Kayleigh Renshaw has come up with the idea for a brilliant “compatibility app,” a new kind of matchmaking software. All she needs is a programmer to help her bring the idea to market…and she knows exactly who she wants. But Niall Walsh—a code whiz and her former best friend—has been avoiding her since he returned from Afghanistan. In spite of their history, and some sparks that go beyond friendship, he’s proving reluctant…. Is it her, or is something darker holding him back?
Kayleigh’s eyes followed the hostess’s down to the run in her nylon, and she tucked one leg behind the other. “I’m here to meet a man.”
The woman’s eyes widened, and her nose piercing twitched. “Anyone in particular? There are quite a few at the bar.”
Kayleigh felt her forehead bead and started again. “His name’s Niall Walsh. He’s got dark hair…” Her voice trailed off. Did he look the same after his time in the army? She imagined his tall, wiry form and boyish handsomeness.
“She’s with me,” a husky voice interrupted her. She whirled, shocked into silence at the powerfully built man looming beside her. He’d definitely filled out from his military days. Her eyes flicked to his left leg, but not so fast that he didn’t catch her glance, his lips firming in a straight line. Warmth crept into her cheeks. She hadn’t wanted to make him feel self-conscious, but she’d gone and done it anyway. Not the best start to their reunion.
“It’s good to see you, Niall.” She searched his eyes, a jolt of familiarity zipping through her veins. The deep brown depths held the gold flecks she could count by heart, his lashes so thick they’d look girlish if not for his angular, masculine features. He’d always had high cheekbones, but now there was sharpness in his face, as if someone had chiseled out his firm, square jaw and the prominent brow that gave proportion to his strong nose and full lips.
His chestnut-colored hair was no longer clipped short, but layered lightly across his forehead and ears. He’d transformed from the young, earnest man she’d known to a hand- some stranger. She flushed despite the steady stream of cool air blowing from an overhead vent. MaryAnne should have warned her about this change. It was doing something funny to her stomach.
“Shall we?” He held out his arm, and she took it, feeling awkward. Once she would have flown into his arms, and he would have swung her, laughing. But those days seemed distant, out of reach. Hopefully, they’d loosen up over lunch. She’d lost so much since she’d last seen Niall—Chris, her job, Brett. She wondered about Niall’s losses and knew the past few years must have been very difficult for him.
They ambled through the nautically decorated restaurant, navigating a maze of dark wood tables. Kayleigh forced her racing thoughts from the man beside her and surveyed the scene. The room resembled the inside of a ship with a wood-slatted ceiling, a brass railing along the oak bar and fishing nets and lures dangling from the walls.
She peeked at Niall’s stern profile. He looked as uncomfortable as she felt. But this was Niall. The boy she’d beaten in a bubble-blowing contest when they were eleven, the teen who’d taught her how to parallel park, the high school senior who’d celebrated with her when they’d been admitted to the same college, the young man who’d promised to write her every day from Afghanistan and then had stopped communicating with her altogether.
In crisp khakis and a white polo shirt that showed off his coloring and broad shoulders, Niall looked great. He was pale, probably from staying indoors as MaryAnne mentioned, but handsome. It felt as though she looked at him through the shifting lenses at an eye doctor’s office. One minute she saw him as her old pal, and the next she glimpsed an unfamiliar man with experiences and secrets she no longer knew. How strange to feel as if she was meeting him for the first time.
Karen Rock is an award-winning YA and adult contemporary author. She holds a master’s degree in English and worked as an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time author. With her co-author, Joanne Rock, she’s penned the CAMP BOYFRIEND series with Spencer Hill Press under the pseudonym J.K. Rock. She also writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Enterprises. Her wholesome romance, Heartwarming novels have won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and the 2014 Golden Quill Contest. When she’s not writing, Karen loves scouring estate sales for vintage books, cooking her grandmother’s family recipes and hiking. She lives in the Adirondack Mountain region with her husband, daughter, and two Cavalier King cocker spaniels who have yet to understand the concept of “fetch” though they know a lot about love. To find out about her upcoming releases, appearance and latest news, visit http://www.karenrock.com or follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/karenrockwrites or Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/karenrock5!
She’d love to connect with you!