By Laura Drewry
Publisher: Loveswept Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
In Laura Drewry’s funny, heartwarming Loveswept debut, a man and a woman learn the hard way that a little bit of love makes staying friends a whole lot harder.
Worn out from the long drive back home, Jayne Morgan can only smirk at the irony: Of course the first person she sees from her old life is Nick Scott. Once best friends, they lost touch when Jayne left town at eighteen, but nothing could keep them apart forever. Jayne has returned to take over her grandmother’s bookstore, determined to put all her bittersweet memories and secret disappointments strictly in the past—until, that is, Nick insists she bunk at his place.
Nick never did care what people thought about having a girl for a best friend—or the “scandal” she caused by showing up to his wife’s funeral four years earlier—so he’s got no problem with the gossips now. Jayne was always the one person he could count on in his life. Now Nick is starting to realize that he never wants her to leave again . . . and that being “just friends” isn’t going to be enough anymore.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laura Drewry had been scribbling things for years before she decided to seriously sit down and write. After spending eight years in the Canadian north, Laura now lives back home in southwestern British Columbia with her husband, three sons, a turtle named Sheldon, and an extremely energetic German Shepherd. She loves old tattered books, good movies, country music, and the New York Yankees.
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Excerpt from Chapter Two of PLAIN JAYNE by Laura Drewry:
Jayne’s mouth hung open and her eyes all but bulged out of their sockets. Nick had barely finished framing the house when Abby died, and given the situation at the funeral, Jayne had never been invited to see it. And rightly so.
The large sunken living room sat like a hub in the middle of the house. Complete with a huge rock fireplace and way-high ceilings, she could have fit her whole apartment in that one room! The furniture wasn’t anything fancy, but the flat screen was enormous and the brown leather recliners looked comfortable enough to sleep on.
“Come on,” he said. “I’ll give you the twenty-five-cent tour.”
The living room eased into a big open kitchen and eating nook that looked out over a wide deck and a huge fenced-in backyard. Jayne ran her finger idly over the granite island, mesmerized by how much light flowed in through the long windows. For a single guy, the room was surprisingly tidy. The counters were all but bare, save for the coffeemaker and toaster, and to look at the stove top, you’d never know someone cooked on it.
“Are you sure you actually live here?” she asked, only half joking.
“Cleaning lady’s worth her weight in gold.”
Nick led her out the other side of the kitchen, past a bathroom and utility room, and down the short hallway to the master suite. The creamy yellow and soft brown duvet looked like it had been freshly laid out, and the matching pillows freshly fluffed. The Robert Bateman print she’d given them as a wedding gift hung above the six-drawer oak dresser and the matching side tables displayed an arrangement of magazines.
“Mark Zuckerberg as magazine’s Person of the Year?” she chuckled as she followed him back through the kitchen to the other side of the house. “You might want to update your reading material.”
The first room had half a dozen boxes labeled Christmas, a bike with no front wheel, Nick’s old drum set, and a Callaway bag loaded down with scuffed-up golf clubs. A white T-shirt had been tossed over the top of a black duffel bag and a thick red sleeping bag flowed over the edge of the open futon under the window.
“This is Carter’s room when he stays over.”
The next room was home to an empty brown leather tool belt, three cans of paint, a ring of paint samples, various bins of nails and screws, and four or five different carpet samples.
“I like what you’ve done with the place.” Jayne snickered. “Has that real ‘homey’ feel to it.”
They passed a full bathroom, void of any décor, and moved to the end of the hall where Nick pointed to a room on the right. “That’s the office, and this is my room.”
“Your room? Don’t you use—”
He shook his head, pushed the door open, and stepped aside so she could look in.
. It was only slightly more inviting than the room with the tool belt. A box spring and mattress had been pushed up against the far wall. There was no bed frame, but at least there was a thick pillow and what appeared to be a homemade quilt. Other than that, there was a white plastic hamper with a pair of plaid cotton boxers hanging over the side, a huge cushion for Duke, and a three-drawer dresser that matched the big one in the master suite.
His office wasn’t much better, but at least he’d personalized it a little with a wood-framed picture of Abby smiling up from the corner of his paper-strewn desk. Jayne lifted the photo and stared down at it for a long time.
“I’ll say this much for her, she sure was beautiful, wasn’t she?” Jayne might not have been head cheerleader for Team Abby, but there was no denying the woman was gorgeous. Eat-your-heart-out-Elle-Macpherson gorgeous.
“Yeah.” Nick’s voice was quiet, distant. “She was something.”
With hair the color of honey and eyes so green you’d swear she wore colored contacts, Abby was the girl every guy wanted and every girl wanted to be. Every girl except Jayne. All that attention would have made her crazy, but Abby welcomed it, offering everyone a dazzling smile or a kind word whenever they passed.
The only thing they had in common was Nick; Jayne had grown up with him and Abby had planned to grow old with him.
Nick cleared his throat behind her. “You can take the master suite.”
Jayne set the picture back on the desk, shaking her head the whole while. “Oh no. No no no no no.”
“Why not? It’s there, it’s furnished, and no one uses it.”
“But it’s . . .” If she widened her eyes as big as she could, would he understand without her having to say it out loud?
“It’s what?” A few seconds passed, then a light seemed to go on in his thick head and he laughed quietly. “We’d only started building before her accident, remember? That room’s never been used, and no, neither has the bed.”
“Then why is it furnished?”
“Mom’s idea.” He shrugged and headed back through to the kitchen. “I thought about selling a few years ago and she figured it’d look better if at least one bedroom was furnished properly.”
“So you take it and I’ll take your room.”
“Nah. I’m good where I am. Besides . . .” He wagged his brow and grinned. “Now that I know you’re a girl, we need to keep you as far away from Carter as possible.”
“Yeah, right,” she laughed. “Like he’d ever come horning up on me.”
“He better not.” He pulled the cranberry juice and a lime out of the fridge, then reached into the cupboard above and pulled out the Grey Goose and Grand Marnier.
“Beer’s fine, Nick.”
“You hate beer.” He measured everything into a shaker of ice, grinned as he made a production of shaking the concoction to perfection, then filled a martini glass and slid it toward her.
After he’d opened himself a beer, she clinked her glass against his bottle and took a slow sip of her drink. A good Cosmo trumped a nasty old beer any day.
“This isn’t even a little bit weird to you?” She picked the sticker off the side of the lime, then rolled it up in her palm until Nick held his hand out, fingers wiggling.
“Nope.” He took the sticker from her, then snapped up the lime before she could reach for it. A second later, everything was put away, leaving her with nothing to do with her hands.
“I gotta go walk Duke,” he said. “So why don’t you take your girl drink and . . . I don’t know . . . have a bath or something. I won’t be long.”
“A bath? Is that your tactful way of telling me I stink?”
“What? No.” He tried to shrug it off, but Jayne didn’t miss the way his eyes widened or the way his nose twitched a little. “But I don’t have any John Hughes movies and I’m out of Ben & Jerry’s, so I figured a bath was the next best thing.”
How did he remember stuff like that?
He led her back through the master suite and pointed to the double-doored closet in the bathroom. “Mom loaded the place up with towels, different soaps, whatever you need. Toothbrushes are on the top shelf.”
“Extra toothbrushes? Really?”
“Compliments of Pop.” He smiled wide enough to show off his dad’s handiwork. “Straight teeth and toothbrushes. Lots and lots of toothbrushes.”
“Nice,” she chuckled. “Thanks.”
“No sweat. We’ll be back in a bit.” With a quick nod, he whistled for the dog. Long mournful howls answered back before Duke waddled his way outside.
As the claw-footed tub filled, Jayne brushed her teeth, pulled a giant white fluffy towel from the cupboard, then climbed into the deep hot water. Leaning back, she closed her eyes and exhaled a long slow breath. Nick could say what he liked, but she wasn’t fooled; this was weird. Comforting to know she wouldn’t have to stay in that filthy apartment or a skuzzy hotel room, sure, but weird nonetheless.
There was so much to think about, so much to sort out, but for now she was going to lie back and try to force her mind clear of the mess, both at the store and what was to come when Nick’s girlfriend and mother found out what was going on. She wouldn’t wonder how in blue blazes Gran crammed all that stuff in the store, and she sure as hell wouldn’t think about the smell. Nope. She’d simply enjoy the hot bubbly water and ice-cold drink, and she’d concentrate on breathing, long and slow, in and out, inhaling until her lungs threatened to burst, then exhaling every last bit out.
When she heard Nick and Duke come back, she yanked the plug and turned the shower on to rinse off.
“Hope you’re hungry,” Nick called. “Chinese food’ll be here in a minute.”
She pulled her clothes back on and wandered back into the kitchen just as Nick set the bag of food on the table. They loaded up their plates and sat across from each other, the only conversation coming from the TV in the living room. Jayne had just taken a bite of her egg roll when Nick pushed his plate away, leaned back in his chair, and sighed, an awkward grin on his face.
“It’s been a long time since we did this.”
She wiped her mouth and chuckled over her egg roll. “It’s kind of tricky to organize meals together when we lived in different time zones.”
“Yeah.” He shrugged. “But it’s my fault you didn’t come back sooner.”
“Seriously, Nick, just stop.” She huffed out a breath and crossed her arms. “You’re not the only one to blame, you know. I shouldn’t have come back for her funeral. If I’d given any thought to how much she and her family hated me, I wouldn’t have come, but honest to God, all I could think about was that you’d be so busy looking after everyone else, and there’d be no one looking after you.”
“Jayne.” He shifted a little, ducked his head to try and get her to look at him, but she kept her eyes trained on her plate.
“Three days I sat in that stupid Pearson airport waiting out that storm and all the other standbys who got there ahead of me. And even when I finally got on a flight, it was like the pilot thought he was out for a Sunday drive or something. Longest five hours of my life.” After a second, she dared a quick look at him, then lifted her fork and pushed the chow mein around on her plate.
“I was so sure you needed me, but all I did was make it worse for you, and I’m . . .” The weary sigh escaped before she could stop it. “I’m really sorry for that.”
“Jeez, Jayne. You’ve got nothing to be sorry about.” Nick’s voice was little more than a whisper but it landed like a rock in her heart. “Having you there was exactly what I needed, but instead of telling you that, instead of thanking you for flying all the way across the freakin’ country, I was a total prick.”
She blinked back the itchy feeling behind her eyes and shrugged, hoping she could somehow manage to swallow the knot in her throat and speak somewhat normally.
“You weren’t a prick,” she said after a while. The small grin she forced was every bit as painful as the lump she’d just swallowed. “Maybe a bit of one, but not a total one. Besides, her parents obviously thought I was there to either steal you away or spit on their daughter’s grave, so you were right to kick me out.”
“If it was right,” he said quietly, “then why do I still feel like such a shit?”
“Because you’re an idiot.” Her grin came much easier this time, but she threw in a dramatic eye roll for good measure. “Look, if being a complete ass to me helped you through the worst time of your life, then I’m glad I could help.”
“Hey!” He tried to give her a wounded look, but failed miserably when his mouth curled into a smile. “Two seconds ago, you just said I wasn’t a total ass.”
“No. I said you weren’t a total prick. You a complete ass.”
“There’s a difference?”
“Duh!” A prick would have hurt her on purpose; an ass did it without realizing, and how could he have had any idea how much it would hurt her? Showing affection was a daily occurrence in the Scott family, whereas it wasn’t even considered in Gran’s apartment. Jayne never hugged anyone unless they hugged her first, and even then, she gave little more than a quick squeeze or a token pat on the back before wrenching herself free.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to hug Nick, or show him the affection he showed her, because she did. God help her, she did. She just didn’t know how to do it without looking and feeling like a complete idiot.
Abby’s funeral was proof of that. That had been the first and only time in her life Jayne hadn’t worried about being awkward, or about who saw; she’d simply walked straight up to Nick in that church, threw her arms around him, and held on as tight as she could.
Abby’s mother had all but screamed the roof down until someone finally produced a sedative for her, but by that time, Nick was already dragging Jayne from the building and sending her away. He hadn’t done it to hurt her, he’d only done it to ease Mrs. Griffin’s anguish. Sitting there now at Nick’s kitchen table, Jayne knew this, so why did her eyes itch worse than before? And why was she blinking so fast?