BY SAVANNAH J. FRIERSON
It only takes a second to fall in love forever.
Navy SEAL Timothy Capshaw is only in Charleston, SC, for the summer. He’s not looking for a romance or even a hookup, but when he sees Bevin on his first night out on the town, he knows she’s the one for him.
Coffeehouse owner Bevin Moore is the friend who makes sure everyone makes safe decisions when they go out for their Trolling Nights, the nights where her friends look for a weekend fling. But when she meets Tim, she knows he’s the most dangerous choice of all, especially for her heart.
How will Tim convince Bevin he’s the man she hasn’t known she’s been looking for and that the need for her Trolling Nights is over?
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On the drive back, George Strait serenaded her into a catnap. When the car’s rumbling cease, she opened her eyes to see they were in a parking garage. She sensed Tim’s eyes on her in the dimness, and soon, a callused, gentle finger glided down her cheek. She bit her bottom lip and closed her eyes, hiding her reaction by unbuckling her seatbelt.
She heard a door open and close, and by the time she was ready to get out, Tim was there, holding her door open and helping her out. Again, Bevin averted her eyes from his. They were too hypnotic. If she stared any longer, she’d probably do something foolish.
Like kiss him.
“Ever been to the Kickin’ Chicken?” he asked, pulling her close to him so he could shut the door.
“Yeah. Good stuff.”
“A bunch of us went last weekend after we took a tour of downtown. First supper I had in Charleston. Loved it. Mind if we go there tonight?”
“Not at all,” Bevin said, and she started walking. Seconds later, Tim was next to her, taking her hand and settling it in the bend of his elbow.
“Trying to leave me back there?” he asked teasingly.
Bevin shook her head, trying to make her stride longer to match his. “Hungry, that’s all.”
Streetlamps dappled the sidewalks with soft amber and white glows, and pedestrians in various states of revelry traveled to and fro. Tim kept her close to him, eventually dropping their linked arms to take her hand in his while he weaved them through thick, oncoming traffic. His palm was warm and callused just like his fingers, but Bevin felt completely safe with him.
It disconcerted Bevin immensely. She’d never had her hand held before. She’d never had a guy be protective of her before. Bevin wanted to pull her hand out of Tim’s, so scared she’d become addicted to it…scared she already was. She kept her head bowed, looking at her feet walking over the stone sidewalks, unwilling to risk complete strangers seeing the dilemma in her eyes. Unwilling to risk Tim seeing it.
They entered the restaurant and noticed there was a wait even at this later hour. Tim put them on the list while Bevin went back outside in the mild, Charleston-night air. People were milling about and having a good time, yet Bevin felt out of place. Rarely did she go out alone, even though technically she wasn’t. She was with Tim; Tim, who had come out and stood in front of her as she avoided his gaze again.
She shivered, and not from the breeze that had swept down King Street. Bevin wrapped her arms around herself and looked at her feet again.
Tim’s large hands reached out and began rubbing her arms, his thumbs sometimes smoothing over the ball of her shoulders before his hands moved down to his elbows and back up again.
“I don’t like makin’ you nervous, Bevin,” he said quietly.
“I’m not nervous.”
“Then look at me.”
She waited a second before complying. There was nothing but kindness and sincerity in his gaze, and Bevin shut her eyes to them. It was unusual for those two things to be directed at her, especially coming from a man, especially regarding her.
“What are we doing here?” she whispered.
“Tim,” Bevin implored. “Are you playing games with me?”
“Look at me,” Tim said again, his voice as hard as the sidewalk underneath her feet. Bevin did, and she tried to step back from the anger and frustration that had replaced his earlier emotions.
“Unless there’s a chessboard or a deck of cards or a Twister mat or a ball between us, I promise there aren’t any games being played,” he said seriously.
Bevin sucked in a slow, deep breath. She couldn’t deny the truth even if she wanted to, and that scared her further. “What about charades?”
Tim frowned at her, then tapped her nose. “Now who’s playing?”
“Tim!” she said on a shocked laugh.
He grinned and drew her into a hug. “Damn, you feel good, baby.” He bent his head low and drifted his nose against hers. “Bevin…”
She put her hand on his jaw, wanted to soothe the tortured tenor from his voice. Tim turned his face to press a kiss to her palm, and he drew back so their eyes would meet.
“If I play games with you, I’ll let you know beforehand; and I’ll guarantee you’ll want to play too.”
Bevin slipped her bottom lip between her teeth, and she saw his eyes arrest on her mouth. He slid fingers through her hair, tucking strands behind her ear.
“We should probably go back inside so we don’t miss our table,” he murmured.
He tugged her ear and grinned at her, and she rolled her eyes and twisted her mouth to stop her responding smile. He grabbed her hand, linking fingers this time, and took her back into the restaurant. They stood off to the side away from the door and waited about five more minutes before the hostess took them to their table.
“Do you know what you want?” Tim asked as they waited for their server to arrive.
“I’m not that hungry.”
“Well, that’s fascinating. Hungry one moment and not the next.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You ain’t had to call me out like that.”
Laughing, Tim tipped his chin to the menu. “Well, hungry or not, you can always order something and eat it later.”
The server appeared, introducing herself and giving them menus. Bevin didn’t appreciate the way the cute blonde woman’s eyes widened with delight at the sight of Tim.
“Back again, I see!” she said, just shy of squealing. “Where are the others?” The server gave a cursory glance at Bevin and frowned. “This a friend?”
“Hello, Darcy, how are you tonight?” Tim asked, giving her a friendly smile.
“Oh, you know how it is,” Darcy said, waving her hand absently and looking at Bevin again. “Aren’t you cute! Are you Ulrich’s little sister?”
Bevin’s jaw dropped slightly, and Tim hid his face behind the menu, even though that wasn’t enough to muffle his snort. Nevertheless, she recovered quickly. “No. Just a friend.”
“Oh,” Darcy murmured, looking at Tim in confusion, but then shrugging. “Y’all like somethin’ to drink?”
“Sweet tea,” Bevin said, her smile as fake as the nails on Darcy’s fingers.
“I’ll have the same,” Tim replied.
“All righty, be back in a jiff!” Darcy said, and practically flounced away from their table.
Bevin cocked an eyebrow and folded her arms at her breasts. “Ulrich’s little sister!”
Tim burst out laughing, unaware or uncaring several diners looked their way. The audacity of that blonde heffa! “Is it that hard to believe you’d have a meal with someone who looks like me?”
Tim was too busy turning red and crying with mirth to answer.
What appetite Bevin had was truly now gone, so when Darcy returned with their drinks and took their orders, flirting with Tim as if she wasn’t sitting right there, Bevin half-heartedly ordered a three-piece chicken strips basket. She knew good and well that thirty minutes later, she’d wrap up the entire meal to go.
“Hey,” Tim said, pointing reaching out a hand toward her sweet tea. “Give me your hand.”
Bevin had been running her fingers up and down the cool glass. “What’s wrong?”
He gave her an exasperated look. “Humor me.”
Nothing had been funny since the moment Darcy had come to their table, but Bevin decided to oblige Tim anyway. He grasped her fingers and brought their knuckles to his lips, then he squeezed her fingers and linked his through hers, setting their joined hands down on the table.
“Tell me a little about yourself,” he said lowly, using his drawl as a deadly weapon against her defenses.
Bevin couldn’t, too distracted by her fingers intertwined with his and his free hand drifting over their interlocked digits. “Ah…”
“Tell me something those in the Femme Crew don’t know about you,” he said, staring at her fingers as if they were the most fascinating things he’d ever laid eyes on.
Bevin had to use her left hand to pick up her sweet tea and she took a long drink. The corner of Tim’s mouth curled into a knowing smile, and Bevin shook her head to deny the delicious effect it had on her.
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Savannah J. Frierson is a USA TODAY best-selling and award-winning author who crafts full, happily-ever-afters for readers who believe transcendent romances are worth the wait. She taps into characters’ softness to show vulnerability as a strength to be embraced and celebrated. Savannah’s characters find empowerment through love, and she hopes her dear readers do too.