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Authors: Autumn Piper

Trouble Won't Wait

BOOK: Trouble Won't Wait
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Cover Copy

 

Good things may come to those who wait, but trouble waits for no one…

 

Cheating is a dealbreaker...or so Mandy’s always thought. But when she catches her husband getting some “strange,” she realizes how hard it is to cut and run, or even file papers. She agrees to a month of counseling, which will give her time to grieve the loss of her marriage before she has to tell the world–and the kids. Then she meets Adam, who gives her a hunky–if mysterious–shoulder to cry on, and that thirty-day waiting period seems like an eternity.

 

Adam has no problem confessing that he’s watched Mandy from his window for months as she runs by his house. If he told her why, though, she’d freak out for sure. He knows they’ve got a future together, if he can think of a way to explain his past. And he’s sure the rat-bastard who cheated on her is putting the moves on her again, but he won’t be the revenge guy. The month-long cooling off period she agreed to is lasting forever, and might just be indefinite, if trouble keeps getting in their way.

 

Content Warning: Eccentric old lady pushing salt-of-the-earth advice, bossy big brother, kooky counselor, super-secretive hunk, and perfect justice served amidst adult situations and language.

 

 

Highlight

 

I snap the phone shut.

Adam pats my back.

I’m feeling a little proud, and a lot sick. A wicked combination of nerves, exhaustion and barely eating has me shaking, my heart racing, legs suddenly weak.

“Hey, you okay?” Adam’s voice is soft, worried.

I can only nod. If I speak I’ll be sick all over my shoes. After a minute or so, I’m not lightheaded anymore, and stand. God, how embarrassing, to go all weak in front of him!

“You’re pale.” He strokes my cheek with his fingertips. I must look awful, but he seems concerned, not disgusted. “You’re freezing. Come on.” He leads me toward his house.

Halfway to his back gate, it comes to me: I cannot go in there, not in this mood.

“Adam. Hold on.”

He stops and faces me.

I press my eyes with the heels of my hands. “Do you
want
to be my revenge?”

His laugh is warm, lusty. “Would there be opportunity for advancement? A possibility for a permanent position?”

“Probably not at this point. Revenge would be a temp position only.”

“Then, no. I’ll keep arms’ reach away from you, Scout’s honor.”

A
rms’ reach
, rather than
arms’ length
… Freudian slip?

 

 

Trouble Won’t Wait

By Autumn Piper

 

 

Foreword

 

Some people hate it when the “bad guy” really isn’t so bad, only human. Sure, it’s easier on the conscience if everything is black and white. But life isn’t always simple…

 

 

Dedication

 

For Jim, who not only sent me home to write that long-ago day, but also encourages me to keep on keeping on. Toyota, baby.

 

Acknowledgements

 

Thanks to all my awesome critique partners, from RWC, Morgan’s, and HEART. I shudder to think where this book–and my others–would be without the advice. Special thanks to Amanda B, my reading expert, and Kelly H, who also beta read this book when it was my first complete project. Kate, you’re always my sounding-board and a wonderful friend. And Mary, who I trusted could do the book justice and edit the heck out of it. You’re the bomb, pal.

 

Lastly, thanks to the wonderful friends around Rifle, who’ve read my other Trouble books and spread the word around town. You have no idea how much your recommendations mean to me. Really–thank you.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

They’ve had their turkey, they’ve had their pie. And now, thank God, they’ve gone home. In my next life, I positively
will not
marry a guy if his family irritates me more than my own does. It sounded like fun the first year my husband, Mike, convinced his family to come to our house for Thanksgiving. Mom brought a ham, little sister brought a veggie tray. Mom helped out with the cooking inside while the guys hovered around the turkey fryer outside, then everybody threw in together to get it all on the table. Good fun, especially when there was help cleaning up. Each year since, I’ve done a little more, and everybody else, less.

The dysfunctional family I married into managed to get along for the last couple of years, but now everything’s back to normal. Today’s knock-down, drag-out left us with mother-in-law tears in the Jell-O salad and sister-in-law screams we could have cut the turkey with. My man, meanwhile, enjoyed his feast like nothing had happened, favoring the Broncos game with the attention he knows his entire family, but most of all his mother, covets. No point even trying to determine who was at fault. It’s the dance they do whenever they’re all together.

I’ve got to get out of here, walk off some of this mood.

I slip into my running clothes, then make the kids break eye contact with their Playstation game to assure me they heard where I’m going, and leave
him
sleeping in front of the all-important game.

Thanksgiving Day in Rifle, Colorado can mean any kind of weather. Thankfully–indeed, since it
is
a day of thanks–today it’s a brilliant sixty degrees. The sky is a perfect shade of blue I’ve never seen anywhere but in the mountains. A little wind nips, making me glad of my windbreaker. More cause for thanks, right?

Good thing I fed those ingrates early. Even after they took off and left me with one spectacular mess to clean up by myself, I still have some afternoon left. Billy Idol is blasting in my iPhone when I start speed-walking what we locals call
the loop
. The loop is an oval of county roads around the cemetery, two elementary schools, three churches, two major neighborhoods in town, and several small ranches–soon to be more neighborhoods. It’s about a forty-five minute walk for me, somewhere around three miles with a few steep hills involved.

Rifle is on the western slope of Colorado, where any three miles will have some steep hills. The loop has few sidewalks, so whenever some maniac in a vehicle comes speeding over a hill or around a corner, I skid and crunch off the edge of the ever-chipping pavement onto the gravel shoulder. Today I’m burning off more tension than usual, and run up all the hills. Oooh, the burn in my hips, the breath like fire in my chest! But it clears my head.

More than the in-laws have me steamed today. Like the
incident
last night.

No work this morning meant Mike didn’t have to get up early, so we were hanging at a friend’s house last night, drinking. That’s all anybody does at Brad’s house. To be honest, I’m not sure he’d
let
adults hang there without drinking.

He has a daughter a couple of years older than our kids, and it’s his weekend or holiday, however he and his ex divvy her up. Anyway, the kids were playing in the basement, and the adults were recreating with alcohol.

Brad has a girlfriend who makes it her mission to have every guy she encounters think of her sexually. She’s quite good at it. My theory is, she oozes buckets of some pheromone other women have in tiny quantities. Hell,
I
even look at the tramp and think
sex
.

Well, last night, while fetching a Hard Lemonade from the beer fridge in the garage, I found my life-partner with the walking aphrodisiac…in a very compromising position. And what did I do about it? Nada. Zilch. In fact, the only indication my aforementioned spouse has that I remember catching him, is today we’ve only exchanged words absolutely imperative to cooking a turkey dinner for eleven. And just what
will
I do about it? No clue. Which is why I’m out here punishing my body instead of inside napping like all the sane people in this country.

Just passed the Mormon Church. One more incline to blast up, then I’ll walk around the cemetery awhile to cool off. Some people get weirded out by the cemetery. But it’s quiet, there are rarely any cars, and I like it. So sue me.

I remove my headphones and turn off my music, reveling in silence. In the good part of the year, huge cottonwood trees provide refreshing shade. Their leaves rattle softly in even the slightest breeze, sounding like a creek rushing by. Now, they all stand naked, as they will until next April. In the summer, we have a lovely cemetery. Fall and winter, it’s like a setting in a novel by Stephen King. Or Poe. The grass is brown and the silent, bare tree limbs reaching overhead appear every bit as dead as the folks buried below them.

The pavement in the cemetery is in even worse shape than out on the county road. I think maybe this paving was done with asphalt’s prototype, it’s that old. I’m walking on it, though, not Rollerblading, right? People showing up here for burial services sure aren’t concerned with the condition of the asphalt. The dead couldn’t care less. They couldn’t care more either, for that matter.

The dead are exactly the reason this place is so peaceful. Hardly anybody wants to hang here. Kids come riding bikes in the summer, dodging the larger-than-life sprinklers when they start operating on no particular schedule. Hey, maybe the timer’s haunted! Just a joke. No, I don’t think death is funny. Do I fear it? Not so much. Do I fear I screwed up the little time I have here on Earth by marrying the wrong person? Oh, yeah. Times ten, today.

I wander past the headstone where a friend is buried. He killed himself when we were eighteen. Big, fat waste. Guess he had bigger problems than I have now. More reason to be thankful.

It’s a short walk to my grandparents’ graves from here. I won’t go there today, though. I’ll just mosey around the roads a few minutes more.

A guy is walking up the main road. I know many of the people in town, but not all, like everybody did here in the seventies. Rifle has grown a lot since then. He doesn’t look creepy, so I won’t try to beat it out of here, even though nobody can see me here on the back side of the hill.

Please
. What would he want with me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking better. Been walking off about ten years of accumulated, sedimentary butt. Not
sedentary
–I’ve never been a couch potato. No, this is
sedimentary
, one fat layer on top of the last. Just got caught up in the mommy lifestyle. Too many Happy Meals, too much time spent doing everything I had to, except for taking care of
me
. I’ve got it licked now, though. Me and the loop, taking on the fat, and winning.

Strange Man is making a bee-line to where I am, so I dodge, without looking like I’m retreating, by meandering through the old section. Here, it’s hard to read the writing on the crumbling stones. Some are ordinary concrete, engraved with the life facts of less fortunate souls, whose families couldn’t afford or wouldn’t spring for harder stone to have carved
en memoriam
. I kneel and pretend to read the name of somebody who died in 1905, and Strange Man heads over. Does he have a question? Maybe he thinks I’m not allowed here, and he’s going to tell me so.

With my hair shielding most of my face, I watch him approach. Loose-fit Levi’s, boots–maybe Docs–and a red t-shirt. Nothing unusual. A hint of receding hairline, then brownish hair, almost a dark blond, mussed with gel. Blue eyes. God, I can see them from way back here. A smile, and now that he’s close, dimples. Nice teeth, a good day’s stubble same shade as the hair.

“Hi. Do you come here often?” He says it like a smooth pick-up line in a bar, and we both laugh. He’s probably thirty-five, and too attractive to be single. No ring, probably gay. “I’m Adam.”

When he extends his hand, I take it. It’s warm and strong.

“Mandy. Amanda.” I’m suddenly very aware of how sweaty I am from running up the hill. My sports bra is soaked under my shirt. I must smell. My hand is still a willing captive in his. “I was just, er, walking.” I never say I’m running; that sounds athletic, which I don’t consider myself to be.

“I saw you running, from my house. I see you every day.” A flush spreads up his neck. Why does it sound like an apology? “Mandy.” He nods, committing my name to memory.

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