A Teaser

2012 Platinum List Wedding Photographer Grace OrmondeFollowing is a scene from my WIP (work in progress) for which I still need a title. By definition, work in progress means this is not the final draft, so please take that into consideration as you read. And if you get inspiration for a title, I’d love to hear it.

Jake

I shift the futon for a better grip and glance at Marty. “You’re watching behind me, right?” Hate to trip over something, like a neighborhood cat or flowerpot. Hard enough maneuvering the narrow, brick-layered pathway from the front of the house to the back.

“You gotta be kidding.” Marty’s sudden stop about pulls the frame from my hands. He stares past me.

“What?”

“This is your new place? Looks like a toolshed.”

“I’ve lived in worse.”

“By choice?” He shakes his head as we make our way across the lawn to the guest house. “Tell me again what you’re gaining here?”

“Peace of mind. What’d you care?”

“You’re one strange dude.”

“So you’ve said before.” Calling the place a toolshed’s a little harsh, although I’m sure that’s what Sean used it for. “Leave the futon here.” I drop my end on the narrow porch not two inches above a patch of grass and turn to open the double doors. The twenty by forty room’s a little stark, but serviceable. Windows on every wall and a sky light doesn’t allow much to hide in the shadows. Not the rustic plank flooring, open framing or the mouse scurrying for cover under a small oak desk in the corner.

“Seriously?” Marty’s shoes scuff the floor as he enters behind me. “It’s not even insulated.”

“Easily remedied.”

He crosses the room and swipes his fingers across the grime on a window. “It’s Tess, isn’t it?” He looks at me, slapping his now dirty hand on his jeans. “You’re moving in here to scam her.”

“Let’s get the futon in. We have a whole truck to unload still.”

“Well?”

“You couldn’t be more wrong.” Doesn’t matter what I tell him, he’ll never buy the truth.

An hour later, everything I own is crammed into the room—the futon, a hand-me-down coffee table and dresser that reminds me of my grandmother, ten stuffed U-Haul boxes and an assortment of kitchenware that’s now useless—at least for the time being.

“Appreciate your help and use of the truck,” I tell Marty as I walk him back out front.

“No problem. What’re friends for, right?”

Friends? He knows almost nothing about me. “I’ll return the favor someday.”

“How ’bout setting me up with Tess? I mean, if there’s really nothing going on there.”

I laugh despite the fact the idea rubs me wrong. “You’d have more luck going it alone. I’m just one more strike against you.”

“One more strike?” Marty reaches in his pocket and retrieves the keys. “What’re you trying to say? You don’t think my boyish good looks is a plus?”

“You never know.”

“Hey, I’m heading up to Tahoe this weekend to do a little wind surfing? You interested?”

“I’ve got a restaurant to run. Maybe next time.” The excuse comes with more than a twinge of regret. How long’s it been since I’ve been on the lake? Any lake?

After seeing Marty off, I head back to my prison cell. My mind focused on a strategy to unpack, I’m almost to the shack when I hear it—either someone’s snooping in my stuff, or the mouse has brought reinforcements. The sun’s dipping behind a tree, leaving my room in gray shadows, but the long, red hair and trim figure leave no doubt who’s invading my turf.

Shoulder propped on the door jamb, I watch in amazement. And she says I have nerve. “Goldie Locks, I presume.”

Tess jumps and screams, facing me with a hand over her chest. “You scared me half to death.” No apology, no embarrassment, just indignation.

“Something I can do for you? Maybe you’d like me to leave and give you a little more time to go through my things.”

“Could you?” She reaches out and flicks the flap of an open box, peering inside. She’s got guts, I’ll give her that much.

“What are you looking for?”

Her eyes meet mine and one brow arches. “Clues.”

“To?”

“Who are you, really?”

“Oh, excuse me.” I step across the threshold and hold out my hand. “Thought we were properly introduced last year. Jake Holland.”

She rolls her eyes, but I swear there’s a hint of humor playing around her mouth. “Very funny. You know what I mean.”

Knowing me wouldn’t change a thing. “Trust isn’t your strong suit, is it Tess?”

Humor gone, she crosses her arms. “And give me one good reason why I should trust you.”

“Because Sean did. If you trusted your dad—”

“And look where that got me.”

“So, we’re back to that. It makes me wonder if the mutual warmth I saw between the two of you ever existed. Or was it just an act?”

“How did you know about peanut allergies?”

“Come again?”

“You told Julia that Max could have peanut allergies, and you were right. How did you know? Do you have children?”

“I’ve experienced allergies before. Nothing clandestine or mysterious about it.”

“But you won’t tell me who you are or where you come from.”

“It’s not important.”

“You living here makes it important. What is it you’re hiding?”

“Fine. You first.” Two can play this game. “Why’d you quit school?”

A flush crosses her cheeks and she drops her eyes. “My mom died.”

“But you didn’t go back. It’s been what? Ten years?”

She pushes past me and steps outside, slicing me open with a glare. “It’s none of your—”

“Business. Yeah, I got it. But that door swings both ways, Tess.”

Arms pinned to her side, elbows locked, fists clenched, she turns away, her hair a burst of flames as the sun catches it. Her legs jerk as she walks across the yard, and I imagine she’s restraining the urge to stomp—just barely.

She’s an enigma, that one. Independent and passionate…and afraid. I wince when the slam of the back door reverberates across the yard. How easy it would be to step aside and let her have her way. It would save us both a lot of grief. Or would it? It might be that Sean knew what he was doing. I certainly hope so, ’cause Tess O’Shay might just be the death of me in more ways than one.

One thought on “A Teaser

  1. There is not enough to know where you are going with the story, but from what you wrote the title “Trust Me?” comes to mind.

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