This is a really rough draft of something I’ve been working on. There’s no release date. No cover. Just a work in progress for now. Forgive the typos… But do enjoy…
“Roxy.” I whispered the word, the name, the dream, the fantasy. I hadn’t seen her in five years, but there she was, strolling into the tavern, heels clicking on the worn, wooden floor, looking for all the world as though she owned the place. For all I knew, she did.
I’d spent the last year of high school and the first year of college living in the same house with her after my mom married her father. They’d been divorced for a while now and my mom was on her fourth marriage.
“Corey? Are you listening, man?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I agreed that I was, but waved my hand at the annoyance. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, my ex-stepsister. Or was it former stepsister? I had no clue.
“He’s not listening at all. Look at the chick he’s staring at.”
Rick, one of my closest friends leaned in. “Hey,” Rick started softly, “Is that…?” I only nodded. I didn’t trust myself to speak.
“Damn,” Rick continued. “She sure has changed.”
Yes. Rick was right. Roxy had changed. Her auburn hair was in a tight bun on top of her head. Her teal and black pant suit was tailored and professional. Very little make-up that I could see, small, simple gold hoops in her ears, and glasses that hung on a chain around her neck. She had that librarian thing going on, and sexy as it was, something was missing.
She was all buttoned up. Where had my Roxy gone?
I stood suddenly, forgetting the guys I was with, and strode toward her. She was smiling at the bartender and handing over a credit card as the man placed a paper bag on the matching worn wooden surface between them.
Inexplicably irritated, I curled my fingers into fists at my side. The urge to hit the guy for even looking at Roxy made no sense. We were no longer step-siblings. I had no claim on her. I never had.
I waited until she was done with her to-go order and followed her outside the restaurant. “Roxy?” I called after her, only a couple of steps behind.
She stopped short, nearly stumbling over herself, but I reached out. My hand on her arm helped steady her. Her eyes widened when I stepped in front of her. “Corey?” she asked, her voice uncertain and breathless.
I nodded and opened my arms out to the side, cocky grin on my face. “In the flesh,” I answered with my old catch phrase.
“It’s been a while.”
“Five years,” I confirmed. I’d been graduating college when Roxy turned eighteen. It was the same year our parents divorced.
“Wow. It doesn’t seem that long at all. What are you doing back in Cincinnati? I heard you moved to Indianapolis after college. I…I’m sorry about your injury. I know you wanted to play professional baseball. I should’ve called. I should’ve written, at least. But with the divorce and how bitter it was, I just… I’m so sorry, Corey.”
I shook my head. Which part should I answer first? Her question about what I was doing back home or her kind too little too late words about my baseball injury that sidelined me from playing at more than a recreational level? It had however led to my current job and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. “I…” I chose a different direction altogether. “What happened to you?
She also didn’t seem to know what her father had done. Should I be the one to tell her? I didn’t want it to come as a shock on her father’s wedding day.
She looked down, scanning her outfit, then back at me with a puzzled expression. “What do you mean?”
I smiled, trying for lightness. I wanted to see the carefree spirit that used to light her eyes. Even just a brief glimpse would do.
“You were less buttoned up. Wore your hair down and didn’t wear as many clothes.”
She shrugged. It wasn’t the cute, little shrug I used to get from her when she had secrets she didn’t want to share. What had happened to my pretty little stepsister? “Rox?” I prompted.
“Some of us have to give up the daydream, Corey.” The sad statement didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to inquire further, but her next words kept me from doing so. “It really was nice to see you, again, but I need to get back to work. There are some big weddings happening in town this weekend.”
“Weddings? Is that what you do?”
“Yes. I work in a bridal boutique not far from here.” She kissed my check, her full figure lightly brushing against my body as she stood on her toes, using my shoulder for balance. Her heavier curves, much more defined than when she’d been in high school weren’t my usual preference. Back then, she’d been slender legs and all top. Now though, she’d completely filled out and while it might not be what I normally went for, I couldn’t deny it looked good on her. It looked damn good on her.
“Yeah, Rox.” I didn’t want to let her go. “It was great to see you, too.” I wanted to continue talking to her, find out what was going on in her life. At least find out if she was happy. But, I did let her go and it stung, in all the regions of my body it shouldn’t have.
She hurried away, her head high and the sway of her hips… God. I had to bite back the moan that rushed into my throat. I watched her as she crossed the street, my hands stuffed in my front pockets. I—
“Did you at least get her number?”
I didn’t turn around to look my best friend in the eye. “C’mon, Bax. You know that wouldn’t have been a good idea.” He’d known all about my crush on Roxy way back when. All the guys I’d been sitting with inside the tavern had known about my crush on her because they’d all had crushes on her too.
She’d been forbidden to us, then, and I’d always figured that was why I wanted her so much. Forbidden fruit and all. But seeing her now? When she was no longer forbidden to me? I wanted her even more.
“You could’ve gotten it for me. I’m still eligible.”
My face was devoid of emotion, save for the raised brow, when I turned to face Bax. “Really? You think I’d get my stepsister’s phone number for you? How much have you had to drink?”
“Not enough, but that’s beside the point. I still need a date for the wedding. You told her, didn’t you? That her father invited all of us?”
“No. I didn’t.”
“No idea. Seemed kind of… Springing it on her, you know? I thought she would’ve known, being that it’s her father.”
“You don’t think she knows?”
“No. She asked why I was back in Cincy. It seemed more of a shock to her that I was here t all, not that I was part of the guest list for a family wedding.”
“Well, I need a date for this shindig. You should’ve gotten her number. I can be a gentleman.”
Again. A raised brow was the only facial expression I felt comfortable showing. “Bax, you’re no more gentleman than I am. You’re not asking Roxanne to be your date to her father’s wedding. I’m sure she already has a date.”
I didn’t like the sour taste on my tongue from those words. I didn’t like the thought of her getting all dressed up for some other man and holding his arm, letting him touch her, dance with her, hold her.
And I didn’t know what the hell was wrong with me. I’d known it was likely that I would see her and thought I had prepared myself for it. But this reaction? This was all wrong. This wasn’t how I was supposed to feel after seeing her. I wasn’t supposed to still want her.
“Still got a crush, huh?”
Bax’s words mirrored my thoughts and I shot him a look of irritation. I shook my head and stepped around him. “You’re full of shit.”
“Maybe, but you still have a crush. All these years later, and the one you couldn’t have is still the one you want.”