Say You Love Me

By: Heather B. Moore
Clara Benson is not looking for a relationship, especially not after losing her teaching position, followed by a disastrous breakup with her fiancé, and the sudden death of the grandma who raised her. In fact, Clara picks up and moves to escape her mess of memories. She hopes Pine Valley will be the perfect place to heal from heartache.

When she meets her boss’s lawyer, Dawson Harris, Clara can’t deny her attraction. Yet she’s determined to choose herself, and her healing, over a guy who might be charming, attractive, and oh, so appealing. Easy, right? But when Dawson becomes the one person who can straighten out her mess, she realizes that finding herself doesn’t have to mean losing Dawson.

“Now . . . let’s move into downward dog,” the yoga instructor said, and Clara Benson stretched into position.

Clara had been taking the yoga class at the Pine Valley Recreation Center for three months now, yet she was not any more flexible than she had been when she’d started. But she could feel her core strength returning, and over all, her stress was becoming manageable. The dim lighting of the yoga room, the soft music, and the calm voice of the instructor probably had a lot to do with the stress relief as well. Five minutes into the class, and Clara could feel the weight on her shoulders slide off her like a warm shower. She would never admit to her boss, Jeff Finch, how hard it had been running the office mostly on her own while he dealt with a lawsuit and some personal problems.

Jeff Finch was an up-and-coming real estate agent in Pine Valley, and Clara was more than grateful he’d hired her six months ago even though her only qualification was being willing to try something new.

Pine Valley had been a new start for Clara. Seven months ago, her life had been in shambles. A failed engagement, her grandma’s death, and losing her job teaching kindergarten at a charter school because the school had been under investigation—and all of it happening in the same week. After her grandmother’s funeral, Clara had packed her things, turned the house over to a local realtor, and spoken the words into her phone: “I need to get away.”

Pine Valley had popped up as a suggestion.

Clara had opened it in her Maps app and started driving. After three hours of driving the California freeways, she had turned into the community of Pine Valley. Two days later, she’d been hired by Jeff Finch, town realtor.

Even though Clara missed a lot of things about home, she knew she could never return. The memories of the grandma who raised her were too painful, not to mention the colossal breakup with Max. And although Clara was a certified elementary school teacher, she wasn’t up to going back to the classroom and putting a smile on her face every day in front of young children. They saw through fake instantly.

But sitting behind a desk and talking on the phone with realtor clients? Clara could fake a cheerful tone all day.

Here, in the yoga room, she didn’t have to put on a happy face in the dim room. She could close her eyes, listen to her body, focus on breathing, and empty her mind of her past.

Here . . . she could recreate a new Clara. A Clara who could rebuild her life and start over.

The soft click of the door was audible over the low music, but Clara didn’t open her eyes. Someone had come late to class. Unusual, because Leslie, their instructor, was adamant that no one come in late. If you were late, you had to wait until the next session since Leslie didn’t want the ambiance disturbed.

Although Clara’s eyes were closed, she felt the presence of whomever had entered, felt the hesitation and possible confusion. The woman must be looking for a spot. There was room right behind Clara, but if the woman was new, it would be harder to follow Leslie’s lead from the back of the room.

And then Clara heard the other women around her shifting their mats. She opened her eyes to see that the woman to her right had broken her pose to move her mat closer to Clara to make room for the new arrival.

Instantly Clara was annoyed. Although she closed her eyes during most of her poses, she didn’t want to be too close to anyone else. She didn’t want to hear someone else breathing or moving. It cut into her concentration.

Then, Clara caught sight of the new arrival—a man—who was setting a mat on the floor kitty corner to her.

Even in the dim light, she could see that the man looked like he worked out plenty. He wore gym shorts, and his sculpted form showed through his fitted T-shirt.

He moved easily into the next yoga position Leslie called out. In fact, he was absolutely lithe, which only made Clara self-conscious about her own awkwardness.

Two men were regulars in the class that was otherwise made up of women. But their average builds and average looks had never drawn the attention this newcomer did. All of the women kept glancing over at him, trying to be discreet in their curiosity. The new arrival had caught everyone’s attention.

Including Clara’s.

She hid a sigh of frustration. The last thing she needed in her yoga class—her one place of solace—was someone distracting her.

If Leslie had been bothered by the interruption, she hadn’t shown it. In fact, now that Clara focused on the instructor, it seemed that Leslie was smiling just a little.

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