So NOBODY BUT YOU is just around the corner and I wanted to give you a sneak peek to entice you. :yes:
The next morning Jacob woke up to find his arms pleasantly sore from all the paddleboarding he’d been doing to clear his head. The morning’s chilly June air sliced through the window he’d left open and right through him as well, sharp and pine scented. From flat on his back he could see a sliver of the lake, the surface littered with whitecaps, much rougher and choppier than the past few days.
He lay there a minute unable to get his mind to shut off. It kept flashing images. Images of his closest friend, Brett, dying in his arms in the desolate wasteland that was Afghanistan. Images of the look on his twin’s face when they’d fought that long-ago day. Jacob hadn’t seen Hud since. Images of his mom, who with her dementia couldn’t keep time or place or people straight but never forgot who he was.
Even Red had somehow wormed her way in; she was tough and snarky, and yet she’d shown him a fleeting glimpse of vulnerability too. The combination had caught his interest.
And attracted him.
Not that he had time to go there. Nope, he was concentrating all his energy on figuring out how to approach his family. Day two and he was still drawing a big zero on that front. He’d given no advance warning of his arrival because, hell, what did one say after nearly a decade of radio silence?
But today was the day. He’d stalled enough. And at the thought of what lay ahead for him, his gut tightened.
Nerves. Crazy. It’d been a damn long time since he’d been nervous about anything.
Rolling out of bed, he showered, dressed, and headed out, once again on the hunt for food he didn’t have to make himself. Halfway to his truck, he glanced through the clumps of trees lining his property to the lake.
The Lucas was moored at his dock again.
Changing directions, he headed down there and eyed the boat. No sign of Red, but he heard something from belowdecks. A…moan?
Walk away, soldier.
But hell. He couldn’t do it. “Hello?” he called out. “Red?”
The ensuing silence was so thick that he could tell she’d stopped breathing. “I’m boarding,” he said, and when she didn’t respond, he went for it, hoping she wasn’t aiming a gun his way. As he did, she struggled on deck.
She wore a short, flowery skirt that flirted with her thighs and a white tank top, a forest-green sweater in one hand and a pair of high-heeled sandals dangling from the other.
With one look, she perfectly conveyed her annoyance as she sagged to the captain’s chair and dropped her head to her knees. “Why you?” she moaned. “I mean, seriously, what the hell is up with my karma? It’s like the bitch went on vacay. On another planet.”
“Nice to see you again too,” he said dryly. “You wanna tell me what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” she said to her knees, more than a little hint of the South in her tone. “I always talk to my knees while a stranger asks me twenty questions. Nope, I’m great. My glass is totally half full.”
This made him smile. Call him sick, but he loved snark in a woman. “Are you okay?”
“Fan-fricking-tastic. Only way today could get better is if I were scheduled for an appendectomy. Without drugs. In a third-world country.”
Snark and a bad ’tude, like she wouldn’t hesitate to kick someone’s ass if she needed to. Didn’t get hotter than that. He crouched next to her so that he was level with her face, not that he could see it since it was still pressed to her legs. “You’re not supposed to—”
“—moor here,” she said, very carefully not moving a single inch. “Yes, you ever-so-helpfully mentioned that yesterday.”
“I was going to say you’re not supposed to look down when you’re seasick. It makes it worse.”
“Oh.” She hesitated and then turned her head to look at him. “And you’re not supposed to be nice when I’m not. But thanks—oh crap. Oh shit,” she whispered miserably as the boat rocked.
Jacob instinctively reached out and rubbed a hand over her back. “Have you tried Dramamine?”
“Yes. It doesn’t work. I’m getting a patch today.”
“That’ll help,” he said.
She nodded and sat up. “I’m sorry I’m here. I just need to stay docked for the day, okay? I know the cabin’s for sale and no one lives there, so I don’t see a problem with that.”
Other than she was getting off not having to pay the fees, which he suspected she couldn’t afford. “Just so you know, the cabin’s no longer empty,” he said, fully intending to also say that she could keep her boat on his dock as long as she needed.
But she made a sound that might have been a snort of laughter or a sob. A little terrified it was the latter, he rose to his full height just as she gasped, and then moaned, and…and threw up.
An inch from his shoes.
Welcome home, he thought, reaching for her, supporting her with one arm while with the other he tried to gather her hair. Problem was, she had a lot of it, and more than a few of the silky strands stuck stubbornly to the stubble on his jaw as she tried to weakly shove clear of him.
“So much for improving on your first impression of me,” she gasped. “Looks like you were lucky enough to draw the short straw on my crazy. Again.”
“Shh.” Her skin was waxy and green, so he held on to her, afraid she’d slide overboard and drown. “Give yourself a minute,” he said.
She sighed miserably and didn’t look at him. “How many Dramamine do you think it’d take to just kill me?” she asked.
Jacob couldn’t make a return quip, not on that. Not since just about every time he closed his eyes these days all he could see was Brett’s coffin being lowered into the ground.
“I’m so sorry.” She sighed and straightened, still looking wobbly. “But hey, it must be your lucky day. I missed your shoes. Don’t worry. I’ll clean this up and be gone in no time.”
If only he believed that. “Wait here,” he said. He left the boat and strode to the cabin to get her some water and also to find a hose to help her clean up.
But when he got outside again, she and her boat were gone.
So ... you likey? What do we think? Oh and here's some buy links if you're so inclined. :good: