Okay, no twas about it. It IS the night before release day. Well, I guess really there are about five more hours before Where There’s Smoke hits ebook readers everywhere (I hope) 🙂 So I wanted to give you a taste of Logan and Kyana’s story. Here’s a sneak peek excerpt from my novella in the Two to Tango collection, which also includes stories by Jess Dee and Lorelei James.
From Where There’s Smoke, copyright 2012 Jayne Rylon:
Logan crashed onto the beat-up leather recliner in his shitty apartment. Sure, it was barely after dawn, but it wasn’t early by his standards. Usually he raced the first rays of sunrise to a construction site. This morning was really the end of a long, long night and a terrible day.
His buzz had faded hours ago, somewhere around the time he’d realized he couldn’t get it up with the slightly skanky blonde who’d promised to suck all his woes right out of him in some even sketchier alley. Probably the one behind the bar he’d attempted to drown his sorrows in. What the hell was wrong with him?
It wasn’t every day a guy got canned, he supposed.
Not that he hadn’t seen that train barreling down on him from a mile away. Still, he’d tried his damnedest to save his spot on the renovation crew by working his ass off. Demonstrating superior skills and reliability hadn’t been the Hail Mary he’d hoped. Hell, he’d even skipped out on Rose’s funeral so he wouldn’t have to call off. What a waste. He’d left a pathetic message on Kyana’s voicemail, offering condolences he should have given in person. No wonder she hadn’t called his lame ass back.
Not now, nor ten years ago when he’d walked out on her and Ben like the chickenshit eighteen-year-old he’d been.
It was about time he got his priorities in order. As soon as he could believe this had really happened. Grief, fury and shock sweated from his skin along with the vile stench left behind by a 40 of King Cobra—the most buzz he could buy for his last twenty, drinking like a hobo. Might as well have duct-taped the bottle to his palm. At least then he wouldn’t have knocked it over, spilling some. He really could have used those last six or seven shots. Maybe they would have granted him oblivion.
Logan tipped his head onto the comfortable cushion, which had dented to perfectly contour his form years ago. He tried not to think of the shit he’d lost in his life, like the gorgeous young lady he’d admired and wanted so desperately. Her delicate Asian features, refined manners, unwavering loyalty to her mongrel best friend, and her all-American sass had practically brought him to his knees. Just another thing he’d never really had a chance at holding on to.
What a loser.
Doubly so because the simple thought of her—and the sultry all-woman voice that had transfixed him on her voicemail—had blood rushing to his dick. If it had been her smooshed up against him in that cesspool tonight, there’d have been no performance issues to stand in the way of a mind-numbing good time. Yeah, right. Kyana would never stoop so low as to join him in a dive like that. He didn’t blame her either.
“Son of a bitch!” He thumped his fist on the tattered arm of his chair, refusing to give in to the temptation to take matters into his own hands while visions of the polished, perfect girl next door danced through his mind. He’d grown out of that phase back in high school. Okay, he had occasional relapses, but it hadn’t been until Ben told Logan she’d moved home—during one of their twice-weekly calls—that he’d regressed to his former obsession.
Ben would be awake in an hour or so. Maybe Logan would call and see what was going on in the old neighborhood. He’d crash-landed there when his mom hooked up with a new guy and didn’t have room or patience to take a rebellious teen along to her new picket-fence life. He didn’t really blame her.
Better yet, maybe he should pay his great-uncle a visit. It was about time Logan did something useful. Something decent for someone who deserved his loyalty.
He still couldn’t believe he’d been played so bad. A total sucker. How hadn’t he realized what was up?
To distract himself for a while, he snatched the remote off the side table, which he’d rescued on junk day and restored, before flipping on the TV. Channel surfing his basic cable didn’t yield much of interest.
Infomercial, infomercial, infomercial…
It might do him some good to remember there were entire nations of people out there who had it a hell of a lot worse than he did. Fucked up? Yes. But it did make him feel better about the state of his existence. If he could find an old Jerry Springer rerun he’d really be looking fine.
Flames transfixed him as they wrapped around the edges of a window to grasp at the shutter outside. Wow, it would seriously blow to have your pad burn down. Especially if you had a home instead of merely a place you stayed, which is how he felt lately. The fire hypnotized him as it licked at the walls of an older Victorian that looked not that different than the one he’d spent his adolescent summers in. Ben’s house had been home. The real kind. For a while.
Maybe Logan could try for that again.
He leaned forward in his chair as a fireman flew off the deck at the rear of the building with a woman cradled in his arms. Raven hair and pale skin wrapped in something that might once have been pretty blue silk were revealed with each cycle of the flashing emergency lights.
Logan’s head tilted as he examined the injured woman. He must have been more fucked up than he realized to imagine the damsel in distress looked a hell of a lot like Kyana. Not that he’d studied her photographs in Ben and Rose’s houses on his infrequent visits or anything.
Sure, sure. Keep telling yourself those lies. One day you might believe them, buddy.
Shit, he’d even snapped his own copies with his cell phone. The woman he’d spied posing in designer suits or in endless graduation cap and gowns in photos on Rose’s vintage mantel didn’t seem like the sort who’d doll herself up in gorgeous yet frivolous finery. He scrubbed his eyes with the bruised and cut knuckles of one hand after he realized he hadn’t blinked for a solid thirty seconds.
When he refocused, he saw it—the ugly-ass birdbath he and Kyana had built Ben one sweltering August afternoon as kids when her family had been on a round-the-world tour and his mom had been on the prowl for a step up. The broken flower pots they’d recycled made unlevel, garish yard art better suited to Logan’s mom’s trailer park than Ben’s neat and trim community. Despite that, his great-uncle had refused to get rid of the junk.
No! It can’t be. He stabbed the volume button on his remote, disengaging the mute feature.
“The cause of the fire is still unknown but the resident was the only occupant at the time of the blaze. His neighbor spotted the fire, called emergency crews, then rushed inside to haul the elderly man from the flames.” In the background, a burly fireman toted Kyana’s rag doll form as though she weighed nothing at all. Tall and willowy, she probably didn’t. The graininess of the image made it hard to tell much, but the tattered nightgown and soot stains covering her sent ice through Logan’s veins.
“Neighbors tell us this isn’t the first tragedy to strike Oak Avenue this year. The death of a longtime resident next door just a few months ago has some wondering if bad luck really does come in threes. And, if so, who will suffer it next?” The reporter paused while footage cut away from Kyana being loaded onto a gurney outside an ambulance.
“Go back! Go back!” he shouted at the TV. He had to make sure she was okay. And where was Ben? They’d said Ky had pulled him from the burning house, but was he all right?
Batty as ever, Myrtle Jansen entertained the reporter with old wives’ tales and superstitions that portended more dire times to come. Logan shook his head and instead studied the rest of the crowd. He didn’t recognize the man and woman huddled together in the background. They must be new to the area. Daryl Thick loomed still and watchful on the fringes of the frame. His assessing stare on Myrtle and the newscaster put Logan on instant alert.
“More on this story as it becomes available. Back to you, Tom…”
“What? That’s it?” Logan didn’t know when he’d launched to his feet. He paced the kitchen as he dug his cell from the back pocket of his jeans. Snagging his keys out of the bowl by the door, he jogged from his apartment.
Ring after ring grated on his nerves until he realized, of course, there’d be no answer at Ben’s place. He used his thumb to search the contact list of his basic, un-smart phone for the number he’d only found the balls to dial once. After Rose’s funeral. Kyana.
Instead of infuriating chimes, a beeping busy signal greeted him. “Damn it!”
He punched the steering wheel then jammed a key in the ignition of his pickup truck. At least there wouldn’t be traffic at this time of day, and he’d gotten gas just a day or two ago. If he pushed it, he could make the drive in an hour.
It was the longest fifty-three minutes of his life.