Henry and Vivien have known each other for a long ass time and they never got along so when Vivien comes back to town to bury her Mom, she runs into Henry Whitley-Shuler again after years and years things are a lot more interesting than they were back then.
From JUST KISS ME by Rachel Gibson. Copyright © 2016 by Rachel Gibson. Reprinted by permission of Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Vivien had been vaguely aware of Spence’s recent wedding, and she wasn’t a bit surprised he’d bagged a Coleman. It would have been more shocking if he hadn’t married into a family with an old name and political ties. She didn’t recall Henry having beautiful manners at all. In fact, she was fairly certain she recalled his appalling manners and she really didn’t care if she ever laid eyes on him again. Not after the horrible condom incident, when she thought Henry might choke her to death.
The horrible incident had taken place when she’d been thirteen, but she still recalled the fire in his black eyes as if it had happened yesterday. That summer, Henry had just graduated from his fancy prep school, and he and Spence had spent the summer like always, lazing the days away at Hilton Head. As usual, Vivien spent her summer in Charleston, working in the big house, dusting tables and shelves and massive bedroom furniture.
And, of course, snooping.
The day of the condom incident, she’d popped her latest *NSYNC CD into her Discman, stuffed in her earbuds, and rocked out as she cleaned. She sang along to “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” practiced her dance moves, and brushed the top of Henry’s empire dresser with her feather duster. She’d glanced behind her for good measure, then she slid open the first drawer. Behind a row of socks, she just happened to discover a box of Trojans. The words of her favorite song died on her lips as she took a closer look and read, “Extended pleasure, climax control lubricant.” Whatever that meant, she hadn’t clue. Vivien had pathetically little experience with boys. At least she thought it was pathetic. While *NSYNC sang about the pain tearing up their hearts and souls, Vivien counted six condoms in the box that originally had held a dozen.
“What the hell are you doing?” she heard above her music.
A squeaky scream escaped her lips as she spun around. The box of Trojans fell from her hand and her heart pounded boom-boom-boom in her chest. Butt Head Henry stood several feet away, his dark brows lowered over his scary, dark eyes.
She pulled out the earbuds with her free hand and turned off her Discman. “What are you doing home?” He was supposed to be in Hilton Head.
“I live here.” He looked bigger than usual. Taller. His shoulders wider, and he was better-looking than before too. Like her mamaw Roz always said, “He’s as handsome as a wet paint.” Vivien didn’t know what that meant, but if she liked him at all, even a little, she might think of changing his name from Butt Head to Handsome Henry. Only she didn’t like him and he was mad. Real mad. So mad he looked scary. So scary his squinty eyes shined like wet onyx. His cheeks turned a deep red with it, but no matter his anger, Henry was a Southern boy. He’d been raised with manners and morals that would never allow him to hit a girl. Just because he wouldn’t hit her, didn’t mean he wasn’t scary as all get-out.
“What are you doing in my room, Vivien?”
She held up the feather duster. “Cleaning.”
“My underwear?” He developed a worrying little tic at one corner of his mouth.
No, she didn’t fear him physically, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t in trouble. If he ratted her out, she was in deep, deep do-do with her momma. “Your sock drawer, actually,” she corrected him.
He pointed to the box at her feet. “Those were in the back of my sock drawer.”
In the middle, but she thought it best not to quibble. Instead, she looked behind his back to the empty doorway and wondered if she could get around him and make a run for it.
“Does your momma know you snoop?”
The best defense was always a good offence. “Does your momma know you have condoms in your sock drawer?” She slid a bit to her right and figured her best hope for an exit was to distract him until she could get between him and the door. “What does climax control mean?”
The little tic got a little scarier. “Ask Macy Jane when you tell her what you do up here when no one is watching you.”
“I’m not going to tell my momma.”
“Oh, I think you are.” He took a step forward and towered over Vivien.
She shook her head, more scared then she thought possible or wanted to let him know. No way could she tell her momma. She’d get mad then sad and might stay in bed for a week. She might even “take a switch” to Vivien like she always threatened. This time she might actually get around to it. “If you don’t tell on me, I won’t tell on you.”
“No one cares about condoms at my age.” As if to prove he was eighteen, he lifted a hand to scratch the dark stubble on his jaw.
That was probably true. Vivien crossed her arms over her chest and brought out the big guns. “Your momma will care when I tell her about Tracy Lynn Fortner.”
His hand fell to his side and his voice got real low. “What did you say?”
“You heard me.”
He stared at her without blinking. “How do you know about that?”
Years of snooping, of course.
“No one knows about that.”
Fifteen years had passed since the horrible condom incident and Vivien saw little of Henry after that day. She’d steered real clear of him. Not that it had been necessary. Once Henry went off to college, he hadn’t returned very often to Charleston.
Vivien pushed open the French doors to the townhouse and kicked off her shoes. Strong winds blew the tops of the trees and scattered leaves about the old brick. She hadn’t ever breathed a word about Tracy Lynn Fortner. Not because she feared Henry’s wrath, but even at thirteen, she knew that Tracy Lynn would suffer much more than Henry. Vivien might have been a little bratty, and a lot nosey, but she’d never been intentionally mean and hurtful.
Barefoot, she stepped outside and into the courtyard. Patches of sand and dead azaleas covered the brick, and she walked past a concrete angel partially covered in ivy. She moved to the bed of impatiens and knelt down beside the brick border. Her mother had loved impatiens, and Vivien picked one of the little red flowers.
The clouds above her head boomed and she felt the vibration in the air and beneath her knees. She brought the little flower to her nose as the skies opened and showered her with big fat drops.
Tears filled her eyes as she picked flowers and made a delicate posy like her momma had taught her. She set it by her knee then bent forward and parted plants. She searched the ground beneath the thick leaves. With each drop of rain, each tear that rolled down her cheek, her search got more frantic. The champagne cork from her mother’s party had been so insignificant. She’d ignored it at the time and forgotten it until now. Now it took on an importance beyond a mere stopper. It was a tangible trace, a link of that special day with her mother. The rain soaked her hair and dress. Her hands got muddy and sand dug into her knees. She didn’t care. She leaned farther into the bed of wet flowers, her deep sobs rushing from her lips and pulling at her chest. As if she was just inches away from discovering a lost horde of gold, her search got more frantic.
“What are you doing out here?” a man’s voice boomed over the thunder.
A startled gasp escaped her dry mouth and her heart stopped.
“Besides digging in the mud.”
She looked over her shoulder, and through the rain and tears blurring her vision, she stared at a pair of dark jeans and work boots. A single raindrop fell from her lashes as her gaze moved up his long legs, over the bulge of his button fly to the gray Henley splattered with rain. She looked up past his tan jaw and lips and into his dark eyes.
“Hello, Ms. Vivien,” Henry Whitley-Shuler drawled, pulling the vowels like warm taffy. “It’s been a long time.”
This was a good one, I can’t wait for you guys to read it for yourselves. 🙂
Rachel was born in Boise, Idaho, USA. Her father worked for a telephone company, and her mother was a house wife. Idaho has the largest population of Basques outside of the Basque lands of Spain. She grew up with kids with last names like Uberuaga, Berriochoa, and Egisquiza, but years later she discovered the rest of the country didn’t really know much about the Basque culture or history.
Rachel’s storytelling career began at the age of sixteen when she ran her Chevy Vega into the side of a hill, retrieved the bumper and broken glass from the ground, and drove to her High School parking lot. With the help of her friend, she strategically scattered the broken pieces and told her parents she’d been the victim of a hit and run. They believed her, and she’s been telling stories ever since. Afther the High School, she married with Mr. Gibson. At 25, she already had three children. One day, her TV broke, and she read her first romance, The Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee, she loved it, and six years later she published her first novel. With the publication in 1998 of New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rachel Gibson’s first book, Simply Irresistible, readers discovered one of contemporary romance’s freshest voices. Her debut novel was named one of the ten favorite books by the membership of the Romance Writers of America, and other of her three novels were named among the Top Ten Favorite Books of the Year by Romance Writers of America. Her fourth novel, True Confessions, was awarded the RITA, Romance Writers of America’s highest honor of excellence. Some of Rachel’s other awards and achievements include The Golden Heart Award, the National Reader’s Choice, Amazon Editor’s Top Pick, Publisher Weekly’s Quill nominee and Borders bestselling romantic comedy for 2006. Rachel continues living in her native Boise, and when not writing, Rachel can be found boating on Payette Lake with Mr. Gibson, shopping for shoes, or forcing her love on an ungrateful cat.