Just A Kiss – Sample Sunday

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**Rough Draft. Unedited. Can Change.**

Buddy was throwing a get together at Mickey’s restaurant, gathering the entire 35 and under crowd in Belle City and even a few of the neighboring towns. It had been weeks since Meadow, Ashton, Rose and I went to Mickey’s together, but we were excited for a night out. Supposedly, when Buddy threw a party, he’d play all the good songs on the jukebox, having cleared space in the main room for a dance floor. Though it was Friday, it wasn’t the first one of the month; it was just a good time to throw a get-together I suppose.

I didn’t bother to walk through the restaurant when I arrived. Walking straight to the back of the wraparound porch, I found the girls standing against the railing, giggling about something.

“Miranda, girl, you’re late, but you’re cute so I guess you get a pass,” Meadow mused.

The temperature had been muggy and hot all day, but with the coming of night, an autumn coolness could be felt in the air. I wore a pair of my favorite dark wash jeans and my cowboy boots with an off the shoulder white blouse I’d found on a sale rack at Saks over a year ago. My hair swung in it’s low ponytail; I’d put it up, hoping to keep some strands away from my face.

“I’m glad you approve,” I chuckled.

“So does he, it looks like…” Rose nodded towards the backdoor of the restaurant. I turned to look, spotting Owen standing with Mickey, Parker, Connor, and Buddy. All the guys were focused on their conversation, but Owen was staring at me, smiling as I searched for a piece on my hair to fiddle with. Owen had thrown on something different from his uniform of t-shirt and worn jeans. He was wearing a flannel red button up, with dark wash jeans and black casual shoes.

“Is there something you want to tell us?” Meadow pried.

“Nope.” The anticipation in all three of their faces fell. They were all pushing for something—it was obvious.

“Seriously?” Ashton finally spoke.

“Seriously…he’s just helping us fix the bakery. That’s it.”

“That shouldn’t be it,” Meadow muttered, getting nods of agreement from both Ashton and Rose.

Before I could respond, the siren call of our favorite song in high school—the one we all agreed was our theme song—suddenly thumped through the speakers.

Let’s go girls!” Shania Twain’s voice called and we answered with smiles, dancing and singing along.

Meadow always loved Shania Twain in high school, dubbing herself Shania’s number one fan. Man! I Feel Like a Woman! became ‘our song’ during senior year. We were so young back then, all with very different aspirations, supporting each other just the same.

Meadow clenched her fist, pantomiming a microphone, and belted her favorite part. “Man! I feel like a woman!” We all laughed, continuing to dance.

I tried my best not to turn and look at Owen and the guys, but I failed. The couple times my eyes did drift toward him, he’d already been watching me. My heart raced. Finally, I paused to catch my breath from singing, until Zac Brown Band blared through the speakers and we were right back to singing, this time to Chicken Fried.

It was hard to disagree with most of the words. There was nothing like Belle City, Georgia. Granted, there wasn’t another New York either, but there were plenty of big cities that housed rich people and polluted air. Towns like Belle City housed folks that cared about the little things, pulling together when someone was suffering, enjoying back porch parties where the air was clean and familiar. Belle City had its own charm.

Before I could continue comparing the two places, all the guys were walking out on the porch—Mickey, Buddy, Connor, Parker, and Owen. The melody slowed; I knew who it was before he sang the first lyric. Connor took Meadow’s hand and walked her to the makeshift dance floor, where other couples were slow dancing to the sounds of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. It’s Your Love had always been one of my favorite songs. After all, it was Tim McGraw, my favorite.

Buddy stared at Ashton. “Wanna dance?”

We all stared as we waited for Ashton to answer.

“Buddy, you have two left feet,” Ashton laughed. “I’m joking, c’mon.” So they agreed to dance while Rose and I stood amongst the rest of the guys.

Mickey tilted his head towards Rose and then the dance floor, and not five seconds later I was the last girl left. Parker and Owen stood there, awkwardly.

“I’m going to head inside to grab some of those cheese curds.” Parker tossed his finger over his shoulder, marking his exit.

“Guess that leaves us.” Owen drew my attention to him as Parker left.

“Guess so.” I smiled, trying my best to hide my nerves.

“Dance with me…” He offered his hand. I looked up at his face, dissolving at that smile beneath the beard that I’d grown fond of.

I took his hand, believing that he’d guide me to the dance floor inside, but he didn’t walk in; instead he twirled me around.

When he saw the shock in my expression, he laughed. “Let’s just dance right here. Right now.” I looked in his eyes, as he grinned. How could I say ‘no’ to him with a look like that?

So we danced.

I couldn’t speak, but didn’t have to; we moved in unison, and it was all the thousand words that we’d been dying to say to each other. The Tim McGraw ballad ended, and Lady Antebellum’s Just A Kiss kept us close. I hated to admit it, but it felt good being wrapped in Owen’s arms. His cologne smelled like spice and leather; so good. I glanced up, as we moved back and forth to the music, watching the stars glimmer above us; watching the moon gleam down on us. We were under the spotlight together and I didn’t know what to make of the feeling.

Before I could settle, Owen backed away. As usual, our eyes connected and we stared at each other before we began to move closer. I was sure we both felt the same thing, saw the same intention in one another.

We were so close…

“Miranda, get in he–…” Meadow paused, as Owen and I nearly jumped away from each other. “Sam’s boyfriend just proposed.” She smiled and winked my way before she turned and walked back into Mickey’s. We’d all went to school with Sam and engagements were huge around town. It was the first step of joining two people together. Ironic that Sam’s engagement had just prevented Owen’s lips and mine from connecting. Oddly enough, I couldn’t decide whether I was disappointed, or relieved.

Where I Belong is the first novel in the Southern Belle’s Series. It’ll be available early July!
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Sample…Monday

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Here’s my newest book baby! I’ve had these characters brewing in my mind for awhile now. It feels so good to share them and to start another series—not to mention something new in general.  This is book one of the Southern Belle’s Series.

**This is a rough draft so it can change**

ENJOY!

Noon came faster than I thought it would. Rosemary—being punctual as usual—had been waiting outside the bakery in a navy flare dress. Her red hair blew a little as the wind took it. She wore gold-framed sunglasses and pretty tinted red lip stain.

            “We’re only going to the hardware,” I teased, exiting the bakery.

            “A girl can get dolled up on her day off,” she laughed. “Plus I’m supposed to meet Mickey after.”

            I gave her a knowing glance—the side of her face being my target since she was staring straight ahead.

            “Rose…?”

            “What? We’re just friends.” She grinned.

           “Sure. You’ve been “just friends” since junior year in high school. Twelve years later and you two still aren’t together? Never have been?”

            She turned to finally face me, as we finished crossing an intersection. Her mouth opened briefly, then shut. “No. Never have.” The small smile was absent from her face.

            We walked a few more feet, neither of us saying anything.

            “I mean how exactly do you know?”

            “Know what?” I asked.

            “I know how I feel about Mickey. But I don’t know how Mickey feels about me. I don’t know what to look for, but I feel like I’ll know it when I see it. You’re the romance author; how do you know when it’s love?” Rosemary opened the door to the hardware, letting me walk in before her.

            I sought out Mr. Edwards, hoping his greeting and belly laugh could get me out of answering that. I was an aspiring romance author; someone who was supposed to know what being in love with a man felt like—looked like. That’s what Adam and I were working on. In a couple months, hopefully, Rosemary could ask me the question again and I’d be able to answer it confidently.

            The front counter was empty and the TV was turned off. Mr. Edwards must’ve been toying around in the back. When I’d tag along with Daddy, we’d often come when Mr. Edwards was sorting out his orders in the backroom. Sooner or later he’d be out to check on us, hearing the bell and all.

            Like I’d hoped, Rosemary went along, ignoring my silent answer to her question. We’d sauntered over to isle four and spotted the stacks of paint samples.

            “What about this one?” She pointed to a grey color. “Magnetic gray.”

            “It’s too cold. It has to be inviting…comforting.” I crouched low to look at the samples on the bottom shelf.

            “What about earth tones? At Home With Nature and Olive Branch are inviting,” she stated.
            I stood straight, looking at the sample colors in her hand. The At Home With Nature was a soft blend of green and beige. Olive Branch was beautiful and distinct. Olive-green, the same color as Owen’s striking eyes. I shook my head. It didn’t matter how hard I fought, he still seemed to make his way into my thoughts.

            “What’s the matter?” Rosemary questioned. “If you don’t like the color we’ll find another one.”

            “It’s not that. I like the At Home With Nature as an accent wall. I just can’t stop thinking about–“

            “Sorry I wasn’t able to greet you when you came in. Mr. Edwards went home for lunch and I was just accepting a wood recycle outback.” His thumb was pointed over his shoulder, his eyes focused on me. “Today’s just my second day. I had to convince Mr. Edwards that I’d be ok here by myself,” he gleamed.

Owen’s posture was straight and tall. He stood with confidence in his worn jeans, beige work boots, and a grubby gray t-shirt that had seen better days. Still, with all the wear and tear of his clothes, he was as handsome of a man as they came. I tried my best to ignore it, but he wouldn’t let me.

            “Well that’s ok. We found the paint we were looking for.” Rosemary said. “Right?” she lightly tapped my shoulder, snapping me out of the hypnosis of Owens green eyes.

            “Right. Yes. We found it.” I inhaled, feeling out of breath.

            “What’s the paint for?” Owen walked closer, sweat dancing on his forehead. All I could think about was Meadow’s words during dinner.

“Miranda girl, this is Belle City; you want your man to have a little hair, and evidence of a hard days work.”

Like always, his beard was still in tact, covering the bottom half of his face.

            Rosemary glanced at me. “It’s for her mom’s bakery. They finally talked her into a much-needed makeover. I feel sorry for the poor guy who has to deal with Mrs. Leanna and her bakery.” She offered a clueless chuckle.

I hadn’t let any of my friends know that Owen was the “poor guy” who’d have to deal with Mama—not even Karla.

Owen smirked, waiting for Rosemary to quit her laughing. “Hi, I’m Owen.” He stretched out his hand. “I’m that “poor guy”.”

Rosemary’s face changed instantly. “I was only joking,” she fixed, grabbing his hand. “You’ll probably have to deal with this lady here.”

I turned to meet her stare as her finger pointed to me.

“Sounds like a good deal to me.” Owen demanded our attention after that comment. 

“I saw Mickey’s porch; you do a great job.” Rosemary took the awkwardness away. “I’m sure you’ll have everything at Leanna’s fixed up in no time.”

“That’s my plan.”

Warmth began to spread all over me. I didn’t know if it was nerves or something else. Whatever it was didn’t matter; I needed to get as far away from him as possible. I knew just what Owen meant, and I didn’t want to give Rosemary time to respond and setup something I hadn’t been asking for. I didn’t need to be fixed up.

“We’ll come and order the paint when we’re ready,” I quickly threw out.

Owen started to chuckle, before he lowered his gaze on me.

“No problem, Miranda,” he softly spoke before he turned, leaving Rosemary and me in the isle alone.

When he walked away my anxiousness subsided, so I blamed the heat on that. It was just nerves, that’s all. A flood of anxiety because I wasn’t supposed to look at Owen in any way other than the man who Parker had hired to fix Mama’s bakery.

“What was that about?” Rosemary faced me, her face scrunched in confusion

“Nothing.”

She placed the sample paper back atop of the stack. “Oh I saw it. And it was more than “nothing”.”

“What do you mean you saw it? Saw what?”

Rosemary lowered her voice and stepped even closer to me. “I saw the look that I’ve been waiting for Mickey to give me. Owen gave you that look…multiple times actually,” she winked and snickered.

“Owen’s just being nice, Rosemary. Stop making it more.” I turned to look at the paint samples, pretending that her observation didn’t have an affect on me.

            “Stop making it less, Miranda,” she huffed, starting her search again beside me. She shuffled through a few papers and paint colors silently, probably noticing how tense Owen left me.

            Truth was, he’d had an affect on me the first time I saw him. Repelled I’d repeated, but he grew on me. How could a girl ignore those charming eyes and that beautiful smile? How could I ignore his roundabout way of flirting with me?

I had to be honest with myself.

I wasn’t avoiding trouble; I was already in it.