Caught Up In Him

By: Lauren Blakely

Chapter One





FIVE YEARS AGO…





It was just like in the movies. When you least expect it he walks into the scene and turns your world upside down.

I first met Bryan in my driveway one summer day when I was seventeen. I’d heard of him; my older brother Nate had roomed with him through most of college and into business school. But I’d never met Bryan myself. He grew up near Buffalo and went home for school breaks. Then, the summer after I’d graduated from high school, Bryan stayed with us for a few weeks to help run Mystic Landing, the gift shop my parents ran in the center of town.

My parents rarely vacationed and hardly ever took time off. My mother had spent most of my high school years recuperating from a devastating car accident that had required multiple surgeries and countless physical therapy sessions. She was finally herself again and to celebrate, my mom’s sister had convinced my parents to spend a few weeks at her lake house in Maine. Nate and I would watch the store while they relaxed by cool blue waters and underneath crystal skies.

They packed up, hopped in the car and drove north, and hours later, I met the man who’d become my first love. From the moment he arrived, I was a done deal. I swung open the front door, ran to the car, and gave Nate a huge hug. Then Bryan got out of the passenger side, wearing a white tee-shirt and worn jeans, which is near about the sexiest thing a man can wear. When he slung his duffel bag on his shoulder his shirt rose up, revealing a sliver of his firm and flat stomach. I tried to look elsewhere because otherwise I’d only think about the way his blue jeans hung just so on his hips, and where the cut lines of his abdomen led to.

So I checked out his arms instead. I’ve always thought one of the reasons some men work so hard on their arms is because of what women think when they encounter nicely sculpted ones. You picture the man above you. You imagine running your hands up and down those arms as he moves in you.

But he wasn’t just a beautiful body. He was the whole package. He had a trace of stubble on his boyish face, and the softest-looking dark brown hair I’d ever seen. His eyes drew me in, those forest green eyes with flecks of gold. Eyes you could gaze into, eyes that invited long simmering looks as they saw inside you.

Nate introduced us, and Bryan put his bag down and gave me a sturdy hug, rather than a handshake. I was wearing one of my own necklace designs, a silver chain strung with a lone heart pendant in midnight blue. His chest pressed into the pendant, and I could easily have let my thoughts run away right there.

Then he spoke to me. “I feel like I know you already. Nate says you’re a huge movie fan. That when you’re not making necklaces you’re at the local theater. I’ve always said there’s nothing better than skipping class for a matinee.” Then the grin came, the lopsided smile I’d fall hard for.

“Matinee and popcorn. Doesn’t get any better than that,” I said, and I was sure the words came out all bumpy and clunky, out of sync with what I was saying silently — How did my brother have such a ridiculously good-looking best friend?

The three of us hung out that night, ordered pizza, and lounged on old plastic chairs on the deck, under the stars. I listened as they talked about school, and what was next for them both on the work front. Nate planned to look for a job in the technology industry at the end of the summer, and Bryan had scored a gig in Manhattan that started in a month. They weren’t college boys anymore since they both had MBAs, but they weren’t working men yet either. They were in this sort of in-between time.

I was in an in-between time too. Only I was five years younger, so I figured I should get out of the way of their guy talk.

“I better go to sleep. Since I’ve got the Mystic Landing morning shift and all,” I said, and then went to my room and pulled on a pair of loose shorts and a gray tank top with a pink Hello Kitty across the chest. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and walked back down the hall to my bedroom when I bumped into Bryan.

“Sorry,” he said, then glanced at my tank top, and lingered with his eyes a little longer than he should. I didn’t mind, but when he realized what he was doing, he looked up. “You like Hello Kitty?”

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