Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Morning After by Brenda Whiteside

The Morning After by Brenda Whiteside
Chapter One

The throb behind Abigail’s eyes scraped at her temples like chiseled fingernails. She squeezed her lids tight. Was the sheet twisted around her? She patted her waist. No, it was her dress, the purple flowered sarong. One hand moved across her chest while the other slid down her hip. Strapless bra gone, no nylons. What the hell?
She inched the covers down, so her head didn’t jar, and eased her feet to the floor to sit on the edge of the bed. Last night’s mascara weighed heavily, stinging her eyes when she opened them. How disgusting. She hadn’t gone to bed without washing her face in fifteen years. With a hand to her forehead, she raised her gaze to the reflection in the full-length mirror on her closet door.
Her breath caught in her throat and Abigail froze. Another body, partially covered, came into focus behind her.
Think. The headache got in the way of last night’s memories, the strain not worth the pain. And this was exactly why she never had more than a glass of wine. A bad headache and now a strange man in her bed. Her stomach lurched.
What have I done?
Had she made a fool of herself at her best friend’s wedding? She silently groaned. After three times a bridesmaid, to have just one marriage would be nice. Damn that biological clock.
Aching calves evoked images of the bar and dancing, dancing for hours. She could’ve danced all night. She should’ve. Maybe her head wouldn’t hurt so much. Damn tropical blitz things. They called them boat drinks, and they went down like fruit punch. Such cute pink and purple glasses, and they let you keep them. Abigail rubbed her temples. She must’ve tried to drink herself to a full set.
As delicately as possible, she rose, careful not to disturb her sleeping companion. Her head pounded with each carefully placed shuffled step to the bathroom. The last time she vomited, she was ten years old and sick on pumpkin pie. Vomiting was not an option.
Cold water in her face, a deep breath, three aspirin. She backed up to the sink, rested her bottom on the edge. Two more cleansing breaths and the queasiness passed.
Dancing and drinking and what? Think. The wedding was clear. Her oldest friend, Sue Ellen, had tied the knot for the third time. A Tahiti honeymoon prompted a sarong wearing wedding party and champagne served in plastic coconut shells. The affair, held at The Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk, had been pretty tacky considering the wealth of the new husband, JT Cushing, owner of the largest ranch this side of the Rio Grande. She hadn’t gone to the wedding with anyone, but she’d certainly come home with someone.
Tiptoeing back to the bedroom, Abigail leaned against the doorframe and considered her surprise bedmate. The sun, slanting rays from the window over the bed, held him in a spotlight—as if announcing the presence of a featured guest.
A moan. The man rolled to his back, kicking off covers. Abigail gasped. Her gentleman visitor wore only a bow tie and black socks.
She crept to the edge of the bed. His face was turned away, further hidden by red curls hanging down the nape of his neck and onto his cheek. A visual sweep of the attractive body brought a smile to her face when she paused on his more than ample endowments. A true redhead. An encounter of this magnitude should be easy to remember.
Abigail smiled in spite of her throbbing temples. Inching closer, she nudged his boots aside with her foot and leaned over to see his face. Mmm. He smelled good, like rich leather and fresh cut wood. As she bent to get a closer look, Kirby, her sixteen pound Siamese cat, entered the room and announced his hunger.
The visitor stirred, grasped her arm, drawing her down across his hips.
He rose up on his elbows and looked at her. “So, Abby, you’re a morning person, are you?”
Abigail launched off the bed, trying not to come into contact with anymore of the warm body than she already had. Tripping over the boots, she ended up sprawled on the floor. “Who…” She gulped. “Who the hell are you?”
“Who am I? “Darlin’ I know I told you, you’ve got to believe it’s true.” He paused his singing. When she sat speechless, he sang out again, slightly off key. “Real love comes along once, and that real love is you.”
“You sure as hell aren’t Lance Dugan.”
He sat upright, feet to the floor, and Abigail found herself eye level with embarrassment. With hands to her face, she pleaded in a quiet voice, mindful of her head still adjusting to sobriety. “Please, cover yourself. You look ridiculous.”
Author Brenda Whiteside
“Why, there’s a blow to a man’s ego. I hope you mean the bow tie, darlin’, and not my prodigious maleness.” The sheets rustled. “You can open your eyes now and greet your husband with a little more enthusiasm.”
Her hands slid from her eyes and splayed on her cheeks. She had to have heard him wrong. Large green eyes looked at her, eyes she thought were missing glasses; no more than a flicker of thought easing into her astonishment.
“I’ve heard of shy newlyweds, but I would never have guessed you for shy. Abby, honey, don’t tell me you were that drunk. I knew you were more than tipsy, but not mind-numbing drunk.”
Speechless, she studied the thin lips forming a crooked smile, topped with a trim auburn mustache. She dug her fingers into the carpet, flashing on burying her fingers in his tousled copper curls while burying her tongue in his most kissable mouth. Her head spun and not from the lingering effects of tropical drinks.
“The night was all too perfect. Damn near a double wedding with Sue Ellen and JT.”
“Shut up.” She raised her voice as loud as her throbbing head would allow. “What…what the hell are you talking about?” Her fingers renewed their grasp on the carpeted floor.
“Stop calling me Abby. My name is Abigail.”
“But last night you asked me to call you Abby.” He ran a hand through his jumble of curls. “You said only your mother and your husband could call you Abby. And since I’m not your mother…”
“And you’re not my husband. I don’t have a husb—”
“Ah, but you do now, Mrs. Bobby Stockwood. Although, I’m guessing you’d prefer Ms. Abigail Stockwood. Abby, you act like you’ve forgotten the most important night of our lives.” He leaned his elbows on his knees, smiling his kissable crooked smile. “I should make coffee while you take a shower. You look kind of sick.”
Sick wasn’t the half of it. More like insane. His voice did ring sweetness when he used her name. Every time he said Abby, his voice caressed, sending a pleasurable warmth over her. She closed her eyes for a moment and recalled him on his knee in full tux, peeking from under the brim of a black Stetson. Her lids snapped up like the shade on a window.
“Oh, my gawd!”
She stood awkwardly, the purple sarong impeding any grace she might possess. “Yes, make the coffee and I’ll take a shower.” A shower would give her time to retreat, to think. “The kitchen is upstairs, to the right of the front door.” She backed up a step, his gaze on her every movement, her gaze on his seductive mouth and sheet wrapped hips. “
Don’t much want to put my tux back on. Do you have something? Maybe some sweat pants.” His head tilted up then down, surveying her body. “I’m not much taller than you.”
Abigail nodded. She might’ve had a retort any other time for his lack of descriptive after giving her the once over, but the need to withdraw and think spurred her shaky legs across the room to her dresser in search of a pair of baggy, gray sweat pants. She grabbed a T-shirt from her old-clothes drawer and the sweats. For herself, she chose her oldest Levis and a plain white shirt.
“There’s another bathroom upstairs, beyond the kitchen, if you want to shower.” She tossed the sweats and T-shirt in his general direction and retreated to the bathroom.
Hot water soon pummeled the top of her head, washing away a film of drunken forgetfulness. The night came to her in disjointed scenes, as if looking at a photo album missing a few pictures. Stop action shots and posed smiling moments. Two-stepping with the redheaded stranger to the band’s rendition of Dugan’s Real Love at The Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk. A karaoke duet. Ordering another tropical concoction. Talking. Dancing cheek to cheek to Patsy Cline’s, Crazy. A faceless man in a black suit holding a bible while Red kissed the palm of her hand. A toast with yet another tropical concoction.
A knock on the door echoed in the bathroom, and the not so strange stranger entered her steamy domain. “Coffee on the counter by the sink. Strong and black, just the way I think you like it.

More Books by Brenda Whiteside:
Sleeping with the Lights On
Tattoos, Leather and Studs
An Elfin Secret and On the Way to the Snow Ball (anthology)
Honey on White Bread

No comments:

Post a Comment