So Bad It Must Be Good

Gallagher & Ivy Book Two

[Kayla Gallagher & Liam Patrick]

 
Wrong guy. Wrong situation. Might be right.

Free of her overbearing family and their dreams, not hers, Kayla Gallagher is living for herself instead of for her clan’s successful restaurant. Step One: finally make her move on Aiden Patrick, the bad-boy son of Gallagher’s long-time repairman. Too bad Aidan’s taciturn older brother shows up instead . . .

As the “responsible Patrick,” Liam has always made a conscious choice to do the right thing. He likes fixing things for people—whether it be a broken appliance or a bad situation. Which means he can’t just brush off the quiet Gallagher. Clearly, she needs a shoulder to lean on. But suddenly a shoulder becomes so much more, and Kayla isn’t the quiet little girl she used to be. She’s a vivid, down-for-anything woman showing Liam several sizzling ways to put passion first . . .

As things heat up between them, Liam’s family threatens to come apart for good. The only way Liam can set things right means giving up Kayla. But she’s not about to take no for an answer—or let their chance for something sweeter than desire crash-and burn without a fight.

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Excerpt

Chapter One

Kayla Gallagher stood at the entrance to the brand-new Gallagher & Ivy Farmers’ Market with a sharp pang in her chest.

Her baby. Her brainchild. Exactly as she’d planned before her father had gotten his hands on the idea and warped it into something else, but somehow, even after Gallagher’s hadn’t acquired the land her father had said they needed for this, it existed in Gallagher’s small back parking lot.

Every Wednesday afternoon. April through October. A selection of local vendors, all food and crafts grown or made within sixty miles of where they now stood. Opening day, a bustling crowd in the cool April afternoon.

And she had nothing to do with it.

For good reason. You are making a stand.

Except she’d been making a stand for six months now, leaving her position as sustainability manager at Gallagher’s Tap Room—her family’s pride and joy—and keeping her somewhat toxic family at a distance, and all she felt was empty, lost, and alone.

“Holy shit, Kayla Gallagher, is that you?”

Kayla startled at the deep male voice, trying to place it, trying to hide so no one could see her getting teary over what was no longer hers.

“I’d recognize that red hair anywhere,” the man continued, clearly not noticing or caring that she’d tried to escape.

So she had to turn, she had to smile, she had to pretend. Isn’t that the Gallagher way?

Her heart did an odd flip and drop as a handsome man grinned at her. As though he knew her, but she couldn’t . . . Wait. Something about the tiny almost unnoticeable scar at the corner of his mouth, the flashing brown eyes, the familiarity of the mischief in them.

“Aiden Patrick?”

The grin widened, flashing those perfect white teeth. Funny how the jitters from being a young teenager could reappear when she was twenty-seven years old.

“You look exactly the same, Carrot,” he said, giving her hair a friendly tug, as if they’d seen each other yesterday instead of something like ten years. Maybe more.

Aiden’s father had been the handyman to her family’s restaurant for as long as she could remember, and when Mr. Patrick’s boys had been old enough, he’d started to bring them with him to assist him.

Because Kayla had spent much of her childhood haunting the corners of Gallagher’s Tap Room, she’d always been around when they had. She’d had a crush on Aiden for almost the entirety of her teen years, but Aiden had stopped coming with his father something like a decade ago while his older brother, Liam, had stayed on.

“I . . . Well, this is a surprise,” Kayla managed, trying to calm her jangling nerves, trying to remind herself she wasn’t a little girl mooning after a hot guy anymore.

“Come on, Liam’s around here somewhere. You’ve got to say hi.”

“Oh. No, I—” She couldn’t go into the farmer’s market; she couldn’t be seen. Not by anyone with the last name Gallagher if she could help it.

But just like when they were teens and Aiden was supposed to be helping his dad fix something at Gallagher’s, Aiden didn’t pay any mind. Aiden marched to the beat of his own drum, and Kayla had always been so infatuated by him if for that alone.

The grin, the fact he’d looked at her and her infinitely more confident cousin, Dinah, with at least the same amount of teenage flirtation, had always had her trailing after him like a puppy.

She was trying to change her life—herself—but she was becoming increasingly aware that some things didn’t change.

“Our boy’s got himself a little side business when he’s not helping Dad out with the old ball and chain. Though you’re a part of your old ball and chain, aren’t you? You’ve probably seen each other.”

“Oh, well—”

“Here we are! Liam! Look who I found.”

Kayla would have stayed hidden behind Aiden, but he didn’t let her, giving her a nudge toward a booth inside the market. The table was filled with little wooden figures and knickknacks, and Kayla found herself smiling against her will at a tiny grinning bear.

“Hello, Ms. Gallagher.”

She could remember every moment she’d spent in the company of Liam Patrick because he always used that cool, professional tone with her. He always looked at her somewhat blankly with shocking blue eyes, and she always got so tongue-tied around him she couldn’t speak.

Her body reacted to Liam, unfavorably. She felt all short of breath and nervous and ungainly. While she’d never been a particularly smooth or confident person, only Liam had ever made her feel wrong.

Her family could make her feel small, invisible, unimportant. Her friends could make her feel like a lonely robot who wasn’t allowed to have problems of her own. Aiden could make her feel like a fluttering, giggling schoolgirl.

But only Liam Patrick had ever made her feel like she was in the wrong spot, at the wrong time and it was her own fault.

She did not care for him at all. But she smiled. “Hi, Liam. I didn’t realize you were . . .” Artistic, for starters. Buying booth space at Gallagher’s newest venture either.

“It’s a hobby,” he said flatly, those ice-blue eyes such a contrast to the thick black hair on his head and the scruff on his face. He should have been handsome, but he was so severe.

Aiden smiled, and Aiden flirted, and Liam always stared at her as if she were someone to avoid like the plague.

And insisted on calling her Ms. Gallagher when he couldn’t.

“You know, I’d prefer it if you call me Kayla,” she said, surprising both men, and herself for that matter. But she was taking a stand, and if six months in she still felt lost and alone, well, she needed to do something about it, not expect the world to change to suit her.

Liam said nothing to that. Aiden grinned. Yes, some things did not change with time, but she would. She was trying.

“I’ve got to get going. I’ve got an appointment, but give me your phone number, Carrot. We’ve got years to catch up on.” Aiden pulled his phone out of his pocket.

This all felt so surreal. Being in the market she’d designed, but now had no part of, running into her teenage crush, Liam’s usual unnerving and steady stare, but Kayla rattled off her phone number and plastered a smile on her face.

“I’ll call you,” Aiden said, leaning in and brushing an overly familiar kiss across her cheek.

Kayla could only stare after him as he strode away, heat infusing her cheeks, an odd discomfort settling in her chest.

She wasn’t sure how long she stared after him before Liam cleared his throat. She was sure she was already blushing. God knew what terrible shade of red she’d turn now. She swallowed and turned to face Liam.

His expression was still blank and unreadable, and in a way that was nice. If he was being judgmental or making fun of her, he was doing it all on the inside.

She glanced down at the table again, all manner of beautiful things carved into wood. Figurines, spoons, and bowls, even rolling pins. It was a veritable treasure trove, but she kept looking back at the smiling bear.

She closed her hand over it, because it was better than looking at Liam and all his stern blankness. “I’d like to buy it,” she said with a little nod, lifting her gaze to his.

His dark eyebrows drew together, forming a deep line across his forehead. “Why?”

She blinked. “It’s cute. It made me smile.”

“It’s a child’s toy.”

This time she outright frowned at him, and though her instinct was to smooth it away and smile politely, she pushed that instinct down and kept up the frown. “Do you do this to all your customers? I don’t think you’ll have much success.”

His scowl tightened, and she’d never understand why this happened between them. Tension and discomfort and a weird prickling across her skin that she’d never felt with anyone else.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like him; though maybe he didn’t like her. She didn’t know why he’d have reason not to, but maybe some people didn’t need reasons.

“Ten dollars,” he finally said gruffly.

Eesh. It wasn’t much, but she was on a tight budget. She’d only been taking little temporary jobs since she’d left Gallagher’s, living mostly off her savings, and it was dwindling . . . hard.

But for some reason she could not back down to Liam Patrick and his It’s a child’s toy jerk face. So she scrounged around in her purse for ten bucks.

Ten. For a child’s toy.

“I also accept Visa.”

Again, Kayla’s first instinct was to smooth her own irritation away before it showed, and it was so frustrating that she couldn’t wipe that part of herself out. That she always tried to act like she was fine when she was so far from it.

She swallowed at the tightness in her throat, because maybe she was just never going to be fine.

“Look, you don’t have to—”

Mortified that he’d clearly not only realized she was upset, but misconstrued the reason, Kayla thrust her credit card at him.

“I—”

“I want a receipt,” she countered, not allowing him to take back the price or the sale. She thrust the card at him again and he took it with a sigh.

He grumbled something, but she didn’t catch it, and honestly that was probably for the best. He ran the card through the attachment on his phone before handing it back to her.

“I can wrap it for you,” he said, nodding toward the figurine she’d grabbed.

She closed her fingers tighter around the bear. “No, this will be fine.” Maybe it could be something of a talisman. Because if things didn’t change soon . . .

She glanced back at the brick building of Gallagher’s Tap Room that loomed behind her. She couldn’t go back.

So she had to move forward.

“Goodbye, Liam.”

“I thought you wanted a receipt.”

She shook her head, stepping away from his table, away from Gallagher’s. “No, I’m fine.” She would be. She would be.