Here it is, the last deleted scene from Southern Fried Blues. The following is what would’ve happened if Anna hadn’t missed Jackson’s text message about grabbing coffee. (I don’t know about y’all, but I’m pretty darn glad she missed that message. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have made that pie and met that armadillo and… well, you know. And if you don’t know, you should totally go check out Southern Fried Blues. It’s fun. I promise.)
* * *
By the time trivia ended at nine, Anna felt like an emotional punching bag and her cheeks hurt from forcing smiles all night long. Their table came in second in trivia, dead last in the race for an enjoyable evening. Anna didn’t wait around for the prize. She put cash on her receipt, pleaded homework, and slipped out the door. As she approached her car, her phone buzzed in her purse.
She pulled it out and checked her text message. Despite her aching cheeks, she found a smile at the note from Jackson. Coffee break?
She was ten minutes from home, twenty from school, and ten hours from facing Jules at work again. Much as the fluttering in her chest disagreed with the pounding in her head, she so didn’t have it in her to drive all the way out there tonight. Rain check? she typed back. She hoped he wasn’t already sitting at Jimmy Beans.
His reply arrived as she was buckling herself in. Yankee chicken.
It felt good to laugh. She slipped in her Bluetooth and hit his number as she backed out of the parking spot. When he answered a minute later, his warm, rich voice soothed away some of the louder pounding in her head. “Evenin’, Anna Grace.”
“You callin’ to make excuses?”
“Go on about it then.” Despite the few number of times she’d hung out with him, she could hear the smile in his voice.
She checked traffic, then pulled out of the parking lot. “Class was canceled.”
“So you been locked up studying hard all night so’s you can take some time off this weekend then?”
“That would’ve been more fun.”
“You havin’ another bad night?”
“Not me. A friend.” Anna braked for a red light glowing in the night. “I just got caught in the outer bands of the storm. Not sure if I helped or made it worse though.”
“Yeah? Make you feel better, you can cheer me up.”
“Did you have a bad day?” That was hard to picture.
“Nah. Couple flight delays. Had worse.”
He’d been out of town? Shouldn’t she have known?
Of course she shouldn’t have known. One kiss didn’t make him responsible for telling her his every move.
Still, it would’ve been nice to know that was why he hadn’t called for coffee earlier in the week. Something whirred in the background, then Anna heard grinding. “You’re at Jimmy Beans, aren’t you?”
“Might could be.”
Anna winced. She was so tired.
But chai tea was a terrible thing to waste.
But she was so tired.
But Jackson might kiss her again if she turned around and headed for Jimmy Beans.
Her heart sped up. She switched lanes. She could turn around in the gas station up ahead.
“You workin’ tomorrow?”
Crap again. “Unfortunately.” Stupid military hours. She passed the gas station. “You didn’t do anything all macho and order me a drink already, did you?”
“Aw, now, you think I’d be steppin’ all over your independent Yankee ways like that?”
“What’s wrong with being independent?”
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with it, so’s it don’t interfere with a guy’s ego.”
“So your ego needs me to meet you for coffee?”
He chuckled. “Darlin’, seein’ you ain’t ever been for my ego.”
Right. Because she wasn’t a good long-term prospect. She answered trivia questions, organized kitchens, and could play the heck out of rednek golf, but other than that, all she had going for her were decent genes and a spotty sense of humor. “Then what is it for?”
“Anna?” For a guy who had being a chauvinistic redneck down pat, he sounded remarkably wary.
“What’s it for?” she said. “What’s in this for you? Do you have some thing for women who’re just out of relationships? You want the rest of your house organized? You like losing in redneck golf? What?”
She slowed her car to turn onto her street. Just stamp her forehead with high maintenance, not ready for relationships already. It’d be a lot less embarrassing than having a mini-meltdown on her not-boyfriend.
After a long pause, he spoke. “You make me want to make you smile.”
She blinked at her dark apartment looming before her. “Why?”
He chuckled. “You got class Monday?”
“Every Monday from now to eternity.”
“How ‘bout you meet me after class, and I’ll see if I can figure it out by then.”
Monday. Not over the weekend. Monday. So she was good enough for a late night rendezvous, but she didn’t qualify for weekend time?
Oh, lordy. She was an idiot. “Are you married?”
“Am I—what?” A weird strangled noise came over the line. “No, ma’am.”
Kaci must’ve been right about his momma raising him right, because despite his tone, he hadn’t added the hell, no part. “You have a problem with marriage?”
“Ain’t really my thing. You lookin’ for a another ring?”
She shuddered. “Absolutely not.”
“Then seems to me we might could get along right well.”
She felt a little zing between her thighs at the thought of commitment-free sex with Jackson. But she still couldn’t figure out, other than her own aversion to a long-term commitment, why he wanted her. Maybe she should be more worried about his sanity than her own. “Do you know I don’t even know what you do for a living?”
“Uncle Sam owns me. That okay with you?”
The dip in her stomach had nothing to do with excitement this time. But if this was no-strings, what was the harm? “I want to buy my own coffee this time.”
“Just ‘cuz you can do somethin’ don’t mean you hafta.”
She could do no-commitment sex, couldn’t she?
She’d have to if she ever wanted to get laid again, because apparently the marriage thing wasn’t for her either. She coasted to a stop in front of her apartment and killed the engine. “Still, I’m buying my own coffee.”
He heaved a sigh. “S’ppose if that’s the price I gotta pay to spend an evenin’ with a pretty lady, it’s the price I gotta pay.”
Anna swung her purse over her shoulder and climbed out of the car. The last time she was in college, she’d been irritated by guys who just wanted a pretty girl. Especially since she’d never thought of herself as particularly pretty.
But this wasn’t about much more than two people enjoying each other’s company, so did it matter why he wanted to spend time with her? “Nice of you to make the sacrifice.”
“I’m a giver.” He paused. “A real good giver.”
If he could do other things as well as he kissed, she had no doubt.
But she had to get through the next few days before she’d have a chance to find out.
* * *
There you have it! The last deleted scene from Southern Fried Blues. But don’t be sad – I already have a file of deleted scenes from The Husband Games, and I’m working hard on rearranging a few last pieces of the story before the polish and shine begins so you can have the story this spring!
And I have a feeling Jackson and Anna might could stop on by my little ol’ blog sometime again soon for some other little extras…