If you’ve read Her Lucky Number and enjoyed Matt and Cami’s story you may remember TJ. He was the sexy wide receiver that flirted with Cami just to drive his teammate nuts, and maybe because he was hoping he’d get lucky. I always pictured TJ as a bad boy with a dark secret, but even bad boys need a happily ever after. Going Home is TJ’s story – originally I wanted to call it “A Picnic, A Kiss, A Reason to Go Home” but Becca Barray wisely reasoned with me.
Going Home is just one story in Homecomings: Memorial Day. Free on Kindle Unlimited (which I personally love!) or just .99 cents. You know want to find out what that bad boy is like…
Here’s an excerpt.
Grace heard the cheers erupt at the door of the bar and then like a wave everyone stood up, craning their necks to see what the excitement was about. Probably a football player, a few of the Cowboys came in on occasion.
“Oh, hell,” she muttered when she saw TJ Collins signing autographs at the end of her bar.
He looked up and winked at her and she turned away. He shouldn’t be in her bar, any bar but hers. Tonight the Anderson’s were there; Mimi was a bitch to her in high school and delighted in gossiping about her now. In fact, she was pretty sure that Mimi had started the rumor that she cheated on Drew, which wasn’t true but it didn’t matter.
Grace stole a glance through the mirror and watched Mimi stand up and join the crowd. Grace knew it would be mere minutes before Mimi was telling TJ all about her divorce and scandal.
She refused to cry or show any weakness in public. Her parents had stood by her when the rumors began, through the divorce, and now, with her mother recovering from a heart valve replacement she couldn’t just leave. She wanted to run and hide, but she wouldn’t.
Mimi’s high pitched cackle shivered down Grace’s spine. She moved to the opposite end of the bar and checked with the patrons but they were too busy gawking at TJ. She wouldn’t look at him. It was like adding salt to a wound.
Her mind flashed back to the first time she saw him. Her first day in high school she sat down next to a gangly kid, all feet, boney elbows and harsh angles. He smiled at her and she blushed a furious red color. A moment later she discovered she was in the wrong classroom and to the laughter of all the other students she left, humiliated and embarrassed. She found out a week later his name was TJ, and he was a sophomore. Out of her league and so she spent the next week avoiding everyone in the sophomore class. Of course, it only took three days until everyone was talking about the latest scandal and her humiliation was forgotten.
It taught her never to gossip because next week it would be you.
He still had a beautiful voice with just a hint of Texas in it. She loved listening to him sing along with the radio. She couldn’t avoid him any longer. She inhaled silently and turned, only to have the breath whoosh out. Damn, that was a lot of handsome man…
“Hello, TJ. How are your folks?” Grace tried not to show how excited she was to see him.
“Good,” he smiled and his eyes lit, amused. “Yours?”
She shrugged, “Uh… getting older.”
His brow wrinkled, “What’s up, Grace?”
Dammit, he could still read her. “Dad’s good. Mom’s recovering well. She had her atrial valve replaced a few weeks ago.”
“Shit. She’s okay?”
“Yeah,” she assured him. “She’s coming along. She’s home, and every day she’s a little stronger.” His face softened and Grace relaxed slightly. He looked more mature, but he was still TJ. Her heart stung knowing she lost him years ago. No, that wasn’t right; she gave him up years ago.
“You look good, Grace,” he said sweetly.
“You too,” she murmured. Her eyes flicked past his shoulder and she muttered, “Oh, God…” She rolled her eyes and turned away before she saw Mimi touch him. He wasn’t hers but she couldn’t bear the thought of Mimi and him.
Mimi’s sugary voice grated on Grace’s last nerve. “TJ, we should put a touch football game together for the picnic. Don’t you think that would be fun?”
“Not interested, Mimi.” TJ’s voice was hard and Grace smiled. He grunted, “Kathy? Whatdyawant?”
Grace turned around and smiled at Kathy. She was always nice to her in school. She was younger by a year but they had been friends when she dated TJ. Kathy slid between Mimi and TJ, “I’d love a Blue Moon. You have that on tap?”
TJ grunted, “Jesus, you’re such a girl.” He winked at Grace, “I’ll take a Black and Tan and Jay wants a Sam Adams.”
Grace poured the beers and slid them over. Jay and Kathy guarded TJ’s side and Mimi finally took the hint and slinked back to her booth.
TJ asked casually, “Are you going to the picnic?”
“Sure. Mom’s disappointed she can’t run the cake walk this year.”
TJ grinned, “Can I take you?”
“No.” Grace’s brows furrowed. She looked at Kathy in a silent plea to explain it to TJ later. It wouldn’t be good for his reputation to be seen with her and she didn’t want to add to the gossip that already followed her everywhere.
TJ’s eyes hardened and her resolve slipped.
“I’d like to catch up with you, TJ, but not there.”