My Beautiful Neighbor (The Greene Family #1) by Piper Rayne

“Sure, I’ll just jump over the casket, interrupting the entire service, and say, ‘Hey, sorry about your mom, but her store? How much do you want for it?’” I whisper to my stepbrother, Jed.

“I meant after the service is done. I’m not a complete asshole.”

I cock my eyebrow, and he snickers. My dad turns around and gives us his classic glare. The one that says, “shut the hell up.” We both shove our hands in the pockets of our slacks and bow our heads.

Once the prayer is over, the preacher says, “Amen.”

Everyone stands straighter, and low whispers from the population of Sunrise Bay sound on the light breeze, all directed to Clara Harrison over the loss of her mother.

Jed and I walk down the hill from the cemetery together because Clara decided to hold her mother’s wake at our brewery for some reason, which means we have to get over there to open it and make sure everything is ready to go.

“I’m simply suggesting you ask a question,” he says, climbing into his truck.

“Then you do it,” I say.

“Why would I ask when she’s your brother’s best friend?”

“Don’t forget, she’s your stepbrother’s best friend.”

Jed always uses the whole “your brother” or “your sister” thing when he doesn’t want to do something. I don’t see him saying he’s not his brother when he uses the fact that Xavier is a pro football player to try to pick up women. And I didn’t see him decline the tickets to watch a game from a box suite when Xavier offered them.

“You’ve known her your entire life,” he argues, then pulls away from the curb.

“Which makes it all that much more insensitive.” He is not going to win this argument.

We wave to the rest of our family coming down the hill to reach their vehicles. Xavier’s arm is wound tightly around Clara’s shoulders. I feel her pain. Hell, my gaze lingers as we pass my mother’s burial plot, and I get that stabbing sensation in my heart like I do every time I see it—even if it has been eighteen years. The healing process can be long and difficult, but she’ll get through it like I did at the age of twelve.

“You realize that Chuck on the other side wants to expand as well. We have to use any advantage we have.”

Jed’s not wrong. It’s one of the reasons why our partnership in Truth or Dare Brewery has worked. In business, Jed thinks long-term while I think short term. I plan fun trivia nights and I’m concerned about the customers we have now enjoying themselves, while his goal is for our beer to be in every grocery store and bar in the nation. It works for us.

I know he’s right, that I need to get to Clara first. I don’t think she’ll want to do anything with her mom’s old sewing store next door to our brewery, but who can say for sure? I have to persuade her to sell us the space so we can knock down the wall and expand the brewery. And I will talk to her—just not on Jed’s timeline.

But Jed also isn’t a Sunrise Bay lifer, so maybe that’s why we see things differently. Sure, he’s been here since he was seventeen when his mom fell in love with my dad, blending our two families together, but then we went off to college. Jed forgets that Sunrise Bay is a small Alaskan town that takes care of their own. If I approach Clara today, gossip will spread that I’m an insensitive asshole. And it’d be right.

“I know. Don’t worry, I’ll talk to her, but not today,” I say.

“I don’t see the problem with a question like ‘are you into sewing?’ I mean, what do we know about Clara, other than she wants to nail Xavier?”

I scrunch my eyebrows. “They’re best friends. Platonic best friends.”

He laughs. “You’re insane if you really think that. She knows his stats better than he does. She makes you organize those nights at the brewery for him every time he plays. She paints his number on both of her cheeks. She wants him.”

“I don’t know. I never got that impression that she liked him in that way.”

Jed shakes his head, pulling into the back lot of the brewery. “This is why you need to get out there.”

I climb out of his truck, shedding my suit jacket immediately. It’s early spring, so it’s still a bit chilly, but I’d rather deal with the cold than the confines of wearing a suit. “Out where?”

“Out in the dating world.”

Unlike Jed, I rarely go outside of Sunrise Bay. When we graduated from college and got the loan to start the brewery, I put everything I had into it, wanting it to be a success. I had girlfriends in college, but I always knew I was coming back here to my hometown of Sunrise Bay, Alaska. I didn’t want to live anywhere else, and not every woman wants to live in a small town this far north. That’s not to say I’m celibate either, but my family doesn’t need to know all my business, even though they think they do.