Small Towns, Big Hearts
Jeannie Chin

Excerpt from Return To Cherry Blossom Way

Han Leung hadn’t seen May Wu in thirteen years. Not since that awful night and their even more awful fight, but for a second all of that faded.

If it was possible, she was even more stunning at thirty than she’d been at seventeen. May had been beautiful forever, but back in high school, she’d hidden behind chunky glasses and boxy clothes. Underneath, she’d been soft, though, and when she’d fixed her brilliant, dark eyes on him, he’d turned into a bumbling mess.

She wasn’t hiding anything now, and he was still a mess. She must have gotten contacts or Lasik or something. Her liquid eyes shone, framed by dark lashes. Her lips shimmered, and her skinny jeans and tailored jacket showed off a figure that brought something inside him to life.

Only it wasn’t really her figure—attractive as she undeniably was.

It was her.

May had been it for Han. Even after she’d left, he’d thought of her that way. The goodbyes they’d said after his father’s funeral had been heartbreaking and final, but he’d never fully believed they were final final.

Years had passed. But deep in the back of his mind, he’d always thought they’d run into each other again. She’d come home, and he’d spot her, or she’d spot him.

He’d had fantasies, back in those first few months, that she’d come running into his arms, apologies spilling from her lips.

Here in the present, he stood up. Dully, he felt himself putting down his beer.

As if she could feel his dumbstruck stare, May turned. Their gazes connected, and lightning shot through Han’s chest. This was it. The moment he’d forgotten he was even waiting for.

May ran all right. But not into his arms.

Instead, she whipped right back around and ran straight out the door.

“May,” he called out, the word escaping him before he’d so much as thought it. He lumbered forward, only to have Devin grab him by the arm.

“Dude.” Devin yanked harder when Han tried to pull away. “What are you doing?”

The door slammed closed behind May. The sudden vacuum in Han’s chest made his rib cage want to crumple.

“Maybe she didn’t hear me.”

“She definitely heard you,” Devin said.

“Wait.” Clay shook his head. “Was that that May?”

Devin didn’t let go of Han, who was starting to feel like one of those cartoon characters, his legs spinning in midair. What was he still doing here?

To Clay, Devin said, “You mean your girlfriend’s sister, aka the girl who smashed Han here’s heart into a billion pieces May? Uh, yeah.”

“I’ll be right back,” Han swore.

“No, you won’t.”

Clay backed away slowly. “Uh, I’m going to go check on the register.” Before he could get too far, he paused, looking at Han. “Unless you need me.”

His sincerity pulled at Han—almost as hard as the instinct to follow May.

“All he needs is a knock on the head.” Devin gave him one for good measure, a gentle tap of his closed fist against Han’s temple. Then with a sigh, he let him go. To Clay, he said, “Guess I better settle up with you.”

Devin moved to follow Clay, casting a backward glance at Han that was full of both warning and concern.

Han rolled his eyes at both.

He had to follow May. Every fiber of his being compelled him to.

But he wasn’t completely oblivious. May turning tail at the very sight of him spoke loud and clear.

He was just going to say hi. Make sure she was okay. Then walk away. Head home and take his dog out before his mother could give him grief about it.

He’d be fine.

With a nod to his friends, he took off. Only a minute had passed, but it felt like an age. He got outside, and for a second, his heart thudded around in his chest.

Then he caught sight of her.

He ran after her, calling her name again, then once more when he was close enough to grab her, only he kept his hands to himself.

She finally stopped. She turned to face him.

Han sucked in a rough breath. The power of seeing her again after so long just about bowled him over. Up close, she was even more beautiful.

“May,” he said again, but then he stopped himself.

She was gorgeous, all right, but her eyes shone, and her cheeks were pink. She bit her lip with enough force it looked like it hurt.

Like she was trying to keep from bursting into tears.

“What—” he started.

“Can we just—” she spat out, and her voice was a vise around his heart. She looked away, the wet gleam to her eyes only growing. “I’m sorry. I know I’m the worst, and you probably have plenty of things you want to tell me about how I’ve screwed up.”

Han flinched. Okay, maybe fantasizing about her running into his arms had been a little deluded, but did she really think he’d followed her out here to lay into her? “May, I—”

“I got stuck coming here on some stupid assignment that I should have turned down, okay? I’ve been here for five hours, and I’ve already had enough emotional reunions to last the rest of my life, and I can’t do another one. So can we just not?” She finally met his gaze again. “Please?”

He studied her for a long minute.

So many things had changed. But he’d heard that tone of voice before. Back a dozen years ago, it hadn’t been one she’d been willing to reveal to many people. She hadn’t been willing to reveal much of anything to much of anyone outside her circle.

She was clearly less of a wallflower than she used to be, but was she any less guarded? Did it mean that she was willing to tell him how she really felt?

Did he want to get a chance to find out?

Making a snap decision, he said, “You need a drink.”

She scrunched up her brows. “I’m not an alcoholic, Han.”

“Didn’t say you were. Look.” He jerked a thumb in the direction of the bar they’d left behind. “The Junebug is the only decent place to get a drink on Main Street.”

He wanted to offer to take her back there and buy her one, but something in her eyes told him that would be a mistake.

Instead, he softened his voice. “Don’t let me chase you out of there, okay? My buddies were just leaving anyway.”

She let out a little snuffling snort. “Devin got one glimpse of me and took off, you mean.”

“Stop putting words in my mouth.” It came out more raw than he intended. But he meant it.

No, Devin wasn’t May’s biggest fan after everything that had happened, but back before then, before graduation and the mess the following summer and fall, they’d been friends.

May chewed on her bottom lip. “I wouldn’t be chasing you away?”

“Would it make you feel better if I went back, too?” His pulse ticked up a notch. This was skirting a line. To make it clearer what he was offering, he promised, “No emotional reunions.” He flicked his finger in an X over his chest. “Cross my heart.”

She shook her head, but her chuckle of laughter was gentler this time. “Well, when you put it that way…”

He raised his brow. He wasn’t going to be any more presumptuous than he’d already been tonight.

Rolling her eyes, she waved her arm back in the direction of the June Bug. “Lead on.”


And it was like he’d told both Clay and Devin when they’d shot him glances of concern. This was no big deal. He wasn’t going to need them for emotional support afterward. He was a grown man.

He could handle one drink. With May Wu.

This was totally going to be fine.

Return To Cherry Blossom Way is out August 23, 2022! Reserve your copy now: