Kristen Ashley’s newest River Rain novel is a real life crush meets fake relationship story, and it not only comes out next week, but you can read an excerpt below.
Rix was calling me.
My first inclination was to clam up. I could feel my palms getting sweaty, my heartbeat picking up, and even if he wasn’t right there, I felt heat hit my cheeks.
Not to mention, this surprise attack meant my belly experienced a super-powered flutter.
My second inclination was to remember walking out of the loo after Dani’s pep talk, ready to do my best to flirt, catch Rix’s pass, see where that might lead, only to see instead that he’d moved on from me and then the next time I saw him, he insulted me.
So I did not clam up.
I demanded, “How did you get my number?”
“How do you think I got your number?”
“Is that an answer as to how you got my number?”
“Judge. How else?”
Judge, who would want his only two directors (so far) to get along.
“Okay, then how can I help you?” I asked.
“How can you help me?”
“You called me, Rix.”
“I called because some shit went down this week that we should iron out, you’re avoiding me, this isn’t a situation that can be avoided since we work together, so I was going to ask if you wanted to meet for drinks so we can sort things out.”
God, disaster, drinks with Rix. I knew that firsthand.
“Though, I’m not gonna do that considering you’re acting like I ran over your puppy when we just had a couple of misunderstandings that you gotta grow up and find your way to get over,” he concluded.
I stared at pine trees wondering how I could forget that the awesome guy I’d been crushing on for forever was actually a huge jerk.
Then, when my head did not explode like I thought it was going to, I asked, “Just find my way to get over?”
“We flirted a little at a bar, not on work hours, no big deal, Alex. It happens all the time.”
He wasn’t done.
“And then I misinterpreted your behavior toward me, and for that, you got my apologies. It was uncool. But I hope you can look at it from my perspective and see that it wasn’t that huge of a leap.”
Not that huge of a leap?
“Hello?” Rix called when I had to take some time and quiet to get over that new morsel dropped from his (perfectly formed, so much, I’d memorized them so I could see them in my head) lips.
“You accused me of being a bigot,” I whispered.
“You said I had a problem with you not having legs.”
“I thought you did, but that isn’t accusing you of being a bigot. Trust me, Alex, a lot of people do not know how to deal with me the way I am.”
“I’m not those people.”
“I’m sensing that bothers you, but with the way you acted around me, can you understand how that would be my take?”
Actually, him pointing it out, I could.
And that stunk.
Worse, the way I acted around him was because I was into him, and one thing I knew for certain…
We could not go there.
“Yes,” I forced out.
“Okay then,” he said quietly.
“Okay,” I replied.
“So, you up to get a drink?”
Was he crazy?
“I’m sorry I gave you that impression. You’re right, it does bother me that I did. But I’m…like…” God! “…not good around people.”
“I mean, I like people. I’m just…you know…I like trees and dirt better than people.”
Did I just say I liked trees and dirt better than people?
Rix was chuckling, and it felt it like he was doing it right against my nipple. Thus, I squirmed in my chair at that feeling, and the fact that, considering he was chuckling at all meant I did, indeed, say I liked trees and dirt better than people.
“I like trees and dirt better than a lot of people I know too,” he declared.
“No,” I asserted hastily. “It’s not like I’m a misanthrope or something. It’s that—”
“Someone who doesn’t like people.”
“I know what it means, babe, I’ve just never heard someone use it in a regular, everyday sentence before.”
One, he called me “babe.”
So yeah, nipples again tingling.
Two, he sounded teasy.
Which had something a little farther south tingling.
Time to shut up.
“Judge says you live up in Groom Creek,” Rix noted.
“So I bet you got a lot of trees and dirt around you.”
Therefore, it sounded strangled when I said, “I do.”
“Right then, give me your address, I’ll grab a six pack and we can finish ironing things out among your trees and dirt.”
Again, I saw him at a table at my sister’s reception, winking at me.
Right on the heels of that, I envisioned him relaxed in the rocker chair beside me, in my space, on my mountain, chilling out…
It was a beautiful vision.
“Rix,” I whispered, but I didn’t know what else to say.
I needed to get along with him.
I needed to stop crushing on him.
I needed to get myself together so I could be around him.
I could not have him in my space, drinking beer, ironing things out, just being with him.
I had to figure out how to be his colleague, do the amazing things I hoped we’d soon be doing, and behave like a normal, rational human being around him.
Then leave that at work and live my life without him in it in any way, except on the job.
I simply wasn’t sure how I was going to manage to do all that.
Though one thing I did know, he couldn’t be on my deck with me at all, ever.
On that thought, it hit me.
I was currently staring at my trees and dirt, on the phone with Rix, but something had changed.
In a big way.
And I felt that change drift along my skin like the light, but warm touch of a hand.
“Rix?” I called.
I heard him clear his throat.
Then I heard him state, “You got a great voice, Alex.”
I blinked at the trees and dirt.
“So, your address?” he pushed.
“I’ve got plans tonight,” I lied.
Another brief hesitation, before, “Right.”
“But we’re good. I mean, we’re good if you’re good, because I’m good.”
I needed this call to be over.
“I’m good,” he said.
“So, I’ll see you Monday at work.”
“Yeah, you will.”
“Thanks for, uh…calling. It’s good that’s…um, behind us.”
Another brief hesitation, then, with a change in tone I utterly refused to define (it was lower, even slightly heated), he said, “Later, babe.”
Again with the “babe.”
Co-workers did not call co-workers “babe.”
I didn’t get the chance to do the impossible, figure out some way that wasn’t offensive or combative to share that.
He was gone.