Today’s post is a super sneaky peek at May’s Dirty/Bad/Wrong, my novella in the Three to Tango anthology! Ava is back home after years away, years she’s spent trying to forget. But she never forgot Luca. Or his family and the people who’d made her sad little life a whole lot better…
Here’s the blurb: Though Ava left her hard-knock Georgia childhood behind, she never forgot Luca and Angelo. Together they were best friends with a bond that could never be broken. But when she returns, the three must decide whether to face the fires that burn between them, or forgo their desires forever
dirty/bad/wrong by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2011, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Publishing Group
The place looked pretty much exactly the same as it had when she left a decade before. The linoleum on the floor had seen better days, but it was clean. The tabletops were new. Shiny red to go with the red and white striped chairs and booths. Lost dog fliers still shared space with garage sale announcements on the corkboard at the entrance. The bells rang as the door closed behind her.
She hesitated as past and present swam in her vision, disorienting her with a wave of memory so very strong and sweet. Her first days there when Maryellen had ever so gently tapped her shoulder each time she found her looking at the floor.
She’d said, “The good Lord did not mean for you to be ashamed of yourself on account of what other people do. You are not your parents, Ava Rand. Hold your head up and be proud.”
It’d been a difficult habit to break, one she never fully let go of until she’d lived in LA for a few years, but Maryellen Proffit had been the beginning and Ava had never forgotten that.
The customers already inside looked up, most looking back down but a few were wondering if they recognized her.
A few did, including Luca Proffit, who’d just walked from the back where he’d been visiting with his parents. He’d been surprised to hear Ava was on her way and had only had time to make a quick call to Angelo to relay the news.
He paused, just taking her in. She stood there, far more confident than she had the last time he saw her. She’d been young then. Barely out of high school. She’d been…gangly. Yes. Had walked as if she was not at home in her own skin. Gaze always turned to the floor, though his mother had made it her job to try to break that habit with stuff Ava hadn’t known like love and encouragement.
He knew she had fire inside her. Had admired it. Four years older than her, he’d been away at college for most of the time she’d worked for his parents. But it wasn’t until that last few months she was in Petal that he’d realized that more than admiration, he had a raging case of the what-would-she-look-like-nakeds for her.
Four months. He’d seen her stripped bare and had never forgotten it. Innocent really, compared to most of the women he’d been with in the decade since. But she’d marked him with her jittery nature and her sad blue eyes.
The Ava of today didn’t resemble the one who grew up here. Hair color and a good salon tamed the now deep auburn curls she’d captured into a ponytail. She wore small, black framed glasses and very little makeup. Her skirt, well lord above it looked like something a wicked librarian would wear. Black, thigh length. The material flared as she’d moved. A white blouse with little red hearts as buttons added to the bad librarian look and he liked it a lot.
“Mom, Dad, I think you two should come on out here,” he called out as he moved toward her. “Ava?”
She caught sight of him and blinked several times, blushing wildly when she recognized him. But the warmth in her eyes was just for him and some edgy part of him eased back and relaxed.
“Luca. It’s good to see you.”
He moved right in and hugged her. He’d surprised her, felt her body tighten and then relax as she hugged him back. “Good to see you too.”
“Ava!” Maryellen came out, wiping her hands on a towel. “We were all just talking about you. I was wondering when you’d make the time to bring yourself around here. Jasper! Come on out here and see Ava. Start up a cheeseburger and bring cobbler.”
Ava grinned. “You remember.”
“Cherry cobbler and a cheeseburger with extra crispy fries. Luca, get her into a booth for goodness’ sake. I’ll be back with some tea.”
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