Abington Press

Rival Hearts - Quilts of Love by Tara Randel

2015 Heart Of Excellence Readers Choice Finalist

They both want the promotion. But will they find out that it is worth the cost?

Molly Henderson and Ben Weaver have been rival magazine writers for the same publishing group for years. When both come up for the same promotion, they find themselves in an unexpected competition to win the spot. Molly, editor of Quilter’s Heart, and Ben, editor of Outdoor Adventures, must switch roles, each working for the other for one month, then submit an article at the end of their quests.

Can girly-girl Molly survive the outdoor adventures that Ben has planned? Can Ben navigate the perils of the social dynamics of quilting events without destroying a valuable quilt in one short month? More importantly, in this he-said, she-said situation, will Molly and Ben give in to their attraction and fall in love, no matter who wins?

"Randel's rich characterizations of Ben and Molly and the complexity of their relationship will keep readers' attention..." - Publisher's Weekly

Clear time on your calendar, because you won't want to put this book down. -- USA Today Bestselling author, Kathy Carmichael

Read an excerpt:

            Her fingers, still wet, slid over the fiberglass and she lost her grip. The kayak slipped out of her hold and slammed into wet dirt. Mud flew up to cover her legs, arms and the part of her face not covered by the helmet. She shook out her hands, flexed them to relive the cramps which had started with a vengeance after an hour of white-knuckling the paddle, and tried again. The next time she dragged the kayak to the grass.

            Thankful to be on solid ground and in one piece, she removed her helmet with a flourish, excited she’d had a disaster-free first lesson. She ran a hand through her damp, unruly hair and retrieved her glasses from her brother. As she headed toward the cabin to clean up, she stopped dead in her tracks. Ben stood at the top of the incline. Dressed in worn jeans and T-shirt, hands tucked into his back pockets, a big smile curved his lips.

            “How...what are you doing here,” she sputtered.

            For an hour, she hadn’t thought about him, the challenge or quilting. Her mind and body worked as one to keep her occupied. She hadn’t thought about her job, or the fact she liked Ben enough to worry about what would happen to their working relationship once the challenge ended. One of them would end up with the job. One might hold a grudge.

            Now it all came rushing back, as well as her feminine instinct to want to pull a bag over her head. Why did he have to show up when she looked like such a mess? Wet clothes covered by a soggy life vest. Splattered mud. Lovely.

            Wait. “How did you know I was here?”

            He jogged toward her with the answer. “Called your cell phone. Your brother answered.”

            She shot an exasperated glare at her brother. “My phone is in my purse, in the office.”

            “I went to get some water bottles.” He shrugged, his full smile not conveying any semblance of guilt. “Sis, your phone rang three times in a row. Thought there might be an emergency, so I looked. When I saw Ben’s name on the caller ID, figured it must be important. And it was. Ben needs to talk to you.”

            As if. More like he wanted to size up the competition. She frowned as she tried to gracefully remove the life vest. Her T-shirt rode up, giving Ben a glance at her stomach. She yanked the shirt down. No need to get even more personal than they already had.

            Dropping the vest to the ground, she smoothed her hair. Nothing could save the tangled mess. “Checking up on me?”

            “Kind of like you hovering over me at Nora’s house.”

            “I didn’t hover.”

            “No. You made sure I was in over my head.”

            True. “So we’re even?”

            He cocked his head as he took her in from head to toe. Shivers broke out over her sweltering skin. “Not by a long shot. I had a different reason for calling.”

            She forced herself to calm down as she waited for him to reveal the reason for his unexpected arrival. “Well?”

            “Clean up. Mr. Masterson called. He wants to see us both. We have about thirty minutes to get downtown.”

*     *     *     *

            Ben hid his grin. Miss Molly didn’t realize her cute factor when things weren’t going her way. Between her stomping across the grass, to the annoyed angle of her brows, she had a good head of steam going. If he could mess with her head with such ease, he’d have the challenge won in no time.

            “A meeting?” she asked as they walked toward the small office where she’d stowed her purse. “Today?”

            “Masterson has to go out of town so he requested a quick meeting with us. When he called me, he mentioned he couldn’t get a hold of you and asked me to try.”

            “I didn’t get a call.”

            Molly disappeared inside, leaving Ben standing outside with her brother. He held out his hand. “Ben Weaver.”

            “Paul Henderson.” They shook hands. “Does your boss usually call meetings on Saturday? Molly seems a bit rattled.”

            “Not normally.”

            “And keeping Molly guessing is working to your advantage?”

            “It’s not hurting.”

            Paul scowled. “Listen, she’s my little sister and I don’t want to see her dreams crushed, so lighten up.”

            Ben lifted his hand. “Hey, I’m not messing with her on purpose. It’s the boss’s call.”

            Paul’s lips formed a thin line. He needed more convincing Ben didn’t have a personal vendetta against his sister.

            “Look, I’m not out to hurt Molly, but I want the job just as much as she does. And for the record, I’d have picked a sport a little more suited for her strength, but I didn’t have a say.”

            Paul’s expression softened a small bit. “And just so you know, Molly’s taken to kayaking quite well. She’s not a quitter.”

            “So I’m finding out.”

            Surprise passed over Paul’s face, followed by approval of Ben’s appraisal of his sister. “Then be prepared, buddy.”

            Molly walked outside, purse strap over her shoulder, phone in one hand, a paper towel in the other as she distractedly wiped her face. “Three missed calls.” She frowned. “Two from the office. One from you.”

            “See, no nefarious reason for showing up here.”

            Her guileless blue eyes shone behind her glasses. “I still don’t know what Mr. Masterson would have to discuss with us.”

            “We now have about twenty minutes to find out.”

            She glanced down at her messy clothes. Panic crossed her sun-kissed face. “I can’t go dressed like I just spent the day on the lake. It’s not professional.”

            “I don’t think you have enough time to go home to shower and change. Sounds like Masterson is on a tight schedule.”

            “Great, just great,” she muttered under her breath as she dug in her purse for her car keys. “I’ll see you there,” she said as she stalked off.

            “Remind me again how you think you’re gonna win?” Paul asked as they watched his sister walk away.

            “It’s going to come down to who wants the job more.”

            Paul chuckled and held out his good hand for a farewell shake. “Good luck with that.”

            On the drive to the office, Ben wondered how Molly would handle the impromptu meeting with the boss in less than professional clothing. While he tended to push the envelope with his idea of casual work clothes, she always had a buttoned up professional look he’d come to think of as her armor. Unless she had an entire closet of clean professional clothes in her car, which he doubted, she couldn’t do much about the circumstances. She might be particular, but a car closet was way too much even for her.

            When he parked and met Molly, he got his answer. She hurried toward the parking garage elevator wrapped up in a trench coat, buttoned from chin to knees.

            “You’re a spy now?”

            “Ben, you’re in Florida, remember?” she snapped. “A smart person keeps a rain coat in the car, just in case. You never know when a stray shower will hit.”

            He glanced down. “Shoes too?”

            “I always keep an extra pair with me, for the same reason. I’ve gotten drenched in enough unexpected downpours to be prepared. You of all people should know you can’t run off on an adventure without the right equipment.”

            “Since when does a rain storm constitute an adventure?”

            “Have you been away so long you’ve forgotten what the weather is like here? Just wait. As soon as summer rolls around and you get soaked without the necessary rain protection, I’ll say I told you so.”

            He chuckled. He liked it when she told him off. Not many people did. Usually the people around him were trying to suck up in hopes he’d help advance their careers. Not Molly.  

            “Isn’t it hot in your coat?” he messed with her.

            “Hot or not, I’m not letting our employer see what’s underneath.”

            Ben chuckled. He hadn’t had this much fun in a long time.