Harlequin.com FREE Online Read: Home for the Fourth of July by Patricia Johns
Megan Davis has always wanted to leave her small Colorado hometown for life in the city. So when she finds herself back in Eagle’s Rest, brokenhearted, she tells herself it’s a temporary setback.
Determined to enjoy the Fourth of July weekend, Megan accepts Liam Scott’s invitation to his family’s holiday celebration at Blue Fish Lake. It doesn’t matter that Liam’s parents have been waging a decades-long matchmaking campaign—Megan and Liam are just friends. Megan’s life is in Denver, and Liam is committed to his job protecting Eagle’s Rest as a police officer.
But spending time with Liam reminds Megan of all she’s been missing—laughter, friendship and the natural beauty of Eagle’s Rest. Will Megan keep ignoring the deep emotions sparking between her and Liam, or is she finally ready to embrace a future that’s more than she could ever have imagined?
Officer Liam Scott turned off his lights and pulled his cruiser to a stop in front of Eagle’s Rest Hardware. The sidewalk was bathed in street light, the warm summer breeze carrying just a hint of chill, as it always did at this altitude, where the mountain peaks surrounding the town were snowcapped year-round. The glowing clock on his dashboard showed it was close to midnight, and Liam’s shift was just about over. Normally the night patrol in this Colorado town was relatively quiet, but someone was definitely inside the hardware store—the complainant had been right. It wouldn’t be the owner—he was out of town for a week for his daughter’s engagement, the store being run by his employees in his absence.
Liam radioed a quick request for backup, then dialed down the volume on his handset and got out of his patrol car. He put a hand on his gun and eased up to the front door. It was locked tight. A light was shining from the back room. There was another door at the rear of the store, so he headed around that way, his heart speeding up. When he got to the door, he tested the handle, and it opened.
The door didn’t look jimmied—an employee taking advantage of his boss’s absence, maybe?
Liam slowly pushed the door open. Standing with her back to him was a petite woman—long blond hair pulled into a messy bun, her hands on her hips and a pen behind her ear. She didn’t seem to have heard him come in.
This was no robbery. This was Megan Davis, the owner’s daughter. Except she was supposed to be in the city, not in the back room of her father’s store.
“Hey, there,” he said in a conversational tone.
Megan jumped and whirled around. “Oh…” Her hand went to her chest. “It’s you, Liam. Don’t do that to me!”
“What are you doing here?” He came inside, shutting the door behind him.
“Inventory for Dad,” she said, gesturing to a sheaf of papers on the desk next to her.
“Hold on.” Liam pulled out his radio and pushed the button. “False alarm for a 10-80 on Main Street. I’m on-site. Turns out, it’s a family member. No backup needed.”
“Backup?” Megan’s eyes widened. “What’s going on?”
“A neighbor called in suspicious activity. It’s almost midnight—and your dad isn’t in town.”
“Right.” Color tinted her cheeks. “Sorry…”
“What are you doing here?” Liam asked. “Last I heard, your boyfriend was proposing to you in the city, and your family was going out for the event. Don’t tell me you ducked out and missed it?”
Owen, Megan’s father, had suspected a proposal, at least. Megan’s boyfriend had invited them all out as a surprise for Megan. After four years of dating, that was the obvious assumption. The Fourth of July weekend would have been an ideal time to celebrate an engagement, at least. Liam had to admit, he’d felt the sting when Owen told him what they thought was going to happen.
Megan’s eyes welled with tears, and Liam sighed.
“Shoot. What happened, Meg?”
“There was no proposal,” she said. “I was expecting it, too. He’d planned that whole thing because he’d bought a puppy and wanted to ask me to move in with him.”
“The monster,” Liam said dryly. Did it make him a jerk to be glad she wasn’t marrying that guy? Probably.
Megan wiped an errant tear from her cheek. “Never mind.”
“No…” Liam dropped the nonchalance. “What happened? I mean, obviously, you’re pretty upset. It seems like a step forward in the relationship, at least.”
“It’s been four years,” she said. “While the puppy was cute, it was no diamond.”
That was the Megan he’d known for so long. She’d been his best friend’s little sister and the subject of his parents’ constant hints. Megan’s nice. You should ask her out! We aren’t getting any younger. Grandbabies would be nice… Something about having his mom constantly nudge him toward Megan had had the opposite effect. He’d known Megan for so long that he didn’t want to risk crossing that line with her. Besides, they’d wanted different things—and if he’d started something with her, that breakup wouldn’t have been an easy one to recover from. It was better not to start.
“So…are you two still together?” Liam asked. This detail mattered to him.
Megan shook her head. “He did this big promposal kind of thing where he gave me a key to his place, which I already had anyway, but it was supposed to represent moving in. And then in another gift bag was a dog leash and a picture of this little pug puppy. It all happened at a restaurant, so totally public.”
“And I know how much you love emotional scenes in public,” he said with a small smile.
“Someone should have told him!” Megan lifted her shoulders. “Everyone was staring at me, expecting me to burst into joyful tears or something, but all I could think was that this wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted…more. But this was where he was willing to meet me. I couldn’t do it.”
“What did you do?” Liam asked.
“He kept pressing for an answer. Everyone had their phones out, recording the whole thing, and I guess he wanted to be able to do the whole ‘She said yes!’ thing…except this wasn’t a proposal! It was…significantly less.”
“So you said no,” Liam concluded.
“I said no.” She met his gaze sadly. “We effectively broke up, and I left the restaurant. Dad followed me, gave me his keys to the house and store, and told me to come here and take a few days to myself. My parents were going to stay in the city since they haven’t had a weekend away together in ages…and I came here.”
“Ouch,” Liam muttered. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what Brian was thinking.”
“He wasn’t thinking about the future,” she said. “Not enough, anyways.”
“So what are you going to do, then?” he asked.
“Like I said, inventory.” She pulled out a flashlight and shone it into the storefront. “I’m just getting started. I figured I might as well make myself useful.”
“Your dad probably wanted you to be able to cry and eat ice cream or something,” Liam pointed out.
“I’ve done enough crying,” she said, then sighed. “This was coming for a while. Anyway, I figured it would be nice to be home for a little bit. I have a couple of weeks off work. My boss insisted I take some of my holiday time that’s been piling up.”
Liam cocked his head to one side, watching her. She’d always been strong, determined, resolute. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t be hurt, and he knew that under that reserve, her idiot boyfriend had broken her heart.
“You want help with inventory?” he asked.
“Aren’t you working?”
“My shift is over.” He glanced down at his watch. Midnight on the dot.
A smile touched her lips. “Sure. I could use the company.”
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