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Sherri slapped a hand to her chest to stop her heart from galloping away. She didn’t need confirmation to know ‘he’ was Mel’s cousin, one Thomas Jefferson Deluca. He was Sherri’s first love and the very guy who’d given her the necklace she still wore every day. It had once meant a promise of their future.

She rubbed the small silver shell between her fingers as she often did when stressed. “He’s not coming over now, is he? I’m not even dressed!”

“I got the impression he would at some point today. Said he found something on the beach last week that reminded him of you and he wanted you to have it. Look, I’ve got hungry customers waiting for their grub. Call me later.”

“Okay. Thanks for the warning. No, wait! Mel?”

Silence greeted her, pressing in, leaving her heart feeling bruised.

Just as well. She would have sounded pathetic. Has he changed? Is he still the ambitious, determined, and big-hearted T.J. I loved? His face swam before her as she’d often seen it, the strong jaw softened by a sexy grin, his eyes lit with desire. Oh, God. How would she get through this?

There were no secrets between best friends. Mel knew Sherri had never quite gotten over T.J., though Sherri tried not to ask about him too often and Mel pretended the interest was idle curiosity. He only lived an hour south, but except for that first summer, T.J. hadn’t been around for years. Back then, Sherri had been far away attending to life and death matters. Literally.

This time their paths were destined to cross. T.J. had suddenly RSVP’d a yes to Mel’s invitation to an old-fashioned Fourth of July blowout. Since then, Sherri had been slowly, quietly panicking. What if she couldn’t handle treating him like an old friend? She’d embarrass them both.

Over the years, she’d told herself that he was probably married. Possibly, he was even fat and balding and gross, like Johnny from her seventh grade math class. He now delivered potato chips to the area grocery stores and flirted with every female who had even the suggestion of boobs.

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