Cricket Creek - 5
This book is dedicated to my beautiful granddaughter, Emilie.
May all of your dreams and wishes come true!
I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to the editorial staff at New American Library. I truly appreciate the time, effort and care that you put into getting a book on the shelf. I have loved all of my covers but this one in particular made my breath catch. Publishing is such a team effort and the attention given to detail shows in the finished product. Coming up with a story is just the beginning!
Once again, I want to give a very special thanks to my dear editor, Jesse Feldman. You’ve helped me find a blend of lighthearted humor and deeply felt emotion that brings this series to life. Working with you is a joy!
As always, I want to thank my wonderful agent, Jenny Bent. Having you with me every step of the way has been such a blessing.
Of course, a great big thank-you always goes out to my readers. My wish is to give you a story that brings a smile to your face and joy in your heart.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
“WHAT? GARRET, PLEASE TELL ME YOU’RE JOKING.” Addison put down her fork and stared across the table at her fiancé. “You want to do a reality show about our marriage? Really? Why?”
“Why not? My agent is working on a sweet deal. With my rock-star father and your finance-guru mother, we would have a built-in audience.” Garret gave Addison his megawatt smile, and when that didn’t sway her, he quickly followed up with the pretty-please pout that always worked.
Not this time. Addison shook her head. “I don’t want our life together to have an audience.”
“Addison . . .” Garret drew out her name and put his hand over hers. “Would you at least give it some thought?”
Addison tilted her head to the side. “Don’t you want to be known for something other than being Rick Ruleman’s son?” she asked gently.
Garret waited for the server to refill his water glass and then said, “Well, yeah, and this show would make us both famous in our own right.”
“So we would simply be famous for being famous,” Addison answered flatly. “That’s not really in our own right.”
“You know how hard I’ve tried to stay out of the public eye. And, seriously, you of all people know that it’s not easy being the child of a celebrity. Remember that my mother’s fame came much later in my life. I didn’t grow up being followed around by the paparazzi and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the idea. I’m not interested in having my life played out on the television screen.” Leaning forward, Addison gave Garret a pleading look that he didn’t even seem to notice, and her heart sank. “Garret, please don’t ask this of me.”
“You’d be so good in front of the camera. Addison, you’re so pretty and you have that, you know, sincere thing going on. And look how good your mom is in front of the camera.”
Addison gestured to her long jet-black hair and her chocolate brown eyes, all courtesy of her mother’s Native American heritage. “I look like my mom, so people expect me to have the same personality as Melinda Monroe and to enjoy the spotlight, but I don’t. Not one bit. I never told you this, but I was asked to be her sidekick on Melinda Knows Money. The producers wanted us to be a team.” Her mother’s show was hard-hitting and funny, and she helped viewers straighten out their financial messes. The difference between it and some other shows was that Addison’s mother wasn’t mean-spirited and she actually helped families improve their lives and get back on track. Melinda Monroe boosted self-esteem rather than exploiting people’s problems.
Garret’s jaw dropped and his mouth gaped open. “And you turned it down?”
“Of course I did.” Addison put a hand to her chest. “Because it’s not me. Garret, if you’re not true to yourself, you’re simply living a lie.”
“But you’re smart and have a business degree. You could have rocked it, Addison.”
“Thanks for saying so, but you know I’m more reserved, like my dad. That’s why I work at his art gallery.” Garret couldn’t be surprised that she wouldn’t want to be on TV, and the lack of compassion in his eyes hurt her to the core.
“Yeah, but don’t you see?” Garret smiled. “We’re the same way as your mom and dad! I’m outgoing and you keep me in check. That’s why we would be so damned entertaining. Addison, all you would have to be is your beautiful, wonderful self and rake in the money. Pretty easy, huh?”
“I don’t want to do a reality show.” She hoped her firm tone would set him straight and he would drop this nonsense.
“You won’t do this for me?” Garret gave her his very best puppy-dog look and then smiled oh so slowly. “Come on. What do you have to lose?”
“What’s left of my privacy, for starters.” Addison sighed. “But most of all, my dignity.” Her pointed look had him shifting in his chair. Addison felt a sense of dread.
“Well, would you just look at yourself way up there on your high horse?” Garret scooted closer and leaned forward. The puppy-dog expression vanished. “For someone who supposedly values her privacy, you sure do like dating celebrities. It was splashed all over the place when Aiden Anderson cheated on you with his costar and broke off your first engagement.”
“How lovely for you to bring that up.” Addison felt a hot flash of anger. “Aiden was the son of a family friend and I knew him most of my life . . . way before he became a famous actor. And I met you at a party at my parents’ house. I don’t go chasing after celebrities, Garret.”
She wanted to add that Garret wasn’t actually a celebrity, only the son of one, but she didn’t see the point in being mean, especially when Garret’s attempt at his own music career was a crushing failure. The critics had been harsh, and Garret had taken it hard. One of the reasons Addison fell for him was his vulnerable side, which most people never witnessed. She knew all too well that it wasn’t easy being the child of someone in the spotlight, and she thought it was part of their common bond. Apparently Garret had other aspirations that he had kept pretty well hidden until now. “That was a really nasty thing to say.”
He shrugged again. “It’s the circles we run in, Addison.”
“So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?”
“And make a shit ton of money at the same time.”
“But we talked about how it sucks to be followed around just because of who our parents are. The paparazzi are just waiting for us to do something stupid so they can take pictures. Garret, my breakup with Aiden was difficult enough without having it played out in the media. Most of what was reported was false, anyway. It really sucked.”
“Come on, Addison!” Garret pleaded, shoving his long bangs out of his eyes. He had an artfully messy haircut that required lots of product. “Why are you being so stubborn?” he asked tightly. When he glanced down at Addison’s engagement ring and sighed, she felt a jolt of alarm.
“Garret . . .” Addison leaned forward and continued softly so other diners wouldn’t hear. “Did you ask me to marry you because you wanted to do this show?”
“Of course not!” Garret sputtered hotly, but when he glanced down and started toying with the straw poking out of his drink, Addison wondered if she had guessed correctly.
“Really? Because that’s what this feels like.” Addison looked at him expectantly and waited for the profession of love that never came. Her heart sank. “Oh boy.” Addison closed her eyes and inhaled a sharp breath. She was torn between feeling sorry for him and tossing ice water in his handsome face. She glanced at her water glass and her fingers twitched. “Wow . . . I was right, wasn’t I? You might as well come clean.”
“No, baby, you’ve got it all wrong,” Garret insisted in that soulful, charming voice that had sucked her in from the first time they met. He followed it up with a wounded look.
Addison stared across the table at him. She searched his face and looked into his blue eyes, wanting so badly to believe him. But the lack of love she saw in his expression convinced her. Her heart sank. “No, I think I’ve got it totally right.”
Addison tossed her napkin on the table and then stood up.
“Where are you going?” Garret’s eyes widened as if he couldn’t believe how fast this was going south, and he actually followed her through the restaurant and out the door. Addison was so glad that she had driven to meet him for lunch, and hurried toward the parking lot while frantically fishing her keys out of her purse.
She kept on walking until she spotted her red Mustang convertible. The muscle car made her feel just a little bit badass, and she picked up her pace.
“Wait . . . please.” Garret’s gentle pleading tone caused a little spark of hope to blossom in her chest. Maybe he’d tell her that the show meant nothing and that she meant everything. That this was an insane idea and that he’d squash it.
Holding her breath, she slowly turned to face him.
“Would you at least sleep on it? We can revisit this tomorrow, after you’ve had the chance to think it over.”
Addison let out the held breath and her shoulders slumped. “There’s nothing to think about. I won’t do it, Garret. I’m sorry, but it’s just not in me to make a fool of myself in front of a big audience.”