Love can’t flourish in the dark.
Fifteen years ago, Elaine fell in love with Johnny McMannus, the local bad boy. He was nineteen and she was jailbait. To keep them both out of trouble, Johnny left town.
But years later his father’s heart attack brings him back to run the family garage. Hoping to reconnect with Elaine, Johnny has to first fix the mess his parent’s alcoholism has made of things. Before Johnny can deserve Elaine, he has to salvage his family’s reputation, save their home, and rescue the business.
Too bad Elaine doesn’t want to be deserved. She wants to be loved. She never got over Johnny and she’s done sneaking around with him as they had before. If he can’t love her in public, he doesn’t love her enough.
“Hello,” she called.
The man standing on the bumper straightened, banging his head into the edge of the hood. “Ow!” He grabbed his head and dropped off the bumper. “Mother, mother, mother.”
“Oh my God are you—” Elaine’s breath froze in her throat when she saw his face.
Clutching the list, she spun on her heel and ran for the door. Johnny caught her before she made it into the light. “Let me go.” She flailed at him with her list. “Let me go. Let me go. Goddamn you, Johnny McMannus.” Her throat hurt like she’d been screaming but she hadn’t raised her voice.
“Elaine, please. You gotta calm down or somebody’s gonna notice.”
“I don’t care if somebody notices.”
“Yes, you do.” Johnny pressed his hand against the back of his head and held her arm with the other. “Just let me talk to you for a minute.”
Her mouth said no, but her feet allowed her to be towed into the parts storage closet at the back of the garage. Her mouth was only putting up bravado, anyway. There hadn’t been a request Johnny could have made in the past fifteen years that she wouldn’t have complied with. He closed and locked the door.
“What are you doing here?” she hissed. His hair wasn’t as shaggy as she remembered, and a couple of shades lighter. Otherwise he looked exactly the same as he had all those years ago.
“I had to come home to run my dad’s garage. I thought you knew I was here.”
“No.” Elaine felt her face tightening into a really ugly sob. “Why would anyone tell me? It’s not like you’re important to me.” Her voice squeaked.
“I didn’t mean to surprise you.” He put out his hand like he meant to take her in his arms and then folded them instead.
“Not a word for fourteen years. I hope all your friends got a good laugh out of you leading me around by the nose.” Elaine dashed tears off her cheeks. She hated to cry, and she hated to be crying because of him more. “You were right. You told me you were bad news.”
“Your friends. I saw the looks they were giving me after you left. The Fitzroy boys and Bill Nagy and George Kline. Did you tell them all about how you convinced me not to tell anyone for my own protection and how I would do anything you wanted? How I let you do anything you wanted to me?”
“Whoa, where did you dream this up? Do you honestly think George could have kept his mouth shut all these years if I had told him? He’s George.”
Elaine hesitated. George did have the softest heart in town. If he had known Johnny dumped her and left town, he would have asked her out just to make her feel better. By now he would have married her, trying to fix her broken heart. She should have figured that out on her own. “Well, maybe not George, but the others. They were all giving me looks after you left. Snickering behind their hands.”
“You imagined it.” Johnny hunched down, lowering his voice. “Elaine, I swear to you, I never told a soul.”
“Then why were they giving me looks?”
“Were you acting like this? I’d have been giving you looks, too.”