From the age of seven, I was an all-star.
Parent’s praised me, coaches worshipped me.
As I got older, girls begged for me.
I was Beltline’s baseball God, guaranteed to put this small town on the map.
Then, after one night, that future vanished.
The legend was laid to rest.
I gave up my scholarship.
I fled from Beltline.
I left behind the girl.
Now, I’m back.
“Don’t call me that,” I respond, my feet frozen in place.
“Who is that?” Jen asks from behind me.
“That is Ella’s first love, Crosby Lynch.”
“I thought Liam was her first boyfriend?” Jen questions, her voice slowly fading to background noise.
Crosby breaks the small distance between us, and I swallow the large lump in my throat. My body screams for me to run or to pinch myself out of this dream, but his eyes still mesmerize me into submission.
“No, she and Crosby are destined.”
I hold my hand up in the air to stop Brax from rehashing history.
Crosby is still breathtakingly gorgeous. His dark hair is shorter and messy, and those hazel eyes still hold a glint of the devil in them. The cocky smile plastered on his face as he shoves his hands in his pockets, almost has me jumping in his arms and thanking him for coming back for me. But one question overrides my body.
“How long are you here?” I ask, bitterness lacing my voice.
He tilts his head. “Until graduation.” He glances to Brax. “My guess anyway.”
That cocky smile grows as the lump in my throat shrinks.
Quickly, the room starts spinning, and my breathing becomes more labored. He’s the new baseball player I heard Coach Lipton talking about.
“Oh my God.” My hand lies over my heart, and I close my eyes, trying to find my bearings, but the room continues to spin.
“Get her to the damn couch, Boy Dreamy!” Jen hollers.
Crosby grabs my elbow. His touch is so warm, so comforting, so safe. He guides me to the couch, but instead of setting me down, he places me on his lap. My eyes float around the room. Girls’ eyes are now glowering at me, Brax’s eyes are studying me, and Jen’s eyes show her pure ignorance to how serious tonight just became. As my eyes circle back to Crosby, I see he’s smiling again, his thumb brushing along my hip bone, as though we’d warped back to our senior year of high school.
“You okay?” he asks, his voice snapping me out of the haze.
I fall from my abrupt movement to flee from his lap, but spring up to my feet. “I’m fine. Fine. Why wouldn’t I be?” I ramble, fiddling with my hands while tapping my toes. “I mean, you’re here. In Ridgemont. Playing baseball and living in this house.” My vision shoots to Brax. “With Brax. Why would I not be okay?”
I look over to Jen, who’s finding way too much amusement in my predicament.
“Man, whoever you are, you’ve unglued Miss Perfect, and I love it.” She smiles wide at Crosby and then places her hand out in front of him. “I’m Jen, this crazy girl’s roommate.”
Crosby takes her hand. “I’m Crosby, perfect girl’s soon-to-be boyfriend.” He shakes her hand, his eyes on me.
“Ha. I love it. You are perfect for her.”
She turns to me as I swallow down my anxiety, glaring at a still shirtless Brax. Maybe he could have been more specific at the door. Then again, who am I kidding. I’d give up my envied internship for a chance to see Crosby.
“You need to dump the fucktard and take this man up on his offer.” She thumbs toward Crosby.
I throw my hands up in the air.
“You have a boyfriend?” Crosby’s voice is low and has lost the confidence it held moments ago.
My fidgeting stops, and our eyes lock. Hurt floods out of his eyes and most likely mine as well.
“I need a drink.” I spin around, knocking into a dancing couple. I straighten myself and determinedly head toward the kitchen.
“A boyfriend?” His deep voice rings out above the music.
I grab a cup and start filling it up with beer.
The room quiets, and all eyes are on him. It’s like déjà vu. Eyes have always lingered on Crosby, his whole life, when he was the star baseball player in high school and even when he wasn’t. His charismatic personality mixed with his talent give him a presence in any room.
The damn tap is only pouring foam, and in frustration, I smack it on the pile of ice, dumping the Solo cup on top of it.
His strong hand picks up the cup, and he grabs the spout. The muscles in his forearm flex while he’s pumping the tap. Unable to gain the composure I need to look at him, I stare down at his hand pouring me the perfect beer.
Our fingers brush in the exchange of the cup, and my whole body tingles, aware that my first love is back. Needing to brace myself, I lean against the wall, acting nonchalant by bringing the cup to my lips.
Even if this isn’t my typical college night, I sure as hell need to act like I’m not facing the only guy to make my heart ricochet against my chest wall.
“I’m sorry. I have no right to be angry,” he says, standing to my right with his back to the wall.
“You left me,” I whisper, relieved that the noise level has picked back up. I’m not even sure I want him to hear my admission.
His arm is no longer pressed to my shoulder, and I calculate he’s moving. Then, his shoes come into my view of the floor.
“What are you talking about? We left each other. That was the point.” He rolls back on his heels.
“You’re right. That was the point. Why are you here?” We made a pact, an agreement, that we would not contact one another.
“Can we please go somewhere else to talk?” he whispers back.
His hand reaches out, and I sway forward. My body heats up, the closer his hand grows to my cheek. He’s a millimeter away when he retracts, only igniting a burning in my flesh for his touch.
He nods his head in the direction of the living room but says nothing. When he heads toward the staircase, I stop walking.
He halts on the first step and peers around to find somewhere else. There are bodies everywhere, each corner already occupied with a couple or a cluster of girls. The house is not an option, and I wish the hope of being alone with him wasn’t so prevalent.
“Walk?” he asks.
I nod and down my beer, needing something to numb the pain in my body.