She ran away from the town that wouldn’t forget, to a city that doesn’t forgive, right into the arms of the guy who insists she set things right.
Less than a year ago, Hayley Jones made a scandalous decision that sent her packing. She left her country hometown, moved to the city and made a new life for herself. But it’s hard being someone else when the real you has some unfinished business.
Hayley knows taking care of the unresolved piece of her past could stir up more trouble and humiliation, so she dodges the truth and puts her energy into her new friends and job. That strategy works for a short while but people from her past start showing up in her present.
Life gets even more complicated when she realizes she’s falling for Nick Noel, a guy who knows she’s running from something, and continually challenges her to be herself. But Hayley is afraid of what will happen if Nick finds out who she really is and what she did back home.
Hayley, the main character in my book of the month, Unfinished Business, has abandoned her country lifestyle and moved to Detroit, Michigan. She’s glad to be away from the things of her childhood–tractors, parades filled with goats and small town politicians, and neighbors who think high school football games are the best place to be on a Friday night. Sure, living in the city the best way to catch the latest trends, hear the best bands and eat sushi but what Hayley doesn’t realize is that city folks don’t know everything. There are a couple things city girls can learn from their country sisters.
How to kiss a guy with a beard without getting a ‘tash rash, for starters.
Everyone knows the trend of guys having beards–long, short, full, trimmed, totally wild, you name it–came from the country. County dudes have been wearing beards for forever. Don’t believe me? Try watching any movie or television show set in the country. Then compare what you see on the screen to what you see on the city streets. Nuf said, ‘cause there’s your proof. So, it makes sense that country girls have the 411 on dealing with this itchy situation.
Here’s what you do:
Coat your face with lotion before for the smooching starts.
Sound unromantic? No worries. Embrace some hipster irony and use the country cure-all for skin irritations–Bag Balm. Yep. Bag Balm. The stuff that comes in the cute green and red square tin. Yep, with the clovers and cow head on top. Don’t have any on hand? No worries. Just go ask a dairy farmer for some. He’ll have it on hand because what Bag Balm is actually for is treating cow udders after milking. Bonus to rubbing it all over your face before you start locking lips? If you have any stitches the Bag Balm will loosen them up so you can pull them out yourself. Later, of course. There are many other very practical uses for this awesome ointment but you’re getting the idea.
Thinking rubbing your face with cow udder cream all sounds a bit too country? Prefer something more citified?
How about soy milk? Soak a washcloth in soy milk then hold it to your skin for five minutes. Then apply some aloe. Then hydrocortisone cream. Do that a couple times a day. ‘Cause you have time for that and it’ll make you smell nice and not ruin your makeup at all.
Okay. So maybe you don’t want to layer your face with oily ointment and you don’t have time to lay around with a soy-milk soaked washcloth on your face a couple times a day. Here’s another thing to try: ask your guy to grow his beard longer. Long, like Santa’s. Because kissing Santa would be so hot. If your guy is worried about looking like posing hipster or actual bumpkin with his long, Santa beard, suggest you both move out to the country where things such as men with long scraggly beards are commonplace.
No, you won’t be able to get any good sushi but on the bright side your guy, with his new rugged, rowdy beard, will fit right in. And if he decides to trim it later, Bag Balm will be easier to find and coating your face with it before kissing won’t seem odd or awful at all.
Maybe, after all this, it’s a bit easy to understand why a small town woman would pack up, move to the city, and do everything she can to keep the truth of her past hidden. Hayley is embarrassed by her country skills and steadfast, make-do values. But it’s these same skills and values that make her who she is and give her the gumption to face challenges and make the changes in her life that help her get over her past. And, thank goodness, by the end of the story even Hayley sees the humor in these such country and city contrasts.
If my so-called boss, Caroline, has a last name, I don’t know what it is. Everyone at North Pointe Farms Apartments simply calls her Caroline, as if that says it all. I could think of a couple of words to add to her name but what would be the point? I know I can’t stand her, she knows I can’t stand her—she must?—and neither of us cares. So every time the phone rings, and it’s a call for her, I only write Caroline across the top of the message. If the call is for Bob Hastings, the old dude who takes care of security, I write Mr. Hastings. If it’s for Tony, the macho guy who fixes stuff, I write Tony Cattalioni.
What does this have to do with anything? Not much, except it gives me something to think about while I’m sitting at the desk that’s been my home away from home since I gave up on college. Friday afternoon around three I’m sitting there, thinking about how much I despise Caroline, when my phone hums.
It’s Josie. “It’s a good thing you didn’t want to be a partner because I just finished recording this one guy.” She moans obnoxiously. “You’ve got to see this. Tonight.”
I don’t like the way she put emphasis on this. And I don’t like the way she’s in such a hurry. What’s the rush?
She doesn’t give me a chance to say anything.
“Want me to come by at eight or nine?”
Behind her voice is the high-pitched chatter of women getting their hair done. Being a hook-up queen is not Josie’s real thing, she’s actually a hairstylist—that’s how we know Scotty but that’s a whole story in itself.
“Ummm,” I stall. I need an escape route. Something to keep me from the clutches of the self-proclaimed dating guru. “What about Riana? Maybe she’s got to see that.”
I feel powerful and creative and maybe a bit bad for throwing my friend into the net but because she’s been saving my ass for a while now, I come back with, “Yeah. Riana.”
A sigh comes out of the telephone. “I don’t think Peter would appreciate your attitude. Besides, this guy is not for her.”
With that settled, I let curiosity have its way with me. “What does he look like?”
“Oh, no. I’m not telling you a thing. Eight or nine?”
Not willing to let Josie call all the shots, I negotiate. “Eight-thirty—and I’m calling Riana—as back up.”
“Oh please. What about Nick? You going to call him too?”
If I invite him, Josie will give me a hard time about lying to myself about us just being friends and me using him as my crutch. Whatever that means. “No, I’m not going to call him.”
Place the thyme sprig in the palm of your hand and slap it to release its oils.
Twist it and place in the bottom of a 10-ounce highball or Old Fashioned glass.
Fill with ice and set aside.
In a shaker, muddle the blueberries and lemon. (If blueberries are out of season, use 2 tsp of high-quality blueberry preserves instead. Adjust the amount of agave nectar depending on the sweetness of the preserves.).
Add the vodka, the agave nectar and ice, and shake vigorously for 10 to 20 seconds.
Strain into the prepared glass.
Slap a sprig of thyme in your hand and use as garnish.
Betty’s struggle to break free from her mother’s influence and control continues with her interactions with The Farm, a cult that purchases the estate after The Sisters of Quiet Mercy is forced to close.