The Bad Boy of Butterfly Harbor

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Holly’s entire body froze as if she’d locked herself in  the walk-in freezer. Then her knees wobbled, but she kept her spine stiff and her voice low as the anger she thought she’d buried over a decade ago rumbled up from her toes. “Luke Saxon.” She shoved her hands into her back pockets and tried not to notice how quiet the diner had become.

“Hello, Holly.” A tight, guarded smile softened dark, angular features. “Good to see you again.”

She pressed her lips together so hard they went numb.

Every town, even Butterfly Harbor, had its bad boy. That boy who wore a black leather jacket and snug jeans to the point of female distraction. The boy who exuded a mind-numbing combination of hostility and romanticized misunderstanding. The boy every girl wanted to date but none dared approach. The boy other boys wanted to emulate, but none thought to befriend. Yeah, there were bad boys.

And then there was Luke Saxon.

And he still wore a black leather jacket and carried himself with a self-assuredness that was both enviable and off-putting. His onetime too long ink-black hair had been shorn into shape, his pasty complexion replaced by what looked like years spent in the sun. The sad stone-blue eyes she remembered in the face of a sullen boy had turned to steel in the span of twelve years. She saw life painted on his handsome face.

He’d grown up. Holly straightened. They both had.  While Luke stood before her as a man, she couldn’t help but see the troubled—and dangerous—youth she remembered. His reputation for skirting the thin edge of the law had become legend in Butterfly Harbor.


“I’ll understand if you’d rather I eat someplace else.” The low rumble of Luke’s voice sounded foreign to Holly’s ears and prickled her skin. In her mind Luke was still eighteen, smelling of beer, blood and guilt rather than the intoxicating combination of sea air and orange spice.

“You know what Grandma Ruby always said.” Holly forced the words from her tight throat. “Everyone’s welcome at the diner.” Even you.

“I heard she passed.” Luke pushed his hands deep into his jacket pockets, rocked on his heels as he kept his chin up, his gaze pinned to hers. “She was always very nice to
me.”

Holly cleared her throat and wished her grandmother was here right now—she’d always known what to say. “Thanks. You eating alone?” She grabbed a menu out of the cubby at the end of the counter and tried not to notice how her hand trembled.


“No. I’m meeting—”

“Sorry I’m late.” Butterfly Harbor’s new mayor, Gil Hamilton, pushed through the door and swept his long sandy-blond hair out of his eyes. “Hey, Holl. Must be a blast from the past, huh? Having Luke back?”

“Not to stay?” Holly blurted. 

“For a while,” Luke said.

“A year, at least.” Gil slapped a hand on Luke’s leatherclad back as Luke winced and stepped to the side, the color draining out of his windblown face. “That’s how long his term will be. This time around anyway.”

“His term?” Holly asked as her stomach churned. “What term?”

“Oh, sorry.” Gil blinked and cringed as if he’d betrayed a confidence. “I thought for sure your father would have told you by now. Luke’s serving out the rest of Jake’s tenure as sheriff.”

“Sheriff.” Holly didn’t recognize her own voice, not hidden under the layers of hostility and anger. “You’re not serious.” When Gil’s only acknowledgment was to grab the menus and head toward a booth at the far end of the diner, Holly swung on Luke. “He’s not serious?”

“Holly—”

“What? It wasn’t enough you almost killed my father all those years ago? You figured you’d come back and finish him off by stealing his job?”

Luke’s steely blue eyes narrowed. “It’s not like that.”

“From where I’m standing it’s exactly like that.” She moved in, keeping her voice low so her customers—so her son—wouldn’t hear. “Go back to wherever you’ve been for the past decade, Luke. We don’t have any use for cowards in Butterfly Harbor.”