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Hate Loving You
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I gave him my virginity and he broke my damn heart.
Still the same ol’ Carter.
Well, my panties aren’t going anywhere.
He’s still my enemy.
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I was back.
Fifteen years ago I’d left my hometown in shame, swearing I’d never return.
But here I was, in the place where I’d met her.
More than that—the place where I’d loved her, lost her.
I thought I’d put her out of my mind, that I was over her for good. But from the moment I stepped off the plane, she’d been all I could think about.
Memories flooded back, one by one. I thought of her taste, her body, her touch, the way her impossibly beautiful face looked as we made love. They were all memories I didn’t want, memories that only hurt.
But they were memories I didn’t want to let go of.
And now I was back, ready to be the best man for the guy who, ten years ago, I figured would’ve been the last person to want me for the job; HER brother. Hell, when all that went down between me and his sister, I’d thought we’d be enemies for life. Then life threw all of us some unexpected curveballs and we realized how important friendship was and we were able to salvage our relationship.
Maybe some wounds heal after all.
Not this one, though. Not with her. No chance.
She was here somewhere, and it was only a matter of time before I saw her again.
Goddamn, I told myself, raising my glass of bourbon to my lips. Get your fucking head in the game.
The sounds of the pre-wedding party were a racket all around me. Drink in hand, I sipped as my eyes flicked from person to person, from familiar face to familiar face. I was back in my hometown, back for my old best friend’s wedding.
Back where my last, strongest memories of her were.
The thought of Jenny Griffiths made me bring the rest of my bourbon up to my lips and toss it back without thinking.
Get a grip, I told myself, my eyes drifting down to the glass of melted ice in my hand, traces of amber-colored bourbon pooled. You think getting drunk through this wedding is a smart thing to do? Try it and see how far it gets you.
But the buzz didn’t hurt one bit—not going to lie about that. Still, I checked myself. Turning into a sloppy mess would only create more problems. And more problems were the last thing I needed.
“Is that Carter? Carter Sharpe?”
A lilting, feminine voice sounded out, snapping me out of my thoughts. I glanced in the direction from which it came to see a slender, red-haired woman approaching me with a beaming, wide-eyed smile on her face.
It took me a moment to scan through my mental Rolodex to find her. I had to go back, way back to high school. Keeping names close at hand was something I was good at—it was a necessary skill in the entertainment business, where you lived or died by your ability to network.
“Megan!” I said, bracing my tone with some forced excitement. “Megan Richter!”
She closed the distance between us like a bobcat pouncing on a rabbit—a bobcat that’d clearly had one too many mimosas. Before I could react her arms were around me, the scent of overpriced but cheap-smelling perfume hitting me with the aggressiveness of spilled paint thinner. Her full breasts pressed hard against my solid chest, and there was no doubt in my mind that this was very intentional.
Megan let go of me, stepping back and letting her watery blue eyes flicker up and down my body as she shook her head in disbelief.
“Carter fucking Sharpe,” she said. “In the flesh.”
The soft, outward push of her teeth against her lips for the “f” followed by the soft hush of the “sh” gave me the impression she had the word on her mind in a very particular way.
Megan had been one of those pretty, popular hangers-on of the prettier, more popular girls back in high school. And she’d never been shy about how much she’d wanted me.
Here she was, more than a decade later, picking up right where she’d left off, not missing a step with those coal-black pumps.
“Good to see you, Megan,” I said.
Another head shake from her. “Carter Sharpe, back in Pleasant Hill,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong—I’m very, very happy to see you. But damned if it isn’t a surprise.”
“Why would it be a surprise?” I asked. “My best friend’s getting married.”
An expression that she’d overstepped some kind of boundary of tact briefly flashed on her face.
“Um, just what happened with you and Jenny and Sam? I thought…” She waved her hand through the air, the slight sloshing of her drink over the rim of her glass another bit of proof that she’d had perhaps a little too much and was speaking to me for reasons other than simply catching up.
“That’s all in the past,” I said. “I’m here to celebrate, just like you.”