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His Girl

By:Aria Cole

Chapter 1

Morgan

“Look how high you are!”

Emerson shrieked as I gave her another push on the swing.

“Higher! I want to go as high as the clouds!”

“Not that high.” I giggled at the sweet little four-year-old. “I might lose you way up there!”

“Higher! Higher!”

“No, it’s time you come back down to earth. We should get back home for lunch.”

“Can we have mac and cheese?” The swing slowed, and Emerson peered up at me with her big brown eyes. This little girl never failed to steal my heart.

“Anything you want, honey.” I lifted her off the swing and looped our fingers, walking across the crisp green grass of the park. Emerson and I went to the park most days, mostly because it was only two blocks from our house.

“Can we go to the park after lunch too?”

“No, not today. I have to work for a few hours tonight. Mrs. Frisk is going to stay with you.”

“But she smells like old hot dogs. And she always gives me a goodnight kiss, and her breath smells.”

I couldn’t help the smile that turned my lips. The things that came out of this kid’s mouth.

“Hey! Look at that doggy!” Emerson dropped my hand and darted off to a squatty little bulldog puppy, gnawing on the leash his owner held in one hand.

“Emerson!” I called, running after. “Ask if it’s okay to pet the dog first!” My eyes landed on the owner of the dog just as I said the words.

And my heart stopped.

This couldn’t be happening.

It wasn’t possible.

Why was he back?

And what the hell do I say?

“Morgan?”

Shit. Too late.

“Hawk.” I hadn’t breathed that name in nearly half a decade. “Why are you here?”

His dark eyes fell on me, penetrating to my very soul, just like they always had.

My mind fell back to all the times we’d had together. The laughs, the touches, the first kiss, the first…

Hawk Larson was my first everything, and now he was standing right in front of me after all this time.

“Not exactly a nice way to welcome a guy home.” His words were clipped, as if he were irritated by the very sight of me. Well, got news for you, buddy. Seeing you in my park isn’t exactly what I would call a good day either.

“You’re home?” I uttered, one hand reaching out for Emerson and pulling her to my side. I don’t know why I felt the need to shield her because it only brought attention to her little cherubic face. The inquisitive eyes.

“I’m Emerson.” She thrust out a hand. “What’s your name?”

Hawk’s eyes held hers, oxygen sucked out of the air between the three of us. His eyes slid from hers to mine, narrowing with anger before landing on hers again. “I’m Hawk.”

He shook her hand, and every cell in my body begged to disappear. Just melt into the dirt at my feet.

“Mommy is making mac and cheese for lunch. Do you like mac and cheese?” Her wide eyes were carefree and sparkling. I had to get us out of here. Standing toe to toe with Hawk left a pounding in my head, stole all the breath from my lungs, and damn that stubborn part of me that wanted to wrap him in a hug.

“I happen to love mac and cheese. It’s nice to meet you, Emerson.”

My gaze hung suspended on his, something in me urging me to pepper him with kisses just like I used to do when we were teenagers.

But those days were gone, and time had certainly changed both of us.

His broad shoulders, chiseled waist, the corded arms that had always danced just at the edges of my memory…but not even my memory could do him justice. I’d known him as a lean college quarterback, taut with sinewy muscle. The day he left for the NFL was the last time I’d seen him. For the first two years, Dad would turn on every game, beg me to watch with him, but I couldn’t stand to see Hawk’s face. Couldn't stand to see the happiness radiating across it. I knew this man. I’d known him from the time he was a boy throwing his first football. I’d cheered for him on the sidelines when he’d thrown the winning pass at homecoming. I’d been there with him through it all.

But not this.

Not now.

He was different.

Changed.

Older.

The jawline had grown sharper, now smattered with a dark five-o'clock shadow that had me itching to run my fingers across it.

Hawk’s eyes trained on mine then, anger and confusion swirling.

“It was good to see you, Morgan.” He said my name like a curse word.

He still hated me.

Jesus, this couldn’t be any worse.

Everything I’d done, I’d done for him. He was my heart—he always had been my heart. Why didn’t he see that?

“Next time, ask your mom to add some bacon to the mac and cheese. Makes it ten times better.” He winked at my daughter. Hawk Larson just winked at my daughter. I can’t believe this is happening.

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