Bonus Content: Side Trip
During development edits (the stage where I work close with my editor, evaluating the significance of every scene), only one scene landed on the cutting room floor. It’s from chapter 25. You know the chapter, the hotel room scene? Yeah, that one.
The deleted scene is very short, only a manuscript page-and-a-half. It didn’t add anything new to the story that wasn’t already explored in the book. But I do like how the scene shows Joy and Dylan interacting after they spent the late morning and early afternoon holing up in the motel room.
I included chapter 25 for reference. The new content is after the hashtag (pound symbol).
“Last room left.” Dylan showed her the key cards to their room at an economy motel just off the highway.
Thank God they got one. Cold and scared, Joy clenched her teeth to stop the chattering. She’d gone from perspiring in the heat and humidity and singing with Dylan as they drove toward Chicago to dancing with him in the rain alongside the highway, then on to soaked and shivering and seeking shelter from a freak storm.
Okay, it wasn’t freakish to the locals. But for a gal who avoided driving when it rained in SoCal? The weather was unreal, and she didn’t want to be in a soft-top convertible while it was hailing bigger than the size of her fingernails.
He gave her one of the cards to their room.
Was it even safe to be in the hotel? Weren’t they supposed to go underground? Did the hotel have a basement? Doubtful. Given the condition of the hotel, she was surprised it was still standing. She was
surprised any of the buildings around them hadn’t been flattened during a previous tornado.
Why did people even live here?
Get a grip, Joy.
She took a calming breath.
Despite their questionable shelter, she was grateful for the alert she’d received on her phone; else they might still be driving, straight into the eye of an F3.
She’d read about those alert texts but expected her first would warn of an earthquake. Or maybe a heavy rainstorm considering Californians wigged out whenever there was water on the road. She never imagined she’d find herself within the vicinity of a tornado.
Where were they supposed to go? What were they supposed to do?
Find a barn and strap themselves to exposed piping with just their leather belts like they did in the movie Twister? Not.
They weren’t supposed to dance in the rain on the side of the highway either.
No wonder people had honked at them. They hadn’t been cheering them on as they danced like loons, getting soaked to the bone, oblivious to what was passing overhead. Those kind souls had been warning her and Dylan of their impending doom.
Joy shivered uncontrollably and hugged herself. She glanced beyond the highway to the black horizon. Lightning streaked across the sky. The air answered with a loud boom, far away. Joy jumped.
“Don’t worry. We’re safe here,” Dylan said. “Come on. Let’s get out of the rain.”
They grabbed their stuff from the car and ran into the room. Joy dumped her luggage and purse on the floor and immediately toed off her sneakers. Dylan shut the door and turned on the desk lamp.
The room was drab, the decor dating back to the mid-eighties, and smelled of cigarette smoke. But it was dry; they had a roof over their heads and a working box TV. Dylan turned it on.
Joy dropped her soaked shoes by the door and closed the curtains, giving them some privacy since their room was on the ground floor. She hadn’t wanted anything above that and had been willing to hang out in the hotel’s front office if they didn’t have any rooms on the first level.
“Dancing in the rain seemed like a good idea at the time,” she said, shivering.
Dylan looked at her, a question in his expression.
“It was fun, though,” she added.
“It was. I wouldn’t give up a chance to dance with you again, rain or not.”
His words warmed her in a way the dry room couldn’t. “Me neither.”
Dylan’s gaze roamed over her. Gooseflesh rose on her arms. She smiled, suddenly feeling shy and exposed, and her knees knocked.
“The front desk clerk said we’re in the clear, but I’ll keep an eye on the weather if you want to take a shower and warm up,” he said.
“Good idea.” She didn’t hesitate because she couldn’t wait to get out of her wet clothes.
She scooted into the bathroom, shut and locked the door, and stripped. Leaving her clothes in a wet heap on the floor, she turned on the shower and stilled. A storm raged outside, who knew for how long. They were stuck inside. Together, until the hail stopped and the winds calmed.
She was feeling everything but calm.
Water sprayed the floor. A toilet flushed in the room above. Muffled voices could be heard from the room. Dylan had turned on the news.
Joy eyed the door. She didn’t want a shower, and she doubted Dylan wanted to watch TV. She recalled each good night kiss on the cheek he’d given her. Chaste, but not. Respectable, but loaded with longing.
She thought of his what-if in the rain. What had he been trying to tell her? She needed to know.
Before she lost her nerve, Joy wrapped a towel around her torso and returned to the room. Dylan spun around at the sound of the bathroom door opening and froze. He stood by the TV wearing nothing but navy-blue boxer briefs.
“Joy,” he said, alarmed.
Words failed her. She forgot all about the question she’d wanted to ask him as she took in the sight of him.
Beads of water dotted his broad shoulders and firm chest. His ribs expanded with each breath. She watched his breathing grow more shallow, rapid. His stomach rippled behind the dry tee he gripped.
“You’re supposed to be in the shower,” he said.
“I . . . I changed my mind,” she fumbled.
“I was changing into dry clothes. I didn’t expect you to . . .” His gaze darted to the bathroom behind her. “The shower is still running.”
“Aren’t you going to turn it off?”
She slowly shook her head and took a step forward. “Earlier, on the highway. What were you trying to say? About this trip,” she added when he frowned.
“I, uh . . .” He visibly swallowed. “I don’t remember.” His gaze slid over her and his entire demeanor changed. Whatever had him hesitating around her, whatever uncertainty he felt toward her, seemed to dissolve before her eyes. His eyes darkened with arousal and his face hardened with determination. He tossed the shirt on the bed and crossed the room, right past the friend zone and into her personal space. She could feel the heat of him. Her breath ruffled the smattering of dark hair on his chest. Slowly, she looked up at him and met his intensely dark eyes.
“Joy.” He breathed her name. Lifting a hand to her face, he gently cupped her cheek. “Take a side trip with me.”
She frowned. That’s what he wanted to ask? But she heard herself say, “Where to?”
He traced his thumb across her lower lip. “Us.”
Joy exhaled just a fraction. Her body shivered. This time it had nothing to do with a chill.
Dylan delicately touched her hair as if she were the most fragile thing to him. He slowly drew a finger across her cheek, along her jawline, and down her neck. That single finger trailing over her damp flesh was the most sensual thing she’d ever felt. He hooked the finger in her towel, right where she clutched the stiff white terry to her breasts. Her chest heaved.
Dylan lifted his eyes to hers and held her gaze for an intense, drawn-out moment.
“What happens on the road . . .” he began and cocked a brow.
“Stays on the road,” she finished with a whisper. Her heart beat once. Twice. She let go of the towel. It fell at her feet.
Dylan’s eyes followed. He sharply inhaled. “You’re so fucking beautiful.”
Her entire body flushed. She looked at the towel on the carpet as his words sank in. They settled in her stomach before spreading outward, lighting her up. She’d never had such a strong reaction to a man’s compliment. She’d never felt so aroused by a simple statement.
“Dylan,” she whispered, looking up at him. She ached everywhere. She ached for him.
He cradled her face and kissed her. The kiss started out light and gentle until Joy moaned, swept her hands to his head, and tightly grasped his hair. The kiss changed, deepened, and the embers crackling between them ignited.
Dylan kissed her as if he couldn’t get enough of her. He kissed better than he could dance. She would even say that he kissed better than
he could sing, and if she wasn’t careful, she could drown in his kisses. She could drown in him.
Joy threw her arms around his neck and Dylan’s arms curved around her lower back. Without breaking their kiss, he straightened, lifting her with him. She wrapped her legs around his hips. He carried her to the bed that was clear of their stuff and gently laid her on top of the covers.
She watched him push down his boxer briefs and his gaze roam over her body, taking her in as if absorbing the fact that she was there with him, that this—them—was really happening. That was exactly how Joy was looking at him.
His pupils dilated and his breathing quickened. His hand trembled when he skimmed his fingers along her shoulder, over her left breast, and dipped into the concave of her belly. Joy inhaled sharply at the contact. He didn’t stop until he reached her toes.
She lifted to her elbows and Dylan raised his head. Their eyes met and he smiled. So did Joy, her heart beating wildly.
“You good?” he asked, his voice thick with emotion.
“So good.” She reached for him.
Dylan climbed over her, the bed dipping underneath his weight, and kissed his way up her body. He worshiped her center until she exploded and colors swirled in her line of vision.
She spread her legs and Dylan settled between them. They kissed hungrily, and his hands roamed wherever they could reach until he suddenly stilled. Joy could feel him poised at her entrance. She felt the weight of him, but he didn’t move. His body shook.
She smoothed the hair away from his face. “What is it?”
He swore. “Condom.”
“You don’t have one?”
He closed his eyes and shook his head.
She drew up her knees, opening herself wider. He slid in an inch.
His eyes snapped open. “Joy,” he warned.
“I’m on birth control, and I’m . . .”—her cheeks flared hot—“I’m clean.”
He dropped his forehead to hers. “Same, I swear.”
“It’s okay. This is okay,” she whispered. “We’re okay.”
Dylan groaned. He arched his hips, pressing into her. They didn’t kiss as he pushed his way in but breathed each other’s air and reveled in the feeling of Dylan fully seated inside Joy.
She moaned, and Dylan kissed her collarbone, her neck, her chin, her lips.
“Best side trip ever,” she said.
“Best feeling ever.”
“Better than jumping off a bridge?”
“Abso-fucking-lutely. God, Joy, you feel incredible. This is . . . I can’t—” He choked up.
She lifted his face so that they looked each other in the eyes. “You can’t what?”
“I can’t . . . I mean, I never—I can’t find the fucking words.” He laughed at himself. Drew out, pushed back in. They both groaned. He briefly closed his eyes before locking on hers. “This feels different with you.”
Those were good words. “It feels better,” she whispered.
“God, yes, much better,” he murmured. He threaded his fingers into her wet hair and his mouth landed on hers. He then started to move. Long, drawn-out strokes that stole a piece of her heart with every thrust.
The shower ran in the bathroom, the weatherman droned on at low volume on the TV, and the rain poured outside the window. Eventually, the storm cleared, but neither suggested checking out of the hotel and getting on the road. They stayed in bed, exploring their bodies the way they’d explored their minds while on the road.
At some point, Dylan pulled himself away and turned off the TV and shower.
“I don’t want to know what that water bill will be,” Joy joked when he returned to the bed.
“Me neither.” He chuckled, lying on his side. He bunched the pillow under his head.
Joy rolled to her side, facing him. She traced the sunburst tattoo. “Always heading west,” she murmured. Soon, the sun would set on their trip and he’d head back west. She’d stay east. And like a map with a circled starting point, she let her mind go there, to where her journey began. To Judy.
“I can’t help but think that I wouldn’t be here if . . .” She let her voice trail off. Her expression turned sad.
Dylan laid his hand over hers and pressed her palm to his chest. “If Judy didn’t die?”
Joy closed her eyes and nodded. The words hurt to hear, but they were truth. “What we’re doing right now . . . what we’re feeling . . . this.” She motioned between them. “It arose from tragedy. I’m only here because of her. I never would have met you if she hadn’t died.”
“Yes, but—” He stalled and rubbed a hand down the side of his face. He sighed and his tone turned serious. “That’s not entirely true. We aren’t pinballs shot in a specific direction depending on how we’re hit. We get to choose how we react to tragedy. Don’t feel guilty about us. Whatever is weighing you down, let it go. We can’t do jack shit about the past.”
“But what if—”
Dylan gently pressed a finger to her lips. “No what-ifs.” He rolled with her to her back and kissed her neck, skimmed his tongue around her nipple, drew the bud into his mouth. He nudged her legs apart and she let him work his way inside. He lifted his head and looked down at her face. “I chose to ask you for a ride. You chose to let me come with you. I chose to be your friend, Joy, and this”—he pushed deeper—“I choose you. And you choose . . . ?”
“I choose you.”
Later in the afternoon, Joy’s stomach growled. Dylan dressed and briefly left to pick up a couple of deli sandwiches at the grocery store across the street. She pulled herself from bed and took out Judy’s list from her purse. Dylan returned at the same moment she crossed out dance in the rain.
One more bullet to go.
He set a bag of food on the table and unpacked their sandwiches. “I’m starving. Come eat,” he invited.
She could smell the melted cheese and spiced meat of the Reuben she’d requested, but she wasn’t ready to dive in just yet.
“In a moment,” she said, setting aside the list. Fisting Dylan’s shirt with both hands, she tugged him to the bed and pushed him down. She then crawled up him and kissed him hard.
“What are you doing?” he asked at the same time he pulled the shirt she’d put on to cover herself over her head. It was one of his shirts. She loved his scent and loved it on her even more.
Joy pushed his tee up his torso. Dylan lifted, yanking the shirt over his head. He dropped it on the floor. “Guess we’re not eating lunch,” he said in a voice running over gravel.
She didn’t answer him. Just tugged down his shorts and briefs and straddled him. “How did a damp twenty get into my wallet?” she asked, sinking down on him, taking him inside.
“Fuck.” He groaned, raising his hips to meet her.
She squeezed his shoulders. “Answer me, Dylan.”
“I put it there,” he grunted, grasping her hips. “It was in my pocket. It’s from breakfast yesterday. I wanted to pay so I gave your money back.” He tried to move her on him. She wouldn’t budge. He lifted his gaze to hers and frowned. “What?”
“Did you see my driver’s license?”
He hesitated. His gaze dipped to her mouth. “Yes.”
“Did you read it?” She poked his chest when he didn’t say anything, wavering between irritation, disappointment, and anxiety. “If you did and you saw my last name, you broke our deal.” Would he contact her when he returned from England? What if she opened her front door someday and he was standing on her porch? What if Mark found out about him?
This thing happening with Dylan? It was an intermission in real life, nothing more.
Dylan’s eyes flared. “Are you going to punish me?”
“You wish. Answer the question.”
They watched each other for a stretch of time when Dylan suddenly reared up and flipped her onto her back.
“All’s good. Your name is safe,” he said, thrusting into her.
Joy thought she heard him murmur “with me” when he should have said “from me.” But Dylan was driving into her and making her crazy and she no longer wanted to think about what would happen after this trip. She only wanted to think about him and the way he was making her feel, like she never wanted to leave their room.
They stayed inside the room for the rest of the day and throughout the night. Dylan borrowed her phone once to push back his Chicago gigs. She then silenced her phone, cutting themselves off from the outside world.
For the next eighteen hours, nothing else existed but her and Dylan and their side trip.
© 2020 Kerry Lonsdale Inc. All Rights Reserved. Copying, downloading, sharing, or forwarding prohibited without the express permission of the author.