Nora Roberts Land

By: Ava Miles

Chapter 1

Meredith Hale scanned the bookstore window. There it was—the new Nora Roberts book—the cover a bold, powerful landscape of sky and water.

Her superhero alter ego, Divorcée Woman, couldn’t override the rash of goosebumps on Meredith’s arms or her knotted stomach. Meredith patted the red lace La Perla bustier hidden under her black suit jacket and took one hesitant step closer to the glass, her breath hitching as she scanned Nora’s prominent display. She imagined Divorcée Woman telling her to suck it up. It was only a bookstore after all. It wasn’t like she had to take a bullet for the president or anything.

She’d gone cold turkey on Nora’s books a year ago, when her ex-husband, Rick-the-Dick, threw Black Hills at the wall, snarling that her favorite author had given her an unrealistic view of love. “Our marital problems are her fault,” he said. “She’s made you believe in happily ever after—something any adult knows is a myth. Grow up.” Then he packed his custom-tailored suits and slammed out the door of their swanky Manhattan apartment.

At first she’d thought maybe he was right. But she missed Nora’s books. And not reading them hadn't made the whole divorce thing any easier on her. It hadn't made the panic attacks go away.

She wanted her Nora Roberts back, dammit. It was time to reclaim her life.

Unfortunately, just looking at the cover had her hovering on the edge of a panic attack. Her hands grew clammy. She wiped them on her black suit and dug into her matching purse for her cell phone. Her sister would be able to talk her into going into the store. After all, Jill could talk anyone into anything.

“Hey, Mere,” Jill greeted, the ever-present sound of her favorite band, Abba, in the background. Jill wanted to live life like a dancing queen.

“Hey,” she said, making sure to sound calmer than she was. “How’s business at the coffee shop?”

“Well, after a regional dairy salesman tried to talk me into changing my store’s name from Don’t Soy With Me to Don’t Milk Me, I’m about ready to bash my head against the espresso machine. He was so dense. I tried to explain it’s a play on words, but he just blinked like one of those dairy cows and went, ‘Oh.’”

Meredith’s panic slowly eased. Jill and her stories were always a comfort. “Being in New York, I don’t run into too many milk salesmen. Does he wear a special outfit?”

“No, thank God. Speaking of milk, did you get my present?”

Ducking closer to the store window so she wouldn’t be mowed down by a rush of pedestrians, Meredith said, “You mean the coffee mug with the line, ‘You’re My Udder One’?”

“Yes. I tried to appease the milk guy by telling him I’d put those mugs out for display, but he wouldn’t leave. He even offered to teach me how to milk a cow. I think he was hitting on me.”

As Meredith muffled her laughter, a passing banker gave her a disapproving stare. His shoes, belt, and briefcase matched—the Wall Street uniform. “And I thought my love life was pathetic.”

“What love life?”

“Funny. Speaking of which, I’m outside a bookstore. I woke up this morning and decided I want to read.”

“Oh, honey, I didn’t know you were illiterate.”

“Hah.” She eyed the rush of people heading in and out of the bookstore on 82nd and Broadway.

“Okay, take a deep yoga breath. Jeez, Mere, you sound like Great Aunt Helen when she put down her oxygen to steal a swig of Grandpa’s scotch at Christmas.”

“Right. Breathe.” Was her vision blurring? “I’m taking a step.”

“Oh, baby, I wish mom and I were there to see it.”

Her sister’s wicked humor cut through the fogginess in her head. Meredith wasn’t sure she was in her body anymore, but it moved when she walked. Her hand managed to open the door. She walked in on legs wobbling like an untangled yoyo.

“Are you inside yet?”

She squeezed into a book aisle as people cruised by. “Yes.”

“Welcome back to the land of the reading.”

Was there anything more comforting? “Thank you. I’m standing by the thriller and suspense section. Makes me think of Grandpa. He’s convinced there’s some sort of conspiracy going on at the university. I’m researching the college drug trade for him on the side. Maybe I should buy him a John Grisham book instead.”

“I know! He keeps pumping me for information about the parties I’ve gone to. I told him people drink too much and puke. End of story.”

“Tell that to his infernal journalism gut.” Not that she could point fingers. Hale DNA had given her one too.

Top Books