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It has the feel of Me & TC but an entirely different storyline. Today's excerpt is Chapter 3. You can read all of the Prologue and Chapter One online at Amazon. Jackson Phillips has come back into Lucy McKinsey's life, and she decided to let the world know as only she can do it.
When Jackson sent his third text and received no response, he rechecked the time. What was she doing? Pocketing his phone, he climbed out the window and crossed the lawn, the dewy grass moistening his feet.
He stopped at the base of her window. Her drapes were drawn. Maybe she wasn’t in her room. She could be somewhere else. But if that was the case, why was she ignoring his texts?
He gave a peremptory knock on the glass and after a few minutes, the drapes quivered and the window slid up.
Lucy covered a yawn with her hand.
“You’re sleeping?” he asked. She’d definitely been sleeping. Her hair was mussed and a red mark trailed down her left cheek.
She blinked through sleep-thickened lashes. “Yes, I was.”
“But it’s nine o’clock.”
Nine o’clock, and he’d been up since six. He’d waited until eight to text her.
She stared at him, her mind evidently befuddled, then a sudden light came to her pupils. “Didn’t I say my summer plans involved sleeping in?”
“Yes,” he said. “But I’m bored.”
“Bored.” Repeating the word, she gathered her hair in her right hand and lifted it off her neck. The edge of her pajama top rose in his view.
“Yes, and when I’m bored I …”
She cut him off. “Do I want to know this? Or were you going to say ‘annoy the neighbor’?”
He grinned. “That too.”
She rubbed at her eyes. “How ‘bout you go to the front door and I’ll let you in. Don’t think my mom or brother would appreciate you climbing in the window.”
No. Probably not. He gave a nod and headed toward the front of the house.
She arrived at the front door dressed in a ratty pair of cut-off blue jeans and an extremely tight tank top. She looked down at herself when his gaze traveled. “What? It was the first thing I could find.”
“I’m not complaining,” he said.
She blew out a puff of air and sank onto one hip. “Do you ever think of anything else?”
He leaned over her, an action that seemed to throw her sense of balance off. “Let’s see. I’m an eighteen-year-old male. No. Not really.”
She laughed then and whirling around, moved into the house, leaving him to follow.
The living room was homey. A well-loved couch and matching set of chairs sat before a brick fireplace and white wooden mantel lined with photographs – mostly of Lucy and her brother at various ages. However, there was a family picture on the end. Lucy looked to be about four.
“I was cute,” she said.
He took in her blonde pigtails and thigh-high dress. “And still are.”
This brought a playful smack on his arm. He laughed and looked back at the image. Her father stood to her mother’s right. He’d heard her father died when she was ten.
“You miss him?” he asked.
She stepped up beside him, her head level with his shoulder. “All the time. Still sometimes I think he’ll come walking down the hall, lift me up in his arms, and throw me in the air like he used to do.”
Her words struck him, and he gulped. He knew the feeling, though his mother wasn’t dead. But she was miles away, living her new life without her children.
She glanced up at him. “You hungry?”
He shoved the thought aside. “I could eat.”
She waved him forward through a cluttered mudroom and into the kitchen. The kitchen was wide and spacious like what you’d see in a farmhouse. White cabinets circled the right-hand wall, interrupted by a large bay window hung over a farmer’s sink. A kitchen island sat in the center.
He met the gaze of her brother when he entered.
“Tray, this is Jackson Phillips. He moved in next door.”
Tray, whose actual name was Travis, jerked his chin upward.
Jackson stared for a moment, taken aback. He’d only ever seen her brother from a distance, and that was three years ago. But having just looked at her dad’s picture, he had to look twice. The resemblance was unreal.
Lucy waved Jackson toward the island. “Sit,” she said.
He claimed a stool in time to see her bend over into the refrigerator. Nice. He refocused his gaze on Travis’s face. Polite conversation would be better than what his brain kept doing.
“‘Sup?” he asked.
Her brother raised his coffee cup, steam drifting before his face. He took a noisy slurp. “Not much.”
Lucy straightened and moved to a cabinet, the refrigerator door swishing shut behind her. Travis sat his cup down with a thunk. And Lucy stooped over, reaching onto a lower shelf. She really must stop doing that.
Jackson tried to stop his wandering gaze, too late.
Her brother turned around to view his sister’s extended butt then faced forward, one side of his mouth curled upward.
“So tell me,” Travis said, “you got a girlfriend?”
Lucy slammed the cabinet too hard, and Jackson jumped in place. “N-no,” he stuttered.
Setting her pan down on the stove, Lucy revolved on her heel and riveted her eyes on the back of her brother’s head. “Travis, cut it out.”
Travis smirked and waved his hands, palm outward. “Just wondering.”
She turned around and stretched a groping hand over her head to lift a bowl from an upper shelf. And her top crept up, revealing the slender curve of her waist. “Don’t let him bug you,” she said, setting the bowl on the counter.
“Ain’t me that’s bugging him,” Travis said to her back.
And he was right about that. Did she not know how she looked? Or did she not care? Jackson drew figure eights on the counter with his fingertip.
Lucy flicked her brother a glance. “Don’t you have to wash your truck or something?”
Ignoring the shake of his head, she returned to her cooking. Soon the heady aroma of frying bacon wafted through the room. The pop of the toaster and smell of eggs followed. Within minutes, she set a plate before him. She then fetched her own and joined him around the island.
Her brother gave her the eye. “Nothing for me?” he asked. “You feed the neighbor, but not your own brother?”
She paused with her fork halfway to her mouth. “I like him better.”
Jackson covered his grin with a strip of bacon.
Travis returned to nursing his cup of coffee, and Jackson bent over his plate. For a while the only sound was the clinking of forks and chewing of food. It was as Jackson lifted the last bite to his mouth that Lucy’s phone buzzed.
Twisting around on the stool, she pressed the button and leaned over the screen. Her face took an on interesting expression.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Jackson asked.
She didn’t respond, but instead pushed the phone beneath his nose. He looked from her to the phone before reading the text. It true Jackson P lives next door?
His voice raised. “Jackson P.”
Word spread quickly. He scrolled up the screen. “Esther?” he asked. “The Esther? Esther, ‘Hey, Jackson,’ Esther?”
She nodded. “The same.”
She laid a finger on her nose. “Hmm …”
“Oh no,” Travis said, “I don’t like that look or that sound. You are not doing it, whatever it is.”
“Aw, don’t be a spoil sport. You don’t even know what I want to do.”
Jackson stared at her. She hadn’t denied she wanted to do something. But what was it?
“I know how you are,” Travis continued. “And you are not sucking me in this time.” He made to stand to his feet, but she snatched at his sleeve. Coffee sloshed from his mug onto the counter.
“But we need your help. Please, just this once,” she begged. “I’ll wash your truck.”
Travis hesitated, his eyes sharp on her face. “The whole thing this time? Including the tires?”
“The whole thing, and Jackson here will help.”
Jackson set his fork down on his plate. “What exactly is Jackson being volunteered to do?”
The visual image of Lucy washing her brother’s truck now lingered in his mind. Suds. Water. Lucy.
She smiled at him. “You said you were bored, so I’m thinking we do a reenactment for old time’s sake. Then you help me wash Tray’s truck.”
“A reenactment.” He wrapped his mind around the phrase. Reenactment of what?
She fiddled with her phone, calling up the camera, and stuck it out in her palm. “On three take the picture.”
Travis looked down at it as if it was diseased.
“Just do it,” she said. “It’ll be fun.” She shoved her hand forward. “Take it.”
Her brother finally gave in, reluctantly pointing the phone’s camera toward her face. “What exactly am I taking a picture of? Esther knows what you look like.”
Yeah, picture of what? Jackson turned to her. What was working in her fast-thinking brain?
“This,” she said, and she grasped his cheeks in her hands and kissed him.
Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.