Coming home is not something Kayle Grimes ever envisioned for himself. He left this town of bigots behind without regrets and made a good life elsewhere. Now he’s back again, hiding in his parents’ old house and licking his wounds.
Asher Knox, the reason Kayle disappeared in the first place, is the last thing he needs. But the boy who broke his heart is now the mayor, and won’t take no for an answer.
Asher Knox has to find a way to get Kayle to forgive him and see he’s no longer a coward hiding in the closet. He’s out and proud, and ready to publicly claim Kayle as his own. It doesn’t help that the Kayle who has returned home is stubborn and prickly, and Asher knows he’s going to make a fool of himself, but it’s worth it, all the same.
I leaned against the brick wall of the coffeehouse and tried to make sense of my thoughts. Then suddenly, Asher was standing in front of me, and all thought was lost.
“I almost didn’t recognize you tonight with all the fuzz gone, Kaylie,” he said, and when I scowled, he grinned. “Sorry, slip of the tongue.” Right.
“You’re missing the meetup,” I offered, waving goodbye to the girl and her mother as they walked off.
Asher bent down to pat a very enthusiastic dog and said, “What’s his name?”
“Dali. Answer the question.”
“It wasn’t framed that way, now was it?”
“But you political types can read between the lines, right?” I replied sarcastically.
He laughed. “I suppose so.”
“Truth is, I rarely make these things anymore since I’m always so busy.” He leaned his left shoulder next to me on the wall. “In the beginning, I was here every week. But since I became mayor, it’s been harder and harder to do so. And I miss it. But the group is still going strong, and growing. I try my damnedest to be in attendance as often as I can.”
“And you’re outside with me instead of in there with your friends because ...”
He looked away for a moment then stared straight into my eyes. “I couldn’t not be. I saw you sitting there, and a want like no other in my life, except when we were together in high school, hit me like a ton of bricks.” Was it possible for eyes to smolder? Because yeah, that was what Asher’s were doing.
I pretended indifference. “You’re assuming a lot, aren’t you, Ashley?” I said, and it was his turn to scowl.
“I thought I buried that nickname years ago.” He stabbed me in the chest with a finger. “If I ever hear it said by anyone else in this town, I will punch that pretty jaw of yours.”
I smirked. “You’ll try.” Then I became serious. “Sex is great, Asher, and I’m a great proponent of giving it up. But I’ve had enough of flings, enough of people looking me up and down and only seeing the outside without ever bothering to find out who I really am, what I like. I’m still that kid who grew up here, even after all my years away. I still get hurt easily, I cry at movies and expect true love to turn up at some point in my life. Because that’s what I want, period.”
I turned to cup his cheek. “I understand why you did what you did when we were seventeen. It wasn’t pleasant, but I get it. You weren’t perfect; I was a whiny bitch. Newsflash: I’m still a whiny bitch with a prissy tiara in search of a prince.” I leaned down to kiss him softly on the mouth, enjoying the flavor of him and tasting his gasp before pulling away.
“We can be friends and hang out, if you like, get to know each other better. But after being cheated on and having my heart broken one too many times, I’m kind of cautious and in no hurry for complications. And unless you’re really interested in trying for a future beyond the bedroom, should I even want to go there with you, then nothing’s gonna happen anyway. Got it?”
Asher stared at me, a little dazed, then nodded. I bent down to untie Dali. When I stood, I noticed curious faces mashed against the glass of the coffeehouse, watching us. Nice. “We have an audience, so you know.”
Asher gave me a tiny, sad smile. “Perks of living in a small town.”
“I guess.” I let Dali get some love from his other favorite human, apparently, before walking away. “Have a good night, Mr. Mayor.”