I can't say no one warned me about him. Alison, my best friend and sorority sister, warned me. Others did as well. Alison knew about him, and his reputation. She had been dating his best friend for the past several months. Her exact words were "You don't want to get involved with him. He's a playboy. Love 'em and leave 'em type guy, according to Tony. He'd only break your heart, Sarah."
She was right. He did, precisely twenty-nine days after I met him, fifteen days after he professed his love for me. My heart was his to break pretty much immediately. I didn't offer it to him until fourteen days later, about forty-five seconds after he sent me a text with the words I love you, Sarah. Forty-five seconds was how long it took me to catch my breath. That text remains on my phone. I lost count of the number of times I tried to delete it. I just couldn't do it. I needed those words. They were all I had of him.
Hopeless romantic? Yes, that's me, Sarah Ann Horton, romance writer. Aspiring writer, I should say; Liberal Arts major, English Literature and Creative Writing emphasis; romance fanatic. Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Margaret Mitchell, Nicholas Sparks — they were all my mentors. Titanic, Romeo and Juliet, PS I Love You, Love Story, The Young Victoria — all top my list of favorite movies. Yes, tragic romance. How fitting.
I knew a little about him. He was a senior Business major from Athens, Georgia. His family came from "old money," or so I'd heard. He was tall — 6′1" at least, and extremely muscular. He had perfect facial features, including a strong jawline; dark brown hair; dark, deep-set eyes; and full, sexy eyebrows. His voice was deep, with only a hint of a Southern drawl. Not that I'd heard him say much the few times he'd been around. He was quiet, never had much to say. He certainly wasn't shy. No hunks who drove shiny black Porsches ever were. Seriously, what did they have to be shy about? The world was theirs, they ruled it. He, however, showed little interest in ruling the world. He didn't seem to have an interest in much of anything. I'm not saying he was boring; it was more that he was bored, with everything and everyone. He never hung out with our group of friends, even though he and Tony were supposedly best friends. I always assumed he was busy conquering the latest hot chick. He was always with one at the few fraternity parties I'd seen him at, but never the same one. He and his date usually stayed to themselves, and they often left the party early.
It was his detachment that first attracted me to him. Okay, maybe it was the beautiful body and incredible good looks. They were hard to ignore. But there were other hunks on campus. This hunk had a mysteriousness about him that made me want to get to know him, to learn more about him. The other just made me want to crawl into his bed. Often.
I admit I had plenty of fantasies about him, about being with him, but I never entertained any real notion of him actually having any interest in me. He was a wealthy, gorgeous hunk who drove a hot sports car. I was a nobody from Emporia, Kansas — home of Emporia State University, Flint Hills Technical College, the Emporia Gazette, and forty-nine registered sex offenders. It was also known for the 1983 murder of Sandra Bird by her husband, Rev. Tom Bird that inspired the 1987 television miniseries Murder Ordained, starring Keith Carradine, JoBeth Williams, and Kathy Bates; and birthplace of the fictional character Ray Krebbs, an illegitimate son of Texas oil baron Jock Ewing. The town still talked about both.
Don't get me wrong. I wasn't a dog. I received my share of glances, turned heads. I'd dated handsome guys. But, I was no Angelina Jolie. Guys like this one only bothered with the "Jolies," not the Sarah Hortons.
His name was Sean Howard. Sean David Howard — I'd done my research. It was a strong name; I liked it, it fit him perfectly. Our firstborn son would undoubtedly be Sean David Howard II. I confess. I was big on tragic romance, but I enjoyed Cinderella, happily-ever-after stories as well. What female didn't? An Affair to Remember, Ever After, Sleepless in Seattle, Love Actually — those movies were all part of my DVD collection.
So, the first day he spoke to me — showed an interest in me — I allowed myself to believe that my fairy-tale fantasy story might just come true. That was twenty-nine days ago, twenty-nine days before the wicked witch turned my fairytale dream into a horrible nightmare.