THE LAST ONE
“Hi.” Her voice was low, and one side of her mouth lifted in a smile.
“I see you girls got home. Finally.” I didn’t mean to say them, but the words came blasting out before I thought about it. Because she was Meghan, and she never did what I expect-
ed, she only lifted one eyebrow.
“I brought your sister home as promised, safe and sound.
I had one beer, hours ago, and my car didn’t break down.” She slid her foot between both of mine, her eyes still steady. “This is where you say, ‘Thank you, Meghan.’”
I let out a breath. “Yeah. Thanks. How drunk is she? Did she get groped?”
“Not by me.” Her smile grew, and she pivoted sideways and dropped onto my lap. Out of instinct, I caught her by the hips.
“What are you doing?”
“You brought up groping. It seemed like a good idea.” She leaned onto my chest and twined her arms around my neck. “You kissed me this morning. I know you said it was a mistake, and maybe you meant that. But right now, I don’t care. I want to kiss you.” She brought her lips to my jaw, nipping along the line until she reached my ear. “What do you think, Sam?”
THE FIRST ONE
“How did I ever get lucky enough to deserve you?” Ali laid her head on the back of the seat. “What do you see in me? I’m not special.”
“You’re the most special. Ali, you’re beautiful, and not just on the outside. You’re nice to people, you’re funny, and . . .” I shrugged. “I don’t know. I can’t describe it. I just know it.”
“I love you, Flynn.” She said it as though she couldn’t help it, as though the words surprised her as much as they did me. “I—I know that sounds weird, or maybe you’re not ready—”
“I love you, Ali.” I spoke before she could backtrack any- more. “I’ve loved you for a long time. It’s not weird. It just is.”
“When did you know?”
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure she’d want to hear this, to know the truth. But I’d promised to be honest and open with her always. “It was after your parents. After the accident.”
There was a brief flare of pain on her face, but she didn’t look away, so I went on. “You were hurting so much, and you were so sad. Crushed. I knew then that I never wanted to leave you. I wanted to do anything to make sure you never had to feel that way again, for the rest of your life. I never want to be away from you.” I sucked in a breath and for the first time, I spoke the words that would both define us and doom us. “I want you to come with me, Ali, when I leave Burton. This town, it’s just . . . too small. I’m getting out of here as soon as we graduate. I’m going to see the world. I’m going to travel as far as I can, for as long as I can. And I want you to come with me.”
THE ONLY ONE
I opened the kitchen door, sniffing in appreciation. Meat- loaf. But although dinner was clearly underway, Rilla and Piper were nowhere to be seen. I was about to call their names when I heard music coming from down the hall.
Following the sound, I headed for my mother’s room, where the unmistakable lyrics and tune of Come on, Eileen were blasting. I glanced into the room and then did a double take.
Rilla was dancing. She had the music turned up loud, and she was swinging her hips in time with it. Those jeans that had been making me hot and bothered for quite a while clung to her ass as she shook it. And she was singing along.
I was a musician, and even more, I had the gift of recognizing musical talent. It had been my job in Nashville, and I was damned good at it. I’d heard the magic in Lu’s voice the first time we met. It had been a big part of falling in love with her.
Rilla didn’t have talent. She didn’t sing badly, but she was barely on key. She wasn’t going to win any talent contests, and she’d never be signing a recording contract. But all the same, the sound of her belting out those words, some of which she got horribly wrong, was one of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard.
She was singing with such joy and abandon. And she was dancing with the same freedom. My pretty girl had never looked more beautiful to me.