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Birdie has been alone most of her life. Even before her mother took off for Chicago, Birdie’s been in the one in charge of her household. She has her own small apartment and a decent job doing the books for her one friend, ol’ Mr. Higgins. She doesn’t need anything else—particularly not a man who steals her phone and then her tampons just because she can’t locate her grocery store loyalty card.
After his parents were killed in a freak car accident, Nick moves his grandmother to a small town in southern Illinois where he plans to grieve and plot a course of revenge. He doesn’t have any intentions of falling for the girl at the grocery store. He didn’t mean to steal her groceries but now that he has them, he’ll have to figure out a way to return them even if it means using her phone number he memorized inside the grocery store. Once he laid eyes on Birdie, he realized he can’t live without her love—and her loyalty.
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“Do you have a Shoppee loyalty card?” the bored clerk asks the girl in front of me.
“Helen, you know that I do. I’m here every week.” The girl digs through her purse, pulling out a giant wallet stuffed with God knows what, a keychain with three tiny dogs attached to it, a hairbrush and one of those doohickies that girls supposedly wear in their hair but I’ve only ever seen on their wrists, and a calculator. Who carries around calculators? “I can’t find it.”
“What’s the number?”
“Don’t you know?”
“I don’t got your number memorized, now do I, ‘cuz that’d be against the law,” the clerk snaps back.
“How is it against the law to memorize loyalty card numbers for the store you’re employed by?” she asks, shoving the stuff back into her purse.
I wish I knew what a loyalty card was because I’d give her mine so I could get out of this hellhole. I’ve got three other tasks on my list of normal people activities so I can prove to my gran that the old bat of a nurse can be shown the door. I’m all Gran needs.
“I don’t make the rules, girlie. Besides, it ain’t the Shoppee number. It’s your phone number.”
The girl’s head jerks up and she stares at the clerk. “All you need is my phone number? Why didn’t you say so?”
“I did. I said, what’s your Shoppee number and you just gave me some attitude about me not knowing what it is.”
This conversation is going nowhere. I tally the two bags of groceries the girl purchased and slide two one-hundred dollar bills across the conveyor belt. “Here. I’ll pay for it.”
The girl grabs the money and throws it in my face. As in actually crushes the two bills in her tiny fist and launches the paper at me. “I don’t need your money.” She rattles off seven digits, like she’s about to audition for a rap battle with Eminem, grabs the receipt and stomps off, leaving her two bags of groceries behind.
“I got it,” I say before the clerk can call for the girl’s attention. I drop the two damaged bills on top of the counter, throw my few items into a bag and then haul ass after the girl. My boots splash in a couple of puddles from the recent rain before I catch her in the middle of the parking lot. “Hey, you forgot these,” I tell her, holding up the groceries.
She flushes. “I was coming back for them,” she snaps but her face grows red with chagrin.
“I know. I saved you a trip.” My dad once said that there were three rules he lived his life by. First, think before speaking; second, never give up; and third, never argue with the people you love. Apparently he’d learned the hard way and had to chase Mom for a whole year before she agreed to marry him. “I’ll carry them to your car.”
“No. You won’t.” She lunges for the bags, which I swing out of her reach.
“It’s not a problem.”
“It will be if you don’t give me my groceries. Just give them to me and no one gets hurt.” She gets a determined look on her face and lowers into some weird kind of fighting crouch.
I’d scratch my head in confusion but my hands are full. “Are you worried I’m going to stalk you once I know your license plate number?”
She makes a face. “No. I hadn’t even thought of that, but now I am. Thanks for the heads-up about your creeptasticness.”
“Wanting to help you with your groceries is creeptastic?” Now is not the time to tell her that I memorized her phone number.
“You’re holding them hostage. That’s what’s creepy.”
“I mean…I can put them on the ground.” I start lowering them but she yelps out an objection.
“Wait! It’s wet.”
I straighten up. “I can’t help you carry them to the car but you don’t want me putting them on the ground. If I hand them over, our hands might touch and from the sounds of it, you may find that creepy.”
“I never said that.” She marches up and yanks the bags out of my hands. There’s a brief electric contact that makes her eyes flare. I hide a smirk by dipping my head down and pulling my few items out of the bag.
“Those are mine.” She grabs the box of tampons from my hand.
I raise my eyes to the heavens and implore my old man for some forgiveness. “Nah, I’m sorry, but those are mine.”
“They’re tampons. Tampons,” she repeats in case I missed it the first time.
“I know,” I reply placidly. I tuck the box under my arm and grab the four-pack of Red Bull and package of raspberries. “Gran likes to drink sweetened caffeine in the morning. I’ve tried to talk her out of it but she claims that old people deserve to eat whatever they want and if that means drinking Red Bull with raspberries and grenadine, then that’s what she’s drinking.“