“Oh,” Lex let his eyes roam her body, “I remember you all right.”
Heat flared to life in her eyes and she fidgeted under his intense perusal. With a spark of anger, she declared, “You don’t recall shit about me.”
“Shit, I remember. I remember you almost got fired for giving me free Colas.” Lex grinned. He'd been poor as hell back then, unable to afford a seventy-five-cent soda with his boys before they'd head up to the lake. Thea had always smiled, a sweet pink blush spreading across her face as he dug through his empty jeans pocket pretending to look for money he knew wasn't there. She'd always push the soda toward him a conspiratorial smile on her soft lips. She'd been a little beauty back then as well—a mass of dark, springy curls, eyes the color of fresh honey, a slim figure he’d attributed to her tomboy ways, and the sweetest smile a boy had ever seen. But she’d been too young, too unexperienced; she was only twelve to his sixteen. Of course, he’d never looked at her in a sexual way back then, but now as she stood in front of him—tall, voluptuous, and, earlier, ready to blow a hole in his chest with that shotgun—his dick ached.
“A lot of good it did me.” She scowled and propped her hip on the table beside her. Crossing arms over her chest, she glared at him. “Abbot cussed me out nine ways to Sunday. And what happened to you? Not a damn thing. Paw Paw grounded me for two weeks behind that. Yet, you,” she motioned to him, “kept running with the boys, fishing down by the lake while I was stuck in my room the last two weeks of the damn summer.” Lex felt her ire. Those beautiful honey-colored eyes narrowed at him as if they could launch a missile. “After that, you never set foot in the place again.” She didn't know the shit he'd taken from Abbott or even Earl. No one believed that he'd gotten the cola past hawk-eyed Thea. He'd swore up and down he'd stolen the cola, but they all knew better. Thea had been punished and Lex banned from the store.
“Hell, I saw Abbott at the bar earlier.” Lex growled. “That Blackwater bastard is still calling me a thief. Shit, everyone in town knew me and my family were dirt poor. The second Abbot saw me with that soda, he’d come gunning for me, calling me all sorts of names and shit.” He wouldn’t tell her the same thing happened earlier tonight and that that name was pimp.
Thea grunted. “Then they should’ve believed you. They should believe that you would steal it since you didn’t have the fucking money to buy it.”
He had lied to Abbott, telling him he’d stolen the soda to keep Thea out of trouble, but no one got anything past her in that store, and Abbot had known the truth. He’d even sensed there was a crush brewing for Lex in little Thea back then and he aimed to nip it in the bud.
Once Abbott got it in his mind that Thea was showing any favor to Lex, there’d been nothing Lex could do. And admitting he was a coward, he'd been glad Abbott had banned him from the store. He hadn't had the courage to face her again. He'd never take a thing other than food to eat when he'd had nothing.
“You are a damned thief.”
Lex eyed her; her words no doubt had their intended effect. Anger flared to life in his blue gaze.
“I ain't never stolen a thing from you, Thea.” His intense stare bore through her, heating the space between them. “Not now. Not ever.” He slashed a hand through the air.
He watched, confounded as tears formed in her gem-colored eyes. He craved to reach out to her, to hold and soothe her. He loathed her tears; his fear of hurting her was part of the reason he'd left in the middle of the night.
“But you did, Lex. You stole my heart and then left town with it. I haven't been whole since the day you ran away.”