High school sweethearts, Justin and Shelby, were destined to be together forever. But when Justin decided to give up a college scholarship to stay close to Shelby, his family stepped in, convincing Shelby she was holding him back from his life-long dream of playing Major League Baseball. She took her guilt and ran, and he never knew why.
Ten years later, they find themselves back in the small Texas town they grew up in. Shelby’s come home to run the bar she inherited from her dad and Justin is looking for a safe haven after a career ending injury. With years of buried hurt and regrets, and the secret of his family’s betrayal hanging between them, is Cupid’s arrow enough to help them reignite the passion of first love?
Cupid may have missed in the first round, but he’s willing to give this true love one last shot.
Shelby wiped her forehead and wove her way back to the bar. She’d imagined their first meeting a thousand times, but the strength of his presence still shocked her. When he’d wrapped his arm around her she’d all but come undone. The smell of his cologne lingered, clinging to her like his ghost. It must of have rubbed off on her t-shirt when they’d hugged and now she’d be smelling it all damn night. Of course, there were better ways to guarantee his scent would last all night. She told the voice in her head to shut the hell up and dove in to help the girls serve another round to the crowd. By the time they were done, she was spent. Thank God it was nearly closing time. She hadn’t been this tired since her first night slinging drinks a little over a year ago. Glancing across the room at the already thinning crowd, she couldn’t stop the dart of disappointment at not seeing Justin among them.
An hour later, with the bar cleaned and the registers balanced, Shelby hugged the girls good night and slid into the Mustang. Less than ten minutes and she was across town, pulling into her driveway. Spotlighted on the steps sat a familiar form. Her hand shook as she locked the Mustang and walked to the front door, keys fisted in her palm. Justin waited on the step, a six-pack of beer at his feet.
“I was hoping you’d let me buy you a drink,” he said, raising a bottle toward her. The porch light shimmered off the golden streaks in his hair. It was longer than she’d last seen on T.V., but it made him look younger again, like when they were in school together.
She swallowed the memory and said, “One drink.” She grabbed the bottle, twisted the cap off, and downed a third of it.
“You always did hold your liquor better than me.”
“Well I am a bar owner. It kinda comes with the territory.”
“I guess so. Look, I was real sorry to hear about your dad. I would have been here for the services, but we were playing a double-header in L.A. I wanted to do more, but…I didn’t know if it would be welcome.”
She didn’t know what to say to that so she took another pull on her beer, swallowing her rising guilt. Walking away back then was the right thing to do, for both of them. That’s what she kept telling herself anyway, even if her heart never did agree.
“Did I screw up? Did you realize you weren’t in love?”
Suddenly the label on her beer bottle became intensely interesting.
“Where’d you run off to, Shel? I came back from the All-Star Tournament and you were gone.”
He deserved the truth or some version of it, but the words got stuck in her throat. How do you tell someone you let their parents pay you to leave? He was going to give up a scholarship and a possible career because she was staying home for school. By walking away, he’d gotten his shot at the Majors and she’d gotten the education her dad couldn’t afford.
“I asked around,” he continued. “But even your dad wouldn’t tell me. I thought it’d be impossible to keep a secret from this town, but somehow you did it.”
“Bullshit.” She may have walked away, but he damn sure could have tried harder to find her.
“If you’d really wanted to know, you could have found out. You just didn’t ask the right people.” Her guilt only went so far. She turned her back, but he sure as hell hadn’t searched too far and that stung more than anything.
He looked like he wanted to argue, but his shoulders slumped and he said, “Maybe you’re right,” and took another swig from his bottle. “So what have you been doing all this time?”
She was glad for the change in topic; she didn’t have the energy to hang onto her anger tonight anyway. “I went to school, got a business degree, and worked in a high rise making money for someone else. And when things got bad here, I came home.”
“No friends? No travels? No lovers?”
“You wanna tell me about your lovers over the last decade?”
He chuckled. “Hell no.”
“Good, cause I don’t want to hear it.”
“Jealous?” That cocky grin of his twisted her insides and she was torn between climbing onto his lap or outright smacking him.
“You wish. An endless stream of plastic girls is not that exciting. I’d probably die of boredom right here on the steps.” She winked, but the laughter had drained from his face.
“It wasn’t like that, Shel. There were a lot of girls around, but you know me better than that.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” And she was. She’d always feared his memories of her had been washed away in a sea of peroxide and silicone.
“I guess I should go now.”
“I haven’t finished my drink yet.” She’d been scared and pissed when he’d waltzed into the bar earlier, but an ache deep inside didn’t want him to walk away just yet. Not now that they were alone.
“I don’t want to wake your husband,” he said, standing up. “I just wanted to see you without the audience.”
He pointed at the ring on her finger.
“Oh.” She smoothed her thumb across the gold band. “It’s my mom’s,” she said softly.
“Oh. I’m sorry, Shel. I just thought—”
He grabbed her left hand and ran the band between his finger and thumb. Her mind screamed at her to pull away, but her body wanted to pull him closer. His touch sent shock waves across her nerves and her lip tingled like she’d just had half of a bottle of tequila, not half of a bottle of beer. It was all she could do not to close the space between them, but she didn’t have to. One small tug and she was in his arms, his hand clutching her belt as his lips crashed into hers.
“Get a room!” someone yelled from a truck that flew down the road. They both chuckled and Shelby dropped her forehead to his chest.