by Juliana Haygert
It’s been four years since twenty-year-old Jessica Hayes has been home, but when she discovers her father is dying, she must return to her hometown in South Carolina and face her past. Jessica thought patching up her relationship with her father would be her biggest challenge, but when she runs into Ryan Dawson—the catalyst of all her problems—she wonders if coming home was a mistake.
Ryan knows he screwed up. Hell, he paid the price…with interest. But when he runs into his best friend’s little sister, Jessica, he’s reminded that his debt will never truly be paid. He may have turned his life around, but he can’t undo the damage. So, he does what he should have done all those years ago. He stays away from Jessica, and all the other personal demons that still haunt him.
Jessica thought she wanted nothing to with Ryan, but something is different about him and she needs to know why. When she discovers the truth behind his change, she puts her troubles aside and tries to help him. But is putting her heart back in the line of fire worth disrupting her stable life back in Ohio, or will the past repeat itself, leaving her brokenhearted once again?
She stared at me with misty eyes. “I’m sorry … for what happened and for not being here for you.”
I took her hand in mine. “Jess, stop apologizing. It wasn’t your fault, and you didn’t know. Even if you knew, I wouldn’t have wanted you to see me that way.”
She squeezed my hand. “I’m glad you’re okay now.”
I wouldn’t say I was okay, but I was getting there. “Me too.”
The corner of her lips tugged up in a sad smile, and an urge to wrap my arms around her, pull her to me, and kiss her until she couldn’t breathe hit me. She was close, too close. Her gorgeous legs two inches from mine. All I had to do was tug her hand and catch her when she bumped into me. Fuck, I wanted it. I wanted her. Bad.
The desire took hold of me. I raised my free hand and brushed a strand of her hair behind her ear, letting my fingertips linger on her cheek. She took a sharp inhale and her eyes flickered to my mouth.
Fuck, that was all the incentive I needed. I leaned in.
And her cell phone rang.
Startled, Jessica stepped back and looked at her phone. Her brows furrowed, and she pressed the end button. Maybe it was her boyfriend, and she didn’t want to answer it in front of me.
Shit, she had a boyfriend. Why did I keep forgetting that?
Jessica picked up the cups from the counter. “I should take this to the girls.” Without another look at me, she rushed out to the backyard.
Fuck, what had I been thinking? I almost kissed her. I wanted to kiss her. She had a boyfriend. If he hadn’t called, I would have probably kissed her. What was wrong with me? Even if she was spending some time with me, she was unavailable and I would respect that. I would try to respect that.
Obviously, my feelings for her were still too strong, but I couldn’t go down that road again. It hurt too much. And, one way or another, I would end up hurting her. Because that was all I did. I messed up and hurt everyone who cared about me.
Grunting, I turned to the fridge, and instead of getting another Coke, I found a beer.
Co-founder and contributor at NA Alley (www.naalley.com)
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