Har­le­quin Mini-ro­mance for Woman’s World

Af­ter 20 years, would Maddy and Tom fi­nally get their sec­ond chance?

Woman's World - - Start Your Week With A Smile! - —Tina Beck­ett

The tiger blocked Maddy Grayson’s path yet again. She had sidestepped twice al­ready in what was rapidly be­com­ing a com­edy of er­rors. Her 20-year re­union had in­cluded tick­ets to a foot­ball game against her school’s ri­val. She was on New­bury Tiger turf. Lit­er­ally.

“Sorry. I came in the wrong en­trance.”

The team mas­cot raised his paws in a shrug.

“Right. You’re not sup­posed to talk. Let’s try this: If I move to my left and you stand still, we can end this stand­off.”

An­other shrug. This time she laughed and moved to the left. The tiger stepped in uni­son, re­main­ing in front of her. Just then a se­ries of boos erupted, and the tiger grabbed her hand, point­ing to a huge screen where her cur­rent sit­u­a­tion was be­ing played out for all to see. Her eyes widened as a red heart en­cir­cled them.

‘ Meet me. Af­ter the game,’ he mur­mured

Great. Her blue and white at­tire stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of orange.

“Some­one has ven­tured a lit­tle too far into en­emy ter­ri­tory and our mas­cot has taken mat­ters into his own hands,” came the an­nouncer’s voice.

The tiger raised his fist— paw?—in vic­tory. Kids, these days. Only Maddy wasn’t sure he was a kid. He seemed pretty tall, his grip on her hand a lit­tle too sure. She couldn’t see a kid pulling this stunt on some­one twice his age. A shiver went through her as a dis­tant mem­ory sur­faced.

Twenty-one years ago, she’d also ven­tured into en­emy ter­ri­tory. Only that time, she’d been in a prom dress, and her fa­ther, the school’s foot­ball coach, had come and snatched her away. The good girl and the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Only that bad boy had a heart of gold, she’d dis­cov­ered af­ter vol­un­teer­ing with him at a cen­ter for dis­ad­van­taged youth.

Af­ter the prom fiasco, he dis­ap­peared, leav­ing the cen­ter and her heart be­hind . . .

Her at­ten­tion re­turned to the tiger as the game con­tin­ued. At least they’d taken her shocked face off the screen.

“Okay, you’ve had your fun,” she said. “Maddy.” Some­thing fa­mil­iar tick­led her thoughts as the low voice slid past. The tiger could talk af­ter all. But how did he know her name? The lan­yard she’d donned at the re­union last night was sit­ting at home . . .

She swal­lowed. “I know you.” The striped head nod­ded. “Are you a stu­dent?”

He chuck­led and leaned in. “Would you be dis­ap­pointed?”

Yes. Hor­ri­bly. And she had no idea why. “Meet me. Af­ter the game,” he mur­mured. Those words . . . Un­blink­ing tiger eyes met hers, and sud­denly she knew. Vivid mem­o­ries of a long pur­ple dress and her date’s match­ing tie. He’d never called af­ter­ward, one look from her dad had ru­ined any chance of that. “Tom?” “Yes.” The last she’d heard, Tom Reilly had be­come a vet­eri­nar­ian in a town 50 miles from where they’d shared that dis­as­trous date.

“Why?” It was the one ques­tion that had haunted her all these years.

“I didn’t want to cause prob­lems for you.” He paused. “Meet me. I prom­ise not to dis­ap­pear this time.”

Sud­denly, she knew she would. The boy she’d once hoped to know had trans­formed into a man she still wanted to know.

She smiled, her heart light. “How about on the Hedge­hog’s side? It’s time for the tiger to have a taste of his own medicine.”

A sec­ond later, the mas­cot’s head came off and gray eyes met hers. “How about right here. Right now.”

“Uh oh, Tiger and Hedge­hog fans. It looks like there are two traitors in your midst.”

Not traitors. Just a woman and a man get­ting a sec­ond chance. With that, she wrapped her arms around him and stood on tip­toe to re­ceive his kiss. The first of many more, she hoped.

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