Authors: Lucky Stevens
Copyright © 2014 by Lucky Stevens
Mill City Press, Inc.
Avenue North, Fifth Floor
Minneapolis, MN 55401
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, names and dialogue herein are products of the author's imagination and are not to be interpreted as real. Any resemblance to actual incidents or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
I would like to sincerely acknowledge and thank those who have truly helped to make this book what it is. It’s funny when I look back at what I thought was a completed manuscript and after having gotten such wonderful suggestions, feedback and insight, realize how much better this labor of love now is because of the generosity of others. Thank you all so much for your willingness to be honest with me and for your help in letting me see my work through different eyes. Thank you to Mom, Dad, Bro, Vijay, the Mill City Press gang and, of course, Summer Knight.
I would also like to thank Spell Check for consistently pointing out my spelling errors. I must say that I put in some pretty long hours—sometimes late into the night—but your relentless commitment never wavered throughout the writing of my book. Not only are you thorough, but your feedback is given with such decorum, subtlety and finesse that I never for a minute felt attacked or belittled in any way. This won’t mean anything to others, of course, but thanks for the “little red wavy lines”.
Repeat after me. With this ring...”
“With this ring...”
“I thee wed.”
“I thee wed.”
“By the power vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you, husband and wife. You may kill the bride. I mean
His head went driving forward as he sat upright. He was sweating and breathing hard, the covers bunched around his mid-section.
His wife turned over and faced him. “What’s the matter, Honey? Did you have a nightmare?” She rubbed his arm.
He turned his head in her direction. “You know what they say about nightmares don’t you?”
“It’s only a nightmare if you let it bother you.”
ART WAS DOING ABOUT fifty when the little Japanese job came out of nowhere and cut him off. He layed on his horn and constructed a pretty nice little string of expletives that, in spite of the content, rolled off his tongue with a certain polished eloquence.
The car, a bare bones Toyota Tercel, was now in front of his semi and seemed to be making no effort whatsoever to compensate for the cutoff. As a matter of fact it was chugging along a good fifteen miles per hour below the speed limit.
Hart rolled his eyes and punched the horn again. “Come on. First you cut me off and then you drag your ass down my lane, you stupid idiot,” he shouted.
The road ran along a desolate strip of warehouse-sized businesses. Strictly industrial with only one lane for coming and going.
And if all this wasn’t bad enough, now the driver of the Tercel was sticking her arm out the window and pointing above the car’s roof for Hart to pull over.
“Pull over? Just get the hell out of my way.”
The shoulder, when there was one, was nothing more than a sliver of dirt. The Tercel then pulled over, the ass of the car stuck out, making it that much harder to pass.
Hart wanted to just go around her. And he would have loved to have clipped her bumper in the process. Instead, out of angry and bored curiosity, he pulled over as well, hugging the sliver of shoulder as much as he could.
Hart got out of his cab and slammed the door. He was fuming, but also scoffing in pure disbelief.
What the hell could possibly be going on here?
He rounded the cab of his truck and stopped. Standing in front of him was a woman. She was half turned toward him, her hands on her hips and her silky blonde hair was covering the left side of her face.
The view took over for a moment as he put his impulsive mouth on hold, his eyes tracing her silhouette up and down a few times. She was wearing a body hugging red dress, slitted up the side, and high heels— who knew what kind? They made her legs look great.
But the thing that really knocked Hart out was what was
there. It was a button right across the juicy part of the bust line on her dress.
Oh my God.
You’ve heard the expression, ‘Take a picture, why don’t you.’ ? Well Hart stopped dead in his tracks. He wanted to take a picture alright. Then he wanted to blow it up and stare at it all day long...
That little gap there. It drove him nuts. When his eyes traced her body up and down, he couldn’t wait to get back to that part. Huge red bursting plums on the outside and the same luscious contours on the inside, half white and lacy, gently scooping, and half rosy succulent flesh that would never be riper.
As he stared at her, for the life of him, he couldn’t remember what he had been mad about. And if he could, maybe he didn’t care anymore.
She was the first to talk.
“What are you doing?”
“What do you mean what am I doing? You cut me off.” He said it matter of factly, his tone in check, unsure at this point exactly how he wanted to come off.
And as the conversation progressed, Hart’s eyes dropped to that incredible gap in her dress every chance he could, as he tried not to appear too obvious. It was something that he had absolutely no talent for whatsoever. As a result, he looked
obvious and she noticed every time.
The conversation, other than Hart’s view, was going nowhere, that is until the woman pointed her finger at him and began waving it. Her mouth opened, hanging in mid-air until she finally spoke.
“Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Hart?”
Hearing her say his name felt exciting.
She knows me?
And then, the next moment, terrifying.
What or where does she know me from?
“Maybe. Who wants to kn—” And then it hit him as he really looked at her face for the first time. It wasn’t that it didn’t knock him out. It did. It’s just that there had been so much to focus on.
He squinted a little and pointed back to her. “Brandy.” He kept pointing, moving his finger up and down. “Wow, you look incredible.”
She smiled. “Thanks.”
“Now your driving, that could use some work.”
“Maybe you could give me some pointers sometime. You a good driver, Hart?”
Before he could answer, a woman walked by, slowing but not stopping as she said, “You missed a button.” She sort of whispered it as if Hart wouldn’t hear and she winced a little like she was embarrassed.
“Mind your own business,” said Brandy.
The woman glanced back and frowned and then kept on walking.
Maybe the missed button was on purpose.
Hell, maybe this whole meeting had been on purpose.
The small indentation in the wall was like a bullseye as the door to Brandy’s apartment flung open and the knob slammed into it making a fresh gaping hole in the plaster.
Hart and Brandy couldn’t get their clothes off fast enough as they pawed and tugged at each other like a couple of animals. They were nowhere near the stage where anything mattered other than getting at each other and fast. Everything else came a distant second. Ripped clothes, birth control, damaged plaster, bumps, bruises, scratches.
When they were done, they lay on top of one another heaving unevenly, and eventually in rhythm. Then they talked and ate pizza in bed. It was all just passing time until the next round.
“So how long’s it been since I last saw you?” Hart asked.
“Really, that long? That’s ten years. Boy, you sure have grown up and in all the right places, too.”
Brandy smiled. “You know I always had a crush on you.”
“Yeah? No, I didn’t know that.” It felt great to be the object of desire by someone so beautiful.
“Yeah, yeah. Think about it. I mean there you were, star of the football team. Three years older than me and then you started dating my cousin. I loved rooting you on. And you didn’t even know I existed.”
“I do now.”
“So how is Summer?”
“And how’s your life? Are you happy?”
He shrugged. “It’s okay. You know, making a living. Doing what I have to do.”
They were quiet for a moment, both thinking.
“You know,” Hart continued. “It’s funny. When you’re in high school you think you’re life’s going to turn out so much different than it actually does.”
“What did you think it was going to be like?”
“I thought I’d be a star running back in the NFL and stinking rich.”
Brandy smiled. “You were amazing to watch. You had such, such—”
“That’s it, dramatic flair. Great way to put it. I still remember how you’d spin around, avoid tackles and the way you’d run. Oh, it was amazing.”
“Those were great times,” he said.
“Do you ever wish your life could be different?”
“Yeah, I guess everyone does sometimes. Do you?”
“Oh yeah. So what do you think separates people who wish things were different from people who make them different?” she asked.
“Balls. Determination. What do you wish was different with you?”
“A lot of things. I wish I had someone to share my life with.”
Then she told him about her husband who died a few years ago and asked him if he remembered the last time they were supposed to see each other.
“Yeah. It was supposed to be two years ago at the reading of my grandmother’s will, but I never showed up. I already knew what was going to happen. How Summer was going to get her cabin and all. Summer didn’t even like that place.”
“You got some money.”
Brandy pushed her lips together. “Yeah. That’s all gone now.”
She smiled wanly and looked Hart in the eyes. “I guess I have a lot to be jealous about when it comes to Summer.”
Then they started up again, grinding and clawing at each other until they could barely walk.
IS SNAPPING FINGERS went completely unnoticed. The busy waitress, whose flared skirt twirled like a spinning umbrella as she bounced from table to table like a pinball, was just trying to keep up.
“Well, there’s another couple percent off her tip.”
“Oh Hart, you can eat a couple a fries without ketchup. It won’t kill you. Jeez.”
“Actually, French fries
kill you. Four out of five surgeon generals’ll tell you that.”
“Oh, shut up.” Brandy talked while powdering her nose. “You know, you haven’t even complimented me on my new hairstyle yet.”
“Well you should have said something about your hair. I’d be happy to compliment you.”
“Well?” she said.
Brandy clenched her lips and pointed to her hair.
“Oh yeah, it looks great, Baby.”
She sighed. “I guess it’s that two month itch. You don’t notice me anymore.”
“Of course I notice you.” Hart looked around and snapped his fingers again at the waitress’s backside which was a good ten feet away. “It’s just that I got a lot of stuff on my mind.”
“Like my wife, for one.”
. What about her?” Brandy rested her chin on the heel of her hand.
“I’m just tired of her. She has no dr—”
“—dramatic flair,” interrupted Brandy. “Yes, I’ve heard that from you once or twice. And by once or twice, I mean a few hundred times.”
Hart smiled. “Now, see you have dramatic flair. And by dramatic flair, I mean you’re a bitch.”
Brandy fluffed her hair. “Well, why don’t you just—” She stopped.
“Oh never mind. I was going to suggest that you get a divorce, but that’ll never happen. We’ve had that discussion once or twice as well.”
“Well hey, it’s not easy. Divorce has its problems. Like giving up half my stuff.”
“Well, I guess that leaves you no choice.”
“You’re going to have to kill her.” She drank her Coke, keeping one eye on Hart.
“What?” Hart said a little too loudly. Then leaning in, “You want me to kill my wife? Your cousin? You’re crazy.” Hart laughed.
“Yeah, I didn’t think you’d have the onions.”
Hart’s head turned as his peripheral vision, and then his hand, caught the waitress as she was on the verge of whizzing by. Squeezing her arm, his face stretched into a wide frozen grin. “Can I have some fuckin’ ketchup, please?”
The waitress frowned and started to open her mouth, unable to say anything, as she reached into her apron and handed him a bottle.
Hart threw her a perfunctory “thanks” and turned back to Brandy.
“Anyway, are you serious about Summer? It’s not exactly like taking out the trash, you know.”
“Okay, forget it. Drive a truck for the rest of your life. Stay poor. Stay married—to
. Go ahead.”
Hart clenched his teeth. “You know you’re painting a pretty nice picture here, but I’d still have to drive a truck, you know. I’d still be poor. It’s not like Summer’s got any money.”
“Not on her, no. But remember most people are worth more dead than alive,” Brandy said.
Hart looked at her.
Brandy put her hands out and held his across the table. She cocked her head just so, and her hair fell over her eye, Veronica Lake-style. “I’m sorry, Baby. I didn’t mean to upset you. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”
“It’s okay.” Hart looked down. “It’s just that, I don’t know, I really want to do something with my life. I mean I’ve worked my ass off driving that truck for ten years and all I’ve got to show for it is a mortgaged house, an aching back and a pack of hemorrhoids.”
“So it sounds like you’re saying that you really have nothing to lose.”
“I think I got married too young.”
“It was right out of high school, right?”
“Yeah. It’s crazy when you think about it. I mean I never really had a chance to figure things out. She’s basically the only girl I’ve ever been with and I never really knew what else was out there. What else I was missing. Like you.”
Brandy looked at Hart. She smiled and it spoke volumes. Sexy. Positive. Devilish.
“And I had to go to work right away to support us. I mean who knows what I could have accomplished if I hadn’t married Summer.”
“Sounds to me like you’re in a dead end.”
“Thanks for rubbing it in.”
Brandy shook her head. “I’m not trying to rub it in. I’m trying to say there’s hope. But you got to get Summer out of the way. It’s the only option if you really want to solve all your problems.”
Hart looked at her. She really was beautiful.
“Don’t worry,” she continued. “I’ll plan it out with you. It’s the only way. You gotta decide. Do you want to be happy or live some dull existence?”
She let it sink in a moment before adding, “And do want your happiness to start now? Or do you just want to dream about it? Let everyone else be rich and happy?”
Hart stared into Brandy’s eyes for a long time.
“How would we do it?”