Welcome back! Here’s another snippet from Climbing Heartbreak Hill: (it’s a bit closer to the end.)
Tara tapped her foot while Ryan settled in the tank and others lined up behind her for their chance to dunk him. A dollar for three throws at the target. Tara reached for her purse, then changed her mind. She bent and picked up Ryan’s coat. After a quick search of the pockets, she found his wallet. Unfortunately, it was devoid of cash. She flipped it closed, then opened it again to peek behind the credit cards. Ah-ha! An emergency twenty. She kept cash hidden to use only for an emergency, too. She slid the bill out of the pocket and crushed it in her fist. If she didn’t let off some of this anger and disappointment, it would be an emergency.
She tossed the crumpled bill at the attendant and stepped up to the line.
“How many throws?”
“All of them,” Tara said, holding her hand out for the marred softball. She rubbed her fingers over the crusty leather and stared at Ryan. A golden opportunity lost. She wound up and chucked the ball. It went high and wide of the target. Someone behind her made a remark about throwing like a girl. Ryan gave her a thumbs-up. If he thought that was a good throw, he had another thing coming. He should think twice about encouraging her. She needed a couple throws to get warmed up. She grabbed the next ball and wrapped her fingers around the seams.
“You should take the job,” she muttered as she let this one fly. It dinged the corner of the target, but not hard enough to trigger the release. The ball ricocheted off the tank and Ryan almost dunked himself when he flinched.
He might have said “what was that?” but Tara screwed up her mouth and reached for another ball. She had been through enough this week with the stress of tax season, with the demands of Chuck, and Ryan’s stupid, stupid obstinacy. “Lead me on, did you?” She whipped the ball at the target. She missed again; this time nailing the Plexiglas surround with a vicious thunk.
“Somebody’s got some anger issues,” the man behind said under his breath.
Tara snatched another ball and whirled around on her heels. She shoved the ball under his nose. “Unless you want this ball blocking your next sneeze, you’ll keep your comments to yourself.”
The man stepped back a full yard and put his hands up to protect his ability to shoot germs from his nose.
“Thank you.” Tara pursed her lips and turned back to the tank. She tightened her focus on the red bulls-eye. This time Ryan was hers. She whipped the ball with a caveman-like growl.
If she could discover Chuck’s fraud and get him arrested, and save Leslie’s company, she had shown she was the competent, strong woman she wanted to be. She could be a serious accountant. She’d be filling out those college applications as soon as tax season ended. She was worth it. If Ryan didn’t think that, he could take a swim.
The ball nailed the target with such a clang everyone for thirty yards ducked. Tara caught the gape of surprise on Ryan’s face before he tumbled into the water.
She squeezed her eyes shut to hold back the tears that suddenly threatened. Stepping away from the throwing line, she dabbed her eyes so as not to mess up her eye make-up—at least while she was still in public. Why did Ryan matter so much to her? The realization hit her as hard as one of the softballs she’d been throwing.
She was in love with him.
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