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Despite the warm, lilac-scented breeze that whips my dress around my ankles, I shiver

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Despite the warm, lilac-scented breeze that whips my dress around my ankles, I shiver. My earlier bravado is gone, and I'm shell-shocked at my rashness. To jump in without thinking isn't like me. At all. A three-point plan and a contingency plan are more my style.

A few paces ahead of me, Finch's friends rough-house their way down the quiet, residential roads. The testosterone is palpable, and I can't help but compare them to the reserved bookishness I've seen in James this past fortnight. It makes his silence around Finch more understandable. With so little in common, I can't imagine them running in the same circles.

Even though I know enough stories about Finch to make my toes curl, my stomach flutters with him so close beside me. He's at least an entire head taller than me, taller than James and TJ, and his frame is broad. It's not just that he's gorgeous - although he's the most beautiful person I've seen in real life - it's his easy self-confidence that sends my heart racing.

It takes two streets to pluck up the courage to speak again. 'Bring me up to speed. Why are your friends picking up strange girls for you?'

He shoves his hands into the pockets of his jacket. 'Savannah -'

'The sassy redhead?' I say, remembering the boys' comments.

'Yeah, that's her. We've seen each other for a couple of years – on and off.' At this understatement, he looks guilty. 'Well, she broke up with me last week. Not that it should have been a surprise. I'd already heard the rumours about a redneck quarterback from Pine State.'

'Sorry.'

'I'm not that tore up about it,' he says, kicking a can on the floor. I let the lie slip, recognising wounded pride. 'It ain't the first time she's left me, but it is the first time I'll see her since. Half the town doesn't even know we're over and she's already out with another guy. As stupid as it sounds, I just needed to show up tonight with a girl on my arm. One that Sav doesn't already have wrapped around her little finger.'

I look at him and nod. I understand that. 'You need to feel you have the upper hand. Like you're in control.' I say it more to myself than to him, but his face lights up.

'Exactly.'

A swagger falls into his step as he turns to look me up and down. 'So, I've given you my sob story. What about you? Where were you meant to be tonight? Not that I'm complaining. That idiot's loss is my gain.'

'James and I were going to do something.' I say it as casually as I can, but I cannot erase the bitterness.

It stops Finch in his tracks, and when I turn his face is agog.

'James? My James? My cousin and you? James Whittingham?'

I laugh at his wide-eyed shock. 'Yes, your James.'

'But he has a girlfriend. And you look like that.' The way he stresses the last word has me dropping my eyes to the ground to hide my burning cheeks.

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by S.L.Haynes
@SLHaynes
When she moves from England to the small town of Hopton Hills, Tennes...
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