If you haven’t picked up Little Miss Lovesick yet, it’s free today through Saturday (August 18-22, 2015) on Amazon in all countries. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 3. I chose this portion because it’s the scene with the s’mores. 😉
My friend Rachel visited last week from Melbourne, Australia, and my friends here threw a s’mores party in her honor. Here’s a picture of her eating one of her first s’mores. You can just see her smiling around the bite. I, on the other hand, am getting melted marshmallow all over my hand. 😀
From Little Miss Lovesick, Chapter 3:
“Seriously, Sydney, our cute fishing guide was definitely hitting on you.”
“Which is precisely the reason I don’t like him already.” Technically, I was lying. He seemed nice enough. But I needed to put a stop to Em’s ideas.
“Yeah, right, I forget how that works. Only flirt with guys who ignore you. I always get that one wrong.”
I threw an orange peanut butter candy in her direction. “I didn’t come up here to flirt, I came up here to heal. Rebound relationships rarely last because they’re rarely healthy. I’ll get healthy, then start…you know, dating.” It felt weird to say it. When I moved to Traverse City, I assumed I’d never have to date again.
“Quoting another Internet guru? I’m telling you, flirting is a healthy way to move on. Trust me.”
Listen to her, urged Little Miss Lovesick.
I’ll admit, it did feel good to have the attention of a seemingly nice and definitely attractive man. And we were only here for the weekend. If Emily was wrong, we’d be safely home again in three days and I’d never see him again.
I sat up on my bunk and stared hard at Em. “You really think it’d be good for me?” Even though she didn’t have a boyfriend right now, she always seemed so confident when it came to relationships.
“Healthy and harmless.” She crossed a finger over her heart. “I swear.”
I ate some more of my candy, pairing up the brown ones with either an orange or a yellow and eating them two at a time. After a minute, I said, “Okay, I guess.” I looked up at Em again. “But don’t get pushy, okay?”
She grinned. “You’re going to feel so much better. Come on, let’s go outside.”
We wandered out and sat on the porch swing. It was in good shape, but it looked old. I liked that.
“This is the life, huh?” said Emily.
“Mmm,” I said as we set the swing in motion.
We both leaned back and closed our eyes. The breeze tickled the leaves and rustled them like quiet wind chimes. I smiled. I just might have to sit here the whole weekend.
Footsteps sounded down the porch. They got closer until they stopped and I heard another chair creak nearby.
“Ah, this is the life, huh, girls?” Patty’s voice floated over and we giggled without opening our eyes or changing the rhythm of the rocker.
“I just said those exact same words,” murmured Emily.
Creak, swish, creak, swish. The rocker lulled us into a lazy peacefulness. It felt soo wonderful. A few minutes later, more footsteps sounded on the grass, getting closer. I opened one eye and saw Matt coming toward us.
Patty waved. “Matt, this is wonderful. You and Ted have outdone yourselves.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” Matt said as he turned toward us and stopped. “I guess you were right about the swing.” He put one foot on the bottom step and leaned against the railing, nodding toward Em and me.
His wavy dark hair was tousled and messy. His eyes and his mouth always seemed to be smiling. I liked people who smiled a lot. Normally, I’m one of them. I thought about Em’s suggestion that I do a little flirting. How do you start again? I noticed his biceps and forearms were tanned and covered in muscle. Nice, but I couldn’t really say, hi, so how’d you get all those muscles?
I closed my eyes again. Too relaxed to argue. Especially about that.
Patty laughed. “I didn’t unpack quickly enough.”
“Did you want to sit here?” I asked. I turned toward Patty, poised to get up.
“I can trade with you if you want,” Emily volunteered.
Matt grinned and Patty laughed. “No, no, no. You girls enjoy it. I’m fine for now.”
“Patty and my uncle argued all winter about whether he should bring up this swing. He insisted no one would sit on it, but it looks like he was wrong.”
“It used to be in my backyard. But we got a new one and I couldn’t think of a better place for that one than up here. Worst case, I’d sit in it every time I came up.”
“You all know each other then?” Emily finally opened both eyes.
“Oh, where’re my manners? Matt this is Sydney Riley and Emily Dodson.” The three of us murmured our acknowledgements. “Matt’s mother and I were best friends all through school.”
“And you still are?” I said.
“Well, she died when Matt was a boy.” Patty smiled in a motherly way at Matt and he smiled back. Smiles tinged with a bit of sadness. It made my heart ache a little. Seemed I was sensitive to anyone losing someone they loved.
“Are you going to build our little fire?” Patty asked, eyeing the bag in Matt’s arms.
“I can’t build a little fire. I can only build towering bonfires.” Matt’s eyes sparkled and Patty laughed. Her eyes widened and she said, “I know!” like there was a story there somewhere.
“What’s in the bag?” Emily asked.
“Hot dogs, condiments, s’more fixin’s, napkins—” Matt peered inside as he listed the contents.
“S’mores?” Emily interrupted. She stopped rocking and we looked at each other and smiled. “Hey, I know you probably need to get that fire started and, you know, watch it and all. We’ll set up the supplies for you, if you like.” She elbowed me.
The supplies Emily referred to were, of course, the s’mores makings. If you haven’t eaten s’mores on a summer’s evening, you haven’t lived. A big fluffy marshmallow toasted over an open fire until it was golden brown, then pressed between two graham crackers with a big square of Hershey’s chocolate. Yum. So good, you always wanted “some more.”
For s’mores, I could pretend to flirt. “We’re very good at setting up supplies,” I said in a mock serious tone. “We set up supplies all the time, don’t we, Em?”
“All the time,” she echoed, standing up. “Patty, don’t you think he needs help setting up the supplies?”
Patty waved her hand at us and laughed. “I’m sure he’d love your help. You all go start dinner”—she got up from her chair—“and I’ll reintroduce my seat to that old rocker.”
“Well, if you want to.” Matt looked at me like he wondered if I was going to play nice or not. I smiled brightly at him, hoping that was the right amount of flirtatiousness. He smiled and made a manly grunting sound, then led the way to the fire pit.
“Are you ladies enjoying the U.P. so far?” Matt asked as we walked along.
If you’re not familiar with Michigan, it’s surrounded by the Great Lakes so both land masses are called peninsulas. The Lower Peninsula is where Traverse City is, where I live. The Upper Peninsula is bordered by Canada on the north, and it’s mostly just called the U.P.
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” said Emily. “The flowers and the scenery — and we saw a bear on the way here! Very cool.”
Matt smiled at her contagious enthusiasm. (Everyone does.) “What about you?” He turned to look at me. His expression was kind and gentle. For a second, I wanted to put my hand in his and walk for a very long time. Not Little Miss Lovesick. Me. I wondered what Patty had said to him. Why else would he look at me that way?
I mentally shook myself and decided to go the witty route. “Hmm, I’ve found it to be”—I looked away—“damp and sticky.” I looked back to find the tug of a grin beginning around his mouth. I felt a bit of a tug around my mouth, too. I was tired of being mad at people. In fact, the little relaxation I’d gotten on the porch swing had helped a lot. There was no reason not to be friends. Or at least friendly. We’ll see about flirtatious later.
“Damp and sticky, huh?”
I noticed below his lovely blue eyes, a day or two of whiskers covered his cheeks. I never had to push Dirk to shave every day because he’s the kind of guy who wants to look professional seven days a week. I like kissing a clean-shaven man better than one with whiskers. But there was a certain charm to Matt’s unshaven state.
“Any chance of improvement in the forecast?” he asked.
I tried to act like I was thinking. “Mm, I think tonight is expected to be a vast improvement. A fire, food, fun — and s’more food.” I couldn’t help but laugh a little.
“Definitely, s’more food is in the forecast,” Emily chimed in. “Which will likely lead to s’more fun.”
Matt laughed. “Okay, point taken. I’ll get that fire going.”
We’d walked down a wide trail in the woods and into a small clearing. A firepit the size of a small car was in the middle. There were huge logs around it that I assumed were for sitting on because a piled of chopped firewood waited to one side. A couple picnic tables made up the balance of the man-made objects. The simple setting was perfect.
Matt dropped the bag of groceries on the nearest picnic table and walked over to the pile of wood, grabbing some smaller pieces. “Either of you know how to start a fire?”
Emily pulled the hot dog buns out of the top of the bag. She looked at me and grinned as she answered. “Sydney knows how to build a great fire.” My eyebrows rose. We had a gas fireplace at my parents’ house. You flipped a switch and had a fire. “She used to be a Girl Scout,” Em finished.
“No, I, uh, that was a long time ago.” I made a what are you doing? face at Emily. She nodded her head in Matt’s direction. Thankfully he wasn’t looking our way. Stop it! I mouthed with a glare. Building fires was one of the many things I did not learn how to do in Girl Scouts. This smelled like an Emily setup to me.
“Come help me get this thing going and you’ll have your s’mores in no time,” he said as he arranged the kindling in the bottom of the pit.
This is the point in the movie when the audience yells, “No! Don’t do it!” But like all movie heroines, I blindly moved forward, not knowing that this moment just might be the beginning of the end.
I walked over to Matt, feeling a little stupid, and stood there watching him. He took a long-nosed lighter like people use to light their fireplaces and started dry leaves and grass burning under some twigs.
“Hand me some more of that kindling,” he said. He pointed behind him to a little pile of sticks. I squatted down and handed them over, and he fed the growing fire.
What is it about a T-shirt and jeans that is such a turn-on? Twice in one day, I was admiring this man’s very fine rear end. Women complain about being ogled like a sex object, but we do a pretty good job of doing the same thing to men.
Matt backed up a couple steps as the fire burned higher. I nearly fell over in my haste to get out of his way. The contact I was trying to avoid happened anyway when he reached down and clasped my wrist, pulling me up. “Why don’t you move back a step. The fire’s going to be hot soon.”
Soon? The calluses on his hand tickled the inside of my wrist. I think the fire is too hot already. I was torn between trying a little flirting per Emily’s suggestion or backing up and getting away, far away. My not-yet-healed heart made the decision. I pulled back.
“Looks like you’ve got it going, so…I’ll just see if Emily needs any help.”
The words were barely out of my mouth before Emily called, “Oh, I’ve got it under control here. Matt, you need Syd to help you with anything else?”
Matt tossed another couple pieces of wood on the fire and backed up a little more. He looked over his shoulder at me and said, “Wanna help make some hot dog skewers?”
“Sure. What do you want me to do?” I tried to sound cheerful, easy-going, not at all intimidated by his presence or the fact that he was asking me to help with something I was clueless about. Hot dog skewers. How hard can that be? I could keep a comfortable distance between us. It’d be fine.
He pulled a pocketknife from his jeans and took a long, green stick from a pile on the ground. Unfolding the knife, he grabbed the end of the stick and, with a few clean hard swipes, had a perfect skewer for hot dog roasting and marshmallow toasting.
“Okay?” He smiled and handed me the knife and another stick.
I gulped and took the knife very carefully from him. Concentrate on the task at hand. Don’t think about his smile. I have a task. I can focus. This is good. I took a swipe at the stick. Not bad. I can do this.
I glanced up as Matt happened to look my way. He smiled. I smiled back. If a butterfly flaps its wings in your stomach, will there be a storm?
I looked back at the stick I held and took another swipe with the knife. Yes, concentration is good. The stick is looking fine. Just have a little knot here. Careful. I’ll cut it the other way.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Matt lean over, grab another log, and toss it onto the fire. The muscles in his arms were amazing.
I pressed too hard with the knife. It hit the knot and went flying along the wood toward my hand. Matt turned to me just as I nearly cut my thumb off.
“Whoa, there!” He jumped toward me and grabbed both of my hands in his, holding the knife hand away and looking closely at the thumb I nearly lost. “You okay?”
He’s quite a bit taller than me and he’d bent down to examine my hands for blood and missing digits. His face was very close to mine. I looked for the telltale ring around his irises that would prove he’s wearing blue contacts.
“Fine. I’m fine.” I felt like I was stuttering. “There was a knot.” I held up the stick, but I was still looking in his eyes. No contacts. Real blue eyes. I felt his hands holding mine. That was contact. I pulled away. After all, I didn’t know this guy. He could be a total lunatic.
He’s not a lunatic, he works here, said a Voice.
Remember The Shining, said another.
Patty knows him, so he must be safe.
But I don’t feel safe. I feel like I’m being slowly electrocuted. That Voice certainly had the right of it.
Matt let go of my hands and stood to my left, explaining to me how to safely sharpen the end of a stick with a knot in it. But there were too many other Voices and I couldn’t concentrate. I pulled the knife down the end of the stick and hit the knot again.
“Hold on, you’re going to hurt yourself.” Before I knew it, his right arm was around my back and holding my right hand. His left hand covered mine and he moved the knife smoothly over the wood.
I’d always wanted Dirk to teach me something in a romantic gesture like this. Like what you see in the movies. A man’s arms around the woman he cares for, showing her how to swing a golf club or swing a tennis racket or…
Or sharpen a hot dog stick. Oh geez, he smells good. I closed my eyes for a moment. Like sunshine and spices and…and fire. Matt shifted his weight. I could feel his entire body behind me. His breath moved my hair, which tickled my ear.
“You see?” he said. He moved the knife again, my hand still held in his.
Should I say no so he’ll stay? The Voice in my head seemed logical to me.
I know he was just helping me sharpen a stick without cutting my hand off. I know that. But it felt like being held. And I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been held. I don’t know if I moved closer or he did. But as the knife continued to move up and down the stick, I felt his body wrap around mine. I closed my eyes again, feeling content for the first time in months.
The knife stopped moving. I opened my eyes and turned my head to look at him. A bolt of electricity raced through my body. He must’ve felt it, too, because he pulled away suddenly with a surprised look in his eyes.
He cleared his throat. “And, uh, that’s how you, uh, yeah…”