Now and Then by Mira Lyn Kelly

  Now and Then is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  A Loveswept eBook Original

  Copyright © 2016 by Mira Lyn Kelly

  Excerpt from Forgotten Promises by Jessica Lemmon copyright © 2016 by Jessica Lemmon

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark and the LOVESWEPT colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

  This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Forgotten Promises by Jessica Lemmon. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

  eBook ISBN 9781101967768

  Cover design: Caroline Teagle

  Cover photograph: © Majdanski/Shutterstock




  Title Page



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23




  By Mira Lyn Kelly

  About the Author

  The Editor’s Corner

  Excerpt from Forgotten Promises


  Truth? Mistakes weren’t something Brynn Ahearne made often. But when she did, whew, she made them big.

  Like six foot five of broad-shouldered, trim-hipped, not-so-wholesome-as-she’d-remembered big. Like huge hands moving over her, one flexing against her hip while the other slid into her jeans to palm her ass big.

  Like they hadn’t even cleared the security door to his place because, somehow, her shoulders had found the jamb, braced there, and weren’t in any hurry to move if it meant more of that dark silk sliding through her fingers and hard-muscled thighs hitting her just exactly right. Big big.

  She shouldn’t be doing this. She’d told herself she wouldn’t. Because after what happened between them the last time—even if it was ten years ago—she couldn’t risk it happening again.

  Okay, her life was different now, but fundamentally nothing had changed. Nothing, except she wasn’t some kid who didn’t know any better. She knew. Which was why she needed to stop.

  Brynn pulled back from a kiss so potent it was drugging her senseless, determined to do the right thing. Only the mouth that had been devastating hers just the second before was already detouring south. Drawing with the perfect suction at the tender spot beneath her jaw.

  Oh God.

  Licking into the hollow between her collarbones.

  Her breath caught, her thoughts spiraling with the point of his tongue.

  She needed to end this. Do the right thing for both of them.

  Her lips parted to speak and his teeth grazed the column of her neck. Just the barest scrape, the perfect pressure, and—

  “Ford,” she gasped, everything within her seizing tight enough to strangle whatever few rational thoughts she’d been trying to hold on to. “Inside. Please, take me inside.”

  Chapter 1


  It was the Ms. Pac-Man T-shirt that did it.

  And not because it was one of those still sort of excellent “she swallows” versions the him of fifteen years ago would have been holding his books in front of his fly over. No, this wasn’t that kind of blatant advertising.

  This was old school.

  Ms. Pac-Man perched pinup style over her neon-outlined Pac-font name. Hearts surrounding her like blown kisses. A geeked-out gamer classic half hidden beneath a short olive cardigan that had Ford Meyers setting the beer that had barely made it two-thirds of the way to his mouth back on the bar untouched. His head cranking around in an attempt to follow the progress of that flash of weathered pink fabric cutting through the after-work Pint Pub crowd while he strained for details about the woman who wore it.

  Her jeans were plain, dark without any kind of adornment on the pockets, and were those—? Ford looked closer, Oh hell, yes—green Converse sneakers hooked on the rung of her stool.

  Hello, girl of my dreams.

  He couldn’t score even a glimpse of her face but she was a redhead, with the kind of thick, dark curls spilling halfway down her back that did it for him even more than the T-shirt and kicks combined, because yeah, when it came to hair, the gingers took him back to a place no one else could. To a place where the memories were pure and sweet and dark and sexy. To a time when possibility pushed hard against his ribs with every damned breath.

  To a girl.

  Not the girl as it turned out, but hell, hair like that had a way of stirring up the echoes of how it had been, reminding him of the things he still wanted. Whether Ms. Pac-Man was one of them? Only one way to find out.

  Ford pushed off his stool and—

  Fingers snapped in front of his face, dragging his attention down to the petite brunette parked at his left, scowling.

  “Cripes, Ford. I’m still talking here.”

  Ava. His little sister. Apparently talking. Still.

  “Right. No, sorry,” he said, reluctantly returning to his seat. “Go ahead.”

  Eyes narrowing, she crossed her arms over her slim frame and then with a gust of breath rushed on.

  “Anyway, so we need to get you a girl. Sam and I are married. Maggie and Three’s baby is due in less than a week,” she stated, referring to Tyler Wells, the man who had been renting out the third-floor apartment in Ford’s building before falling in love with Apartment Two, Maggie. Mostly they called him Ty or Tyler, but leave it to Ava to hold on to a moniker the guy earned while on less-than-friendly terms with his future wife. “Maybe it’s time you opened yourself up to the possibilities and found your own happily ever after?”

  He started to turn toward the far side of the bar. “Actually, I was just—”

  “Focus, Ford. A girl, but not your usual fare, no offense. I’m thinking someone with a shelf life longer than four weeks. A girl who’s stylish and nice and I don’t hate and has a sense of humor that extends beyond those please-kill-me-now math puns you and Mindy Sedgewick used to bore everyone with.”

  Mindy’d been a nice girl, but Ava was right. Fun wasn’t her forte.

  “And don’t even think about another model. Every time Elkie cornered me, I ended up needing an appointment with the chiropractor to get my neck back into alignment.”

  Elkie had been working on her PhD before the modeling jobs she’d been paying her way through school with became her career instead. She’d been a little scary when she didn’t think she had his full attention. And a lot scary when she knew it.

  “We’re looking for someone I get along with even better than you do, because face it, when you flake and she’s pissed—which is probably going to happen every time you start development on a new game—you’re going to need someone to talk her down and reel her back in for you.”

  Okay, so he had been known to get somewhat distracted when he was working. But that Ava thoug
ht she was the woman for the job? Jesus.

  “That’s great, Sis, but I actually see someone I’d like—”

  Ava cut him off with a sharp wave. “Talking here. So other considerations…”

  Resigned, Ford nodded, half listening to his sister ramble on, her hands animating her words as he scanned the bar over her head until he landed on the high-top by the corner where a few empty bottles rested. Two women and a guy. One olive cardigan, a couple inches of pink showing beneath…and all that hair.

  Ava could list her qualifications for his next girlfriend until she was blue in the face, but Ford already knew what mattered to him and with Ava finally settled down with Sam, he was ready to find it.

  He wanted sweet, caring, honest.

  Intelligent, loyal, generous.

  Lighthearted, cool. And fun.

  Definitely fun.

  He wanted someone he could trust. A woman who got off on the same things he did. A girl with a brain that kept his running. He wanted the kind of partner his parents had been to each other. And after a valuable learning experience with the wrong kind of woman—one it had taken an obscene payoff and an ironclad nondisclosure agreement to handle—he had a pretty good idea of how to ensure he landed the right kind.

  Don’t tell her about Hibachi Cannonball. Period.

  Or at least not until he knew she was into him for the reasons that mattered. In this, he and Ava were on the same page. Because for everything Hibachi Cannonball had earned for him since being recognized as a “breakout game of the year” and an “international gaming phenomenon,” that success came with its costs.

  “…and nut allergies could be a problem with Maggie’s cookies. Do you want to give up peanut butter? Actually, allergies in general, because what about Greenbean and Pinkie? Which leads me to the obvious—a dog lover…”

  He tried to get a read on the dynamic at the table across the bar. The guy could be a boyfriend, only he wasn’t giving off any of the territorial signals Ford would expect from someone with a romantic claim. Ms. Pac-Man reached over her head, her torso extending as she gathered all that red at the back of her neck, twisting it in a way that was…familiar.

  Ford’s pulse jacked up a notch.

  He could only see a sliver of her face, but—No. No way. Couldn’t be. It was just the red hair. Even ten years later, every time he saw it his first thought was of Brynn. Which was probably sweet and stupid all at once. Yeah, she’d been his first love. But she’d also been his worst heartbreak. All in the span of a few short months. Thinking of her shouldn’t make him smile, and seeing girls who looked like her shouldn’t get his heart pumping.

  “…because you’re a decent-enough-looking guy even when your hair is like it is now—and seriously, Ford, what the eff?”

  And then Ava was kneeling on her seat, shoving her fingers around in his hair. Hell.

  “Knock it off, Ava.” He ducked back, then dodged to the side, laughing when she seemed determined to get at him either way.

  Only then he lucked out as he caught a glimpse of the one sure thing to distract her.

  “Sam, hey man. In the nick of time.”

  Ava twisted around on her seat and hopped down with a delighted squeal. “You’re early!”

  Sam wore an easy smile on his face and was throwing off exactly the kind of territorial signals Ford had been searching for in the guy across the bar—somehow managing to touch Ava’s hair, her cheek, lips, chin, and neck, all in the process of pulling her into him to drop a kiss on her mouth.

  And there it was.

  One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Three, one thousand…

  Rubbing at the back of his neck, Ford waited for them to come up for air.

  Eventually he’d get used to seeing the two of them like this. It just hadn’t happened yet. He was happy for them. Hell yeah, he was. Beyond. But it was still fucking weird watching his best friend—the guy who’d been ignoring every sign Ava had it bad for him for the better part of twenty years—acting like exactly what he was. A lovestruck newlywed.

  Sam brushed Ava’s bottom lip with his thumb, still holding her close. “I know we were talking about dinner, but I’ve had a killer day. Any chance I can talk you into a night in, Ave?”

  Christ, subtle, man.

  Another look across the bar and—shit—the guy was helping the other girl with her coat while Ms. Pac-Man pulled a few bills from her front pocket to lay on the table. She turned, and piece by piece the bar and crowd started falling away around him.

  Ava was saying something about him flying solo for the night, while Sam told her about a delivery he’d signed for at home. And then they were gone, and Ford was standing there staring across the bar at the first girl he’d ever loved.

  The one he’d thought he wanted to marry.

  The one who’d dumped his ass by email and then ground his pathetic nineteen-year-old heart into dust.

  Chapter 2

  Brynn Ahearne froze in place, recognition slamming through her like 250 pounds of shooting guard blowing past the net. It couldn’t be him. It was never him. Only this time there was no mistaking that not-quite-neat mop of straight dark brown hair falling across eyes only a few shades lighter; the traditionally handsome combination of features just rugged enough to keep them out of “pretty” territory; the unbroken nose and squared-off jaw; the broad shoulders on a lean build; and finally, the height—because this guy was definitely coming in a handful of inches taller than everyone else in the bar.

  Ford Meyers.

  Her breath leaked out in an unsteady stream as decade-old memories fired through her consciousness. The east quad and that jolt of something almost electric when their eyes met the first time. The shy attraction she hadn’t had enough experience to know how to handle and the wild flutter in her belly when he smiled down at her. The first kiss and the hundreds that followed. The late-night laughter and the words other boys had said, but that never meant anything until she heard them from Ford. Those three short, achingly sweet months when she’d actually believed she could have all the things her dreams were made of.

  Before her dad—well, before she’d lost it all.

  Before she’d given Ford, who still slipped into her dreams some nights, every reason to hate her.

  Only now, standing across from him for the first time in ten years, instead of hate or even a totally justified grudge coming off him the way she’d expect, all she was getting was that butterfly feeling deep in her belly as he gave her a smile so genuine and unrestrained, there was nothing to do but return it. Watch as he cut through the crowd, shaking his head with a laugh as he stopped in front of her.

  “How are you, Ford?” she asked, her own smile pushing wider still because it was just so good to see his face.

  “Jesus, Brynn, I can’t believe it’s you,” he said, wrapping her in a hug tight enough it stole her breath and made her dizzy. Or maybe that disruption to her equilibrium was more about the sound of his deep baritone shocking her system or the feel of his arms around her. The smell of the front of his shirt.

  All of it so familiar, so good and so unexpected, she indulged in one delusional minute of believing Fate might finally be on her side, before realizing, no. Fate was just seriously screwing with her again.

  Because, now?

  Not a week or a month or even a year ago? Anytime before her brother’s call and the news her dad was getting out?

  Really, now?

  Didn’t matter. All that did was the man who was giving her shoulder a last pat and squeeze, easing a bit of that old guilt she’d never totally let go of.

  Ford released her and they both took a step back, then another when a waitress carrying a tray laden with drinks cut between them. Brynn bumped a couple of guys crowding around the table she’d just vacated, quickly apologized, and then shook her head to regain her bearings in the packed bar that had all but fallen away when Ford flashed that first megawatt smile at her.

  A couple of women were weaving between them
now, but Ford put those long limbs to good use, reaching around them and drawing Brynn back into his space.

  “First time I see you in ten years, no way I’m letting you get away that easy,” he teased. Then, rubbing the back of his neck, he looked down at her, his brows knitting. “Except you’re wearing your jacket and your friends just walked out the door. So maybe I am?”

  Right, Jet and his new girlfriend, Shelly, who’d been every bit as cool as her buddy had sworn she would be. She pulled her phone from her coat pocket and fired off a short text telling Jet she’d see him at work the next day. Then, shrugging out of her jacket, she folded it over one arm.

  “Did I look like I was leaving?” she asked, an almost euphoric delight bubbling up in her chest just to be standing with him. “No way. Not until I hear how you’re doing. What you’ve been up to. All that.”

  A cool nod and easy grin.

  Was it possible he’d grown another inch, or was it just the way his shoulders had filled out, giving the illusion that he took up more of the room? Maybe it was the confidence? Something in his posture, like he’d finally gotten used to moving that big body around without feeling conspicuous about it? Whatever it was, he wore it as comfortably as his open oxford and fitted-just-right T-shirt beneath. It looked good on him.

  But then Ford had always looked good to her.

  Something she shouldn’t be focusing on if she had any intention of playing it cool and easy herself.

  “For the last ten years?” Ford reached past her again, this time catching the waitress on her way toward the bar. And yeah, there was definitely something different about the way he handled his body. “You’re maybe going to need another drink to get through all that.”

  She was definitely going to need another drink, but more to sedate the increasingly restless herd of butterflies now showing signs of gamma-ray exposure the way they’d started walloping her belly since Ford’s casual comment about not letting her get away.

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