Reading Running on Empty will make you feel like you’re indulging in a warm bubble bath, all your senses being spoiled, serenely happy and without a worry in the world. It will warm your heart in so many wonderful ways you’ll never want to leave the delightful world of Alex, Blake, Harlow and the three munchkins that steal the show every chance they get. And today, I have something very special in store for you—an exclusive scene from Blake’s POV that she wrote just for us! So, put some bubbles in that bath, grab a glass of wine, sit back and let Blake take charge…
Waco. Founded 1849.
I shake my head and accelerate as I pass the sign. I can’t believe I’m back here. For her. How many times have I tried to get that woman out of my mind… yet, I’m here.
I hate this town. Well, maybe not the town itself, but everything it represents. My past. With absolutely no future.
As I whip in and out of traffic, I know my first stop has to be my parents. Then, I’ll need to meet up with Harlow later today, to get this all worked out. If I know Alex, she’s not going to make this easy. So I think it’s better to have some sort of plan of approach, and since Harlow’s the mastermind behind all of this, she can handle that part. I have absolutely no idea why she thinks my being here is going to be of any help to Alex. I haven’t spoken to her in years.
I shake my head again. That woman. Alex. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. And then immediately push her out of my mind. Maybe by coming back here, I can actually find some sort of closure with this goddamned obsession. She sure as hell hasn’t made any attempt to contact me. Not that she would, stubborn ass woman. But even after all these years, she still gets under my skin. No matter what I do, she’s always there, in my thoughts. And it has to stop.
I whip my bike to the right to try to pass this old clunker truck going no more than twenty miles an hour, when I see a woman standing on the side of the interstate trying to flag someone down for help. Something’s obviously wrong. I decide to pull over and offer my help because this damn woman is standing way to close to the traffic lanes. I ease my bike onto the side of the interstate behind the truck. I watch her turn and start to walk in the opposite direction. Where the hell does she think she’s going?
I cut off the ignition and get off the bike. When I turn around and see her standing there, both my heart and my stomach immediately contract. You have GOT to be kidding me.
I slowly begin making my way to her, trying to bide time to figure out the best way to handle this. I watch her eyes move slowly from my boots to my face. I can’t help but chuckle to myself. Yep, I think she approves. I’ve grown up, Alex. Surprised?
As I get closer to her, my chuckle turns into an outright laugh. What the hell is all over her shirt? I narrow my eyes on her head. And what the hell is going on with her hair?
I watch as the realization that it’s me standing right in front of her displays itself all over her face.
“Well, Blake Morgan. What the hell are you doing back in town?”
Out of frustration I run my hand through my hair and snicker at her audacity, because by her tone, I know this is not going to go well. And it pisses me off. It’s not like I asked to run into her stubborn ass this morning. I didn’t even plan on seeing her until tomorrow at the very earliest. Now, I’m getting bitched out? I don’t think so.
“I really don’t see what’s so funny, Blake. I’m sure it’s easy to laugh when it isn’t you sitting on the side of the interstate at eight o’clock in the morning.”
I’m not doing this with her today.If she wants to aggravate me, she’s succeeded.
“Actually, Alex, I am sitting on the side of the interstate… at eight o’clock in the morning. I think that automatically gives me some allowance to laugh at the situation. However, that’s not what I’m laughing at. What I’m actually laughing at is that I’m literally just driving in to this god-forsaken town when I see you, stranded on the side of the road and because I’m such a nice guy, I’m forced to stop and help. Fate tends to be cruel sometimes.”
I watch her face pinch in anger, and it takes everything in me not to laugh again. Because no matter how pissed I am, there’s no denying that she has probably one of the cutest angry faces I’ve ever seen. She always had. Which is why I would try to piss her off as much as possible when we were kids.
She raises her hands and continues her rant. “Look, I didn’t ask you to stop so don’t take it out on me that you’re a nice guy, although I think your definition of nice might be a little skewed when compared to normal people’s. If you don’t want to help, then don’t. I don’t have time for this sh*t, Blake. I have to get to a gas station, get gas, get back here, get my car started, and get to work so that I can avoid being strangled by my business partner… all in about twenty minutes. So if you don’t mind, please be on your way and find another damsel in distress so you can meet this nice guy quota that you must have to complete. It was wonderful to see you again, Blake. I hope to not see you around anytime soon.”
Well, she definitely hasn’t lost any spunk over the years. She turns away from me and starts walking as fast as she can. I watch her trip a couple of times and suddenly I’m scared for her life. All I need is for her to trip herself into oncoming traffic. Shit. I need to get this woman off of the side of the road.
I march back to my bike and climb on, turning on the ignition as fast as I can. I rev the engine a couple of times; I really should have Larry take a look at it. It hasn’t been acting right lately.
I coast up beside her, on her left side, to prevent her from getting any closer to the traffic. “Get on!” She keeps her eyes forward. “Um, no. Thanks.”
Jesus Christ! I want to strangle this woman and I haven’t even been around her for five minutes. I stay right beside her. “Get on the bike, Alex!!” She stops and faces me.
“Seriously, Blake, get on with your good deeds for the day! I. Am. Fine!” She turns to continue on her journey.
No, she’s not fine. In fact, nothing about this situation is fine. I’ll be damned if I am gonna let her walk her ass anywhere. It’s unsafe for her to be out here, alone, walking to God knows where. I cut the engine and jump off the bike. I’m getting really tired of this sh*t. She’s acting like she’s twelve f*cking years old. This has got to stop. I walk up behind her and grab her arm. She wants to act like a child… I’ll sure as hell treat her like one. I turn her back towards me, our faces only inches apart. I feel her warm breath on my mouth and it takes everything in me not to grab her and bring her beautiful pouty lips to mine. After a long, excruciating second, I push the tempting thoughts out of my mind and get back to reality.
“Alex, get your ass on this bike. I’ll take you to your office. We can deal with your truck later. I can still get you there within the now,” I look down at my watch, “fifteen minute time frame to make sure you don’t getting strangled by your business partner. Think about it. Is your pride more important than your business?”
She yanks her arm free from my hold. Her mouth pops open and she looks down, I’m assuming at the tight ass skirt she’s wearing. Damn, she looks good. Really goddamn good.
“Get on your bike? In this?” She moves her hand up and down, displaying her outfit. “Not gonna happen, buddy.” Buddy?
“Alex, if I have to pick you up, put you over my shoulder, and physically place you on my bike, I will. So yes, it’s gonna happen. You can either do so with dignity, or we can do it my way. Your choice.” Jesus, I sound like I’m talking to a child. Who am I kidding? I am talking to a child.
I watch her eye me with some weird expression on her face. What the hell is that supposed to do? I continue to hold her stare, knowing I’m right. She’ll have to break eventually.
“Fine!” She shouts in my face.
Well, that didn’t take near as long as I expected. I let out a long sigh, because as traffic continues to whip by us, I’m reminded that I need to just get her out of here. I turn to walk to my bike, glancing back to make sure she’s following, which she is, although very slowly. Thank God.
Grabbing a helmet, I take a couple of steps back towards her, meeting her halfway since she’s obviously still trying to figure out a way to get out of this. I walk up to her and hand her the helmet. Since she’s so short, I have no choice but to look again at the top of her head. What the hell isthat? “Um… I think you have something in your hair.”
I reach to touch it and she slaps my hand. The nerve of this woman. I’m only trying to save her life here. Let’s not waste time… I don’t know, being grateful or anything.
“It’s a present from my daughter.” She slams the helmet down on her head and I watch as she clumsily tries to buckle the chin strap. She’s doing it all wrong. I slap her hand away, partly for payback, mostly just to piss her off. I buckle it and as I look into her beautiful brown eyes, I let my fingers linger on her chin. God, how many years I have wanted to just touch her. I allow myself the luxury for a couple of seconds and then drop my hand. I’m not here for this. I’m here as a friend, for her. Nothing more. I can’t afford to let years of emotions get in the way right now.
I watch her face as it softens. “Thank you, Blake.” Something about her brief vulnerability makes me want to smile. I can’t help but hope there is still a little bit of the old Alex in there. If there is, I’ll find it. But I can’t go getting soft with her right now. I know how she works. That will only scare her and make things worse. No, I need to stay distant. I turn to grab my keys out of my pocket and take in a deep breath. I clear the smile from my face and turn back towards her. “Let’s just get this over with.”
I see the hurt flash in her eyes and it kills me. There’s nothing more I want to do than grab her and take the pain away from her. I can see it all over her face. I see it in her saddened eyes. It’s everywhere. And it absolutely breaks my heart, more than she ever did. But for her to get over this, it’s gonna take some maneuvering… and tough love. Her face immediately hardens in response to my curtness as she angrily states, “I agree.”
As we turn to walk together, I can see her trying to figure out how the hell she’s going to manage to get her ass on the bike. I know what she’s going to have to do, and I gather by the look on her face she’s just figured it out as well.
“Go ahead and get on.” She signals for me to get on, and I do. I choose not to say anything, because I can tell she’s pretty much had it today. I don’t even look back while she’s fixing her skirt, even though every bone in my body wants to. I just face forward until she’s ready, feeling relief when she puts her hands on my shoulders to climb on. Jesus, all of this shit to get her off this goddamn road.
She doesn’t sit right away for some reason. I can feel her shuffling around behind me. I feel her pull me a little when makes her move to sit down. Then I hear…
“Ride me, baby!”
My first instinct is to chase those punk asses down, but I guess I have forgotten Alex can take care of herself.
“Get to work assholes!” she yells in my ear. I immediately start laughing. She’s always reminded me of a little Chihuahua. Angrily yapping away.
“Shut up, Blake. Let’s go!” She puts her arms around me and I smile. This just feels so right.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Still lost in the feeling of her holding me, I speak before I think. “Yeah, you bought Ms. Parnell’s old office, right?” Shiiiiiit. I’m not supposed to know that. Shit.
“Er – yes. How did you know that?” I let out a quick breath. I’ve got it.
“My parents still live here, Alex. I know a lot of things,” I say, trying to exert confidence. I really hope she didn’t catch my mistake. But just in case, I don’t give her the chance to ask anything else. I turn the key, start the bike, and pull out onto the highway.
On our way to Alex’s office, all I can think is… Harlow is going to absolutely shit a brick when she sees this. This should be interesting.