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    Featured Love Story

    Here is a sneak peek at one of the stories from Completely Yours … 

       Annie Davis restacked her piling stack of cards and turned the top card over, revealing a two of hearts. As soon as she saw the low card, her shoulders drooped. Dang it. Why couldn’t it have been a king or an ace?

       Beside her, Brooke sipped from her beer, sending a sympathetic look over the tipped can. This was the third time Annie had lost the battle. It wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t consequences in this game.

       Several of Brooke’s friends tapped their red plastic cups against the table. “Shot. Shot. Shot.” One of the girls—whose name she couldn’t remember after meeting twelve of Brooke’s new Texas friends—grabbed a thin bottle, unscrewing the red cap.

       Bile rose in Annie’s throat. “What’s that?”

       “It’s fireball.”

       “That sounds awful.”

       The girl smiled mischievously. An hour ago, when everyone had arrived at the cabin, they’d decided to play drinking games. Brooke had immediately told everyone that Annie didn’t drink often. Her best friend had said it so they would go easy on her. But so far, Brooke’s friends seemed to have one goal in mind—give her the strongest options they had in stock.

       Lucas put his hand over the girls’. “I’ll do it.”

       Annie met his gaze across the table. She definitely hadn’t forgotten his name. The moment Lucas had walked into the cabin, they’d locked eyes. He had the palest blue eyes she’d ever seen, the kind she could get lost in. Running a hand through his disheveled undercut, he strode across the open space and introduced himself to her in a Southern accent. He had a firm, yet gentle handshake, lingering for a few seconds longer than necessary.

       Not that she’d minded. It gave her a few more seconds to admire him from close range. He looked like a surfer with his light-blond beard, athletic shorts, and blue cut-off shirt that showcased his tanned, well-defined arms.

       And now her fate was in his hands. As the group continued playing, she gave him a look, silently pleading not to give her a shot of fireball. No doubt it would make her sick.

       Lucas grabbed a can of root beer, pouring it into her shot glass and sliding it across the table.

       She glanced at the others, but no one had noticed. They were laughing at something Brooke had said.

       Downing the root beer, she turned back to Lucas, a smile spreading across her face. What a sweet guy for giving her pop instead of alcohol. “Thank you.”

       “You’re welcome. I can be your official shot pourer if you want.”

       “I’d like that.” She twisted the empty shot glass in her hands, trying to focus on something other than beside the undercurrents of attraction sparking between them. She’d never been so interested in someone this soon. Lucas was practically a stranger.

       She needed to be careful. She had just broken up with Owen after dating him for two years. Even though it was for the best, she missed him.

       In fact, that was probably the reason Lucas appealed to her. In the morning, she’d wake up and realize it was a fluke. Attraction this sudden would fizzle out just as quickly it had appeared.

    ***

       The next night Annie tossed another log into the fireplace and sat down on the stone hearth, extending her long legs onto the bear fur rug. Heat radiated from the fire, warming her back beneath her thin cotton tank top. Despite the humid summer weather, it didn’t seem right to stay in a log cabin without using the fireplace.

       Yawning, she cupped a hand over her mouth. She really should go to bed. Only Brooke, Lucas, and a few others were still up, playing card games in the basement. Their laughter floated up the staircase.

       She reached for her tea, holding the mug with both hands. She couldn’t bring herself to go upstairs just yet. Her mind was reeling, replaying the events from today—swimming in the lake, going to Sonic, playing card games—the whole day she’d been so viscerally aware of Lucas it felt like a magnetic pull tugging her closer to him.

       Clearly, she’d been wrong. Her attraction had only grown stronger, watching him jump off the dock, swimming laps in the lake, and playing volleyball in the sandpit. He wasn’t as outgoing as the rest of the guys here, but his quiet confidence intrigued her even more.

       Not that she would do anything about it. After this week, she’d drive back to Kansas and forget about Lucas in Texas. She’d done long distance before—wishing she could go out to dinner with her boyfriend on weeknights, but ending up on her couch with a box of macaroni instead; spending Friday nights in the car driving to see him; coming home on Sunday nights, only to feel exhausted on Monday; waiting for each phone call just to hear his voice, but knowing it would never be as good as spending time in person. No way would she put herself through that again.

       The grandfather clock chimed midnight and she startled, spilling a little bit of tea on her leggings. “Crap.” Setting the mug on the fireplace, she rubbed at the spot with her thumb.

       “Are you getting sloppy? I told you not to drink so much.”

       Annie’s head shot up, heat burning in her cheeks as Lucas walked around the fireplace.

       He stopped in front of her, shaking his head. “Too much root beer will do that to you.”

       Annie smiled. “I should’ve listened to you, huh?”

       Lucas crossed his arms, his chest muscles growing even larger beneath his white V-neck shirt. “I’ve been told I give pretty good advice.”

       “Uh-huh, sure. That’s what they all say.”

       He laughed. “Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence.” He glanced over at her still-full mug, his face growing somber. “Something keeping you up?”

       “Just thinking.”

       He nodded, seeming to consider her answer, but not pressing her for more. “I’m not in the mood to go to bed either and everyone else just passed out. Want to go out on the dock?”

       Her lips parted. She should say no. It would make leaving Texas that much easier, but Lucas was looking at her, his pale blue eyes melting her reasoning into a murky puddle. “Okay. Sure.”

       Outside, they walked side-by-side, but she was careful to leave a few inches between them. She tried to focus on her surroundings instead. The moon glowed in the star-filled sky, casting a dim light over the dark lake. Down below the dock, frogs croaked, their deep, rhythmic chants competing with the hooting owls and crickets in the woods nearby.  

       A warm summer breeze blew across the dock, strong enough to pick up Lucas’ Calvin Klein cologne, blowing a musky nutmeg scent past her nose.

       Ugh. So much for not focusing on him. Even the outdoors noticed Lucas’ presence.

       He stepped a little closer as they neared the end of the dock, his hand brushing against hers. “Brooke is a lot fun. She seems to like Texas so far.”

       “Yeah, she does. I give her props for moving away from everyone she knows and starting a new life here.” Annie tossed her hair in front of her shoulder, running her fingers through the long brown strands. “I miss her a lot. We’ve known each other since we were born. It sucks having her so far away. We talk on the phone all the time, though.”

       “How far away is Kansas?”

       “It’s takes about twelve hours to drive. I could fly too, but it’s pretty expensive, especially on a youth pastor’s salary.”

       “I should’ve guessed.”

       “I love the church where I work. It’s really big, but it still has this homey, small community vibe. A lot of the families who go to my church are wealthy, so we have the funds to take the kids on mission trips every summer. It’s very eye opening for them to see third-world poverty.”

       “I bet. Where have you gone?”

       “New York City and Kenya.”

       Lucas stopped at the end of the dock, leaning his back against the wooden railing. “I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip. But growing up, I could never go with my youth group because they’d go during the summer when I had baseball.”

       “You’re a baseball player?”

       “I played in high school and college. But I don’t play much anymore.”

       Annie rested her forearms above the railing, facing the lake. She liked imagining him in a baseball uniform—tight pants accenting his fit waist, a jersey showcasing his muscular arms, little blond hairs sticking out between his hat and ears. “You could always join an adult league or something.”

       “I’ve thought about signing up for a co-ed league. But I need to find someone who would do it with me.”

       “If I lived closer, I’d do it with you.” The second the words came out, heat rose up the back of her neck. Had she really just said that? “I mean, don’t you have anyone here you could ask?” She wanted to smack her forehead. Worse, much worse.

       Lucas turned around, facing the same direction as her. He nudged her shoulder, a playful smile spreading across his face. “Are you asking if I have a girlfriend?”

       “No, that’s not what I meant. I was just …”

       He chuckled. “I’m not seeing anyone.”

       “Oh.” She chewed on her thumbnail, contemplating how to turn this conversation around to safer, non-relationship related topics.

       “Are you dating anyone?”

       Annie sighed, giving in. If she told Lucas it was none of his business that would be rude. She might as well answer him. “No. My boyfriend and I just broke up.”

       “Sorry to hear that.” Lucas kept his voice monotone, but his face held little compassion.

       “You don’t look very sorry.”

       “Okay, you caught me.” He held his hands up in innocence. “I can’t help it, though. I’ve only known you for a couple of days, and already I see what a catch you are. What happened?”

       Annie hesitated. Her wounds were still open and talking about Owen would surely rub them raw. But Lucas looked genuinely interested, and she didn’t want to end the conversation. “My ex and I had very different views on faith and politics. For a long time, I tried to convince myself that we could make it work, but in the end …” Her chest constricted, wishing things could have been different between her and Owen. “I knew it would cause problems in a marriage.”

       Lucas cleared his throat. “Faith is important to me too. I’ve always heard that you should date someone who can love God more than you.”

       She stared at him for moment, chills running up and down her arms. “My grandpa used to tell me that.”

       “Your grandpa is a wise man.”

       “Was.” She blinked away the moisture building in her eyes. “He recently passed away.”

       “I’m sorry to hear that. Like truly sorry this time.”

       She laughed at his insistence. “My grandpa was a great guy. He’s one of the reasons my faith is so strong. He was the pastor of a church and one of those people who befriended everyone. There were over 1,200 people at his funeral.”

       “Dang. That’s when you know someone’s touched a lot of lives.” Lucas rested his forearms above the railing, reaching for her hand. “Is your family doing okay?”

       “Yeah, we kind of expected it. He wasn’t sick or anything, but my grandma died last year, and he took a turn for the worst after she passed. They were still so in love, even in their late eighties.”

       “I hope I’ll have a love like that one day.”

       Annie nodded, her heart expanding in her chest. After her grandpa died, she’d yearned to have a deep conversation like this with Owen, but it never happened. Owen was fun to talk to, but he wasn’t the type of guy who enjoyed life talks. Lucas, on the other hand, seemed comfortable with them.

       As reluctant as she felt to start anything with Lucas, she couldn’t hold back anymore. She wanted to know everything about him. “Have you been in love before?”

       He entwined their fingers, caressing her palm with his thumb. “Yeah. I’ve dated a few people seriously, but the timing never felt right with any of them.”

       “I get that. I’ve dated some really great guys. But so far, nothing has worked out long term. Sometimes I feel so anxious, like it’s never going to work out.”

       “Don’t say that. It will. You haven’t met the right guy yet.” Still holding her hand, Lucas turned toward her, moonlight casting shadows across his face. “Or maybe you have, and you need to get to know him better.”

       “You never know …” Suddenly, she felt a little self-conscious, if only because she could guess where this conversation was headed. By the end of the night, they would have to make a decision on what they what they wanted to do. Would they start dating? A big part of her hoped so, and yet, what if it didn’t work out? Long-distance relationships were a big investment and if it ended in heartbreak, it would all be for nothing.

       Lucas cleared his throat. “What do you look for in someone you date?”

       “Oh gosh, you’re putting me on the spot. I would say someone who’s a good communicator, someone who shares the same values, and someone who’s kind to other people. I’m sure I have more, but that’s what comes to mind right away.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “What about you?”

       “A believer, someone who’s close to her family, who likes sports, and someone who is honest.” He kept his gaze locked on her while he spoke, his voice growing lower by the end of his list.

       Annie swallowed hard, trying to ignore the butterflies flittering through her stomach. Her chest rose and fell as he untwined their fingers and placed his hand on her cheek. She twisted her hips to face him completely, and he leaned forward, his gaze resting on her lips.

       Her heart hammered in her chest. Holy crap. Could she really kiss a guy she’d just met yesterday? Before she could decide, Lucas broke the little space between them, gently brushing his lips against hers.

       Oh, sweet Heaven. Her knees buckled as his cologne enveloped her in a cocoon of nutmeg and sandalwood. Pushing her worries aside, she loosely wrapped her arms around his neck and tipped her chin up, fully giving in to the sweet, tantalizing kiss.

       It was the type of first kiss she never wanted to end. And in that moment, her mind was made up. She couldn’t imagine going home, wondering what could have been. With every fiber of her being, she wanted to see if things could work between her and Lucas.

     

    Read the rest of the story in Book 2 of the Love Story Collection!