Authors: J L Taft
When Brady comes home for her sister’s birthday, she’s not thrilled to see her smoking-hot high school crush, Darren. He humiliated her all those years ago and the wound still stings. Nevertheless, she can’t deny the heat of attraction between them now. Then he shocks and surprises her by apologizing for his long-ago stupidity. Then taking her back to his place. Then fulfilling every erotic desire she’s cooked up about him for the last decade.
Darren’s always had a thing for Brady, which is why he colluded with her sister to bring her back home. After treating her like a jerk in school, he was too chicken to approach her. Now they’re all grown up and there’s nothing to stop them. While the sex is the hottest either has ever had, they both want more. But with so much pain and distance between them, neither knows how to admit it.
contemporary erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave
She should never have come back here. It was frighteningly the same it had always been. But what really terrified Brady was that she felt the same way here as she always had. The same scared little girl who hid on the fringes and prayed no one noticed.
But she wasn’t that same little girl anymore. Brady tried to remember that as she looked around the little bar that was much longer than it was wide. Nothing had changed in the years she had been away. The same green vinyl covered the stools and booths. It even smelled the same, of stale beer and strong male cologne.
Her beautiful sister, the reason she had come back in the first place, was busy shaking it on the measly excuse for a dance floor. Why Melissa wanted Brady to come home in the first place was beyond Brady.
Yes, they were sisters and only a year and a month apart but they had never been close. Melissa was younger and had an annoyingly bubbling personality. They were as different as day and night and that was something else that hadn’t changed.
Lissa, as everyone called her, was blonde-haired, blue-eyed and had gotten her boobs early in life. Cheerleading had been her only reason for living in high school and she had even managed to effortlessly keep her grades up.
Brady on the other hand had studied hard and had kept her nose in a book. She had a mass of red curls that drew attention, making her the brunt of many carrot-top jokes. After high school she had taken off for college as soon as she could and had published her first romance novel before graduating. She had always known she wanted to write and had busted her ass to make it happen. She hadn’t come home since then and didn’t understand why her sister had begged and pleaded to get her here now.
They didn’t have a traditional family. Their parents had both travelled a lot for work and these days preferred to lie around on some beach for the holidays, so there had never been a reason to come back. They usually came out to see her instead.
It wasn’t as if Lissa had a shortage of friends to party with her and while Brady understood it was the special thirtieth birthday bash, she didn’t know why it was such a big deal. She had celebrated, or rather not celebrated, her own thirtieth birthday with a bottle of wine and a steady stream of chick flicks, alone and in her sweats. It was just another day, after all.
But here she was back in this little one-horse town, sitting at the bar while her sister gyrated to the music with no shortage of men willing to join in. Some of them she knew and some of them she didn’t. But they still paid her no mind.
Even though she had won the Romance Writer of the Year Award, even though she wore designer jeans and shirts and her nails were done and her hair had been cut and polished the day before she flew out. None of it mattered here and she was still the same geek under the clothes anyway. She wasn’t sure why she had even bothered. Except maybe she still had hope people would see her differently.
She loved her sister but Brady knew she would never have the personality that had men flocking to her. She was supposedly unapproachable and had been called an ice queen more times than she cared to count.
But as the music blasted in her ears from the local band she wished she could fit in as easily here. Finally catching the buff bartender’s eye, she ordered another drink and decided she would go back to her hotel when she was done with this one. She had barely enough time to hug her sister before she was dragged here and she was ready for the day to be over.
The fact that she had sat next to the bartender in three classes their senior year made no difference. He had no idea who she was. Heaving a sigh, she turned in her barstool and watched the band play.
They weren’t too bad by her standards but that didn’t mean anything. Resigned to her seat, she watched the usual pickups and shutdowns from her fellow sardines. It was getting late but the bar only seemed to get more crowded, all wishing a happy birthday to her sister.
Darren Black had seen her the moment she had walked in the bar behind Lissa. She looked even better than he remembered. She had filled out in all the right places. He only got a glimpse of her ass before she took a seat on a stool but he liked what he saw.
He didn’t question anymore why she was continually there in his thoughts. Or why he suddenly didn’t try to shut her out. Brady had always been different from the other women he knew. She didn’t put on a fake front and she didn’t try to fit into some mold. She was real and that was what he loved about her.
He still felt incredibly guilty for the way he had treated her in school. For the way they all had treated her. But it was a long time ago and she probably didn’t even think about it anymore. But he had noticed the change in her after that fateful day. He had tried to talk to her once but approaching her had been the equivalent of walking through a minefield.
Back then he didn’t take rejection well. Come to think of it he still didn’t.
But it hadn’t held her back. She certainly had done better for herself than most. But he always knew she would.
He was at the end of the bar in the shadows with a beer in his hand. It was the perfect spot to watch her as she ordered a drink. Lissa immediately abandoned her to join the group of friends who had gathered for her birthday on the dance floor. But Brady took it in stride, giving her sister a little wave as she moved away.
Darren shook his head when Jimmy, once a football player on his team and now the bartender, served Brady’s drink without any sort of acknowledgment. How could he not know who she was? Her hair was more than unforgettable. Jimmy’s loss and his gain.
Darren was glad she hadn’t changed her hair much. It was still the flame-red he remembered. She wore it longer and what once had been a mass of curls was brushed into submission. He immediately wanted to mess it up.
She had become the girl of his dreams. Her bright-green eyes and freckles had become incomparable to any other woman. All the others came up lacking. Including his ex-fiancée.
He read her books, even though they were romance novels, and they had filled his head with happily ever afters. He realized if his rough and tough football-playing friends ever found out, he would never live it down. But he was no longer a man who worried about such things. He did as he damn well pleased.
The older he got the more he wanted his own happy end. But not with just anyone. She would have to be special and he figured Brady was definitely worth a shot. Every woman in every story he read was her.
He knew her better than she would ever guess. Being best friends with her sister afforded him a lot of opportunities. He had been casually asking about her for months.
Since she had moved away right after high school he had been waiting for the right time to approach her when she was home. But she didn’t come home. Lissa’s thirtieth birthday was the perfect time to drop it in her ear that she should have Brady come home to celebrate. A good thing about Lissa was, when she had an idea she liked she didn’t let it go until she got her way.
He smiled at that. This time Lissa getting her way was only going to help him get what he wanted too. A chance to see Brady. Take her out. Get to know her better.
He was tired of the same old game of love ’em and leave ’em. It still seemed to work for his brother but Darren wanted something a little deeper than a quick roll.
He watched her for a few more minutes. He just couldn’t help it. Her hair shined golden under the lights at the bar and she glanced around uninterestedly. She looked bored and disappointed.
He could fix that. Stepping from the shadows, he turned to head in her direction.
“Darren, man! How are ya?”
Darren took his eyes off Brady and found his best friend from school standing in front of him. “Mike, long time, no see. How are you?”
Mike was one of the few who had left town as fast as his football scholarship would carry him and had never looked back. A lot like Brady had, but he didn’t blame her, or him. Or his brother Kurt who had done the same thing.
He pumped the offered hand. “I’m good.” Mike chuckled. “Quite a turnout. But what would you expect from our prettiest cheerleader?” He laughed again and Darren had a hard time not rolling his eyes at his old friend. Lissa was no longer a cheerleader, she was the manager at their local bank.
“It is a good turnout. Almost like a reunion.” They were shouting to be heard over the band and Darren hoped Mike would find something else to catch his attention. He had better things to do.
He glanced around the bar, which was filling to capacity, and his eyes landed on Brady again. She had finished her drink and was trying to make her way to the dance floor.
“Hey, man, I wanted to talk to you about something. Okay to drop by your place this weekend? I fly out Sunday night.”
“Yeah, sure,” Darren answered distractedly as he handed Mike his beer and moved to intercept Brady.
Brady finished her drink a little quicker than she should have and made her way to the dance floor, intending to tell her sister goodbye. She was tired from traveling. Plus, even if she didn’t want to admit it, she was resentful that no one seemed to remember her.
The bodies pushed and squeezed and the three feet separating her from her sister felt like a mile.
Suddenly her hand was grabbed and she was pulled into the arms of a rugged man with bright-blue eyes. He didn’t give her a chance to pull away before he was dancing her about with the rest of the crowd. With no way to escape, Brady joined in, hoping she could shimmy herself closer to Lissa.
But as those bright, laughing blue eyes landed on hers again she knew who he was. Her heart stuttered and she prayed to the forces above she was wrong.
Just getting into the beat, she looked about in dismay as the band switched to a slow number and couples quickly paired up on the floor. But the sexy hunk still had a hold of her hand and pulled her close with a smile.
After a second’s hesitation she put her hands on his shoulders and swayed with him to the melody of the music. They were so close to the band that talking was out of the question and Brady relaxed a little in his arms.
Peeking up at him, she was surprised to see him staring down at her with a mushy look on his face. But she figured she knew what that meant—he had one too many birthday drinks and would probably look at any woman like that at the moment.
She hadn’t come back here to reconnect, not even with the biggest crush of her life. Even if he was holding her like he wouldn’t ever let go. The music ended, Brady broke free from his arms and the band took a much-needed break. It gave Brady the time she needed to find her sister.
“Melissa?” Lissa heard her voice and she turned, pulling Brady into the gathering mob of people around her.
“Brady! I’m so glad you could make it! Isn’t this fun?” she gushed as she waved her hand to indicate the whole of the bar.
“Yes, it was fun but I’m going to head back to my hotel.”
“What? The night has just started!” Melissa stared at her in shock, not able to comprehend why she would want to leave in the middle of a party. Someone put another drink in Melissa’s hand and she turned to smile at him.