After walking away from her job as a teacher, Skylar Biondi drives a brown truck and delivers packages. It keeps her busy and out of the bars. Skylar closely guards the painful truth about why her romance with a Colorado Rockies pitcher ended suddenly. She relives the past in her dreams, only to wake to the brutal reality of being alone.
Former army medic, Enrique Avalos, keeps his distance from Skylar, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his ex-wife. When she sets up a contest to name the cat he rescued from a dumpster behind his motorcycle repair shop, new business begins to flow in, forcing Enrique to bolster his armor.
While on her route, Skylar comes across nine-year-old Mia and knows she’s in peril. When Enrique spots Skylar skulking around at night, he assumes she’s casing the neighborhood. Can Enrique and Skylar set their differences aside in time to help Mia?
In this warm, sometimes heartbreaking tale, an extraordinary confluence of events leads three people from different worlds to the doorstep of a journey none of them could have foreseen.
Spring, senior year of high school
LYING IN THE GRASS, SKYLAR tucked her arms behind her head and stared up at the clouds. The Colorado sun baked her skin as she lay on the thick carpet of green in Denver’s Washington Park. “That one looks like a bear.”
“It looks like a blob.” Joe laughed and ruffled her hair.
“Cut it out.” She batted his hand, pointed toward the mountains. “Over there, dummy.”
“Have you been smoking something, Sky?” His hand flopped on the grass touching hers but neither one pulled away.
“Hey, that looks like a goose with three little goslings,” she gestured toward a cluster of clouds to the north.
“It does.” They fell quiet a moment.
Cars passing on Downing Street filled the silence. But they’d have been fine without that. They were used to quiet between them. It was never awkward with Joe the way it was with other people. Where you struggled to bridge the gap, to put words in the air, your heart speeding up, your breath coming quick and shallow as the silence stretched.
Joe squeezed her hand. “It’s morphing into a caterpillar.” He rolled on his side, putting him closer than just a friend. “Are you coming to my game tonight? Coach Hill says there’s gonna be a scout from the Giants to watch me and Alex.” He rolled a baseball in one hand, tracing the red stitching with his fingertips. He probably did that in his sleep.
Skylar bent her knees, her bare feet flat on the soft grass, toes curling and straightening, loving the feel of it. “I have a science test to study for. I have to get an A.”
“You’re wasting your time. McGuire hardly ever gives A’s.” Abel McGuire was the oldest and strictest science teacher at South High School.
“I’ve gotten an A on everything so far.” Skylar knew she sounded cocky. And she wasn’t sorry. Even though she probably should be. How many times had her mother told her arrogance was unbecoming? Who used words like unbecoming anymore?
“You’re the teacher’s pest.” Joe rolled the baseball up her forearm.
“Pet,” Skylar corrected, nudging his leg with her foot.
“No … pest.” He laughed. “He’s probably giving you A’s to get you off his back. Everyone knows you make your teachers work too hard. I’ve heard they have staff meetings about you that run late into the night.”
“Funny.” Joe could joke all he wanted. Skylar had goals. A plan. Every year of her life was mapped out until she was thirty. There would be four years of college. Two of grad school. Marriage to Mr. Right somewhere between age twenty-six and twenty-eight, give or take. No kids until after the big three-o. “If my grades drop at all, I’ll lose my scholarship and I can kiss college goodbye.” Though she focused on the clouds, she felt his eyes boring into the side of her head, willing her to look at him. But she knew if she did, she would kiss him.
His gaze moved lower like a heat-seeking missile. In all the years of her secret on-and-off crushes on Joe, he’d never shown any interest beyond being pals. Hanging out at the park, going for walks, riding bikes—and of course—playing baseball. Considering that she’d had breasts and hips since ninth grade, she didn’t understand his recent change of heart.
Skylar was dying to know what it would be like to kiss him but was too embarrassed to let on, taking comfort in the knowledge that she got to be with him on a regular basis. If they crossed that line and things didn’t work out, where would she be? And if things did work out, it would make parting for college too painful. “Stop staring.”
“I can’t help it.” His voice sounded different now; soft and low, brimming with some unnamed emotion. He tucked a stray lock of her hair behind her ear, sending a pleasant sensation rushing through her. “You’re my girl, Skylar.”
“I’m not anyone’s girl.” A relationship didn’t fit into the plan. Not now, anyway. Why had she met him so early? She wished for a cosmic pause button that would zoom them out four or five years.
“I get first dibs.”
“You can’t call shotgun on a girl, Joey.” Skylar shot him a pointed look.
“I just did.” His gold-flecked green eyes softened, melting her insides. He set the ball down, rested his hand on her hip. “And no one but you has called me Joey since fourth grade.”
The two had been best friends for most of that time. But now Joe wanted more. He’d been asking her out every week for a month and she was out of excuses. And willpower. Skylar released a slow breath, wanting—and not wanting—to give in. “You’ll always be Joey to me,” she said softly.
“And you’ll always be my girl.” Joe kissed her lightly, as though testing her resolve. The feel of his lips on hers made Skylar’s heart race. She couldn’t help that her hand cupped the back of his head, pulling him in again. He was a lot better at this than she’d expected. Every time she thought she was driving, he’d take the wheel and steer them to a hotter place. When she finally drew back, he flashed a broad smile. “I knew it.”
“What?” Her cheeks heated.
“You want me as much as I want you.”
Even though he was right, Skylar flashed her eyes at him. Then she heard her mom’s voice inside her head, reminding her that guys were trouble. Especially when they thought you belonged to them. How many times had Georgie said it? But Joe was always so sweet. Even when she pushed him away. Why did she do that? A pang of guilt snaked through her.
But moving from friendship would complicate things. Unless he was drafted early, they’d both be in college at least four years. Her financial limitations meant she had no choice but to stay in Colorado, but Joe had full-ride baseball scholarship offers from a number of Texas and California schools. And if he ended up in the pros, it wouldn’t matter where he lived. He would be pitching in a different city every few days and they would hardly see each other.
Joe lifted one brow, a question in his gaze. It was cruel to leave him hanging. Skylar swallowed her fears. “I’ll be there tonight.” She touched his cheek and kissed him again. A tsunami of warmth swirled outward from her core. Why had she fought it so long? “Good luck.”
Joe’s eyes lit. “Thanks. I’ll give you a ride home after.” He helped her to her feet.