(It starts just after the armadillo incident, which is all I’m going to say for those of you who might not have read the book yet. And if you haven’t read the book yet, you can sign up for my monthly contest to win a copy, or you can find it at any of these fine retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords)
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Jackson reached over the fence and smoothly clicked the lock open. His dog trotted through to the back yard. “Come on in.”
That sounded like a very bad idea. A very good, very bad idea.
“You ain’t got other supper plans, do you?” he said.
Anna’s plans hadn’t included wondering half the night if he wanted to kiss her or not. She had few enough brain cells left to figure out that puzzle. “I have some leftover hot dish at home I should really eat before I goes bad.”
“The original Minnesota casserole.”
“I got steak.”
She did have a working freezer, and hot dish froze well. And she hadn’t had a good steak in—well, about as long as it’d been since she’d been turned on by a hot, sweaty man. “I wouldn’t want to—”
“’Course you wouldn’t.” He grinned. “But you brought dessert, so I s’ppose that makes us even.”
“You really think a pie makes dinner and coffee even?”
His lips were twitching again. He shot a glance toward the garbage can, then met her eyes and solemnly shook his head. “Maybe, maybe not. But you’re lookin’ like you could use a good meal, and I sure wouldn’t be mindin’ some pretty company.”
This attraction to him had to be a rebound thing, because all this pretty-little-lady-ing he was doing had never really been her thing.
Of course, it’d been a long time since she’d had a thing.
The question of what her thing was now was somewhere beyond that gate. Or maybe she’d find out what her thing wasn’t, but she definitely had to go through that gate.
She squared her shoulders and marched ahead. “As long as you’re sure it’s not a bother.”
The gate clanged shut behind them. “Ain’t nothin’ ‘bout you ever been a bother.”
As if he’d tell her if she was.
He let them into the house through the screened-in porch, his dog moseying along next to him. “She’s sweet,” Anna said.
“Best dog I ever had.” He slid the pie onto the counter and ruffled the dog’s ears. She panted happily.
“How’d she get her name?”
Jackson flashed another of those ornery grins. “Aw, now, that ain’t a right proper story for a lady.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and set it next to the pie. “You go on and make yourself at home. Won’t take but a minute to get cleaned up.”
As he trailed through the kitchen toward the door leading to his bedroom, Anna noticed drawers half-cocked and a smattering of dishes on the counters. Her blood pressure ticked up a notch.
Not my house.
But she’d put the kitchen in such nice order before.
The door to Jackson’s bedroom clicked shut. Anna caught a glimpse of stacks of DVDs still in the living room.
She’d thought he was kidding.
Good thing this was just for fun.
She tackled the kitchen first. He still didn’t have a silverware organizer, and she found miscellaneous mixing bowls stacked on top of his plates when she went to put the dishes from the dishwasher away. Radish curled up under the table in the breakfast nook and watched her. The dog probably even knew she was wasting her time, but she felt better once things were closer to how she’d left them.
The sounds of water running drifted through the walls.
He was showering.
She paused to give her rear end a glance. A few streaks of dirt lined her pants, and a couple errant blades of grass. At least she’d fallen in a yard waste can instead of the trash.
But where were his southern manners now? Shouldn’t he have invited her to get cleaned up too? With him, to conserve water?
The taste of strawberries tickled her tongue.
She shook herself straight and headed to the fridge. He’d said he had steak. A salad would be nice with it.
He had a six-pack of Budweiser, a half-gallon of whole milk, half a dozen take-out cartons, three full plastic grocery sacks, one apple, and a bag of some weird green stuff she’d never seen before. It sort of resembled shriveled jalepenos, but with thicker, duller skin.
She opened the bag and gave it a sniff. It smelled kinda like dirt. Was this supposed to be edible?
She glanced into his fridge again.
“You like okra, Anna Grace?”
She jumped. So that’s what okra looked like. She turned to face him. “I haven’t developed a taste for it yet.”
“Ain’t had it cooked right then.” He took the bag from her and shoved it back into the fridge, his hand resting in the small of her back as he leaned past her. His short hair was damp, and the fresh scent of Old Spice rolling off him made her want to bury her nose in his chest again. He grabbed one of the grocery bags, then went to the counter to sort out the contents. “You like grits?”
She shut the fridge door and turned to face him. “I’ve had them once or twice.”
He grinned. “Ain’t ever had those right either, have you? How long you been here?”
“A couple years.”
He shook his head. “And ain’t no one given you good grits? That’s a shame right there.”
Her thighs clenched. She wouldn’t have minded trying his grits.
The way his lips curved and his eyes went all cobalt made her wonder if he’d read her mind. She bumped into an open drawer as she straightened. “I guess you’ll have to fix that then. What can I do to help?”
He eyed her. “You know your way around a pie, I’ll give you that, but I ain’t so sure yet ‘bout you messin’ with my cookin’. How’s ‘bout you sit on down and watch how this is done?”
“Oh, come on. What’s it take to make grits? Boiling some water? I’m very good in the kitchen.”
“I bet you’re good a lot of places.”
She had no doubt he was too.
He slid a man-sized steak out of the bag and set it on the counter, then grinned at her. “But you ain’t touchin’ my grits.” He pointed his elbow toward the living room. “You wanna pick a movie?”
Was that code for Let’s eat, then make out? Or was he just hoping she’d put all his DVDs away?
She hadn’t cleaned a really good mess since the last time she was here. “Sure.”
By the time Jackson brought in two steaming but mismatched plates of steak, cheese grits, and potato chips, she’d split his DVDs by genre and alphabetized them on a bookshelf that had been pushed up against the wall. He eyed the DVDs before handing Anna a plate. “Shucks, Anna Grace, you didn’t have to do that. Guess I owe you one now.”
* * *
*Sigh* I love that Southern man. 🙂
Fun fact: In the first draft of Southern Fried Blues, there were less than half a dozen scenes in Jackson’s point of view. And as my good friend Kelsey Browning said, to quote her sister, “That would’ve been a tragesty.” (Yes, tragesty. And if you like that word, you’ll like Kelsey’s books too!)
Thanks so much to each and every one of you for loving Jackson and Anna enough to want to keep seeing their deleted scenes! 🙂 You all make every minute of this crazy writer life worthwhile, and I love you all for it!