Barnes & Noble
Broken vows and broken dreams.
All Sara Parker ever wanted was to marry the love of her life. A love that completed her and would provide her with years of laughter and happy memories. That all changed the night she walked in on her spineless, cheating husband. As her dreams crumble before her eyes, she takes the last shred of hope and moves three states away. With nothing but her wounded past and the keys to her grandparents’ house on Lake St. James, she slowly begins the process of starting over.
Taking a waitressing job at Hooters is a short-term solution to her long list of financial needs. Just when she fears that her past failures will haunt her forever, she winds up drawing the short straw on an already long shift. But it’s the shift of a lifetime when Matt Hamilton looks her way.
Broken heart and broken hopes.
Growing up in a loving family, Lieutenant Matthew Hamilton knew the meaning of commitment. When he met that special someone, he recognized it and went all in, exposing every inch of his big heart. But that someone drove a nail in his chest when she walked out, shattering his hope and everything he believed about love.
Returning from Afghanistan should have been a time for healing instead of sorting through the wreckage of his life. When nothing softened the jagged edges of his heart, Matt turned to yet another meaningless hookup for the only relief he could trust. Then Sara stepped up to his table and everything changed.
After a grueling weekend of emergency preparedness exercises, Matt was exhausted and hungry. Planning to grab some carry out, he drove by Hooters like a fool. She had made it clear that she wasn’t available for a relationship, but he couldn’t keep himself from fist pumping in the air when he spotted her truck.
Taking a step inside, Matt discretely scanned the room and found Sara in seconds. She was taking an order from an overly friendly pair of wannabe hipsters. He could see the intimidation in her stance as she leaned away from the table. Oh, hell no. Reacting on testosterone and possession, Matt stalked over to protect her. Friends look out for each other, right?
In a few long strides, he was standing behind her, reaching around her waist and pressing his body against hers. “Hey, baby.”
Startled, Sara gasped. Before she could say anything, Matt dipped his head to place his warm lips against her neck. Tilting her head slightly, Sara couldn’t stop the spontaneous response of pleasure escaping her throat.
Damn, was that a purr? Whatever it was, it felt like warm whiskey.
Without letting go, Matt reached one hand out, offering a handshake to the shocked customer. “You don’t mind if I borrow your waitress for a minute, do you?”
One long look at Matt’s uniform and his greedy hold on Sara and the man returned the handshake. “Not at all.”
As quickly as possible, Matt grabbed Sara’s hand before she could protest and guided her to the small hallway near the restrooms.
Breathless and shaken, Sara turned to face Matt with both hands on her hips in defiance. “What are you doing?”
Damn, she’s cute when she’s feisty. “I didn’t like the way he was looking at you. And it was quicker and easier than asking him to step outside.”
“But, why did you do that? Why would you make him think we’re together?”
“Sara, I like you. Okay? Surely you can tell by now.”
“No. No, Matt, you can’t. We can’t be more than friends.”
Taking a step closer, Matt refused to let her ignore the way she had melted against him moments ago. He placed one hand on her waist and watched her lips part as she pulled in a shallow breath. “Don’t tell me you don’t feel that, Sara. I’m over here trying to show you every well-bred manner I have, and all I can think about is how badly I need to taste your lips again.”
Refusing to meet his eyes, Sara lifted her hands to his chest, holding him away. “Matt, please don’t.” As she pushed lightly on his chest, he backed up. “I…. I have tables to wait on.”
Releasing his grip, Matt stepped back and looked at her with dark hooded eyes. “Fine. But this discussion isn’t over.”
After finishing her shift, Sara walked to her truck, unable to shake Matt, his touch, or his words from her mind. They did need to talk this out. He was clearly willing to pursue whatever it was they had, but she wasn’t ready to trust her heart again. They needed to find a middle ground.
As she sat in in her truck, waiting for it to warm up, Sara sent a text.
Sara: Can we talk? Grab a pizza?
Matt: Come to my place. I’ll order delivery.
Telling herself she could handle being in his space was harder than she thought. Pulling up to his complex, Sara could see lights spilling out of the apartment as well as the garage below. When she stepped inside the garage, Matt was head down, power sanding a piece of furniture just a few steps away. She walked closer and spoke his name to get his attention.
Glancing up, Matt took a moment to marshal his thoughts to keep his eyes from drinking her in from head to toe. She was still in her Hooters uniform, but thankfully, she was also wearing a long cardigan. As he stood, sawdust hung to his shirt and hair. “Hi. Pizza arrived a few minutes ago. I took it upstairs.”
Leading the way, he opened the door to his apartment. It was set up in the traditional shotgun style. Living and dining area, behind which were a kitchen, bath, and bedroom at the back. “I have beer or water. Sorry, no tea.”
“I’ll have a beer.” I might need it.
After opening two bottles, Matt looked down at his sawdust covered shirt. “Give me a minute to change.”
Sara removed her sweater and wandered over to the sliding door that opened to the balcony. In the reflection, she could see down the hallway. She watched as Matt’s strong back and shoulders came into view as he tugged his shirt off and tossed it to the floor. When he turned, her eyes were drawn to his chest and arm tattoo, wishing she were close enough to see the detail. He caught her eye just before pulling on a clean shirt. A moment later, he disappeared behind the wall and reappeared carrying a hooded Air Force sweatshirt.
Approaching her, he held it out. “Put this on. If you want to talk, I can’t concentrate with you in that tank top.”
Surprised by his honesty, Sara pulled the hoodie on and laughed at how it hung long enough to cover her shorts too. “Better?”
With a sweeping scan of her legs, Matt shook his head. No. “Are you hungry?”
Holding her beer, Sara took a step toward the couch. “Can we talk first?”
“You were right.”
Matt lifted an eyebrow in response. “About?”
“I do feel it. And I did like the way you kissed me. And held me. And everything else about you.”
Standing up, Matt retreated to the kitchen where he quickly busied himself filling their plates and placing them on the counter separating him from the living room. Space. He just needed space and a few minutes for the semi in his jeans to remember the conversation about her being married.
Taking a long pull on his beer, Matt leveled his gaze on her as she followed his moves carefully. “I’m not going to lie to you, Sara. I don’t know if you being here and confessing that is a good idea. I’ve fantasized about you in my bed since the night I met you.”