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Her Accidental Boyfriend

By´╝ÜRobin Bielman

Chapter One

Not once had her birthday wish over the past eight years come true, but that didn’t stop Kagan Owens from wishing it again. You can be whatever you want to be, her mom had told her, and she wished that to be true more than anything else.

She tucked her hands under her thighs and reveled in the glow from the twenty-six candles covering the white chocolate cake sitting on her round dining room table. Twenty-six on the twenty-sixth. Her Golden Birthday. That meant this was her lucky year, didn’t it?

“…Happy birthday, dear Kagan. Happy birthday to you. And many moooorrre.”

Kagan blinked and looked over at her best friend. Charlotte flashed one of her million-dollar smiles and added, “Make a wish, Jelly Belly.”

The endearment helped wipe away the gnawing in her stomach. This wish, this time, in this place—this was it. She took in a deep breath, shut her eyes, and wished for independence and clarity as she blew out her candles.

What she wanted to be loomed just outside that part of her brain that held all the answers, but without the constant instruction and intrusion from her father, she knew she was closer than she’d ever been before.

“Open your present,” Charlotte said, her voice full of excitement.

Kagan watched her nudge closer the rectangle box wrapped in opalescent pink paper with a big white bow. A mischievous smile spread across Charlotte’s face.

“You did not need to get me a present. Flying here from New York was enough. The best gift ever.” Kagan reached over and squeezed Charlotte’s hand. She swallowed down the silly emotion in the back of her throat that suggested this move across the country had been the biggest mistake of her life.

Cascade, the charming small town in Oregon, with its miles of soft sand and inviting surf, mountains that beckoned to get lost in, and people right out of a Hallmark channel movie, was the perfect place for her to go unnoticed. And for a little while at least, that’s what she’d needed. She missed Charlotte, missed the quick pace of New York, missed her favorite pizza place. But time away had been vital to her well-being.

Charlotte squeezed back. “Talking on the phone these past four months hasn’t been enough. I needed to see you.”

“Thank you. And thanks for being so stealthy about it.” Kagan pulled her arm back. “I’m sorry it had to be that way.”

“Are you kidding? I love this secret stuff. Getting to be evasive about our contact and your whereabouts with your dad is sort of fun. It reminds me of high school and all the fibbing we did to get away from our parents.”

A dull, uneasy ache flared to life in the pit of her stomach when she thought about her dad. Leaving without a word had been necessary, but that didn’t make her actions any more innocent.

“Hey,” Charlotte said, leaning over and bumping her shoulder. “Don’t worry about your dad. He’s fine. He’s pissed, but it’s his own fault you ran away. Do not beat yourself up about this. What he wanted from you is inexcusable.”

“I know. But every once in a while—”

“You miss him. I know. And you feel bad. I know that too. But you were miserable, Kay, and if you’d stayed you would have been beyond unhappy with his demand that you marry Brett.”

Kagan flinched at her best friend’s so-true words. She leaned back and let her eyes wander around her rented townhouse. She loved the dark hardwood floors, her twill walnut colored sofa with big seams and down-blend-wrapped cushions, the big starfish rug, and the glass cabinet filled with her mom’s collection of Roseville pottery. She loved her pedestal dining table and upholstered chairs.

Every decoration had been her decision and not an interior designer’s hired by her father. For the first time in her life, she’d been allowed to pick what she wanted and the experience had fueled her desire to keep things that way. When she went back to New York, she would keep them that way.

Her gaze landed on the framed photo sitting on the small fireplace mantle. She and her mom were dressed for a black tie affair with their arms wrapped around each other and huge grins on their almost identical faces. Kagan remembered it like it was yesterday even though it was eleven years ago. It was the last picture taken of the two of them.

One minute her mom was there, and the next she wasn’t.

“Now open your present so you can really get your happy on,” Charlotte said, breaking into her thoughts.

Kagan narrowed her eyes. What had Charlotte done? She tore the wrapping paper and lifted the lid off the box.

“Oh my God. You did not.”

“I sure as heck did, Jelly Belly, and I expect a review.”

They burst out laughing. Kagan lifted the slim pink adult toy that hooked left—or right depending on how you looked at it—and the giggles kept coming. “How long is this thing?” she asked when the shaking in her shoulders subsided.