Second Chance at the Sugar Shack

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Chapter 1

Everything in Kate stopped cold. The blood drained from her head. Her ears buzzed. Her chest tightened the same as it had when she’d seen him earlier.

Matt’s mirrored shades were gone and she looked right into the ice blue eyes she’d once gone crazy for. The thick fringe of dark lashes surrounding those eyes only enhanced the mesmerizing hue—like arctic icebergs surrounded by a stormy sky. His cheekbones were sculpted, his jawline chiseled in a masculine way that said the boy she knew was gone forever. In his place stood a man. A real man—who smelled like autumn leaves and wood smoke and a lethal amount of sexy.

Earlier today she hadn’t been prepared for him, hadn’t been armed for his harsh words and his cold demeanor. But she was ready now. Bring. It. On.

She forced herself to look up at his strong chin and the etched curve of those lips she’d kissed so many times. Way back then they had been remarkably soft and tender. Now they were pressed into a hard, implacable line. Through their school years, he’d been a great-looking boy but now … now he just looked dangerous. The shiny star pinned to his broad chest didn’t help.

He gazed down at her through those pale eyes as if he could squash her like the ants crawling across the ground at their feet.

Okay, so she thought she’d been prepared for him.

Not the first time in her life she’d been horribly wrong.

Around them the night air swirled with the lingering aroma of pine and dewy blades of grass. The stars above twinkled brightly in the clear sky. And Kate wished she could just disappear in the dark.

“You lose your date?” she asked.

His lips tightened even more. “You lose your way home?”

“I’m here aren’t I?” She clutched the cold keys in her hand until they dug into her skin.

“Nice of you to show up. I’m sure your mother would be very happy.”

His words sucked the air from her lungs. “Okay, I get it,” she said. “You don’t like me. Can we at least be civil while I’m here?”

He shrugged one broad uniformed shoulder. “Sure.”

Behind them the steel door swung open with a screech. Out barged Edna Price. With her came the melody of Frank Sinatra singing My Way.

Edna looked up and smiled at Matt. “Gotta get home and put the dog out. Can’t leave her out for long though.” She turned a frown toward Kate. “All she’s good for is wandering.”

The old woman’s barb hit its mark. But, of course, Edna wasn’t done.

“Emma Hart’s in there looking for you, Matthew, honey. You don’t want to keep a good woman like that waiting.”

“I’ll make note of that.” Matt gave her a wave and a friendly smile as she hobbled away on her moose-head cane. “Good night, Mrs. Price.”

He turned back to Kate. “So how long are you staying?”

“Two days.” To guard against the icy daggers shooting at her she folded her arms across her breasts. “Think you can handle that?”

“Doesn’t really matter to me.”

“Well, at least you’re honest,” she said.

“At least one of us is.”

One hand slid to her hip. The other white-knuckled her purse strap. “I never lied to you. Exactly.”

“You never exactly told me the truth either. Would have been nice to know you’d been making plans to run away.”

“You knew I was waiting for that scholarship. I didn’t run away.”

He laughed. “Honey, your tennis shoes left burn marks in the road.”

She glanced across the parking lot for an escape. Her mother’s boat was four cars down. If she walked fast, she could be there in a few seconds.

“Have you been sitting around for ten years thinking up nasty things to say to me?” she asked, irritated with herself for standing there and letting him grind in the guilt.

“Hardly. I’ve got more important things to do.”

Before she could bite her tongue, she asked, “Like what?”

A smile curved his sensuous mouth. “Sorry, sweetheart, you lost the right to question me a long time ago.” His gaze cruised up her body, taking its time at all the appropriate places.

She knew that look. The one that said no matter how long ago it had been he remembered that the last time he’d seen her she’d been naked in his arms and moaning his name.

She remembered too.

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