Love story, p.1

Love Story, page 1

 

Love Story
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Love Story


  Love Story is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  A Loveswept Ebook Original

  Copyright © 2017 by Lauren LeDonne

  Excerpt from Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne copyright © 2017 by Lauren LeDonne

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark and the LOVESWEPT colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

  This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

  Ebook ISBN 9781101968888

  Cover design: Sarah Hansen

  Cover photograph: Mikhail_Kayl/Shutterstock

  randomhousebooks.com

  v4.1

  ep

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Prologue: Lucy

  Chapter 1: Lucy

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3: Reece

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5: Lucy

  Chapter 6: Reece

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8: Lucy

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10: Reece

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12: Lucy

  Chapter 13: Reece

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15: Lucy

  Chapter 16: Reece

  Chapter 17: Lucy

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19: Reece

  Chapter 20: Lucy

  Chapter 21: Reece

  Chapter 22: Lucy

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24: Lucy

  Chapter 25: Reece

  Chapter 26: Lucy

  Chapter 27: Reece

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29: Lucy

  Chapter 30: Reece

  Chapter 31: Lucy

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33 Reece

  Chapter 34: Lucy

  Chapter 35: Reece

  Chapter 36: Lucy

  Chapter 37: Reece

  Chapter 38: Lucy

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40: Reece

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42: Lucy

  Chapter 43: Reece

  Epilogue: Lucy

  Author’s Note

  Dedication

  By Lauren Layne

  About the Author

  Excerpt from Walk of Shame

  Prologue

  Lucy

  I was eight years old when I gave my heart to Reece Sullivan.

  I was eighteen when he shattered it into a million pieces.

  Now, I wish I could tell you I was twenty-eight when I next saw him, because that’d be sweet, right? Ten years in between each of our most crucial…encounters. (And yes, you absolutely should visualize air quotes there.)

  Alas.

  I was twenty-four when our paths crossed again, and they did so in the worst, most Are you freaking kidding me with this?! sort of way.

  As in, my well-meaning but completely oblivious family somehow maneuvered us into taking a two-week road trip together.

  Yes, that’s right. Me. My ex. Two weeks. One car.

  Sounds tricky, right? Um, respectfully, You have no idea.

  Did I mention that one of the first stops on the road trip was to see my then-boyfriend?

  Yeah. That.

  But, see, sometimes…

  Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you planned when you’re eight.

  Sometimes life involves two broken hearts, a flat tire, an honest-to-God flood, and a few seedy motel rooms along the way.

  My name is Lucy Hawkins.

  His name is Reece Sullivan.

  And this is our story.

  Chapter 1

  Lucy

  Congratulations, Spock!

  I scratch my nose and stare up at the homemade sign where the g looks like a pube and the l looks suspiciously like a penis.

  “Your handiwork?” I ask my brother.

  Craig, older brother by fourteen months, drapes an arm over my shoulder as we take in the house where we grew up. “Brandi helped. You like?”

  I purse my lips. “I don’t suppose there’s a statute of limitations on how long that nickname gets to stick around?”

  “Hell no. It’s a classic,” he says, going around to the back of his truck and hauling my suitcase out.

  Now, lest you think I, or anyone in my family is a Star Trek fan, I’ll stop you right there. We’re not. I mean, like most Americans, we have at least a passing knowledge of the sci-fi classic, but that’s the extent of it.

  But the roots of the oh-so-flattering nickname go back to my first days home from the hospital when my camera-happy mother took a picture of me waving my hand, fingers in the Live long and prosper V. Factor in the way my super-straight, dark hair fell over my forehead, my thick eyebrows, and…

  Yeah, okay. I totally resembled a mini Leonard Nimoy (rest in peace).

  Hence the nickname Spock. It used to drive me crazy back when I was pubescent and trying to be cool, but right now I find myself grinning at the ugly sign my brother made and what it represents.

  Home.

  “You know, in gratitude for me driving four hours round trip to bring you home, the least you could have done is let your hot roommate tag along,” Craig says.

  “She’s a lesbian,” I counter, pulling out my laptop bag and the Victoria’s Secret gift-with-purchase tote that’s stuffed to the brim with makeup, flat iron, and no small number of tampons.

  “Even better,” Craig says reverently. “Her girlfriend could have come too.”

  “You know you’re twenty-five now, right?” I say, shutting the car door. “A little old to be lusting after cliché girl-on-girl action.”

  My brother shakes his head. “Some things never go out of style, Spock. Also, I repeat: ‘four-hour drive.’ I gave up Orioles tickets.”

  “Your sacrifice is noted,” I say, pinching his cheek as we head up the bumpy walkway toward the familiar blue front door, the squeaky wheel of one of my suitcases protesting mightily.

  “And in my defense,” I argue, “it’s not like I planned yesterday to be the day my car finally went to car purgatory.”

  “Really? Because the way I see it, when you buy a car on Craigslist that has a hundred and twenty thousand miles and is single-handedly responsible for destroying the ozone layer, you sort of risk it breaking down every day.”

  “Let’s not speak ill of the dearly departed.”

  Craig’s pretty much right though. See, I thought I could get through graduate school without a car the way I did when I was an undergrad. But Virginia Tech, while pretty fabulous, isn’t exactly NYU when it comes to public transportation. The tuition for my MSBA in hospitality and tourism management was mostly courtesy of a buttload of student loans, but books and food and the roof over my head were all on me. There hadn’t been much money left over for a decent car, so I’d made do.

  And really, the poor little Subaru did better than Craig’s giving it credit for. But yesterday it decided that it couldn’t make the two-hour journey back to my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, after all. And the mechanic I’d paid an extra fifty bucks to come to me confirmed it wouldn’t be making any journeys. Ever.

  Normally, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The car was long past its prime, and I have a big brother who’s been oh-so-gracious about coming to pick me up and bring me home.

  But…


  That sad little Subaru wasn’t just supposed to get me to my parents’ house. It was also supposed to get me from Virginia to California the day after tomorrow to start my new job.

  Now I’ll have to round up the money for a plane ticket, plus the cost of shipping all my stuff, not to mention a car when I get to Napa.

  As if the money wasn’t enough of an ouch, I recently spent one rather glorious, cabernet-fueled Friday night carefully planning a two-week road trip to see the states that I’d likely never visit otherwise. A road trip that included a detour down to Miami to see my boyfriend.

  A road trip that won’t be happening.

  I blow out a breath. Tomorrow. I’ll deal with all of that tomorrow.

  I smile as the Congratulations, Spock sign flutters in the warm June breeze.

  Suddenly, I can’t wait to see what sort of gloriously fattening welcome-home meal my mom has prepared, have a beer with my dad and brother, gossip with my sister, and enjoy two nights with my family before I start my dream job as hospitality manager at Chateau St. Magrit, one of the biggest wineries in Napa Valley.

  “Spock.” Craig says my name as I reach for the handle of the front door. I glance back, and he gives me a slightly sheepish grin. “For what it’s worth, it wasn’t my idea.”

  “What wasn’t?” I say.

  Then it hits me.

  The sign in the front yard. The cars lining the cul-de-sac. The fact that my parents haven’t been out to greet me, even though I’d have bet serious money that my mom would be impatiently waiting by the living room window, my father making up excuses for why he needed to be out in the front yard for when I drove up.

  I groan. “They didn’t.”

  Craig grins wider. “It’s not every day their baby girl comes home with a fancy degree in tow.”

  “I’m not even the baby,” I mutter. That dubious honor belongs to Brandi, my little sister by four years.

  Then I take a deep breath and push open the door.

  I’m prepared for it, but the “SURPRISE!” still makes me jump a little. And then, even though it isn’t quite the small, intimate homecoming I’d been dreaming about for weeks, my eyes water all the same, because everyone is here.

  My parents, beaming at me, Brandi looking seriously grown-up even since I saw her at Easter. Aunts, uncles, cousins. Neighbors who’ve known me my whole life, grade school friends, high school friends. Even some former coworkers from Luna Winery, the local Virginia vineyard where I discovered my love of the wine business…

  I drop my bag, ignoring the fact that my Revlon mascara and off-brand tampons are probably scattered all over the area rug as I run toward my parents with a happy squeal.

  Not exactly dignified grown-up behavior, but I don’t care.

  The second my mom’s arms go around me, and I feel dad’s hand mess up my hair, I don’t care about anything except that for forty-eight glorious hours I’m home.

  Don’t get me wrong, my dream job in Napa is pretty freaking fantastic—it’s everything I’ve been working for since I was like, five.

  But right now, this is where I want to be more than anything.

  It’s the kind of homecoming you see in Hallmark movies, complete with a big bouquet of Congratulations! helium balloons tied to the back of our dining room chairs.

  It’s perfect.

  Even as a quick scan of the room tells me there’s one rather crucial absence.

  “Lucy Darlene Hawkins, you’re too skinny!” my mom says, pushing me back.

  I grin, because I know my mom’s quest to fatten up her children is how she best shows her love. Unfortunately for her, all three of us take after my dad’s side of the family, which means we’re lean.

  My leggy sister also got my dad’s height, whereas I got the short genes, coming in at just under five two. Something my five nine “little” sister reminds me of now by resting her forearm on my shoulder. “Hey, Spock. You like your sign? Craig and I worked hard on that.”

  “Love it. Although maybe you could tell Mom exactly how you knew to make the l look so perfectly like a penis?”

  My mom says, “Girls!” in exasperation, and Brandi gives our mother a cheeky smile.

  “I’m not sure what a penis looks like, Mom. What’s this penis Spock is referring to? A type of cocktail?”

  Everyone’s in the kitchen now, happily heaping pasta salad and potato salad onto paper plates, the enormous platter of what looks to be the local Gabby’s Fried Chicken rapidly depleting.

  I’m about to sink my teeth into a drumstick when my mom pulls it away from my face and tosses it onto a plate.

  “What the heck?” I say. “I thought you said I was too skinny.”

  “You have your whole life to eat,” my mom says, clapping her hands excitedly, a strand of dark hair falling across her cheek. “We have something for you.”

  I glance around, realizing that “we” means my immediate family, although my sister and brother look decidedly more skeptical about the surprise than my giddy parents.

  I let my mom lead me to the garage, following after my dad as the sibs drag along behind.

  I admit I’m expecting the ta-da moment to be a little more, well…anything.

  I glance around at our familiar, cluttered garage. I see one too many rakes, an overflowing garbage can because my dad forgot to take it out to the curb yesterday. There’s the old hideous brown station wagon….The only thing that’s new is a ladder, and I can’t imagine how it warrants a ta-da!

  My parents are still beaming expectantly, awaiting my response.

  I give Craig and Brandi a Help! look but they’re too busy trying not to crack up.

  It’s my dad who caves, clearing his throat and gesturing with his hand toward the car.

  I scan over the station wagon, affectionately dubbed Horny by my brother his freshmen year of high school, and then I see it.

  The bow.

  Not a big bow, but a tattered, dirty-looking red bow that I think had a former life as a Christmas-tree topper.

  “Umm—”

  “Spock, we’re giving you Horny!” my mom blurts out, apparently fed up with my denseness.

  Her utterance is too much for my siblings to handle and they both burst out laughing, retreating into the kitchen to rejoin the party where there’s wine.

  Oh what I wouldn’t give for wine right now.

  “I, um…you’re giving me the car?” I ask.

  “Because yours broke down,” my dad explains, walking forward to thump Horny’s dented hood.

  “And this one’s…not broken down?” I ask skeptically.

  Look, it’s not that I’m not grateful. My parents are trying to give me a car, I appreciate the sweetness of the gesture, it’s just…

  Here’s the thing about Horny: he barely got us three kids through high school. I mean, Horny is the car that sputtered and shook making it the 3.2 miles to Jefferson High, no matter who was behind the wheel.

  I’m even going to come all the way clean here and say that early on in my freshmen year, I was embarrassed showing up in Horny. Then I realized I was lucky to have a car at all, and well…I dunno, I guess Horny became a part of us Hawkins kids’ charm, because the station wagon was practically an institution from Craig’s high school reign all the way through Brandi’s.

  But poor Horny quit working years ago. Much to Brandi’s chagrin, he gave up the ghost a mere two months before her high school graduation, and she spent the last bit of her senior year being picked up by my parents.

  “He’s going to take you to California,” Dad says, giving the car another thump.

  “Really?” I step forward and run a tentative finger along the familiar panel. He’s had a bath, so at least that’s something. “Because last I knew, he wouldn’t even make it out of the garage.”

  “Yeah, well, we neglected him for a while, but he’s right as rain now,” Dad says, puffing out his chest as though Horny’s a fourth child.

  “Like, as in he actually starts?”
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  “Purrs like a kitten,” my mom says with an emphatic nod, even though I know she doesn’t even like cats. “We didn’t believe it, but we took him to church on Sunday and there were no issues.”

  I literally bite my tongue to keep from pointing out that this is hardly a feat. Sacred Presbyterian is 0.8 miles away from the house.

  “You took Horny into a shop?” I ask, starting to warm to the idea of having a car again. I’m a little touched, actually. Money is tight for my parents. Dad’s a PE teacher, and Mom gives a mean winery tour, but the gig’s never paid much.

  “Not exactly, it was more of a bartering situation,” Mom says.

  “Yeah?” I say, going around to the driver’s seat, already giddy with the prospect of telling Oscar I’ll be able to come see him in Miami after all, even if I won’t exactly be riding in style.

  “Reece agreed to fix him up.”

  I’m lowering myself into the car as my dad says this, but I reverse so quickly I hit my head. My skull doesn’t even register the pain, because I’m too busy registering the hurt in my heart at the familiar name. “I’m sorry, what?”

  “Reece,” my mom says, giving me a bemused look. “He’s always been handy with cars.”

  “He fixed up the car in exchange for what?”

  And then I feel—I actually feel—the air change around me as the side door to the garage opens, and a new presence sucks all the air out of the space.

  I don’t turn around. I don’t move. But I feel his eyes on me. Over me.

  “Reece is headed out to California too,” my oblivious mother chatters on. “It worked out perfectly actually. Now you two can ride together, and your dad and I don’t have to worry about you alone in the middle of nowhere with a twenty-something-year-old car.”

 
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