Bad Case of Loving You(7)

By: Kait Nolan


Awareness and delight swam into her eyes. She squeezed his hand. “I’ll get my purse.”





“I’d like hash browns, smothered and covered, with two eggs scrambled and a side of toast.” Paisley stuck her laminated menu back into the condiment caddy.

Ty smiled at their waitress, an older woman with a beehive of blonde hair that wasn’t too far off from the iconic yellow on the diner’s sign. Her name tag read Gloria, and Paisley decided she needed to go in a book. “I’m feeling adventurous. Hash browns, all the way, and two eggs sunny side up.”

“You got it sweet cheeks.” As Gloria turned away, she met Paisley’s gaze, waggled her brows and blew out a silent puff of air in a message that clearly said, Oo, girl, he is smokin’, and you are one lucky woman.

She certainly hoped to be before the end of the night.

The sizzle between them hadn’t dimmed a watt since they’d left the reception. If anything, it had amped up when they’d slid in on opposite sides of a booth at Waffle House. Exactly where they’d come after the homecoming dance that night.

Paisley wrapped her hands around the mug of coffee, enjoying the warmth between her palms. “I don’t think I’ve been in a Waffle House since high school.” Back in Cooper’s Bend, it had been the only place open after nine PM, and they’d spent countless late nights talking in a booth just like this one.

“Why not?”

She jerked a shoulder. “I went to college here in Nashville, so there were lots of other options. And I guess a little because they always made me think of you.”

Another one of those shadows flitted through his eyes and had her reaching out to lay a hand over his. “That’s not a dig, Ty. I don’t think you made the wrong decision in breaking things off back then. It took me a long time to be able to admit that because I missed you like oxygen.”

Ty turned his hand up to curl around hers in a gesture at once familiar and new. “If it helps, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. It was never that I didn’t care.”

“I know.” He’d broken her heart into a million little pieces. But with the wisdom of maturity, she understood he’d wanted to save her from the worst possible outcome of the job. She was glad she could look back fondly on that first love and not have it tarnished with the resentment that would have inevitably grown if she’d tried to share him with his duty.

“We had different paths.” Stroking a thumb over the rough skin of his hand, she absorbed the sensation of his touch and yearned for more of it. “I can’t say I regret that they’ve crossed again.”

His eyes searched hers. “I looked you up.”

“What?”

“A long time back, I got curious. Hunted you up on social media, and I found your books.”

“Oh.” She didn’t know what to say about that. She hated talking romance with people she actually knew—at least the ones who weren’t confirmed romance readers. The genre caught so much flak from the uneducated, suffering insult and denigration. Even among certain segments of the writing community there was no respect. She didn’t think she could stand being dismissed by Ty. Not that he’d be a deliberate asshole about it, but plenty of people were hurtful in their own ignorance.

“I liked them.”

Paisley blinked, sure she’d heard him wrong. “Beg your pardon?”

“Your books. I liked them.” He said it easily, without a hint of smirk. Like he was really serious.

“You’ve read my books?” It was a struggle to keep her voice from sliding up an octave.

“Yeah.”

Oh. God. How many had he read? Did he realize she’d been writing the many shades of him all these years? Something that was the bastard child of panic and embarrassment lodged beneath her breastbone. Heat crept into her cheeks as she tried to figure out the appropriate response. “You...uh…aren’t exactly my target demographic.”

Ty shrugged. “They were good to keep for downtime while I was deployed. Uncertainty was my normal, so having that guaranteed happy ending was…comforting. And you write like you talk, so it was a little like having a piece of you back.”