Metal Mouth. Queen Geek. Dr. Payton Pruitt heard it all growing up. But she's over it, and attending her ten-year high school reunion is the perfect way to prove it to herself. Even if there's only one person she's interested in seeing in Bitterthorn, Texas: Wiley Sharpe.
Now a respected lawyer, Wiley didn't live down to the label Most Likely to Be Slapped with a Paternity Suit. But recent acts of vandalism suggest someone still sees him as a heartbreaker, and the reunion seems a likely place to find the culprit. Instead, Wiley comes face-to-face with his old pal Paytonand is wowed not only by her transformation into a ravishing swan, but by the connection they still share.
Payton is pleased the playboy she used to tutor has grown into an honorable man, but she's too smart to fall for a guy with roots in a place she couldn't wait to leave. But while Payton is an academic genius, Wiley is the one with the PhD in pleasure, and he intends to use it to convince her to stay
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The heavy pulse of music echoed off Bitterthorn High School's locker-lined walls. A scattering of people dressed in suits and cocktail dresses milled outside the gymnasium, but the main action was through the double doors at the end of the hall. Straightening his tie one last time, Wiley Sharpe pushed through those doors and into his ten-year high school reunion, his attention razor sharp as it slashed over every face in the crowd.
Ready or not, here I come.
"Wiley! Hey, if it isn't the Coyote!"
On the alert, Wiley turned just as a hand slapped against his shoulder and propelled him deeper into the noisy, dimly lit gymnasium.
"Holy cow, isn't this amazing? A real blast from the past. How ya doin', buddy?"
He turned to regard the smallish man with a weak chin and generous spare tire with zero recognition. His gaze flicked to the sticker slapped off-center on the man's tweed jacket and read, Hi! My Name Is... "Tom Pattison." Relaxing enough to smile, Wiley shook Tom's hand and struggled to relate the pudgy, balding man with the memory of the scrawny kid he'd known a decade ago. "Wow. What a surprise."
"You can say that again! Boy, I recognized you from the moment you walked through the door."
"Really?" That made one of them.
"What have you been doing, sleeping in a time capsule?"
"Listen, I want you to meet the wife." He wrapped an arm around the shoulders of a red-haired woman who so perfectly matched him in overall size and coloring Wiley couldn't help but think of bookends. "Liz, this is Wiley Sharpe, former BMOC and all-around head jock of our little campus."
Wiley offered a polite smile. "How do you"
"You had your best game right here on this court, didn't you?" Clearly lost in a glory-days fog, Tom scanned the crowded gymnasium. "Thirty points and some god-awful amount of rebounds, am I right?"
It was thirty-three points, ten assists and twelve rebounds, but Wiley merely shrugged. "It was a long time ago."
"Hell, I remember it like it was yesterday." Tom turned to his wife with a grin. "Honey, this is the guy I told you about. You know, the one who was voted most likely to get slapped with a paternity suit?"
"Oh, that's right." Liz smiled at Wiley with the renewed interest of a hungry woman sizing up a fresh piece of center-cut meat. "Has that happened yet?"
The loud blaring of music covered Wiley's sigh. It was probably ridiculous to hope everyone had forgotten about that. "I'm happy to report it hasn't."
"Luckiest guy I've ever seen, if you know what I mean." Tom guffawed, slapping Wiley on the back once more.
Smile screwed firmly in place, Wiley searched the room for an escape route.
"So, Coyote. What are you doing these days?"
Getting threatening emails, being harassed by crank calls, having my house covered with spray-paint. You know, the usual. "I'm a practicing family lawyer here in Bitterthorn, but I also teach part-time at UTSA." He spotted a deputy placed discreetly near the entrance, no doubt Sheriff Berry's ham-handed idea of staying on top of Wiley's harassment case, and decided now was as good a time as any to make a break for it. "If you'll excuse"
"A lawyer? Did you say lawyer?" Tom's face turned stoplight-red as he laughed hard enough to bring up a lung. "You? No way, you've gotta be kidding!"
Wiley's smile vanished. Maybe trawling his high school reunion for crazy-ass stalkers was a bad idea, after all. "No, I'm not kidding."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
* Original Review posted on Gin's Book Notes (ginsbooknotes .com) The story is told from two characters points of views. Payton Pruit, a young doctor, who returns to her hometown of Bitterhorn, Texas for her ten year high school reunion to prove to all her past tormentors that she is no longer the victim that she once was and Wiley Sharpe, past high school jock and ultimate playboy turned local family law attorney. There were times when Payton got on my nerves and I was like, “Get over it already” but then I would remember that she graduated when she was fifteen years old and all those insecurities of not fitting in were still haunting her. She grows a lot during the story, puts some of her demons to rest, and realizes that she has had a lot of misconceptions about her past and the people she has tried to leave behind. Wiley is adorable, smart, and persistent. In high school he was the playboy jock who had to be tutored by a then thirteen year old Payton in order to pass his senior year. He remembers the past in a completely different way than Payton does and is determined to make her see things his way. In the midst of all the reconnecting and healing there is a mystery to be solved and a bad guy to catch. I don’t want to give any of the story away but some of my favorite parts were during the times that Wiley and Payton where trying to gather evidence. One of the characters, old Mrs. Bimmel, was hilarious! I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, fast and fun contemporary romance with a side of drama thrown in. I had a great time reading it and look forward to reading future books by Stacy Gail featuring Bitterhorn, Texas.
First book by this author and have to say I was disappointed. It took forever for Payton and Wiley to get together and their kisses were hotter than the first time they had sex. Wiley was very likeable too bad and described as hot, but he certainly did not come across as hot in bed.
Great read! Funny and good "could happen" factor.
If you are looking to be entertained while seeing these two fall in love, Ugly Ducklings Finish First is a cute and funny fast-read, perfect for those who like those high school romances where the geek girl wins. - Full review available at BookTrib's website or romanticreadsandsuch on wordpress.
As with most Carina books, this is a quick, easy read. As I gave it a 5-star rating when I rated it on Goodreads, clearly I didn't have any major issues that took away from my appreciation of it. This featured a couple of classic tropes (nerd-girl turned sexy and reformed rake) and didn't particularly do anything original with them. But the way Ms. Gail presented them, I got plenty of giggles. I liked seeing this couple get together. Payton was a sweetheart and yet still haunted by her high school days. She has mother issues which I enjoyed seeing her actually attempt to work through, making a pretty darned good start by the end of the book. Wiley was (for me) hilarious, in how everyone who knew his high school reputation (which was pretty much everyone in Bitterthorn), thought he was waaaay too familiar with the ladies. Yet he rather liked Payton back when she tutored him in high school and of course, she had the hots for him, though she had to hide it. After all, she was the nerd tutor and he was the uber-popular football star. When they first meet at their 10-year reunion, Wiley doesn't recognize her, but she recognizes him. She has a bit of fun with that, but ultimately, the truth comes out quickly. They work through some of their issues. The one disappointing factor that stuck with me, even a week or so after reading this book, came toward the end when Wiley was trying to protect Payton. I felt he was a bit of an ass, and could have handled it a lot better/smarter than he did. There was a side-plot which involved Wiley and someone who was clearly out to get him (spay-painting his house, etc.). That was another not-so-great-part of the book, which involved a couple of eye rolls on my part, but in the end didn't bother me enough to effect my rating/enjoyment of this book. Ultimately, this was a great book and definitely worth reading. 5-star rating. Thank you for letting me read this, Carina/Ms. Gail!