Love in the Details by Britney M. Mills

Chapter 1

The tension in Kassidy McBride’s stomach had reached astronomical heights. She checked the clock on the wall across from her, the seconds ticking by as she tried to avoid looking at the door to her right. Her coworker, Tanya, had been in there nearly fifteen minutes already. Did that mean she was getting the promotion from bank teller to loan officer? Or was Trace Bentley, branch manager for the Coldwater Creek Bank and ex-boyfriend to Kassidy, merely letting her down easy?

Kassidy had been working toward that promotion for the last eight months, ever since she’d come back to the valley after a short four-month stint in LA. The fact that she’d had to work under her ex-boyfriend hadn’t been all peaches and roses, but she’d survived up until this point. She’d even managed to keep her mouth shut a time or two.

She entered her information in the browser and saw the balance in her bank account. If she got this promotion, she’d finally be able to afford a place of her own. Her family was amazing, but she could do with more space. At twenty-five, it was high time.

Her two oldest brothers had married within the last year, leaving her twin brothers and younger sister, Molly, all in the same house together, which didn’t exactly bring the independence she’d been searching for in LA. Then again, she was searching for some kind of direction to take her life. Ever since she’d decided to retire from barrel racing, she hadn’t been able to get a win in anything she did. The only bonus about that was the comfort of her own bed night after night instead of the constant travel to one rodeo after another.

Tanya Roberts walked out of the boss’s office, her expression smug as she stared at Kassidy.

The young blonde walked over to Elaina, the teller at the desk next to Kassidy’s, and said with a quick glance in Kassidy’s direction, “I got the promotion!”

Of course she had. Of all days to award a promotion, Black Friday was not a day Kassidy had expected. She was still wishing she was home, hoping her brothers didn’t eat all of the leftover turkey.

She blew out a breath, again focusing on the clock on the wall across from her. As much as Kassidy had hoped for that little pay increase and something different as far as work responsibilities, she should have known Trace would never bump her up to a position where he would have to work more closely with her. Breaking up with someone because she needed a change and then coming back months later, groveling for her old job back, didn’t shine a good light on her character.

Pulling out a stress ball stamped with the bank’s logo on the side, Kassidy focused on the screen, squeezing the ball in an attempt to avoid punching the girl in the face. Coldwater Creek was a small town, and the last thing she wanted was word to spread that she’d started a fight.

The fact that Tanya had only started working there five months ago dug at Kassidy’s jealous nature. She was used to winning, to pushing herself physically and mentally to take the prize at the end, knowing what to do to shave off a few seconds here and there to get the better time. But at the bank, it was really more of a chance of partiality, one she’d definitely lost.

Still squeezing the stress ball, she looked up as the bell above the door gave a jingle. A man walked in, his tall frame and expensive coat drawing her gaze. It was rare to find a good-looking guy who was taller than her but also a decent human being. Trace had failed at that last part after she’d needed a change in life, and he was determined not to let her forget it.

Her gaze traveled over the man’s strong jawline, noting a slight stubble there. But it was the turquoise color of his eyes that drew her attention. Maybe it was the fact that she didn’t recognize him that made him more attractive. The only unmarried men in this town weren’t grown-up enough to care about a future. Her eyes flicked to his left hand. No ring.

“I can help you here,” she said, forcing a smile on her face and breaking her gaze away.

Why did she check him out like that? She wasn’t hunting for marriage at the moment. Her life was too undecided and all over the place. But then again, her best friend, Lauren, had married Walker, her older brother. Ever since then, she’d been wishing there was someone else she could connect with enough to go do things together.

The man who walked up to the desk seemed more familiar now that he was closer. Not in the went-to-high-school-with-him kind of way, which was possible in the small town of Coldwater Creek. He was either just passing through or here for a quick business trip because the suit of choice in Coldwater Creek was a pair of blue jeans and a flannel button-up.

He opened his coat to pull out a pen, revealing a well-tailored navy-blue suit, and the watch he sported had to cost more than she made in a year as a teller. That was about the only thing she’d learned while in the big city: which name brands cost how much.

Pushing those thoughts away,she focused on the check he handed her.

“I need to deposit this check into the account on the back,” was all he said. It took a moment for her to register that he’d written the account number just under the signature on the back instead of filling out a deposit slip.

She nodded and said, “I can do that for you.” The half-smile he gave her triggered a memory from years ago, a guy her brother’s age who she’d had a crush on in the eighth grade. Dustin Wakefield.

She glanced away and stared at the name on the check, B&G Family Investments, LLC, she schooled her face when she saw the amount written on the bottom of it. Five hundred thousand dollars. She’d never seen a number that high in her years working there, but there was a first for everything.

“I just need to get my manager to sign off on this amount, and I’ll get that taken care of for you.”

Turning in her chair, Kassidy glanced over at him, his turquoise gaze causing her insides to flip. At the same time, her chunky heel caught on the metal rod at the bottom of the seat. Her hands kept her from face planting into her desk. She flushed and hurried over to the door to the manager’s office without a backward glance. No need to see what a klutz she was written all over his face.

She knocked and opened the door then shut it behind her, facing her boss.

“What is it, Kassidy?” he asked, not looking up from his paperwork. The fact that he just assumed it was her caused bile to rise in her throat. He just needed to accept the fact that she was over his dramatics and move on.

“I have this—”

“I didn’t promote you to loan officer because you have too many customer complaints, Kassidy. How are we supposed to give you more responsibility when people don’t want to work with you anyway?” Trace glanced up, a hint of a smile on his face.

Nothing like a snarky comment to slice right through her.

“I actually came in to ask about signing off on this check, but it’s good to know where you stand on my place at this bank.” Her mind whirred with all her thoughts converging into one. “If there are no possibilities for me to progress in this company, then I’m done. Consider this my two-week notice.”

She slapped the check down, allowing him to sign it.

He didn’t even flinch when he saw the amount on the check. “Don’t worry about two weeks. I’ll get your final check ready now.” No emotion, nothing that said he was sorry to see her go. If anything, that spurred her on even more. What a jerk! The fact that she’d ever had feelings for this guy made her skin crawl.

“If you’re still harboring anger because I broke up with you last Christmas, why wait until now to talk about it?” Kassidy folded her arms across her chest, waiting for his response.

He shrugged. “You left. And now you’re leaving the bank.” Giving her a fake smile, he said, “We wish you well on your future endeavors.” The smile dropped, and he glanced back down at the phone, dialing. When Rebecca picked up, he said, “I’m going to need a final check for Kassidy. She just quit.” Trace gave her a quick hand wave out of the office.

Grabbing the check from his desk, Kassidy dropped it in front of Elaine and said, “Looks like you’ll be helping this customer.” She made sure to say it loud enough that the man heard. His eyes were curious before taking the two steps to the left.

Kassidy stormed into the back room and grabbed an empty box. Normally, she might have cared who was witnessing this scene, but with all that had happened today, adding a little flair to her exit wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Once back at her desk, she started throwing her little trinkets into the box. She pulled the pictures off the short wall separating the fake cubicles where the tellers sat, placing them on top so they wouldn’t be damaged.

Trace still hadn’t come out with a check, so she sat in her chair, deleting off anything personal and logging out of her accounts on the computer.

“Tough day?” a deep voice asked, turning her attention to Dustin. The rich timbre of his voice confirmed that it was the heir to the Wakefield Mansion. Her fourteen-year-old self would have been doing flips that he was actually talking to her. Her twenty-five-year-old self was doing everything she could to keep her emotions from falling apart.

“Tough year,” she said dryly. The more she thought about it, the more it rang true. She’d stopped racing after the NFR last year and had been so excited for Walker and Lauren and Easton and Natalie to settle into their lives as married couples. She’d thought her chance for that would come soon enough, like she was next in line. But it seemed she just kept getting passed up time and time again, in love and in her career.

“Don’t worry. It’s not the end of the road.” Dustin flashed her that half-smile again as a small measure of comfort warmed her.

Elaine finished up his transaction, and Kassidy saw him glance back at her before walking out the doors. Was that pity in his eyes? She didn’t need pity, just applause at finally realizing the dead end her life had come to.

How had she let herself think that working at a bank was what she’d always wanted to do? A sense of relief that she was finally done there began mixing with the panic of how she would make money. There were only so many jobs in Coldwater Creek, and while she knew just about everything about horses and the rodeo, not many people offered to pay for that kind of stuff.

Her mind turned to the party she’d planned for Natalie’s baby shower tomorrow. Party planning would be the ultimate dream come true, but who would be willing to pay for them and how far in between would the work be? Patty McCall had retired from event planning last year because she claimed there wasn’t enough work to sustain her. She’d taken a job at the Wakefield Fabrication plant just up the road and looked like she was enjoying life more than when she ran her own business.

“Here is your final check. Thank you for the years you’ve been with us, and I wish you good luck.” Trace’s voice sounded like a robot, and Kassidy had heard those words before, said to the last loan officer who’d left for another branch.

“Why are you acting like I’m leaving town?” she said, lifting her box and walking to the door. “It’s a small town. It’s not like we’re never going to see each other again.”

She stormed out of there, finally able to breathe again. She’d have to take her final check and the rest of her money to the other bank in town. Setting foot into this one to make transactions would only score her pity or arrogance, and she didn’t need either.

Loading the box into her old Jeep, she glanced at the peeling paint and the numerous rock chips in the windshield. It would be a while before she’d be able to upgrade now. Where was she going, and why wasn’t there some big billboard to signal what she was supposed to do with her life?