So… if all goes well, you’ll be meeting Taj and Evonne in Guy Next Door, a Potter Lake Novella, in June. Until then, I’m hoping I’m not jinxing myself by posting a lil snip snip of this book before I’ve made it past the point of no return. You know how it be… sometimes a book just falls apart. I, however, am determined to finish and have this ready for Indie Love – June 22nd! (GETCHO TICKETS – www.indielovee.com!)
Without further ado or other procrastination…
The storm was already raging by the time I got home. I flew through the short walk from the garage to the house, showered and changed, then plopped down on the living room couch with a glass of Merlot and some snacks.
I spent the afternoon and early evening writing blog posts, editing videos and listening to the wind whip around the house. I decided, since I had some free time, to work ahead and record a new review. I was an affiliate for a small wig company, and if I could have it edited and up on the site before the weekend, I could have some sales.
I grabbed my glass of wine and went into my mini-studio. Silks on the wall, wigs on stands, product on display on a small book shelf behind me. I sat on a pile of large pillows in front of a glowing ring light and a small camera with a curly brown and chunky blonde lace front wig in one hand, the other excitedly gesturing as I spoke.
“Ladies, this unit is so cute and it’s almost wearable right out of the box, but you know how I like to do it. I’ll post some pictures of it styled and out in the wild, so check that out right after you watch this video. The cut is smart, and the texture of the hair is so realistic. I mean, it barely looks like a wig. Now, if you know what you’re doing, you could cut this down into a short curly fro, maybe even mimic a fineapple. Slim face, round face, this unit really flatters any shape–”
A sonic boom reverberated through the house so violently, the dishes in the cabinet rattled together. Seconds later, an almost daylight bright flash lit up the sky. And then, except for the red glow of the camera, the room was inky dark. The heat was off and the air was still, the only sounds being the storm outside.
“Shit,” I hissed. I set down the wig and stretched forward, pressing the stop button on the camera, more upset that I was going to have to re-record what had been a good segment than I was at the loss of power. I got up and felt my way along the wall to the hallway. The street lights must have gone out as well, because from what I could see through the blinds, it was pitch black outside.
I stumbled around until I got to the kitchen and pulled out a flashlight that I kept in a drawer. I clicked it on and the tightness that had been building in my chest seemed to ease. I never did like a dark room. I slept with a nightlight.
In the distance, I heard a door slam and heavy footsteps getting louder, coming right at me. Taj’s spot had been empty when I pulled into the garage, but somewhere between my second and third glass of wine, I must not have noticed that he had come home. I was almost at the door when he began nearly beating it down from the other side.
“Evonne!” He called, yelling over the wind. “Evonne, you awake?”
I pulled the door open, shining the flashlight in his face. Tree branches whipped in the air behind him, illuminated only by frequent flashes of lightning. And, apparently, it was raining sideways, since the right side of his hospital scrubs were wet.
He squinted, bringing up a hand to block the bright beam. “Damn! What is that, a floodlight?”
“Sorry.” I lifted my arm to aim the glare of the flashlight down on us instead of directly at him and stepped aside. “Come in out of the rain.”
He did so, uselessly wiping his shoes on the mat before coming inside. He groaned, wiping his face with his palms. I reached around the corner and grabbed the towel that I usually kept hanging off of the refrigerator handle. He used it to wipe his neck and chin, capturing the drops falling from his goatee. He then swathed it across his clavicle and the small amount of chest that was visible in the V-neck of his scrubs.
I nearly swallowed my tongue, watching him like I’d just watched him dry off after taking a shower.
“Thanks,” he said, grunting while futilely dabbing at the soaked fabric clinging to his chest. “This weather is crazy. I’ll take this over snow, I guess, but I think that lightning took out the power lines.”
“You’ve never heard that song, Rainy Night in Georgia?” I reached for the towel, tossing it onto the kitchen counter.
“I know ‘The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia‘. Never took either of them literally. Sorry if I… uh, woke you up.”
I was wearing the bare minimum, as far as clothing was concerned– a lacy bralette under a midriff baring sheer top that didn’t do much to hide the ample bust that every Girard woman had been blessed with, paired with leggings that hugged every curve I owned. And there was plenty of curve to cover. Taj was trying, pretty hard at that, to not notice the skimpiness of my loungewear.
“If I had been asleep, I would have been fine, Nurse Dude. I don’t need power to sleep.”
“I guess. But if you were awake, I had to make sure you weren’t sitting down here in the dark.”
“What difference would it have made? We’re both sitting in the dark.”
“Actually, I have a generator on the main house.” So he hadn’t come down to make sure I wasn’t afraid of the storm? I was very slightly disappointed. “I have power. Heat and lights, too. I came to tell you to come up to the house. That is if you… weren’t… uhm, sleeping.”
I shrugged a casual acknowledgement of his gentlemanly tendencies. “I was up. I was recording a damn video. The power cut out in the middle of it and now I have to re-record it.”
“Oh…that’s….well, can you record at my house?”
“Nah. I’m trying to get into branding and being consistent. Besides, my followers are nosy, and I don’t need anyone asking where I’m filming from.”
“Okay, then.” Taj stood in the entryway, staring like he was waiting for something.
“Okay then… what? Do you need to check the house or anything? You want to use my flashlight?”
“No… I… really?” He paused letting out a little laugh. “Maybe I wasn’t clear. There’s no power down here. I have power upstairs. I thought you might want to come up. You’re more than welcome.”
“Oh!” I laughed because he was laughing, but my heart was beating out of my chest. Go back to his house, where we had nearly kissed last week because he wasn’t going to stop it from happening? “I was thinking I would just ride it out down here. It’s just a power outage. It can’t be too bad, right?”
He grimaced, sucking in a sharp breath through his teeth. “Well, I think the transformer blew. The street lights are out, the neighborhood is dark. Potter Lake Power is basically like… twelve old men and a ladder, so it’s gonna be a minute until they get us hooked up again. It could be a couple of days. It’s going to get cold down here. And then… hot. And stuffy.”
I considered this for a moment, sitting down here in this little house by myself in the dark. For days. My shoulders sagged in defeat. “Fine. Let me throw some stuff in a bag. I’ll be right up.”
“I don’t need an escort, Nurse Dude.”
“Yeah, I know, Miss Girard,” he said, grabbing my elbow, urging me toward the hallway to my bedroom. Secretly, I didn’t mind. Openly, I grunted. “You’re all independent and stuff. You’ll decide it’s too much trouble and not come up. It’s going to get cold tonight and I don’t want my tenant to freeze to death in my house. It’s very bad for resale value. I’ll wait.”
“I wouldn’t freeze to death–”
“Please.” He clapped his hands together in pleading, prayer pose. “Would you just… pack some things and come up? Just for the night. Please?”
“The people in my life are really bossy,” I muttered, but I directed my flashlight back to the hallway to find my bedroom.
And I smiled to myself.