Excerpt: Stories of Chance Romance

A CLASS OF HIS OWN

Gina headed to the Big Ridge High gymnasium, thrilled to find herself back in Montana, and at her old alma mater, ten years after graduating. Amidst the bobbing helium balloons and dim lighting, she could still make out the sign welcoming everyone to the reunion.

Anticipation tickled her insides. Thanks to email, she’d kept in touch with many of her old buddies and couldn’t wait to see them again. Luanne, Conner, and Kirstin—the four of them had stuck together like honey on bread—done projects, endured gym class, and dreamed of a future when they’d grow out of their awkwardness.

And Gina had. Braces off, she’d opted for laser surgery and pitched the glasses, and her beanpole body finally had some curves. She’d been on her share of dates—even had a marriage proposal—but hadn’t found Mr. Right. In spite of all the years that had passed, she still measured men by her high school crush.

Adam Reinheart.

He sure had her heart.

Two years older, he’d been unobtainable at the time—tall and tanned, with curly brown hair, and boyish dimples that made him irresistible to the girls.

And he had a bright future. His father, who owned one of the local gas stations, hoped Adam would attend a prominent university.

Would she still feel the same magic when she saw him?

Someone tapped Gina’s shoulder and she twirled around. Ten years hadn’t changed Kirstin one bit. She still had the same mischievous eyes, and let go with the same contagious laugh as the two hugged.

Quickly, they caught up on the intervening years—Kirstin’s two children and Gina’s small catering business.

“Who’s all here?”

“The whole gang,” Kirstin told her. “Luanne…and Conner. You should see him now—just back from a tour of duty as a medic.”

“How about…Adam?”

“Reinheart?”

Gina’s shoulders slumped when Kirstin frowned. “He didn’t come?”

“Oh, he’s here all right. Follow me.” Kirstin led her across the dance floor, as Say My Name by Destiny’s Child segued into Breathe by Faith Hill.

Through the parting crowd, she saw him—looking about as scrumptious as a man could. Maybe he had a little less hair on top but the sight of him still made Gina’s heart do a flip.

“Adam,” Kirstin yelled over the music. “Do you remember Gina?”

“I sure don’t.” Adam’s gaze wandered over Gina’s orchid-colored halter dress. A slow smile spread across his lips.

Having made the introductions, Kirstin turned to leave. Gina reached for her, nervous to be left alone with her teenage idol.

But Kirstin just winked. “Three’s a crowd,” she said, before disappearing into the dancing throng.

Squelching her nerves, Gina looked up at Adam and willed herself to speak. “The last time we met, you were heading off to university.”

“I did a year.” He gave a lazy shrug. “Why sweat it? I’ll inherit the gas station one day.” His eyes made another sweep of her dress.

Gina was starting to wish she’d worn a sweater. She crossed her arms over her chest. “So, you’re working there now?”

He laughed as though the idea was absurd.

“How do you spend your days then?”

Another shrug. “I hang out. Watch TV.”

Gina’s lips quivered, her smile cracked. She was proud of her achievements, her work ethic. What had Adam accomplished? Was this the man she’d wasted so much time dreaming about?

“So, Jenny,” he said, grabbing her arm with a clammy hand. “Wanna dance?”

She shook him off with a quick backward step. “The name’s Gina. And no thanks.”

Desperate for air, she fought her way to the exit. One moment, she was weaving through bodies. The next, she was spun around, locked in a man’s embrace.

About to protest, she looked up, and into, the kindest eyes she’d ever known.

“Conner?”

He laughed. “You recognized me.”

“Hardly,” she admitted. Connor had always seemed frail as a teen. Not anymore. This man was solid, his biceps firm. When he smiled, it lit up the room.

“How are you enjoying the reunion?”

Gina shook her head. “It’s…”

What could she say? Different than I expected?

“It’s been an eye-opener,” she told him, finally. “How about you?”

He took her hands in his. “Seeing you again has made my evening.”

Her cheeks heated. Was her old pal flirting with her? “You were always a good friend, Conner.”

“I wanted to be more than that.”

How had she overlooked him in high school? He was smart, caring and, through the passing years, had acquired the kind of confidence that made a man truly attractive.

“Gina, would you like to dance?”

“I’d love to.”

Three songs later, he held her tight, and whispered in her ear. “Great reunion, don’t you think?”

“The best,” she murmured, right before he kissed her.

*~*~*

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