Troy Bennett is a man fighting the demons who tell him he is worthless every day of his life. Demons his mother conjured. He quiets them with alcohol and casual relationships, never allowing any woman to get close enough to him so he will never have to disappoint one. Then on the spur of the moment trip to Panama City Beach with his Ranger buddies, he sees the future he’s always been afraid to pursue exit a Jeep Wrangler at a local donut shop.
Just as Troy and Crystal are finding their footing, she gets the call she never thought she would earn: Crystal Davis is going to Hollywood to be a contestant on America’s Next Chart Topper. What started as a way to honor her murdered friend has now become her dream. Chasing her dream means leaving Troy behind for a bit, and she wonders if her absence will cause what they’ve built so far to come crashing down.
Chasing her dream also means she’s put herself in a place where she’s vulnerable to the side of Hollywood that no one wants to acknowledge. A place where people only care about her and Troy’s story for the audience while behind the scenes, evil, selfish people work to tear them apart.
“Look, you couldn’t miss the sparks between them when we ran into these guys at Thomas’ this morning. I would be a horrible friend if I didn’t step in and help. Y’all know how cautious Rin is! Look how long it took her to commit to coming here at all!” Crystal replied, not feeling a bit guilty.
“I don’t know about you, Wild Woman,” Amy said with a small laugh. “I do know I need another Lemonade Shooter. Does anyone else want a drink?”
Everyone at the table put in a request except Troy.
“Troy, you want a drink?” Crystal asked in her flirtiest voice. “This round is on the Crew.”
“Nope,” Troy replied with a straight face. “Kevin was our designated driver. He’s gone. Now, the double D is me, so no more drinks tonight. I will take a Dr. Pepper.”
“You got it, Darlin’,” Crystal replied with a wink, undeterred by Troy’s lack of response to her flirtation.
Before Kevin took his leave, Troy had been drinking with them and was chatty and fun. She had been enjoying that side of him. She could tell with Kevin’s absence Troy now operated in ‘boss mode,’ and fun Troy had left the building. Crystal would happily plant the seeds for the future, though. She possessed far more patience than people realized. She joined Amy to give their drink order at the bar.
When Amy finished placing the order, she turned to Crystal and said, “So, you into Troy a little or something?”
“Or something,” Crystal said with a sly grin.
“You just in flirt mode, or is this more? Because you’ve been talking about this guy all day. And you didn’t flirt with the good-looking guy at Gulf World or the bartender at the resort.”
“All joking aside, Amy, for the first time in my life, I want more. I know this is crazy because I just met him. And I’m not just copying Rin, either. Troy feels important to me.” Crystal took note of a passion in her voice that she had never heard before. If Amy’s widened eyes were any indication, she had noticed it, too. “I like him, Ames. A lot.”
Amy smiled and hugged her saying, “I won’t tease you anymore. I hope sparks ignite between you two.”