Hello! I've missed you so much. May I confess something? I'm so nervous, yet starting to feel a little bit excited about the next novel I'm releasing. The yet-to-be-titled story is about Drew Wilkerson. Because my subscribers mean so much to me and I appreciate each one of you taking the time to hang out with me on this journey, I wanted to give you a private glimpse at the story first.

Before I share this scene, I also want to give you a little background about the story. Andrew Wilkerson is the youngest of the Wilkerson family (pro baseball player Kenneth of "Playing for Love" and "The Engagement Season", widowed single father Jeremy "Ready for Love" and their cousin Rochelle "Taste for Love"). Originally, I planned to release his story (previously known as "Terms for Love") as part of the Wilkersons series. Needless to say, Drew had a mind of his own and I decided to release his story on its own instead. That means the Wilkersons series will be a four-book series and not five, however, you will still get to catch up with the family in the new novel.

I hope you enjoy this (unedited) peek into Drew and his best friend Avery's story! Stay tuned for cover reveal and another sneak peek soon.

- tia.


drew and avery.

- speechless. -

“Did you forget your key?” Of course, she didn’t, but how else am I to gauge her mood.

Dull, downcast, big brown eyes rise to meet mine, yet she says nothing.

Stepping aside, I swallow to force my own voice to hide any traces of fear and apprehension. “Come in.”

The hesitation before Avery took her first step caused more agony than the month apart I’d given her wreaked on my emotions. Here’s the deal, I’m a busy man. I spend more time racking up frequent flier miles than VH1 and Bravo combined devotes to chasing drama. A month of no contact of any kind could go unnoticed in my world, but a month without her is life with no air.

Avery has no idea how much I want to tell her that I miss her just for being there. I miss having breakfast together on the weekend and then dragging me to the farmers market where I have to dodge the dog lovers walking through the stalls afterward. And earlier this week, when I saw a commercial for Queen Sugar, I was this close to calling her. Why? To ask for her forgiveness after all the times I complained about the calendar invites she’d send. No, not invites to meetings or events. Avery sets up reminders in her calendar to watch a TV show rather than setting her DVR like most people do. Then she'd send me an invite with hopes that I'd watch with her, whether together or apart by phone. What I actually need to apologize for is the last thing I’d ever feel guilty about, although it kills me that I hurt her. I hate to admit it, but Jeremy is right. Breaking up Avery’s wedding didn’t get me the girl but it did manage to tear us apart.

Avery’s fingers tighten around the straps of her bag and I wait to see if she accepts my invitation to help me breathe again.

One step turns into more and soon Avery makes her way past the entry and into the living room.

“The place looks great.” Her words are barely audible and having her back toward me doesn’t help our poor attempt at communication, but it’s a start.

Instead of waiting for her to face me, I make the necessary steps to meet her where she’s comfortable until I notice her face tenses when I look at her so I ease back.

Avery clears her throat and reaches a hand into an oversized tan leather tote on her shoulder. “I need you to sign this real quick and I’ll be out of your way.”

In a panic, I reach for her free hand and squeeze it. Whatever is in that bag it could be the period to my sentence. “No rush. Come and check out the place. You haven’t been here since the decorator finished and have to see the work they did. Plus, that’ll give the chef time to finish up.”

“Chef?”

I nod. “I asked him to come and prepare dinner for us tonight. Figured it would be easier if we dined in instead of catching up in a crowded place.”

“I never said I was coming over to eat dinner with you, Drew.”

“No, but it is dinnertime and we both enjoy Chef Laurel. He’s making your favorite, too. Please stay.” She didn’t speak, so a brother can’t help but feel optimistic. Knowing one of the reasons she loved my home when I bought it are the two rooftop terraces, including the one off of the living room overlooking Independence Hall. “Wait until you see the view from up here.”

With lips pursed, she looks around. I know her too well. She has to be weighing curiosity against something else. The thing is, I need her to shelve the something else long enough to get my opening to seek her forgiveness.

“Making my favorite what?” she asks me.

The way she stares at me renders me speechless and I can’t… I can’t breathe again. All I can do is gaze into those gorgeous brown eyes behind soft pretty lashes fluttering the top of her cheeks when she blinks and I think about the kiss that cost me my best friend.

Damn, I miss her.

Shaking my head, I remind myself to stay focused. “What’s not your favorite from the kitchen of Chef Laurel. Come on or you’ll miss the show since the sun’s getting ready to go down.” I reach for her elbow to guide her toward the balcony.  When she doesn’t pull away, I give God a shout out in my head before sliding open one of the floor-to-ceiling glass doors. “Is this what you had in mind for the seating groups? I passed on your suggestion and the decorator agreed. It offers intimacy, but can easily turn into a nice place for entertaining.”

She glances around at the outdoor living space before walking up to the railing. I stay back, letting her have her space. Perhaps I’m comfortable giving it to her now because there’s no way she can escape unless she passes by me or plans to scale down twenty-four stories, but that’s not it. The last time I saw her, those beautiful lips were swollen from the kiss we shared and tears were running down her face. She was so broken and hurt from the pain I caused reminding me that being in her presence is more than I deserve. Yet tonight, here she is with the pink, purple and orange streaked sky as her backdrop and I want to kiss her again, but I know I can’t so I better keep my distance and not mess this up. The most important thing is she’s here.

Focus.

Shoving my hands inside my pockets, I do the next best thing. “Avery, do you mind if we have a seat so we can talk?”

I hear her let out one of those annoyed no this man didn’t just…sighs then she turns around to face me with a hand moving to her hip. “Talk? About what Drew?”

“Please, Avery. Sit.”

“I’d rather not. This won’t take long.”

I sensed we were no longer alone. The server stepped outside with the drinks I instructed her to serve once we made it outside. I wanted to snap at her for following the instructions I now regret giving, but then I’d compound the ill thoughts Avery already has of me. The woman walked between us, first offering a glass to Avery.

“Ma’am, would you like a glass?”

Avery’s face revealed nothing, nor would she speak.

I reached for the tray and sent the young lady on her way, making sure to thank her for following my poor directions. As soon as the door closed behind her, I placed the tray on one of the tables and took a glass for both of us, giving one of them to Avery before taking a seat. A moment later, she sat across from me and took a sip.

I kick my feet up on the table between us and watch her as she leans against a throw pillow, crossing her legs at the knees. I’d say she’s relaxed, but the anger brewing behind her eyes competes with the flames behind the glass in the gas fireplace running alongside us. “Fine. You want to talk? Talk.”

I set down my own wine while she drank hers. “Avery, how do we fix this?”

She took another sip before lowering the glass of her favorite Cabernet to reveal her pinched face. A bobbing foot and dangling glass in hand was the only warning for the words she delivered.

“Finally, we’re getting somewhere.” She opened the bag beside her and pulled out a thick white envelope and tossed it across the table where it landed in front of me. She set the glass down on the glass top table and leaned forward with both hands clasped between her knees.

“What’s this?” I ask, lifting the envelope with my name scrawled neatly across the front of it in her handwriting.

“For starters, I can no longer work on this docuseries if you’re involved.”

“Av-”

“I understand that’s difficult at this stage, so I’m giving you an agreement that reflects the changes I’m requesting if we’re to move forward on Monday. That includes a schedule and process we would use to report to the other.”

Baby steps. Paige once told me about how important some parts of the forgiveness process rely on them. I thumb to open the corner and rip the envelope until I can pull out its contents without damaging it.

She has to know what she’s asking cannot reasonably happen, but I do have to find a way to make it work. Flipping through each page, I wait for her to intervene and glance to see if she’s still with me. Her level gaze meets mine proving she is as I come upon a new set of documents, separated by its own staple in the corner.

“And as you can see, that right there also shows why it will be almost impossible for us to work together after today.” Her words sound almost triumphant, like a woman that just bricked her man’s windshield and called him right after to tell him about it, but I’m too busy to analyze her body language or tone because of the words printed across the page. Flipping to the final pages, there was a number so staggering that I released the papers from my hands leaving them to flutter to the ground between my feet.

“You’re seriously trying to sue me? For ruining your wedding?”

“You’re damn right, I am.”

 

Copyright © 2018 by Tia Kelly. All rights reserved.