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Authors: Susan McBride

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BOOK: Love, Lies and Texas Dips
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Jo Lynn started to open her mouth to fight back, but all words caught in her throat when she saw the broad-shouldered guy in the tuxedo walking toward them. He ignored Jo completely as he took Laura’s hand.

OMG. It was Dillon Masters.

Her
Dillon.

“Noooooooo!”
Jo Lynn screamed at the top of her lungs.

Hands gripped her, shaking her shoulders, and a gravelly voice said, “Jo, hey, calm down. It’s all right.”

But it isn’t all right. Dillon is with that lard-ass Laura!

Jo struggled against the arms that wrapped tightly around her. A sob wedged in her throat, and she felt the rush of tears behind her eyelids.

“Babe, I’m here. It’s okay.”

She stopped fighting and forced her eyes open to see Dillon’s chiseled features hovering above her. His wide brow wrinkled with concern. She wiped the dampness from her cheeks and touched his jaw, the unshaved skin like sand paper, and she let out a huge sigh of relief.

“You’re here,” she whispered, and glanced around them at the familiar living room of the Bidwells’ guesthouse. They lay on the L-shaped sofa, across from the plasma TV, its screen dark and empty. It had all been a dream, she realized, the crazy beat of her heart slowing down.
This
was real. How could she ever have believed someone like Dillon would escort a slob like Laura to the Rosebud Ball?

“Oh, God,” she cried, burying her face in his chest. “It was awful.”

“I knew we shouldn’t have watched
Shaun of the Dead
again,” he said as he stroked her hair. “All that salsa and chips probably didn’t help either, and neither did falling asleep on the couch.” He squinted at his wristwatch and groaned. “It’s already eight o’clock.”

“Eight?” Jo lifted up her head, panicking momentarily because it was a Monday morning, until she remembered it was Labor Day. She sighed and settled down again. “It’s a holiday, Dill. We don’t have to go anywhere for a while if we don’t want to.”

“Your mom’s still gonna freak if she wakes up and sees my car here.”

“Please.” Jo laughed. “Bootsie adores you.”

And it was true. Her mother
loved
Dillon. He could do no wrong in her eyes, so long as he was making Jo Lynn happy. Jo’s mother would totally buy that they’d passed out in the
guesthouse watching movies, which was mostly all they’d done. Bootsie thought Mr. Star Quarterback was the model gentleman and he was, more than Jo Lynn would’ve liked, although he
had
macked on her plenty last night. Jo’s face heated up even now, thinking of Dillon’s strong hands on her skin and the firm way he’d kissed her, like he had something to prove.

Which he does
, she reminded herself, figuring it was the least she deserved after the romantic drought she’d endured the past month. Dillon always had a million excuses too, like the stress of football practice, training sessions, and pressure from his dad and college recruiters.

“Jo?” Dill’s voice brought her back to the present as he settled against the deep cushions, his pale gaze glued on her. “So, what’s with your nightmare?”

He obviously isn’t in a hurry to disappear
, she thought smugly, hoping that things were getting back to normal between them. She’d missed being close to him.

“It was more like a fright-mare,” she said, shaking off the flashes of it that still lingered. She squeezed her eyes closed a couple times to clear the visions. “I was at the Houstonian, but no one else was there for the deb ball except that skank Laura Bell, and she was wearing
my
couture Vera Wang gown, although hers was
way
bigger than mine, of course. But that couldn’t possibly happen because the Glass Slipper Club’s historian records everyone’s dresses so no two are alike—”

Dillon was staring at her like she was a lunatic so she stopped herself. “Never mind,” she told him, because explaining it did make her sound totally obsessive. “I think I’m just feeling the pressure. The first Rosebud meeting’s
tomorrow night, and
she’ll be
there, acting like she’s all that and getting in my face unless I—”

Jo Lynn didn’t finish. Dillon didn’t need to hear her scheme to get Laura ousted from the Rosebuds no matter what it took, no matter how important it was to her. He wouldn’t understand. She gnawed on her lower lip, itching to ask him a question that nagged at her. Finally, she just blurted out, “So what do you think of her?”

“Who?”

“Laura Bell.”
She enunciated clearly, practically spelling out the name.

Dillon shrugged. “I don’t know her that well, except from when Avery used to bring her around, but she seems okay.”

That wasn’t exactly what Jo Lynn was getting at, so she went right for the jugular: “You don’t think she’s attractive, do you?”

Her boyfriend drew back, giving her a “what the hell?” look. “Why would you even ask that?”

Because you were her deb ball escort in my damned dream
, Jo nearly howled, but checked herself. “Like you said, Avery went out with her, and I thought he had better taste than that. She’s … supersized.”

“Do you hate her because he was your boyfriend first? That’s what bugs you the most, isn’t it? Avery went from dating
you
to seeing a girl who’s definitely not your idea of a beauty queen.” Dillon exhaled slowly, and the muscles in his jaw twitched. “Jesus, Jo, I’m surprised you let someone like Laura get under your skin so much that you’re having nightmares about her.”

“You don’t get it,” Jo Lynn snapped.

“No, I don’t get it at all. You have everything any girl
could want, but instead of being happy you keep fixating on someone who can’t hold a candle to you.” Dillon sighed again, and there was something in his eyes that caused a chill to fall between them. “You need to give it a rest.”

That
got Jo’s back up. “So I’m a bitch for not liking her, is that it?”

Dillon looked at her for a long time before he said quietly, “Sometimes I’m just not sure what I’ve gotten myself into.”

What was that supposed to mean?

Is it because I brought up Avery? Is he jealous?
she wondered. Or was it something else?

Don’t push it, Jo
, she told herself, and her mind quickly shifted gears. She hurried to fix things, before all the warm, fuzzy feelings from their evening together evaporated.

“Look, I’m sorry. I don’t want to fight. Just the opposite,” she assured him, playing with the collar of his shirt. “Seriously, thanks for staying with me last night.
All
night,” she added, leaving out the rest of what she was thinking, namely,
even if we didn’t actually
do
it
.

“I’m the one who should thank you,” Dillon said, and squeezed her hand.

“Why thank me when it doesn’t have to end yet?” she whispered and, in one smooth motion, she slipped a leg across his thigh and slid onto his lap. She pressed up against his chest, kissing him gently at first and then more roughly when she felt him kissing her back.

Slipping her tongue between his lips, Jo Lynn tasted his morning breath, but didn’t care a bit. She unfastened the buttons on Dillon’s shirt and ran her hand over the solid muscles of his chest, feeling his heartbeat quicken beneath her palm and his grip tighten around her waist.

“Jo,” he moaned, and she couldn’t tell if he wanted her to stop or go on. So she kept going.

She tasted his skin, kissing his jaw and then gently licking his throat as her fingers tugged at the waistband of his cargo shorts, which was when he caught her wrist.

“Didn’t we agree to slow things down a little?” He peeled her hands away from his pants, setting them safely aside. Within seconds, he’d refastened the buttons on his shirt while Jo just tried to catch her breath. “Sometimes it feels like everything’s moving so fast around me that I can’t think straight.”

“Yeah, right, slow down,” Jo repeated, still feeling flushed all over, and thinking,
When did I agree to that?
It was more like
he’d
slowed down all on his own this past summer, after two years of going hot and heavy, and the only thing she could do to hold on to Dillon now was to go along with whatever he wanted. Something was up with him, but he obviously wasn’t willing to share.

So far as she knew he hadn’t been born again, and it was for damned sure
she
wasn’t into reconstituted virginity. She’d heard of girls accepting some kind of creepy promise ring from their dads for pledging to swear off sex until marriage. Ugh. Besides, it was
way
too late for that. Avery had made sure of it their freshman year. Weren’t guys the ones who always wanted to move faster? As much as she wanted to ignore it, Dillon’s need to put the brakes on didn’t make sense.

“I should take off,” Dillon said, and wriggled out from beneath her. He jumped up from the sofa and ran a hand through his tousled blond curls. “I need to work out this morning before I help my folks get ready for the barbecue.”
He looked around him as he hiked up his cargo shorts and smoothed his vintage bowling shirt. “You know where my shoes are?” he asked, getting down on his hands and knees as he poked beneath the couch for his missing Vans.

Jo Lynn got a nice view of his butt as he bent over and scrounged around for his kicks. It was almost too bad when he found them.

“I’ll see you at one o’clock, yeah?” Dillon slipped on his shoes. “My dad would kill me if you didn’t show. I think he’s got a crush on you,” he added, and wiggled his eyebrows.

“Stop it.” Jo shook her head, grinning. He could be such a goof. “Of course I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Cool.” He nodded as he slipped his wallet into his back pocket and picked up his cell from the coffee table without bothering to check it for messages. Then he grabbed his keys and headed for the door.

Jo Lynn shoved her feet into her floral-embroidered Christian Lacroix flats and snatched up her iPhone, which she’d turned off last night so nothing would interrupt them. Hopping off the sofa, she followed him to the door. She flipped tangled blond hair over her shoulders, coming up behind him as he paused before leaving.

“Bye, babe, I’ll see you this afternoon,” he said, kissing her lightly before he loped down the steps toward his black Mustang.

Jo closed the door and stood on the porch, listening to the sports car roar to life, the engine growling as it pulled away. She suddenly realized Dillon had never actually answered her question about whether or not he found Laura Bell attractive.

I’m surprised you let someone like Laura get under your skin
, she heard him saying, and she hated the fact that he was right. She shook off her attack of insecurity, something she’d rarely felt since she’d had to give up pageants her sophomore year.

Of course Dillon doesn’t think Laura is pretty
, she told herself. The girl was as tall as an Amazon and had a body type Bootsie politely referred to as “sturdy.” Not to mention the fact that she had no manners at all. Laura was known throughout Pine Forest Prep for saying precisely what she thought without thinking first, and often ended up with her hefty size-eleven foot in her mouth. They might both be trust fund babies, but that was
all
they had in common. Well, except that they were both blondes and their mothers were good pals … and, unfortunately, Laura had also been picked by the Glass Slipper Club to be one of ten Pine Forest Prep senior girls in this season’s debutante class.

Though Jo Lynn was bound and determined to see Miss Ding-Dong Bell booted out of the Rosebuds on her “sturdy” ass. Jo had already played an ace—or what she’d assumed was an ace—when she’d anonymously messengered a photo of a drunk and disrobed Laura Bell to every woman on the GSC’s debutante selection committee. Astoundingly, that trick had backfired, leaving Jo Lynn with no choice but to try something else—which reminded her that she had some work to do on her “Get Laura Drop-Kicked from the Rosebuds” project before Dillon’s family barbecue this afternoon. It
was
Labor Day after all, wasn’t it? Only this bit of labor would be fun.

She turned on her iPhone and found a new text message. She paused on the flagstone path that led around the pool to
the main house, went to her SMS screen, and read Camie Lindell’s note. Her friend was obviously curious about how things had gone with Jo and Dillon.

So??? Whassup with U and Big D?

Jo smiled and texted back: He just left.

Camie’s reply bounced back like she’d been sitting on her cell, waiting for Jo to respond. No way!!!

Way! Jo tapped into the keypad. And I’ll C him L8R at his BBQ. I so heart him!

You suck! I’ll B hanging out with Trish while U have real fun. We’re going 2 the country club 4 yoga, lunch & mani-pedis. Spill All when U get back!!!

Jo answered: U know I will.

My BFFs will have to do without me today
, Jo mused as she slipped her phone into her back pocket and strode across the flagstone walkway through the manicured lawn. Though she was usually too preoccupied to admire the pretty acre in Houston’s pricey Piney Point Village upon which sat the home her daddy had custom built before she was born, she took it in now. Tall pines soared heavenward and enclosed the property, hugging close to its borders like giant guardians, keeping the Bidwells safely separated from the rest of the world. Graceful cypresses dripped Spanish moss; fluffy asparagus ferns flourished; and the hibiscus, oleander, and Mexican honeysuckle still bloomed wildly in early September. Sago palms looked like verdant umbrellas, while velvet-leaved princess flower bushes still bore a few dark purple blooms.

Jo inhaled deeply, the sweet mix of scents so pervasive on the humid air that she could almost taste them.

Today
, she decided then and there,
will be absolutely perfect. Nothing and no one can ruin it
.

Having the day off from school after two weeks back at good ol’ all-girls Pine Forest Prep rocked, particularly since it meant she’d be spending the afternoon with Dillon. Even though she wished they were doing something alone and not having to play nice with Dillon’s parents, plus most of the Caldwell Academy football team. Still, Jo Lynn kind of enjoyed being Dillon’s arm candy, and he seemed to like showing her off to the other guys, as if he’d won a big prize that they’d never get.

BOOK: Love, Lies and Texas Dips
9.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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