Make Me Stay (Hope #5) - Jaci Burton

Chapter 1

REID MCCORMACK STOOD in the middle of the main floor of the old mercantile in downtown Hope, his boots kicking around years’ worth of dust and debris. The ceiling was collapsing, the original wood floor had seen years of use, and some of the floorboards were worn down to holes. He’d already been to the second and third floor to check things out. The original staircase leading to the second floor should probably be condemned. Plumbing was shit, electrical was shot, and the list of crap items he ticked off in his head should be giving him nightmares.

But Reid had a vision of what this place could be—of what it once had been. As an architect, he built from new—he’d never done work on anything historical. He was an architect, but he was also a licensed contractor. He’d done renovation work here and there, but nothing of this scope.

As he studied the blueprints for the old mercantile he’d agreed to renovate, he still had no idea what he was doing back in his hometown, or why he’d agreed to this job.

It was a big project, and he had plenty of projects with his company in Boston. Shifting responsibilities over had been a giant pain in the ass, as was taking a leave of absence and putting his company—his baby—in the hands of his associates. He’d sweated blood and risked a hell of a lot of money to get his architectural firm up and running, and with numerous late nights and damn good work, he’d made a success of McCormack Architectural Designs.

The thought of not being in Boston overseeing the business sent a shot of nervousness straight to his gut. But, he’d had to admit, when he’d come back home for his brother Logan’s wedding in the spring and they’d taken a look at this old place, it had been childhood memories, plus the challenge of restoring the mercantile to its former glory, that had been too much to resist.

This was his chance to do something out of the ordinary.

He had ideas for the mercantile. A lot of them. And now that he and his brothers had bought the old building back from the town, it was their responsibility to do right by it.

He intended to do it justice.

And when the job was done he’d head back to Boston, where he belonged.

He heard a knock on the front door, dissipating the cloud of memories.

Figuring it was the general contractor he’d hired—or maybe his brothers, who were also supposed to meet him here today—he went to the door and pulled it open.

It wasn’t the contractor or his brothers. It was Samantha Reasor, the owner of the flower shop around the corner. Sam was the one who’d pushed hard for them to take on this project. Or rather, for him to take it on. She was as passionate about the mercantile as anyone in Hope.

Today she wore dark skinny jeans that showcased her slender frame. Her blond hair was pulled high on top of her head, and she had on a short-sleeved polo shirt that bore the name Reasor’s Flower Shop. And she had the prettiest damn smile he’d ever seen, with full lips painted a kissable shade of pink.

Not that he was thinking about kissing her or anything. He was back in Hope to work.

“Hi, Reid. I heard you were in town and getting ready to start the project. I couldn’t wait to get inside here again. I hope I’m not bothering you. If I am, I can take off.”

“Hey, Sam. You’re not a bother. Come on in. Though the place is still as dusty as it was when we did the walk-through in the spring. Are you sure you want to get dirty?”

She waved her hand as she stepped in. “I don’t mind. I’ve been snipping and arranging flower baskets all day for an event. There are probably leaves in my hair.”

As she walked by, he inhaled the fresh scent of—what was that? Freesia? Roses? Hell if he knew, since he didn’t know jack about flowers. He only knew that Sam smelled damn good. And there were no leaves in her hair.

She turned in a circle, surveying both up and down the main room. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

He laughed. “Right now it’s a dump.”

Her gaze settled on him. “Oh, come on. Surely you can see beyond the trash and the layers of dust to what it can be. Do you have ideas yet? I mean, of course you do, because you’re