Today’s topic. You Were Always On My Mind. I always hear Willie in my head when I hear those words.
And I have the perfect story from which to pull a snippet.
“Green as in eco?” Blue was completely interested and found the idea fascinating. She could see that being a very lucrative business. Cabins like that could potentially bring in money from wealthy vacationers which would boost the local tourist economy. Of course, it was kind of going in the opposite direction of a bed and breakfast, which also would need to thrive on tourism. There was room a plenty for both kinds of accommodations.
She’d lived there all her life, as had Rosie. They knew drawing more people from outside could help the older businesses and more solidly establish the new ones. It would bring more attention to the mountains. Even though there would always be those who’d want to destroy the beauty with their money, there’d be others who’d want to preserve it, just as she did. “I wonder why no one has thought of that before. You’re talking for rentals?”
“And for buying,” Decker added, grabbing Rosie and holding her against the front his body. “We want to build a couple of cabins first and put them up for sale. Use a couple as demos and test cabins, but overall, we want to build to suit owners and if they want to rent them, so be it.”
Blue zeroed in on Cort. “So that really is why you left this morning? The only reason?” She didn’t try to hide her questions or ask it softly so no one else would hear.
And there it was, a guilty flush. He looked away but those dark blue eyes quickly met hers again quickly. There was heat there and vulnerability too.
He didn’t squirm or fidget or try to look away. He held her stare as he answered. “Yes.”
“It could have been handled better.”
“It could have,” he admitted. “But, in my defense, I did kiss you before I left. You just didn’t wake up.”
“You should have tried harder.” It seemed as though she were grasping for straws, but she needed him to know how she’d felt. He’d let her know how it had hurt him to be left. They didn’t handle it the same way. He did with openly hurt feelings and anger. She did it with pointed questions, and sarcasm. Life in their house wouldn’t be boring.
“I knew I’d see you again, so I let you sleep.”
“That’s exactly what I told her,” Rosie interjected. Blue shot her a look but all she received in return was a grin.
“A note, maybe?”
He let out a sigh through thinned lips as he clenched his jaw. “Look, I handled it wrong. I get that. So wrong it seems that I drove you to eat a whole pie. Next time I will shake you until you rattle, or roll you onto the floor to wake you before I leave. I was trying to be nice in letting you sleep since we were up half the night fucking.”
Blue snickered. Cort’s voice had gone from soft to loud, to louder, to almost yelling with each word. “For someone who doesn’t like to make a scene, you sure are making one.”
He looked stunned for a moment but quickly recovered. “Yes, I am.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair and glared at her without any real anger. “Are you going to tell me what you were thinking had happened and why you felt the need to eat pie or shall I take a guess?”
Blue shrugged. “I just felt like it.” She couldn’t help the defiant tone in her voice anymore than she could help the happiness she felt deep down inside at his appearance and his obvious irritation at her wayward thoughts. She knew that he knew what had crossed her mind. She didn’t have to admit it out loud.
“Right,” he said, not bothering to hide his skepticism. “And you can’t make pie?”
She shook her head. “Not like Rosie can.”
“Then I’ll definitely have to try some.” He studied her for a moment. “Let me see. You weren’t perhaps thinking that I left with no intention of coming back, were you?”
“Of course not.” There was no way she would tell him the truth. No. Way. Her shame at having left him followed her, but she wouldn’t let him know that she feared he would do the same to her. Especially after their time together throughout the weekend.
“Pretty little liar. That’s exactly what you thought.”
Blue shook her head but kept the eye contact.
He smiled. “Yes, you did.” But then he sobered. “Friday night, I might have. I might have taken you to bed and left as you did, pay you back with that same empty, panicked feeling in your chest that the best fucking thing to ever happen to you was gone, but you were drunk, and I couldn’t take advantage of you like that.”
Well, at least he didn’t make how he’d felt a subtle thing and the fact that he’d aimed her exact thoughts at her… “But at Rosie’s, you said we should fuck like rabbits to get it out of our systems.”
“Yes, I did. And we have fucked enough to make the rabbits proud, I think, but I wasn’t trying to get you out of my system, Blue. Shit, you’ve been with me every day for the last five years. I knew there was no way taking you to bed was going to do anything more than work you deeper inside me. I said that that night just because I was… Hell, pissed? I don’t know. Seeing you was the last thing I’d expected and the one thing I needed.”
She knew that feeling well. “So, where does that leave us?” Okay, so that question totally disregarded her resolve last night to live in the moment, but that was then and this was now, a few hours and one pie later. She sighed. “No, never mind. Don’t answer that.”
“It’s an unfair question. Spending one night together doesn’t make a relationship that has a future. It means one night of great sex and…God, Cort, I don’t know. I don’t know how to do this.”
“Do what? Have a relationship?”
“Yeah. Or this.” She waved her hand in the air between them. “I’ve never been good with the interpersonal stuff, with the emotional stuff. I don’t know how to handle it. I want it. I want it so desperately with you, but I don’t know how to do it. I’ve never really had a relationship. Lovers. Friends with benefits.” She slid her gaze over the diner, focusing on the pie case. “And if this feeling is what comes with being in a relationship with someone, then maybe I don’t want it as much as I think I do. I’ll be as big as a house, always running to Rosie for pie when there are problems.” She buried her face in her hands. Who knew she would be the one so emotionally torn up? Who knew she’d be the one scared to death of… Well, anyone who knew her would’ve known she’d be scared of being in love. “Love hurts too much.”
“It doesn’t have to.” Cort reached out and gently tugged her hand away from her face, not letting go, but curling his fingers around hers. “You just have to trust it, trust your partner, trust me. And believe me, if I can, you can.”
“Everyone I’ve ever loved has left me.”
“Dying is different than leaving you, baby. They didn’t want to leave, they simply had no choice.”
“You have a choice, though. What if you want to leave?” She hated asking that. She was now the one showing her vulnerability, her insecurity. She, who posed for pictures of her tattoos, who traveled the country, who was undertaking a large renovation project, was scared and insecure. She’d done so much stuff on her own that now she was afraid of losing the one thing she wanted to hold onto.
“I can’t imagine that, but the reality is, Blue, that neither one of us knows what will happen. You might find you don’t love me anymore.”
She started to deny it, but had to admit he was right. The rational part of her knew her parents, her aunt, hadn’t left because they’d wanted to, but her broken heart had never completely healed. She was strong, independent, full of life, went her own way, but she was still aching inside to feel that connection with someone, have someone to spend the days with, and now, the nights.
This book wasn’t well received by readers, but I sure loved writing it and love these characters…
I have errands to run now before the All-Star Race and you have other snippets to read…
Sometimes first impressions are the ones that stick with us. Sometimes our first impressions can change over time based on future actions.
I’m definitely one for first impressions and I admit I can be wrong from time to time as well, but generally, my gut is right.
Of course, there’s always the first impression that has everything to do with looks rather than gut instinct about personality. And a lot of times in romance, that’s what is noticed first. Looks. How he looks in jeans or a suit or uniform. How he looks naked. His eyes. His hair. Whether he has tattoos or not. Clean cut or rugged.
Sometimes looks can be deceiving. Sometimes not…
”Really? You’re not going to turn around and look at me?”
What was she afraid of? She’d done the hard part. Well, not the hard hard part, but she’d asked him to give her a long, fantasy weekend and he’d said yes. He wasn’t nervous, or at least he didn’t appear to be, so what was her issue? It was an easy answer. She was the wallflower. It had been her Achilles’ heel all her life. In the safe haven of her home, of her little neighborhood, she was open and comfortable with her life. He represented the opposite of all that, and though it scared her, when she was with him, she couldn’t help but be drawn to it.
”I get it,” he said, coming to stand beside her now. ”You’re taken aback by my celebrity, aren’t you? It’s finally hit you just how famous I am.” Johnny sighed dramatically and Liz couldn’t stop herself from looking at him. He didn’t turn his head to meet her gaze, but there was a little smirk on his lips that, as she stared at it, started to ease the nervousness coursing through her. ”I knew it would catch up to you sooner or later. I know I’m quite the catch for women. I mean, look at me? I’m the quintessential over-the-hill rock star who still wears leather, has long hair and thinks he’s smokin’ hot. Chicks still dig me, baby.”
Liz laughed and nudged him with her shoulder. The familiarity of their long-standing friendship settled in the small space between them. He was as much a smartass now as he’d ever been.. He knew his celebrity didn’t matter to her. She was proud of him, proud to know him as a person, as an imperfect, but gorgeous man. She was proud to have known him before he’d ever struck it rich with a hit song, and he knew how hard something like this weekend was for someone so quiet, how out of character it was for her to make the first move. Her inability to turn around and face him was not for any reason other than fear, a little anxiety and a whole lot of discomfort with the immediate situation. She didn’t like being this way sometimes, but more often than not, the homebody in her kicked in and she stayed rooted to what she knew. ”Thank you,” she said softly.
”There’s nothing to thank me for.”
”There is. You’re helping an old friend step outside herself for a while.” She’d spent a great deal of time living her personal life vicariously through other people, the characters from her books and, Johnny. He was well traveled and he never failed to entertain and amuse her with some of his stories, the antics of his band, the daring things their fans would do just to be able to touch their coattails.
It was high time she did some real life living of her own.
”True… In a way,” he added softly.
”What do you mean, in a way?” For the moment, she’d forgotten her nervousness. She couldn’t tell if he was still teasing her or if he was just being cryptic and trying to keep her on her toes.
”I don’t have completely selfless motives in having said yes to this.”
Liz scoffed. ”Well, of course you don’t. I’m sure if we actually go through with it that you’ll at least…you know, benefit from it.” She couldn’t make herself say that he’d come, that he’d get sexual pleasure, but he knew that was what she meant. Right?
”Benefit? Really? Is that what they’re calling it these days?”
”Oh shut up.”
Johnny grinned and pinned her with a look for the space of a heartbeat, then lowered his ice-blue eyes. It wasn’t as dark blue a shade as the blue ice found in glaciers, but it was stunning just the same. His gaze roamed her body, from her purple-painted toes to her messy pony-tailed head. ”I like the just-out-of-bed look, Liz.”
She smiled, self consciousness prickling her skin, and she stuffed down hard on the urge to fidget. ”You’ve never seen me just out of bed. For all you know, this could be my everyday look now.”
”True. Though I’ve never seen you like this, I know it’s not how you usually go out in public.” He lowered his head. “Doesn’t mean I haven’t wanted to see your just-out-of-bed look for years.” The words were whispered against the side of her neck and she shivered. The man was hell on her nervous system.
He waggled his eyebrows when she chanced a glance at him and his wicked laugh echoed off the walls of the nearly empty room when he stood straight again. ”I’ll be at the table over there.” He pointed to the farthest corner of the coffee bar. ”Come join me.”
”I really need to get back to my room and…” And what? Doing him was all she had planned.
”C’mon, now. I don’t bite. No need to stay so shy with me.”
She slanted him a look. ”You don’t bite? Really? That’s not the magazines said,” she quipped. “And my shyness is harder to shake than you might think.”
”I know it is. Especially now, but we’re going to work on that.”
”Good luck with that. It’s not as though I go around asking men to meet me for…for… You know.” She dropped her voice to barely a whisper so as not to be overheard, even though there wasn’t anyone within earshot to hear their conversation. The counter was still several feet ahead and given the noise of the espresso machines, they could’ve shouted and it would have been difficult for anyone to catch on to what they were saying.
He appeared to contemplate her meaning, but in the end, shook his head. ”No, I don’t think I do know. You’re going to have to be more specific.”
Were her eyes as wide as she thought they must be? Was her mouth hanging open as she feared it likely was? ”You do too know, Johnny.”
”Still… Just to be sure, I think you need to spell it out for me. I don’t want to be here under false pretenses. However, hearing my name on your lips like that might just have been worth the trip.”
”You can’t be serious?” How red were her cheeks? And a glance at his face told her he was completely serious. ”I…I can’t say it. Not here.”
”You can say it anywhere, Liz. Since we’re here, though, it’s as good a place as any. Besides, you said it at dinner the a few weeks ago.”
”That was different,” she hissed. If he was trying to rattle her, he was doing a damn good job of it.
”Nah. It wasn’t. It only took you through the salad course to get the question out, but you know how it is. I’m older now, I’ve been playing music for years at decibels that are off the charts. There’s that man thing too. We don’t listen all that well the first time around.”
”Oh baby girl, you haven’t seen me naked yet. I promise you, it’s quite possible.” He leaned down close and nipped at her ear with his gorgeous, full and kissable and definitively wicked lips. ”I’ll let you off the hook this one time. All bets are off after this. Get your coffee and come sit with me. That’s not a request or a suggestion.”
He stayed next to her, staring at her until she turned her head and met his gaze. There was no humor or challenge in his eyes. Liz nodded slowly and watched as he stood to his full height. He towered over her. His long blond hair hung loose across his shoulders and back, the scruff of dark-blond beard made him look rough around the edges and the icy blue of his eyes held her frozen in place, melting everything deep down inside her.
”Johnny Trouble,” she breathed. ”You do live up to your name.” She turned away and his low chuckle reverberated down her spine when he disappeared to the table he’d indicated a few minutes ago. She took the steps forward to the counter, resisting the urge to follow him with her eyes. Resistance proved futile. Her attention was riveted to the sway of the hem of his leather duster.
Heat flooded her cheeks as she met the impatient look of the barista. ”S-sorry.”
”What can I get you?”
Liz surveyed the menu again. What was it she’d settled on before? ”Dark-chocolate mocha with caramel drizzle, please.”
”Yes, please.” She was on vacation. She could splurge on the extra calories for the weekend, especially considering the exercise she was planning to get. The laid kind of exercise. There. She said it. In her head, but it was a start. She was there, in a ritzy hotel, to get laid. By a rock star.
”Would you like an extra shot of espresso?”
”You have no idea how much I’d like one,” she said, a little too enthusiastically to her own ears.
Liz paid the bill, gave her name, and against her better judgment, made her way to Johnny’s table. His smile was gentle,, non-threatening and he motioned for her to sit. If it had been any of his other smiles, she’d have probably turned tail, flipped out of her flops and run away.
The thing about Johnny’s smiles were that as long as you looked at his mouth, they were just smiles. The real meanings behind them were conveyed in the way his eyes would shift and change with his moods and with who happened to be in front of him.
He was always an open book, but there was always more to him when it came to certain people. Some got the friendly smile, some got the tolerant but you’re an asshole one, some got the get-the-hell-away-from-me one
He was an enigma and she’d spent four years in high school watching him, staring at him, studying him, lusting after him. Here, more than twenty years after graduation, she was still just as taken with him.
Now, on this chilly (at least here in North Carolina) Saturday morning, grab something warm to drink and visit the following blogs for more snippets…
Have a fantastic day!