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The odds were against him. Andrew Wells knew this as well as he knew his chances of winning the California state lottery. Of course, you had to play to win, which he didn't. He figured the lottery was on a par with tossing money in a fountain and expecting good luck.
He was, however, willing to gamble something far more valuable to see Cheryl Cunningham again his pride. The slim possibility she might attend their twenty-year class reunion was all the encouragement he'd needed to return the invitation, a check attached. Now, an hour into the meet-and-greet portion of the evening, it was almost impossible to sustain the hope that had brought him there.
Andrew took risks as a matter of course, always willing to live with the consequences. Some considered the risks he took lunatic. But from his perspective, hang gliding off a mountaintop, running class-five rivers in a kayak, chasing tsunami-size waves with a surfboard, and sailing around the world with only a stray dog for company had more to do with philosophy than danger. He believed if he wasn't living on the edge, he was taking up too much space.
He looked at the melting ice in what was left of his gin and tonic and tried not to show the strain he felt listening to a group of his old football buddies trying to top each other with exaggerated stories of financial success and brilliant progeny. Glancing first at the door where he'd registered and then at the glass slider that led to the deck overlooking the eighteenth green, he began planning his escape route.
"First liar doesn'tstand a chance."
Andrew smiled, immediately recognizing Roger Blanchette's wry sense of humor and halting voice. Best friends for eight of the ten years they attended school together, the paths they'd taken afterward never seemed to cross at a convenient time for either of them. Turning, he clasped Roger's outstretched hand with genuine pleasure. "Which is why I'm still waiting to add my two cents."
Roger laughed. "You'd think their biggest problem was finding a space to park their Learjets."
If anyone from their Santa Cruz High School class of 1981 could lay claim to a Learjet, it was the man standing in front of him. The years had been good to Roger. No longer plagued by acne or a mother who bought his clothes at garage sales and thrift-stores, he could easily pass for exactly what he was, one of the startlingly rich computer moguls of Silicon Valley. He was still new enough to his riches to wear an obscenely expensive watch and bargain wedding band. "You're the last person I expected to find here."
"Exactly what I was thinking about you."
Roger nodded toward a stunning blonde holding court with a cluster of ex-cheerleaders. "Mary wanted to come."
Andrew did a double take. "That's Mary?"
"Shows you what a bitchy magazine writer and a willing plastic surgeon can do to a perfectly fine woman." He shrugged it off and changed the subject. "So, what's keeping you busy these days?"
"I'm back in the orchid business."
Even though no one new had arrived in the past fifteen minutes, Andrew compulsively glanced at the door before answering. "I thought I had the nursery sold a couple of years ago, but it didn't work out."
"Wholesale or retail?"
"Wholesale. Mainly to high-end retailers and florists. The shows are my bread and butter "
"Mary has an arrangement with a nursery in San Francisco. They take care of the plants when they aren't in bloom and bring them to her when they are."
"I thought about setting up part of my nursery for boarding plants but decided it was too labor intensive." Again, Andrew glanced at the door.
"Not expecting," Andrew admitted. "Hoping."
Roger tossed him a questioning look. "Anyone I know?"
Andrew hesitated. He could evade the question or lie, but what was the point? "Cheryl."
"I thought you two went your separate ways in college."
"I've grown older and wiser since then."
"In other words you finally realized what a jackass you were, and you're hoping it's not too late."
"That's one way to put it!"
Roger slapped a hand on Andrew's shoulder. "It's the only way to put it where Cheryl is concerned."
Andrew, had broken her heart. He'd known he would, but it hadn't stopped him. At the time he'd honestly believed his reasons for leaving outweighed the inner voice that compelled him to stay. For a while he'd even managed to convince himself he had done her a favor. The man she'd fallen in love with was whole and healthy, one who could fulfill her dreams of home and hearth and family. He stopped being that man his junior year. Selfishly saving himself the look of pity he was sure he would see in her eyes if he told her, he'd simply walked away with what now seemed a callous explanation.
The calculated selfishness of his leaving was what had kept him from coming back when he finally realized how big a mistake he'd made. Then he'd heard through a mutual friend that Cheryl had moved to Montana and married a state legislator with eyes on the governor's job. Over the years he'd found a way to let her go intellectually, but not emotionally.
" don't know where I'd be without Mary," Roger said.
Realizing held missed most of what Roger had said, Andrew forcefully snapped himself out of his thick fog of memories. "My guess is that she's over there saying the same thing about you."
He shook his head. "A while back it hit me that, at best, love is lopsided. As long as a relationship is balanced..."
Another Summer. Copyright © by Georgia Bockoven. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.