Series: 2B Trilogy #2
Publication Date: September 30th 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. There are the justifications she gives to everyone else—missing her family, losing her college scholarship. And then there’s the reason Lauren can’t admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend’s older brother.
Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He can’t pinpoint exactly what’s missing until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her. But he’s the guy that women love and leave—not the one who makes them think of forever.
Though she’s terrified of opening up, Lauren’s ready to take that chance. Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with.
I was eating salted dark chocolate fudge with a tiny fork when he said, “So you want to hear the story?”
“Let me set the stage. You were just turning eighteen, still in high school. Which makes me a perv, I’m aware.”
I shook my head. “It doesn’t count since you didn’t hit on me.”
“I try not to be creepy, it’s one of my life goals.”
“So far, you’re succeeding. Fudge?”
He took the bite from my fork, and I couldn’t help but recall all of the manga I’d read, where girls went crazy over the indirect kiss. Deliberately I licked the fork when I brought it back to my mouth and he seemed to forget to speak. It took a full minute of him watching me eat before he resumed the narrative.
“You and Nadia were in her room, getting ready for some party. I could hear you upstairs, laughing, but back then, we never hung out.”
“Yeah, Nadia was very much ‘your world, my world, let’s not cross dimensions.’”
Rob nodded. “I was watching TV with my dad when you came down wearing a red dress and suddenly, you were all oomph and bam.”
“I remember that dress. Still have it, I think.”
“That night, I couldn’t take my eyes off you. It sucked when I realized you were headed out to hook up with some high school assholes.”
“There was no joy in Mudville for me that night. Nadia got drunk and locked herself in the bathroom because her dipshit boyfriend was making out with somebody else in the garage.”
“If I’d known, I’d have beat the shit out of him.”
I smiled to take the sting out of my reply. “That’s why we didn’t confide in you more.”
“Anyway, that’s it, not much of a story, huh? Before, you were the sweet kid who hung around the house and stared at me a lot.”
“Please.” Fixing my gaze on his face, I watched the sheepish smile widen.
“I wondered what you looked like naked. A lot. Felt like a deviant, too. Because there’s a certain kind of guy who’s attracted to high school girls in his twenties, and I definitely didn’t want to be one of those. But I’d still think about asking you out and then remember you were my sister’s friend, and how awkward would that be, plus you were still in school, and I knew you wouldn’t be sticking around past graduation.” He hesitated, as if I might yell at him again for what came next. “And I knew you were too smart to be drawn in by physical stuff or the fact that I played football, so I figured—”
“It was best not to make a move.”
Rob nodded. “At the time, it was the only play I could make.”
“Or not make,” I murmured. “You never let on at all. I never guessed.”
“Yeah, well. I learned early on not to show people how they’re making me feel. Otherwise I’d always be the dumb kid crying in a corner.”
“You’re not like that with me anymore,” I admitted, just realizing it.
“I trust you,” he said softly.
I melted around a mouthful of fudge.