Authors: Aliyah Burke
Tags: #contemporary, #interracial, #bwwm, #cottonwood falls series
Copyright © 2014 Aliyah Burke
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Editor: Jessica Bimberg
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For my readers, old and the new, I
hope you enjoy this journey to the small town of Cottonwood Falls.
Thank you so much for your support! DH, I love you. To the men and
women who protect our country,
so much for your sacrifices!!
Table of Contents
“Everything would be simpler, Mr. Glazer, if you
would just sell to me. I’m offering you well over market value to
buy out your clinic.” Toby Latner flicked a piece of imaginary lint
from charcoal gray slacks with an impatient jerk of his hand.
Reginald Glazer sat across from him, leaning back in
his wooden slot-back chair. The exhaustion in his eyes and embedded
in the lines of his face still didn’t detract from his
“For you, I’m sure. However, for me, it would not be
“The amount I am offering will take care of your
upcoming medical bills.”
Mr. Glazer—Dr., really—cleared his throat. “Is that
what you learned in ‘business-take-over’ school? To mention a
person’s medical bills? When I say no again, are you prepared to
inform me just how expensive chemo will specifically be?” He leaned
back, the rusty hinge squeaking loudly in the otherwise quiet,
tense room. “I know your parents raised you better.”
The reprimand fell as hard as rain, stinging with
the force of wind-driven sleet.
It was his turn to clear his throat. “This sale
benefits both parties, Dr. Glazer.”
“Mostly you.” He rocked forward, leaning strong
forearms upon the desktop. “You are offering me a sum of money
after which you make so much more because you will put in one of
those God-forsaken strip malls. This town doesn’t need that.
Doesn’t need a vet clinic run by some faceless corporation. I have
had the Cottonwood Falls Veterinary Hospital for over thirty years.
I treat these folks’ animals in this town.”
Toby knew he’d struck a nerve with the flash of
uncertainty in his eyes.
“I have plans.” Defiance laced Dr. Glazer’s tone,
his first sign of weakness.
Toby adjusted in the chair. “You have plans.” He
tugged on his suit coat sleeve. “Those words are indications of
potential failures. What I am offering is a solution.”
“Do you even remember growing up here? How this
little town was? You bringing in this strip mall—”
“It will bring in jobs.” Toby couldn’t believe Dr.
Glazer was still arguing this. Why didn’t he just agree to sign and
get on with it? Why the need to hash out whether or not Toby
recalled growing up here?
“It will bring crime. This is not the big city.”
Didn’t he know it. He steepled his fingers, shoving
memories of the past to the back of his mind. “Are you going to
allow me to help you?”
“No, he’s not, so feel free to take your shitty,
self-serving offer and yourself out of this office.”
The angry feminine voice pierced him like lasers. He
turned to face the newcomer, ignoring the look of silent reproach
from Dr. Glazer.
Holy shit. The good doc’s daughter stood there.
Melinda. Or so he believed. He raked his gaze over her from head to
toe, taking in everything from her red stilettos to her black,
lacy, body-hugging, barely there dress.
Toby pushed to his feet in a smooth motion. She
tracked his action with her diamond-hard glare. He offered his
“I’m Tobias Latner. I believe you are Ms. Glazer?
Melinda? You were two years behind me in school.” He bestowed his
most charming smile.
Her expression remained unmoved. “I know who you
you feel the need to address me, you may call me
Shit. He lowered his arm, the signs obvious she had
no intention of shaking his hand. “A veterinarian?”
Her grin made him wonder about going to stand naked
in Antarctica on a glacier during winter to get some warmth.
“I’m taking over my father’s business until he’s
ready to return.”
“Melinda,” her father said in a warning tone.
“Not about to be polite, Daddy, not to a man trying
to make a buck off someone else’s suffering.”
Toby looked between them. There would be no progress
made here tonight. “I will see you later then, Dr. Glazer.” He
peered at Melinda—Mellie, a name he liked much better. Sexy. “Dr.
Striding to the door, he had to turn sideways to get
by the Coke-bottle-figured woman. The scent of wisteria filled his
nose as he inched by the tempting curves. His body heated at the
contact—brief though it was—despite the chilly disdain in her
He exited the building and walked to his Audi where
he leaned on the side, hooking his ankles and crossing his arms.
The muggy night air blew over him, sending him into the interior of
his car. He pressed the ignition button and waited for the air to
cool his heated skin. Given the combination of the humid Georgia
weather and his visceral reaction to Mellie, he could use an icy
shower about now. Or some sex with her then the shower.
“She sure as hell didn’t look like that in school,”
he muttered to himself.
He would wait them out. They would need to sell. In
the meantime, he could begin with some of the other properties he
now owned. As he sat there, he watched Dr. Glazer—the elder—make
his way out to his waiting truck. Now, Toby could see the
exhaustion much clearer. Dr. Glazer looked…well,
His past interactions with the Glazers hadn’t been
all that much. He’d been prohibited from having any pet so he’d
never gone there.
Still, he did remember growing up here. The
difference was he had grown up with the times yet, from the looks
of things, Cottonwood Falls hadn’t stayed up with progression.
Towns all around were growing, and Cottonwood Falls, in his
opinion, would do well to get in on the ground floor of the
expansions he was proposing.
Putting his car in gear, Toby backed out of his spot
and drove away. He went through town, noticing the other changes.
It wasn’t a one-light town. It wasn’t less than a hundred people;
there were a good fifteen hundred there. But, for a man who’d spent
the past twelve years in New York City, this was Podunk.
It had grown a bit, but he saw people helping one
another, smiling, and waving.
Okay, so that doesn’t happen so
often in the city I make my home in.
Toby pulled into one of the few gas stations in
town. He parked and climbed out, needing a few bottles of Coke. He
strode to the building, loosening his tie along the way. Drawing
open the door, he gazed around at the narrow aisles, the drink
machines on the far wall, and the coolers in the back.
“Well, well. If it ain’t Toby Latner. Back from the
big city with all his fancy duds.”
The male voice tinged by laughter had him turning to
his right and finding three buddies from high school, all on the
basketball team with him.
He grinned. “Bobby Jenkins, Stuart Copeland, and
Randy Tourno. How the hell are you three?”
Bobby laughed and, removing his hat, raked his
fingers through dark locks. “Around here, we say ‘y’all’, not ‘you
three’ like any uppity pretentious Yankee.”
The men exchanged hugs before stepping out of the
way of the door. “Don’t insult me, Bobby. I’m Southern through to
They guffawed. “Sure, you are,” Stuart said. “Is
that why you’ve been here a week and haven’t even looked up the
rest of The A-Team?”
Toby had forgotten that’s what they went by in
school. “I’m sorry, guys. I was wrapped up in work. I would have
looked you up.”
“Sure, sure.” Randy’s remarks were spoken without
heat or rancor. “Come on out for a drink. Catch up.”
The trio followed him to grab the four bottles of
Coke he wanted. “Tonight?”
“We stay up past dark here; we don’t have to go in
just ‘cause the sun goes out. You see, we’s gots electricity down
He laughed. “Shut up, Stu.” He placed the drinks on
the counter. “Nothing more.” Toby put down a ten and waited for
change and the bagged items.
“Night, y’all,” the young cashier said.
“Night, Josie,” the trio said as one. Toby merely
nodded in thanks and trailed them outside.
“Whooee, this your fancy ride?” Stu asked, shooting
a stream of tobacco juice to the asphalt, hitting the faded yellow
“Yes,” he replied, unlocking it with a touch and
placing his bag on the passenger seat. “So, don’t go spittin’ on
“Can I touch it?” Randy whined in falsetto.
“Like I told you in the showers, no. You’ve got
dirty hillbilly finger grime.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, dragging out his words. “I
won’t use my fingers.” He grabbed his crotch.
Toby laughed again and slammed his car door. “So,
you’re laying naked on my Audi? That’s the only way it’s going to
touch my car. You forget, I’ve seen your dick; I ain’t
“Fuck you, man.”
“You boys causing problems?” The teasing question
came. Toby turned to find a police cruiser idling behind his car. A
blonde leaned out the window, a shit-eating grin on her face.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Vicki Boshay. Who the hell
gave you a badge?”
“Mind your tongue, Tobias,” she drawled. “I have no
problem slapping cuffs on you.”
He grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “Didn’t we do
that in school?”
A chorus of “ohhs” came.
“You know it,” she sassed. A call came over the
radio and, after she responded, she turned back to Toby. “Come see
me before you drive back to the fast life. Good to see you. And,
Tobs, glad you’re home.”
“I’ll find you,” he promised.
She headed off. Approaching from down the road
behind that drove a blue Nissan Pathfinder. He recognized the