Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. There are the justifications she gives to everyone else—missing her family, losing her college scholarship. And then there’s the reason Lauren can’t admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend’s older brother.
Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He can’t pinpoint exactly what’s missing until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her. But he’s the guy that women love and leave—not the one who makes them think of forever.
Though she’s terrified of opening up, Lauren’s ready to take that chance. Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with.
Mom was asleep, so I checked my email. I had the usual spam, plus notes from all my former roomies, which made me happy. I missed all of them, even Max, though things were unspeakably awkward between us at the end. I opened Nadia’s first:
LB! You know I miss you like crazy, right? Courtney’s in your bed right now, and she has completely alphabetized my books. I’m pretty sure there will be a lending library program implemented the next time I get home from work. So how’s Nebraska? Did you find a job yet? Have you started applying to any schools? I have like ten more questions but you’ll get grumpy if I dump them on you all at once. Hug and kiss my family for me, okay? Write back soon or I’m sending my brother to track you down.
She didn’t mention the hot single dad she’d broken up with right before I left. Mr. Hot Ginger had dumped Nadia for her own good, which would drive her quietly crazy. I’d felt horrible about the timing, but there was little I could do about it. I hadn’t gotten to know him well before I left, but Ty seemed like a good guy. He was only a few years older than us, but already had a four-year-old. That was the crux of the conflict.
Writing back, I didn’t quite nail the tone, talking about Rob too much and inventing interesting anecdotes because there was so little going on. I could’ve mentioned Krista, but Nadia had never been as close to her, and there was some tension by the time she moved. Mostly I didn’t want Nadia to worry; things would be fine once I got a job and had less time to fret about whether I’d made the right decision.
I opened Angus’s email next:
Hey, you. Got your check. It appears not to be rubber, but I said you didn’t have to pay me back. I hate you for leaving. Come back right now.I’ll wait. This is me, waiting. It’s been at least five minutes. You’re shattering my faith in humanity, Lauren. Take responsibility for it! Not sure what you’ve heard from Nadia, but she’s such a hot mess. I can’t believe you abandoned us. All the light has left my life. All of it! Okay, enough drama. I’m working on getting over Josh. Classes suck but I will survive. (You’re singing it now, aren’t you?)
“Damn you, Angus Starr. You know me too well.” I got up on my bed with a hairbrush and sang two verses before reading on.
In all seriousness, there is a Lauren-sized hole in my life. Please don’t lose touch. Write soon. Love and hugs, Angus.
It was simpler writing back to Angus; our friendship was sweet and uncomplicated. Briefly I considered deleting Max’s email without opening it, but that seemed like an asshole move. In the end, I read it, two lines only:
I’m sorry about everything. Take care of yourself.
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author and RITA winner with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. Ann likes books, emo music, action movies, and she writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens, published with Harlequin, Macmillan, and Penguin, among others.