READ AN EXCERPT from Once and Again

“Who is that?” Royal Watson, Anne’s used-to-be-boyfriend now best friend, leaned over to ask Nathan.

Once and Again

He turned to find himself mesmerized by the sway of a spectacular pair of breasts that happened to belong to none other than Lily Travis.

“That is not yours. That’s who she is.” Nathan frowned as she took a circuit of the floor with Andy Sanchez. Andy’s hand was mighty close to Lily’s ass. That was not going to happen. It was one thing to know she was still pissed at him after all these years. He could live with that. Probably. But it was another to imagine her with anyone else in town. That wasn’t going to be a reality he’d have to live with.

“Really now?” Royal grinned and looked pointedly at Nathan’s hand. “Don’t see any ring there. Why don’t you…holy shit, that’s Lily!” Royal found this ridiculously funny and Nathan wanted to punch him.

“Yes, it’s Lily. Stop laughing.”

“I laugh because your pain is amusing.” Royal shrugged.

Matt Chase came back over. “Sorry, I had to go smooch up on my woman for a bit. She let me and then shooed me off. Don’t know why we can’t all sit together.”

“Probably because Lily is with them and she hates Nathan.”

“Thanks Royal, you can stop with that now before I have to clean your clock.” Nathan watched her move, watched Andy lean in and say something in her ear. Watched her laugh and then thankfully shake her head and step back.

When she turned to head toward the women’s table, her gaze snagged on his. He caught the awareness shocking through her system and sent her a smile. Oh, yes, he still got to her.

“I think you should ask her to dance.” Matt hogged the nachos and Nathan frowned.

“I think he should too. Then she’ll kick him in the stones, and we can laugh and laugh. Mr. Smooth can’t get hisself a woman. Never thought I’d see that day.” Royal smirked.

“Every time I’m with you for longer than three minutes I know why my sister dumped you.” Nathan rolled his eyes.

“She dumped me because I asked her to marry me. Three times. And she said no each time. Picky women. This town grows ’em like peaches. Christ. If you don’t ask Lily to dance, I will.”

“No you won’t. You and Anne aren’t romantic anymore, but she sure as hell isn’t going to be all right with you rubbing up on a close friend. Lily’s like family so if you wouldn’t rub up on Beth, you can’t rub up on Lily either.”

Royal frowned. “You made that up to keep me away.”

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“You’ll never know for sure.”

Matt laughed. “True. But he’s right about one thing. You and Lily need a dance. But she’s going to say no if you take her on directly-like. So wait until she’s out there again and cut in. She’s got good manners, she’ll be too nice to snub you in public.”

“You’re a devious man. I like that about you.”

So he bided his time until eventually she ended up out there again, and he headed out, careful to avoid the spot where Steffie was. She’d been less than thrilled when they broke the engagement off and continued to send him cow eyes when she wasn’t plotting his death.

He tapped Phin on the shoulder and the man shot Nathan a look of annoyance, but he stepped back and Nathan smoothly took his place, getting a secure hold on that waist so she couldn’t bolt.

They danced well together. Always had. He knew she loved it and he’d always loved to hold her as they did. Loved that any man in the place could look his fill but she was his. Christ he was dumb to have let her go.

“Well hello there, Lily.” He sent her his most charming smile. She was not impressed and frowned back at him.

“Why are you doing this?”

“There’s no reason we can’t be friends. If I remember rightly, you like dancin’. So do I. Why not dance together? Unless, you know, I’m too much for you to handle, and you can’t bear to be around me if we’re not smooching. That’s okay too, by the by.”

“You’re so full of yourself. Smooching? Seems to me you’re just fine getting that whenever you want it.”

He mimed pain, holding a hand over his heart. “I’m wounded.”

“Not enough for my liking.”

He laughed. “I’d forgotten how vicious you could be. I am sorry. It was shitty of me. But I’m older and wiser and more discriminating than I once was.”

She rolled her eyes, and he had to close his eyes for a second as the scent of her perfume wrapped around his senses.

“Why the eye roll?” he asked when he’d gotten hold of himself once more.

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“Discriminating? You not only put your dick in Stephanie, you were going to marry her. That is not exactly discriminating in my book.”

“I’d say something like she’s not all bad, but that’s a lie. I sort of…anyway, She came to my house for dinner and she had a stack of wedding invitations she was trying to choose. She’d taken out an ad in the engagements section of the paper and put our picture in it. One of her friends took it at some party! Anyway, I went along with it for a while, but in the end, I couldn’t keep lying to her about it and I couldn’t talk myself into marriage to a woman who didn’t make my heart beat faster unless it was from sick fear. Do you have someone? Back in Macon?”

“I did.” The song was ending, and he knew she’d break for it once it was over.

“Did like how? Like you broke up a while ago or…”

She sighed. “I’ve been single a while. Not that it matters to you, Nathan Murphy.”

“Let me buy you a drink.”


“Why you gotta be so hard? We used to be friends. Before we had the other, we were friends. I miss that.”

The song ended and she extricated herself. “I missed a lot of things for a long time. But I don’t now.” She turned her back on him and stalked back to the table where heads bent close, he knew asking her for details.

Then Steffie headed in his direction and he had to melt into the crowd to escape.

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