This scene was supposed to fit someplace in Chapter 17 in the earliest draft of the book. Drew was going to misunderstand Ashley (at first) and believe she (Ashley) overheard him admitting to Bethany that he’d fallen for Ash. However, instead, I decided to add chapter 12 (the jam session scene) and the scene by the creek in the woods. I felt like, by this point in the book, they should be past misunderstandings and moving forward—tentatively—with their love story. Ashley speaks first.
“You thought I was a boy.”
“I overheard you talking to momma the other day. You thought I was a boy.”
His eyes flickered between mine, but otherwise he was motionless. In actuality, he was entirely too motionless, like he’d been caught in crosshairs or was listening for signs of a predator.
At length he asked, “How much did you hear?”
“I heard you reading to her.” I shrugged like it was no big deal, because it was no big deal. “Then the two of you talking, until I stretched and sat up.”
Drew held my gaze for a short moment. He surprised me by standing, his chair making a sharp shrill scrape against the floor. His tone was gruff and accusatory when he said, “You shouldn’t eavesdrop.”
My spine stiffened and I blinked at the seat he’d just occupied. I had trouble forming words for about ten heartbeats. He was right, of course, but I didn’t understand why he was so upset.
I decided straightaway to apologize. We still had a lot of work to do and I didn’t need his irrational mood swings prolonging the task. I would just keep my mouth shut. I got the impression that he wanted to strangle me every time I spoke.
Well, strangle me or kiss me.
One or the other.
“You’re right, I’m sorry.” I glanced over my shoulder at him. He stopped pacing at my words. His hands were on his hips, his blond eyebrows drawn low, and his mouth was curved into a severe frown.
I held up my hands and continued, “I shouldn’t have eavesdropped. I apologize.”
Drew’s gaze narrowed on me and he looked a bit like one of his caged bears, trapped and about to attack.
“You’re bringing this up now? Why?”
“I don’t know. I guess I was trying to make conversation.”
Drew flinched. “Conversation? This is conversation for you?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know.” I shook my head. “I suppose we could talk about sports.”
“Sports…” his tone was flat and for some inexplicable reason it made me shiver. I remained silent because some innate sense of self-preservation told me to be quiet.
“So…” he said, gritting his teeth, his eyes flashing. “What now?”
I glanced to the right, then the left, not really understanding what he was talking about and definitely at a complete loss as to why he was so upset. Therefore I inhaled a slow, deep breath before offering, “Um, we get back to work…?”
He blinked at me, his chin jutting out. “We get back to work?” He breathed the words and they were laced heavily with affronted astonishment. He also looked offended, like my suggestion to continue working was a slight against his manhood, or I’d just suggested that we shoot his horse.
I studied him for a beat then sighed, closing my eyes. “I’m sorry! I’m so, so, so sorry! If I’d known you were going to be this upset about me listening to you read momma an excerpt from North and South I would have blown a rape-whistle as soon as I woke up so as to alert you to my wakefulness. In fact, I should probably start blowing a whistle at intervals around the house anyway because it would save me from having to watch all my brothers get their man-business done in every dark corner of this house. But as it stands, I can do nothing about overhearing the two of you talk about my embarrassing past as a beauty pageant contestant. I don’t understand why you’re so angry—”
I opened my eyes and found Drew’s on mine. To my relief and continued bewilderment, he no longer looked angry. He looked slightly relieved and somewhat confused.
“Wait.” He repeated; Drew crossed to me, reclaiming his seat. “Which day was this? Saturday? Two days ago?”
“No. Three weeks ago, it was a Tuesday.”
He slanted his head to the side, inspecting my face with bizarre intensity. “So you didn’t overhear my conversation with Bethany on Sunday?”
“No. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t even know you were around last Sunday.”
This was technically true. I thought I’d heard his voice, but I was asleep. I thought I felt his hand against my face, in my hair, but I discarded the notion as a dream. More precisely, it was a random and embarrassingly dirty sexy-times dream, where he’d been the headliner.
Who has sex dreams while taking care of their ailing mother?
This deranged pervert, that’s who.
He studied me for a long moment, his eyes searching. I submitted to his perusal and met his stare straight on, though my cheeks heated a tinge as I recalled the dream… and all the things… that happened… to me… in the dream.
A new flare of wariness sparked behind his eyes. “You look embarrassed. Why are you embarrassed?”
“I’m not embarrassed.”
“Yes you are. Tell me.”
“It’s none of your business, but it has nothing to do with what I didn’t overhear on Sunday.”
Drew nodded slowly, still surveying me. “Tell me.”
The chances of me telling Drew Runous that he was the star performer in one of my sex dreams was never going to happen. Therefore, I deflected.
“Why don’t you tell me first why you were in such a snit about a conversation with momma? What did you two talk about on Sunday?”
Drew’s forearm rested along the edge of the desk, his body was turned toward mine. His expression shifted from suspicious to blank to something altogether more alarming in the span of twenty seconds. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but the back of my neck itched, the hairs raised in an instinctual warning.
The air in the room had also shifted, become thicker… or thinner. Either way I was finding it hard to breathe. Drew leaned forward, his eyes were suddenly captivated by my mouth.
“You really want to know?” He asked, his voice just above a whisper. “Are you ready to talk about this?”
I licked my lips, my eyelashes inexplicably fluttering as I readied myself for… I had no idea. But it was something big.
Was I ready for something big? What would I even do with something big? I didn’t have a place to store Drew’s something big. The space in my heart and mind was already bursting with grief and worry and regret. Saturated as I was, I couldn’t even contemplate what the something big might be, let alone make room for it.
Therefore, I answered honestly, my filter fallen by the wayside along with painting my nails, putting on makeup, doing my hair, and wearing anything but yoga pants and tank tops.
“Probably not.” I blurted.
There are three things you need to know about Ashley Winston: 1) She has six brothers and they all have beards, 2) She is a reader, and 3) She knows how to knit.
Former beauty queen, Ashley Winston’s preferred coping strategy is escapism. She escaped her Tennessee small town, loathsome father, and six brothers eight years ago. Now she escapes life daily via her Amazon kindle one-click addiction. However, when a family tragedy forces her to return home, Ashley can’t escape the notice of Drew Runous— local Game Warden, reclusive mountain man, bear wrestler, philosopher, and everyone’s favorite guy. Drew’s irksome philosophizing in particular makes Ashley want to run for the skyscrapers, especially since he can’t seem to keep his exasperating opinions— or his soulful poetry, steadfast support, and delightful hands— to himself. Pretty soon the girl who wanted nothing more than the escape of the big city finds she’s lost her heart in small town Tennessee.
This is a full-length novel, can be read as a standalone, and is the fourth book in the ‘Knitting in the City’ series
Neanderthal Seeks Human: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads | Our Review
Neanderthal Marries Humans: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads
Friends Without Benefits: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads | Our Review
Love Hacked: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads | Our Review
Beauty and the Mustache: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads
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