Harlequin Mini-romance for Woman’s World
After 20 years, would Maddy and Tom finally get their second chance?
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.