Barefoot in the Rain - Roxanne St. Claire

Roxanne St. Claire - Barefoot Bay #2 - Barefoot in the Rain

Barefoot in the Rain (Barefoot Bay #2)
Roxanne St. Claire



August 1997

“I know why they call this a comforter.” Jocelyn pulled the tattered cotton all the way up to her nose, taking a sniff right over the Los Angeles Dodgers logo.

Will didn’t look up from stuffing socks into the corners of his suitcase. “Why’s that, Joss?”

“Because…” She took a noisy, deep inhale. “It smells like Will Palmer.”

Slowly, he lifted his head, a sweet smile pulling at his face, a lock of dark hair falling to his brow. Lucky hair. Jocelyn’s fingers itched to brush it back and linger in the silky strands.

“Don’t tell me,” he said. “It stinks of sweat, grass, and a hint of reliability?”

“No.” She sniffed again. “It smells like comfort.”

He straightened, rounding the suitcase to take a few steps closer to the bed, leveling her with eyes the same color as the Dodger-blue blanket. “You’re welcome to take it to Gainesville. My mom bought me a whole new set of that stuff for the apartment.”

“I’m sure it would be the envy of my roommates.” Girls she didn’t even know, except as names on a piece of paper sent to her by a resident adviser named Lacey Armstrong. Would Zoe Tamarin and Tessa Galloway be her friends? Would they make fun of her for bringing the next-door neighbor’s comforter to her dorm room next week?

“Do you want it?” he asked, the question touchingly sincere.

“No, I don’t need it,” she replied. “I need…” The word stuck. Why couldn’t she just say it, tell him, be honest with her best friend in the whole world who was leaving for college—a different college—tomorrow morning? “You.”

He did a double take like he wasn’t sure he’d caught that one-syllable whisper. “That’s a very un-Jocelyn-Bloom-like admission.”

“I’m practicing to be the new me.”

“I hope you don’t change too much up there at UF. I like you just the way you are.”

I like you. I like you.

Lately, those three words were being tossed around like his baseballs during practice. It was almost as if she and Will wanted to say more. But they couldn’t. That would change everything in the delicate tightrope of friendship and attraction they’d walked for all these years.

“Anyway,” she said quickly, “you’re the one who’s going to change. Living off campus, traveling with the University of Miami baseball team, fending off those pro offers.”

“Please, you sound like my dad now.”

“I’m serious. No one will recognize the golden boy of Mimosa Key when he comes home at Thanksgiving.”

“You’re the one with a full academic ride and so many scholarships you’re making money going to school, Miss Four-Point-Six Smartypants.”

“You’re the one who’s going to be on a box of Wheaties someday, Mr. MVP of State Championships.”

He rolled his eyes. “Shit, now you really sound like my dad.” Shaking his hair back, he came a little closer and propped on the side of the bed, the mattress shifting under his weight. “So what about Thanksgiving?”

“What about it?”

“You coming back home, Bloomerang?”

Her heart did a little roll and dive at the nickname he’d given her years ago.

Jocelyn Bloom-erang, he called her. Because you always come back to me, he’d say after she’d been MIA for a few days. But the truth was, she had no real reason to come back to this barrier island hugging the coast of Florida. Except him, and he was headed for bigger and better things.

In answer to his question she just shrugged, not wanting to lie and really not wanting to ask a question of her own: Would he ever consider taking her with him on his journey to fame and fortune?

“You’re not coming back, are you?” he asked.

“I… might.” She locked her elbow and let her head fall on her shoulder, hiding behind the hair falling over her face. “You know how things are.”

He stroked her cheek and smoothed that fallen hair over her shoulder. “I know how things are.”

They didn’t have to say more than that. Ever since the Palmers had built this addition to their house so their star-athlete son could have a gym attached to his bedroom, he’d also had a front-row, second-story seat to the drama unfolding at the Bloom house next door. The windows behind his power-lifting station let in light—and noise.

He’d heard enough to know what happened next door. That was why he left the door at the bottom of the steps open, so Jocelyn could slip up to the safety and comfort of her best