Sometimes the perfect one is the one who’d been there forever...
Jacey Thompson wasn’t frightened of much. Serving in an elite unit called Zulu Spectre, she’d faced things most people wouldn’t be able to handle without the slightest hint of hesitation. However, the prospect of returning to her hometown was enough to make her knees tremble. She couldn’t miss the wedding of a dear friend but she would run into her first and only love.
Derek Moser, ex-Marine, returned home to Leeburg to help his family and try to settle in to civilian life, leaving behind the nightmares. He’s shocked to discover his cousin’s best friend growing up is the same woman he’d had a one-night stand with seven years ago, he’d just not recognized her as the girl next door.
Passion is as explosive between them as it had been that night, no matter how they try to ignore it. However, when her secret comes to light, will he forgive her? And will Jacey allow him to be her one and only, sweeping her off her feet?
Can I do this? Can I go back there after all this time? Jacey’s gaze flitted to the gold-embossed invitation– a wedding invitation from her childhood best friend.
It wasn’t like they weren’t friends anymore, it was just that… well, she hadn’t been back since the day her parents moved her out of that small hick town to the big city for bigger and better things. To improve their life, give her more of a future. Sixteen when she left, and it had been fifteen years since then. A good number of things had changed for her in that time.
Often thoughts crossed her mind about that small town where she had grown up. Leeburg, Georgia. The years had been wonderful, most of them. Full of fun and mischief. She remembered the times she spent with Blanche, who preferred her nickname Honey.
Her best friend.
Blanche Honoria “Honey” Moser.
Honey was a true southern girl, through and through. She had grace and style most women could only dream to obtain at some point in their lives. An inherent goodness that had been present the day the two girls met, at the tender age of four. Yet, she could shoot the wings off a fly at five hundred paces.
They had been friends from the very beginning. Blanche had two older male cousins who lived with her family after their parents had passed on. Carson Dermott Moser was the younger of the two. The eldest bore the name Derek Harmon Moser; all three children were a year apart. Then there she was, Jacey Damia Thompson, neighbor and tag-along of Honey and the two older boys.
She and Honey always wanted to be included in the boys’ stuff, forever following them in attempts to be allowed in on their fun.
When Jacey was twelve, she’d harbored a horrendous crush on Derek who, at two years her senior, probably didn’t even know that she was alive, except to call her a brat. She’d kept her feelings to herself for four years, telling only her confidant, Honey.
The fateful year her father moved his family to Capitol City, because of his career, Jacey had been foolish enough to tell Derek how she felt. The jerk laughed at her and told his cousin and their friends, leaving her the butt of a very embarrassing joke.
Her eyes drifted shut as her mind took her back to that unforgettable day. She’d then decided never to be weak again. His words and his scorn haunted her, embarrassed her. She would do whatever it took to be strong, inside and out. Not need a man for anything, unless she wished it.
Moreover, she had done just that.
So why did the thought of returning to Leeburg fill her with more than a bit of dread? Why did the mere thought of Derek still have a hold of her?
* * * *
Fifteen years ago
“Oh Jacey, I’m going to miss you so much!” Honey wailed as tears streamed down her face. Her slim arms wound around Jacey’s pudgy frame.
“I’m gonna miss you too.” Jacey’s eyes were shedding as many tears as Honey’s blue ones. “I wish Papa didn’t have to move for that stupid job of his.”
“Me too. Promise we will always be friends.”
“Always, Honey, always.” She meant it too; the Mosers had become her family. Honey had gone through all that icky girl stuff with her. They had no secrets from one another. Honey had even known about her crush on Derek and how mean he had been on that fateful day. Of course the whole town knew, but Jacey had actually told Honey herself.
“Come on, Jacey, we have to get going.” Her father’s voice broke into the young women’s embrace.
“I’m comin’, Papa.” She sniffed, reluctantly stepping back from her friend and bravely trying for a smile. “I’m gonna miss you.”
Honey raised her head high and smiled back. Her own daddy, known to Jacey as Uncle Frank, stood next to her and gave her a gentle squeeze before eliciting his own hug from Jacey.
Jacey hugged Mrs. Moser, known as Auntie Ro, and that left Derek and Carson. Not having remotely looked at Derek since that day, she didn’t really want to now, but she knew that it was expected of her. To not do so would raise many questions she didn’t wish to deal with. Now or ever. She hated him for the way he treated her on that day. He had obliterated her childhood fantasy, but part of her still admitted that her crush was still there and she didn’t think it would ever go away.
The Mosers and the Thompsons were very close. It was like Jacey had another set of parents. She didn’t mind at all because she loved the elder Mosers with all her heart.
Carson stepped up first. “Take care, runt,” he said in a gruff voice. Blond hair and brown eyes sat on top of a lean body. While not the Moser who’d snared Jacey’s heart, at seventeen he was well on his way to becoming a nice, good-looking young man.
“Bye, Carson.” They exchanged a quick hug and she stepped back, her stomach filling with a mixture of dread and anticipation over Derek, who would soon have his arms around her.
The eldest Moser boy stood forward next. His thick obsidian hair with its blue highlights gleamed in the hot Georgia sun, breaking her concentration. At eighteen, his body already foreshadowed the strength it would have when he finished growing. Golden tan skin shone with health, covering muscles that would only grow more impressive with time.
“Good bye, brat.” He tugged on one curl of her afro affectionately.