If You Kiss me (Sugar Maple #5) - Ciara Knight

Chapter One

The green buds on the trees out in front of Jacqueline Raynor’s small boutique in the heart of Sugar Maple took her back to spring in New York City. The place where she’d had a taste of living her dream. A dream she planned to return to as soon as she figured out how.

She ripped her gaze from the goings-on outside, paused at the mirror to fluff the side bow at her petite waist, and eyed her own knock-off of a Jona Silaki design.

How long had it been since she’d created an original? Okay, she’d worked on Mrs. Strickland’s dress for her wedding, but it wasn’t an original exactly. Mrs. Strickland had showed her pictures of exactly what she wanted, and Jackie had pieced it together. It didn’t even garner any attention when Knox filmed the wedding as part of his coffee whisperer segment about Felicia.

She returned to her open laptop at the counter. The image of the capri pants and the sleeveless top in a pale blue gingham were close to Jacqueline’s outfit but in green to show off her auburn hair and the waist set a little higher for a retro look.

Photos of fashion week cluttered the small screen with pops of color, mixed patterns, and windswept hair. It was an event that had once ruled Jackie’s everything. Front-row seating, exclusive parties and after parties, and after, after parties where she’d socialize with Wes Graden, Fernando Vici, and her favorite of all, Jona Silaki, not to mention the hundreds of other world-renowned designers. Everyone knew who Jacqueline was only two years ago, and they all wanted what she had to offer.

It hadn’t been an easy life but a fast-paced, luxurious one that filled her with energy. Twice a year, she’d attend fashion week in New York, and then she’d fly to London, and then to Paris, even sometimes to Miami. In the end, she’d return prouder of her own designs, knowing that the best boutiques and shops around the world would fight over them. Well, they were her designs but with her ex-husband’s label—Langford.

Everyone wanted her designs, even if they’d believed they were David’s.

Until they didn’t.

The front door opened, inviting a breeze to sweep through her shop, bringing the smell of fresh flowers, the sound of birds, and the unwelcome intrusion of one of her best friends turned enemy turned frenemy. She slammed the laptop shut before Carissa Donahue decided to overanalyze her researching fashion week. Despite Jackie’s fall from fame—thanks to her ex-husband—she was still a designer. An underappreciated one in Sugar Maple, Tennessee, but still she was good.

So she’d thought.

“Hi. How’s your morning going?” Carissa held a white bag from her Sugar and Soul Bakery and an undoubtedly perfect cup of coffee from their other friend, Mary-Beth Richards, who owned Maple Grounds. The last of their Fabulous Five high school turned grown-up friends to dive into the murky pool of commitment. Sure, Tanner McCadden was a small-town hero morphed into a football coach and farmer, so he was perfect for her, but why did all her friends have to get caught into the net of happily-ever-after-for-now? If they only knew what love brought later.

“I’m great.” Jackie forced a welcoming smile, despite her wanting to be left alone to deal with her pathetic post-fashion-week life.

“Jackie, please. I know you better than that. You were probably looking at fashion week news, crying over the fact you weren’t there. You could’ve gone, you know.”

The idiocy of her words would take too much energy for Jackie to explain. How would Carissa ever understand being cast out of fashion society, only to return as a farm hound with fleas—unwanted and festering with failure. “My name’s Jacqueline.”

“Sure. So, Jackie. I brought you a new gluten-free, sugar-free tartlet that I thought you might like, and Mary-Beth sent you a non-fat, soy, something, something.” Carissa plopped them both onto the counter and waited expectantly.

“You don’t need to bring me sweets I won’t even eat.” Jackie had learned a long time ago that no real woman in New York City admitted to eating.

“Well, it’s here if you want it.”

Jackie tapped her sage-colored nails against the glass countertop. “Why are you being so nice to me? What do you want? You still hate me for stealing your fiancé back in high school.” The words felt like acid on her lips. Her biggest mistake—no, sin—in life that haunted her daily. At the time, she’d convinced herself that she was saving Carissa from an unhappy ending and giving