Excerpt: In The Wind (Welcome to Alvarado #3)
IN THE WIND (Welcome to Alvarado #3) will be released March 22nd at all vendors. I’m having a fun time writing this book, but it also deals with some things that are a struggle to put down on paper. For the first time, I’m dealing with an asexual-leaning main character in a romance novel. I want to be respectful to those who identify as asexual, meaning they don’t feel sexual attraction to either sex, while also dealing with the issues of labels themselves – how people are unique and that someone who may be identified as asexual may not fit that definition completely; how everyone’s romantic and sexual experiences, desires, needs and perspectives are an individual journey that can’t be defined by a dictionary. As always, a big thank you to my readers and friends who continue to encourage my exploration of non-conformative themes.
About the Book
Sometimes you have to get good and lost before you’ll have any hope at finding yourself.
Dustin Hunter has returned to Alvarado after seven years of military service and one bad shot that shattered his self-assured ego. Struggling to forget what he left behind in the desert, he finds himself drifting in the wind, homeless and without direction. When the wind blows something unexpected his way, he has to decide if he’s ready to feel emotion again and deal with what he lost in the sand.
Scott Weller’s red hair, strange clear blue eyes, glasses and mechanically inclined intellect have always made him the perfect lure for bullies. Despite being well past the age of school yard harassment, Scott’s reoccurring bruises don’t go unnoticed by his friends and the newly returned Dustin. Scott’s easy smile and calm voice give Dustin a needed sense of peace, and Scott’s blushing freckles make Dustin feel something he never has before.
As the desire to protect Scott grows, Dustin finds himself in a different kind of war. An unsettling wind is blowing through Alvarado, dividing families and bringing change. When the dust settles, the small town of Alvarado will never be the same again.
“Can you hand me that 7/16th socket?” Scott asks from behind the washing machine. He’s been here for nearly three hours, taking the washing machine apart, rebalancing the drum, cleaning the old parts and putting it all back together again.
“Here.” I fish the socket out of his toolbox and hand it over. With nothing better to do, I’ve been out in the garage with him the whole time. I don’t know much about machines, aside from the maintenance tasks I had on base, but Scott seems to really love his work. He can certainly hold his own in a conversation about them.
“Thanks.” His grease-covered, calloused fingertips brush my palm as he takes the socket.
The unexpected way the touch sends a buzz over my hand and up my arm has me taking one step back. Like an invisible tether, Scott’s grease-smudged cheeks and friendly smile make that step back a hard one to take. I feel like I’m fighting with myself over something I can’t quite pin down, but the more time I spend with Scott, the more I believe it’s got something to do with him.
His eyes shift from mine back to the machine. “That should be just about it. This old machine will probably run better than one of those new ones they cheaply slam together. Can’t tell you how many of those things, barely a decade old, I have in my yard. Machines aren’t made to last like they used to be; they’re made to wear out so you gotta buy a new one.”
The socket-wrench clicks as he pauses to take a breath. His mouth runs longer than I think I’ve ever heard a man talk. But, it’s not such a bad thing. I haven’t exactly been in a conversational mood for the past few months, preferring one and two-word answers, or grunts if that works. Scott’s carrying the conversation for the both of us, filling in the silent spaces that I’ve come to dread because those silent moments give my brain a chance to start running through things I don’t want to think about.
And, there’s something about his voice… I don’t rightly know what it is, but it seems to ease all my nerves, letting me settle for a bit. It’s calm. Unrushed. Passive, but with a hint of joy when he’s talking about the things he loves, like this old washing machine and being able to fix it.
“There we go.” He stands up, dusts off his hands then starts dropping tools back into the box. “Wanna slide her back and plug her in?”
“A girl, is it?” I attempt a joke, trying to meet him at least somewhere in the middle when it comes to holding a conversation. It feels like I’m failing at that like everything else lately. So, I do one thing I am good at – moving a heavy-ass washing machine across the garage floor to the square-shaped stain on the concrete, then I plug it in.
“Shoot,” he chuckles. “Could be a boy, I guess. Don’t really think much on it, to be honest, but either way, it’s a damn good machine that just needed a little TLC.”
Withholding my skepticism, I put in a load of towels and turn the machine on. It begins filling up with water, quicker than I remember it doing so yesterday. Scott steps up behind me, smelling of machine oil, sweat and some kinda spicy deodorant. It ain’t unpleasant, but I back away to give him space.
That tether pulls tight again, everything in my bones telling me to stop backing away. I try to make a truce with myself by staring at the freckles dancing up the back of Scott’s neck. Confusing as it is, that works and my body relaxes back into a happy equilibrium.
Thankfully oblivious to my irrational mind, Scott lifts the lid I’d closed and tests the water temp. “These old ones don’t have lid locks,” he says. “The newer ones are a pain in the ass to test and work on. Half the parts are plastic.” Shutting the lid again, he kneels down and tugs an adjustable wrench from his back pocket before fiddling with the washer’s feet. “This old floor ain’t exactly level.”
“Nana used to shove an old copy of Home & Garden magazine under the front left leg.”
Scott glances up to me with a smile. “Most folks don’t know the legs are adjustable, so they stuff all kinds of stuff up under ‘em to keep them from wobbling, which usually leads to early rusting.”
Don’t know about the washer, but my legs are feeling a bit wobbly and I’m back to being confused. Something about the way he’s down on his knees, grinning up at me with those freckled cheeks, and his glasses sitting a little crooked; it’s got me trying to remember what it’s like to feel a connection to another human being. Without thinking, I reach out and adjust his glasses for him. His cheeks flame red in a heartbeat, and damn if that don’t make my legs all the more unstable.
“Thanks,” he says with a duck of his head. “Damn things are always getting sideways, covered in grease, or sliding down, or fogging up, or…well, if I could wear contacts, I would.”
“I like them.” That simple statement flies outta my mouth faster than I’m expecting. It wasn’t supposed to have been said out loud at all, but my mouth and I have been on awkward terms lately. Which is why I tend to grunt more than talk.
“Thanks.” His embarrassed smile, lowered copper eyelashes and stooping posture reminds me of those days before baseball and war again, and I wish I could bottle that feeling up and carry it around with me all the time.
He seems uncertain what to say now, though. The fact that I’ve quieted the chatterbox worries me. Making the guy feel uncomfortable wasn’t my intention. My mouth has a habit of saying stupid shit lately, and my body keeps feeling things I don’t know what to do with. One minute I’m completely numb, then the next I’m feeling too damn much. Right here, though, in this moment with Scott, I swear I’m grasping at something I ain’t felt in years.
If I could just hold on to it… Wrap my hands around it and… And now I’m staring at him, and he’s staring right back at me with a question in his eyes I don’t know how to answer.
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