First there is a secret in the caption. Second, I thought I’d share a piece of the holiday (think Thanksgiving 🦃) story set to launch on Friday, November 8th. It is a we’re best friends, let’s pretend that we’re dating romance.
GIBSON AND SAM were sitting on the bench in front of the big tree on Main Street when Gibson asked, “Why don’t we date each other?” Sam’s heart leaped into her throat, and she gave him a hard stare to confirm what she thought she heard. A slight quirk of his lip preceded the playful glint in his eye. He was joking. Sam rolled her eyes. “I’m not your type.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gibson tilted forward. The quirk morphed into a thin line of incredulity, and a shadow replaced the glint.
“Let see,” Sam sighed heavily, “Shall we go with the standard, ‘Sam, you are the kind of woman men marry, not date.’ Or, do you want to discuss how I’m too smart to put up with your shenanigans.”
“Oh, I remember,” Gibson snapped his fingers, “You are difficult. I believe the term is high maintenance.” He leaned back against the bench and cast his direction toward the scenery in front of them. The park had finally given away to autumn. Crisp leaves formed gold and red auroras on the ground around the trees.
“Insisting on a relationship lasting longer than three weeks is not high maintenance.” Sam sipped on her coffee and scooted away from Gibson. He had lost his mind, and she didn’t want to catch whatever kind of crazy he had picked up. She averted her gaze to what was going on around them. Eldon, the owner of the jewelry store, waved at her from the window. He held a vine of artificial leaves that he most likely would use as a backdrop for his window display to match the harvest theme the town was transitioning to. People were starting to wear heavier jackets, scarves, and sweaters. She wished Gibson’s suggestion was sincere. The season for getting cozy in front of the fire was on the horizon, and Sam was, once again, going solo.
“Can I ask you a favor?”
The absence of the upbeat tone in Gibson’s voice warned Sam. She wasn’t going to like the favor. “You want me to watch your dog while you go on a cruise with Cassidy?” At least she thought that was the name of his latest girlfriend. The name changed, but Gibson’s girlfriends always looked the same. Long blond hair, leggy, and clothes that had to have cost them, or Gibson a lot of money.
“I stopped seeing her a month ago, and I don’t have a dog. No, this is a different kind of favor.” He leaned forward on his elbows and tilted his body to face Sam. “Could you pretend to be my girlfriend for a while?”
He was crazy. Sam thought there was something different in his demeanor. “Why would I?” she cleared her voice, “Err, I mean, it wouldn’t work. I’m not your type.” Sam was the opposite of the Gibson flavor of the day. She had shoulder-length brown hair, a round face, and glasses. Kind of like her name, Sam had a boyish body style. Gibson, on the other hand, was a Lane. He was tall, lean, had striking gray eyes, and hair that was always impeccably styled. Gibson and Sam were like cookies and yogurt. He was the cookies. She was the yogurt. He was the treat. She was a healthy alternative.
“We already do everything together. It wouldn’t be much different from the way things already are.” Gibson rubbed his hands along the crease of his jeans. “People think we’re dating, anyway. Once they saw us together, they’d assume you were the reason why things didn’t work out with me and the other women. If it helps, I’d say I was distracted from what was in front of me.”
“I’m getting to the age where I need to present a stable personality.”
Those weren’t Gibson’s words. Gibson said things along the lines of I’ll have time for a serious relationship when things settle down at the restaurant. “Your parents? You’re trying to get them off your back.” The fog over the picture blew away. Gibson was the second oldest of the Lane brothers. Hunter was the rugged one. Everyone assumed the brother who lived in a remote house on the outskirts of town would remain single; Mark, the brother after Gibson, was the single father of two sons, and Liam, the youngest, married the previous summer.
Gibson’s parents must have said something about it being Gibson’s turn to settle down. Sam tightened to hold in the flinch. She saw a recipe for disaster, the train wreck coming down the tracks, the tornado following a course that promised no survivors.
An uneasy feeling somewhat like she had to cough but didn’t have enough air to muster the reaction settled in Sam’s chest. She scanned the area around them and leaned in to make it easier for Gibson to hear her lowered voice. Clearly, he was plotting. “We’ve been each others plus ones before. Wouldn’t that work instead.”
There was no good reason for Gibson Lane to be single. He may have grown up, but his attention span to stay in a relationship was consistent with the ten-year-old boy Sam remembered. When they were in elementary school, girls fought over Gibson. One time when they were in the locker room after a volleyball game Kendra McArthur and Nessa Bates got into an all-out fight.
Nessa should have been paying attention to the game, but she was making googlie eyes at Gibson. The ball hit her in the face. If it hadn’t cost the team the game, Sam would have laughed.
After the game, the girls followed the normal routine. They slapped hands with the other team under the net and said the obligatory “Good game.” If she remembered correctly, they played the Three Creeks, Badgers, who went on to win the division championships that year. So, it wasn’t exactly Nessa’s fault they lost.
As soon as they passed through the locker room doors, Kendra, who was “dating” Gibson at the time, was not amused and had no problem reminding Nessa of her boundaries. Words were exchanged, hair was pulled, and both girls were suspended from three games.
Through his friend Kasen, because that was how things went in elementary school, Gibson broke up with Kendra. She cried. Nessa consoled her. Samantha Ellis decided then and there that boys, especially ones named Gibson, were a stupid waste of time.
Twenty-five years later, the wisdom stuck. Sam wasn’t about to get into a fight with a woman to turn around and have Gibson break up with her the next day. The look on his face, however, said they had only finished round one of this discussion.
This is the end of chapter one. If you want to read more, click the Book Funnel link to download your copy of the preview copy. Because Paradise Hills Thanksgiving will be available on Kindle Unlimited, the preview copy is only available until November 7th.
Next week, I’ll share a story a Nanowrimo experience.