Redneck P.I. Twila Taunton meets hunky Harland O'Connor at her friend's Independence Day party. It doesn't go so well, but it's what her BFF Jane tells her at the end of the excerpt that bothers her....
IT WAS HARD TO BELIEVE that it was over a year since I met Harland. I had only just arrived in Boston at the time, and started my new job, and was still hurting a lot, and was generally pissed off with life, thanks to Jimmie-Ray.
Jane Scruggs, my BFF—best friend forever—lived in a more up-market apartment than mine. Now that I think about it, I’m guessing that my new boss, Andrew, probably paid for it, or at least he contributed to the rent. Her apartment was on the fifth floor.
It was the July fourth weekend, and about thirty people were crammed into her living room and spilling out onto her balcony.
Harland had arrived late and I found it impossible not to notice him. Me and all the other women in the room. They—the other women—spent a lot of time trying to attract his attention, but a couple of times when my eyes strayed his way, he looked over their heads at me and we locked gazes. There was no way I had any intention of getting involved with any man ever again, so both times it happened I tore my gaze away from him and turned my back.
I was standing at the table dipping tortilla chips into the Mexican dip when he moved in beside me. There was something about him that made me feel him there before I saw him. He used the corniest pick up line in the world. "We haven’t met,"
I looked him up and down, said, "Yeah and we probably won’t," and walked out onto the balcony. To my annoyance, he followed. "Hey, what’s your problem? I was just trying to be civil. You could at least tell me your name."
"Why don’t you just piss off and leave me alone. If I wanted to tell you my name I would have done so long ago. There are plenty of women here who will give you their phone numbers, so why don’t you go bother them?"
"Do I detect a Southern accent?" He didn’t wait for a response, but sighed deeply. "So much for the myth that people from the South are hospitable."
I didn’t say a thing. I just turned away and made like I was watching the sun setting over the city. Intermittent bangs rising from the streets below hinted at what was to come. It would be another couple of hours before the fireworks started, and we’d have a great view of them from here. There was a distant hum of traffic, and the unmistakable aroma of gunpowder hung in the air. A man and a woman from the party stood side by side, their arms draped over the balcony railing, watching the smoke from their cigarettes spiraling upward.
After a couple of minutes I felt him leave, and I just stood there enjoying the sunset. The strange thing was that when I went back into the living room to get another beer I couldn’t stop myself from searching him out with my eyes. I was really pissed with myself when his eyes met mine again, and he gave an annoying little knowing smirk. I scowled and chugged the entire beer, and grabbed another.
Someone had put a Norah Jones CD on and a few couples clung to one another and were swaying to the music, apparently oblivious to the limited space available. The room smelled of food, the perfume from the dozens of candles whose flames flickered softly in the dark corners, and clean but sweaty bodies.
"Twila. I know your name now," he said from close behind me. "You are the only woman in this room who interests me. You gonna tell me why you’re so unfriendly?"
"It’s none of your business," I said through clenched teeth. "Why don’t you just leave me alone?"
"I will. But I’m gonna get your phone number from Jane and I will call you. You will find out that when I want something, I never give up. You’re the only real woman here, and I want you. You want me too, but you just won’t admit it."
Later, when we all went out onto the balcony to watch the fireworks, he stood close behind me. So close that I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. I don’t know how many people were out there, but it was a tight squeeze, and it seemed that every time someone moved, his body made contact with mine. Despite my distrust of men, it made me feel hot all over.
The most annoying thing about him was that afterwards, when Jane and I discussed him, she told me that it was a proven fact that people whose eyes meet despite their best efforts to avoid it, always ended up having sex.