By: Penelope Ward

“Just that you grew up together and that you’re Mrs. H.’s granddaughter. Honestly, he never mentioned you at all until we got that letter from the attorney.”

Even though that was expected, it made me sad. “That’s no surprise.”

“Why do you say that?”

“It’s kind of a long story.”

“Did you guys ever date?”

“No. It was nothing like that. We were just good friends, but we drifted apart after I moved away.”

“I see. This whole thing is a little weird, right? I mean, inheriting a house like this out of nowhere?”

“Well, my grandmother was very generous, and she loved Justin very much. My mother is her only child, and Nana loved Justin like a son, so…”

“Your grandmother left the house to you and not your mother?”

“Mom and Nana had a bit of a falling out some years ago. Thankfully, they made amends before she died, but things were never really the same again.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”


Jade opened her arms to pull me into a casual hug. “Well, I really hope we can be friends. It will be nice to have a girl around to shop with, check out the island.”

“Yeah. That’d be nice.”

“I hope you’ll have dinner with us tonight?”

I wasn’t ready to face him. I needed to make up a story and get out of here.

“Actually, probably not tonight. I’d better be leaving—”

“That’s what you’re good at, isn’t it?” a deep voice I hardly recognized interrupted me from behind.

“What’s that?” I asked, swallowing nervously and refusing to turn around to look at him.

“Leaving,” he said louder. “That’s what you’re good at.”

My breathing was ragged, but it was when I turned around that I nearly lost it.

Holy fuck.


Justin was standing in front of me, and I swear it was like the boy I’d left behind had been swallowed up by a lean mass of muscle. He just looked so different from what I remembered nine years ago. The anger on his face was transparent and somehow made him even more incredibly hot. It just would have been better if it weren’t directed toward me.

His skin was a beautiful shade of bronze that complemented the natural golden streaks in his dark blond hair. The smooth face I remembered was now rough and unshaven. A rope and barb wire tattoo wrapped around his bicep. He was wearing camouflage cargo shorts with a tight white ribbed tank that hugged his chiseled chest.

An indeterminate amount of time passed as I just took him in. Even though I was too stunned to say anything, my heart was screaming. I knew deep down my reaction wasn’t just because of my physical attraction to him. It was because despite all of the changes, one thing had stayed exactly the same. His eyes. They reflected the same hurt that I remembered from the very last time I saw him.

His name finally managed to roll off my tongue. “Justin…”

“Amelia.” The deep, throaty sound of his voice vibrated through me.

“I wasn’t sure if you were ever going to show up.”

“Why wouldn’t I have?” he sneered.

“Well, I thought maybe you were avoiding me.”

“You’ve overestimated your significance to me. Of course, I was going to come. This is half my house.”

His words stung. “I didn’t say it wasn’t. It’s just…I hadn’t heard anything from you.”

“Interesting how that goes.”

Clearly uncomfortable with our sparring, Jade cleared her throat. “I was just asking Amelia if she wanted to have dinner with us tonight. Maybe you guys can catch up.”

“Apparently, she already has plans.”

I turned to him. “Why do you say that?”

“Oh, I don’t know…because you’re holding a bag that smells like dirty snatch?”

“It’s fresh seafood.”

“Doesn’t smell very fresh to me.”

“God. We haven’t seen each other in nine years, and this is how you act?” I turned to Jade. “Is he always this rude?”

Before she could answer, he cracked, “I guess you bring it out in me.”

“You think Nana would be happy right now with your attitude? Something tells me she didn’t leave us this house so that we could fight with each other.”

“She left us both this house because we each meant something to her. That doesn’t mean we have to mean anything to each other. Anyway, if you cared so much about what Mrs. H. thought, maybe you shouldn’t have run away.”

“That’s a low blow.”

“The truth hurts, I guess.”

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