“No one writes big-hearted bad boys like Jessica Lemmon!”—New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster
Allison: When I left for California, I gave myself a new name and never looked back. Now my carefully crafted good-girl image is getting torn to shreds in the press thanks to my Oscar-winning A-hole of an ex-boyfriend. So I escape to the only safe haven I know and trust—my hometown—to take a breather while I plot my triumphant Hollywood comeback. However, when I arrive at my parents’ house, Jackson Burke answers the door instead. And suddenly the past comes rushing back. . . .
Jackson: First kiss. First time. First love. Yep, Allison Murphy and I shared a lot of firsts back in the day. When she left, she took half my heart with her. Now she’s back in town, and even though I swore I’d keep my distance, her parents hired me to remodel their house, and I’m going to finish the job. But one hot kiss later, suddenly the press is calling us the next big celebrity couple. Sure, I’ll play the part, for Allison’s sake—but I refuse to let her close enough to break my heart all over again. . . .
Praise for America’s Sweetheart
“Excellent contemporary romance—a second-chance love story that skillfully blends lighthearted sweetness and gut-wrenching emotion.”—New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne
“From Hollywood to the heartland, this sexy, poignant romance from Jessica Lemmon proves that you can go home again and rekindle your first love.”—Kate Meader, USA Today bestselling author of the Laws of Attraction series
“America’s Sweetheart is the perfect second-chance reunion! A dynamic combination of sweet and sexy.”—USA Today bestselling author Jules Bennett
“True love and steamy seduction, with a healthy dose of destiny, make this latest entry a success.”—Library X-Press (starred review)
Look for Jessica Lemmon’s standalone romances with heartfelt HEAs:
FIGHTING FOR DEVLIN | FORGOTTEN PROMISES | SHUT UP AND KISS ME | EYE CANDY | ARM CANDY | MAN CANDY | RUMOR HAS IT | AMERICA’S SWEETHEART
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Allison and I stand in shared stark, shocked silence in the beam of sunlight stretching across the foyer. My mind’s a jumble of what Jules just told me. That Allison stole an Oscar from Millie Duncan. That McCormack made a statement today that Allison needs rehab. That Hollywood’s “it” couple McNina is no more.
It’s a lot to absorb, and I would’ve preferred letting it sink in slowly while enjoying a ham and cheese sandwich. Processing with my ex-girlfriend standing right in front of me is less than ideal.
“Jackson.” She pulls off her sunglasses, wide eyes suggesting she’s as shocked to see me as I am to see her.
“Hey,” is my response.
Her mouth flinches into a quick, unsure smile. I push my hands into my pockets, since I don’t know what to do with them. She drops the sunglasses into a large purse and then tosses the bag onto a nearby chair. When she turns back to me, we both ask the same question at the same time.
“What are you doing here?”
I palm the back of my neck and return her awkward smile with one of my own.
“I’m visiting. For a while.” Her gaze darts away.
I don’t have to ask why thanks to Julieann’s accurately timed phone call.
“I’m remodeling your parents’ bedroom,” I explain.
Allison’s eyebrows rise even higher. “They’re not here?”
“No. They’re on vacation. In Italy,” I add, in case she didn’t know her parents were leaving the country. “My company is remodeling their bedroom while they’re gone.”
“Italy. Right. I remember them mentioning that trip coming up . . .” She bites her bottom lip, dragging her teeth over it before slowly releasing the plump flesh.
I remember, with unabashed clarity, biting that same lip on several past occasions. I guess it’s true you never forget your first. She was my first time and I was hers. We had the rare opportunity to surrender our V-cards to each other in her second-floor bedroom in this very house.
I scrub my face with my hand and come away with more drywall dust. The white powder on my hands grounds a situation that would otherwise be surreal.
“I’ve . . . sort of been ignoring their calls. Ignoring everyone’s calls,” she mumbles.
Her chin wobbles and she lifts her hand to her mouth. Her muffled voice escapes her fingers. “I just . . . I really needed to see someone I know.”
A tight sob wrenches from her throat as fat tears roll down her cheeks.
I’m frozen in place. It’s like watching a car accident happen right in front of me. I’m powerless to stop it.
Powerless to help.
Her face crumples, pulling into a borderline ugly-cry, if Allie was remotely capable of being ugly. Then she shocks the hell out of me by crashing into my torso. Her arms cling to my back, her face pressed hard into my chest.
Despite the ten years that separate us, and the nasty argument that ended in our breaking up, I wrap my arms around her small frame and hold her while she cries.
A wail racks her as she hugs me close, quaking against me like she hasn’t had a single soul to lean on since she left Ohio. And, God, I hope that’s not true. I hope she’s had someone on her side while she’s been in California, living the life she’d dreamed. As badly as we ended, I hoped she was happy. What’s the sense in us suffering the pain of that split if we didn’t wind up better for it?
My heart isn’t as pragmatic as my head. As if remembering a serious injury that I suffered, my brain instructs my arms to hold her stiffly rather than gently.
The last time I saw Allison was when I’d flown out to California to stay for a week. She’d been living in a house with three female roommates at the time. They were all trying to break into acting careers, but Allie was the only one with a role that lasted longer than an episode. When she’d told me she was staying in Cali for another year, I was simultaneously happy for her and devastated for myself. I nearly puked, if you want the ugly truth. I wanted her to be successful, sure, but I also wanted her to come back home. To come back to me.
We agreed to try the long-distance thing, which was how I found myself staying in her packed flat. We spent the week wedged on a sofa—Allie’s bed—in between looking for insanely expensive apartments in Los Angeles.
“How do you feel about moving here?” she’d asked while we walked around a particularly outdated, roach-infested apartment. It was the fourth one we’d toured that day, but that was the first mention of me moving there. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at first.
“It’s hard. The distance. And um . . .” She’d walked to the bedroom closet and slid aside a janky folding door to reveal a sad, filthy square of carpet below a warped bar for hanging clothes. “I want you here. With me. I’m going to make it. Beyond America’s Sweetheart. And I don’t want to give up what we have for my dream. I want you to be part of it. So, whaddaya say? Move in with me?”
I had taken in her smile, wide and hopeful as the sun streamed in behind her, not unlike it’d done two minutes ago when she’d stepped into her parents’ house and cried all over me. Whaddaya say? That’s exactly how she’d asked. And you know what I said?
“I say no.” That’s what I said. As plainly and evenly as that. “I don’t like California.” Her hopeful smile had fallen and she glowered instead. When we arrived back at her shared apartment, she was still too angry to speak. She didn’t say more than three words to me before I left for the airport the next morning. The final loud and lengthy conversation had happened over the phone later, with what felt like a million miles separating us.
“I’m so happy you’re here,” she tells me now.
Those words jar me out of the memory.