Friday Fiction – Fallen Leaves by Tina Gayle
This week I warmly welcome author Tina Gayle, who has kindly provided an extract of her latest book, Fallen Leaves. The link is open as usual, for you to add your own story. Alternatively, if you would like to submit an excerpt to appear on this blog post, please contact me.
Amber paused before reaching the creaky spot on the staircase and checked the construction area. Grant stood near the workbench, unpacking a light fixture.
She stepped forward and cringed when the stair groaned with abuse.
Grant turned with a grin.
“You know if I’d been able to sneak past that one squeaky step. I could’ve had a lot of fun scaring you.” Amber walked to him and offered the bag in her hands.
“Not a chance.” Grant stretched his shoulders as if his muscles were stiff. “I caught the scent of your perfume as soon as you stepped on the stairs.”
“No, it’s these cookies you smell.” She glanced around. “Where’s that brother of yours?”
“You mean the cranky bear who almost decked me for talking to you?” Grant dug inside the bag and pulled out a cookie.
“He did not.” Amber’s grip slipped. “Carter is perfectly happy with having nothing to do with me.”
Grant swallowed the first cookie and grabbed another. “Right, and that’s why he warned me to stay away from you.”
“No way, he can’t think there’s anything going on between us.” Carter, jealous of his brother? Surely not!
“Why not?” Grant set the sack on the workbench. “I’m a smart, good-looking guy. What more do you want?”
Amber stared at the rich color of his strawberry blonde hair, which reminded her of spun gold. His sexy hazel eyes added to his lighthearted attitude had to tempt each woman he met to fall in love with him. Not counting his above-average height and muscular frame, the man had to rank at the top of every girl’s list at OSU as a great catch.
Grant slid his arms around her waist and gathered her close. “But you’re enamored with my brother?”
She despised hurting his feelings, but she’d prefer not to lie either. “Maybe, but I—”
“Can’t get over his overprotective attitude,” Grant stated as if he’d dealt with that particular nasty trait a number of times too.
“Well…” Amber shifted her hands to his chest. She had no intention of admitting Carter’s controlling nature was the only reason they weren’t together. “He’s also not very happy with me staying here alone.”
“Can’t say I blame him, not after we found out Dad’s truck was set to blow on purpose.”
She shivered in reaction to his comment. The explosion had almost killed Carter and if Gwen hadn’t…
Grant rubbed his hands over her back.
The soothing caress eased the pain she’d experienced at the time. Carter had no reason to worry now. The culprit who had caused the trouble had revealed herself to Amber. Jonathan, as head of the family, had seen to it that his daughter, Rachel, resigned from her position on the family council. She couldn’t cause any more problems.
Amber had debated with herself numerous times how she might approach the subject with Carter concerning the spiritual world in which she lived. Every time, she recalled how she’d taken the news; she didn’t see him dealing with it any better than she had. Also, she hated the thought of him thinking she was insane. Not counting…
“Yes, but…” She stared at the white birch logs in the kitchen fireplace, remembering how many times she’d seen him in the last month. “He’s been avoiding me for the last few weeks.”
“Right.” Grant waited for their gazes to meet. “Because you’ve had the “don’t touch me” sign up.”
“What sign?” She stepped back, but Grant held her firmly in the circle of his arms.
“The one that won’t let him within two feet of you. If he steps too close, you back off.” Grant’s gaze reflected the truth. “A Texas two-step without music.”
“I—” Amber recalled her last encounter with Carter. Whenever he drew near and touched her, she’d edged away.
Damn, she lowered her gaze. “I thought—”
“That he decided to stay away because of your resident ghost.” Grant finished her sentence.
Her head popped up. “Well, the house is haunted. And I just assumed he had no intention of getting involved with me because I’m sympathetic toward the ghost.”
“Isn’t it also because he’s after more than you’re willing to give?” Grant said.
Heat filled her face and she squirmed under his scrutiny. “I can’t be a plaything.”
“Yes, my awful Casanova brother discards women daily,” Grant admonished in a rough voice. However, a hint of teasing rang behind his words.
“No, he’s a great guy. It’s just—” Amber let her head fall back to his chest. Even though Grant wanted to help, she denied that Carter would stay interested with the craziness going on in her life.
She fumbled through her mind for a reason to stay away. “He doesn’t need to take on my problems. He’s busy enough running Miller Construction.”
“Right, like he doesn’t worry anyway.” Grant released his grip. “The man is crazy about you.”
Amber walked back to the staircase.
She didn’t have time to become involved with Carter. Too many other things required her attention. She also feared the heartache he’d cause once he found out what she was involved in and dumped her for a normal girl.
Much easier if he simply hated her.
“Amber?” Carter’s voice reached through her troubled thoughts.
He stood by the backdoor. “What’s wrong?”
The worried look on his face hit her in the gut. The man did care.
“I—” Her gaze quickly darted to Grant, then to the bag of cookies. The tasty treat called to her, yelling at her to bury her troubles by consuming their sweetness. “I can’t have any more. No matter how much they might scream my name. I won’t eat any more.”
She placed her hands over her ears, pretending she heard voices. She did—an overly loud one screaming through her head, telling her she was acting like a fool. The voice of her conscience helped add sincerity to her cry. “You have to eat them.”
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