excerpt of book 2
“Oh my God. Look at the ass on Mr. Tall Dark and Sexy AF. ”
I let out a long-suffering sigh and turn my head to look.
My drink slips out of my hand.
When it hits the ground, I don’t hear it. I’m vaguely aware of a shriek, and the splashes of cold liquid against my leg. But the loud whoosh of blood in my ears as it tries to keep pace with my heart drowns out everything else.
The back of him, anyway. His dark hair is longer, and curls around the collar of his bright green polo neck shirt. I’ve drawn those unruly waves more times than I can count. Most of the time, just in my mind.
The wide range of his shoulders fill out his shirt and follow the lines of his back as it narrows at his torso. The short sleeves expose the lean, defined muscles of his triceps. There’s something new tattooed on it.
But from this distance, I can’t make it out.
From this distance, I can’t touch him.
From this distance, I can’t do anything.
I cut through the haphazardly arranged dining room. I throw absent apologies when I bump into someone.
But, I don’t stop.
I can’t stop.
My heart is racing. My mind, though, is outpacing it.
I have a million questions.
A million emotions.
A million fears.
A million hopes.
A million regrets.
I’m trembling by the time I reach him and put a hand out to touch his shoulder.
My palm barely makes contact before he turns suddenly.
Just like that, we’re face to face.
Our gazes slam into each other and a lump the size of my heart rises into my throat.
The huge smile that he’d been wearing, disappears.
He looks as stunned as I feel.
But then, he just looks angry.
And instead of the hug I thought he’d give me, he crosses his arms in front of his chest.
I feel like a rabbit caught in the site of a hunter’s rifle. Everything else falls away and the next minute is heavy with portent and import while we both wait to see what happens next.
“What are you doing here?” The accusation in his tone is even more disconcerting than his expression.
“I think that’s what I should be asking you. I live here.” I say in as hostile a tone as he used.
His mouth tightens and the muscle in his cheek jumps. He looks down at my left hand.
“Here with your man?” he says in a biting voice that lands like the sting of a whip.
My chest tightens and I step back.
How dare he?
When I think of the choices I made in a desperate attempt to hold on to this man, and terrible consequences I’m facing because of that night, I want to slap him.
Instead, I straighten my shoulders and smile.
“He’s not here. Are you here with the girl whose ass you ate for breakfast?”
He looks mortified and annoyed at the same time. I decide that look is nearly as satisfying as getting to slap him would have been.
“Enjoy your stay in Winsome.” I turn on my heel and walk away. I manage to keep my tears at bay until I’m safely ensconced in the surprisingly clean bathroom in the back of the bar.
But once I’m there, I let them flow.
I don’t even know why I’m crying.
He’s not worth it.
Clearly, I totally misjudged him.
It’s not a big deal.
I don’t understand why it hurts so much to see him and not be able to hug him. Or why it feels so wrong to have anything other than warmth between us.
But, here we are.
And whatever we might have been, I’ll just have to wonder.
When I’ve washed my face and reapplied my makeup, I go back to our table, rehearsing my explanation to Dina.
The excuse I concocted disappears like a candle being snuffed out when our table comes into sight.
Carter of all people is sitting with her. Before I can turn around and beat a path away from them, they look up from their intense conversation and straight at me.
His expression is unreadable and I have no idea what I must look like as I wait for one of them to speak. Inside, I’m a madwoman running with my arms flailing around my head.
Dina reacts first.
“What happened to you? You dropped your drink and by the time I looked up you were gone.” Dina stands and walks over to me and lays her most disgruntled frown on me.
I grab her arm and smile with as much nonchalance as I can while I turn us so Carter can’t see my lips moving.
“I went to the bathroom. I see you met Mr. Tall…or whatever you called him.”
Her eyes and mouth widen in delight and she turns us around so we’re facing him again.
“Liz, this is Carter Bosh.” She says like she expects me to cheer.
I smile stiffly and look at a point over his shoulder. “That’s nice.”
“Why are you being weird?” she tugs on my arm.
“What’s he doing here?” I say out of the corner of my mouth.
She looks at Carter and the expression on her face is a little too friendly for my liking. What exactly is going on here?
“Oh good gravy, I forgot Winsome is like fucking North Korea. I think they only get local access.”
“What is he doing here?”
“He's famous. You’re being rude.” Dina hisses and then drags me to the table, talking to Carter as we walk. “You have to forgive her. She’s one of those people who doesn’t watch TV, so she has no idea who anyone is.”
“Don’t apologize on my behalf,” I say indignantly and pull my arm out her hold.
As we approach, Carter shoots to his feet so fast, it knocks the chair over.
“It was nice to meet you.”
Dina looks panicked and shoots me a glare.
“No don’t go, she’s just a little shy,” she says.
Humiliation burns in a flash of heat that I feel spread up my neck into my face. I knew coming here was a terrible idea. I don’t even want to know why Carter is here. I just want to disappear.
“It’s not that. I’m with someone. Nice to meet you, though,” comes his pained response, and then he’s gone.
I pick up the chair he abandoned and sit down. I studiously avoid Dina’s eyes and study the burger that we ordered at the bar.
“Oh, I’m so glad this came out so fast,” I say and then take a huge bite. The explosion of salt and fat cut by the acid of the pickles and tomatoes is nearly orgasmic after a year of salads and flavorless chicken breast. I groan involuntarily, and my eyes roll up in my head.
“This is amazing,” I say around my food. Without waiting to finish chewing, I immediately take another bite.
And then another. I’m gearing up for a fourth when it’s unceremoniously ripped from my hands. I open my eyes and glare at Dina.
“What are you doing?” I swipe at my cheek and find a smear of mustard on the back of my hand. I lick it off.
She's is sitting with her arms crossed over her chest, watching me with an expression of extreme irritation marring her pretty face.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I ask even though I know perfectly well why.
“Do you know him?” Dina says loudly to be heard over the music. Even though he was clear across the room, I look up to make sure he didn’t somehow overhear.
“Why would you ask that? I didn’t even look at him.” I say and take a huge gulp of the water our inattentive waiter brought.
“Oh, whatever. You were forcing yourself not to. But he was looking at you like he wanted to tear your clothes off.”