I’ve been back,” I began. I’d moved back to Cherry Springs from Houston after being away for most of my adult life. “I thought he’d been avoiding me, but maybe the fact that we haven’t spoken is just a coincidence. I mean, he was busy at Gabe and Zoey’s wedding, and he’s running a company, so … maybe I shouldn’t take things personally?”
It was more of a question than a statement, because I’d always taken things personally where Dillon was concerned.
I’d been in love with him since I was nine years old.
“I’m so excited your mom said you could come over,” my new best friend, Jasmine, said as we walked from my car to her house. “It’s going to be the best weekend ever.”
My parents had been thrilled when I asked if I could spend the night at Jazzy’s house, since I’d never been invited to a sleepover before. It was almost weird how excited they were, but I knew they’d made plans to go out on a date while I was gone, so maybe that’s why they’d been smiling so big as I packed my favorite backpack.
“What do you want to do?” I asked, trying not to stare at the biggest, most amazing house I’d ever seen.
It was beautiful, with pillars on the porch and stairs that started out wide, then shortened as you moved up them. It was painted bright white, with a porch that wrapped around the house.
I’d never seen anything like it.
That was when it happened… A lanky boy with red hair and the greenest eyes I’d ever seen, outside of Jazzy’s, stepped out onto the porch with a glass of lemonade in his hand. His hair was a little long, with curls on the end, and he had freckles dancing across his nose. And when he smiled in response to something his mother, who I hadn’t even noticed was next to him, said, I fell head over heels in love.
“Who’s that?” I asked in a whisper, suddenly cold and clammy at the thought of getting too close.
“Ugh, my twin brother, Dillon,” Jasmine said with a sneer. “He’s been sick, and you would have thought he was dying with all of the moaning and groaning he’s been doing over the last week.”
“No, you shouldn’t,” Chloe said, pulling me out of my memory and causing me to backtrack to try and remember what she was talking about.
Oh, right, not taking the cold shoulder Dillon had been giving me personally.
I took a deep breath and let it out. I’d vowed to be stronger, kinder, more patient, and to always stick up for myself. After four years of being my ex-boyfriend Travis’s verbal whipping post, I was putting myself first and surrounding myself with positive people.
So what if Dillon thought I was still the same mouthy brat with crooked pigtails and a penchant for mischief. If he couldn’t see that I’d changed and let bygones go so that we could at least be friends now, then that was his loss.
I’d been back in Cherry Springs for almost a year now, and I was happy. It was my home, and soon, it would be the place where I ran my business. I had great friends, and although things weren’t great right now with my parents, I knew we’d get through it.
If Dillon wanted to help me with the business plan, then go back to pretending I didn’t exist, then I’d just have to live with that.
“You both just need to get to know who you are now, and maybe he’ll forget the pink underwear and the other pranks. He and Jasmine are really close now, so…”
I nodded, hoping she was right. Even if I knew Dillon would never fall in love with me, marry me and have babies with me, like I’d always dreamed, I’d still like to have him in my life in a positive way.
“Okay, I can do this,” I assured her, causing her to smile. Then, needing to change the subject, I asked, “How are things with you and Reardon?”
“Amazing,” Chloe gushed, her hand automatically going to rest on her baby bump. “We’ve decided it’s time to move in together.”
“Yay, really? Where to? Yours, his, or a bigger place?”
“A bigger place. We’re staying in Copper Woods, since Chris has friends there, but getting a place with office space for both of us and rooms for the kids. It’ll be ready next week.”
“That’s so great,” I said, meaning it, as I appreciated the gleam of the engagement ring on her finger. “Does that mean you’ve set a date?”
“Not yet,” Chloe said, this time the one who was sighing. “I promised Reardon we would do it before the baby comes, but now that we’re moving, I kind of want to get that finished before we worry about a wedding. Although, I don’t want anything big. Just a simple ceremony with our friends and family in attendance.”
“And, I was kind of hoping to be your first client.”
“Really?” I cried, not bothering to contain my excitement. She was my friend and employee, after all; I’d save my professional, not jumping up and down, face for clients who were strangers.
“Yes, really, of course it has to be you.”
“Then I guess I’d better pull up my big girl pants and head to my meeting with Dillon. We’ve got a wedding to plan.”
I felt marginally better now that I showered and unpacked my things, but was still feeling a little weary from traveling. Vowing to not stay in the office past eight, so I could finally get a good night’s sleep in my own bed, I lifted my chin to Carol in greeting, and headed into my office.
With my mind intent on firing up my computer and getting through some emails before my appointment, I didn’t register the leggy blonde sitting in the chair at my desk until she stood up quickly, and had to hold onto the edge of the desk to keep from falling over.
“Sorry, I’m a little early, but Carol said it was okay if I waited in here…”
I tried to hold back my scowl, but figured I’d failed when I saw Laurel’s hopeful expression turn apprehensive as she watched me move behind my desk and sit down.
I didn’t like the idea of Laurel being in my office without me; for all I knew she’d planted booby traps for me to fall into at inopportune times.
After a few seconds of her wary eyes on me, I began to grow frustrated, not just because she’d showed up early and ruined my plans for catching up, but because she was looking at me like I was going to bite her.
“Have a seat,” I said, the words coming out a little harsher than I’d intended.
Laurel fell into the chair and shifted back, fidgeting and wringing her hands like a frightened rabbit, and I let out a sigh.
“Let’s try this again … Hello, Laurel, how are you this evening?” I managed in an even tone, even though I half expected to see a snake in my wastebasket.
Laurel cleared her throat, her blue eyes wide on me.
“I’m, uh, pretty good, Dillon, thanks for asking,” Laurel said, her voice conveying her unease. “How are you?”
“Tired,” I admitted, hoping she’d assume at least part of my assholery was because of that. “I’ve been travelling.”
“Oh, yeah, Jazzy told me about the expansion. It’s really wonderful, Dillon.”
The mention of my sister reminded me of who I was talking to, and I realized I needed to stop with the pleasantries, get down to business, and have Laurel on her way so I could get to work.
“Right, thanks,” I began, folding my hands on my desk. “So, Jasmine said you needed some help with a business plan?”
“Yes,” she replied, sitting up a little taller in her seat. “I’ve been running the flower shop for my parents, but I’d like to expand it to a party planning business, and maybe wedding planning too … I need a business plan for my parents, and for the bank in order to get a loan.”
“Your parents don’t want you to expand?”
“It’s not that they don’t want me to, the problem is that they don’t think I can do it. They want to give me the shop, but to keep it as is. They’re worried it’ll fail if I try to change things.”
Laurel was frowning as she talked, and I didn’t blame her; it sounded like her parents were still the same assholes they’d always been. Part of the reason Laurel was always at my house growing up was because she didn’t want to be at hers.
“So, they have conditions for you taking over the shop… And, if you have a solid business plan, you think they’ll be okay with the changes you want to make,” I surmised.
Laurel nodded. “I’m hoping if I have a great business plan, one that gets the bank to agree to a business loan so that I can get the necessary equipment and everything, they will see that I am serious and that it is possible for me to make the flower shop even more successful.”
Knowing her parents, I wasn’t sure that was true, but I’d promised Jasmine I’d help Laurel out, so that’s what I’d do. I couldn’t promise her parents would change their minds and get on board, but I’d agreed to the business plan, and that’s what Laurel would get.
“Right,” I began, turning on my computer and logging in as I spoke. “Get with Carol and set up a meeting for next week. In that week, I want you to write out the structure of your proposed business, your goals for the business, and your financial needs. I also want you to list any potential employees, and list their skills and experience. We’ll focus on that next week, and then we’ll start a marketing plan, sound good?”
When I’d started listing what I wanted her to do, Laurel had whipped out her phone and began jotting down notes.
At least she’s taking this seriously, I thought. I had to admit, one small part of me had thought this whole meeting could be a hoax, but it seemed Laurel was being genuine. Huh, maybe she’s grown up some after all.
Laurel looked up from her phone and asked, “Is that all? Are you sure you don’t need a list of past lovers as references?”
“Why would I need that?” I asked, honestly bewildered.
“I don’t know,” Laurel whispered, her face turning bright red.
She stood up suddenly, clutching her phone tightly in her hand and saying a little too loudly, “Well, okay then. I’ll get with Carol and get this information for next week,” then she walked out of my office like her ass was on fire.
I watched her leave, shaking my head and dismissing my earlier thought about her growing up; she was obviously just as immature as ever. Hopefully, after a couple of meetings we’d have her business plan squared away and she’d be out of my hair.
Then I could go back to ignoring her at family gatherings, and my life could get back to normal.
A list of my past lovers as reference? Had I really said that?
I mentally slapped myself all the way to my car after leaving Dillon’s office at Lewis Sporting Goods. I could justdie.
Dillon had seemed his usual crabby self, at least where I was concerned, but seemed to thaw out when he started talking about the business plan. Then I’d gone and made that stupid comment and he’d hardened up again.
Damn me and my big mouth…
No, I mentally chastised myself, stopping in the parking lot as I did. That’s Travis talking. So, you got nervous and said something you shouldn’t have, so what, people do it all the time. Plus, it was to Dillon, someone who’s known you your entire life. Give yourself a break.
I took a deep breath, literally shook it off, by wiggling my shoulders, then my arms and finally my feet, and proceeded to my car.
Once inside, I pulled out my phone, double checked that I’d input the date and time Carol had given me correctly, and promised myself that next time I met with Dillon, I’d be poised and professional.
And I wouldn’t mention my past sexual partners. Not that there were a ton. Four or five, maybe … no,six!
I’d forgotten about Ricky Jefferson at The Stagger Inn during college. Ugh, that was a night to forget.
I drove down Main Street on my way back to my apartment, waving at old Mrs. Dingle, who was sitting on a bench by the pond, feeding the ducks. I smiled as I took in the colorful awnings that lined the streets. I’d missed my town while I was in Houston, I just hadn’t realized how much until I’d come back home.
I’d originally left to go to school after graduation, but then I met Travis and went with him to Houston. Unfortunately, it took me too long to realize I was in a toxic relationship, and then even longer to get out of it.
Travis hadn’t wanted to let me go, but eventually, I found my strength again. I also rediscovered the Laurel who’d been hiding deep inside, beaten back by my boyfriend’s verbal assaults, and knew I had no choice but to leave.
The way I’d been living hadn’t been living at all. I’d become a shadow of the girl I used to be and I was still fighting my way back into the light.
Sadly, any hope I’d had of my parents being there to build me back up again was quickly eradicated when they’d called me foolish for leaving the man who’d been taking care of me. A man who’d proposed and I’d turned down. Rather than stay with them, as I’d initially expected, I’d walked right back out the door and gone to Jasmine.
My best friend had welcomed me home with open arms and given me a place to crash while I got back on my feet.
Well, I wasn’t quite on my feet, but I’d recently moved into my own apartment, which I loved, and was working toward getting the business of my dreams up and running. With Dillon’s help, I just knew the bank would give me the loan I needed, and Party with Laurel would be more than just a doodle in my notebook, it would be a reality.
My phone rang as I pulled into my parking spot, and I answered it as I got out of the car.
“Hey, Jazz,” I said after seeing her name on the screen.
“How’d it go with Dillon? Was he a big butt as usual, or did he actually help?” My best friend asked, always ready to rib her twin even if he wasn’t around.
“He was fine,” I stated, then proceeded to tell her what we’d discussed. Well, everything except the part where I’d brought up my sex life. “So, I’ll go back next week and hopefully leave with a plan on paper.”
“Good, see, I told you he’d be happy to help. Sometimes Dillon needs a little nudge. So we still on to go to the bar tonight?”
Crap, I’d totally forgot. All I really wanted to do was go upstairs and veg out.
“Um, I don’t know,” I started, but Jasmine cut me off.
“Don’t even think about bailing on me, Laurel. I’ve been out of town for weeks and I’m only home for a few days before I have to go again. I need bestie time.”
Jasmine always knew what to say to get me to do what she wanted, she always had. I’d gotten in more trouble because of Jasmine’s pranks than I could remember, and she was the biggest reason that Dillon had always thought I was a huge pain in the ass.
“Okay, fine, but just for a while … and, no shots … and, you’re buying dinner.”
“No. Maybe. And, no problem,” was Jasmine’s reply.
“I’m serious, Jazz, I don’t want to do shots,” I said as I walked up my stairs and put the key in my lock. “Last time you had me dancing on tabletops and kissing the bartender. I’m putting my foot down this time.”
“We’ll see,” Jasmine said with a laugh, then added, “See you at seven,” and hung up.
With a sigh, I shut the door behind me and put my things on the table by the door. I took in my pretty blue couch with floral pillows that I’d lovingly picked out, and the dark-gray rug Jasmine had given me as a housewarming present.
My living room was currently my favorite part of my apartment, probably because it was the only room that was furnished.
My bed was currently an air mattress, and my dresser was made out of cardboard. I wasn’t living quite the way I’d thought I’d be at twenty-eight, but at least I was back on the right track.
“Hi, Princess, did you miss me?” I cooed to my tabby cat, who was meowing at me as she sauntered in from the bedroom.
I picked her up and snuggled her close, much to her dismay, then went to feed her, which is what she really wanted. Travis had always told me I couldn’t have a cat, because I could barely take care of myself, so there was no way I’d ever be able to care for another living thing.
As I put Princess down on the counter and filled her dish, I mentally gave Travis the finger.
You’re looking tired, Dillon,” my Aunt Annabeth said when I walked up to the bar.
My cousin Gabe’s parents ran the local bar and grill. The theme was half biker bar, half sports bar, and it was one of my favorite spots in the world. Great food, free drinks, and the best company in the world.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I retorted, shooting my aunt a grin as she slid a dark beer my way.
“Your cousins are over there,” she said, lifting her chin toward the large booth in the corner, by the pool tables.
“Thanks, did they already order?”
“Yeah, what are you having?”
“I’ll take the Philly, extra cheese.”
“You got it.”
“You’re the best,” I told my aunt as I picked up my beer and took a drink.
“Mmmmhmmm,” she muttered, then took off toward the kitchen.
“Look who the cat dragged in,” Gabe said when he caught sight of me, standing to clap me on the back. “Didn’t know if you’d made it back today or not
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