By Mina Khan
Joanne sat stunned, her heart racing. Had she heard that right? Could he really have said those words? She clasped her hands together and stared straight ahead at a tree that had lost all its leaves. Not daring to believe. “Uh, can you repeat that?”
“I said,” his deep, sexy voice pronounced each word slow and deliberate. “I have always loved you.”
Oh wow. Okay. So she’d heard right. Her lips spread into a slow smile as she turned around and looked into his warm, caramel eyes. She’d dreamt of this moment, these words, forever. “I —
The loud, hi-pitched yapping of a dog filled the air, followed by a “Shawn? Shawnie-poo!”
Joanne blinked and closed her mouth as a short, but buxom blonde wrapped Shawn in a hug. Her fluffy, white poodle danced around them barking its tiny head off. After a moment—a long—Shawn extricated himself.
“Brittany. When did you get back?”
The woman shook her head, her riot of curls bouncing around. “I had to cut my theater tour short because my Meemaw got sick.” Her baby blues filled with tears and her full lips trembled. “Of course, I rushed back as fast as I could, but it was too late.”
“Oh, Brittany,” Shawn stood and pulled the woman into another hug. “I’m so sorry.”
The cold from the bench leaked into Joanne’s bones, freezing her inside and out. She leapt to her feet. Time to make her excuses and get the hell out of this awkward threesome. “I need to be going.”
Two heads swiveled towards her and then the couple parted. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I interrupt something?” The blonde blinked and held out her hand. “I’m Brittany. Brittany Davis.”
“Sorry.” Shawn stuffed his hands in his pockets as a red flush spread across his sharp cheekbones. “Joanne meet Brittany, my ex-wife. Brittany, this is a friend from high school.”
Joanne shook Brittany’s hand on autopilot. A friend from high school. What happened to he’d always loved her? Didn’t that make them more than friends? Her head spun. She should have kept her distance, listened when her instincts shouted Shawn was too good to be true.
She studied Brittany, who looked like the stereotypical fantasy of a European milkmaid, with her rosy cheeks, big blue eyes, pert little nose and, of course, the golden curls. They couldn’t be more different. And the woman still held onto Shawn’s last name. All signs that said one thing: Run. “Nice to meet you, Brittany,” she said. “I have to go. Adios!”
Shawn eyes widened. “Wait. Give me a second and I’ll take you back to the coffee shop.”
“No, don’t worry.” Joanne shook her head. “Looks like you both have a lot to catch up on.”
His face darkened as he crossed his arms.
As she flounced off, she heard Brittany say, “Oops! Did I cause trouble in paradise?”