Who’s afraid of the big, bad Wolfe?
Red Ridley knows he could have a happy life in Ever After, New York, waiting on tables at Mom and Pop’s, making numbers add up for clients, studying business at the junior college – and maybe, just maybe having the man of his dreams, Mark Woods, the young owner of the local garage. One problem. Red’s gorgeous. Amazing looking. Totally unique. And no one who sees him – especially his grandmother, who’s his biggest promoter — believes he won’t end up on the cover of a magazine. Gran’s dreams come true when famous New York agency owner, Brock Wolfe, shows up in Ever After and sets his sights on Red.
Red doesn’t want to leave Mark, but Gran has given everything to raise him, and the money he could make would give her a happy, easy life. Then, the news gets worse – Gran could lose her house — so Red breaks down and goes to New York where the Wolfe shows just how bad he can be. Faced with a fate worse than death, Red needs a hero or needs to be one. Is there any chance to live happily in Ever After?
Published April 16, 2020
Tara Lain Books
Excerpt from Better Red
“Will do. Bye.” He walked onto the porch of the restaurant, wrapped his jacket a little tighter against the spring chill, and headed across the parking lot and onto the sidewalks of the town for home. Gran didn’t much like him walking alone after 9:00 p.m. when Ever After pulled in the sidewalks, but they couldn’t afford to buy him a car, and taking a bus such a short distance seemed silly. Plus fresh air after hours of inhaling hot grease and cooking cow was always a relief.
He cut off Anderson Street where Mom and Pop’s was located and turned down Arden Street. Everybody knew it for all the trees decorated with small, dancing lights that stretched down it. It had a magical look. He and Gran lived at the far end of Arden.
At that moment, the street was long, dark except for the firefly lights, and very quiet. Red couldn’t help it. He whistled tunelessly between his teeth, just to have something to focus on except his own heartbeat.
Walking with purpose, he stared straight ahead—until something moved at the corner of his vision.
“What?” He should have been somewhere up in the tree branches, he’d jumped so high.
“Good evening, Red.” The voice was soft, kind of like wind in the trees.
He released his breath. “Hi, Mrs. Delphi.” He had to squint, but he could just make out the form of the lady on her wide porch tucked back in the deep shadows, slowly moving in her rocker. He smiled, since a lot of people in town thought she was off her rocker, but he liked her. She was part of what made Ever After such a special place—a place he didn’t want to leave.
“You’re walking home?”
“Yes, ma’am.” There was a pause. A gust of wind moved all the little lights above him and he shivered. “Uh, Mrs. Delphi, are you still there?”
“You be careful, okay?”
“Yes, ma’am. I will.” Jeez, how to make a guy nervous. More nervous. “Bye. Have a good night.”
Throwing his shoulders back, he strode forward with speed. Might as well get home fast. Whistling his tune, he covered one block, then two, then three, sucking in the crisp air.
Late spring. That meant summer was coming and then fall, and he’d have to make all those decisions he was putting off. He’d already sat across from a counselor at the JC and explained that he liked working in a small business. That was the closest he could get to saying he liked being a small-time guy who was happy. Of course, he wasn’t exactly happy yet and—
The soft crunch of tires was his first warning. The damned car didn’t even have lights on.
“There he is, all by his little lonesome. Doesn’t he make a pretty picture in the moonlight, boys?”
The sneering voice sent a rivulet of tremors up Red’s back, but he just waved a dismissive hand toward Phil, who leaned out the window of a beat-up Honda Civic. The thing had more rust than paint, but it also had three more guys in it.
Red kept walking, without trying to look like he was hurrying too much. Weird. Did Mrs. Delphi see them cruising? Is that why she warned me?
Nine blocks to home. He was a fast runner—even had a letter in track—but Phil had a car, three henchmen, and a whole hell of a lot of mean.
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