Blue Jeans and Hard Hats
There was a really great review this week on Cracklin’ Rosie and it was one I hadn’t been expecting to show up in my Twitter feed. I don’t typically read reviews anymore, but that one out of the blue surprised me enough that I had to take a peek. I was glad I did. The reviewer loved it, which is always nice. But it got me thinking about the book and how much I loved it myself and how much I’d loved writing it.
And the hero, Decker, yeah he ends up in the doghouse a few times…
He left. She couldn’t believe he just left after a kiss like that. He left her with a throbbing sex, a pounding heart, a confused head and lips wanting so many more kisses. And an ass…
She retraced her steps to the back of the cabin and quickly cleared away the rest of the dinner dishes. Decker had cleaned the grill while she got dessert out, and all that was left for her now was loading the dishwasher and putting the veggies in plastic storage bags.
The evening was still cooling but with him near, she hadn’t noticed. Now that he was gone, she was chillier than usual. She pulled a lightweight blanket from the storage container she kept on the deck near the chairs. She had Adirondack and rocking chairs and often liked to sit outside with her laptop as she researched recipes or wrote on her blog. She flopped down into one of the Adirondack’s and draped her legs over the wide arm.
She wiggled, trying to find the best spot, trying to stop the tingling in her ass at his remembered words. She was shocked that she’d let it show on her face how his mention of a spanking affected her. He’d caught her staring at him as well…how embarrassing. But damn. How could he just leave her like that? How could he turn tail and run after that?
“That son of a…”
Well, she just hoped he was in as much discomfort as she was. No, that wasn’t right. She hoped he was in more discomfort, bordering on pain. The man was a gorgeous tease.
She touched her fingertips to her lips and swore she could feel the heat from his lingering there, but that was just a fanciful notion. She could still hear his voice in her head, his words echoing through every cell in her body. “I think we’re going to find out soon.” He wanted her, told her so, and looking in his dark eyes, she knew he was telling the truth.
She pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders and sank deeper into the deck chair. Damn man. She couldn’t get comfortable and she kept squeezing her thighs together to try and do what, she wasn’t sure. The pressure only increased the need for release, the need for him. He hadn’t touched her in any sexual way yet, but if she closed her eyes and thought about it, she could feel those rough calloused hands on her body, sliding over her hips, spreading her legs, spanking her, scratching her tender skin in a caress…
And that bit of scruff on his face, that longer-than-average hair, that mouth caressing her…
She wanted him to come back. She wanted him to stay the hell away from her.
“Fuck this.” Rosie stood and dropped the blanket into the chair, then walked inside the house, closing and locking the door behind her.
A few minutes later she had her sneakers on and was on her way to the diner. She needed to do something, anything to get her mind off him, off what they could be doing right that very moment if he’d not left.
“I didn’t need him before he showed up, and I don’t need him now. What the hell was I thinking letting him get close?”
Muttering to herself always fueled her anger and frustration but at the same time, it always helped her figure things out.
When she came to the turn in the road that would take her into the center of town, Rosie stopped. She loved the little town. She loved the quaintness of it, that it had small novelty shops, antique stores, the bar and grill, the coffee shop that wasn’t a chain but rather owned and operated by a couple of local moms, the tiny hole-in-the-wall art gallery featuring local artists, a local artisan jewelry-maker. It was home to her and if she ever felt love for anything or anyone outside of food, her diner and her family, it was this town and its residents.
Putting one foot in front of the other, she started walking again. Half a mile from the edge of downtown sat her diner. The lights glowed from inside and from what she could see, it was still pretty well packed with people. It was a 24-hour place and oddly enough, it kept a steady clientele at all hours, especially on the weekends.
Cool air hit her when she opened the door and went inside. A few patrons waved and said hello, including Blue, her best childhood friend. She was sitting at the end of the counter, eating a piece of cherry pie. It was Rosie’s mother’s recipe and one of the favorites. Another was the blackberry cobbler. Her banana pudding didn’t do too badly either.
Just thinking about banana pudding made her think of Decker, and she could feel the scowl take over her face. She didn’t want to think about him, not tonight, not anymore. She was done with him. She wanted him to fix her roof and leave. Heck, she wasn’t even sure she wanted him to fix the roof anymore. She’d find someone else to do it or damn, she’d leave it the way it was. She just wanted him gone.
As she passed through into the kitchen, she headed straight for the small walk-in cooler. She needed something to do and this was it. She’d inherited it from her mother. Cleaning out the fridge. The one in her house was spic-and-span, spotless and very tidy, this one though—this one could always use a good purging and organizing. And even if it didn’t, she’d do it anyway. It would keep her mind occupied and the cold would ease the heat still flowing through her blood that had nothing to do with the walk she just took and everything to do with him.
“What has you upset tonight?”
Blue’s sweet, soft voice floated in on the thin air as she stood just inside the doorway to the cooler. She walked in and closed the door behind her.
“Nothing has me upset.” Only irritated, horny, aching from the inside out.
Rosie started at the back of the walk-in. Everything was in a haphazard array. “Sometimes I think they do this because they know eventually I’ll come in and fix it all.”
She picked up a couple small containers of potato salad ingredients and put them on a tray on a shelf near the door. Next she moved the macaroni salad, the coleslaw and the egg salad to another tray on the same shelf. The individual lidded cups that held salad dressings were stacked neatly by flavor—ranch, blue cheese, Italian and French.
“Why aren’t you talking?” she asked Blue. The other woman had come to stand next to Rosie and began arranging the salad fixings on the trays beneath the shelf that held the dressings and other condiments when Rosie moved on to the next rack. Thank heavens for labels with dates.
“Because I know you will, and I don’t want to distract you from it.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” It wouldn’t do her any good to tell Blue there was nothing to talk about. Blue knew her better than anyone else in town.
The one-word answers were Blue’s way of being patient, and she knew Rosie would cave and spill her guts. Shit. “The man here to fix my roof, the one Caroline’s guy brought out here from California… We had dinner tonight. He’s been coming on to me and hitting on me and so I finally said yes.” She left out the part about the kiss in the diner earlier that morning.
“Good. Is he…you know, like you? Like me?”
“No no no. Not good.” To emphasize her point, she took a plastic container from the back corner of a shelf and tossed it into the garbage bag she’d grabbed on her way into the cooler. It wasn’t often, but she sometimes found containers that had been pushed to the back of a shelf or two that she didn’t want to open. Usually it was someone’s lunch or dinner they’d meant to eat or take home that in the hustle and bustle of the diner never made it to its intended destination.
She turned and faced her friend. “It’s not good, Blue. You know how I am, how I have tried to keep that part of me away from here. I can’t imagine the freakish looks I’d get if people knew about the club in Atlanta or the things I’m into.”
“So, that means, he’s into those things too? That is good. You need that, Rosie. You always have, or at least you have since you found it. And no one around here has to ever know what goes on in your house. They don’t have to know what goes on in private at all.”
“I barely know him, and it’s just not right that he can read me like he can.”
“Why not? We both know how hard it is.”
“Yeah, I do. But not you. You’ve always embraced your kinks. You’ve never cared what people think or might think.”
“Why do you?”
“I run a business. It wouldn’t look right.”
“Again, why does anyone have to know? You should stop being scared of the what-if’s Rosie and give in to the what is. Maybe this guy would be good for you if you’d just let him try. Stop fighting so hard and maybe you wouldn’t have to make the trek to Atlanta anymore.”
Blue was right, and Rosie knew it. She just didn’t like it, and she hoped if she just ignored it, ignored him, avoided him it would go away. And…as soon as her roof was done, he’d leave town, and she wouldn’t wonder about him anymore, wouldn’t want his kisses anymore, wouldn’t want hot sex and to try out those belts of his, wouldn’t want him to cook for her again.
Now, there are other blogs for you to read snippets on, and I need to get some writing in before the first kick-off at noon…
There’s emotion in my writing for sure. Sometimes I even get called on it, in a bad way. It’s angsty. It’s hard. It’s definitely not sugar-coated or easy or glossed over. I like emotion in my books though. The ones I write and the ones I read. I don’t want light and fluffy and forgetful. I want ones that wrench my guts out, that make my heart pound, that make my eyes tear up, that make my stomach churn…
The books I find lately that do this are not the M/F books but rather the M/M books. I do find that a bit sad that I can’t find a good M/F book that gives me a good punch to the solar-plexis and makes me catch my breath… Even if it’s for just a moment… Even if it’s self-destructive in parts… Make me feel something. Love or hate it, make me FEEL something.
“Blue, we need to talk.” The words slipped from his mouth before he even realized they were on his tongue.
“Do we? Do we need to have another conversation about Neil and how I’m not sleeping with him? Or is it about us? Or not us? Are you even sure we need to talk? I thought we just needed to fuck, to have angry sex. Or is that what you need to do? Have angry sex with me until you…I don’t know until what. I’m so confused. One minute you act like you want me, the next minute you act like you want anything but me.”
He nodded and was proud of the fact that he didn’t wince at the chill in her voice. She also, toward the end, had sounded deflated, defeated. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want her to give up. “I know.”
“You know? Well good for you because I don’t seem to. Explain it to me, Cort. Explain to me what you know.” She sat down heavily in a chair at the kitchen table, her breasts bouncing, swaying and again, he was caught, momentarily unable to form a single, solid thought..
He debated suggesting clothes for the both of them, but if she was good with their mutual nudity, then so was he. He pulled a couple of cups from the cabinet, grabbed the press, and took both to the table before taking the cream from the fridge and picking up the sugar bowl, all the while very aware of her eyes following him. He set them on the table as well, pulled out a chair, and moved it in front of her, remembering at the last second they needed spoons to stir with. He got those and sat down.
It was his turn to sigh. He never, ever thought to have this conversation with anyone, her included, but Blue deserved the truth, deserved to know that she wasn’t the reason, only the excuse. If he wanted any kind of relationship with her, he had to open up.
God, he felt sick. He busied his hands by pushing the plunger down on the coffee press and pouring equal amounts into the cups. He took a deep breath and let the words pour out, not quite as smooth as the coffee had.
“Her name was Alicia. We met our junior year in college when I was playing baseball. Her boyfriend at the time was one of my teammates. She and I spent a few months trying to ignore each other because we both felt something, but eventually she broke up with him. He didn’t care and didn’t hold a grudge. She and I were inseparable from that moment on, and after graduation, we moved in together.”
“Were you in love with her?”
Blue never took her eyes off him and he fought the urge to shift against the wood seat of the chair. Neither had touched the coffee since he’d poured it. “Yes, I was in love with her.”
“Was she in love with you?”
He’d known the question was coming, but hearing it and actually having to form the answer made the knots in his stomach twist tighter. She’d asked it softly, almost hesitantly, and it was the first time he’ really allowed himself to believe she was as vulnerable in all this between them as he was. She had feelings for him the same as he had for her and listening to the tale about the woman that first broke his heart had to be as hard to hear as it was for him to tell.
The memory of the moment Alicia told him she didn’t want to marry him, the feel of his world finally crashing down around him after he’d seen the cracks in the walls for so long still had the power to make his chest constrict. “No. She was in lust with me. She loved me but not the way I loved her. I wanted to get married, her family wanted us to get married, all our friends thought we would get married. In the end, though, we didn’t. We didn’t want the same things out of life.”
“You wanted the white picket fence, and she wanted what?”
“Money. Her career. Hot Sex. A roommate. A friend. Anything but the white picket fence.”
“You didn’t figure that out in college?”
Cort shook his head and finally reached for his coffee, needing to do something with his hands. “Things changed after she was offered a very coveted associate position at a big law firm down in Denver. We went our own ways about two years after school, but we’d been over long before we actually split up. She moved away from Boise when I brought up marriage again. I went about it the wrong way. Told her I’d go with her if she’d marry me. She walked out the door without a word, and I haven’t seen her since.”
“And that put you off women?”
He laughed without humor or lightness. “No, I love women.”
“Okay.” She smiled and reached for her cup, a spoon, and the sugar cubes. “She put you off trying to find the kind of woman you wanted?” She lifted the cup and took a sip, spitting it back in almost immediately. “What in the hell did you do to the coffee?”
There was humor in his laugh this time. He took a sip of his own coffee and nearly spit it across the room. God, it was awful. “No idea.”
“Tastes like mud.”
She made a face and stuck her tongue out as though it could rid itself of the taste. He understood completely. He took their cups and dumped them in the sink at the same time she got up and grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge. She popped the top on both and set one down for him on the table and took a long swig of her own.
He was grateful and tipped his bottle toward her before taking a long pull. He sat in the chair again.
“So? Gonna answer my question? She put you off trying to find who? Suzie Homemaker?”
He flinched. She faced him with that pointed stare again, and he put off the answer some more with another swallow of beer, smiling inside at the smooth slide down his throat. He really didn’t like the name brand domestic ones. They were almost as bad as that pot of coffee. He called it ‘domestic swill’ yesterday. The small microbrewery ones, though, like the one she’d just given him, he enjoyed trying those out. “Something like that, I guess.” He tilted the beer and looked at the label. It was from a small town in Texas and he’d have to make sure to remember the name. He’d like to try it out again.
“Something like that you guess?”
She sounded as though she didn’t believe him anymore than he believed himself. “I don’t know, Blue. I just know that after she left, I lost the desire to settle down. She was supposed to be the one, and it blew up in my face.”
“Do you believe there’s just one someone meant for everyone?”
“I don’t know that either.” Two more swallows and he’d have to get another beer in order to finish this conversation. He rubbed a hand along the back of his neck, trying to ease the tension building in his muscles. He didn’t do shit like this. Not anymore at least. Not since Alicia. He didn’t pour out his heart, and it was grating on him.
“And what about me?”
His gaze flew to her face. “You?”
“Yes. Because of her, you gave up on finding love again. What did I do?”
“Yes, we’ve established that. What did it make you want to do?”
“Do you want the truth?”
Could he give her the truth? He scooted his chair closer to her, invading her space. She watched but she didn’t move to get away. “I wanted to find you. I spent all day after I woke up looking for you. I scoured Savannah from one end to the other looking for you. I sat in that goddamn bar all night hoping you would walk in. I stayed one more night hoping you’d come back to the room.”
She looked surprised, and for the first time in five years, something cracked in his chest.
“You did? You did all that for me?”
“I wanted you. I wanted you in my bed again. I wanted your smile as you straddled me. I wanted your laugh when I tickled you unexpectedly. I wanted to hold you against me and listen to you whisper your dreams to me. I wanted to hold you while you slept. I wanted everything, Blue, but you never came back, and each hour that passed, each minute that ticked by, I became more and more angry at you, at her.”
“At least I’m not the only one.”
“You didn’t have to leave.”
She looked down, fiddled with her fingers. “Do you ever wish it had just been a normal one night stand? That it had been nothing more than sex?”
He didn’t hesitate in answering. “Not for a second. Do you?”
“No.” One corner of her mouth lifted in a smile when she lifted her gaze back to his., then she raised her eyes back to his. His cock twitched. He’d known he was getting hard again. The old anger fueled his lust, and he was doing the best he could to ignore it. Now that she’d drawn conscious attention to it, he couldn’t any longer.
His cock filled almost immediately and stood proud, slightly to the left. His gaze dropped to her nipples, and the longer he stared at them, the harder they became. Two could play that game. If he looked lower, though, between her legs where he wanted to bury himself, he’d be a lost man.
He dragged his focus back to her face. No, they had to get through this once and for all. They needed to move on or move away. He couldn’t work on her house and be near her without wanting her. He couldn’t stay in the area and work with his friends without wanting her. Whatever the hell hold she had on him, it was there to stay. Five years hadn’t done anything but make the ache worse, and seeing her now, again, more beautiful than before…
There was softness, a little pleading, a question. He had to ignore that too. Dammit, she wasn’t making this easy. “Why did you leave, Blue? Tell me why you left me.”
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