No regrets, she reminded herself. Figure out what has to be done now, and do it. After nine years of having the spunk and the tar whaled out of her, initiative still came hard. But she was learning, she thought with satisfaction. In the past year, she’d had to learn.
The cheery little bell over the door summoned her back to the hostess station. She grabbed a menu and a smile to welcome the new customer and then stopped dead and let both of them slide.
It was him. Maddox Palmer, in the flesh. In jeans, she corrected herself, and a tan T-shirt that almost matched the color of his skin. She squeezed the menu tighter. This time the Cutler grapevine was right. He was handsomer than ever.
He had to be over thirty now, big and broad and somehow harder. Solid. His face had a lot more lines. Well, he was three years older than her, though only two years ahead in school. He’d been kept back in first grade, she remembered, the year his mama died. He had thick brown hair that his new short cut couldn’t tame and hooded eyes that still saw right through her, and a juvenile-delinquent slouch that made him look tough and ready to react to whatever punch life threw at him. He dangled a cigarette between two fingers of his right hand, and he still had that not-a-dimple in his chin that tempted every good girl to press a finger to it.
Ann damned the way her heart speeded up just at the sight of him. She’d given up Big, Bad and Dangerous to Know almost a year ago.
He smiled crookedly. “Hey, Annie.”
Like they were just passing in the hall in high school. Like he’d never shared gum or secrets with her on the school bus or filched cookies from her mother’s kitchen or stood up for her on the playground.
Like he’d never grappled with her in the back seat of his father’s unmarked police car and then walked right past her locker the next day.
Well, he could take his “hey” and...and... Her racing brain stumbled. Nice Southern girls simply did not think that way. Take his hay and stack it, she amended silently.