A Small Town Escape

I’ve talked about how I’m finding more quiet time away from the city lately, and spending that time in nature has made me nostalgic for the days when I lived in a small town. Sure, there are drawbacks from living outside of a city, like not having access to arts and culture like museums and theaters. But, the allure of wide open spaces and the sweet serenade of birds over traffic and construction noise are powerfully persuasive.

Although I have no immediate plans to leave the city, I can visit a small town (based on the one I grew up in) called Clear Lake and so can you. Good With His Hands is about a hot small town mechanic and the reluctantly relocated journalist who fall for each other despite their differences and amid some small town gossip drama 😀

Here’s an excerpt if you’d like to know a little more about Jake and Gabby.

book cover with shirtless man in foreground with hot rod vehicle in backgroundEvery woman wants a man who is good with his hands…

He’s a sexy bad boy mechanic with a reputation. She’s a guarded reporter with too much to lose to play with fire. She tries to resist him but one touch from him changes everything. 

Recent college graduate Gabby Richards has big plans for her life. At the top of those plans is landing a job for a major magazine in Chicago. While Gabby is busy mapping out her career as a journalist, her father gets seriously injured. Upon hearing of his accident, Gabby drops everything, including her career plans, and heads home to her small, rural town of Clear Lake, but vows to return to Chicago as soon as her father is well.

On her first day back in her hometown she has a run-in with the town’s sexy new mechanic, Jake Harrison, and meeting him turns everything upside-down. Despite her wishes to remain single, she doesn’t see the harm in going on a few dates with him. Soon Jake is helping Gabby confront her past and bringing out a side of her that has remained hidden for years. Even though she wants to remain focused on her career and return to her city life, she begins to wonder if it’s possible to have it all—career, her dream life in Chicago, and Jake Harrison.

 

“Sorry, do I have something on my face?” Gabby asked him earnestly.

Jake merely chuckled and shook his head.

“Then what’s wrong? Why are you staring and how come you’re not eating?”

“I love how you’re always so subtle,” Jake said with a laugh. “I was just wondering why you don’t like Clear Lake. What is it about this place that you claim bothers you so much? I say claim because from the way you’re chowing down on that sandwich, and the sparkle I saw in your eyes when you talked about your stories, you seem pretty happy to me. I think you’re determined not to like this town, for some reason, but it’s not working.”

Gabby felt a knot form in the pit of her stomach and she put the half-eaten gargantuan sandwich on her plate. Despite the fact that she didn’t like where Jake was going with the conversation, she felt he deserved some kind of answer. She didn’t know if she wanted to tell him the truth. It was so personal. She lifted her gaze from her Big Henry up into his concerned blue eyes. 

“There are a lot of things about Clear Lake I’d rather forget. When I look around, I don’t see anything but a lot of bad memories and things I wish had never happened. I’m sorry if that doesn’t make sense to you, but it’s the truth,” she said as she threw her napkin down next to her plate.

“So you don’t have to worry about bad memories in Chicago? To you, it’s safe, in that respect, that’s why you’re so determined to run back there the first chance you get,” he said matter-of-factly.

Gabby was shocked at how rude he was being. She opened her mouth to speak, but didn’t know what to say to him. Jake could never understand what it felt like to lose a parent, to watch them suffer and waste away and know there was nothing you could do to help them or stop it from happening. 

She felt tears spring in her eyes, and at the risk of having Jake see her cry, she bolted for the restroom, while muttering an ‘excuse me’ over her shoulder. She nearly bumped into their waitress in her hurry to reach the bathroom. 

Gabby leaned over the sink and took several deep breaths, determined not to cry. She wanted to get angry at Jake, she wanted to march straight out to their table and give him a piece of her mind. She wanted to tell him what an ignorant comment he’d made and that their date on Saturday was off.

However, she didn’t want to make a scene in the dining area and be the talk of the town for weeks. If not months, she thought sardonically. She decided the silent treatment would be better and probably a lot more effective.

When she went back out to the booth, Jake was throwing some cash down on the table to pay their tab. Gabby headed for the door and was waiting inside the hot truck for him when he got outside and cranked the engine to life.

“I’m sorry if what I said upset you.”

Gabby sat staring out the passenger window, feeling all her resolve to tell Jake off fade away. “It’s not just what you said Jake. It’s okay. I don’t expect you to know what it feels like to lose a parent. You probably can’t even imagine the pain of driving by the hospital where your mom spent weeks lying in a bed under fluorescent lighting when she should have been at home, gardening, cooking dinner and living her life. 

“I don’t expect you to understand how everywhere I go and everything I see is overtaken by memories. I don’t expect you to know what it’s like to not only be haunted by what has happened, but also what could have been,” she wiped a tear that had rolled down her cheek and faced Jake. “So, you’re right in one respect, Jake. Chicago is safe, there are not bad memories, there are not good memories. It’s just a place. It’s some place I can just be Gabby, not poor Gabby who lost her mom to cancer, not a sob story, I’m just me. Like I said, you probably can’t get that.”

Jake let out a long sigh and Gabby thought to herself, I sure told him.

“It’s funny you say that I wouldn’t understand Gabby, when I understand perfectly. I lost my mom too. Not to cancer, a car accident. I don’t know what’s worse, watching your parent slip away, little by little, or to have her suddenly taken away, like my mom was. 

“I know exactly what you’re saying about the memories, Gabby. I felt the same way after my mom died and I had to pass by the stretch of road where she was hit. It was like a knife in my stomach every time I saw that spot. Then my grandpa died and when I found out my dad didn’t want to take over the business and move here, I jumped at the chance. 

“I left my hometown for the same reasons you’re trying to leave yours, Gabby and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I have. Sooner or later the pain resurfaces, I may not have to see the spot where my mom died every day, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s not around anymore. Maybe you can find a way to still be connected to your mom. I started running as a way to connect with mine, when I’m running, it’s like…I can feel her presence.”

He reached for her hand and pulled her toward him across the bench seat. 

“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, I was only trying to help,” he said as he stared deep into her hazel eyes.

“It’s not your fault, Jake,” she said in a husky voice. 

She was so close to him she could smell the shop fluids on his uniform, and feel the heat radiating from his body. She felt Jake remove his hand from hers and she experienced a pang of disappointment. When he placed his hand on the back of Gabby’s bare neck, her heart raced. Jake angled his head toward hers and she parted her lips in anticipation of his kiss. 

Gabby grasped his shoulders and felt Jake’s surprisingly soft embrace. Maybe it was the emotions of the moment, but his kiss wasn’t as insistent as it normally was. Despite it being a mellower kiss, her heartbeat accelerated, her anger totally evaporated now. She let out a contented sigh and was about to wind her fingers through his hair when someone honked their horn. Startled, she and Jake broke apart. 

“Way to go, Jake,” a man called from a vehicle nearby. 

He continued to grin goofily at the couple as he walked into the barbeque joint. Gabby felt her cheeks flame in response to their audience. So much for keeping her dates with Jake a secret and not being the talk of the town.

Interested in more? Find Good With His Hands at  Amazon, Amazon CA, Amazon UK, Apple, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.