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Dane James worked my stepfather’s fields. He was the boy next door.
From the moment we met, we were star-crossed lovers—always wanting, never having. We loved each other for most of our lives, but right from the beginning destiny had other plans. She knew we would fall in love. She knew we would fall apart. Over and over again, like the curse of a recurring nightmare. Or the hope of a familiar dream.
Our past was tumultuous. Our future was bleak. But the one thing we always had was the beautiful now.
Until that was taken from us, too.
(15 YEARS OLD)
The years melted away and I was twelve again, desperate for Dane James and all that he represented. And just like that night three years ago, when I looked out and saw him below my window, blending into the dark, thrilling me with his mere presence, I was seeing him again. Only he wasn’t wearing a grin the first time. At least not like this one—a grin that said he was happy to be breaking the rules again. A grin that said for me to come and let him take me away for a while. A grin that could get a girl in trouble.
A grin that could get me in trouble.
Dane had changed clothes. He’d traded in his jeans and T-shirt for shorts and a tank top. He looked equally good in either, like the designer had his body in mind when the fabric was cut.
And he’d obviously walked over. I could see the piece of prairie grass sticking out from between lips, lips that I found myself thinking about way too much.
My heart tripped over itself as I unlocked my window and pushed it up. “Dane James.” My tone was much more teasing and light this time. I couldn’t hide my pleasure at seeing him. I didn’t think I even wanted to. “What are you doing out there in the middle of the night?”
His answer was a shrug.
I loved it when he did that. It said he didn’t care about rules or convention or propriety. It said he didn’t care what people thought or said or did. It said he just cared about coming to see me, no matter what the world might have to say about it.
God, I loved that shrug.
Aside from watching that stem of grass twirl between his lips, it was probably my favorite thing.
That and his eyes.
“Come down here, Brinkley Sommers.” He mimicked my use of his full name. I couldn’t help smiling. Everything inside me was smiling. My mouth had no choice but to follow suit.
“Because I asked you to.” I could hear his rich laugh all the way up at my window. It sent a fine spray of cold chills skittering over my skin, like mist from a bottle of perfume—sweet and sultry and intoxicating. It felt just as good and smelled twice as nice. Because my time with Dane James had a smell, a taste, and a texture. Like all my favorite things wrapped up into a package of sensation, delivered right to my nerves every time I saw him. Even in school. There was just never anything I could do about it.
Because I asked you to, he’d said, an answer that was cocky and funny and self-assured, just like Dane himself. I’d have been willing to bet he didn’t get turned down very often when he asked a girl to do something. And I had no desire to be the first. He was here for me. For me. Not because I did or didn’t put out, not because of who my stepfather was or wasn’t, and not because society dictated that he should or shouldn’t be.
He was simply here for me, Brinkley Sommers.
Bio: New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, M. Leighton, is a rarely ever comfortable speaking about herself in the third person, but here goes. Michelle is a former nurse who has always harbored a passion for the written word, a weakness for alpha males, and a profound love of all things romantic. Never in her wildest dreams did this Yankee-turned-Southerner imagine her life as it is today. She has the best job in the world, a husband who treats her like a princess, and a dog that's so smart she may one day write a novel, too. You can often find Michelle hidden away in her cave, crafting a new story, or out in the sunshine enjoying some quiet time with her man. Movies, wine, and good food are frequently thrown into the mix, and exercise on days that start with Q. She loves laughter, chocolate, the color red, and you can find out more about her at www.mleightonbooks.com. Sign up for her newsletter here: http://smarturl.it/MLeightonNews She promises not to spam your inbox:)
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