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?
The girls stayed until four in the morning, and they only left because, according to our neighbors, we were making too much noise, which was true. We made chocolate popcorn, watched a tearjerker movie, and then sat on the back porch and talked—and laughed and yelled—for a long, long time.
“Thank goodness, Ryan told you about what happened,” Sophie said.
“Poor guy,” Rachel said. “He hasn’t been the same since you left.”
Slimy, thick guilt took over my heart. It hadn’t left me by Sunday evening or Monday morning, and it was because of that guilt that I called Mama in the afternoon and asked her to bake a special Devil’s Food cake. After work, I stopped by the house to retrieve it, and then drove back downtown.
I parked the truck behind the Mustang. As I expected, the garage was open and Ryan was leaning over the Harley in the same fashion he was a week ago. Damp hair, bare back, jeans, and boots.
I swallowed. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to come over after all. Before I could chicken out, Ryan turned around and saw me. His eyes widened at first, then narrowed into thin slits. He stood from his crouch as I opened the truck’s door and walked inside the garage.
“Hi,” I said, feeling incredibly lame.
“Hey.” He grabbed a towel from one of his toolboxes and wiped his hands.
“I-I brought you this.” I extended the cake toward him.
His eyebrows shot up. “Devil’s Food cake.”
“Yes. It used to be your favorite.”
“It still is.”
“Good.” Seeing as he wouldn’t take it from me, I stepped to the side, and left the cake on one of the worktables.
Ryan stared at me, his hazel eyes completely lost, and I returned the stare. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I wouldn’t back down. I would be here for him, even if he didn’t want me to.
I sat down on a stool next to his bike. “So, why haven’t you finished this one yet?”
He picked up the black shirt over one of the toolboxes, hiding his incredible physique, then crouched between the bike and me. “I did spend quite some time away.”
Damn, couldn’t I have touched a lighter subject? “Sorry,” I whispered.
Ignoring my apology, he continued, “Besides, I like working on it. If I finish too fast, I’ll have to find another one to play with.” My gaze shifted to the other bike, to his racing bike, destroyed against the wall. “I didn’t fix that one after the accident. It’s a good reminder of how stupid I can be.”
“Sorry,” I said again.
He shot me a hard stare. “Stop apologizing, Jessica.”
Co-founder and contributor at NA Alley (www.naalley.com)
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