Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors selects thematic excerpts from their work and shares them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is talking, and I’m sharing an excerpt from Stalking Evan where the heroine has got her big chance — she’s got the hero in her house, eating pie, and thinks they’re going to start being friends now! She’s wrong…at least this early in the story.
“I’m glad you came over,” she told him. She hadn’t only imagined him in bed, she’d been considering his life. How had he coped? How had he changed? How was he like her and unlike her? “I’ve been thinking about you a lot.”
He raised an eyebrow, his fork halfway to his mouth. “That so?”
“Not that way,” she hedged, and covered it with a small laugh. A polite person did not reveal her desires so early in a relationship. “In general terms.”
Evan was obviously not happy being a panther. All evidence suggested the gift had depressed him, and he deserved more sympathy than scorn. She could overlook the state of his house and person if she knew it was temporary.
“Trying to decide how to convince me to mow my yard?” he asked with a glint of humor.
“Maybe.” She tucked her hair behind her ears again, wishing she hadn’t already changed into her at-home outfit of comfortable, cotton pajamas. The flowered blouse and pleated trousers she’d had on earlier today had been much prettier. “Mostly I’ve imagined what your life must be like since the change.”
“To be honest?” He glanced up at her. “It’s shitty.”
“Was it bad before?”
He paused, as if deciding whether to share details. “Not as much.”
Just as she’d suspected. She wanted to hug him, and she wasn’t sure if it was libido or sympathy. “I’m sorry, Evan. You can talk to me. I’m good at keeping secrets.”
He looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language. “Talk about what?”
“About how you feel. About being depressed.”
He drank his milk, never taking his eyes off her. “Who says I’m depressed?”
“You said your life is bad. And then there’s your house.” She waved in that general direction. “Have you always been messy? Somehow I doubt it. I read up on this. Allowing your living conditions to deteriorate could be a reaction to—”
He interrupted her, and he didn’t sound depressed—or defensive about his housekeeping. “It’s my house. I can do what I want in my own house.”
She frowned, remembering the details of his kitchen, his floors, his dishes. “There’s nothing…clean. And the germs. Can’t you smell them? I mean, smell the difference in my house.” She closed her eyes and inhaled as a demonstration, the delightful odors of chocolate, lemon furniture polish and narcissus flooding her sinuses.
When she opened her eyes, his gaze was focused downward, at her…her chest. So there was a man in there.
“I don’t seem to get sick anymore,” he said with a shrug, turning his attention back to the cake. “I can handle the germs.”
“Still.” A hardy constitution didn’t mean it was enjoyable to live in squalor. “Didn’t your parents teach you any better?”
He set down his fork, his plate practically as clean as before she’d put cake on it. “My parents?”
“That came out wrong.” What if he was an orphan too? She was usually more polished than she’d been with Evan, but he made her nervous. He was so important to her, so extraordinary, that she flubbed her lines. “What I mean was, didn’t you have to pick up after yourself?”
He lifted one shoulder. “We had a housekeeper.”
“La ti da.” She and Gran had kept house fine, the two of them. Gran had taught her all the domestic arts and had homeschooled her until she’d been fourteen. “Do your parents…are they still alive?”
“I wish mine were.” She took a breath, interrupting a confessional on her part. This was about Evan, not her. “Have you told them what happened?”
“None of your business.”
She set her fork down too. “It is my business.”
Evan didn’t answer for a minute, staring at her with something akin to amazement. “How the hell do you reach that conclusion?”
“We share a secret,” she said. “And you sort of owe me.”
“The envelope I gave you says I don’t owe you squat.” He rose, fork and plate clattering. “I need to go.”
Another flub. She’d taken the wrong approach, reminding him of the arrest. Cooley hastened after him as he strode toward the back door. He couldn’t go yet. She hadn’t gotten through to him.
“Wait, Evan. I know you don’t owe me. I wanted to tell you I appreciate the refund.
That was everything I had set aside to pay my quarterly taxes. You know, for small business owners.”
He sighed, stopping at the door, and met her gaze. “Why won’t you give up?”