The Sassy Girls  are pleased to welcome author A.M. Williams to SGBE for an exclusive interview, along with a few excerpts from her Southern Sands series!

Q: A.M, where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

A: I’m a big believer in write what you know, so my books are injected with a lot of information from life experiences and stories I’ve been told. I also use the people I know and ask questions about things that I’m not familiar with, but others are.

Q: When did you write your first book and how old were you?

A: I honestly don’t remember. What I do clearly remember is the first time I finished a story and shared it with someone. I was 18 and had no idea what I was doing, but I was going to do it. That in turn sparked my love of crafting and writing stories to share with others.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A: Read. A lot. I have so many books on my Kindle, in my office, and in storage. It is ridiculous really.

Q: What does your family think of your writing?

A: They support it, even if they think it’s a hobby. My mom and husband especially support my writing goals and constantly encourage me to strive for more and to do more.

Q: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

A: Never stop working toward your goal. It can be so hard to even finish a book that you want to stop. But don’t. Even if you think it’s the worst thing written, keep going because I can almost guarantee just by finishing, you’ll have made yourself a better writer. I also suggest reading authors that you enjoy and seeing what they do with their writing, marketing, craft, etc. and try to emulate and figure out how they do it. I definitely think that to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader also.

Q:   As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

A: What I wanted to do is what I ended up doing actually. I have always loved learning. My grandmother kept me while my mother returned to school to get her teaching degree. I have vivid memories of teaching my grandmother the numbers and the days of the week when I’m about four. That sparked my love of teaching and education. I taught for six years until my husband’s job made me put my career on the back burner. I do hope to return to education one day, but maybe not in the high school classroom like I was.

About Jax:

Who can resist the bad boy rock guitarist?

Karlie tries, but like every other girl that sees him play, she fails.

Jax likes having a different girl every night. He’s a love ‘em and leave ‘em type. That is until he meets Karlie. She’s a challenge that he is determined to win over, but he just doesn’t know how.

Will he tame his wild ways to win the girl of his dreams?

Excerpt from Jax:

Chapter 1

“You always say you’re going to come and then back out.” Bailey flopped face down on Karlie’s bed.

Karlie rolled her eyes and continued to read her computer screen. Bailey was being dramatic, as always. Even still, Karlie knew Bailey’s words were true. She always backed out.

“Karlie, I swear to God,” Bailey sat up and glared at her, “if you say something about being busy, I’ll stab you.”

Karlie cocked a brow as she turned to face Bailey. “With what?”

Bailey glanced around the room and discovered what Karlie already knew: there wasn’t anything sharp to use. Her lips curled into a smile as Bailey groaned in frustration.

“It’s almost the end of the school year and you’ve been telling me all year that you’d come with me to at least one of these concert series.”

“I know, it’s just—”

“It’s just what? You’re allergic to fun?”

“I think that’s taking it a bit far, don’t you?”

It was Bailey’s turn to roll her eyes. “Please. Taking it a step too far is calling you a shut in.”

Karlie glared at her best friend. “Why do I spend time with you?”

“Because you love me. Come on, get up and get dressed. We’re going to the local jam.”

Karlie sighed but dutifully closed her computer and stood to join Bailey who was now standing in front of her open closet flicking through clothes.

“I knew you’d give in.”

“Only because you don’t take no for an answer.”

“Damn straight. If I didn’t make you come out, you’d sit inside all the time with your bottle of wine, and your phone off.”

Karlie didn’t have a retort because Bailey was right. If given the choice, she’d curl up on her couch with a bottle of wine and a good TV show. She was a homebody at heart, and she had no problem admitting that.

“Go hop in the shower while I pick out your outfit,” Bailey said.

“I can dress myself,” Karlie grumbled.

“Yes, in frumpy clothes. If we’re going to the concert, then we’re going to make sure you step out in style.”

Letting out a low growl, Karlie turned on her heel and trudged into the bathroom. She showered quickly, wrapped a fluffy white towel around herself, and wiped the steam from the mirror. She eyed herself; she had shoulder-length, caramel colored hair cut into long layers and blue eyes framed by thick eyelashes. Her skin was pale and smooth and she was lucky enough to get by with minimal makeup.

“Karlie! Get your ass out here!”

Tightening the towel around herself, she stepped back into her bedroom. Bailey thrust clothes into her hands and pushed her back into the bathroom.

“I guess I should get dressed?”

“Is it that obvious?” was Bailey’s muffled reply.

Shaking her head, Karlie did as Bailey commanded. She snorted when she saw the barely-there lacy underwear Bailey picked out, but had to admit, however, that the clothes looked good on her. A simple navy-blue t-shirt and cropped pants were simple enough but still looked nice.

Karlie stepped back into her room where Bailey thrust more accessories into her arms. Her eyes widened. “What the hell is all this?”

“What you’re pairing with your outfit.”

“Why do I need…ten bracelets? And a necklace? And what the hell are these?” Karlie held up ridiculously long earrings. “I don’t think I own earrings that look like this.”

“You don’t. I brought them.”

“And…for that reason, you can take all these back. I think I’ve got it from here.”

With a huff and a glare, Bailey left Karlie alone. Breathing a sigh of relief, she quickly finished getting ready, putting on understated, gold, dangling earrings and light makeup, and joined Bailey in her tiny living room.

Bailey flicked through a magazine on her oversized couch. “Ready?” she asked without looking up.

“Yep.”

Karlie trailed Bailey outside and, after locking her front door, climbed into the passenger seat of Bailey’s two-seater convertible. Soon, they were zipping through the streets of their small town. It was late spring, and the weather was delightfully warm and sunny. Even at seven o’clock at night, it was still warm enough to go without a sweater. That made it the perfect weather to go to an outdoor concert series. Her hometown hosted a twelve-week concert series called Gunner Falls Jam where local bands were highlighted.

“So, who’s the headliner tonight?” Karlie asked, tipping her head back on the headrest as the wind whipped through her hair.

“It’s a newer band called Southern Sands. I think some guys you went to high school with are in it.”

Karlie lifted her head to glance at Bailey. “How do you know that?”

Bailey shrugged and tightened her hands on the wheel. “I might have overheard someone talking about it.”

“You overheard someone?”

“Yeah.”

“Who?”

“Harry.”

Karlie sighed and dropped her head back, looking at Bailey from the corner of her eye. “When did you see Harry?”

Bailey’s jaw clenched, causing Karlie to raise her eyebrows. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“I might have run into him at Flashbacks.”

“You might have?” Karlie asked dubiously.

“Alright, I did.”

“What else aren’t you telling me?”

“He invited me.”

Karlie snorted and shook her head. Bailey and Harry had quite the history. Whenever they got together, sparks were sure to fly. It was mainly a question of whether the sparks would set everything around them on fire.

“So, we’re going to see him?”

“No! We’re going to see his band. He’s excited and nervous about it. He said he’d like to see some friendly faces.”

Before Karlie could respond, Bailey whipped her car into a parking spot across from the parking lot where the concert was going to be held and turned it off.

“It’ll be fine.” Bailey flapped her hand at Karlie as she checked her makeup in the flip-down visor.

Karlie just shook her head and opened her door. She ran her fingers through her hair as she looked over the downtown area. This series always drew a big crowd. People loved to see local bands play, especially when the concert was free. It not only drew in the locals, but people from surrounding areas as well. It was the highlight of the spring and summer seasons and one of the biggest events the city hosted.

She joined Bailey at the trunk and pulled out the camping chairs Bailey stashed there. They wound through the crowd and Karlie smiled at everyone. It was a small town, and she recognized most of the people here from growing up. The ones she hadn’t grown up with, she was able to meet being a middle school teacher. It was both wonderful and awkward to know so many people in the town. It meant that there was almost always a friendly face, no matter where she was. But it also meant being stopped while out around town and it was almost guaranteed she’d be stopped on that one day she was wearing stained sweats with no makeup and her hair was in a messy bun. She specifically hated when it was her students that saw her that way.

“What do you think?” Bailey asked, stopping in front of the stage. “Close enough?”

“Looks good.” Karlie glanced around at the open asphalt and saw they had a good view of the stage.

They unpacked their chairs and settled in as others around them did the same. Karlie checked the time and realized it was later than she thought. The concert would be starting within the next ten minutes.

“Do you want a drink?” she asked, standing.

“Sure.” Bailey dug through her purse, but Karlie waved her off as she stepped back.

She walked over to the beer tent and waited in the short line to get two cups of a local craft beer. They had a rotating tap for each concert, highlighting local brewers. It was a big hit, usually.

She smiled as she paid for their beer and slowly wound through the crowd that was still growing. She nodded at a few people she recognized and exchanged a few words with others. She handed Bailey her beer and sat down beside her. As she took her first sip, members of the band and crew walked onto the stage.

Bailey had been right earlier when she’d said Karlie would recognize members of the band.

Harry was one of Karlie’s best childhood friends. He stood, fiddling with the microphone at center stage with his electric guitar hanging off his back.

Veronica, the quintessential cheerleader who had graduated a year two behind Karlie, and who Karlie had heard from her mother was considering going for her doctorate in business was chatting with a man wearing a black band-shirt, enthralled by the screen of an iPad.

Harry’s friend from high school, Grayson, stood just behind Veronica with his shaggy brown hair hanging in his face as he tuned his bass.

And Bentley, Grayson’s older brother, sat at the drums, looking out of place among his bandmates, furiously thumbing away at his cell phone.

Karlie’s eyes finally slid to the final band member on the stage, and she sucked her breath in. The man tuning the acoustic guitar looked like a blond god. He was wearing a tight, navy blue t-shirt and ripped jeans with work boots. Her eyes raked over him from those boots to his hair that was just a bit longer than she normally preferred. It brushed the collar of his shirt, and he had a bit of a Kurt Cobain look about him.  If she was honest, she dug it.

As she finished her appraisal of him, their eyes met and her breath hitched. He had bright blue eyes that pierced right through her. She held her breath as he shamelessly checked her out too, and a slow smile spread across his face before he winked at her. She ripped her eyes from his and tried to find something else to concentrate on.

“You okay?” Bailey asked, breaking Karlie from her trance.

Her head snapped to the left, and she met Bailey’s eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Bailey arched a brow at her. “I don’t know. Maybe because you were just eye-fucking blondie over there.”

Karlie’s face warmed. “I was not eye-fucking him.”

“Please. The way the two of you were looking at each other, I’m surprised we didn’t all spontaneously combust.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Karlie muttered, slumping in her chair and sipping her beer.

“Keep telling yourself that.”

Karlie opened her mouth to retort, but a burst of feedback cut her off. The crowd hushed as Harry cleared his throat. “How y’all doing tonight?”

The crowd cheered and Harry smiled. “That’s great to hear. We’re so glad to see y’all, and we appreciate you coming out to hear us play. For those of you that don’t know, we’re Southern Sands, a band based right here in Gunner Falls.” Harry paused again, waiting for the cheering to die down. “We like to consider ourselves a southern rock band, which means we play covers from bands that we all know and love. Who’s ready for some music?”

While the crowd cheered even louder, Bentley tapped out a three beat and they started their set. The first song of the night was “Can’t You See” by the Marshall Tucker Band. Karlie tapped her foot to the beat as Harry crooned the lyrics. She tried to stop herself from looking at the acoustic guitar player, but she found her eyes sliding over to him more often than not. There was something about him that seemed to call to her.

It was sexy watching him strum the guitar, the sinews in his arms tightening and loosening as he played. She imagined his fingers were calloused, and she wondered what they would feel like dancing over her skin. Realizing the tenor of her thoughts, her face heated, and she consciously turned her focus back to the concert. She laughed when she realized what song they were gearing up to play.

“Now, when you think of songs of the south, there are certain ones that just come to mind, am I right?” Harry asked the crowd, playing it up. “This next song is one of them, and we have someone joining us on stage: Waylon Duke, here, is going to play the fiddle and he’s one of the best damn fiddle players I’ve ever met. I hope y’all can help convince him to join our band on a regular basis. We can’t get him to commit.”

The opening bars of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” started and the crowd cheered. Karlie watched some people move closer to the stage, watching Waylon as he played the fiddle throughout the song. She had to admit that he was quite good and she could see him winning the duel with the devil just like the man in the song. Some of the people standing at the front of the stage paired off and started to dance. Karlie smiled as she watched. It wasn’t a song she considered good for dancing, but that didn’t deter anyone else.

“They’re great, aren’t they?” Bailey yelled at her as the closing chords finished.

Karlie nodded. “They really are.”

“Now, this next song is for all the ladies out there. We want you to sing along because we know you know it.”

They started playing “Summer of ’69’” and, sure enough, all the women started to sing, many of them holding their beers in the air while they danced and sang along with Harry. One song turned into two and Karlie realized her beer was empty.

“You got the first round. I’ll get this one,” Bailey said, grabbing her cup.

Karlie turned back to the stage as blondie pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it to the side. She was drooling, she just knew it, and she couldn’t bring herself to care. Him in a shirt was sinful, but without a shirt? It should have been illegal. He had tattoos covering his torso and she could make out some on his arms as well. She could see the definition of his abs from where she sat, and she longed to drag her nails across them.

When her gaze trailed up to look at his face and met his eyes hers widened. A blush crept up her cheeks, as he smirked and licked his lips, having caught her ogling him. Her eyes immediately darted away. As she glanced around, she noticed that she wasn’t the only woman to notice how scrumptious blondie looked. Women all around her were eying him like he was a piece of meat. She turned her attention back to Harry when he started talking.

“As I said earlier, we’re Southern Sands. I’m Harry and I play the electric guitar and am the lead vocalist. This lovely lady over here is Veronica. She’s our lead female vocalist and sometimes she doubles as our keyboardist. To the left of her is our bassist Grayson, and the ugly devil behind me is his brother Bentley. To my right is the jack-of-all-trades, master of none, acoustic guitarist and harmonica player, Jax.”

Jax. She now had a name. It suited him.

“Here.” Bailey thrust a cup of beer in her face. It sloshed over the rim.

“Thanks.”

The rest of the concert passed quickly and Karlie unabashedly stared at Jax for its remainder. He didn’t seem to mind and continued to meet her eyes.

She snapped out of her trance when Harry said, “Alright y’all. We have one more song tonight and it’s always a crowd pleaser. I’m sure y’all know it. If so, sing along.”

Karlie’s eyes closed as they started playing “Wagon Wheel” and she sang along with the band. No matter what, “Wagon Wheel” was always one that people would sing along to. Living in North Carolina, it was a requirement.

“Thank y’all for being a great crowd. We have a table over there,” Harry pointed to a small table to the left of the stage, “where we have shirts and a calendar of our upcoming events as well as a CD with some of our covers for sale. We hope to see y’all there.”

With that, canned music came on and the place started to clear. Karlie and Bailey packed their chairs, but instead of heading to Bailey’s car, she tugged Karlie to where the band was packing up. They stopped behind Harry and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and smiled. “Hey, you two. What’d you think?”

“You were great!” Karlie said, smiling.

“Thanks. That means a lot coming from you. I remember how you used to sit to the side when we practiced in your parents’ garage.”

Karlie laughed. “I remember that too. I was your first, original groupie.”

Harry chuckled and pushed his hair back. “That you were. Oh! I know you know everyone in the band except our new member. Let me introduce y’all.”

He beckoned for them to follow and led them to Jax, stopping a few steps away. As they walked closer, butterflies rose in Karlie’s belly. It was one thing to watch from afar and another to actually talk to one of the hottest guys she’d ever seen. His shirt was still off and she was able to see his tattoos more clearly. On his chest, he had the name “June” in a flowing script along with musical notes. He also had words inked on his arms, but she couldn’t read what they said.

“Hey, man, let me introduce you to two of my good friends,” Harry said.

Karlie glanced at Bailey and saw her friend’s brow twitch. She wondered how annoyed she was at that comment. “Girls, this is Jax. Jax, this is Karlie Stewart and Bailey Kay.”

“Hey, how’s it going?” Jax asked them with a brilliant smile.

Bailey just lifted her chin a bit in greeting before pulling Harry to the side.

Jax cocked a brow as he watched them. His eyes met Karlie’s. “They have a history or somethin’?”

“Or something. It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

He leaned against the speaker behind him and raked his eyes over her. “So, you’re from here? Known Harry your whole life?”

“Yep. Grew up next door to each other.”

“Y’all ever hook up?”

Karlie snorted. “Please. He’s more like a brother to me.”

Jax nodded but didn’t say anything. Now that she was up close to him, Karlie wasn’t sure what to say. She struggled to think of anything but came up blank. Before she could clear the fog from her brain, a group of women joined them, pushing her out of the way. She was a bit taken aback by their audacity but stepped back further to watch the scene.

Jax flashed a grin at all of them, flirting with them, and he even pulled two of the girls into his lap. It was at this point that Karlie realized Jax was just another player. He was flirty with everyone, and she was just one of many. That connection she thought she felt while he was on stage had just been a figment of her imagination.

Rolling her eyes at herself, she turned and walked over to Bailey and Harry. They both looked angry, their faces tight and drawn, as they gesticulated.

“Hey guys,” she said carefully, interrupting them.

Bailey looked at her and gave her a weak smile while Harry looked past her breathing heavily.

“You ready?” she asked Bailey.

“Yep. See ya later, Harry.”

He didn’t respond and stalked off. Karlie watched him briefly before turning to Bailey. “What’s the story there?”

“No story.”

“Hmmm.” She didn’t believe Bailey for a minute.

They walked in silence to the car, stowing the chairs in the trunk before climbing in.

“You good with the top down again?”

It was now dark and much cooler than it had been earlier, but it was still warm enough for a quick ride through town. “I’m good if you are.”

With a grin, Bailey started the car and zipped out of the spot. They were both quiet on the ride home. Karlie’s thoughts were on Jax and how attractive she found him, but she refused to let herself entertain thoughts of seeing him again. It was obvious from his reaction to the girls crowding him on the stage that he craved the attention they gave him, and she wasn’t interested in a guy like that. She’d been there, done that, and had the t-shirt to prove it.

About Harry:

The good guy always wins the girl, right?

It sure doesn’t feel like it for Harry. She’s avoiding him, letting him go, and pushing him away into the arms of another.

Bailey is just confused. About everything. She loves Harry and he’s the lead singer in a rock band. How much more sexy does a guy have to be? But she’s scared of how her past experience might taint what they have going together.

Will she get over herself and succumb to the power of love, a love that will see them through to the end of time? Or will she give in to her fears?

Buy Link (enrolled in KU): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JK3ZXL4

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42401425-harry

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/harry-southern-sands-book-2-by-a-m-williams

Excerpt from Harry:

Prologue-Bailey

Seven Years Ago

Bailey sighed and rubbed her hand over her face as she worked to finish the paper that was due to her professor by midnight. She thought her basic studies were difficult to deal with, but her major classes were worse. The bright spot was that she was now in mostly physical education classes, even if she did have to memorize a lot of things she wasn’t sure she’d use as a P.E. teacher.

Her cell phone rang, pulling her from her trance. She glanced at the screen and saw Harry’s name flash and stifled another sigh. She’d been dodging his calls for a week now, but she knew if she didn’t answer soon, he was likely to make the trip from Gunner Falls to see her and that was the last thing she wanted.

She glanced behind her and saw that Karlie’s side of the room was still empty and decided to go ahead and talk to Harry. She answered and placed the phone on speaker. “Hello?”

“Bailey?” Harry sounded surprised that she answered.

“Yeah.” She scrolled through her paper, trying to find a place to add more information.

“I kinda can’t believe you answered.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well, believe it.”

They were both silent for several moments and she realized she was probably a bit more blunt than she should have been considering she’d been ignoring her boyfriend for the last week.

Harry coughed before saying, “Anything new?” His voice cracked a little at the end.

She paused in her scrolling and squinted at her phone. Was that nervousness creeping into his voice? “Nothing much. You?”

She resumed reading through her paper while Harry started talking. She had no clue what he was saying and it wasn’t until he was silent again that she said, “Wait, what? What did you say?”

Harry sighed and frustration crept into his voice. “You weren’t listening. Again.”

“Sorry, I’m trying to finish up a paper that’s due at midnight.” Her eyes slid to the clock and she winced at the realization she had only fifteen minutes to finish but still needed several hundred words. “Look, I’m going to have to let you go. I need to finish this and it’s due in a bit.”

Without waiting for an answer, she hung up and turned back to the paper, determined to finish it. In a flurry of typed words, she submitted it at 11:59 p.m. and did a fist pump when it was finished. She laced her fingers together and bent them outward, cracking them as she stretched the tired muscles in her back and arms. It felt good to work the kinks out.

She checked her phone and saw Harry hadn’t called back, but that Karlie also hadn’t gotten in touch with her. They usually let each other know if they were spending the night with someone else, but there was nothing.

She grabbed her phone and room keys, deciding to go and see if Karlie was outside or if her car was there. She shot off a quick text to her, hoping she would respond, and opened her door, jumping when she saw Harry standing on the other side of it with his fist raised to knock. His eyes widened in shock when he saw her.

“What the hell, dude?” She sagged against the door as she tried to calm her heartbeat.

He shrugged and dropped his hand to his side. “Sorry. I didn’t know you’d open the door.”

“That’s not what I was talking about. What are you doing here? And on a Wednesday? Don’t you have class tomorrow?” She fired her questions rapidly as she took in Harry’s appearance. He was wearing a beanie pulled low over his eyes, a ratty long-sleeved tee, and ripped jeans with boots. He looked a bit haggard. She assumed it was because he drove this far to see her.

Though Bailey went to one of the large state universities, Harry attended the community college campus in Gunner Falls, which was a solid two hour drive away.

He grinned sheepishly and scratched the back of his neck. “Class is canceled tomorrow, so I decided to surprise you.”

She stared at him as she thought over his words. Surprising her was nice. If she wanted the surprise. As it was, she was exhausted and had an 8 a.m. class.

“Ummmm…” She tried to think of something to say. “Wow, that’s…great.” Even to her own ears she sounded less than enthused.

Harry’s face fell. That semi-hopeful look he had been wearing when she opened the door was now completely gone. “Oh, I guess I should have called first…”

Bailey shrugged and looked at the floor. “It’s just…I have this early class and a full day with that and practice. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to see you.”

“Well, I can just meet you for lunch then.”

Bailey cringed. “I have class at 12:15…and then practice immediately after. I usually pick up something in the education building and eat it during class.”

Harry’s shoulders drooped and Bailey felt like an ass, but she couldn’t help that she had no time to see him or even deal with him.

“I’m really sorry,” she said slowly.

“It’s fine…maybe dinner? I can just leave later in the day.”

“Ummm…” She glanced away from him as her cheeks heated.

“You can’t do that either, can you?”

She shook her head and glanced at him. She winced at the angry look now on his face. “I have a study group tomorrow night.”

“What the fuck, Bailey?” Harry’s tone matched his face, and she cringed. He didn’t get angry often, but when he did, it could get ugly.

She stepped back and waved Harry in. She didn’t want them in the hall if they were about to argue. Living in the dorm was like living in a fishbowl. People were always in her business and talking about who was screwing whom, who got in a fight, and who was passed out drunk.

Harry brushed past her, and she shut the door softly behind him before turning to lean against it.

“Seriously?” He glared at her, arms crossed. “You can’t make fifteen minutes to see me in your schedule tomorrow?”

She bit her lip before saying, “No, not really. I have back to back classes and practice before a study group.”

Harry scoffed and shook his head. “How much do you want to bet that if you were to be asked to go to a party tomorrow night or do something with your teammates that you’d drop everything to do it?”

Bailey didn’t say anything because she didn’t know what to say. She dropped her gaze to the floor in shame. He was right. She would completely rearrange her schedule to hang out with her teammates or attend a party. So she stayed silent.

Harry snorted, drawing her gaze back up. “Exactly. You’d do whatever you could. Don’t you see something wrong with that? We haven’t seen each other in weeks! You’ve claimed something is going on every weekend and you wouldn’t tag along with Karlie when she came home last weekend.”

“I have had something every—”

Harry cut her off. “Bullshit. I talked to Karlie and she said that the weekends you claimed you needed the study time you were out at parties with your teammates.”

Bailey grimaced and tamped down on her anger with Karlie. They were best friends and she should have Bailey’s back, though, considering Karlie had known Harry for a lot longer, she shouldn’t be surprised. It didn’t make it right for her to rat her true plans out though.

“Those were all last minute decisions,” she said slowly.

“Please.” Harry scoffed and threw his hands in the air and paced a few steps before turning to go the other way. They were silent while Harry walked back and forth, Bailey watching. He abruptly stopped and turned to face her. “What are we doing?”

Her nose wrinkled. “What do you mean?”

Harry waved his hands in the air. “I mean, what are we doing together? It’s obvious that you don’t want to be with me while I’m ready to commit to you—to our relationship, even with the distance.”

Bailey was taken aback and wasn’t sure what to say. Where was this coming from?

“Is this because I didn’t answer your calls this week? I’m sorry, I was busy.”

Harry scrubbed his hand over his face and barked out a laugh. “No, it’s not because of that. We haven’t seen each other in God knows how long. You always make excuses. Case and point? Me coming here to surprise you and you can’t be bothered to make time to see me.”

She still didn’t know what to say. “I’m not sure what you’re looking for here…”

He stared at her for a few moments before shaking his head. “Nothing. I’m looking for nothing.”

With that, he stepped toward her, gently moving her to the side before he opened the door and stepped outside. Bailey watched as the door shut and listened to his steps as they echoed down the hall. “What the hell just happened?” she asked herself as she walked to the small window that overlooked the parking lot.

A few moments later, she saw Harry walk out the front doors and down the steps. Her eyes followed him as he walked through the dimly lit lot to his car. The headlights soon came on and he backed out and left. She just wasn’t sure if he was leaving her or not. Her chest hurt as she thought about the previous conversation and what it could mean.

She didn’t want to be in a relationship, that was for sure, but she didn’t want to lose Harry either. She just didn’t know how to make that happen, and that’s what led to the dodging of the last few weeks.

Her phone dinged and she looked down. It was a message from Karlie saying she wouldn’t be home. As she typed her response, her phone dinged again, this time with a text from Harry.

I can’t do this anymore. Call me if you ever decide to give a relationship a try again.

Chapter 1-Bailey

Present Day

There was no feeling quite like coming home after being gone for an extended time. Though her apartment was a bit stale it was still home, and Bailey sighed as she sank into her couch cushions, ignoring how the springs dug into her back and thighs. It was still better than her car seat. She’d dropped her bags by end of her threadbare couch, not caring that she’d probably trip over them when she finally got up.

She let her head fall back and closed her eyes, melting into the cushions. Though the road trip was actually a vacation, it certainly didn’t feel like it at the end. She and Karlie were both tired of each other and the car by the time they crossed back into North Carolina several hours earlier. The silence of her apartment was welcome after the tense silence of the last few hours.

As much fun as it was to have her best friend to herself for the trip and to see all the cool sights they hit, living out of a suitcase grew old after a few days. So did sharing a room, and sometimes a bed, with her best friend.

Her phone dinged and she cracked her eyes open. She didn’t want to move, but it dinged again. She patted her pockets, not feeling its shape. She leaned to the side and slipped her hand in between the couch cushions, digging around to see if it had fallen in there and huffed when she felt the phone and wiggled her fingers a bit more to grasp it and pull it out.

She woke her phone up and saw it was just a text from Karlie letting her know she’d made it home safely. Bailey’s brow furrowed when she noticed she had an unread message from Harry. She didn’t remember getting the notification. She clicked on the thread and scrolled through it. He was only asking what time she’d be home and if he should bring dinner.

She thought for a few moments, her mind going over the laundry that needed to be done and the lessons she needed to prepare for the upcoming year. She really should prioritize those things over having Harry over. Dinner sounded better though. She clicked to start typing just as her phone rang in her hand. Harry’s name flashed on the screen.

“I was just about to text you back,” she answered, leaning back into the couch again.

Harry chuckled. “Great minds then?”

“Something like that.”

Realizing she wouldn’t be able to relax like she wanted while on the phone, she stood and stretched. She then grabbed the handle of her duffel and walked into her bedroom with it.

“So, dinner?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, that’s fine with me.” She wrestled the bag onto the bed while holding the phone between her ear and shoulder.

Bailey unzipped the bag as Harry rattled off a list of their favorite places. “I don’t really care,” she told him as she dumped her clothing on the bed. “Anything sounds good.”

“Okay. Then I’ll get Chinese. You can eat it for a day or two.”

Bailey laughed. “You know me too well to know I do that.”

They got off the phone and Bailey stared at the pile of clothes on her bed. Because she didn’t care, her dirty clothes were mixed with her clean clothes. She didn’t feel like trying to figure out which was which, so she grabbed her laundry basket and pushed it all in there before picking it up and walking out to her little laundry nook in the kitchen.

She loathed doing laundry, but she disliked unpacking and putting clothes away more. Doing laundry would delay the inevitable. She stuffed as many clothes inside the drum as she could before pouring detergent in and starting it.

Checking the time and seeing that she still had a bit before Harry arrived with dinner, she decided she should go on and unpack the rest of her stuff. Grumbling softly to herself, she took care of the rest, throwing things into any available space, not caring that she might not be able to find it later.

A knock sounded on her door as she finished unpacking her toiletries. The bag clattered into the sink and she walked quickly to the door with a smile on her face. She wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but she had missed Harry while they were gone.

“Hey,” she said as she opened the door, holding it wide so Harry could step in.

“Hey, yourself,” he said, brushing past her. She took a moment to appreciate him, raking her eyes over his body. He was dressed casually in a tank top and shorts, but she still thought he looked pretty sexy.

The smell of Chinese food wafted from the bag and Bailey’s stomach growled. Harry laughed. “Are you that hungry?”

She shrugged as she followed him into the living room. “I can’t help that Chinese food is my weakness.”

Harry rolled his eyes before he started unpacking the bag. “Want to get us some beers or whatever you have in here to drink?”

She walked to the fridge, trying to remember if she had anything to drink besides water. Crossing her fingers, she opened the door and smiled at the six pack of Yuengling sitting on the shelf.

“You’re in luck,” she said as she grabbed the carrier. “I’ve got your favorite beer.”

“Awesome,” Harry said.

Bailey pushed the door shut with her hip and quickly grabbed some plates from the cabinet. The sound of SportsCenter filled her apartment and Bailey felt herself fully relaxing. This was the life: dinner with one of the best guys around and sports on TV.

She rejoined Harry in the living room and they dug in. He asked about her trip and she asked about their few gigs while they were gone. Eventually, they stopped talking and watched the instant replays the sportscasters were going through, commenting periodically on something they didn’t agree with. Going on the road trip meant Bailey didn’t watch the show as often as she usually did, so she felt like she had a lot to catch up on.

When they finished eating, she quickly cleaned everything up on a commercial break and popped the top on another beer. Harry had already moved to the couch and was sprawled across the cushions, eyes glued to the television and a beer bottle dangling loosely from his fingertips.

Bailey sank onto the cushion next to him and took a long pull from her bottle. At the next commercial break, she saw Harry look at her from the corner of her eye.

“So, you coming to our next gig?” he asked nonchalantly as he took a long pull from his bottle.

“When is it again?” She tried to remember, but she was terrible with dates and drew a blank.

“This weekend.”

Bailey thought ahead. She really needed to get those lessons done, but going to hear Harry sing with Southern Sands was always worth it, especially when they were getting along well like they were now. She could certainly make the time to go see them play. She’d always make time for that.

She nodded. “Yeah, I’ll try to make it. I’ll talk to Karlie and see if we can ride together. I’ll get the details from her.”

Harry grinned and nodded. “Awesome.”

The show came back on and they both turned their attention back to it. However, Bailey now found herself unable to concentrate on what they were saying. She was, instead, watching Harry from the corner of her eye. She watched as he shifted on the cushion, crossing an ankle over his knee as he slouched further into the cushion. He pushed his hair back, the long brown strands just this side of too long.

Quickly, her thoughts turned to what was underneath his clothing. Harry was tall and thin, wiry almost, but he did have some muscle definition. However, where Jax—the blond lead guitarist of Southern Sands—was noticeably ripped, Harry was more subtly built. She intimately knew the strength in his arms, the abs on his stomach, and the muscles cording his thighs.

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer,” Harry said, startling Bailey from her salacious thoughts.

She coughed and placed her half-empty bottle on the end table next to her. “What?” she asked, not taking her eyes off him.

“I saw you ogling me from the corner of your eye. Take a picture and it’ll last longer,” he said with another broad grin.

Bailey’s mouth opened and closed a few times, unsure of what to say. She finally settled on, “I was not.”

Harry rolled his eyes and drained his beer bottle, placing it on the coffee table before wrapping his fingers around her arm and jerking her to him. As she lost her balance and fell toward him, he pulled her into his lap, draping her legs over his thighs as his hands came to rest on her hips.

They were now face to face. She could feel his breath tickling her neck.

“Hmm…I think you’re lyin’,” he whispered, pressing a light kiss to her neck.

She shivered at the caress and moved her head to the side in invitation for him to continue. He peppered kisses down her throat and up to her lips, capturing them in a hard kiss. She felt his tongue lick at her lips and she opened her mouth, accepting it into hers. Harry’s fingers squeezed her hips and pulled her down, allowing her to feel his hard length pressed against the fly of his pants.

Desire zinged through her body as she realized she was the reason he was like that. She threaded her fingers through his hair, tugging on the long strands, making him groan into their kiss. She ripped her mouth from his and panted, moaning. Harry pressed his lips against her neck and then lightly bit her while his hands moved up her sides to cup her breasts through her shirt.

He made her feel so good and it had been so long since they were together. She missed this. She missed him.

As the thought worked its way through her brain, she froze and the desire she was feeling moments before disappeared. Harry stopped moving as well. They stayed still in silence until Harry broke it by asking, “Bailey? Is everything all right?”

She shook her head vigorously, emotion coloring her voice, which shook. “No, everything is not all right.”

She scrambled off his lap and smoothed her clothing as she stepped away. He looked at her in confusion and she could see the hard outline of his cock through his pants. That, coupled with his mussed hair, served to remind her what she had put a stop to. She felt a twinge of guilt over what she was about to do but quickly pushed it away.

“I think you should leave.” She crossed her arms and hunched her shoulders, unable to meet his questioning gaze.

“What?” he asked leaning forward.

“You heard me,” she said, pleased her voice didn’t waver again. She was all over the place and felt that if he didn’t leave, he’d witness her lose it completely.

“Why?”

“I just don’t want you here any longer.”

Harry sputtered for a few moments before standing, anger clear in his expression. He shoved his hand into his pants, fixing himself while glaring at her. “What the fuck is your problem?” He gathered his wallet and keys from the coffee table where he’d thrown them earlier.

She didn’t say anything as she listened to him mutter and then storm out of her apartment, slamming the door behind himself.

Her chest ached in a weird way once she was alone. SportsCenter played in the background while she stared at the spot on the couch Harry had just vacated. She didn’t understand her reaction or her thoughts. She just knew she shouldn’t be having them. After watching the dissolution of her parents’ marriage and the toll it took on her mother—who was still in love with her father, as she watched the man she loved move on to another wife—Bailey swore she’d never be in the position to feel that way. And she hadn’t been.

But missing Harry wasn’t good. She didn’t even miss him in college after they broke up, so why should she miss him now? She refused to allow herself to attempt to even answer that question or to dwell on it too long. It would only lead to one thing: heartbreak.

With SportsCenter playing in the background and the buzzing of her washer the only sound in her apartment, Bailey sank to the floor and let her emotions overwhelm her.