by Ann Aguirre
Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. She has her reasons—missing her family, losing her college scholarship. But then there's the reason Lauren can't admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend's older brother.
Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He's the guy who women love and leave, not the one who makes them think of forever—until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her.
Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with
About Ann :
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. She likes books, emo music, and action movies. She writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens.
Click here to read the full first chapter :
Six cars in the lot–I counted them as I went inside. No need for a cart. I picked a wheeled basket instead and got the groceries before heading to the small cosmetics section. There, I found Nadia’s brother. As ever, my pulse went into overdrive and my knees went soft. I’d always had this reaction to him; too bad he treated me like an honorary sibling.
Belatedly I noticed he was deliberating the merits of two body sprays. They were both that terrible, smelly stuff that commercials claimed would make guys irresistible to the ladies but really reeked like chemical muskrat death. I mustered some normal and stopped peering around the shelf at him.
“Neither,” I said, stepping into sight. “Please? Have mercy, seriously.”
Rob glanced up in surprise. “Not good, huh?”
“Your sweat smells better, I promise.”
“That’s a weird thing to say, Lauren.” His expression was unreadable, but that was no surprise. Nadia always compared her brother to a tree stump.
I suspected he was more like one of those giant sequoias. There might be all kinds of things going on, but you’d never climb high enough to see it. The worst thing about Robert Conrad? In eighth grade, I had a killer crush on him. He was a senior in high school at the time, lettered in both football and basketball, while I was chubby little grease spot with braces and a terminal cases of the stutters, anytime he spoke to me. We’d both moved on from those awkward days, but anytime I ran into him, I felt thirteen again, nerves jangling like a car alarm.
In some cases, time was unkind to high school athletes. They lost their hair and muscle tone. But the opposite was true of Rob. He worked construction alongside his dad, and at twenty-five, his shoulders were so broad that I wanted to climb him. Not with the giggly uncertainty of junior high, either. He was all solid muscle, great guns, ripped abs and incredibly defined deltoids. When you added chiseled features, strong jaw, blue-gray eyes and dark hair, it was hard not to drool. But it was so wrong to think that way about my best friend’s brother. I had no idea if he’d noticed my crush back in the day, but if so, he was kind enough to ignore it and not tease me. I’d slept with other guys since then, enjoyed sex just fine, but I still tingled whenever he was nearby.
Yeah, I’m taking that secret to my grave.
“Sorry, I was considering some better options for you, cologne-wise, but I don’t think you’ll find anything here.”
He sighed and put the two sprays back. “Avery should buy it then. Because I have no idea what she’s talking about.”
“What did she say?”
My fist balled up, a knee-jerk reaction to hearing about his girlfriend. They’d started dating back in the fall and were still together, apparently. At Thanksgiving, I’d gone home with Nadia, who’d invited my mom and me over to Casa Conrad to eat. Watching Rob with Avery, it had been all I could do not to yank her hair out. She was so beautiful—model thin, with natural red hair, green eyes and the sort of face I’d call ethereal; she could dress up as Titania, the fairy queen, and totally pull it off. That day, he’d taken such great care of her, filling her plate, making sure she had a drink and was never just sitting, lonely. Seeing that made me ache.
“She wants me to be more upscale.”
“What are you, a trendy eatery?”
In my opinion, Rob didn’t need improving. He was rocking those Levi’s, along with a blue plaid flannel shirt and navy down vest. No, he wasn’t a GQ guy, but why the hell would any woman want that from him? Also, I kind of wanted to hug him, if he thought he could buy “upscale” at Safeway.
He laughed. “Not hardly.”
It might not be any of my business, but… “Don’t change for her, okay? You’re great the way you are.”
His eyes widened. Not for the first time, I noted that his irises were a swirl of charcoal and mist with specks of blue, fringed by ridiculously thick black lashes. In a face without such a strong nose and firm chin, those eyes would make him too pretty. When I had sleepovers at Nadia’s, back in high school, I imagined him cornering me and shoving me against the wall, overcome by his unspoken longings. That was pretty much my favorite fantasy when I was sixteen, but Rob never gave any sign he suffered from ungovernable passion.
“That’s not true,” he said quietly.
A little flicker in his eyes, a twist of his mouth, and I got the impression that he was incredibly sad. He didn’t have an expressive face, and truthfully, his at-rest look suggested he didn’t have much going on in his brain box. Behind his back, people had been calling him the quintessential dumb jock for as long as I could remember. The girl he went out with in high school dished about his body, but she never mentioned any other traits. In my rich fantasy life, I’d never wondered about his thoughts or feelings, either, and staring up at him now, a pang of remorse went through me.
“I disagree. But don’t take my word for it,” I said breezily. “I’m just the idiot who flunked out of Mount Albion.”
“Bullshit. You were always on the honor roll along with Nadia. You’re only here because you want to be.”
I was astonished into silence for a few seconds, then I rallied. “That’s a bold statement. What about the love child I’m having?”
His gaze swept down my body, quietly intense. “Nope.”
I wished I was wearing anything but sweats and that my hair wasn’t a bird’s nest. But he’d known me since I was seven, and he’d never seen me as a potential anything, so that was pointless regret. A dress or a hairstyle wouldn’t change a lifetime of indifference.
“I should get going,” I said. “My mom’s waiting for the milk and eggs.”
Clearly, I should win a prize for clever comments. But Rob nodded like I didn’t sound like a sixteen-year-old dipshit with a specialization in being weird around boys. Which was so messed up; at school, the one damn thing I excelled at was witty banter, making guys laugh. I was fucking popular at Mount Albion.
“You doing anything tonight?” he asked.
Huh? Somehow I managed not to let my jaw drop open. “Not really. I just got unpacked and most of my friends from high school are gone.”
“Avery’s visiting her cousin in Omaha this weekend, so I thought maybe you want to split a pizza. I don’t feel like cooking.”
Wow. This is definitely not a date.
“Sounds good,” I said. “What time?”
“Sure. You remember where I live?” He’d driven me home a few times when Nadia called him to rescue us from out-of-control parties, but I didn’t imagine those occasions made much impression on him.
To my surprise, he nodded. “Out on Dover Road still, right?”
“Yep, that’s the place.” With a friendly wave, I pulled my basket past him and to the checkout lane.
Click here to read the full first chapter :
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Awww, Just Awwww
I really loved the first book in this series (click to see my review on I want it that way)
Nadia and Ty and Sam came to visit a little in this story - so it was nice to remember - we also saw an email from Adrian and Max :)
But this story - wow! Rob is such a sweetheart! But he doesn't get enough credit - his whole life he had always just been a pretty face - no brains attached. It's a wonder how he was able to survive on his own at all - but he did - and it was doing something he really liked. In the off season when construction was slow, he was able to buy his first home and fix it up. His girlfriend Avery wasn't the best for him. She treated him like crap telling him how he needed to do things to make himself better.
But Lauren has always seen him as the good guy he really is. even back from when she was in 8th grade and he was a senior, and her best friends older brother. Although the age gap was a bit much back then, it's a little easier now to see how these two really click.
Lauren flunked out of college - Nadia had pointed out that college life wasn't for everyone and she went back home. Lauren has a little anxiety and doesn't cope well with certain situations, so her small town home and helping Rob work on his house became easy to fall into. But after helping Rob get his big break, her anxiety gets the best of her.
Lauren is a great girl - I loved her strong will to blend in. Even if it was hard for her. She and Rob made the cutest couple.
I really loved this book :)