Short story: return to love
You never forget your first true love. I never believed those words until the day I saw Sam again. And just like that, twenty years evaporated, and we were standing together by the cannons in WhitePoint Gardens.
He’d held my hand, promised we’d see each other again, but I’d known then it was a promise he probably couldn’t keep. Sam never knew when he’d be able to return…or if he could. Then he’d kissed me, just a gentle touching of our lips, and he walked away without looking back.
I’d tried to forget him. Had even moved on and gotten married, but it hadn’t worked out. For the past ten years, I’d stayed away from men because they couldn’t be trusted not to break your heart.
But there stood Sam, and my heart didn’t listen to that voice inside my head telling me to walk away as fast as I could. Then it was too late. He’d seen me.
“Victoria?” His raspy voice reached out to me across the distance between our cars. Now frozen in place, he was half in and half out of his silver Lexus.
I clutched my purse. “Hi, Sam.”
My response spurred him into action. He straightened, closed the car door, and came toward me. “Hi? After all this time, that’s what I get?” Without waiting for permission, he swept me up into a tight hug, and the moment his arms closed around me, my heart soared.
It shouldn’t. I wasn’t a twenty-five-year-old unemployed mother anymore. I’d matured and had raised two kids with lives of their own now. My heart had no business soaring because a man I hadn’t seen in two decades was holding me.
But I held him, too, breathing him in and absorbing the warmth of his body close to mine.
All too soon Sam let me go and looked down at my face. “Have you been here all along?”
“At the bank?” I knew what he meant, but I needed time to compose myself so I wouldn’t start peppering him with questions. Stupid questions like “why didn’t you call” and “do you know how worried I was about you”.
His lips curved into a smile, and I caught a glimpse of the dimple that used to make me stare. It still did. The years had been more than kind to him.
“You know what I meant. Here in Charleston. You stayed?”
I shrugged and adjusted the top button of my blouse. “It’s my home.”
He folded his arms, and the button-down shirt clung to his muscles. Still kept himself in shape. I had to wonder if he was still working for the FBI. Would he have retired by now? I couldn’t imagine him walking away from the work he loved so much…unless someone had given him a reason to.
Acting as casually as I could, I glanced down at his ring finger, but I never could get anything past Sam.
He grinned and held up his left hand. “Not married.”
My surprised gaze flashed to his face. “Ever?”
“Only to the FBI.”
“Are you still working for them?”
He’d spent most of his time undercover so many of our meetings had taken place in the dark or in some of the small towns surrounding Charleston. He had to be careful who saw him. Though it had strained our relationship, I had wanted to make it work.
“Yeah. I’m actually here on assignment right now.”
“Still chasing the bad guys?” My purse felt too heavy for my arm.
He laughed. “Actually, I’m teaching the younger guys how to chase the bad guys.”
“You’re teaching?” I wrinkled my nose. “You told me that was for old guys ready to draw a pension.”
“Who knew one day I’d be one of those guys?” With another laugh, he took hold of my arm. “Listen, I have to get to work, but I’d like to see you again.”
We didn’t know each other anymore, but I wanted to see him again. I just wasn’t sure it was a wise decision. I countered the request with a question. “How long are you in town?”
With a wry smile, he pushed my hair away from my cheek. “Always the skeptic, aren’t you?”
“Considering I last saw you over twenty years ago, I’d say I have a right. How do I know you’re not going to stand me up again?”
He lowered his hand and dipped it into the pocket of his black slacks. “Here.” He handed me an embossed card. “There’s my number. You can call me if you want to see me again.” Leaning down, he pressed a kiss against my cheek. “It was good to see you, Victoria.”
As he walked away, I knew I’d call. He knew I’d call.
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