Look out! Gracyn is all grown up...
I was doing my job when I rescued Gracyn. But I should have known better than to bring her back to my cabin. She has a reputation for getting whatever she wants. I’d never considered she’d be interested in someone as old as her father. I wasn’t attracted to anyone so young until that night. Now I’m in bed with the devil, trying to keep my buddies from finding out that she’s everything I ever
Joe was another one of my parent’s friends not worth paying attention to until he saves me from myself. It was only supposed to be one sinful night. Now, I temp fate each time I go back for more. I’ve fallen for a much older man and we’re treading in gray waters. To keep him I’ll have to come clean to my family. But does friendship eclipse love?
“Turn around don’t drown,” I chant as my coupe continues rolling into the puddle. The Ivy League diploma I earned means I’m intelligent enough to comprehend the warning. My heart? Not so much. I’m basically ten again shouting, “Just watch me!” to my male cousins when faced with a challenge.
The dark road dips. Can’t they engineer something, I don’t know… Level? Like a submarine sinking, my low-to-the-ground headlights dim as the water rises. It must be above the door line. I’ve underestimated the shrill flood warning that emitted from my cell and overestimated my confidence. It’s going to take a combination of smarts and skill to get out of this mess.
We’ve already established I left the smarts behind. So skill it is.
Using rain-splotched mirrors, I gauge how much further there is to go until I’m in the clear based on what’s visible behind me. All I want is to get to Kingsbrier before the storm gets too bad.
Tough luck with that one. With the rate the rain is coming down, it will take an hour to go another few miles. I laugh at my own stupidity and drum my fingers on the steering wheel. I can’t see anything for as hard as it’s pouring on my sporty little sedan.
It would have been wiser to go straight to the apartment I share with Corey, put on my jammies, and had poured myself a glass of Kingsbrier 2012.
My cousin is going to give me so much shit for this. He was the first to make fun of me when I went European taunting, “This is Texas. Real women drive trucks.”
I’ve been trying to be a real woman. I’d dressed to impress for a winery distributor meeting today. My skirt is now soaked to my skin and so much for these heels. They’ll never fit again after getting stretched out. Being glamorous is about as effective as… As sitting soaked in your overpriced German sports car.
I suck at playing damsel in distress.
However, let’s all give Gracyn a round of applause for not screwing up her first solo trip to renegotiate the winery’s contracts for the biggest grocery store chain in Texas. It was thrilling. Not. Except I’m proud of the fact that it was something my boss, Alcee Bennet, and Uncle Cris believed I was capable of handling on my own.
It also fed my ego, which is what got me into this calamity.
I blow a raspberry. This rotation with the corporate office isn’t as fun as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a shrewd businesswoman the way my grandmother was. I’m glad the powers that be want me well versed in all areas of Kingsbrier Vineyards. They are making me deal with minutiae and expect I’ll get my hands dirty. But I’m hoping that at least one of my baby sisters or other cousins has the gumption for distribution sales. None of the vineyard tour customers try to haggle when you ring them up at the company store. Heck, the last time we paid a visit to Richardson’s Market, Alcee even had to bring a personal case for the beverage manager to sweeten the deal. We’ve been doing business with the local grocery store for ages and they still wanted an additional percentage off. So much for supporting local businesses.
My foot depresses the accelerator with steady force. Almost there. I must be almost there. I’ve got to be almost there.
It’s been a crazy week at work. All I want tonight is a few hours with Gran. Then, if it’s too mucky to make it across the estate to my parents’ house, I’ll sack out in one of the old Tudor mansion’s extra bedrooms.
Tomorrow I’ll even fire up my laptop, use my cell as a hotspot, and log onto the company servers to finish up the marketing plan for next season. Take that storm! Take that utility outages! Nothing’s going to get me down.
I am… Stuck. Why did the car stop? No! “Shit. Shit. Shit!” I bang the steering wheel and move my driving foot back-and-forth on the gas and brake. Then I feel the squish of carpet underneath my toes.
“Argh!” I lean across the console in time to snag my briefcase from the floorboard as the water streams in the seams. “Think. Think. Fuck! If you’d done that you wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with!” I yell at myself.
The rivers of rainwater falling over the glass on my windshield create a ghoulish glare from the bright headlights coming in the opposite direction.
And now I die. You know, if I wasn’t already drowning. The alternative seems to be getting carried off by the backwoods lunatic in yellow waders approaching my car.
Yeah, it’s a honed skill. What can I say?
I get my window open right before the electrical system cuts out. I really am dead in the water. At least my car is. If the lumbering hulk helps me out of this liquid coffin, I can make a run for it if he tries to strangle me. It’s dark enough out that he won’t find me hunched down and hiding in the trees.
The flashlight he’s holding is blinding.
“Ugh! Do you mind?” I hold up a hand so that I can make out a few details of the figure. The cops will have to hire a medium to channel this knowledge, but I am trying to be responsible.
“Gracyn Cavanaugh, your fathers are going to kill you for a stunt like this.”
“Oh, Joe. Thank God.” My prayers have been answered. It’s not Sasquatch. Although, this could get as hairy. I’ve known Joe for sixteen years. He’s a friend of the family.
And he brought me home in his cruiser when I was in high school. My fathers—Yes, I have two of them; they’re brothers—told me in no uncertain terms that it was the last time they’d put up with me in the backseat of Joe’s squad car.
Meanwhile, my mother and stepmother pretended to be just as cross while they admired how nicely Joe filled out his uniform. I hadn’t noticed until they both sighed and commented that it was a shame Joe never settled down. After they brought up how handsome Joe is, it became harder to ignore. That made it even more embarrassing because, ew, my mothers were drooling over this guy while my fathers doled out my punishment.
Even when I thought Joe was old, he was hot. Now that I’m older? He’s got the makings of silver fox all tied up in the yes-please-tie-me-up sort of way that makes a woman wonder what he’s done with those handcuffs. For all that is good and holy, if my mothers were thinking the same things then that I am now we are all burning in hell.
“Help me, Joe.” Water is lapping at my middle. So much for my laptop.
“Stay put. I’ll pull you out.”
Joe’s got one of those massive overkill trucks with a wench on the front. Buckets pour over him as he attaches the hook to the front bumper. It ratchets slowly, pulling my former luxury vehicle out of the mire.
My car winds up parked at the shoulder. When I open the door and my heels hit the pavement, I expect that fish along with the water are going to fall from the front seat. Leaning back over, I take my briefcase from the opposite side and pluck my cell from its holder on the dash. Hey, at least I have the hands-free safety thing done correctly. How many points is that? I definitely lost some for the driving headlong on to a flooded road debacle.
Covered from head to toe in yellow, Joe is stoic. He lifts me into the cab of the truck where I get the leather seat as soppy as my pumps. I’m soaked to the bone now. Shoes. Shirt. Blouse. Bag. Let’s hear it for waterproof phones.
I punch a few buttons on my cell, informing my auto service of where my car is so they can tow it.
Joe runs back to set my parking brake since my car rests on an incline, stows the hook, and hops back into his truck. The cab lights stay lit and I notice the heat has been on when he rubs his hands together, setting them close to the blower. It was considerate of him to make sure I wouldn’t be shivering more than I am while waiting for my rescuer to finish winding up the cinch.
“Can’t get the window up. Your interior is going to be a mess.”
“It already is.” I’m not worried.
“Where were you going on a night like this?”
“Would’ve been safer to stay in town. Then again, Gracyn, trouble seems to find you.”
I place a delicate hand over my heart feigning shock. Then I glower. “I’m twenty-six not sixteen. Check my bag. I swear you won’t find any weed in there this time.”
“The lot of you.”
“The lot of us? You mean me and my cousins? Don’t lump us in with your friends. Didn’t you meet my fathers’ family through my Aunt Brier?”
When Joe laughs his intense brown eyes crinkle with kindness at the corners. He pulls the yellow hood off his head. Short, more pepper than salt hair, is trimmed tight on the sides and a little longer on the top. He brushes a few drops of water from his olive complexion before answering me. “Yep, I did. And you are—”
“The spitting image of my Aunt Daveigh.” Which has gotten me out of all sorts of jams. She’s the nicest person ever. “I’m also an upstanding businesswoman. Pillar of the community.”
“Same as your grandmother?” he mocks.
“The very same.” Or at least I intend to be. “Miss Rose will be very happy that you came to my rescue.”
“Not tonight she won’t. If you think this is bad, you should see Taysha Creek. The roads are flooded all over the county. You’re not making it to Kingsbrier tonight.” Joe glances at my soggy vehicle and gives me the side-eye when his gaze lands on my cell. Everyone on God’s green earth—or at least this county and the surrounding ones—got the emergency alert.
Instead of letting him lay into me I change the subject. “Where are you going? Does your shift start soon?”
“Just got off.” That explains the rain gear and personal vehicle instead of the sheriff’s department SUV. “I’ll take you back to my place. Call one of your dads and let him know you’re safe.”
“Me or you?”
I watch a pulse point in his neck strain as he puts on his seatbelt and decide to buckle up before I do something out of line. Like licking it.
“You, upstanding citizen. I’m not doing it for you. I’m not one of your parents.”
No kidding. I catch myself before the words leave my lips. I doubt Joe will appreciate the meaning.
He thrusts the truck into gear. Like the ones we go mudding in, it glides onto the grassy shoulder and around the puddle-approaching-lake with ease.
In the darkness, I take in the dashboard light reflecting off his chiseled face and the way Joe scans the area, making sure we’re safe and no one else is in danger.
By the time we get to Joe’s, I’ve chosen to use my insurance check on a new half-ton. Metallic black with silver tones. After all, this is Texas. Real women need a way to keep their motor running.
Copyright ©2019 Jody Kaye
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a creation of the Author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, establishments, event or locales is coincidental... That's right, I made it all up!
This excerpt is taken from an uncorrected proof of the book. Mistakes are possible... In other words, I'm human too.
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