The high school beauty queen… The face of baby food, the darling of surfing commercials, and the exotic stunner who walked away with the Miss California title at eighteen, Mary Phillips has heard “you’re so beautiful” from childhood on. Tired of being her mother’s personal Barbie, she traded in her tiara and a lucrative modeling contract for combat boots and life as a Marine. She's lost good friends and seen more walking wounded than she cares to admit, but this Marine wouldn't trade her assignment for all the Manolo Blahniks in the world. What does it matter she has no one waiting at home? The class nerd… Kyle Stewart heard every variation as he went through school: nerd, geek, four-eyes, weirdo—and he rolled with it. He could count on one hand the number of girls who ever deigned to talk to him about something other than tutoring. But as the only self-made millionaire from his graduating class, he has the last laugh. A high school reunion… Despite the invitation, Mary didn't plan to attend the ten-year reunion. The last thing she wanted to hear was—"you could have been so much, what happened?" But running into Kyle at the local coffee shop reminds her that not everyone judges by appearance. Kyle once swore to rub his former tormentors noses in his success, but when the reunion rolls around, he’s reluctant to go. Seeing Mary again encourages him to confront his one lingering regret, and the millionaire dares to reach for happiness. Can Combat Barbie and her nerd overcome the past to love another day??
And he still stared.
Maybe it was years in the field or maybe it was just her sour attitude after the argument with her mother the night before, but she wasn’t in the mood to have some stranger undress her with his eyes.
She whistled between her teeth. “My eyes are up here.”
He glanced up and amusement curved his lips. “I know. I wanted to see if you had a tattoo.”
“Is that some new form of pick up line?” Damn, she must be rustier than she thought if she didn’t know the latest techniques. But then, she hadn’t lived in California for years, and her last trip home hadn’t included any kind of dating or introductions. After attending her grandmother’s funeral, she went back to base and off to deployment. She hadn’t spent seventy-two hours straight in the state since she enlisted.
“No.” He shook his head and laughed. The barista called out her order and slid the coffee cup over.
Claiming it, she gave him a half salute. “Have a good one.” She turned to leave, but rather than accepting the brush off, he followed her and grabbed the door.
“Sorry, not trying to go stalker creepy on you, but you remind me of someone I used to know—hence wondering about the tattoo.”
The unabashed flirting rolled over her and she tipped her head back. If this guy thought her an easy mark, she couldn’t wait to disappoint him….
Still, the longer she spent with him the more familiar he seemed. Definitely not a Marine. He didn’t carry himself that way and wore his hair too long. So why did it feel like she recognized him? “What kind of tattoo?”
“A purple butterfly—on her calf, just behind her right ankle—tiny, delicate thing. I used to think it was a fairy, but she corrected me. It was a butterfly.” He cut himself off, perhaps realizing he’d gone to unnecessary lengths.
“I used to wear one in high school, but it was a press on. I had hundreds of them. If I’d gotten real ink, my mother would have had a coronary.” High school. “Kyle?”