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Chapter One


“Whoa, wait a minute,” I said and stepped into the barn. “There’s already enough crap stacked up in here. Why are you adding to my family’s collection?” The mystery woman had her back facing me and was holding a large box. I just happened to find her unloading her shit. Her hair was up in a messy bun on the top of her head and she was wearing a dark green sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up past her elbows.

“Crap,” the mystery woman said as she stumbled trying to steady the box and slowly turned to face me. She finally sat the box down and covered her mouth. “Crap, is that what you call all this?” She dropped her hand and I realized who was standing in front of me. Olivia Hart. My sister’s best friend and the woman I had a crush on since I was sixteen years old. Okay, if I was being honest, my crush went back a lot farther.

“Are my eyes deceiving me?” I took a few steps forward. “Livy?”

“God, I haven’t heard that name in years.” She smiled and shoved her hands in her pockets. “Levi Appleton. You’re still out here working?”

“It is my family’s farm. I figured I’d better stick around.”

“True, you wouldn’t want to piss anyone off.”

“Should I ask about the box?” I pointed to the item on the ground next to Olivia’s feet.

“Your sister gave the okay.” She shrugged her shoulders and bent down to pick it back up.

“Let me help,” I bent down a little too quickly and we bumped foreheads. “Shit,” I mumbled and lifted back up. “Where does it go?” I rubbed my forehead and attempted to pick it up again.

“I was going to take it back to my car.” She reached for it but I moved my body away. “Levi, what are you doing?”

“Autumn gave the go ahead, so where do you need me to put it?” I knew the barn was busting at the seams, but my sister would make sure I heard about this shit for years to come if I didn’t help.

“Behind the green tractor,” my sister yelled from the doorway. “Such a gentleman.” Autumn walked up beside me and patted my back. “Why don’t you help me like this?”

“What are you talking about? I help you all the time.” I stepped around the large wheel on the tractor and sat the box on a pallet with three other boxes. “Looks like I missed some of the fun.” I tapped the top of one of the boxes and turned to face Olivia and Autumn. “You’re moving back to Charlotte?”

“I was thinking about it.” Olivia winked and turned to leave. “If I can find the right job.”

“Her background is marketing. We both studied the same things but different schools.” Autumn wrapped her arm around my waist and rested her head on my shoulder. “She really needs a job.”

“Why are you giving me puppy dog eyes? Ask Dad.” I shook my head and pushed her off.

“Ask me what?” Zinger said and leaned his tall frame on the side of the barn.

“Looks like Olivia is back in town and needs a job.” I blew off the conversation like it was no big deal and walked back to the tractor. “I need to finish trimming the trees before it gets too late.” When I stepped my foot onto the first rung someone touched my forearm.

“Thank you for helping.” Olivia was standing an inch away from me. All the memories started to come back one after another. “I really appreciate it.” She didn’t wait for me to say anything, she turned and left.

“Sure,” I said and stepped up onto the tractor.

Olivia and Autumn were inseparable growing up. I couldn’t remember a time in my life when Livy wasn’t around. Her mother worked a lot, so we took up the slack. My mom loved Livy like one of her own. I really don’t remember when my crush started, but it lasted for a few years. Well, it lasted until she left town.

The gorgeous brunette had not popped in my mind in a long time.

“Levi,” someone smacked the side of my leg. “Hey.”

“What?” I turned the engine back off.

Autumn rolled her eyes. “Can Livy stay at the house for a few nights? Her parents had guests and so her room is occupied.”

“Why the fuck are you asking me?” I rolled my eyes and started to turn the key again. “I need to get this shit done.” Autumn and I had a close relationship, so it was easy to act annoyed.  

“Fine. I’ll let her stay in your room.”

I turned the engine off again. “Wait, what’s wrong with your room?”

“Just seeing if you’re paying attention.” She smiled and walked away.

“Mom would never turn Olivia away, but you better let her know there’s one more for dinner.” This time I turned the key, popped the earbuds in, and opened the music app. I hit a mix playlist and of course the first song that started playing was The Flame by Cheap Trick. How was that even possible? It was the same song I listened to way too much when Olivia left.

We never had a relationship. That’s not to say I didn’t want one. Olivia was not just my sister’s best friend, she was also an important part of my family. My mom loved her like a daughter. Asking Olivia out on a date should’ve been easy, but the pressure would have been too much at the time. I was sixteen and hadn’t dated anyone yet. My focus was the farm. I had to work long hours in between school work. It was just part of farm life. Dating was furthest from my mind.

The memories of right before she left ran through my mind as I turned the tractor down another row of apple trees. I spent so many nights practicing in my room how to properly ask her out.

Then she left before I could actually pop the question.

Now she’s back, but was I finally ready to let her know my true feelings?