I turn around when I hear my name called and come face to face with a beautiful blonde. Her hair is down in waves that reach her shoulders, the top of her head hidden under a bright-pink winter hat. Her creamy, pale skin only causes her bright-blue eyes to look even bigger.
“Mike?” she repeats, searching my face as her cheeks turn pink.
I remember the women I’ve been with, and she doesn’t look familiar. My eyes travel from her face down her body. She’s short, her head reaching my chin. The black, thermal shirt and vest she has on show off her full breasts, which lead to a small waist and wide hips. Even with her short height, her legs appear long and are encased in a pair of blue jeans that flare out, showing off a pair of high-heel boots. If by some chance I didn’t remember that face, I would definitely remember that body.
“Maybe I’m mistaken. Sorry,” she mumbles, ducking her head and walking away.
“I’m Mike,” I tell her back as my eyes automatically drop to her ass. Yes, I would definitely remember her.
She turns to face me, and I watch her chest heave as she takes a breath.
“Oh,” she says, looking around.
“Do I know you?” I ask, watching as her cheeks darken even more as she looks around the hardware store. Cute, I think as I watch her look for an escape.
“Kat. Well, Kathleen Mullings.” She shrugs.
Well, shit. I look her over again, but this time, I focus on her eyes—the same eyes I would look into when I was supposed to be studying. Instead, I was wondering what Kat would do if I ever kissed her. We never hung out with the same crowd, but back when we were in high school, I would look for excuses to hang out with her. After graduation, she went away to school and I stayed in Tennessee.
“You’re all grown up,” I say, watching as a smile spreads across her lips.
“That does tend to happen after thirty-one years.” She laughs.
“True.” I chuckle and shake my head. “So what brings you to town?”
“I needed a good place to raise my son, so I figured what better place than where I grew up.”
“You have a son?” I ask, watching her face light up.
“Yeah. He just turned sixteen.”
“Jesus. You really did grow up, didn’t you?” I say, covering up the slight disappointment I feel when I think about her having a husband.
“Mom, are you coming or what?”
I look over Kat’s shoulder as a tall boy walks down the aisle towards us wearing a hoodie that is pulled up on his head, a pair of baggie jeans, and boots. His eyes come to me and narrow before looking at his mom again.
“Honey, this is Mike. We went to school together. Mike, this is my son, Brandon.”
“Nice to meet you.” I stick out my hand and he looks at it for a second before giving it a shake.
“Are you ready to go?” he repeats as soon as he drops my hand.
Kat pulls her bag off her shoulder and pulls out her wallet before handing him a twenty and a set of keys. “Go pay for the stuff. I’ll meet you at the car,” she tells him.
He looks at me again then shakes his head before walking off.
“Sorry about that. He’s been like that since the two of us moved here,” she says quietly, watching him go. Then her eyes come back to me when I speak.
“No problem.” I smile a real smile then feel like an ass for being happy that his dad’s not in the picture.
“I need to go, but we should get a drink sometime and catch up.”
“Are you asking me out?” I tease.
“No,” she says, and her eyes get big when she realizes what she just said.
“Give me your phone.” I hold out my hand.
She pulls her phone out of her pocket, handing it to me. I quickly plug my number into her phone before pressing call. When I hear my phone ring, I hang up then pull my phone out and save her number.
“I’ll call you.”
“Oh, okay.” She looks adorably stunned, and the urge to pull her to me and press my mouth to hers hits me in the chest so hard that I have to take a step back.
“See you around, sweetheart,” I say, and she blinks then shakes her head. It makes me feel better to know she feels it too.
“Uh…see you around.” She turns around.
I watch her walk away. As she reaches the end of the aisle, she looks over her shoulder at me and smiles, giving a wave before turning away again.
I spin my head quickly and meet Asher’s eyes. “An old friend…” I run my hand over my head then look around, trying to remember what the hell I came in here for to begin with.
“You were giving her the look,” he says.
I look at him again and narrow my eyes. “Why are you here and not at home with my daughter and grandbabies?”
“Your daughter’s hair keeps clogging up the damn drain,” he says, holding up a bottle of Drano. “So me, being the amazing husband I am, told her that I would go to the hardware store then stop off at Annie’s and get doughnuts for her ‘cause they are her favorite. Now, tell me why you were giving that lady the look.”
“There was no look,” I deny, looking around again.
“Oh, there was a look,” he says, and my eyes go back to him and he smiles.
“Do not say anything to November,” I plead immediately.
“Sure.” He shrugs.
“Two months ago, she signed me up for a dating website. I do not need help dating,” I remind him, and he starts to laugh.
“That shit was funny.”
“Funny?” I shake my head and shudder. Some of the replies I received were downright scary.
“She just wants you to be happy.”
“I know,” I say quietly.
I bend over, find my jeans, and quickly pull them on. I find my tank next and pull that on over my head before taking a seat and pulling on my boots. I hate this part; the whole leaving thing really bothers me. It makes me feel dirty, like I’ve done something wrong. How can something that feels so right be wrong?
Almost a year ago, when I saw Mike for the first time after so many years, I didn’t know what to think. The boy who I used to help study had turned into a gorgeous man. He was always good-looking, but after a few years had been added, everything about him held a story, from the small smile wrinkles around his eyes to the calluses on his hands.
I doubt that anyone who met him would think that he was anywhere near his forty-seven years, but he aged well. His height of six feet on the dot would probably not be tall to most, but at five two, I have to tilt my head back to catch his eyes. His dark hair, which was always unruly, still looks the same—long enough that, if you happen to be standing next to him, your hands itch to run your fingers through it. His naturally tan skin, which turns golden after a long summer, always makes his hazel eyes appear more emerald. The tattoos that now cover his arms and chest are something new, but they also tell their own story and change his classic good looks to something more rugged.