By Ashley Ladd
All rights reserved. This story may not be reproced without permission of Ashley Ladd.
Clambake is a sweet short story.
Brynn is on hiatus until further notice but I will continue Monday Minute Fiction with free short stories every Monday for your reading pleasure.
Tessa couldn’t believe her ears. She couldn’t believe her best friend, Alyssa, had lied to her. Without turning to look at her ex, she stomped off in search of Alyssa. She had to weave in and out of the couples slow dancing to Dusty’s sultry voice.
As hard as she tried, she couldn’t block out Dusty’s sexy tenor, couldn’t stop the memories from flooding her mind. Or heart. When she’d first saw Dusty up on the stage, a modern day Elvis, she’d fallen head over heels. But she knew a crush on a musician was just that—a crush. And then they’d met and fallen in love.
At least she had.
Under her breath she cursed too softly for anyone to hear over the loud music. By the time she found Alyssa ensconced in the arms of a sexy stranger clad only in tight swim trunks, she was fuming. When she poked Alyssa’s shoulder it was none too gently. “Liar! You promised Dusty wouldn’t be here.”
“Ouch!” Alyssa turned out of her partner’s arms and rubbed her shoulder. She shot a glance filled with trepidation and sympathy at Tessa.
Tessa crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot on the wet sand. “What were you thinking? You know I never want to see him again.” Or hear him, either.
Alyssa sighed and pushed her heavy hair out of her eyes. A hot pink streak didn’t catch behind her ear and fell across her forehead. “I didn’t lie. The original band backed out. Dusty’s band was nice enough to fill in at the last second.”
Tessa’s eyes narrowed. She wasn’t sure whether to believe her friend. The matchmaker had done more devious things than this. Still… “You should have told me.”
Alyssa accepted the beer her new fellow passed to her. She took a long swig before answering. “Then you wouldn’t have come.”
Tessa’s heart pounded in her ears louder than Dusty’s music. Her palms grew clammier than the wet sand clinging to her feet. “Darned right! What part of I’m through with that cheater don’t you get?”
Alyssa’s expression hardened. “So you’re going to turn tail and run every time you bump into him? You’re going to avoid your friends because he might show up?”
Hearing it that way, Tessa felt like a spoiled little girl. Her brain demanded she square her shoulders, look Dusty straight in his face and pretend he meant nothing to her. It didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of having another notch on his belt. But her heart tumbled to her feet and was in danger of being irreparably crushed underfoot. She craned her neck and looked to the twinkling stars overhead for guidance.
When the song ended, couples remained in each other’s arms swaying to nothing more than the soft lap of waves on the shore. Several were necking and some had already retreated to their beach blankets shadowed by giant outcroppings of rock.
She stared at a couple bathed in moonlight a few yards away, heavily petting one another.Her tongue swelled in her mouth and she got choked up. Just two months ago that had been her and Dusty making out on the beach.
She’d been so crazy about the guy she hadn’t noticed or cared if someone watched them, either. “I-I can’t. I can’t deal with this.” She wanted to add “yet” but wasn’t sure if she ever could.
Alyssa shook her head as her new man hooked his arm around her bare waist and pulled her back into his embrace. “You’re making a mistake. You haven’t even heard the guy out. He’s really raw.”
Tessa’s heart jolted, but not enough to make her stay. She wiggled her fingers at her friend. “I’m outta here.”
But when she tried to wind her way through the crowd, loud static from the mike made her wince. Dusty’s voice came on, “Stop that woman! The one in the purple polka-dotted bikini. The most beautiful girl in the world.”
The throng of couples closed as tightly as a wall and wouldn’t permit her to pass. Frustrated, she turned on her heel and tried to go around them. But they closed around her in a circle, not allowing her to pass.
She began to smolder but then his words sank in. The most beautiful girl in the world.
The hair on her nape prickled. If he thought pretty compliments would erase his wrongs, he was sorely mistaken. But she was compelled to turn and look at him.
Up on stage, bathed in silvery moonlight, looking larger than life, he stole her breath. He looked like a rock god with his guitar slung over his shoulder and his lips kissing the microphone.
Needing to be strong, she squared her shoulders and jutted up her chin. Her gaze met his in challenge but she didn’t make another step in either direction.
“If you won’t hear me out any other way you will here and now. I didn’t cheat on you. I’d never cheat on the only woman I could ever love. I love you with all my heart and soul.”
Tears burned the backs of her eyes. Visions of her misery blinded her. “Why did a naked girl come out of your hotel room? I saw her with my own eyes.”
Dusty tightly squeezed his eyes. He put one hand to his heart and held the other out to her.”She got past security. But I didn’t invite her. I was kicking her out.”
He fell to his knees. In a ragged voice, he cried out, “God, Tessa, I only have my word to defend me. You know me. You have to trust me. Please, trust your heart. You know I’d never hurt you. I’d rather die.”
Sighs drowned out the music of the sea. Bikini-clad women melted against their men. Several whispered to her, “Give him a chance.” “Go to him.” “Believe him.”
Dusty pulled out a small, velvet box from his pocket and held it out. “I was getting ready to do this in private, but I didn’t get the chance. Marry me. Be mine forever.”
Love burned away all her doubts. She felt more than silly, she felt criminal for not believing him, not giving him a chance to explain before. It propelled her to him. “Yes! Oh, yes! I love you.”
Dusty slid the ring onto her finger. Then he stood and caught her in his arms. He swung her around on the stage. His eyes, dark and full of love, blazed down into hers. He set her on her feet but didn’t release her. He bent his head and nibbled her lips. Against them he murmured, “I didn’t know what I’d do if this didn’t work tonight.”
She gasped but joy replaced her previous anger. “So Alyssa did know! She was match making again, wasn’t she?”
Dusty winced, but he said, “I won’t lie. Be assured I’ll never lie to you. Yes, she did. But don’t be angry with her. She did it for us. She wants you to be happy as much as I do. Are you happy?”
Giddy and ebullient, Tessa couldn’t wait to show him how happy. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his lips to hers and showed him exactly how much.
Monday, July 12, 2010