An all-new standalone romance is out now from author Ginger Scott, and I have an excerpt for you.
I rush to my friend, helping her to her feet, but in those few seconds, Jesse has completely switched gears and is in full wrath. I hear the first two punches, seeing the third and fourth that are met by equal flying fists from the asshole.
Every time Jesse’s hit, it only seems to make him stronger, and in a breath, at least a dozen guys are pushing and shoving, throwing each other to the ground and knocking over things on Kelsey’s patio. The tall umbrellas that are bound and put away for the winter tumble as Jesse’s body is thrust backward into them. Then he shoves some guy I didn’t see before into the barbeque grill, rolling it back a few feet, which is just far enough to move it from the bricks to the dry grass of the lawn.
“What the hell!” Kelsey shouts as she comes racing through her back door. Her voice is drowned out by the testosterone-fueled grunts and growls of the full-on brawl unravelling at my feet.
“Are you okay?” I ask my friend. My heart is pounding and my feet are unsteady where I stand from the rush of adrenaline. I don’t know what to do, and I keep reaching for Jesse, trying to get his attention as if there’s any way I can stop an attacking bull. He’s become rabid.
“I’m fine,” my friend says, shrugging me off, her tone still cold toward me because I kept Jesse a secret. I groan and give my full attention to Jesse’s arm, cocked and ready to swing wildly at some new guy who has gotten involved in this fight. He jerks forward while I’m holding on and my body slams into his side, but I don’t let go.
“Jesse!” I shout right at his ear. His breath ragged and a gritted smile on his face, he turns his face so our eyes meet and lock. It takes a few seconds for his bicep to ease up under my touch, but eventually it does. I pull him a few strides away from the other guys, from the asshole wiping blood from his lip on his sleeve, ruining a perfectly lame waffle shirt.
“Just get out of here!” the guy shouts. I feel Jesse’s arm tick under my touch as he steps at the guy fast enough to make him flinch. More words are exchanged through drunken mutters and slurs, but Jesse just holds the guy in his line of sight while he looks at him sideways on our way back to the house. Tough guy leans forward to spit. Boys act like dogs sometimes, territorial and alpha as shit.
“Come on, I’ll drive,” I say, pulling Sam’s keys from my front pocket and turning to urge them both to follow me out.
“No,” Sam protests, folding her arms and sitting on one of the kitchen stools. The entire room smells of rum.
“She’s being stubborn because she’s pissed at me,” I say to Jesse before folding my arms and having a stare down with my friend.
“Sam, it’s time to go.” I speak slowly, with an edge because yeah…now I’m pissed, too. All I get is a head shake in response. “You’re acting like a toddler.”
Our exchange dissolves into a childish tug-of-war in a matter of seconds with me trying to force her arms to unfold as I pull at her wrists to get her to leave the stool. Muscles tense, she braces herself in the other direction, and every jerk I give seems to only make her that much more rooted to her position.
I can feel Jesse growing more agitated behind me, which only stresses me out. I know if I don’t get Sam to leave in the next few seconds, he’s going to go without me.
“Sam.” I level her with my gaze, grabbing her wrists and yanking her hands free from her body and holding them on her thighs. We haven’t even been here for an hour and she’s buzzed…hell, she’s one drink away from vomit.
“I’ll let your boyfriend take me home.” She sneers through the words, and I’m sure Jesse and the few people looking on think it’s jealousy talking, but I know the truth—it’s a different kind of betrayal.
I open my mouth to tell her “it’s not like that,” only I catch myself before the words leave my lips because maybe it is. And I don’t want Jesse to hear me say that. It’s not like I was hiding whatever is happening between us from my friend to be cruel; I was hiding it to keep it safe, to figure out what to call it in the first place. I was hiding it to make sure it remained special. It feels fragile, this budding friendship that’s definitely more. People don’t swat at butterflies, they tread lightly.
Before I can screw things up more, Jesse takes my friends stiff hand which relaxes the minute he touches it.
“Fine. I’ll take you home. But I don’t have a car, so I’ll need your keys,” he says.
With my eyes still square on Sam’s, I hold out my hand and give the keys to Jesse. I lift a brow at her because her bluff was just called. Her eyes flit to Jesse then back to me and she smirks.
“He says he’s your boyfriend,” she whispers, though not very softly at all. I nod with a tight-lipped smile, glad to see her standing and moving toward the door.
“Yep,” I say, keeping my cool on the surface.
Yep. He agreed to boyfriend. It’s not a verbal contract that would hold up in court, but it is a confession in a roundabout way that I’ll dissect with Sam when she sobers up and after my competition tomorrow…after I let her yell at me for keeping her in the dark.
I hold the back seat door open wide so Jesse can guide Sam in without her hitting her head. I close the door when she starts to giggle and sing a song about Jesse and me sitting in a tree. My eyes widen with embarrassment. So juvenile yet so mortifying somehow. What the hell?
I move to the passenger side of the rolling coffin and look over the seat back to check on my friend who has decided to lay down. She’s still humming the tune, but the words are no longer leaving her lips. Jesse gets in and starts the engine, but he idles along the curb while he stares at the group of guys he just left impressions of his knuckles on. The main one—asshole number one—points at him through the window mouthing the words “You’re fucking dead.” Jesse starts to laugh as he pulls us away from the party.
A tense silence takes over our space, and every word at the tip of my tongue begins a question. I want to know what that jerk did to my friend. I want to know why it made Jesse go ballistic. I want to ask him if he’s alright with being what Sam said he is—my boyfriend. Like all things with us so far, though, I decide to go at it the long way.
“How’d you get here?” I ask.
His mouth scrunches on the side closest to me and he glances my way before checking the mirrors.
“To the party. You don’t have a car, and you know like…six people.” I laugh quietly and Jesse smiles, returning his eyes to the road.
“Oh…I uh…I walked.” He glances at me again for half a second, just long enough to smile and pass off that it wasn’t that big a deal.
For a party he didn’t want to go to.
I sink back into my seat and let his answer warm my chest while my boyfriend drives my drunk friend home.