Imagine the ball is Jared’s head.
Meghan tossed the volleyball, whipped her arm back, and smacked it with all the force she could muster. The ball rocketed over the net, careening into the sand before Jared could react. Perfection.
“Sixteen to thirteen,” she said with a smirk.
Watching her with an expression she couldn’t quite gauge, Jared threw the ball over the net. She caught it and strolled back to the serving line.
Going to this singles’ group was supposed to be a relaxing day playing sand volleyball on the beach, not a day where she had to face the guy who’d broken her heart. If she’d known Jared would be here, she would’ve bailed on Hanna. But at least she could hide her pain behind competitiveness.
Her next serve was another missile, aimed expertly for Jared’s right side. “Afraid to dive?” she called.
In college, she’d found his wide-eyed confusion adorable—the expression he wore when he was overwhelmed with coursework, fretting that he couldn’t do an assignment, always doubting himself and his genius.
You’re mad at him, remember? Shaking her head, she returned to her position. Another vicious serve—that’s for leading me on—and another—that’s for shutting me out—and another—that’s for breaking my heart.
The girl next to Jared dove, digging Meghan’s serve so that the ball shot into the air and over the net. Hanna’s set floated in the air at just the right height and placing for a back row spike. Meghan’s fierce hit thumped against the sand.
Hanna gave Meghan a high five. “Nice hit.” She lowered her voice. “And take it easy on Jared.”
Meghan scowled. Didn’t Hanna remember how Jared had gone from best friend to stranger? How he’d read her texts without responding and left her calls unanswered? Hanna never should’ve invited her to this singles group.
She positioned herself behind the serving line and inhaled deeply. “Twenty-one, thirteen.” The serve soared over the net and smashed into Jared’s face.
Hand pressed to his head, he stumbled back onto the sand. Meghan’s breath hitched in her chest. He let go, revealing the remains of the glasses she’d helped him pick out years ago.
“Sorry!” The word slipped out without her permission.
“I’m okay.” Jared clutched the mangled glasses in his hand. A teammate helped him stand, and he moved off the court, sitting down heavily.
Meghan stumbled over the hot, shifting sand and knelt next to him. “Jared?”
His swollen eyes met hers. Blood dripped from a cut below his eyebrow, and she gasped, touching it without even thinking. She jerked back. “There might be glass in your eye.”
“There isn’t.” He smiled wryly. “I would know.”
“Good point.” Sweat soaked and sans makeup—not exactly how she’d wanted to look when she saw him again.
But she wasn’t the naive college girl trying to impress him. She’d changed.
She eyed the black rims and glass shards cupped in his hands. She remembered trying on ridiculous pairs at the eye doctor’s office, laughing at their reflections in the mirror, before he’d slipped on this very pair, which she’d pronounced perfect.
“Um… I’m guessing that since you’re at a singles’ group, you’re not seeing anyone?” he asked.
She jumped to her feet. “Look, I think they’re going to start the game again—”
“I’m not going to let you walk away again, Meghan.”
Jared stood. “I let you walk away at graduation, and I haven’t been able to live with myself since.”
“How can you say that? You dropped out of my life.” Tears stung her eyes. “That is not okay, Jared Huxley. Not okay at all.”
He ran his fingers through his mussed hair. “I guess sorry doesn’t really cut it.”
“No,” she snapped. “It doesn’t.”
“I should’ve answered.”
The cawing of gulls filled the silence between them. The sun beat against her skin, thickening her sweat.
He exhaled. “I care about you, Meghan. I should’ve said so a long time ago.”
He does care. Her traitorous heart fluttered. Maybe it had been unfair of her to expect him to declare his love so brazenly when the idea of doing it herself made her want to puke.
“It’s okay that you didn’t ask me out in college,” she said. “What’s not okay is how you stopped talking to me.”
“I know. I was mad at myself for not telling you how I felt, and then you were so far away…” He grabbed her hands. Her heartbeat stilled in her chest. “But I’ve got a whole weekend to make it up to you.”
“You flew all the way here? Because of me?”
Maybe she shouldn’t have been so passive-aggressive in her post-graduation communication. She cringed thinking of the voicemails she left, the long texts she’d sent, all infused with stinging bitterness.
What if she had played a part in pushing him away?
“I know I don’t deserve another chance. But—”
“I forgive you,” she blurted.
His blood-rimmed eyes widened. “Really?”
“Yes, you idiot.” She squeezed his hands. “And I’m sorry, too. For being a jerk after graduation.”
“It’s okay. I probably deserved it.”
He cupped her jaw in a sand-dusted hand and kissed her. She melted against him, two years of bitterness and pain dissipating beneath his firm touch.
“Don’t you want to get back to the game?” he said after several blissful moments. “You were dominating us, you know.”
She blinked. Game? Then she saw their teammates watching, failing to hide their laughter. Her cheeks darkened. “Aren’t you going to play?”
“Can’t see, remember?” He pointed to his face.
“Oh, yeah. Um… I really do owe you glasses.”
“It’s fine. Now get out there. I’ll cheer you on.”
“But you can’t see.”
“Details.” He gently shoved her toward the court.
Grinning like an idiot, Meghan stepped onto the hot sand and took her place behind the serving line. She may have finally met her match, but she still had a match to win.
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