Genre: Romance – Contemporary
First published March 13, 2008
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Maggie Dean and Sam Callahan grew up in the same town, knew each other in school, admired each other from afar, but never dated. She was just a little too straight and narrow for this bad boy. Now they’re all grown up and back in their hometown – she to deal with a family crisis, he to prove that he’s changed his ways.
After enduring her parents’ loveless marriage and coming home to help her sister pick up the pieces of her broken one, Maggie isn’t interested in relationships. Sam Callahan is not only still gorgeous, but he’s still available. Neither Maggie nor Sam can deny their attraction but they’re still at odds. Maggie’s down on family life — can Sam be the one to convince her to settle down?
Maggie had readjusted her expectations after dinner so she wasn’t overly surprised when Sam pulled his truck into the parking lot of the local tavern.
She pressed a hand to her jittering stomach as she waited for him to come around and open her door. She thought she’d conquered her nerves over dinner but apparently there were a few stray ones who hadn’t yet gotten the message to relax.
“Come on,” Sam said as he opened her door. She slid out and allowed him to lead her inside.
She’d never been inside the Green Mill Tavern. She’d been too young when she left Liberty the first time and it wasn’t a place she frequented during the few short visits she’d made over the years. Her mother had disapproved of the tavern and anyone who patronized it. Just that thought alone gave Maggie a little thrill as she crossed the threshold.
It was bigger than it looked on the outside. The large L-shaped room was hazy with smoke and filled to capacity. People swayed together on the dance floor to a Garth Brooks ballad, others tapped their feet at their tables. Sam pulled her along as he made a beeline for a vacant table.
“What would you like?” he said, raising his voice to be heard over the music. “Beer? Wine?”
Maggie glanced around and decided that a hundred other people couldn’t be wrong. “Beer is fine, thanks.”
“Be right back.”
The song changed and Maggie watched in fascination as the people on the dance floor arranged themselves into lines and began to dance in a practiced set of moves. She’d heard of line-dancing of course but had never seen it in person. It wasn’t the sort of thing that her colleagues back at Columbia would have gone in for.
The music was getting to her and she began to tap her foot. Part of Maggie longed to join the fun but a larger part reminded her of her general lack of coordination and kept her glued to her chair.
“Here you go,” Sam said as he set a bottle of beer in front of her. He took a swig of his own and gestured to the dancers. “Care to join them?”
“Oh no, thanks,” Maggie stammered. “I can’t really dance.”
“Well, it’s time you learned,” Sam answered. “Why else did you think I brought you here?”
The current song ended to claps and hoots from the dancers. When the next one began, Sam grabbed Maggie’s hand. “This one is perfect. Come with me.”
She followed him to the dance floor reluctantly. “It’s okay, Sam, really. You don’t have to do this.”
“Oh but I want to,” he said as he pulled her close. He smiled at her. “Relax. Just follow me.”
Maggie took a breath and tried to do as he asked. She immediately stomped on his toe. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he answered. “This is a two-step. It’s real easy, just like this. We’ll just make our way around the floor. Nice and slow.”
Maggie’s stomach pitched a little as she concentrated on following his lead. She wanted so much to make a good impression on Sam.
And she hated to look a fool.
The dance was easier than she thought and soon she was able to look up at Sam instead of down at her feet as they shuffled around the floor.
“See, it’s not so hard,” Sam said when he caught her eye. “Admit it, it’s kind of fun, isn’t it?”
Maggie smiled. “Maybe.”
“You know, I have a confession to make to you,” Sam said. “I’ve wanted to dance with you for a long time.”
“Really?” Maggie asked as she took a quick look down at her feet.
“You probably don’t remember but it was at the Homecoming Dance, the year I was a senior. ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police had just come on and I caught sight of you standing with a group of your friends. You were wearing this amazing blue dress, kind of like tonight and you turned and looked at me. I wanted so much to cross that dance floor and ask you to dance with me but I just stood there. Then some friends of mine came up and pulled me away.” Sam flexed his fingers on her back. “I’ve never forgotten that moment.”
Maggie looked up at Sam too stunned to speak. She couldn’t believe that he remembered. She thought that she’d been the only one who noticed.
That moment had been frozen in time for her. She’d written about the incident in her journal and had replayed it in her mind over and over again. How many times had she broken her own heart with longing for a dance that never happened?
And now here she was in his arms.
Sam ran his thumb up and down her spine slowly, tracing each vertebra, then leaned down and brushed a soft kiss across her upturned lips.
Maggie’s stomach flipped and her eyes grew wide. She couldn’t believe that this was happening, right here, right now.
She pulled away from him.
“Maggie?” Sam asked as he let her go.
Maggie looked at him, eyes wide. “Excuse me but I think I’m going to be sick.”