Home > The Heartbreaker of Echo Pass

The Heartbreaker of Echo Pass
Author: Maisey Yates

 

CHAPTER ONE


   IRIS DANIELS WONDERED if there was a particular art to changing your life. If so, then she wanted to find it. If so, she needed to. Because she’d about had enough of her quiet, baking, knitting, underestimated existence.

   Not that she’d had enough of baking and knitting. She loved both things.

   Like she loved her family.

   But over the last couple of months she had been turning over a plan to reorder her life.

   It had all started when her younger sister, Rose, had tried to set her up with a man who was the human equivalent of a bowl of oatmeal.

   Iris didn’t like to be mean, but it was the truth.

   Iris, who had never gone on a date in her life, had been swept along in her younger sister’s matchmaking scheme. The only problem? Elliott hadn’t liked her at all.

   Elliott had liked Rose.

   And Iris didn’t know what bothered her more. That her sister had only been able to imagine her with a man when he was so singularly beige, or that Iris had allowed herself to get swept along with it in the first place.

   Not only get along with it, but get to the point where she had convinced herself that it was a good thing. That she should perhaps make a real effort to get this guy to like her because no one else ever had.

   That maybe Elliott, who liked to talk about water filtration like some people talked about sports, their children or once-in-a-lifetime vacations, was the grandest adventure she would ever go on.

   That she had somehow imagined that for her, dating a man who didn’t produce any sort of spark in her at all, simply because he was there, was adventure.

   That she had been almost eager to take any attention she could, the idea of belonging to someone, feeling special, was so intoxicating she had ignored reality, ignored so many things, to try and spin a web of lies to make herself feel better.

   That had been some kind of rock bottom. Truly terrifying.

   It was one thing to let yourself get swept away in a tide of years that passed without you noticing, as things around you changed and you were there, inevitably the same.

   It was quite another to be complicit in your own underwhelming life. To have willingly decided to be grateful for something she hadn’t even wanted.

   But as horrifying as that was, it was also what brought her down to the vacant shop where the Sugarplum Fairy bakery had once been.

   She had been turning over the idea of leasing the building for months now.

   And she had finally developed her plan enough that she was ready to dive right in. She had projections and products, had found out what permits she would need. She already had a food handler’s card. She had a whole business plan. The only thing she didn’t have was the building, and a business name.

   One thing at a time.

   There was a number posted on the sign on the window for a property management company. She took a deep breath, and dialed it.

   “Hi,” she said when the woman on the other end answered. “My name is Iris Daniels, and I’m interested in renting out the building at 322 Grape Street.”

   “Of course, Ms. Daniels. If you want, I can send over the information packet that I have here.”

   “I would like that.”

   A couple hours later, Iris was sitting at Sugar Cup Coffee House feeling morose. The email that the management company had sent to her was comprehensive, and included all of the information that Iris could’ve wanted. As well as the astronomical sum of money it would cost to rent the space.

   She did know that it would be expensive. Any place in this part of town was bound to be. It was just that Gold Valley was a tourist attraction, and the historic buildings in town got heavy foot traffic. So many people came from California, dreaming of a simpler life, and they brought California money with them. The kind of money that was rare for people in Gold Valley to have.

   In fact, she imagined the building itself was owned by a Californian and managed by a local company.

   She felt a sense of impotent regional rage. Californians and their lack of turn signals and deep pockets...

   She hadn’t had a dream in so long. The idea of giving up on this one was... It was crushing. Crushing in ways that she didn’t really want to think about.

   She closed the laptop, and stared into her coffee.

   Sugar Cup was the most adorable redbrick coffee place, with wide pastry cases overflowing with cookies, scones and cakes. The floor was all scarred barn wood, and from the ceiling hung a massive chandelier, all glittery and proud in the middle of the rustic flair.

   Iris couldn’t even enjoy it right now.

   “Hi.”

   She turned and saw her sister Rose standing at the counter with her now fiancé, Logan.

   Rose patted Logan on the shoulder, then scampered over to Iris’s table.

   “What are you doing here?”

   “It’s strange for you to be here,” Iris said.

   Logan and Rose worked full-time at Hope Springs Ranch, her family’s ranch. Iris still lived in the house. She was basically a rancher wife, without the benefit of the husband.

   She had spent years of her life taking care of her cousins and siblings. Cooking for them, cleaning. It was a full-time job even now.

   But it was a full-time job that didn’t have any pay, and didn’t have a lot of personal satisfaction at this point.

   Her brother was married now, and while Sammy had always been involved in the household to an extent, she now lived in the house. And was... Well, it was her house.

   It made Iris feel like there wasn’t as much to do. And like she didn’t really have the authority to do it.

   It was the same with her sister Pansy and her husband, West. They were firmly established at their own home, raising West’s younger brother. A family unit apart from the one the Danielses had spent years building after their parents had died when they were kids.

   And now that Rose and Logan were engaged, Rose had moved out of the main house too, and Iris just had...less and less to do.

   She and Logan no longer came to the farmhouse for every meal. Instead, they usually ate at their place.

   It seemed fitting that they were all settled first. Well, she couldn’t have imagined another way for it to go. She was a practical girl, and she tried not to give in to self-pity. Self-pity didn’t help anyone. But she’d always occupied a particular position in her family. She was steady and she was well-behaved, and she was...well, she was the one who had to shepherd them all into the safe, happy, finished places of their lives.

   Ryder had taken care of them, it was true. But the emotional well-being of her siblings, that she be a good example...all of that was an essential part of who she was.

   Of what her mother had needed her to be.

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