Boys of Summer. The Don Henley song. I loved that one. You remember it?
“I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got that top pulled down and that radio on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone
I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone”
Sometimes that’s what Summer is. Long days. Long night. Finding love, losing love… The memories coming back, making you yearn for those carefree days and what slipped away.
And sometimes, there’s a little bit of Summer, all year ’round, found in the most unlikely places…
So, I’ve taken a completely different approach to our theme and am giving you a little something to cool you down from the heat wave many have been experiencing…
“You have something warm to wear? Gloves? Heavy shoes?”
“My other shoes are back in my car and so are my gloves. I have some sweaters and such.”
“No. I hate it and didn’t expect I’d need it. Why?”
“Hold on. Let me see what I can find for you.”
He winked and moved away from her to rummage through a chest of drawers. He pulled out a few sweats and thick socks and tossed them on the bed. “What are we doing?”
“We’re going outside. You get dressed, and I’ll be right back.”
Holli was still standing there confused when he left the room and then left the apartment. “What the hell?”
Still a little uncertain, she took off the clothes she’d slept in and grabbed the clothes he’d laid out and went into the bathroom. The least she could do with the loaned, too-long-in-the-leg and too-snug-in-the-hips-and-ass, ill-fitting sweats and pair of men’s wooly socks was put on some deodorant. Brushing her teeth, washing her face, and combing her hair couldn’t hurt either. She could make herself a little more presentable.
She was rummaging through her makeup bag for her moisturizer when she heard the door to the apartment shut again. After pulling the ends of the sweats up over her feet and ankles and grabbing the sweatshirt, she went to see where he’d been.
“Boots,” he said, holding up a pair of galoshes. His gaze narrowed on her. “Everything fit okay?”
“Just peachy. It’s snowing, and you want to go outside?”
“Have you ever played in the snow?”
“Not really, not this kind of snow.”
“Well, put these on, and let’s go. You’ve been cooped up inside for days, and some time outside will do you good.”
Holli took the boots from him and sat down to put them on. “It’s cold out.”
“Taking me outside to play in the snow isn’t going to violate my house arrest agreement?” she asked as he was walking into the bedroom and she was tugging the sweatshirt on over her head. Layering clothes had never been her favorite thing about winter, but at least it kept her warm. She reached up inside the arms and pulled the sleeves of the long-sleeved T-shirts down and smoothed everything into place as best she could. Everything she wore was black. She had to look like a charred marshmallow.
“No more than what was going on before in the bed and no more than the attraction between us.”
He was pulling on a sweater over a long-sleeved T-shirt as he walked back into the living room. The sweater being pulled over his head ruffled his hair, and the casual intimacy of the moment struck something deep inside her. Spending time with him alone, playing, laughing, talking as though they were friends, involved…it wasn’t a good idea. She was going to fall for him, and it was going to be more than his good looks and his kindness that wormed its way under her skin. “Maybe you should have taken me to a hotel and had someone else guard me.”
He tweaked her nose as he passed her to get some boots sitting by the door. “No. Trust me; there’s no one better for the job than me.”
“I’m not going to run.”
“That’s not what I mean. C’mon. Put some of that lotion on your face and let’s go.”
He was like a kid, and his excitement was contagious. Holli quickly put the moisturizer on and set the tube on the counter before letting him help her into her jacket. He shoved a baseball cap on her head and ushered her out into the cold hallway. She shivered.
“Oh damn. Here.” He handed her a pair of gloves he pulled from his pants pocket. “I forgot to give these to you. Mrs. Collins said you could hold on to them until you leave.”
“Nice of her.” Holli quickly put them on, and though it wasn’t immediate or scalding warmth, they were wonderful against the bite of the wind as they stepped outside. “These her boots too?”
The snow was even more blinding outside and even more beautiful. She stood there, looking up, letting it fall on her face. “This is real snow. We don’t get this in Atlanta.”
“What do you get?”
“It’s not powder. It’s wet and icy, but this is…this is delicate, and there are actual snowflakes.”
“We get the icy stuff too, but we’ve gotten a lot more powder this year than normal.”
Holli walked a little farther out into the small backyard but stopped short when a ball of snow hit her square in the chest. “Hey!” Michael’s smile was all innocence. She didn’t buy it for a second. “Weren’t you ever taught not to hit girls?”
“Yes, but snowball fights don’t count.”
“How do they not count?” He was already rolling another ball between his hands, his eyes trained on her. “Oh I see. You’re not gonna play fair.”
“I always play fair.”
He drew back his arm, his fingers… Wait. Were those his knuckles on top of the snowball? She squinted and tried her best to focus, to see clearly. Was he going to…? Oh hell no. He was going to send a knuckleball her way? Two could play that game. One of the greatest knuckleball pitchers of all time played for the Atlanta Braves, and Officer “Pretty Boy” Hunky wasn’t about to show her up. “Unless what?”
Holli dropped down, shed her gloves for the time it took to mold the snow into the right size ball. Her fingers were so numb and cold she could hardly feel what she was doing, but it was going to be well worth it. She pinched off little bits of snow until she had the perfect size pile of powder sitting in her palm. “Unless what, Hunky?”
Carefully she laid the mock baseball down, then picked up the gloves again, making sure to pick a few pieces of fuzz off. After slipping her fingers back inside the blessed semiwarmth, she scooped up the snow baseball, packed the fuzz from the gloves into it so that it could be seen clearly, and took her stance.
“Unless it’s something I really want.”
He looked for all the world like he was waiting patiently, but she knew better. He was in competition mode, just like she was, and there was no patiently waiting about either of them.
“And then I stop at nothing until I get it.”
He let his snowball fly the second she drew her arm back, then shot it forward to let hers go. She moved as soon as it was out of her hand, narrowly missing getting tagged dead center of her chest. Officer Hunky wasn’t quite so fortunate.
He placed a hand over his heart. “Where’d you learn to throw like that?”
“My family, namely my grandpa and my dad, watch baseball religiously. I watch too. It’s what we do in our house every summer. Hot dogs, chips, sodas, baseball. If we aren’t at the games, we’re planted in front of the television watching them.”
“But that was a knuckleball.”
Holli grinned. “It was,” she said proudly. “How could you tell?”
“I saw the dark speck of something coming right at me.”
Her grin grew bigger. “My dad was a big Phil Neikro fan, and when he left the Braves, dad kind of broke tradition and would watch Phil play wherever he was and when I was old enough, he taught me how to throw one. I can throw all kinds of pitches. My aim is generally way off, but well, you’re a pretty good-sized target.”
As she’d been talking, she’d been kneeling down in an ever-growing pile of snow, making snowballs. She kept her eyes on him for the most part, making sure she didn’t look like a threat, making it appear she was just playing in the snow.
“I’m a baseball fan too.”
“I didn’t see anything in your apartment for a team.”
“I’m a Phillies fan. And you’re wearing my Phillies hat.”
She yanked the hat off her head. Sure enough she was. She hadn’t noticed what was on the cap when he’d stuffed it on her. “Yuck.” She tossed it at him, then made a sour face and stuck her tongue out as though she were spitting something out. “Terrible taste. I can’t believe I had that on. If my family ever finds out, they’ll skin me alive.”
He looked so affronted she forgot her own distress, genuine though it was, and had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing out loud. “Yes, terrible. A Braves fan does not wear a Phillies hat, no matter the circumstances.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Oh yeah, that’s exactly it.” Sarcasm dripped from her tongue and another snowball hit him square upside the head.
“Now you’re playing dirty. I wasn’t looking.”
“Me? Play dirty? No.” She shook her head. “I wouldn’t do that.” Two more snowballs flew at him, small ones that, when held together, were about the size of a regulation softball. Her aim had been his stomach but went a little south. “Oh God.”
She ran toward him as fast as the cockamamy outfit and boots would let her. The piling snow didn’t help either. He dropped to his knees and fell over, clutching his crotch. She dropped down beside him, wanting to touch him but afraid of hurting him. “Oh God, Michael. I am so sorry.” And she was. She’d been hoping to play with that part of his anatomy later, and now she’d just drilled him with hard-packed snow. “How bad are you hurt? Do you need to go to the hospital? Talk to me, say something.”
“You play dirty snowball fight,” he croaked out. He followed that with a great deal of whimpering and rolling around.
“Michael?” When he didn’t answer her and just kept mewling like a wounded animal… “Well, I guess there’s nothing else to do but hide your body.”
Holli scooped up an armful of snow and dropped it over his hips and groin area.
“What the –”
She followed that with an armful dumped on his chest and then one over his face.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Burying you.” She pushed snow up against his body and packed it in tight. “You’re evidently on death’s door, what with all the dramatics. Your body should keep for a few months as long as the temperature stays around freezing. In the spring they’ll find you, and I’ll be long gone.”
He blew snow out of his mouth and shook his head against the ground to dislodge even more from his face. “You’re a coldhearted woman, Holli. I was trying to show you a good time, and you insult my choice of baseball team and then fire shots below my belt. That’s just wrong.”
“And has the snow reduced the swelling and the pain?”
He laughed, low and dark. The sound made her shiver, and for once since she’d been in the north, she welcomed it.
“No. In fact, it’s even more swollen now, and the pain is excruciating.”
Holli clucked her tongue and shook her head sadly. “I guess the only decent thing for me to do then is to put you out of your misery.”
“Definitely. I think that’s your only recourse.”
Next thing she knew, she was flat on her back in the snow, and he was braced on his arms above her. They stared at one another for a few excruciatingly long seconds before his mouth was on hers, his tongue in her mouth, his body heating hers from the inside out.
He tasted like chocolate, like a fantasy, and she kissed him with an urgency she absolutely felt. She only had him for a couple of days, just a small moment in time before life would return to normal again.
If you have some time today, take some of it and read through snippets on the following blogs:
Mandy M. Roth
Have a great weekend!
I’m back y’all! Did ya miss me? 😉 I’m sure ya did.
Today’s snippet is about the big city. I don’t write much about the big city. Most of my books take place in small towns but I have a few that feature bigger places.
I’ll think I’ll use something newer… There’s talk of the city if not the city featured itself…
Middle of the fifth inning and his Phillies were down. Michael smacked at the steering wheel and let a string of curses fly from between clenched teeth. She was going to be impossible if the Braves won this game. They’d already won the first two in the series this week, but if they won this last one? “Fuck.”
He pulled into a parking spot. The walk to Turner Field would take him to at least the end of the inning, but he would be there, with her. Living down south with the woman he’d arrested on a clerical error, the woman who, even though she was a lifelong Braves fan, had turned out to be the love of his life…
Atlanta was so different than his small Pennsylvania hometown. Okay so maybe different wasn’t exactly the right word. It was a whole other universe. From the sheer number of events, crowds of people, lines of traffic, and crime. It was a wonder he could find his way from home to work and back again as it was. And the food? He couldn’t even wrap his head around the food. A heart attack couldn’t be too far away given the sauced and cheesed and smothered southern dishes his girlfriend’s mother was fond of making for them every Sunday.
He wouldn’t trade any of it, though. The few days he and Holli had spent holed up in his apartment that Christmas a couple of years ago had been eye-opening for him. The connection, the ease, the sex. He smiled. The sex with Holli had been anything but boring that week. He liked hard, fun, even kinky sex, and Holli was definitely his match in that.
At the gate of the stadium he handed his ticket over. He made his way down the steps from the pavilion and saw the back of her head. Well, the back of her ball cap. Her brown waves were pulled back in a ponytail. Even without seeing more than her head and the top of her shoulders, he knew she’d be decked out all the way down to her toes in Braves gear.
He looked down at himself and grimaced. No wonder the Phillies were losing. He didn’t have a stitch of supportive clothing on. Midstep he turned and headed to the nearest gift shop. They didn’t have a big selection of anything Phillies, but there were a few caps to choose from. He plucked one from the hook and at the register found a small bat that brought a smile to his face and dirty thoughts to his mind. It was roughly twelve inches, and maybe the circumference of a quarter at the end.
Without a second of hesitation, he grabbed the bat by the grip and laid it down with his hat. The cashier smirked, and Michael grinned. “Mixed relationship,” he offered.
“I hope she’s not the Phillies fan.”
“With as bad as they’ve been playing this series, if she’s the fan, you’re gonna be in the dog house until they win a game.”
Michael laughed. “You’ve got a point. Good thing I’m the Philly.” He paid for his items, ripped the tag off the cap and tossed it in the trash, then fit the cap on his head.
He jogged back down the steps, then slid into the seat next to Holli. She didn’t look at him, just took his hand and smiled with a small tilt of the corner of her mouth. “You really think that hat is gonna help?”
Michael squeezed her fingers. “It can’t hurt.”
“This is why when you get dressed on game-day morning, you put on your gear.”
“I know.” It was a superstition she had. If she wasn’t dressed in a Braves shirt, Braves socks, and Braves cap the day of a game, no matter where they were playing, they had a better than average chance of losing than if she was wearing it all.
He couldn’t fault her thinking. After all, he hadn’t worn any Phillies stuff since they’d come to town to play this three-game series, and they’d lost every game and not gracefully. “Maybe I should ask Santa for some Phillies boxers or something this year. At least I can wear them to work and not be mobbed. I can’t walk into the station with a Phillies tie or shirt visible to all.”
“You could always switch teams.”
“I’m going to ignore you said that.”
“Just a suggestion.” She lifted their joined hands and kissed the back of his. “I wasn’t sure you were going to make it.”
Michael shifted to get comfortable in the small confines of the stadium seats and glanced out over the field. Middle of the top of the sixth, the Phillies were up to bat and centerfield was so close, Michael felt as though he could reach out and run his fingers through the grass. He couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Thursday night. “Traffic sucks here. Even with the light flashing on the dashboard.”
“You put the light on?”
“Of course. The Phillies are in town.”
“And this is police business?”
“If I find someone to arrest, yes.”
“Been there, done that,” she muttered, but loud enough for him to hear, and he laughed.
“Yes you have. So, what’s been going on? I caught some of it on the radio, but when the announcers are biased, it kind of takes some of the fun out of it.”
“Yeah, that’s what takes away the fun. Whatever you have to tell yourself to feel better.”
Her sarcasm wasn’t lost on him, and he nudged her shoulder. “Shut up.”
“Fat chance. As you can see, the Phillies are really what sucks in this town. Third game in the series, and y’all can’t get a batter on base.”
“They were waiting for me to show up. They knew I couldn’t be here for the first two games, and they were waiting for me to be here before they turned it on.” Two could play the smartass game.
“Oh. Well, by all means, work your magic then, Officer, but be forewarned, my Braves are still going to kick your butts all the way back to Pennsylvania.”
Much as he loved his team, she was likely going to be right. “Just watch the game.”
“Oh come on now. You’re not a sore loser, are you?” Her sarcasm was not lost on him, and she knew it.
“You know better than that. You should just keep your eye on the ball. I don’t need any further comments from the peanut gallery.”
“Or seventh-inning stretch, I’ll give you something to be sore about.”
Buy Link: Loose Id
For more Big City snippets, visit the following blogs:
Mandy M. Roth
Have a great weekend, y’all!
Author’s Choice. My favorite.
You know what else it is? It’s race day. Nascar Nationwide Series racing. I’ll be headed to Charlotte Motor Speedway here in a little bit to cheer on the No. 54 of Kyle Busch. I’ll have my Monster Energy and I’ll be screaming like a nut case. So, before I go, I’ll leave you a little snippet from Trouble In The Making…
”Hi,” she said around a yawn. ”I… Is that…? Do I smell…?” Liz sat up and sniffed. ”Pancakes?” Her eyes scanned the room until they found the brown paper sack that contained overflowing Styrofoam containers. ”Oh my God.” She pointed, then looked at Johnny. ”Are those from…?”
Johnny inclined his head. ”Yeah.”
”But how did you get them here? That restaurant is in San Marco and we’re in St. Augustine.”
”I’m famous,” he said with a straight face and a shrug. He used his fame for many things and most of them had been self-serving in the past, but this, for her, it was one of the most selfless things he’d used it for.
”And you bought me pancakes using your fame?”
”I did.” He got up, stalked slowly to the end of the bed, took Liz’s face in his hands and kissed her. Gentle at first, his calloused, guitar-playing hands caressed her smooth skin, then sifted through her sleep tangled hair to hold her lips to his and deepen the kiss. She moved to wrap her arms around him and he stepped back, laughing at her confused pout. He tapped her on the end of the nose and reached around for the boxes of breakfast. Or rather, lunch now.
He sat on the side of the bed, pulled the first container from the bag and opened it. Her eyes widened when she got a peek inside. Four buttermilk pancakes filled with blackberries were topped with blackberry compote and two plastic-capped cups of maple syrup rested on the side.
”I can’t believe you did this for me.”
”Not just for you, sweetheart. I was a little hungry myself. You’re not the only one who worked up an appetite. You are, however, the only one who took a little snooze.” He punctuated his statements by dipping his finger into the blackberry compote and painting her lips with it. She parted them and took his finger on her tongue, licking the sticky, fruity syrup off. She followed that move with the one of licking the same sticky, fruity syrup off her lips after he removed his finger.
She was teasing him. She was wrapped in the hotel room’s duvet, her body well sexed, her eyes still slightly dreamy, though more now so from the gesture of having had her favorite pancakes delivered from an hour away and still moderately warm at that, and she was teasing him. With her tongue. By licking her lips.
”You’re a naughty girl, Liz. You deserve to be punished.”
”No. No I don’t.”
Johnny chuckled and unwrapped his silverware. The second call he’d made had been to the front desk to let them know he’d need two sets of utensils sent up and set outside the room. Sure enough, it had been sitting on a tray beside the door when he walked the delivery guy back out the door. He handed hers over. ”You do. You’re being a tease. You deliberately teased me with the way you licked your lips and sucked on my finger. Oh yes, darling, you do deserve to be punished.”
”What about the way you teased me? Or… What about the way you used your fame for pancakes. Is this part of your wooing plan? Pancakes? With blackberries?”
The banter. He’d missed it. They were always, above all things, very good friends and something, some part of that, got lost in the translation of growing up and moving on. He wouldn’t trade her friendship for anything, but he wanted more.
”I can’t believe you bought pancakes for us.”
Johnny looked over at her. ”We’ve got to eat, baby.”
”That’s not the point.”
”I know.” And he did. She’d been married just as he had. They’d talked about it over the years and how both had fallen apart. Sparks started and died out. Life moved on. A forkful of pancakes were halfway to Liz’s mouth when she started sniffing at the air. “I smell bacon.”
Johnny laughed and guided the mess on her fork into her mouth before it made a huge mess on the bed and on her. “Good Lord, woman.”
“Are you hiding it?” she asked after she swallowed the bite of pancakes.
“Why would I hide it? You’d sell me out for coffee and bacon. I’d have to be stupid to hide either from you.”
“You’re right, I would. So hand it over.” All Johnny did was smile at her and cut into his own pancakes. Just as he took a bite, she poked him. “Hey.”
“You have definitely not mellowed with age.”
Liz grinned, her teeth purple from the blackberries. Johnny should have been put off by the sight, but he wasn’t. He was charmed and turned on by it. “Are you surprised?”
He produced a wax paper package of bacon from the bag. ”Not in the least,” he replied and offered her the bacon she’d so delicately asked for.
Of course, now I want pancakes. Don’t y’all want pancakes? Damn. So, while I head out for breakfast before heading to the track, you should take a gander at the snippets from the following authors and their blogs…
It’s been a very busy week for me and the weekend is no different. I’ve barely been on my computer. Needless to say my writing is taking a hit. However, thankfully, I can’t blame the races on that.
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!