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Authors: Rachel Gibson

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Crazy on You (9 page)

BOOK: Crazy on You
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“You’ve been ignoring me and I wanted to get your attention. So I raced up and down the highway.” She pulled the ticket out of her pocket. “But it was Neal.”

He tipped his head back and laughed. Long and loud, and then he gathered her against his chest. “You acted that crazy to get my attention?”

“Not
that
crazy. Just a
little
crazy.”

“That’s funny.”

“Not really. Now Neal thinks I’m crazy again and he’ll probably tell the guys you work with.”

“I’m a big boy. I can handle anything as long as I have you.”

“You do, Tucker, but it’s not just me.”

“I know, and I know I’m not Pippen’s daddy. I can never be his daddy. Hell, I don’t know how to be a dad, but I know that I’ll never treat him mean or ignore him or leave him out. I’ll never let him think he doesn’t matter or disappoint him.” If it was possible, her heart swelled more and she squeezed her arms around him. He pulled back and looked into her eyes. “I’d do anything for you, Lily, but I can’t change my age.”

“I know.” She rose onto her toes and kissed the side of his neck. “I don’t care.”

He shivered. “You cared a lot a few days ago.”

“A few days ago I was scared. I was afraid of what people would say. I was afraid of a lot of things, but you weren’t. You were bold and unafraid.”

“Are you kidding me? I’ve been scared shitless this whole time that you would never love me back.”

He’d never acted scared—shitless or any other kind. “Two days ago you told me I had to get in or out.” She lightly bit his ear. “I want in, Tucker. All of you. All the way.” She dropped back on her heels and looked up into his face that was no longer free of expression. His smile was as big as hers.

“I want you all the way, Lily Darlington.”

“People will say you’re crazy.”

“I don’t care what people say.” He pressed a quick kiss to her lips. “Just as long as I get to go crazy on you.”

 

Read on for an excerpt from

New York Times
bestselling author

Rachel Gibson’s upcoming book

RESCUE ME

 

where you’ll get to learn everything that happens

when Sadie Jo Hollowell returns to

Lovett, Texas!

On sale May 29, 2012

Only from Avon Books!

 

C
HAPTER
O
NE

 

O
n December third, 1996, Mercedes Johanna Hollowell committed fashion suicide. For years, Sadie had teetered on the brink—mixing patterns and plaids while wearing white sandals after Labor Day. But the final nail in her fashion coffin, worse than the faux pas of white sandals, happened the night she showed up at the Texas Star Christmas Cotillion with hair as flat as roadkill.

Everyone knew the higher the hair, the closer to God. If God had intended women to have flat hair, He wouldn’t have inspired man to invent styling mousse, teasing combs, and Aqua Net Extra Super Hold. Just as everyone knew that flat hair was a fashion abomination, they also knew it was practically a sin. Like drinking before Sunday service or hating football.

Sadie had always been a little . . . off. Different. Not bat-shit crazy different. Not like Mrs. London who collected cats and magazines and cut her grass with scissors. Sadie was more notional. Like the time she got the notion in her six-year-old head that if she dug deep enough, she’d strike gold. As if her family needed the money. Or when she’d dyed her blond hair a shocking pink and wore black lipstick. That was about the time she’d quit volleyball, too. Everyone knew that if a family was blessed with a male child, he naturally played football. Girls played volleyball. It was a rule. Like an eleventh commandment: Female child shalt play volleyball or face Texas scorn.

Then there was the time she decided that the uniforms for the Lovett High dance team were somehow sexist and petitioned the school to lower the fringe on the Beaverettes’ unitards. As if short fringe was a bigger scandal than flat hair.

But if Sadie was notional and contrary, no one could really blame her. She’d been a “late-in-life baby.” Born to a hard-nosed rancher, Clive, and his sweetheart of a wife, Johanna Mae. Johanna Mae had been a Southern lady. Kind and giving, and when she’d set her cap for Clive, her family, as well as the town of Lovett, had been a little shocked. Clive was five years older than she and as stubborn as an old mule. He was from an old, respected family, but truth be told, he’d been born cantankerous and his manners were a bit rough. Not like Johanna Mae. Johanna Mae had been a beauty queen, winning everything from Little Miss Peanut to Miss Texas. She’d come in second place in the Miss America pageant the year she’d competed. She would have won if judge number three hadn’t been a feminist sympathizer.

But Johanna Mae had been as shrewd as she’d been pretty. She believed it didn’t matter if your man didn’t know the difference between a soup bowl and a finger bowl. A good woman could always teach a man the difference. It just mattered that he could afford to buy both, and Clive Hollowell certainly had the money to keep her in Wedgwood and Waterford.

After her wedding, Johanna Mae had settled into the big house at the JH Ranch to await the arrival of children, but after fifteen years of trying everything from the rhythm method to in vitro fertilization, Johanna Mae was unable to conceive. The two resigned themselves to their childless marriage, and Johanna Mae threw herself into her volunteer work. Everyone agreed that she was practically a saint, and finally at the age of forty, she was rewarded with her “miracle” baby. The baby had been born a month early because, as her mother always put it, “Sadie couldn’t wait to spring from the womb and boss people around.”

Johanna Mae indulged her only child’s every whim. She entered Sadie into her first beauty pageant at six months, and for the next five years, Sadie racked up a pile of crowns and sashes. But due to Sadie’s propensity to spin a little too much, sing a little too loud, and fall off the stage at the end of a step ball change, she never quite fulfilled her mother’s dream of an overall grand supreme title. At forty-five, Johanna Mae died of unexpected heart failure, and her beauty queen dreams for her baby died with her. Sadie’s care was left to Clive, who was much more comfortable around Herefords and ranch hands than a little girl who had rhinestones on her boots rather than cow dung.

Clive had done the best he could to raise Sadie up a lady. He’d sent her to Ms. Naomi’s Charm School to learn the things he didn’t have the time or ability to teach her, but charm school could not take the place of a woman in the home. While other girls went home and practiced their etiquette lessons, Sadie shucked her dress and ran wild. As a result of her mashed education, Sadie knew how to waltz, set a table, and converse with governors. She could also swear like a cowboy and spit like a ranch hand.

Shortly after graduating from Lovett High, she’d packed up her Chevy and headed out for some fancy university in California, leaving her father and soiled cotillion gloves far behind. No one saw much of Sadie after that. Not even her poor daddy, and as far as anyone knew, she’d never married. Which was just plain sad and incomprehensible because really, how hard was it to get a man? Even Sarah Louise Baynard-Conseco, who had the misfortune to be born built like her daddy, Big Buddy Baynard, had managed to find a husband. Of course, Sarah Louise had met her man through prisoner.com. Mr. Conseco currently resided fourteen hundred miles away in San Quentin, but Sarah Louise was convinced he was totally innocent of the offenses for which he’d been unjustly incarcerated, and planned to start her family with him after his hoped-for parole in ten years.

Bless her heart.

Sure, sometimes in a small town it was slim pickings, but that’s why a girl went away to college. Everyone knew that a single girl’s number one reason for college wasn’t higher education, although that was important, too. Knowing how to calculate the price of great-grandmother’s silver on any given day was always crucial, but a single gal’s first priority was to find herself a husband.

And Tally Lynn Cooper, Sadie Jo’s twenty-year-old cousin on her mama’s side, had done just that. Tally Lynn had met her intended at Texas A&M and was set to walk down the aisle in a few short days. Tally Lynn’s mama had insisted that Sadie Jo be a bridesmaid, which in hindsight turned out to be a mistake. More than the choice of Tally Lynn’s gown, or the size of her diamond, or whether Uncle Frasier would lay off the sauce and behave himself, the burning question on everyone’s mind was if Sadie Jo had managed to snag herself a man yet because really, how hard could it be? Even for a contrary and notional girl with flat hair?

S
adie Hollowell hit the button on the door panel of her Saab and the window slid down an inch. Warm air whistled through the crack, and she pushed the button again and lowered the window a bit more. The breeze caught several strands of her straight blond hair and blew them about her face.

“Check that Scottsdale listing for me.” She spoke into the BlackBerry pressed to her cheek. “The San Salvador three-bedroom.” As her assistant, Renee, looked up the property, Sadie glanced out the window at the flat plains of the Texas panhandle. “Is it listed as pending yet?” Sometimes a broker waited a few days to list a pending sale with the hopes another agent would show a property and get a bit more. Sneaky bastards.

“It is.”

She let out a breath. “Good.” In the current market, every sale counted. Even the small commissions. “I’ll call you tomorrow.” She hung up and tossed the phone in the cup holder.

Outside the window, smears of brown, brown, and more brown slid past, broken only by rows of wind turbines in the distance, their propellers slowly turning in the warm Texas winds. Childhood memories and old emotions slid through her head one languid spin at a time. She felt the old mixed bag of emotions. Old emotions that always lay dormant until she crossed the Texas border. A confusion of love and longing, disappointment and missed opportunity.

Some of her earliest memories were of her mother dressing her up for a pageant. The memories had blurred with age, the over-the-top pageant dresses and the piles of fake hair clipped to her head were just faded recollections. She remembered the feelings, though. She remembered the fun and excitement and the comforting touch of her mother’s hand. She remembered the anxiety and fear. Wanting to do well. Wanting to please, but never quite pulling it off. She remembered the disappointment her mother tried and failed to hide each time her daughter won best “pet photo” or “best dress” but failed to win the big crown. And with each pageant, Sadie tried harder. She sang a little louder, shook her hips a little faster, or put an extra kick into her routine, and the more she tried, the more she went off key, off step, or off the stage. Her pageant teacher always told her to stick to the routine they’d practice. Go with the script, but of course she never did. She’d always had a hard time doing and saying what she’d been told.

She had a wispy memory of her mother’s funeral. The organ music bouncing off the wooden church walls, the hard white pews. The gathering after the funeral at the JH, and the lavender-scented bosoms of her aunts. “Poor orphaned child,” they’d cooed between bites of cheese biscuits. “What’s going to happen to my sister’s poor orphaned baby?” She hadn’t been a baby or an orphan.

The memories of her father were more vivid and defined. His harsh profile against the endless blue of the summer sky. His big hands throwing her into a saddle and her hanging on as she raced to keep up with him. The weight of his palm on top of her head, his rough skin catching in her hair as she stood in front of her mother’s white casket. His footsteps walking past her bedroom door as she cried herself to sleep.

Her relationship with her father had always been confusing and difficult. A push and pull. An emotional tug of war that she always lost. The more emotion she showed, the more she tried to cling to him, and the more he pushed her away until she gave up.

For years she’d tried to live up to anyone’s expectations of her. Her mother’s. Her father’s. Those of a town filled with people who had always expected her to be a nice, well-behaved girl with charm. A beauty queen. Someone to make them proud like her mother or someone to look up to like her father, but by middle school she’d tired of that heavy task. She’d laid down that burden, and just started being Sadie. Looking back, she could admit that she was sometimes outrageous. Sometimes on purpose. Like the pink hair and black lipstick. It wasn’t a fashion statement. She hadn’t been trying to find herself. It was a desperate bid for attention from the one person on the planet who looked at her across the dinner table night after night but never seemed to notice her.

The shocking hair hadn’t worked, nor the string of bad boyfriends. Mostly, her father had just ignored her.

It had been fifteen years since she’d packed her car and left her hometown of Lovett far behind. She’d been back as often as she could. Christmases here and there. A few Thanksgivings, and once for her aunt Ginger’s funeral. That had been five years ago.

Her finger pushed the button and the window slid all the way down. Guilt pressed the back of her neck and wind whipped her hair as she recalled the last time she’d seen her father. It had been about three years ago, when she’d lived in Denver. He’d driven up for the National Western Stock Show.

She pushed the button again and the window slid up. It didn’t seem like that long since she’d seen him, but it had to have been because she’d moved to Phoenix shortly after that visit.

It might seem to some as if she was a rolling stone. She’d lived in seven different cities in the past fifteen years. Her father liked to say she never stayed in one place long because she tried to put down roots in hard soil. What he didn’t know was that she never tried to put down roots at all. She liked not having roots. She liked the freedom of packing up and moving whenever she felt like it. Her latest career allowed her to do that. After years of higher education, moving from one university to another and never earning a degree in anything, she’d stumbled into real estate on a whim. Now she had her license in three states and loved every minute of selling homes. Well, not every moment. Dealing with lending institutions sometimes drove her nutty.

A sign on the side of the road ticked down the miles to Lovett and she pushed the window button. There was just something about being home that made her feel restless and antsy and anxious to leave before she even arrived. It wasn’t her father. She’d come to terms with their relationship a few years ago. He was never going to be the daddy she needed, and she was never going to be the son he always wanted.

It wasn’t even necessarily the town itself that made her antsy, but the last time she’d been home, she’d been in Lovett for less than ten minutes before she’d felt like a loser. She’d stopped at the Gas and Go for some fuel and a Diet Coke. From behind the counter, the owner, Mrs. Luraleen Jinks, had taken one look at her ringless finger and practically gasped in what might have been horror if not for Luraleen’s fifty-year, pack-a-day wheeze.

“Aren’t you married, dear?”

She’d smiled. “Not yet, Mrs. Jinks.”

Luraleen had owned the Gas and Go for as long as Sadie could recall. Cheap booze and nicotine had tanned her wrinkly hide like an old leather coat. “You’ll find someone. There’s still time.”

Meaning she’d better hurry up. “I’m twenty-eight.” Twenty-eight was young. She’d still been getting her life together.

Luraleen had reached out and patted Sadie’s ringless hand. “Well, bless your heart.”

She had things more figured out these days. She felt calmer, until a few months ago when she’d taken a call from her aunt Bess, on her mother’s side, informing her that she was to be in the wedding of her young cousin Tally Lynn. It was such short notice she had to wonder if someone else had dropped out and she was a last-minute substitute. She didn’t even know Tally Lynn, but Tally Lynn was family, and as much as Sadie tried to pretend she had no roots, and as much as she hated the idea of being in her young cousin’s wedding, she hadn’t been able to say no. Not even when the hot-pink bridesmaid’s dress had arrived at her house to be fitted. It was strapless and corseted, and the short taffeta pickup skirt was so gathered and bubbled that her hands disappeared into the fabric when she put them to her sides. It wouldn’t be so bad if she was eighteen and going to her prom, but her high school years were a distant memory. She was thirty-three and looked a little ridiculous in her prom/bridesmaid’s dress.

BOOK: Crazy on You
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ads

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