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Some things never change. Others never stay the same. Thank God.
Second Chances, Book 3
Laura Sanders thought post-divorce life would be simple. What a rude awakening to realize that after too many years as a wife and mother, she’s stuck in a rut so deep she’s forgotten how to have fun.
Determined that this year will be different, she sets a New Year’s goal to rediscover the woman she used to be—the one who loved to dance, to laugh, to kiss.
When Bryan Sinclair spots his best friend from high school in the Blue Moon bar, he wonders how the hell he failed to notice her beauty and vitality all those years ago. Laura’s confession that she plans to experience lost opportunities tempts him into joining her on the journey.
Together they make up for lost time, in and out of the bedroom. But there’s one area in which Laura has no plans to change the status quo—her heart. And Bryan has his work cut out convincing her to take another chance. On him. On forever.
This story contains sex at Rocky Horror, sex at a Jimmy Buffett concert, sex on the stairs, sex on the dining-room table, sex on the dance floor, and even sex in a bed.
“Hey, Laura.” Kevin was back, grasping her hand and pulling her toward the dance floor. “Dance with me.”
She tried to retrieve her hand, shaking her head, but Kevin was tenacious. She glanced behind him, hoping to signal Georgie for help dissuading the man, but her friend had spotted Nick.
Cue yet another World War. Tonight was about to implode. Quickly.
Kevin spun her, resuming his earlier dancing position. This time there was no mistaking what he was packing in his pants as he tightened his arm around her waist, grinding closer.
She tried to push his hand away, struggling to break free of his grip. While she knew he didn’t mean her any harm, she was more than uncomfortable with his inappropriate rubbing and touching.
“I really need to—”
“Laura? Laura Riley?”
Laura looked up at the sound of her maiden name and spotted salvation in blue jeans, a button-down shirt, and a beloved, familiar face she’d never dreamed of seeing again. “Bryan? Oh my God. What the hell are you doing here?”
Bryan Sinclair had been Laura’s best friend for four years. An Army brat, Bryan and his family had been stationed at the base near Harrisburg when she and Bryan were in seventh grade. One of the saddest days of Laura’s life had been the day Bryan told her his dad was being transferred. They were halfway through their junior year in high school and Laura had felt his absence in her life profoundly. They’d tried to stay in touch, writing letters and calling occasionally, but eventually, they simply lost touch.
“I was going to ask you the same thing.” Bryan smiled at Kevin. “Mind if I cut in?”
Kevin loosened his grip, but didn’t move away. Laura suspected the alcohol was dimming his senses and slowing his response time. “Uh…”
Laura used Kevin’s distraction to step away from the young man. “Thanks for the dance, Kevin.” She grabbed Bryan’s hand, leading him away from the dance floor and toward the bar.
As soon as they found a quiet corner, Bryan hugged her tightly. Laura returned the embrace. “You saved me, stranger.”
Bryan chuckled. “Yeah. It didn’t look like you were enjoying the mauling. Damn, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”
She laughed. “I’m so glad to see you. I have to admit you’re probably the last person on earth I expected to run into tonight.”
“I’m here for the band.”
She laughed. “Wow. Really? How many years has it been?”
Bryan shrugged. “I haven’t seen you since we were sixteen, so what’s that make it? Twenty-seven years?”
Laura winced. “Talk about making me feel old. I was just thinking about you the other day.”
She nodded. “One of my girlfriends talked me into joining Facebook. I wound up getting out an old yearbook and started plugging in names trying to find people from school. Your name was the first one I typed in.”
“I’m not on Facebook.”
She grinned. “I noticed.”
“I’ll correct that oversight as soon as I get home tonight.”
Laura marveled at how at ease she was with Bryan even after all the years apart. Despite the years that had passed, she could still see the boy he’d been in his face and hear it in his voice. While they’d never been anything more than friends, Laura had felt closer to Bryan than anyone. There was nothing they hadn’t talked about when they were younger, nothing they wouldn’t try together. Shortly after Bryan moved, Laura’s ex-husband, Mason, asked her out for a date. Sometimes Laura wondered what Bryan would have thought about Mason’s invitation. Would he have encouraged her to go out with Mason or told her to steer clear?
They say hindsight is twenty-twenty. That was certainly true for Laura. Mason had come along at a time when she was lonely, missing her best friend, and she’d hopped at the chance to go out with the hottest, richest guy in high school. She wasn’t so sure her answer would have been the same if Bryan had still been around.
“Are you seriously here for the band?”
Bryan nodded, pointing to the stage. “The blonde on the keyboard is my daughter, Trina. She’s a sophomore at the Conservatory.”
“That’s your daughter? She’s incredible. My girlfriends and I were talking earlier about how talented she is.”
Bryan lit up. It was clear he adored his daughter. “She’s pretty amazing.”
“Are you just in town visiting her?”
Bryan shook his head. “No. My company offered me a transfer here a few months ago. Trina had already done her freshman year at the Conservatory and I’d missed the hell out of her. I asked her what she would think of her old man moving closer. She told me to go for it.”
“What’s your wife do?”
“My wife passed away five years ago.”
Laura reached out to touch his hand. “Oh Bryan. I’m so sorry. That must’ve been terrible for you.”
Bryan nodded. “For a while there, I was pretty much living day to day. But it’s true what they say. Time heals all wounds. I miss the hell out of her, but I’ve accepted she’s gone and I’ve figured out a way to move forward. So now it’s just Trina and me. I’m renting an apartment in town and she’s living in a dorm on campus. That was the deal. I could follow her to college, but I had to keep my distance.”
Laura admired Bryan’s strength, his courage. There was a sadness in his eyes when he spoke about his wife that told her he hadn’t had an easy go of it these last few years. “My kids wouldn’t have let me move to their college towns, period, but considering they were twins and they attended universities on opposite sides of the state, it’s pretty safe to say that set-up wouldn’t have worked anyway.”
“They graduated a year ago. I’m very pleased to say my children are both presently employed in their chosen professions and have started paying their debt to society. Kevin is a medical technician at a hospital near Roslyn and Katie teaches kindergarten here in town.”
Bryan gestured toward the bar. “The band is finishing up this set and then they’re going to take a break. I promised to bring Trina a glass of water. You have a few minutes to hang out? I’d love to introduce you to her.”
“Sure.” Laura followed Bryan to the bar, waiting as the bartender made Bryan a gin and tonic and poured Trina a glass of water.
“You sure you don’t want something?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Better not. I’ve already overindulged on lemon shooters.”
Bryan feigned a wince. “Ouch. Tomorrow could be painful.”
“Sadly, I’m aware of that. I’m hoping to curtail some of the agony with Advil and water tonight before bed.”
“So what about you?” Bryan asked as they dodged dancers, working their way toward the stage. “What are you up to these days?”
“I’m a secretary in a high school.”
“And your husband?”
Laura paused. That question still took her unaware as she wondered if people would judge her harshly for giving up on a twenty-three-year marriage. “I’m divorced.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
Laura shrugged. “It’s okay. I initiated the split.”
“I see. Are you happy?”
Laura didn’t know how to reply. When she’d finally gotten up the nerve to ask Mason for a divorce, happiness had been her goal. She’d spent years in a relationship with a man who had no capacity for joy. Laura suspected he was bipolar—or perhaps suffering from depression—but Mason insisted he was fine, refused to go to the doctor and blamed her for his inherent unhappiness. For years, his misery took its toll. She’d left Mason because she wanted to be happy again. But was she?
Bryan interrupted her thoughts. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that was a hard question.”
“Let’s just say I’m searching for my happiness.”
“Is that why you’re here tonight? Forgive me for saying it, but this doesn’t seem like it would be your normal environment.”
Laura laughed. “It’s not. At all. My friends dragged me along. And yeah, I think this is part of my quest to rediscover the Laura I used to be. The one who laughed and danced and enjoyed life.”
Bryan studied her face. “Is it working?”
Laura’s face hurt from smiling. She was tipsy, relaxed and she’d laughed more tonight than in the entire previous year. Running into Bryan after so many years apart was the cherry on top of an excellent evening. “Yeah. It is.”
The band announced they were taking a short break. Trina walked over to join them. “Hey, Dad. Thanks,” she said as Bryan handed her the glass of water. “What did you think of that set?”
“Best one of the night.”
Trina beamed at her father’s praise. “Wait ’til you hear the last set.”
Bryan turned toward her. “Trina, I’d like you to meet my best friend from high school. This is Laura Riley.”
“Sanders.” Laura corrected him softly. She was still torn over whether or not to take her maiden name back. With her kids grown and out of school, she couldn’t think of a reason not to, but given Katie’s unhappiness over the divorce, Laura hadn’t wanted to add yet another upset to an injury that wasn’t healing very fast.
“Sanders,” Bryan corrected.
“You’re an incredible musician, Trina. Your music has blown me away. My daughter would absolutely love that song you played a little bit earlier. Was it called ‘Soul’?”
“’My Soul’,” Trina said. “I wrote that.”
“No way! That was my favorite song of the night.”
Trina smiled. “We’re getting ready to cut our first CD in a couple weeks and I wasn’t sure if I should push for that song to be included. Now I think I will.”
“I’d buy your CD for that song.”
“Wow. Thanks, Ms. Sanders.”
“Call me Laura.”
Someone called Trina’s name and she turned toward the stage. “I have to get back up there. We’re trying to figure out which song to finish with.” Trina gave Bryan a quick kiss on the cheek. “Nice to meet you, Laura.”
While the band was on a break, a canned recording of dance music blared through the speakers. Will Smith’s “Switch”came on.
“Oh my God, I love this song.”
Bryan grinned and pointed to the dance floor. “Should we show these young kids how it’s done?”
Laura raised her hand to refuse. “Hell no. I’ve been told my dancing is out of style.”
“Screw ’em.” Bryan took her hand, dragging her into the throng of bodies. He grasped her waist, pulling her close. They began to move in time to the music, their gazes connected. Laura laughed when he spun her, mimicking the other dancers around them with the same bumping and grinding moves. Funny how the same too-close contact with the man-child Kevin had squicked her out, but with Bryan it was awakening all sorts of dirty desires.
Laura let the alcohol, the music, the flashing lights and the heat take over as she moved sinuously against Bryan. Her libido kicked in with a vengeance, taking her unaware. His hands on her waist reminded her of a time when sex was exciting, fun, something she looked forward to. How long had it been since she felt this way?
She twisted, wrapping her arms around Bryan’s shoulders, laughing when he placed a firm hand on her lower back and pushed her into a dip that was so sexual and hot, Laura couldn’t believe they weren’t setting off the smoke detectors.
“You look beautiful, Laura. How the hell did I miss this in high school? If I hadn’t been such a blind fool, I’d have been on you like white on rice.”
She rolled her eyes, grinning at his compliment. “We became friends when both of us were in the awkward middle school stage. Somehow I don’t think we ever managed to overlook that. You look incredible too, by the way.”
He was sexy as sin. She wondered how he’d respond if she ran her hand along his chest, maybe letting it drift even lower until she found his cock. Would he enjoy such an inappropriate touch? Would he accept an invitation to come back to her place for more?
Shit. She was starting to sound like Josie who’d developed a must-have-sex-soon obsession lately. Time to rein in the hormones.
Laura hadn’t lied about their geeky looks in school. She’d gone through a very unattractive Dorothy Hamill hairstyle phase, complete with braces, while Bryan had sported a crew cut and thick glasses. Neither of them had managed to outgrow that unattractiveness until sophomore year. By then, the friendship was solid, and neither of them was interested in messing with the status quo.
She was tempted now. Holy crap, was she tempted.
Bryan’s hands slid along her waist, finding the tiny bit of skin revealed by her lifted arms. Was she imagining the sensual stroke of his fingers?
He pulled her closer, their faces only inches apart. Heat coursed through her. Sure, the room was warm from so many gyrating bodies in a small space, but she didn’t think it was the exercise or crowd that was leaving her so hot and bothered.
She ran her fingers through Bryan’s shaggy salt and pepper hair. He’d lost the crew cut and embraced the waves he’d cursed during their younger years. His face had matured, as he’d shed the clean-cut boy-next-door look. His jaw was rough with a five o’clock shadow and there were laugh lines around his eyes that gave his face character. In a word, he was handsome.
And she was completely attracted to him.
She wasn’t sure where those feelings were coming from. She’d sworn with her divorce that she was finished with men. Laura had had enough male moodiness and so-so sex to last her a lifetime. She’d declared good riddance and hadn’t questioned that decision.
Until now. Her sex drive had reemerged, screaming out loud and clear that it wasn’t finished yet.
Bryan’s hand slipped beneath her blouse, touching her bare back, using his strength to guide them in the dance.
It was sex to music, just as Georgie said. Laura pressed her hips closer, unsurprised to feel Bryan’s hard cock. He studied her face, then winked.
Her smile grew. “You always were a shameless flirt.”
“And you were always ready to take a walk on the wild side.”
Laura turned her face away, staring at the dancers without seeing them. She couldn’t remember being that person, but as Bryan’s hands roamed over her skin, she wanted to escape the bonds of practicality. She longed to be uninhibited, carefree…wild.
Laura caught sight of Kristen approaching her, shoving her way through the crowd.
“We’re getting ready to go. Georgie overindulged on the shots and I’m afraid it’s not going to end well. Jason and Nick offered to drive us home. Okay?”
Laura stepped away from Bryan. “Sure. Give me a minute?”
Kristen took a long look at Bryan, then gave her a surprised, but approving, smile. “I’ll give you two if you make sure to get his phone number.”
Bryan chuckled at Kristen’s matchmaking as she walked away. “Exchanging phone numbers sounds like a good idea to me.”
Bryan led Laura back to where her friends were waiting. Georgie was definitely past the point of no return as Nick held her up. Kristen and Jason were settling the tab. “Looks like we better roll. Will you really join Facebook? There are quite a few of our friends from school on there and…” She paused, wondering if she was being too forward.
“And?” he prompted.
“I can send you my phone number through a private message.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I’ll join. Might be fun to see what some of the gang is up to. And I’d like to see you again. Catch up.”
“Laura?” Kristen said. “Ready?”
“Yeah.” Laura pointed her finger, making a circle around her face. “I’ll Facebook you.”
He laughed at her silly gesture, then put his pinky and thumb to his mouth and ear, mimicking a phone. “I’ll call you.”
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