I am a child of the country and grew up near a very small town, so that life was familiar to me. As for coming up with the town, I knew it had to be southern, and there is no state more southern that Georgia and old southern charm. There is a LilyAnn in everyone’s high school. The smartest, prettiest girl who made everything look easy and garnered all the awards, then never quite figured out how to transition that success into adulthood. I wanted to write about a woman like that who found a way to put the past aside and step into her own.
Here is a sneak peek of YOU AND ONLY YOU:
Lily was busy putting up new stock, mostly oblivious to the customers coming and going. She opened the top on another box of painkillers, checked to make sure the unit price was the same as the shelf price, and then began sliding the bottles into place. She heard footsteps coming down the aisle and absently stepped to the side to let them pass as she continued to work. Instead, the footsteps stopped and then someone tapped her on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, lady. Where can I find Band-Aids and alcohol?”
She turned around and for a split second lost the ability to speak. It was T. J. Lachlan in all his manly glory. Black hair, brown eyes, and a shade of a dimple in his right cheek. Then she caught herself and quickly answered.
“Next aisle over, about midway down,” she said.
He nodded without even meeting her gaze and walked away.
Lily felt his disregard and accepted it, but it didn’t make her sad. In fact, it reinforced her intent. She hurried to finish shelving because it was almost her quitting time. As soon as she was through, she carried the empty boxes outside to the Dumpster, grabbed her things, and waved good-bye to Mitchell as she went out the door.
The air was chilly, but she’d had the foresight to wear a warmer jacket today. When she passed the fitness center, she wouldn’t look at her reflection. This was just day one; no time to start judging progress. As soon as she got to the corner she crossed the street and, instead of heading home, went to the Piggly Wiggly.
Gladys Farmer had been a checkout clerk at the supermarket since LilyAnn was a kid. She couldn’t imagine the place without her. When Lily walked in, Gladys saw her and spoke, just as she did to everyone who came in, even while she was scanning groceries for another customer.
“Hi, Gladys,” she said, and headed toward the produce department pushing an empty cart.
She began loading it up with vegetables she liked to eat raw, then vegetables to cook, and finished up with a couple of different kinds of fruit before moving to the meat department. She chose a big bag of frozen chicken pieces and a small ham, which was leaner in fat than red meat, and it was already cooked, which served her purpose, too.
After adding skim milk, high-fiber cereal, and a dozen eggs, she was good to go. She had a moment of regret for buying so much stuff when she remembered she was on foot, but she kept moving toward the front. She wheeled into line at the checkout to wait her turn and hadn’t been there long when someone wheeled up behind her.
“Well, hello, LilyAnn. Long time, no see.”
Lily turned around and stifled a groan. Polly Winston, her high school nemesis.
Polly eyed her old schoolmate with a satisfied smirk. LilyAnn might have beaten her out from being crowned Peachy-Keen Queen years ago, but she’d gone to hell in a handbasket afterward. The blond bombshell of Blessings High was overweight and dowdy. God was good.
“How’s your little mama doin’?” Polly asked.
“Just fine. She and Eddie are coming home for Thanksgiving. It’ll be great to see them again.”
Polly smirked. “I guess it was hard to see your mama move away, leaving you behind.”
Lily wanted to slap that look off her face, but resisted the urge.
“Actually, it wasn’t hard at all. Mama was real sad after Daddy passed. I’m glad she’s happy again.”
The smirk slid a little sideways, but Polly persisted.
“I guess. It’s a shame you never managed to get over Randy Joe and all.”
Lily arched an eyebrow. “Why, whatever gave you the idea I was still grieving for Randy Joe?”
The smirk was gone. Polly frowned. “Well, you didn’t marry or even date anyone else. I just assumed—”
Lily interrupted. “Now Polly, you know what they say about the word ‘assume.’ It makes an ass of you know who.” She giggled for effect. “Actually, I just never found anyone else in town interesting enough to bother with. By the way…how’s Darrell? I heard he had another wreck. Is he okay? My stars, I’ll bet your insurance premiums are through the roof.”
Polly’s mouth opened, but she was so shocked she didn’t know what to say. Not only had LilyAnn just stood up for herself, but she’d also done a fair job of bitch-slapping Polly right back for that dig without touching a hair on her head.
“Uh… Well, I…”
“Oh. Gotta go. I’m next,” Lily said, and wheeled her cart right up to the counter and began unloading her groceries.
LilyAnn was so mad she was shaking, but she wouldn’t let on. She carried on a conversation with Gladys as she paid for her things, but didn’t remember a single word of what they’d said by the time she got outside.
About Sharon Sala
Sharon Sala is a long-time member of RWA, as well as a member of OKRWA. She has 85 plus books in print, written as Sharon Sala and Dinah McCall. First published in 1991, she’s a seven-time RITA finalist, winner of the Janet Dailey Award, four-time Career Achievement winner from RT Magazine, National Reader’s Choice Award, and Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence winners five times each and has received the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award from Romance Writers of America. Her books are New York Times , USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, WaldenBooks mass market best-sellers. Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate.
About YOU AND ONLY YOU
Welcome to Book One in the Blessings, Georgia series of Southern contemporary romance from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sharon Sala. With the support of her handsome, unassuming friend Mike Dalton, LilyAnne Bronte is finally ready to put the past in the past.
It’s never too late
Mike Dalton has secretly loved LilyAnn Bronte since they were all children together in the small town of Blessings, Georgia. But one fateful day T.J. Lachlan roars into town and starts showering LilyAnn with his charm, and Mike feels his dream of them being more than friends slipping away.
To find the love you missed
LilyAnn, as anyone in Blessings will tell you, let herself go after her fiancée was killed in Iraq. The attention of the handsome new guy shocks her into a revelation: she’s ready to live again, and maybe the best is yet to come. The thing is, everybody in Blessings is sure it’s Mike and LilyAnn who belong together-and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make LilyAnn realize the love of her life has been by her side all along.
(Originally published as The Curl Up and Dye.)