If you haven’t picked up a copy of Dakota Lightning, here’s an excerpt just to throw in a little temptation. 🙂
Read Chapter One HERE.
Abby’s hands were shaking as she held them under the bathroom faucet in Dan and Alice’s temporary trailer house, which sat not far from the lively reception. She could still hear the band playing a slow country song.
She was going to shake off the embarrassment and go right back outside even if it killed her. She wasn’t a shy teenager, she was a grown woman. So what if Misty said something to Matt about Abby’s feelings for him? So what if he’d said—quite emphatically—that she wasn’t his type in any way, shape or form, and demanded that Misty not encourage her? Hadn’t Abby known deep in her gut that he’d react this way? That’s why she’d never told him about her feelings. He was a solid nine and she was a six that could teeter on a seven with the right makeup. That never had to be said.
Maybe it hadn’t, and yet hearing him say it out loud in such a concrete way put everything she’d ever thought about how he felt toward her in black and white. There sure as hell wasn’t any gray area when someone said, “I’m just not interested in Abby in that way, so don’t encourage her. She’s not my type.”
Shit no, there was no gray area when it came to those words. Matt had confirmed her fears with his own deep, sexy voice. It was why she’d never come clean with the way she felt about him.
They were friends, and he wanted to stay that way.
She shrugged her shoulders as if talking to herself and gesturing when no one else could see or hear her was completely normal. She stared into the mirror above the sink. “This isn’t the end of the world, Abby. Y’all are just friends, and you’re going to stay that way. Grow up.” She leaned into the mirror, really getting into motivating herself to let this go. “Grow the hell up.”
If Matt brought it up—God, please don’t let him bring it up—she wasn’t going to deny anything. No sense in lying. That would just make her look bad—and even more pathetic—than she currently felt. She was going to own it, drop it and move on.
She was damned through with feeling less than. Wasn’t that why she read all those self-help books? To feel empowered? To feel as though she had her shit together? It was time to cowgirl up.
Own it. Drop it. Move on.
Now there was a quote worthy of a self-help book. Maybe even a wrist tattoo.
She turned off the faucet, leaned over the sink and stared herself in the eye. “You’re a grown-ass woman, Abigail Marie Spencer. You’re going to go out there and have a good time, because it’s your best friend’s wedding. You won’t cause a scene because this isn’t your day, it’s Misty’s. You can kick her ass to hell and back when she returns from her honeymoon.” Because oh yeah. Misty was going to get it when she got back, but now was neither the time nor the place.
Abby really couldn’t hold this against Misty. Her best friend since kindergarten had been guarding her secret for years. Misty had only been trying to help. Yep, keep telling yourself that so you don’t punch the bride in her face on her wedding day.
Matt’s voice banging around in her head wasn’t helping the situation. “I’m just not interested in Abby in that way, so don’t encourage her. She’s not my type.”
Abby swiped at her eyes and checked that her mascara wasn’t smudged. The skin around her eyes was a little puffy, but unless someone was out to scrutinize her features, she’d pass. You’re fine. Same shit, same boy, different day. He’d just spoken the words out loud was all. Absolutely nothing had changed.
Abby straightened, head held high. Without another word of encouragement to herself, she grabbed the bull by the horns—or in this case, the doorknob—and charged out of the bathroom, her newly acquired mantra like a marching band’s fight song pounding inside her head. Own it. Drop it. Move—
She came face to chest with Matt, the drumline in her head turning dead silent. She came to such an abrupt stop in front of him it must have looked like she’d hit an invisible wall. At that moment in time she’d have done anything to keep their bodies from touching, even if that meant spraining a muscle—or ten—in the process.
He held out a hand to steady her, and she stepped back to avoid the contact so fast that she ended up smacking her bare shoulder against the doorframe of the bathroom. A sharp pain shot up her shoulder, bringing tears to her eyes. Her mascara was taking a beating today, and apparently, she was stuck inside an Adam Sandler rom-com.
“Careful!” He reached out for her again. “Are you okay?”
Jesus, take me now. “Yeah. I’m good.” She smiled and brushed at her dress as though to dust imaginary pieces of drywall off, because Lord knew she’d hit the side of the doorframe and the wall hard enough, and left his offered hand hanging in the air between them. Her shoulder stung, but not nearly as much as her pride. She was now fighting tears from both emotional stress and actual physical pain, which, if you asked her, weren’t mutually exclusive.
“All yours,” she blabbered, indicating the empty bathroom with a flick of her wrist and a very audible sniff to ward off a runny nose.
I think I’m going to be sick.
She slipped past him while avoiding his outstretched hand. Why the touchy-feely now? He’d never tried to touch her so much in their lives. She would know. She’d paid close attention since they’d been in grade school. Great timing on his part, as usual. “We’re good. It’s all good. Really.”
Please. Shut up about it. She was trying to tell him not to bring it up without actually saying those words. If he’d ever considered her a friend, then he’d let it go and spare her the embarrassment. Her little cheerleading talk about being adult about this had faded to a wilted pom-pom.
“No, it’s not all good. Will you stop running away and give me a chance to talk?”
On one hand this was Matt, one of her closest friends, if not her closest friend. She shouldn’t be so horrified. On the other hand, this was Matt. She couldn’t help it. “Sure.” She decided not to say anything, because giving a voice to her thoughts right now was a very bad idea, since they were all nestled comfortably under the blanket of mortification. She’d probably trip over every word that left her mouth. Didn’t matter how close she and Matt were.
Actually, that’s probably what mattered the most.
She slowly turned to face him but kept her gaze trained on the ground. The revealing of her feelings where he was concerned was too raw to look him in the eye. While she admired her pedicure, it suddenly hit her how mousy she was being. With a jerk of sudden courage, she looked up at him.
That’s when she realized their relationship would never be the same.
His teal gaze wouldn’t meet hers. He looked as uncomfortable as she’d ever seen him. Gone was the comradery. Gone were the jokes. He’d never look at her the same way again.
And that was essentially why she’d never told him how she felt. Because she’d known deep down that she’d lose him if she did.
“I…uh…Misty mentioned something about a date.” He shrugged. Looked at something over her shoulder. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down against the smooth, tanned skin of his neck a few times.
Her heart heavy, she wished she’d known exactly what Misty had told him, but since she didn’t know the exact details, she only shrugged.
“So, you know, if you want to go catch a movie or something. Maybe dinner at the Roadhouse…”
It took several thin, stretched out seconds for her to realize where he was going with that invitation. A pity date. He was asking her out on a pity date. They’d gone to the movies more times than she could possibly count and had eaten meals together since mud pies in kindergarten, but she wasn’t going on a pity date with Matthew Evans. Not now, not ever. She might be pathetically in love with him, but she wasn’t plain pathetic. Okay, maybe a little pathetic, but not pathetic enough to go out on a pity date.
She summoned up what bit of self-respect she still had and shook her head, finally drawing his gaze to her, a surprised look on his face. “No thanks, Matt.”
And those three words of denial were the extent of her self-respect, so she turned on her heel and hightailed it out of his parents’ place.
As she walked barefoot across the expanse of freshly cut grass toward the reception tent and all the guests still milling around, she thought she’d scored a pretty clean getaway. When she arrived at the side of the dance floor just in time for the bouquet toss, she thought her evening just might be looking up, until she saw Jennifer break out of the crowd and jog toward her, her tanned, toned arm outstretched.
Why am I being tested today?
“Hey, Abby!” Jennifer came and drug her out to the crowd of giggling, single females who were no doubt ready to catch the bouquet. Abby let herself be led, mainly because she was too emotionally exhausted to fight.
Jennifer, her arm still wrapped around Abby’s, asked cheerfully, “Do you know where Matt is? I’ve been looking everywhere for him.”
“He’s at his parents’ house. He’ll probably be back out here in a few.”
It was safe to say that she’d compared herself to Jennifer on more than one occasion, and each time she did, she always came up jealous. Jennifer seemed to have everything. Her hair was thick, long and curly. She didn’t need to use a curling iron or product. Her hair was naturally gorgeous. Her skin tanned and unblemished, no need for sun or lotions. That was just the color she was. Her body was smokin’ hot, and Lord knew Abby had checked for just one dimple on the back of Jennifer’s legs when they’d all gone to the river a few weekends ago. None. Not one little dimple had reared its ugly, dented head.
Was that even human outside of airbrushing?
Jennifer was a ten to Matt’s nine. Sixes were relegated to babysitting puppies.
“We’re supposed to go out to the cabin next weekend, but I just found out I can’t go.” Jennifer made a pouty face. “Two of the RN’s at work came down with the flu, and they’re already asking me to fill in next weekend.”
“That’s too bad.” Ha, Matt! You just got cockblocked.
Misty came to stand in front of the single women, waving the bouquet around to all the girls who weren’t happily married. When her gaze lit on Abby, she gave her a look that begged for forgiveness. Abby just raised a brow. I’m going to kill you, but it’ll be after your honeymoon so you can take great pictures. I’m going to clock your ass like I’ve never clocked you before.
As though she’d read her mind, Misty looked a little frightened, as she should be.
Jennifer kept talking, oblivious to the telepathic promise of an ass-kicking. “I hate to let him down like that. He’s really been looking forward to it.”
Jennifer, you’re so damned clueless. “I bet he was,” Abby said, hoping she caught the bouquet just so she could slap Jennifer across the face with it.
Jennifer squeezed her arm. “I have an idea! Maybe you can go with him and keep him company! I’d hate for him to have to go alone.”
That stung. Was she so unattractive that Jennifer had zero jealousy toward her when it came to her and Matt hanging out all the time? Was she so ugly that Jennifer wouldn’t mind if she spent an entire weekend alone with Matt at a place that had a jacuzzi and only one bed? Was the cellulite on the back of her thighs so hideous that Jennifer wasn’t nervous if Abby strutted around in a bikini around Matt? Not that she hadn’t spent the night with him in the cabin in the past. They’d played video games. He’d slept on the couch.
She was starting to see why Jennifer wouldn’t mind her going to the cabin with him.
“I’m not sure I’ll have the time,” she lied. If Matt had asked her to go before The Incident, her bags would have already been packed. But he’d chosen Jennifer to go with him, apparently because of her constant nagging and not her rack or her mile-long, cellulite-free legs.
He’d put his best friend, Abby, on puppy piddle watch.
Misty turned her back to the crowd of drunk, jumping single women and waved the bouquet around in the air. Out of the corner of her eye, Abby saw Matt walk up to the edge of the dance floor and stand there, likely staring at her. Or Jennifer’s boobs. Whatever.
Jennifer kept prattling on, obviously not noticing Matt’s presence at all. “I feel bad for canceling on him without much notice. I mean, he’s been doing so much better relationship-wise. You know how he is,” Jennifer said in a conspiratorial voice while leaning down to get closer to her. “He drug his feet with me for years. But,” Jennifer’s voice jumped ten decibels, “We’re finally official now!”
While Abby was trying to recover from sudden hearing loss, Jennifer thrust her phone right under Abby’s face. Abby looked down at a bright screen, blinking until the screen came into focus. She went completely still while the heart in her chest squeezed tighter than the blue material currently stretched across Jennifer’s impressive chest.
There on Jennifer’s Facebook profile was the proof: In a Relationship with Matt Evans.
That’s when something hard, scented, and ribbon-wrapped hit her straight in the face.