A Little Bit Dirty is coming April 28th! Enjoy this sneak peek into the first three chapters! xoxo
10 years ago
“I think you’re stuck now,” Robert comments with a smirk. The tab of the beer can snaps and he finishes it off with the familiar fizz that’s a constant on the top floor of the hanger. He takes a sip of the beer and then looks back at Bri. Motioning towards her with the cheap beer can he laughs, “she’s got you tied down and the whole town knows it.”
The smile that grows on my face is easy. My girlfriend has this habit of knowing the moment I look at her. Doesn’t matter if we’re at school, in her backyard or in the hanger, she just knows. The moment my eyes land on her, starting at the flowing skirt as she turns around, up to those gorgeous green eyes, she stares back at me, a soft simper playing on her lips.
Readjusting in my seat I give her a short tip of my chin which makes her blush and she turns back to the group of girls.
She’s sweet, shy and petite and no one would know it, but she’s damned determined. She gets what she wants and right now, she wants me. Bri peeks at me while the group laughs and there’s this look in her eyes that’s been there for a few months now. It’s a look that makes everything else fade, and I swear it silences everything to the point where I can only hear my heart beat.
A second passes and then another that slows the whole damn world down. I could get lost in her and I think it’s the same for Brianna.
“For Pete’s sake get a room,” Renee chides and it takes me a moment to realize Robert had gotten up to give Magnolia a kiss. She’s all sorts of red and even though I notice her through all the laughter on the top floor of the hangar, I can’t keep my eyes off Bri. I play along hollering out and joking, “We’ve got a room in the back!”
Bri never stops looking at me and I can’t stop looking at her either. She might not like the attention, but one day I’m going to kiss her in front of everyone in this small town too. There’s no doubt in my mind, I love her and she’s going to be my wife.
I wish I could go back to that moment. Where we were only naive kids but at least knew what love was. If I could go back and get down on one knee right then and there, I would. Cause she would have said yes. She would have been mine and then when my world collapsed she wouldn’t have let me push her away.
If only I’d known I was going to lose her, I’d go back and I promise her my forever. She loved me then… I still love her now.
“Hey you hear me?” Robert’s voice comes through the receiver of the phone and I clear my throat before telling him, Yeah, I heard.
Brianna came back to our small town.
“I just wanted to give you the heads up,” he tells me as if anything at all could prepare me for this.
Fate hates me. It wants to embarrass me, humiliate me, shame me, hurt me.
That’s the only conclusion I can come to as I slam the car door shut in frustration. Even that is done weaker than I’d like on this far too hot morning. It only thuds shut and no one seems to notice that my world is crumbling.
Turning over the ignition a dozen times didn’t even give me a tick, a purr, not a nothing. The keys jingle in protest as I throw them into my purse and stomp up the gravel road back to the bakery’s awning so I can at least be in the shade. My heels nearly slip and I struggle to keep my composure.
All I can think is now I have to see him. My heart races quicker with every passing second.
Practically falling onto the wooden bench perched on the stone walk in between the bakery and the florist, I take in a steadying breath and attempt to find any solution that keeps me far away from Asher.
Instinctively, I dial my sister’s phone number again and it rings rings rings, all the while I glance down the street. It’s nearly eight fifteen now and the windows to shops are open, the streets are only occupied by a few cars… the town is coming to life.
And inside I am dying.
There isn’t another mechanic for at least two hours. My car is dead in front of Melissa’s Sweets and I’m stuck here, in a long sleeve dress that’s already damp under the armpits. It’s autumn and beautiful in South Carolina, but not cool enough for my favorite burgundy and drop waist cashmere dress. It’s my good luck dress… or at least it’s supposed to be.
Dropping my head back I let out a frustrated groan. I could sit inside the bakery, I could commiserate there, but right now, I just want to be alone.
It’s my first day of work, luckily it’s in my mother’s realtor office so I’m not too concerned. More embarrassed than anything. I’m sure everyone knows my parents gave me the job simply because I’m their daughter. They wanted me to come home and a job is the stability I needed after going into debt for business school. I knew I could get ahead if I took the hand out. Yet here I am, first day, and running late.
The call to my sister is met with her voicemail. Just as my mother’s was.
I’m quick to check my texts and Renee answered with: just call him.
‘Him’ as in Asher.
Renee’s a good friend, and honestly I’m surprised she’s even awake. She’s a bartender and the last of my contacts I texted… simply because I thought she’d be sound asleep.
I text back in a fury: isn’t there anyone else.
Her answer is immediate: It’s a small town. You know that.
The response strikes me and I know exactly why. It’s me, not her.
For the longest time after we broke up that’s what I told myself, that we were only together because it’s a small town. Because options were limited. I lied to myself and I knew from the very moment that thought registered it was nothing but a lie. He was my first but so much more than that. He was the one who made me smile and laugh when things were hard or even when they seemed impossible. Asher was my partner in it all. He was the one I wanted to hold hands with until the day I died. My best friend even. He was my everything.
And then one day, I was nothing to him.
I almost text Renee that I’m more than aware it’s a small town and that’s why I almost didn’t come home. Almost. But the same reason I wanted to stay away is exactly why I’m back here in Beaufort. It’s small and filled with gossip and everyone knows everyone’s business. At the same time, all of my family is here, all of my friends who I’ve known since before I can remember.
My fingers play with the small charm at the end of my necklace … and the first and only man I’ve ever loved. The one who broke my heart.
Tears prick at the back of my eyes and I’m quick to shut that down. I knew it would be hard coming home. I knew it would hurt even. I just don’t want to deal with it. Definitely not alone.
I hesitate to ask, but I can’t help myself so I text Renee: Could you come pick me up?
If I’m going to have to call him for help, I at least want Renee here. She’s the strongest of us all. No nonsense and she also knows everything. There were rumors when we split. Lots of people said lots of things… but Renee knows everything. She knows every sordid detail and she still loves me.
I add in the text, hoping she can tell how desperate I am: please?
“You’re fucking with me right?” I joke on the end of the phone, casual and light hearted. Huffing a laugh like it’s comical. It’s not though. All this phone call has done is shred me up.
“Nah man, she called us. I told her we were two hours away and she said that was fine.” Nathan drones on the other end about how his team can’t waste the gas and tells me he’s referring her to me.
Everything in my chest is tight as I tell him not to worry. That I’ve got this.
But damn does it hurt. She’s been back in town for weeks now. My gloves come off one at a time after hanging up the phone. They fall to the counter with a thud and I turn around, leaning my back against it and steadying my thoughts. The steady scent of oil and rust fill my lungs with each deep breath. Everywhere I look in this place, I see her.
Hell, our first kiss was right there to my right, against the now-faded red tool cabinet.
She may have left but her memory never did. With the memories of our past lingering in the garage, I grab my keys as fast as I can and get the hell out of there.
I’ll get this over with. That’s all I keep thinking, but that doesn’t explain why it feels like the beginning not the end.
I’m halfway there when I realize the radio is off. The rumble of the engine and the faint sounds of my memories were all I had for a good fifteen minutes. The moment I flick the volume up though, dead set on shutting down the jumbled thoughts, my phone rings.
I don’t know why I thought it would be her. I’m out of my mind to think it, but I do. With a long exhale I answer the phone. “Hey man, what are you up to?”
Robert answers, more upbeat than usual which is my first sign that things are off, “what are you doing tonight?”
“Nothing that I know of except working.” Aptly, work work work, all day long, plays dimly on the radio as I keep driving.
“Something going on at the bar downtown… Bri’s going to be there,” Robert’s last statement is spoken carefully. Like he’s not sure what that information would do to me. Urge me to go, or keep me far away. I decide to put him out of his misery.
“I’m actually getting ready to see her now,” I tell him and realize I’m only a couple blocks down now. It’s been years since I’ve talked to her. Years. How the hell did that happen?
“Really?” The surprise is evident and unfortunately hopeful.
“Not that she’s wanting to see me …” Clearing my throat I add, “her car broke down.”
“You do it?” Robert jokes, his slight southern draw emphasized and then add, “You empty out her gas tank or something?” His joke gets a genuine smile from me and the huff of a laugh.
It’s the only relief I’ve felt since the phone call this morning.
And it’s gone in an instant.
Sitting at the stop sign, I glance to my left and there they are. Renee’s a bit taller and Bri’s standing right beside her, talking with her hands waving as she always does.
Renee’s in her pajamas still it looks like. She could care less what this town has to say about decorum and I’ve always liked that about her. She’s a passing thought though. All I can focus on is Bri. It’s only the ticking of the blinker and Robert’s question, “you still there?” that brings me back.
“I’ve got to go.”
Call me if you need me,” he says and I hesitate. Not knowing what to say. I don’t need him. There isn’t a thing he can do for me.
I need her.
My throat goes tight as I turn left into the main street strip. I’ve done this a thousand times in my life, but this feeling, this prickling numbing sensation is something entirely new. It’s like dread and hope mixed in a drink and washed down with regret.
I can barely look at Brianna, yet I can’t take my eyes off of her just the same.
Everything about her is familiar.
I know I’ve unzipped that dress from her before. Kissed the crook of her neck as the cotton fell down her shoulder. Fuck, my cock is already hard remembering her. Remembering us and the things we’ve done together. The things I’ve done to her.
As I park parallel to the sidewalk, with her car that won’t start behind me. I peek into the rearview mirror and her green eyes find mine. There’s a spark and a jolt, but it’s quickly followed by a hollowness as she rips her eyes away, turning her body towards Renee and crossing her arms.
I don’t miss the concern on her face, or the eagerness that radiates from her to leave. Hell, if we were only kids I bet she’d take off. She’d leave her no longer dependable sedan and take off around the corner so she didn’t have to see me.
I give myself a moment, leaving the truck idling, before climbing out and letting the truck door slam shut.
My footsteps are heavy, like they’re trying to keep me from moving to her at all.
“Hey,” she answers hesitantly, I barely hear her.
“So it won’t start,” Renee states with a wave of her arm. With sleep still in her eyes and her auburn hair in a mess, I’m pretty sure she would rather be in bed.
“You just roll out of bed for this?” I ask her comically. Wanting to ease the tension. I don’t feel a hint of it from Renee, but Bri’s acting as if she’d hide behind her friend if she could.
Renee doesn’t answer other than a laugh.
“So it won’t start?” I ask Bri and she peers back at me.
The cords of her neck tighten as she swallows, and the world slows down. There’s silence between us as she struggles to answer such a simple question. We’re feet apart, me in the parking lot, her on the sidewalk. My hands in my pockets and her arms crossed her chest. The last time we were this close though, I broke her heart, so I understand why she’s guarding it now.
I’m sorry, is right there on the tip of my tongue.
“Yeah it just died,” Renee answers and my gaze moves to her, my brow raising. I can only nod as I look back at her, avoiding Bri’s gaze.
My thumb runs along my stubbled jaw as I glance down at the asphalt then back up to Bri, “look if you want to–”
“It’s just the car, Asher. Please just… if I could have called someone else, I would have. I’m sorry.”
Her words are hushed as she readjusts her stance a dozen times. Her insecurities rolling off of her.
I knew I hurt her. Fuck, it hurt me too. But seeing her standing there, hating being near me when for all of my life all I wanted to be was close to her, it fucking kills me.
“I’m sorry,” she repeats and then pushes her hair behind her ear and letting her arms fall. “It’s just the car won’t start. I didn’t want to bother you with it… I know we don’t talk or … I just … it’s a small–”
This time I’m the one to cut her off.
“I’m aware you moved on Bri. I’m only here for the car,” I tell her as easy as I can, not letting an ounce of emotion in. As if there’s nothing to be emotional about. As if she doesn’t have to feel guarded around me. I even manage a smile that feels fake as hell.
Swallowing thickly, I open up the door and grab the keys from where she left them on the passenger seat. I’m more than aware that the two of them are staring at me. I’m sure Bri’s head is filled with a million thoughts right now. A million things she’d like to say to me.
More than half riddled with profanity, I’m sure.
But all I can think as I prepare the car to tow it away is that somewhere deep down, maybe she does miss me. Maybe there’s a piece of her that feels the way I do.
That thought is the only thing that keeps me moving, after I look up and see both of them gone.
If I’m constantly working, I don’t have to deal with all of these thoughts that badger me. During the week I’m the new secretary for the realtor’s office on the outskirts of town and on the weekends, I’ll work here. At Sarah’s Salon. Aptly named after the woman who opened it two generations ago. Although her granddaughter now runs the business.
That’s the way it works here. My grandfather opened the realtor’s office and now I’m working there. The lakeside fishery has always been run by the Johansen’s and their family. Everything passes down from generation to generation. John’s great grandfather started the funeral home… I suppose someone’s got to do it.
“I think, just a trim,” Kimberly says, pursing her lips as she stares at her brunette hair in the floor-length mirror in front of us. She’s a kindergarten teacher who only ever cuts her hair but whenever there’s a wedding, she comes in for a style. Her father was a high school teacher and he retired just last year. Her mother still runs the floral shop. When they say everyone knows everyone in a small town, they aren’t exaggerating.
“Right around two inches?” I ask, her thick hair between my pointer and middle finger as I hold it up for her to see. It’s like deja vu. Kimberly was one of the first clients I ever had, although the chairs were different back then.
With a bright smile she nods, “that’ll do it.”
This part time gig was easy to fall into. I worked on the weekends when I was in high school too. It’s almost as if I’ve never left.
With one obvious exception.
Asher. With a quiet yet deep inhale, I wave out the smock and then wrap it around her chest, velcroing it closed in the back.
“So how are you settling in? Is it nice to be back home or do you miss the big city?”
Big city. I don’t miss feeling alone while surrounded by so many people. I keep that thought bit back as I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from speaking.
“It’s good to be back,” I tell her with a smile and lead her back to the sink to wash and condition her hair.
The running water competes with the hum of chatter in the salon. A genuine warmth floods through me. It really is good to be back. I missed my family. My sister especially and my mom too. They came up often while I was in college, and my sister would call me almost every other night just to chat. Still, it’s different.
There’s something about a place you call home that’s comforting. It’s the places maybe, but it’s really the people.
This salon is the perfect example. It’s changed. The main room is the same size it’s always been, the sinks in the same place, but the walls have a fresh coat of a creamy purple on all but one wall, the wall with all the station and therefore mirrors is a darker purple. Sarah said it’s called soulmate. She also redesigned the stations with antique white carved wood drawers and copper finishing’s. It’s both high end and quaint at the same time.
Nothing like the old salon that was here when I was in high school. In that way, it’s changed but in the ways, it matters it hasn’t. Miss Jones still demands her hair be permed in rollers. And the gossip still fills the salon. It’s still a place for low key therapy sessions too. Although I should be the one seated in the chair if that’s what I’m after.
Given the dead weight in the pit of my stomach, that’s exactly what I need right now.
“You good?” Amber questions before chewing her gum in the corner of her mouth. She’s busy drying her client’s hair with a towel but her eyes don’t leave mine.
“Fine,” I answer a little too high pitched. She gives me a half smile and a knowing nod that I am anything but fine.
That’s what I tell everyone. I’m fine. Fine is a good place to start, isn’t it?
“So Magnolia’s got a new man, I’m sure your sister told you,” Kimberly tells me as I massage shampoo into her scalp.
“Oh, I heard.” I heard alright. It’s all Autumn could talk about for weeks. When I hung out with my older sister, Mags would often be there too. And they liked hanging out with us because Asher’s place always had beer. His parents didn’t mind if we were drinking, so long as we stayed the night. So, I got to be friends with the classes ahead of me and that included Magnolia Williamson. When her father passed, the scandal was all anyone could talk about for the better part of a year. I have to admit, hearing she got her happily ever after feels like the kind of vengeance she deserved to have on this town. “The scandal of the century,” I murmur with a touch of humor.
“Good for her, I say,” Kimberly smiles. “I think they make a beautiful family.”
I nod along, feeling that familiar warmth again although it doesn’t last long. I just can’t get over what Asher said, and I need to talk it out. I swear every two minutes I think about it.
Voices droning in and out and Kimberly complains about something that happened during the school board meeting. I swear they should televise those things with the drama that ensues.
All I keep thinking about is how Asher said he knows I’ve ‘moved on’. What exactly does that mean? Cause I’ll be honest, there isn’t a piece of me that feels like I’ve moved on. He might not love me or want me; he might not think it’s a big deal anymore. But it is to me.
My phone vibrates just as I’ve finished blow drying Kimberly’s hair and I’m quick to answer it. It makes no sense that I thought it was Asher. My father told me he dropped off my car at the house already. Asher had my car for two days, didn’t message me once. He spoke to my father instead. I know it’s cause Renee asked him to, because I asked her to ask him to. I don’t know why I thought it would be him texting me now.
It’s only Renee messaging me back. I texted her: What does he know? For him to say he knows I moved on, what exactly does that mean?
Renee’s reply is short, and it makes me feel like I’m obsessing. Like I should let it go: why does it matter Bri?
With my heart sinking even further than it already was, I concede. She’s right. It shouldn’t matter.
I text her just that at 3:08, You’re right it doesn’t matter, and set the phone down, ignoring it and every other thought about him for the rest of the day. I settle on the fake it till you make it approach. It doesn’t matter. The past is in the past for a reason.
It’s only when she’s locking up with Amber, who keeps asking me if I’m okay, that I read Renee’s replies which came one after the other.
3:10: That’s not what I said, Bri. It’s okay if it matters. I was asking, why does it matter to you if he thinks you’ve moved on? It’s a good question to ask. Why does it matter to you what he thinks or thinks he knows?
3:25: Hey I love you. I think my message came out wrong. Text me back please.
4:50: If you don’t text me, I’m dragging you out to the bar tonight.
5:25: Alright well, I hope you like what you’re dressed in, cause you’re coming to the bar tonight. No buts. I’m picking you up before work and getting you drunk tonight.
Don’t miss this sexy, standalone! Snag A Little Bit Dirty today!!