Thursday, September 13, 2012
LAST CALL Excerpt
LAST CALL will release on October 2nd!!
Here's a brief introduction to Gavin. Next week, you'll get to meet Sunny.
Gavin McLeod turned into the Blackout Bar and Grill’s gravel parking lot, whipped his SUV into the first available parking space, and slammed the shifter into park. The vehicle was still rocking from the abrupt stop when he shoved the door open and stepped out into the crisp evening air.
His chest expanded as he drew the heavy salt air into his lungs, then let the explosive tension trapped in his head and neck escape on a sharp exhale. The hour-long drive from Myrtle Beach to Anticue would have been a relaxing trip, had it not been filled with constant chatter and relentless questions from his three female companions. Finally free of the confining vehicle, he took a moment to let the peaceful calm of Anticue Island seep into every cell of his body.
He hadn’t been to the island in… Damn, had it really been fifteen years? The Blackout Bar and Grill was a new addition, and the old fishing pier next door was closed. But other than that, nothing about the island seemed to have changed.
The back doors of the SUV opened, and two-thirds of the troublesome trio climbed out. Their four-inch spiked heels dug into the loose, sandy gravel, pitching them off-kilter, sending them to and fro. Too far away to grab either of them, Gavin held his breath and hoped for the best. Each girl put a hand to the side of the vehicle to gain her balance, then used the car as a handrail as they made their way to the ballast-stone sidewalk.
The other one-third of his problem—which accounted for two-thirds of his headache—remained in the passenger seat. If this were a date, he would open the door and help her from the car like the gentleman his grandfather raised him to be. If it were a platonic, non-forced date with a friend, he still would help her from the car.
But this wasn’t a date. And he’d be damned if he’d do anything to give the impression he was okay with Max and Callie’s plan of manipulating him into pretending it was. In fact, Gavin was so annoyed with Max, he was thinking of demanding an increase in his profit sharing to cover his escort fee.
He stepped in front of the car, slipped his hands into his front pockets, and waited. He would prefer to walk away and leave her sulking, but he couldn’t hit the lock button on the key fob until she gave up her petulance and opened the damned door.
As Jen and Tiffany teetered along the uneven stepping-stones leading to the bar’s side entrance, he took in the details of the building and surrounding property. Weathered clapboard siding hung like sagging skin on a decrepit skeleton, but bright, lime-green trim gave the place a shot of vibrant color, which made the battered siding seem less tired.
Wrought iron benches, brightly painted Adirondack chairs, and copper yard ornaments created a profusion of color along the sidewalk. Hand-painted price tags hung from each piece, letting visitors know they, too, could have a bit of Anticue in their own backyard.
A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as his gaze settled on a copper windmill. His grandfather would love the controlled chaos created by the bright colors and whimsical atmosphere of the Blackout. He would especially love that windmill.
The stone sidewalk continued past the side entrance to a front patio and balcony that overlooked the beach. During summer months, the pink, blue, and teal tables would be filled to capacity, but on this early May evening, they sat empty.
His gaze shifted to the deserted fishing pier next door, and his smile faded. He and his grandfather had spent many days tossing hooks there, and heavy sadness filled his chest at seeing it abandoned and left to the mercy of the beach’s harsh elements.
Tired of waiting, he peered at Callie through the windshield and cocked an eyebrow, his message loud and clear. Are you coming or not? When she stuck her lip out even further and crossed her arms, he gave her a suit-yourself shrug and turned toward the entrance.
From the corner of his eye, he saw her shoulders slump in defeat. She grabbed her purse from the floor of the SUV, pulled the lever to release the door, and shoved against it with a huff. “A gentleman would have opened the door for me.”
Gavin smiled and kept walking. Maybe if he turned into a first-rate asshole, he’d finally drop off Callie’s radar. God knows, reasoning with her hadn’t worked. Neither had the direct approach: I’m. Not. Interested.
All she’d ever seen was his refined business persona. She had no idea the real Gavin, buried beneath the expensive Italian suits, even existed. Maybe knocking some of the polish off his redneck would be the answer to getting her to drop her obsession.
Her friends were perched on wooden chairs at a high pub table, looking around expectantly for a waiter. Out of the ten or twelve people scattered around the bar, none looked too interested in jumping to meet the girls’ demands.
The front wall that faced the beach was actually two large doors that could be rolled out of the way to create one large space between the inside and outside deck. At the back of the room sat the L-shaped service bar. One end stopped short of the kitchen entrance, while the other hooked back to the wall. Two older salts sat on barstools at the hooked end, sipping their beers and talking.
One side of the room held a pool table, while a jukebox sat in the middle of the building, wedged against the center support beam. The rest of the area was filled with an assortment of pub and picnic tables. The whimsical outdoor atmosphere carried over to the interior, with brightly painted walls decorated in copper sculptures and stained-glass pieces.
Gavin had wondered why Max would send him to this little bar on an out-of-the-way island, but now he understood the reason for the trip. Max had done this before when he wanted Gavin’s opinion on a location. Without giving him any details, he’d send him to “check it out.” Gavin would report back with his impression, and, if the two men agreed the place held a unique appeal, they’d mimic its style in one of Holden’s resort properties.
This place definitely had a unique appeal.
Had he made the trip alone, he could have a lot of fun roaming around, checking out the artwork, listening to the locals. But he wasn’t alone, so he might as well find out what Callie and her friends wanted to drink, hook ‘em up, then leave them to get sloshed while he wandered around and soaked up the details.