An all-new story in Rachel Van Dyken’s Seaside Pictures series is out now, and I have an excerpt for you.
“Braden?” I glanced around the bare-yet-gorgeous living room with its deep brown leather couches, fuzzy white throw pillows, and floor-to-ceiling fireplace.
The doors to the outside folded inside the kitchen. It automatically transported the area into an indoor/outdoor space that had two heaters, an outdoor fireplace, and several fur blankets next to red umbrellas that blocked the wind.
Braden had changed his clothes and was sitting outside with his guitar in his lap, staring out at the ocean. He wore a pair of worn brown Birkenstocks, a black Adidas sweatshirt, black sweats, and a beanie.
I was almost sad his hair was covered.
I’d never seen red hair on a guy that close, and his was like this fiery orange color that looked so shiny and wavy that I imagined it would feel like silk if I ran my fingers through it.
He strummed something on his guitar, a song I wasn’t familiar with. I shivered from the cold breeze entering the living room and repeated his name, this time louder.
He didn’t turn around, but he did stop strumming. “Yes, Coach?”
I rolled my eyes, thankful that he couldn’t see my irritation. I could put up with a lot, but it would be easier if he wasn’t a dick for the next twenty-one days. “I have a name.”
He was quiet and then said, “Yes, Piper?” Slowly he turned, his blue eyes locking onto mine with an unnatural intensity, like he could see inside my soul.
I broke eye contact first and walked over to one of the brown wicker chairs. I sat, ankles crossed, posture perfect, lipstick on point. I was well aware that I looked every inch the professional.
I needed to look that way so the clients had faith that if I was in control of myself, I could easily help them gain control of themselves.
I was the spiral stopper.
I lifted my chin and offered a polite smile. “Should we talk?”
His right eyebrow arched as he strummed with his left hand. His fingers were slender and graceful as they moved across the instrument. Why was I fixating on his fingers?
“See something you like, Coach?” He grinned.
I gave him another placating smile. “No, I was just noting that you do that really well.”
He barked out a laugh. “You mean strum the chords?”
“Right,” I chirped.
His laugh was rich. I liked it immediately. “Look, if you’re going to be in my house for the next twenty-one days attempting to fix my brain and life, you should probably relax. Your posture’s so rigid, even my back hurts, and I do yoga.”
“I have a strong back.” He winked. “Normal people slump, by the way. It’s a thing.”
He went back to playing his guitar and watching the waves crash on the beach.
My smile started to falter. “I don’t slump. And your body sends signals to your brain when your posture shows defeat. If you stand straighter, sit straighter, your mind takes notice. Think of it as a way of sending a little alert to your nerves that says, ‘Hey, listen up, or look ready for action.’” I could feel my smile growing as I explained the art of body language. I mean, it really was fascinating. “You can even send—”
Braden slumped forward and made a snoring noise, then jerked his head up and laughed. “Did you get that message?”
I glared. “Be serious.”
“Hey, you’re the one trying to teach. Me being the good student I am, I gave you an example. See? Match made in heaven.”
“You were rude.”
“Maybe I am rude.”
I scowled. “Look, I know you don’t want me here, but I promise if you let me do my job, you’ll be out there touring in no time. Just think of this as a groupie hiatus if you have to, all right? I’m sorry you’re not getting bras tossed at you on stage, and women aren’t weeping in your presence right now, but this is going to be like a cleanse to your soul. After me, you’re going to feel like yourself again.”
His eyes narrowed. “You’ve never been to one of my concerts, have you?”
I shifted in my seat. “I don’t like concerts, they’re too loud.”
“You’re a bucket of fun, aren’t you?” Sarcasm dripped from every word.
“What? We all have our things. And I can assure you that I’ve studied your music extensively, watched your YouTube channel. I’ve taken notes. I know we can make this work, we just need a plan, and that’s where I come in.”
His eyes widened. “Didn’t think it was possible.”
“Making a plan is always possible,” I said reassuringly.
He snorted out a laugh. “No, not that. I just didn’t think it was possible to actually find someone more terrifying than my therapist, and she doesn’t even smile. But you? Your talk of plans and body language and that black duffel bag you creepily have by your feet… Yeah, I’m gonna give you a hard pass. Thanks for trying, but if my own therapist can’t cure me of this bullshit, I highly doubt a woman in six-thousand-dollar shoes is going to do any better.”
I opened my mouth to say they had been on sale…but then shut it.