Since I have absolutely no words of wisdom regarding New Year’s and resolutions and all that stuff, I thought I’d do something different today. One of my writing buddies mentioned she’d love to see the out takes from my Book That Will Not End, when I get done hacking it back to a managable length. So here you go, a little shot of New Year’s romance, cowgirl style.
“New Year’s Eve is stupid,” Alex muttered to herself.
Not that anyone else was paying any attention to her, other than the occasional glances toward her corner that ranged from curious to amused to outright contempt depending on the age of the person doing the glancing. The contempt came primarily from the girls her age. Or their mothers.
She should have listened to Jack. No one was laughing at how Jacqueline Cook was dressed, though there was plenty of drooling and at least one old fart whose pacemaker was going to need an adjustment after he got an eyeful of her cleavage.
She had an awesome rack, as Alex’s friend Trey would say, but never to Jack’s face because even Trey wasn’t that stupid.
Alex tugged on the hem of the forest green, long-sleeved t-shirt that would be a perfectly good choice for any party back home. Anything low cut was wasted on her. This one had sequins around the neck, for crying out loud. She’d put on earrings, and a necklace. Left her hair down, hanging nearly to her waist instead of up in a ponytail or a braid like usual. How much more girly did she need to get?
She was the only female in the room who wasn’t wearing a dress. Jewelry worth more than Alex’s whole herd of horses. And killer heels. Unless you counted her cowboy boots, and maybe she should have cleaned them up a little more. Better yet, she should have just stayed back at Jack’s place instead of letting herself be dragged to this stupid party at some stupid vineyard in Napa with a bunch of people who were richer than God and not afraid to sneer at anyone who wasn’t a member of their ‘class’.
Drop by the arena this weekend. I’ll show you who’s got class.
Not that a single person in this room other than Jack cared that Alexis Alexander could kick their ass at a rodeo. If she’d let Jack stuff her in that glittery little dress and shoes she’d bought, at least Alex might look like she belonged. As long as she didn’t try to walk. Or open her mouth.
Which would have left her stuck in the corner, just like she was now, and this way she wasn’t freezing her butt off. Or breaking any ankles.
Alex slouched in her chair, let her head fall back against the wall, tilting it so she could see the clock. Gawd. Only ten. She had at least two more hours to endure. Why in the hell had Jack been so determined to make her come? She wasn’t even old enough to drink the damn wine.
“There you are,” a voice said.
Alex blinked, startled, both by the greeting and the fact that this guy was looking at her like he knew her. Of course, she recognized him. Until the break, he’d been up on stage with the band, singing, playing the guitar, and doing both with impressive skill for someone who didn’t look more than eighteen, tops. Kind of skinny, but cute, with his laughing gray eyes and his streaky brown hair a little longer than she was used to, hanging around mostly with cowboys like she did. Plus, he was the only person besides Alex wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He and his music had been, hands down, the best part of the party so far.
And he seemed to think he knew Alex.
“I’m Jason,” he said, as if it was supposed to mean something to her.
When Alex still drew a blank, he rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and gave a disgusted sigh. “Jack didn’t say a word, did she?”
“Figures.” He held out a hand. “Come on.”
Alex leaned back, into the wall. “Where?”
“Away from this bunch of snobs.” He reached down, grabbed her wrist, and pulled. “Don’t worry. If I get out of line, Jack will make sure my mother cuts off my allowance for the next six months.”
“Jack knows your mother?” Alex asked, letting him haul her out of the chair.
“Since birth. They’re sisters.”
“Oh. You’re that Jason.”
Alex could have slapped herself upside the head. How many times had Jack mentioned her nephew? Bragged, even. About his music. How since she didn’t have kids of her own and most likely never would, he let her mother him half to death, which meant he was probably a nice guy on top of it all. Obviously, Jack had sent him over to talk to Alex so she wouldn’t feel like such a total dork.
Which made her feel even more like a dork. Especially when all of the girls stared at them, eyes wide, faces stunned, as he dragged her toward the nearest exit. Because of all the rich people in the room, Jack’s family was the richest, which would make Jason the top of the class even if he wasn’t so talented.
And cute. Had she mentioned cute?
“Don’t you have to go sing or something?” she asked, then flushed when she realized how snotty she sounded.
He only laughed. “Nope. I promised them one set. I’ve got plans for the rest of my night.”
Oh. Well. That sucked. But of course he had a date. Who probably wasn’t all that thrilled that he had latched onto Alex, even if Jack had made him.
He towed her down a hall, around a corner and through a set of double doors, into a room that looked like something out of a movie, with thick, dark ceiling beams, plush leather furniture, and a fire burning in the humongous stone fireplace.
“Private tasting room, for the clients who don’t like to mix with the riff raff.” He drew in a long, appreciative breath. “Oh, yeah. That’s what I’ve been looking for.”
Alex sniffed, then stared at the box on the beaten copper coffee table. “Is that pizza?”
“Yes.” He let go of Alex to plop down on the couch and flip open the carton. “I’m starving. How about you? I can’t believe you ate any of the crap they were serving in there.”
“I don’t even know what most of it was,” she said.
“Believe me, it’s better that way. Rich people eat really disgusting stuff.” He scooped up a slice with one hand while he patted the couch with the other. “Dig in. Jack said to have ‘em put mushrooms on your half.”
Alex circled the couch and sat, leaving a couple of feet between them, her head spinning like a top. The room was gorgeous. The guy was amazing. And the pizza was her favorite.
What the heck was going on?
She slid a slice of pizza onto a napkin, mouth watering. “I thought you said you had plans.”
“I do.” He’d already wolfed down the first slice and was reaching for a second. “Man, performing makes me hungry.”
“Isn’t your date going to wonder where you went?” Alex asked.
“Nope. I plan on sticking real close to her for the rest of the night.”
Those gray eyes laughed right into hers, and even Alex couldn’t misunderstand, and she choked on a mushroom and Jason had to thump her between the shoulderblades, which wasn’t exactly the most romantic way to start a relationship.
“I told Jack she had to bring you,” he said. “I’ve wanted to meet you since she showed me a bunch of the videos she took at the rodeos. You’re amazing.”
“I, uh…thanks. You , too.”
He smiled. She smiled back.
“You’re pretty normal for a rich kid.”
“You’re pretty hot for a girl in boots.” He reached over, used the tip of his finger to wipe away a spot of pizza sauce from the corner of her mouth. “Still think New Year’s Eve is stupid?”
She laughed, a little breathless from his touch. “I’ll let you know at midnight.”
“I’d better make sure that’s one damn good kiss, then.”
Not a problem. By the time the clock struck twelve, he had perfected his technique.
Happy New Year’s, all. Here’s wishing you a little romance in the coming months.
Kari Lynn Dell
Montana for Real