Tag Archives: #sexyscribblers

Days Of Auld Lang Syne, Episode 6

By Luanna Stewart

 

Woo boy, alone with her at last. But where to go? Sitting on a crowded subway wouldn’t allow him to concentrate on Jojo and what she said. And wouldn’t give him nearly enough time to look at her. He’d wait until they got to Central Park and maybe inspiration would strike.

This date had to be perfect, and Shawn was getting the signal it wouldn’t be easy. Sure there was interest in her eyes; he’d experienced it enough from other women over the years to spot it. But there was also a reticence, a distance he aimed to bridge.

Silence fell between them as they headed for the train. Heck, he hadn’t felt this nervous around a girl since high school. Say something, you idiot!

“So, how’ve you been?” Oh yeah, really cool.

“Busy lately, with the holidays coming up.”

“I’ve seen your vlog.” He sensed the tension from her body as soon as the words were out of his mouth.

“You have? Why?” She laughed, seemingly nervous and unsure herself. Not at all the image she conveyed on screen.

“I like to keep up with what my friends are doing.”

“Yeah, but you’re a guy.”

“I had noticed.”

“No, that’s not what I meant. You can’t be interested in shoes and make-up.” She cut him a glance. “Can you?”

He laughed. “Only when they’re on a woman.” He reached for her hand. “You were talking about these gloves the other day.” He gave her hand a squeeze and didn’t let go.

“Wow, you really have been watching.”

“Like I said, I like to keep up. Should I buy a pair for my sister?”

“Definitely. The hat that goes with them is cute too.”

“There’s half my Christmas shopping done, thanks to you.”

They got off half a block from the park, pausing in the sun by a wrought iron bench. “You feel like a walk?”

“Sure.” She scampered ahead, relieved to be in the fresh air. Holding hands was too much, too soon. She took a deep breath, concentrating on the oxygen filling her lungs, her chest, her muscles. Smooth and easy. There was plenty of air, plenty of space. She didn’t have to be here, she could leave. She chose to be here.

Shawn put a handful of coins in the meter and joined her on the sidewalk. He reached again for her hand. Who would have thought that she’d be walking through Central Park holding hands with Shawn Davis? Not her, except in her fantasies.

Out here, with other people milling about, her heart rate stayed normal and she wasn’t breaking out in a sweat. She could do this. She could be a normal person.

Now for some casual banter. Work was always a safe topic.

“You mentioned being in town for business. What do you do?” Of course she already knew, having spent several minutes the previous evening checking all the social media sites.

“I’m an architect.”

“Very cool. What have you designed? Anything I’d have seen?”

He chuckled. “No, not yet. I’m in a large firm and just getting established. I’m with a team designing a remodeling project over on Seventh Avenue.”

They came to a fork in the path and she moved to the right, while Shawn moved to the left. They laughed, he gave a slight tug on her hand, and just like that she was chest to chest with the sexy man of her dreams.

She started to shake and felt like she was choking.

Run!


 

Days Of Auld Lang Syne, Episode 5

By Kishan Paul

 

Joanne’s heart thudded against her chest so loud she worried everyone in Starbucks could hear it. Then there was her brain and ability to speak, both of which appeared to have powered off in the past few minutes. She prided herself in not being shy anymore. Yet here she was five years later, behaving the same as that insecure eighteen-year-old girl, and it was all because of the man standing beside her. Torn between wanting to kiss the heck out of him and running away from him, she opted to just stand there like an idiot, frozen and awkward.

She stared at Shawn’s profile while he gave the woman behind the counter their order. From the way the barista’s cheeks reddened, it was clear she wasn’t the only woman in the room currently Shawn-struck. The crazy thing was he seemed clueless about the panty-melting powers he obviously possessed.

Why was someone like him here…with me? She shook the question from her head and replaced it with one of the empowering ones she’d practiced in counseling. Why wouldn’t he want to be here with me? For some reason it didn’t sound nearly as convincing as it did in the therapist’s office. Maybe it was because he was standing right next to her, smelling amazing, and flashing that dimpled smile at her every other second.

Whatever the reason, the little voice of insecurity inside her was getting louder. While Shawn paid for their drinks, Joanne walked off to the corner and scanned the room for an empty table. She shouldn’t have come and was stupid to think she could handle this. The wounds of her past obviously hadn’t healed as well as she thought they had.

A whiff of cold air hit her when the door opened. Thick strands of her hair came loose from the gust and slapped her across the face. She blew at it and watched it float up, only to smack her cheek on the way down. Her curls probably looked crazy by now. Before she got a chance to move the hair out of her face, Shawn was in front of her running his fingers through the strands.

“I’ve always wondered if your curls were as soft as they looked.”

Joanne’s face heated and when she saw the way his gaze lingered on her mouth, she sucked in a breath. “And?”

His knuckles brushed against her skin. “Amazingly soft.”

Her feet were rooted to the floor, all sounds and people drifted away to nothingness as she savored the feel of his touch.

“Almost as soft as your skin,” he whispered before brushing his thumb across her cheek. “Which was something else I always wondered about, by the way.”

She blinked a couple of times, processing it all. He wondered about touching me?

Joanne cleared her throat and stared at his full lips, one of the many parts of him she’d dreamed about touching. “The tables are all full.”

He smiled and leaned in so close that his breath warmed her skin when he spoke. “Once we get the coffee, we could always go somewhere else. Take the train over to Central Park.”

This was the perfect opportunity for her to tell him she needed to leave. Run, like her fears screamed for her to do.

She nodded and smiled, “Sounds like a great idea.”

 

 

Days Of Auld Lang Syne, Episode 4

By Angie Daniels

 

Shawn was already in the lot waiting when he spotted Joanne come around corner. He drew a deep breath. Ever since he saw her at the Rockefeller Center, he couldn’t get her off his mind.

That beautiful butterscotch complexion, dark sultry eyes, and kilowatt smile sent his libido into overdrive. He never thought he’d ever see Joanne again, so it had definitely been a pleasant surprise. One he planned to use to his advantage, especially since he’d spent years imagining running into her, how he would approach her, and what he would say. While in high school he never could get his brain to function in her presence, but he was no longer an inexperienced teenager when it came to women. Nope. This time, there was no way he was letting Joanne go without making his feelings known…amongst other things. Explicit thoughts caused him to groan inwardly.

Last night Shawn had allowed his imagination to run wild. He wanted to hear her screaming out in climax, to feel her French-tip nails clawing at his back, and her vivacious body riding… Shawn stopped and laughed as he commanded himself to get a goddamn grip. They hadn’t even had coffee, and he had already allowed his lust to get out of hand.

Get it together, Davis, he scolded then pulled himself off the bench. He watched Joanne sauntering toward the entrance. “So much for getting my libido under control,” he muttered under his breath. Instantly, his cock leaped forward in greeting. Damn! Her luscious hips swayed in a pair of denim jeans that possessively hugged her thighs. A bomber length coat hung open over a pink sweater that exposed creamy flesh, descending down to the swell of breasts that had Shawn clamping down on his lips so he wouldn’t groan out loud. Today, her long, curly hair hung wild and free, bouncing around her face and shoulders. Joanne wasn’t wearing any makeup and didn’t need to with those wide brown eyes and high cheekbones. A smirk started and spread across Shawn’s lips. By the time Joanne reached him, he was grinning like a damn fool.

“Hey,” Joanne greeted and licked her bottom lip.

“Good morning gorgeous.”

Shawn hugged her close, filling his nostrils with her scent. With his hands at her back, he could feel the nervousness she tried so hard to hide. Drawing back, he met her wide-eyed stare.

“Come on let’s get you out of this cold,” he said, hoping to make her feel at ease.

He draped an arm loosely across her shoulders and ushered her into the coffeehouse and over to a barista behind the counter, ready to serve. While Joanne studied the menu on the wall, she stiffened and stepped away from his touch, putting a little distance between them. Frowning, Shawn again wondered why she was drawing away but decided to let it go—for now.

“What’s your poison?” he asked.

Joanne tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, but it immediately bounced back out. “Triple grande caramel macchiato. What about you?” She turned and looked over her right shoulder at him. The gesture was so sexy it practically stole his breath away.

“An umm…expresso macchiato.”

Their gazes locked for the briefest moment before Joanne turned away, but not before Shawn saw the combination of desire and uncertainty burning in the depths of her eyes.

While they ordered, anticipation hummed through his veins.

 

 

Days Of Auld Lang Syne, Episode 3

By Chanta Rand

 

Joanne stared at the hunk who’d brought back a flood of memories. Though she’d last seen him five years ago, she’d never forgotten her high school crush. He was a young man then, hovering on the precipice of adulthood. Now, he stood before her even more handsome, if that was possible. Dark, brown eyes. Sable hair. Dimples she could swim in. Hell, he could be a model if he really wanted. An errant breeze swept flurries of snow through the air. A lone snowflake landed on his feathery eyelashes, instantly melting into a diamond-like bead, glistening on the tips. The tiny drop melted into a pool of warm liquid—just liked she’d wanted to when she first saw him.

Get it together, girl!

“Okay,” she said, regaining her composure. “See you tomorrow.”

“Looking forward to it.” His frosted breath was in direct contrast to his heated gaze.

Shivers salsa-danced down her spine. The sensation had nothing to do with the cold temperatures. She was bundled up tighter than Ralphie’s brother on A Christmas Story.

As Shawn walked away, her eyes feasted on his impressive physique, following the heels of his tobacco-colored boots all the way to the dusting of shearling that ringed the back of his coat collar. The leather jacket stopped at his waist, showcasing his muscular backside through the corduroy pants he wore. His Burberry scarf flapped in the wind as he disappeared into the crowd.

The nervous churning of her stomach competed with the rapid-fire staccato of her heart. On her vlog she was fearless, outgoing, independent, and full of spirited advice. She talked about the latest fashion styles and the best ways to dress and impress a guy. Shawn was the very embodiment of the man she had in mind when she wrote each article. Every must-have dress she mentioned, every pair of designer shoes she drooled over, every hairstyle she recommended were all to catch the eye of a man like Shawn Davis.

He was high class personified. On top of that, the guy was super smart. She remembered throughout school that he was a brainiac. Math club. Chess club. Debate team. Back then she’d been quiet and shy, years away from breaking out of her shell. She’d stayed in the background watching the events of high school unfold as though everyone else were on stage and she was a spectator in the audience.

Now, Shawn Davis wanted to take her to dinner. She’d talked him into coffee instead. The thought of sitting through an entire meal, drowning in those dark pools he called eyes, was intimidating. What if she wasn’t smart enough? Good enough? Pretty enough?

Ay, papi. Who was that?”

Joanne turned to find her fourteen-year-old cousin, Yana, at her elbow, gawking in the direction Shawn was retreating. The girl’s eyes shone with appreciation.

“An old friend of mine.”

“Humph. With friends like that who needs lovers?”

Joanne gasped as Yana’s bubbly laughter floated up over the crowd of skaters. Joanne tweaked her on the nose. “Girl, he is too old for you.”

Even as she playfully scolded her cousin, Joanne recalled her first day of ninth grade—the day Shawn had walked into science class and sat in front of her. Her life had never been the same.

Yana adjusted her Betty Boop earmuffs over her thick mane of dark curls. “I heard the lyrics to a song once—age ain’t nothing but a number.”

“Yeah? Well the state of New York does not agree with you. There are laws against that sort of thing. And even if there weren’t, Tío Bernard would dispense his own justice. I can’t have your daddy mad at me.”

Yana grinned. “I’m just pulling your leg, cuz. I’m a sweet teenage girl attending a catholic, girls-only school. I steer far away from trouble.”

“Good.”

“For now, I will live vicariously through you.”

Joanne laughed. “Trust me, I am not living vicariously. I barely have time to do anything but write, eat, and sleep. That’s why I’m glad to be hanging out with you and Novia today—my two favorite cousins.”

“We’re glad to be hanging out with you, too, Jojo. This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”

At that moment, Novia glided by, arms wide open, face joyfully lifted up to the winter sky. “I’m the Queen of the World!” she announced.

Yana raced after her sister. Joanne cracked up at the girls’ antics. For the first time in months, she felt light-hearted. Maybe it was this place with its happy skaters. Maybe it was the holiday spirit. Or maybe it was the fact that she had a date with a hot guy.

Panic stabbed the center of her heart.

Dear God. It is a date. What am I doing?

She dug her cell phone from her coat pocket, and then used her teeth to pull off one of her gloves. She punched in a number she knew by heart. She needed reinforcements.

 

Days Of Auld Lang Syne, Episode 2

By Valerie Twombly

Shawn pulled his old schoolmate into an embrace. Though her body was stiff at first, it only took a second for her to relax and melt into him. He buried his nose in her piled-up locks and took in the scent of coconut shampoo. He remembered it had always been her favorite. When he finally released her, he took a step back and held her at arm’s length.

“You look stunning, Jojo.” She gave a bashful smile, just like he remembered.

“Thanks. It’s been a long time.” She wiggled free. “I heard you got married and moved away. Do you have any children yet?”

He cast his gaze to the skaters on the rink and watched a couple of children tumble to the ice. “We divorced after six months.”

“Oh…” She touched his arm. “I’m so sorry.”

He looked back in time to watch her push a stray curl out of her eyes and tuck it behind her ear. God, he’d always loved her hair and had spent many nights imagining running his fingers through the silky mass. “It’s okay. We were young and the entire thing was a mistake. We both agreed it was time to end it before we ended up hating each other.” It had been a brief fling and in the heat of passion, he and Brittany had flown to Vegas and eloped. He’d never regretted anything more. Well…except for never telling Jojo how he really felt about her.

“What about you? Married? Kids?” Please say no. He’d come back home several months ago and had meant to look her up. Had even gone so far as to stalk her vlog, but nowhere could he find out if there was a mister in her life.

“Me? Nope. I’m still single. No man in my life, I’m sorry to say.”

“I can’t believe no one has scooped you up and taken you away.”

She let out a familiar soft laugh. Nothing had changed with his Jojo except maybe she’d grown more beautiful. “Well, I’m back in the city on business. Plan to be here awhile and I’d love to get together. Can I take you to dinner?”

“Oh… umm, I’m not sure. You know it’s the holidays, and I have family visiting from back home.” She took a step back and he could sense she wanted to put some distance between them. Why? He wasn’t sure. They’d always been good friends in high school. He’d wanted more, but she seemed untouchable to him. Now though… Now they were adults and he wasn’t backing down.

“I refuse to take no for an answer. If not dinner then how about coffee?” He put on the biggest grin he could muster. “Certainly you can find even thirty minutes for an old friend.”

She touched her hair and pushed it around then shoved her hands into her coat pockets. “Well… Okay. How about tomorrow, say ten? I can meet you at the Starbucks here at the Plaza.”

“Perfect.” He may not be able to wine and dine her but this was a start, and he intended to do everything in his power to make it perfect for her.

 

 

Days Of Auld Lang Syne, Episode 1

By Lena Hart

Ay dios mio. Novia, be careful!” Joanne Vega watched as her twelve-year old cousin attempted to do a twirl on the crowded ice rink, the blade of her rented skates coming too close to the back of her own sister’s legs. “Yana, will you watch her?”

Both of her young cousins continued around the ice rink, giggling, laughing, and ignoring her shouted warning. Joanne frowned and kept a vigilant eye on them through the crowd of skaters. Though she was born and raised in New York City, she had never spent her holiday in a tourist trap like the Rink at Rockefeller Center. But it was Christmas, and her mom’s side of the family was visiting from Puerto Rico. Joanne didn’t want to steal her cousins’ fun, but this was their first time skating on ice, and as the oldest, it was her responsibility to make sure they returned home in one piece. Since she couldn’t ice skate, she was reduced to worrying and scolding from the sidelines.

Their parents had decided to stay up in Harlem, not willing to make the trip downtown or take their chances with the weather. So far, despite reports for heavy snow, they had only gotten a few flurries. Because of that, the Rink was packed with people. Joanne looked past the throng of skaters and trained her camera phone on her cousins’ bright purple and pink coats. Her aunt and uncle would love to see their daughters’ first ice skating experience. With the large Rockefeller tree glowing in the background, it was a pretty magnificent sight.

Joanne tilted her camera lower and followed her cousins around the large rink. Though she had a pile of clips to edit for her fashion and beauty video blog, Joanne was happy for the distraction and to be showing her cousins a good time around her city. Lately, her life was consumed by either her day job or her vlog, which left little room for anything else. Her social life had seen better days, and though she had managed to spend some time with her bestie, they were both too busy for much else besides church and brunch. With her family in town, Joanne could use an excuse to go out and “play”—even if it meant chaperoning her tween cousins who were trying to give her premature grays at twenty-three.

Joanne was so focused on getting clear video of her cousins, she completely missed the tall male figure that came up beside her.

“Jojo?”

Joanne froze then turned to the familiar deep voice and her mouth almost gaped open. OMG. It couldn’t be…

“Shawn?”

She didn’t have to ask. Only one man had ever called her by that very old nickname, and she would have recognized those sexy, maple brown eyes anywhere.

Shawn Davis.

Her old classmate—her old high school crush. He was the one guy no others had ever lived up to. The one she had tried but failed to forget these past five years. The one she had yearned for more than just friendship with…

Longing fluttered in her stomach as she stared at him—wishing she had done more with her long, curly hair then pile it on top of her head in a messy bun. She suddenly felt like the shy, awkward girl back in high school again.

When Joanne didn’t move or say anything quick enough, Shawn held out his arms. His dark, handsome face broke into a crooked smile. “We can continue this staring match, Jojo… Or you can give me a hug.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exes and Ohhs! A Thanksgiving Romance

Episode Ten

By Kishan Paul

The world turned silent as father and daughter eyed each other. Sugar sucked in a breath and headed to her baby. Sophie was her life. The best thing that had ever happened to her. Everything she did was for that child. Her baby deserved the best, and Jax was the best. Her heart had always known this to be true; it was her pride that refused to listen.

She looked over her shoulder just in time to see him move his foot from Milhouse’s chest. His mouth was open and a smile tugged at the corners as if in awe of what he saw. She followed that gaze to the backseat of the car. To her baby girl. Their baby girl.

Did he notice Sophie’s eyes were the same caramel as his? Or that her cheeks dimpled in exactly the same spot as his? Then there was her stubborn streak. There was no question they were the same blood.

A mix of excitement and nervousness flooded her and her heart pulsed against her ears. By the time she’d made it to the passenger side door of her Momma’s car, Jax was at the other. They both opened their doors and slid in besides Sophie at the same time.

“Hello, Mrs. Dennison,” Jax said with a nod toward the driver’s seat where Sugar’s mother sat.

Momma smiled back at him. “I’m glad you’re home safe, son.”
Doe-like eyes, too big for that tiny face, stared up at the two women and then turned to assess Jax. Sophie slid her tiny hand into Sugar’s, held on tight, and pointed at him. “Momma, who that?”

A flash of pain shot through Jax’s face and it tugged at her heart. She should have never kept this a secret from either of them, and it was time she came clean. She opened her mouth to do just that when he cleared his throat and reached out his hand.

“Hi, my name’s Jax. What’s yours?”

The child leaned toward her and whispered loudly. “Is he a stranger, Momma?”

Sugar fought back the tears and shook her head. “No, baby. He’s family.”

Satisfied with the answer, Sophie smiled at him and offered her tiny hand to him to shake. Jax stared at her palm for a moment and as soon as he wrapped his fingers around her, Sugar knew the child had stolen his heart. His eyes were red with emotion. He blinked and kissed her hand. A lone tear streaked down Sugar’s cheek.

“Why’d you hurt Popo?”

His mouth dropped and he flashed Sugar a questioning look. She chuckled as she nudged her chin in the direction of Milhouse.

“Hands and feet are not for hitting. Right, Mamma?” Sophie’s imitation of her made Sugar blush.

“That’s right, baby.” Her affirmation seemed to give Sophie the encouragement she needed.

She pulled her little fingers out from Sugar’s grasp and waved one at her father. “Popos are our friend. You should never hit Popo.”

Jax grinned and leaned in close. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. You’re right, it wasn’t nice.”

The tiny face turned to the back window and stared at the officer who was now on his feet. “You need to pawlagize.”

He nodded his agreement. “Maybe you could help me do that?”

Sugar’s mouth dropped as she watched him unbuckle Sophie from the car seat. The two walked hand in hand toward a red-faced Milhouse. She had no idea what they said to the officer but his anger visibly faded from his face and shoulders. He even squatted and let Sophie give him a hug. Shortly after the embrace, he picked up his badge and belt from the grass, got in his car, and drove away.

Sugar turned around and looked at the rearview mirror, catching her mother’s gaze. Momma’s lips trembled and her eyes were red with tears. “Don’t let that man go this time, baby.”

She nodded and looked behind her at the man in question. He still had Sophie’s hand in his and listened intently to whatever her baby was saying.

Her chest tightened. What worried her wasn’t if he’d leave. He was already falling hard for the daughter he never knew he had. The million-dollar question was would he ever forgive her for not telling him?

 

  

Episode Eleven

By Angie Daniels

“Jax!” Mrs. Dennison called over to him. “How about we give you and Sugar some time alone to talk?”

Jax looked up and nodded then his gaze returned to the little girl standing beside him. My daughter. His eyes shifted to Sugar. Our daughter.

“Come on, Sophie,” her grandmother urged. “Let’s go by the mini mart and get some ice cream.”

“Oh boy!” she squealed and Jax noticed she had Sugar’s syrupy smile. While she hurried over to climb into the car, he watched the way her silky brown curls bounced with every step. Once she was safely in her car seat, Sophie turned and stared out the window. “Bye,” she said softly.

Not bye. Never again. “How about I drop by and see you later?” he suggested.

“K,” Sophia replied with a wide smile that tugged at something deep inside him.

Standing side-by-side, Jax and Sugar waved as they pulled away. When the car was no longer visible,

Sugar swung around and blurted, “Jax, I’m sor—”

He raised a hand silencing her. Sugar inhaled sharply then her blue eyes locked on his. And Jax had never seen anything more beautiful. Not to mention his body tended to light up like a fireworks display whenever he was within three feet of her. Reaching down, he took her hand and dragged her close until her breasts were pillowed against his chest. “I’ve waited three long years to do this again,” Jax whispered while lowering his lips to hers.

He had spent many nights dreaming about her mouth, trying to remember the way she tasted, and his memory had failed in comparison. Long and deep, he kissed her while their tongues tangled in a fierce dance of desire. Jax felt his world right itself again. The magic he’d dreamed about, for all those years, was back within the arms of the only woman he’d ever loved.

While struggling to breathe, Jax finally broke the kiss and said, “I’m sorry I stopped communicating, Sugar. It sounds stupid now, but back then I thought maybe it was best if you forgot about me.”

“How could I do that when you’re the only man I’ve ever loved?” she confessed breathlessly. “I didn’t tell you I was pregnant because I thought you no longer wanted me, and I didn’t want to complicate your life.”

“Sugar, you are my life. And so is that little girl.” She stared into his eyes, allowing Jax to see everything she was feeling, and his heart thumped frantically. “I’m sorry for keeping her from you. You had a right to know about her regardless of what was happening between us.”

“What’s happening is we’re going to be a family.”

“A family?”

“Jax, I will never keep Sophie away—”

Jax stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. “I never stopped loving you Sugar, and Sophie is all the more reason why we need to do this right. We’re going to make it official.” Lips brushing, his heart jolted. “Speaking of official, where did my daughter get such an adamant respect for authority?”

“Did your parents ever tell you why I was arrested?”

“No… WIll you?”

“Exactly one year after you left, I got a little drunk with Honey. It was my first time out since having Sophie and…” she paused, embarrassment staining her cheeks.

“You never could hold your liquor well,” he chuckled.

“Anyway, I passed by the bridal shop on my way home. The most beautiful wedding dress was in the window so I—”

“You broke into the store?” Jax struggled to contain his laughter.

“The police found me in front of the mirrors, on the floor bawling. The charges were dropped later but I had to buy the dress. I guess the lace got a bit soggy…” She paused as he knelt on the gravel in front of her. “Jax, what are you doing?”

He smiled. “Something I should have done a long time ago.” Taking her hand in his, he kissed her knuckles then said, “Sugar Pie Dennison, will you marry me?”

Tears filled her eyes and she shook her head as if she couldn’t believe what was happening. “Yes, Jax, I’ll marry you.”

“Hot damn!” he shouted as he lifted Sugar into his arms and squeezed her tightly. “I never want to be without you again.”

“Neither do I,” Sugar whispered.

Finally, everything was going to be just as it should be. And with that Jax swooped in, sealing their future with a kiss.

 

The End

Exes and Ohhs: A Thanksgiving Romance

Episode Seven

By Valerie Twombly

Sugar stormed across the parking lot, searing tears streaming down her face. If that wasn’t enough, Mr. Tough Cop was hot on her heels.

“Sugar! What the hell did he mean by his daughter?”

She spun to face him, all fury and flame. “How many ways do I need to spell it out? Leave. Me. Alone! I’m not interested in dating you.” With a sigh, she added in a softer tone, “I’ve got enough damn trouble as it is.” She whirled, walked back through the door, and headed straight for the storeroom. She was a wreck of emotions. A ball of guilt filled her for not telling him he had a daughter. Then anger boiled just under the surface like the sun about to erupt. After all, he had left her and then made it perfectly clear he didn’t love her. Then there was her heart. How many lives did it have left? Broken to pieces when he’d deployed, fractured when he cut off communication, and today? Today it had shattered into a million fragments when she’d seen him again.

Damn it all to hell and back.

She still loved him. Heart, body, and soul.

“Sugar!” Her sister entered the room as pissed as a cat in a back alley fight.

“I know.” She pulled a tissue from her apron and blew, pushed her curls out of her face, and straightened her shoulders. “Sorry, I’ll be out in a sec.”

“Listen. I know your heart’s breaking, but you need to do what’s best for Sophie. That man has a right to know his daughter and she, her father.” Her eyes softened. “Give him a chance, Sugar. War is hell, and something tells me deep down he still loves you. Always has.”

Before she could reply, her sibling vanished back into the sea of customers. Her sister was right. Sugar owed her daughter. Her heart said to give him a chance. Her body begged her to slip into his arms and forget the last three years had ever happened. Her mind however, said to pack up and run. She closed her eyes and inhaled. After the rush was over, she’d head to their favorite spot. Something told her she’d find him walking the lake. As she exited out the door and into the breakfast crowd, she knew it was the right decision. She only hoped her heart didn’t stop beating completely.

As she slid by Beau, he gave her a wink. “Things will work out. They always do.”

She smiled. “Thanks, cuz.”

Her sister looked up from her note pad and gave a nod of approval. “You cut outa here in thirty. I’ll handle the rest.”

Then it was settled. In less than an hour, she’d likely make a fool of herself, but she’d sleep with a rattlesnake to ensure her daughter’s happiness.

 

 

Episode Eight

By Lena Hart

It took Sugar longer then she anticipated to leave the busy diner. As the breakfast rush began to die down, she jumped into her mother’s old station wagon, zipped through their small, beloved town of Hartsville, and headed straight toward Kissmee Lake. She hadn’t been down to their old spot in three years. Not since their last night together, when they had shared the most explosive moment of her life—and had created their daughter.

Sugar made it to the lake in time to see Jax sitting in his truck. The back lights glowed as he began to pull out of his parking spot.

Was he leaving?

For good?

The thought of not setting things right between them, of never seeing him again, sent her into a panic. Sugar whipped her station wagon alongside his. She barely had the key out of the ignition before she jumped out of the car and ran to his truck.

“Jax, wait!

Jax hit the breaks, a sort of stunned confusion on his handsome face. Sugar ran to the passenger side and climbed into the tall truck. He put the truck back into park and cut the engine.

“Sugar, what the hell? I could’ve hit you.”

She smiled at him, not at all bothered by his ferocious frown. She knew him and knew he only got that look when he was scared. “No, you wouldn’t have. You would never hurt me.”

His expression softened. “No, I wouldn’t.”

“Then why did you stop writing me?” Sugar hadn’t meant to blurt out those words, but his sudden cut of communication had torn her heart apart. She knew this moment wasn’t about her. It was for Sophie and having her daughter know her father, but Sugar was still hurt by his callous abandonment and needed to get the words off her chest. She glanced down at her hands and exhaled. “I know why you had to leave, Jax. I hated it, but I know you, and I know you could never turn your back on your responsibilities. But me? I never imagined you would turn your back on me.”

Her voice caught and Sugar kept her gaze averted as silence stretched between them. Suddenly, he opened the glove compartment and pulled out a small bundle of letters in varying degrees of wear. Without a word, he handed her the stack. Sugar stared down at them curiously before gingerly pulling them from his grasp.

“What are these?”

“My final letters to you.”

Sugar’s eyes snapped up to his. She knew what he meant by that. In that moment, the possibility that he would not be sitting next to her in his old pick-up truck, where they had share so many fiery moments, became a stark reality.

“Oh, Jax.”

He reached out and brushed the single tear that escaped from her lids. “Don’t cry, sweetheart. The last thing I ever wanted to do was cut you out of my life. But I couldn’t stand the thought of what my death might do to you. I didn’t want to put you through that kind of pain so I thought I could help you forget me. But I was a fool and caused us both unnecessary pain.” He nodded toward the letters in her hands. “I wrote you every chance I got after your last email. It was the only thing that kept me sane out there.” He paused then said gutturally, “No matter how much I tried, Sugar, I could never let you go.”

Tears brimmed her eyes as a series of emotions reeled through her, but she blinked them away. Glancing down at the letters, she flipped through each one, losing count after thirty. On the face of each letter was her name in his bold handwriting with exes and ohhs scribbled underneath. A quavering smile tugged at her lips. It was the same way she had signed off all her emails to him.

“Jax… I—”

Her words were cut short when a police cruiser pulled up behind his truck, flashing its bright red and blue lights. From the outline of the figure inside, Sugar could make out Officer Milhouse’s stocky frame.

 

 

Episode Nine

By Chanta Rand

Jax hopped out of his truck, ready for battle. He’d had enough of this dude’s shit. He’d met plenty of guys like Milhouse overseas—all bluster and no balls. The only reason he got away with his intimidating behavior was because he was a big bully in a small town.

Jax knew all about taking down bullies. He’d done plenty of that for the last three years. He’d even had nightmares about it. One more bad dream wouldn’t matter. In fact, it’d be worth it to put a hurtin’ on this fool that he’d never forget.

One scuff-toed boot foot followed the other as Milhouse exited the cruiser. He stood, legs bowed like a wishbone. Son-of-a-bitch acted like he owned the world. A grim line occupied the place where his mouth should have been. Steel eyes shaded by the crisp brim of his cowboy hat bored into Jax.

The two stood face to face. Millhouse puffed his chest out. “Listen, buddy. You can’t just skip into my town trying to lay claim to something that’s clearly not yours.”

“Your town?”

“You heard me. Now, why don’t you slink back in your truck and get the hell out of here before I send you home with your tail between your legs?”

Jax tensed. “You think just because you’re wearing that tarnished badge I won’t kick your ass?”

Milhouse snatched the gold-tone metal from his lapel and flung it to the ground. “Badge is gone now, punk.” Then he unfastened his gun belt. It slid to the grass and landed with a soft thud on the grass. “It’s just you and me. Man to man. You sure you wanna tangle with—?”

Jax punched him square on the jaw. Milhouse’s head snapped back and then he fell forward, landing flat on his face on the carpet of grass. It was over before it began.

Jax’s warrior instinct kicked in. He stalked over to the cop’s unconscious body and used his foot to shove him onto his back. “Just like I thought. All talk.”

Sugar rushed forward. “Oh, my God! Is he dead?”

“No. But when he wakes up, he’ll wish he was.”

“Jax…” Sugar’s hand clasped his, her slender fingers lacing with his calloused ones. “Let’s just go, please,” she begged. “You can get in a lot of trouble for this.”

He shook his head, keeping his gaze pinned on Milhouse. “I defended my country. I can damn sure defend the woman I love.”

“You can’t just assault a—wait. You love me?”

He faced her, his heart wrenching at the flickers of hope dancing across her blue irises. Lord, she was beautiful. Beautiful and perfect and everything he wanted in a woman. In that moment, he knew he’d do anything to protect her, and the child he believed was his.

“Yes, I love you, Sugar Dennison. I think I loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you.” He brought her hand to his lips and pressed a tender kiss on her knuckles. “The whole time I was away, I prayed I’d get back to you. I went to bed thinking of you. I woke up wondering about you. Now that you’re standing before me in the flesh, I’m never gonna let anything separate us again.”

A single tear slid down her smooth cheek. “I thought you’d forgotten me.”

“Never.”

Her lips parted, begging to be kissed. He’d dreamed of those lips. Fantasized about her curvaceous body. Plotted what he would do if he ever saw her again. The memory of her had sustained him like water to a man in the desert. He leaned in, ready to show her just how much he’d missed her.

The sharp blast of a car horn waylaid his plans. Tires crunched gravel as a brown and white station wagon pulled into the parking lot. A face he recognized peered through the driver’s side window.

“Hey Mama,” Sugar called.

Mrs. Dennison’s shocked gaze flitted from Sugar to him. “Jax? Jax Brandon is that you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She stared at the lifeless figure on the ground. Jax knew he probably looked like Captain Morgan on steroids. Knee bent, sneaker firmly planted atop Milhouse’s sternum.

“Good Lord! What is your foot doing on that cop’s chest?”

Before he could answer, a beautiful, cherub-faced little girl with dark, bouncy curls caught his attention. She stared wide-eyed out of the back window. She took one look at him and then her little lips scrunched into a frown.

“Aw, shit,” he muttered.

“Hey,” Sugar elbowed him. “Watch your language in front of my mom—and my daughter.”

 

Exes and Ohhs: A Thanksgiving Romance

Episode Four

By Kris Calvert

Sugar couldn’t contain her smile as the father of her little girl walked his finely tuned tight ass out the door. She’d convinced herself she didn’t care for him over the years, but deep in her soul she knew it was merely a self-preservation tactic. Only a fool would continue to pine for a man who clearly didn’t want to be with her, and Sugar told herself every day that she wasn’t that kind of fool.

She’d worked hard to pull herself up by her bootstraps, to be a good mother, the kind of mother Sophie deserved. The smile faded from Sugar’s face as Jax’s heavy presence faded from the bustling room.

“What the hell was that?” Honey asked, coming to her side.

“What do you mean?” Sugar nervously wiped her hands on her apron and immediately turned to Beau, looking for Table Three’s barnyard strangler breakfast special.

“What do you mean, what do you mean?” Honey repeated. “You’re being an ass.”

I’m being an ass?” Sugar asked as she picked up her order and walked it to the table, avoiding a rush of patrons moving in and out by spinning on her heels to stay ahead of the chaos. “Please dear sister, enlighten me.”

“I don’t think you’re an ass,” Frank interjected. “But I think you have a nice one.”

Sugar took a deep breath and faced the overzealous would-be suitor. “Get out of my face before I junk-punch you so hard, your man business will go from dangling between your legs to hanging from your badge. Do we understand each other Officer Millhouse?”

A roar of applause erupted from the female patrons while Frank’s fellow officers bowed their heads in embarrassment. Sugar, too mad to notice anything but the ringing in her own ears, stormed from the front of the diner to the back of the kitchen.

“Shit-fire, Shug,” Beau said, following his cousin into the storeroom. “You know I care about you, but you just can’t go around shaming police officers in the restaurant.”

“He deserved it and you know it.”

“Of course he did, but the decent officers help to keep the riffraff out of here. If you keep them all away, I can guaran-damn-tee we’ll get robbed.”

Sugar stopped her incessant pacing long enough to offer an apology. “I’m sorry, Beau,” she said as tears of frustration and shock from seeing Jax began to pool in her eyes. “I just…”

“I know,” he said, pulling her in for a hug.

“You smell like onions and peppers,” Sugar said as she laughed through the tears that now flowed freely.

“If you’d stop pushing the Mexican omelet, I wouldn’t smell like this.”

Honey stuck her head into the storeroom and let out a sigh, letting them both know there wasn’t time for a breakdown—at least not during the breakfast rush. “Guys, the grill is about to catch on fire, the dining room is a hot mess, I’ve got one pissed off officer paying for his breakfast and…”

“And what?” Sugar asked, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

“And one Marine standing in the parking lot—waiting.”

“What?” Sugar asked.

“Dry your tears, sister.”

“Are you kidding me? What’s he waiting for?”

Honey stared into the teary eyes of her sister, knowing the many nights she’d cried herself to sleep, and said one word. “You.”

 


 

Episode Five

By Anne Lange

Jax leaned against his old, held-together-with-rusty-wire-and-duct-tape pick-up truck. The last time he’d driven this poor girl was the afternoon he’d told Sugar about his orders to ship out. Then he’d held her while she cried and pounded his chest with her small, curled up fists. When she’d calmed, they’d driven down to the lake and made love until dawn.

That memory of laying her in the tall grass next to the softly rippling water, stripping her work uniform from her luscious body amongst a spray of wild flowers surrounding them, had kept him sane for the last three years.

He’d spent hours that night memorizing every inch of her with his hands, his mouth, and his tongue, scared shitless he’d never have the opportunity to touch or lick her sweet flesh or kiss her lips again. Thankful for the curtain of privacy the flora provided, he’d indulged in every wicked desire he could imagine.

As the sun began its ascent, he’d finally pushed his aching cock into her trembling body; then he’d simply held her close, inhaled the faint fragrance of her shampoo, fighting against his need to find release and wanting to prolong the inevitable for as long as he could. Knowing that when at last they looked into each other’s eyes as he moaned through his orgasm, and tears slipped down her cheeks, that this might be their last time together.

“What are you still doing here?” she asked as she crossed the parking lot, slowly making her way toward him.

All he could picture was her beautiful ass snug in the palm of his hands, her long lean legs wrapped around his hips, and those succulent brown nipples… Fuck, he could still remember their taste. His mouth watered.

Trying to act nonchalant, his sweaty palms fisted inside the pockets of his jeans, he glanced around them. A minivan pulled in and found a spot closer to the back of the lot. A teenage couple came out of the restaurant and ambled over to their bikes they’d left leaning against the old oak tree.

“Like I told the nice officer inside,” he replied, “our ending hasn’t been written yet.” He looked down at her, willing her to hop into his arms and kiss him with reckless abandon.

Just like she used to.

Before he left.

A strange light lit up her eyes, but she shuffled her feet, dropping her gaze to the pavement.

“Tell me about Sophie,” he said.

Her head jerked upright and her dark eyes narrowed. She hesitated a moment too long before she gave a weak shrug. “Nothing to tell.” She jabbed a toe into a crack in the asphalt.

“Aw, come on, Sugar, every mama likes to talk about their kids. And I haven’t been around in three long years.” Three achingly long—where he’d thought of her every one of those damn days—years. “I’d think you’d want to show her off.”

“Um…”

“Why Sophie?”

Surprise widened her eyes. She licked her lips. “I liked the name.”

He dragged his gaze away from her mouth and back up to see her reaction. “That was our name, Sugar. We’d picked that out long ago.”

She looked over to the family spilling out of the van, over to the young couple walking their bikes side-by-side down the street, but she wouldn’t land on him for a second.

“Got a picture of her?”

She swallowed heavily. And blinked rapidly. His heart raced, but all the sound and activity around him seemed to slow to an agonizing pace and become thunder in his ears. Her reluctance to say a word was as good as yanking out a photo album.

“I’m good at math, Sugar. And you were never a woman to sleep around.”

“Jax, please. Don’t do this.” She turned pleading eyes up to him. Her bottom lip trembled.

“Hey, Sugar, is he bothering you?” That asshole officer, the one who thought he had a claim on Sugar, strutted over and paused much too close to Sugar for Jax’s comfort.

But Jax didn’t even acknowledge him. He glared at Sugar, doing his best now to reign in his temper.

“I want to meet my daughter, Sugar.”

 

Episode Six

By Caroline Lee

She hadn’t said anything to his demand; just turned and walked back into the diner. It had taken every ounce of self-control—control that the Marines had taught him—not to follow her. Especially when the cop started to puff up. He started talking shit again, as if he were already dating Sugar or something, and Jax climbed into his rusty pick-up truck to turn over the engine. The guttural roar drowned out the cop’s angry words when the man got too close to the window.

The dude was still standing there in the parking lot like he owned the town when Jax pulled out.

The drive around the lake was always pretty this time of year. He didn’t want to go back to his parents’ house—not now when he had so much to think about. Mom would want to know why he was so distracted and not eating a third piece of pecan pie, and every other place in town was too crowded. But the lake, now—the lake was his special place. Where Dad had taught him and Darren to fish when they were kids, and where he’d taken his prom date to neck after the dance. But sitting there on the levy, with the reflection of the maples turning the water brilliant reds and yellows, Jax knew he’d always associate this place with her. She was the last one here with him, and as far as he was concerned, the most special.

Sugar Pie Dennison had a daughter. He pulled his hands from his jeans’ pockets and ran them across his starting-to-grow-out-again hair. A daughter. That fine-looking woman, who’d snagged him with her humor, her balls, her ingenuity and her loyalty, had gone through a pregnancy, birth, and raising a kid while he was on the other side of the world. She hadn’t been alone—there were more Dennisons around these parts than there were Brandons—but he hadn’t been here with her, and that was rough.

Not that she’d needed him. She’d made it real clear four years back that they were equals, and she could do anything that he could, and didn’t need him swooping into her life to take care of her. But partners supported each other, and it hurt to think that she’d gone through such a life change—it couldn’t have been easy—without him.

Hurt almost as much as thinking that he was the cause. Was Sophie his kid? Lord knew that he and Sugar had talked about kids, about maybe getting married and settling down in one of the white-picket-fenced craftsman homes along Main Street. But then he’d been deployed, and he knew that it was going to be a long time before he got home again, if at all. So many of his buddies hadn’t made it back, or had made it back in pieces, or had refused to go back. But he was lucky; he had the chance to see his family in time for Thanksgiving.

And maybe find a new family.

He started along the path that circled the lake, glad for his Dad’s old “My Son Is A Marine” sweatshirt. It’d been three long years since he’d seen maples this color, or felt the cool nip of an autumn breeze, or smelled this hint of wood smoke. Three long years since he’d held a woman’s dark hand, or thought of the future.

Jax inhaled, liking the way the cold air hit his lungs hard. Sugar had a daughter, and she might be his. He needed to know, to know if he had a future here with her. With them.

One thing’s for certain, they’d be at the Lion’s Club parade on Thursday morning. The whole damn town went, and no mother would deny that to her little one. Sugar and Sophie would be there, and what if the girl didn’t look like him? What if he wasn’t her father? Would it matter? He still wanted Sugar—had wanted her for years—and maybe he was ready to be a daddy.

A hawk circling overhead cried, and Jax sighed. He needed to know, needed to meet Sophie, but wasn’t sure it would change anything. Thanksgiving was only a few days away, and Mrs. Dennison was the best cook in town. But that didn’t mean that he couldn’t invite her daughter—and granddaughter—over for some of Mom’s pie Thursday evening. The parade, the turkey, the pie, the tree-lighting… Yeah, he was lucky to be home in time to celebrate.

And if he played his cards right, he might have more to be thankful for than he could’ve guessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exes and Ohhs: A Thanksgiving Romance

Exes and Ohhs!

A Thanksgiving Romance

Episode One

by J.A. Coffey

 

The doorbell jangled a frantic greeting over the buzz of customers. The chill November wind sent a flurry of fallen leaves creeping across the black and white linoleum tiles.

“Hey, Sugar. Gimme the house special.”

To any other woman, the sobriquet would be annoying. To Sugar Dennison, it was the norm.

“You got it.”

Despite the cold drizzle making tear tracks on the fogged up row of windows, inside the packed Dennison’s diner was warm and cozy with the scents of bacon and maple syrup. Sugar put a warmer on the coffee of a city councilwoman and made change for the two teachers at the end of the counter.

“Two eggs sunny side and a side of grits, Beau,” she hollered over her shoulder.

“Table Six Order up!” Her cousin Beau set the plate of steaming flapjacks on the serving window as Sugar’s twin sister Honey moved behind the counter, the front of her cotton uniform freshly pressed.

“Can you cover Table Six for me? I need to prep the biscuits.” Honey’s dark eyes scanned the busy breakfast crowd and rested on the regulars stuffed into every booth and wobbly table. Sugar sighed and resisted the urge to smooth the creases out of her own butter-colored apron. She’d gotten ready at the ass-crack of dawn. It was barely six a.m. now but the diner was at full capacity. Her hastily gulped black coffee hadn’t even hit her system yet.

“Okay, but tell Mama I’m clocking out early today. I’ve got an interview at two.” Sugar felt her natural curls bounce as she tucked a nibbled stub of pencil behind her ear. Time to take more orders.

The doorbell jangled again as a pair of uniformed police officers made their way into Dennison’s diner, slumping in the vacated stools. Sugar felt her palms go slick, then reminded herself that she wasn’t that same stupid girl who’d gotten sprung out of the county jail last year. It had all been a misunderstanding, but she’d learned her lesson. She gulped and snatched up her notepad.

“What’ll it be, officers?” She willed herself to remain calm.

“You tell me, Sugar Pie Dennison. What’s keeping you busy these days?” Officer Frank Milhouse gave her a slow grin like burnt molasses.

Autumn always twisted her broken heart into shreds. The dead leaves clung to branches just as she’d clung to the memories of the one man who’d abandoned her in this godforsaken backwoods, country town. It hadn’t felt like home since the day Jax Brandon had been assigned overseas three years ago. She’d cried when he showed her his orders to ship out. But he hadn’t. That man might have been carved of stone, but he had more honor rolled up in his pinky than she had in her entire body. Sugar felt her cheeks burn, thinking of how Jax would’ve reacted to the news she’d been arrested.

“Just workin’ as usual.” The bell chimed again. Sugar grit her teeth. Busy season or no, there was no way in hell she was going to encourage Milhouse. She hadn’t hit rock bottom yet.

“Yeah? Think maybe you could find a little free time this Saturday?” Milhouse’s fair skin made a sharp contrast to her own, as he wrapped his fingers around hers and pulled her closer. His partner chuckled and looked away, flushing slightly. “Girl as pretty as you shouldn’t be getting dishpan hands. I don’t like ‘em rough.”

“Then maybe you should take your hands off her,” said a voice she’d never thought to hear again.

 

Episode Two

by Luanna Stewart

Sugar’s next breath stuck in her throat. No, it couldn’t be him. She’d just about healed from his desertion. Had forgotten the look in his eyes when he had devilment on his mind. Had forgotten the taste of his kiss.

She pulled her hand from the cop’s grip and turned. “Hey, stranger.” No way was she going to let the folks in the diner see what Jax’s arrival did to her heart.

Officer Milhouse stood with his hands on his equipment belt. “Do I know you?”

She could almost see the testosterone floating in the air between the two men.

“I know him. Excuse me for a minute.” Sugar motioned Jax to follow her into the hall that led to the bathrooms. This could not be happening. Not today. She had enough on her mind with the interview that afternoon, to say nothing of arranging extended childcare for her daughter.

Jax’s daughter.

Holy hell.

“Hey, Sugar, how are you? You’re looking good.”

“I’m fine. When did you get back?” Standing this close, it took every bit of self-control not to wrap her arms around his trim waist, press against his firm chest, and inhale his scent. After all this time, just one hit of his pheromones was all it took to make her forget that he’d left way too easily. That his responses to her emails got shorter and shorter until they stopped. She called to tell him she was pregnant but changed her mind when it became clear he was too busy to talk—at eleven o’clock on a Wednesday night. She’d not called again and neither had he.

“I landed yesterday, spent the night at my folks. They told me you still worked here.”

“Yup, still slinging hash. And as you can see we’re busy as hell, so…”

“They also told me you had a run-in with the police last year.”

Oh, the joys of small town living. She bet they all knew when she got her period too because Mrs. Hennigar at the drug store would notice when she bought tampons, and the checkout clerk at the grocery store would notice when she stocked up on chocolate.

“It was a misunderstanding, all cleared up. What else did your parents tell you? You must have had a long conversation, catching up on everything over the last three years.”

“You have a child, a daughter. How’d that happen?”

She smirked. “Based on my experience, you know exactly how that might happen.”

“How old is she?”

Well, shit. Luckily Sophie was petite, so some fudging on her age wouldn’t be too hard to pull off. “She’s two.”

His eyebrows lifted. “Who’s the dad? Anyone I know?”

Sugar’s stomach plummeted. She hated lying. But Jax had made it abundantly clear he wasn’t interested in maintaining their relationship when the going got rough. She didn’t want him back if it was just because of some sense of responsibility. He hadn’t loved her three years ago, at least not enough. And she wouldn’t settle for anything less.

“No one important, just a guy who left and never came back.”

 

 

Episode Three

By Aubrey Wynne

 

Jax Brandon looked at her through hooded eyes, catching the jab aimed at his failed communication. How could he explain? The memory of her tears the day he left had haunted him every night since. Before each mission, he would look at her picture, running his finger over her smiling face. Yet he knew the chance of a safe return became slimmer with each assignment.

He’d stopped all contact because of his love for her. The pain she’d felt that day would have been nothing compared to her misery if he’d been killed in action. And Jax cared too much for Sugar to cause her that kind of grief. But he also knew she would never understand.

“You look damn good.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. Jax had intended on avoiding her while he was in town for the holidays. Somehow, he had found himself walking by the diner and there she stood in the window, taking an order. When he’d seen the cop putting the moves on her, he couldn’t help himself.

“Yeah, right,” she said as she pushed those silky, dark curls away from her face. He fisted his hands to keep from reaching out and tucking one stray lock behind her ear. “Looks like the Marines have been good to you.”

“Well, they didn’t kill me,” he answered lightly in the hopes of seeing a smile.

“That’s not funny.” Her blue eyes flashed with anger. His stomach clenched with remorse; his crotch tightened with three years of pent-up desire. Had he really thought he could let her go?

“You’re right,” he said and reached out to brush her cheek with his thumb. “War is a serious game and I’m very lucky to be here.”

Sugar’s eyes closed briefly and her slight tremble told him that her feelings had not changed. Did he have a chance? It would take a lot of convincing. This woman still held a grudge from a fifth grade romance.

“Please don’t do that,” she whispered. Shaking her head and backing away from his touch, she continued in a tight voice, “I have to get back to work. It’s been nice seeing you again.”

“I deserve that.” Jax didn’t want to end the conversation quite yet. He hadn’t heard that sweet southern drawl in three years. “Are you going to the tree lighting Thanksgiving weekend?”

“Of course. Sophie and I will be there with my parents.” Panic shone in her eyes then she quickly turned and walked away.

Sophie. The name they wanted for their first girl. Sam for a boy. He suddenly had a few more questions for his parents.

“So, Stranger, I don’t seem to recognize your mug.” The cop who had been flirting with Sugar stood in front of him, invading his personal space. “How do you know my girl?”

“Your girl? You’re dating?” Shit. Had she met him when she got arrested? He still needed to find out more details on that tale. When the man hesitated, Jax had his answer. “I’m Jax Brandon. My folks run the hardware store. I don’t seem to recognize you, either.”

“I transferred here from Atlanta a year ago. And I was about to ask Sugar out when you interrupted.” He puffed out his chest like a rooster, as if trying to make himself bigger, then fondled his holster. Jax towered over him by at least a foot and enjoyed the man’s obvious disadvantage.

“Thanks for the warning, but Sugar and I have a history. And the ending hasn’t been written yet.” He brushed past the officer, winked over his shoulder at a grinning Honey, and walked out the door.