Monday, August 22, 2011

Ain't No Sunshine by guest blogger Selah March


The mournful wails of the Sorrowful Angel of Bogey Holler send Boone Butler home to Kentucky to see Delia, the lost love of his youth. Delia’s sure the ghost’s cries are a warning, not echoes of their tragic past. But no way is Boone going to convince her to run...not with him, and certainly not without him.

Through rain, sleet, dark of night—or heartache—love is an unstoppable force of nature.

Warning: Contains a snarky best friend, her cantankerous grandmother, a hard-headed hero with a soft heart, too many pick-up trucks to count, and one mention of fried okra


...she was standing at her stove, applying a squeeze bottle of chocolate syrup to a pan of simmering milk, when Boone Butler walked back into her life.

She knew his shadow against the screen like she knew the shape of her own hand. That same loose, easy stance belied by the tense set of his shoulders, and the way he ducked his head at her approach, appearing almost shy till you caught the bright glint of danger in his eyes.

"Well, look at you," she said and pushed open the door, stepping barefoot onto the porch. A sudden wave of been-here-done-this washed over her, strong enough to make her eyes water. All at once she was seventeen again, face-to-face with the only boy who'd ever made her look twice.

He whispered her name as if that single word was all he could manage. The few feet of space between them seemed too far to bridge, like the distance between stars. When he reached out his hand to touch her cheek, she stepped into it, turning her face into the heat of his palm.

"Delia," he said again, and then his mouth was against hers, quick and clumsy, as if he'd never kissed a woman before. Still, she felt the slow twist of desire in the pit of her stomach, and a flutter in her throat that stole her breath. He pulled away and grinned--that righteous, go-to-hell grin she still saw in her dreams--and in that instant she wanted nothing more than to let him chase her down the path of her own destruction.

"Hope I didn't wake you," he said and she laughed out loud. Sleeping Beauty she'd never be, but if she were cold and dead in her grave, Boone's kiss would rouse her. She knew it for a fact.

From somewhere far away, she heard a splash and a hiss, and remembered where she was.

"My cocoa's boiling over," she told him. "Come on inside."

She felt his eyes on her as he followed her into the house, and the sensation made her keenly aware of the shortness of her robe and the bareness of her legs. While she cleaned up the mess on the stove, he wandered around her kitchen, running his fingertips over the shape of every canister and examining the toaster as if he'd never seen one before. Finally, she tossed the dirty rag into the sink and turned to face him, her arms folded over her chest in a defensive gesture she already knew was completely useless.

Boone was staring at her like she was the last working source of light in a fifty-mile radius. "You look good, Delia."

"Do I?" Maybe he hadn't noticed the faint lines at her eyes, or the extra pound or two at her hips, or how the difference between seventeen and twenty-nine might as well have been a lifetime. "Why are you here, Boone?"

He glanced away, and she knew the next words out of his mouth would be a lie.

"Just passing through," he said, careless and offhand. "Thought I'd stop by and see how you're getting along."

"Passing through?" She sounded half-witted, parroting his words as if she didn't have any of her own. But she couldn't seem to absorb the fact of him standing in her kitchen, tall and solid--broader through the shoulders and thicker at the biceps than she remembered--and most definitely not a dream.

He shrugged. "I've got a job coming up in Atlanta next month organizing security for some politician and his family. I thought maybe..."

He stopped and pressed his lips together like he'd said more than he'd meant to. Her own lips tingled where he'd kissed her. She wanted to ask him a million things, but mostly she wanted to close the distance between them and run her fingers over the rough stubble on his jaw. A second kiss wasn't out of the question, either. They'd do it right this time. She'd see to it.

He lifted his head and sniffed the air. "What's that I smell? Not the cocoa--something else?"

"I fried up a mess of okra for yesterday's supper."

He squinted at her. "You make that with tomatoes?"

She nodded, undone by the bizarre turn in the conversation. "Balsamic vinegar, a little lemon juice, salt and pepper."

"Sounds good. You'll have to write that down for me."

She couldn't help laughing. "A tough guy like you does his own cooking?"

"A man's gotta eat to live." He reached out and swiped at a dribble of chocolate syrup she'd left on the counter. "And not by bread alone, or so they say."

She watched him suck the syrup off the pad of his thumb and felt her body flush with heat from the bottom up. His eyes sparked against hers, flint to tinder, and she had to look away.

"Tell me why you're here, Boone."

He went still, leaning against the edge of the counter and staring at the floor. "I don't know," he said.

It sounded like the truth.

She took the pan off the stove, set it in the sink, and filled it with warm water to loosen the burnt milk. When she'd finished, she turned to him again.

"I waited for you." She dried her hands on a dishtowel and hung it on its hook next to the stove. "You remember? You asked me to wait, and I did."

It was the last thing he'd said to her before his cousin had dragged him away, muttering something about trouble in town with Boone's brother, Gilley.

"Wait for me," he'd said, and she had. Long after he'd enlisted in the army, long after Granny's charm had left her hollow-eyed and spitting blood, she'd waited. Five years, to be exact--which, in the lifetime of a girl who'd never been past the state border in any direction, counted as almost forever.

The look he gave her now went straight to her heart, opening a fracture she'd believed was mended with solid concrete.

"You shouldn't have waited," he said. "I never should've asked you. It was never any good, you and me.


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Those readers old enough to remember the Donny & Marie Osmond show of the 1970s will doubtless recall their “I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock & roll” schtick. (For those of you who didn’t catch it, here’s YouTube evidence that endearingly cheestastic American variety shows of the 70s were...endearingly cheestastic: )

I’ve always thought of myself as a living, breathing example of that song. I grew up in an extremely rural region, surrounded by farmers and fishermen, hunters and loggers. My father taught me to love old time country music – Hank Williams and Loretta Young were a minor deities in our house. My mother, on the other hand, made a point of introducing me to Elvis Presley and his contemporaries. By the time I reached high school, I was living two separate lives, musically speaking – my Walkman radio was tuned to the local rock station, but my creaky old 8-Track often blared the stylings of Johnny, Willie, Waylon and the boys.

My sisters, on the other hand, gave me no end of grief regarding my countrified tastes, requesting that I keep the “swamp talk” to a minimum when they had friends over. Yeah, it’s true – Barbara Mandrell and I were country back when country wasn’t cool.

In the intervening years, my love for country tunes – and particularly bluegrass – has only grown. Although I listen to all kinds of music, it’s the country stuff that draws me when I’m in a bad mood or need to get some mindless household tasks accomplished.

One of the reason I enjoyed writing Ain’t No Sunshine was the playlist I created to accompany the story. Whenever I found myself stuck on a scene, I simply plugged it in and let it take me to the imaginary environs of Bogey Holler. Delia, Boone, Luther, Pea and Granny Souder are never so alive for me as when I’m listening to the music that would play on the radio in Boone’s truck or on the jukebox in Delia’s diner.

As a gift to Annie’s readers, I’m offering this iTunes playlist as a prize to the first person who comments here with the answer to the following question, which can be found somewhere on my website, :

What are the hero’s and heroine’s name in “Dark of the Day,” the free paranormal short story located on my site?

Songs on this playlist include:
 “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” by Patti Loveless
“The Mountain” by Levon Helm
“Sorrowful Angels” by Patti Loveless
“Goddamn Lonely Love” by Drive-By Truckers
“Mandolin Rain” by Wanda Vick
“Far Away In Another Town” by Justin Townes Earle
“Mountain Angel” by Dolly Parton
“Down To The River To Pray” by Alison Krause
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Eva Cassidy

Thanks so much for reading, and have a great week!

All my best,
Selah -  Romance of Dubious Virtue

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