For those who have been following this story each week, this is THE chapter. THE chapter were Alex finally confesses his feelings. Will his confession thrill Molly? Won’t it. Will there be a kiss? Won’t there? Hmmmm…. you’ll have to read on and see. This week I’m adding a little bit I decided to tack on the end of Chapter 22, along with the first part of Chapter 23. I cut the chapter in two for the blog because it is a bit long. I’ll share the second half on Saturday. I think readers who have been rooting for Alex to make a move will like this chapter and excuse it’s length. You may not, however, excuse the cliff hanger of either part.
This, of course, is an installment of a novella in progress. It may have typos, plot holes, missing words, etc. It has yet to be edited and some weeks I haven’t even gone through to rewrite it (but usually it’s been edited a couple of times before I post it here). To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE.
Sit . Ups. Are. From. The. Devil.
Alex grunted with each sit up, glaring at the wall each time he brought his head toward his knees.
How was it possible his aggravation and adrenaline still hadn’t faded after working all day in the barn in the heat? The sun had already set, and his mind was still racing, remembering Molly and Ben sitting together on the front porch, laughing, smiling. What were they smiling about anyhow? What was so funny? Why did Ben keep showing up? What, did he think he could just take advantage of Molly again? Hurt her again?
One hundred. One hundred one. One hundred . . .
Jason exercised to keep in shape.
Alex was exercising to exhaust himself so he couldn’t think anymore. He let his arms fall to his side as he laid on the floor, breathing hard. He heard the cows from the neighbors farm greeting each other in the barn, then silence, except the crickets and the peepers along the stream behind the house.
This is ridiculous, Alex. You either need to give up on Molly or tell her how you feel. You’ve never had an issue going after what you want.
His issue with Molly was that she was different. Molly was special, important, and more than a conquest. She knew more about him than almost anyone else, besides Jason. He felt cheesy saying it, but unlike other woman he wasn’t only attracted to her outside beauty. He was attracted to her inside as well. He rolled his eyes. What in the world was happening to him? He had become so soft since moving here with the Tanners. Or maybe this is who he actually was and that hard, cynical, flippant Alex was the fake one who covered himself up to keep from getting hurt.
He covered his face with his hands, growling softly. Then
He had never over analyzed his life as much as he had in the last few months and he was over it. Standing up he yanked his shirt off and tossed it toward a pile of dirty laundry and flopped on his back on his bed, finally exhausted, barely able to keep his eyes open.
Time’s up, Alex. No more thinking. Tell Molly how you feel and if she doesn’t feel the same way you can finally move on with your life.
He moaned softly, staring at the ceiling. His life really had hit a strange patch. Now he was giving himself pep talks in the third person. Rolling onto his side he looked out the bedroom window, toward the Tanner’s farm a mile away. He closed his eyes as sleep overtook him, images of Molly laughing with Ben pushing their way into his dreams.
Molly lifted the laundry basket, carrying it into the hallway outside her bedroom. She was determined not to let her mom wash her laundry anymore. She’d wash it while her mom was out grocery shopping so her mom couldn’t say, “Let me get that. We can just throw it in with your dad’s laundry.”
Good grief, I’m 26 years old. I can wash my own laundry.
Molly’s thoughts had been consumed with Liz all day. Liz had seemed more alert when she visited her that morning in the hospital, but still exhausted, and still determined not to tell her parents what had happened. When they had called Liz’s cell, she had told them she’d been busy at work, that she had spent the night with Molly, and that her cell service had been spotty. Molly cringed to hear her friend lying to her parents.
Liz had even asked Molly not to tell her own family. Not yet anyhow. Molly had always been close to her parents, her mom especially, so not being able so share Liz’s situation with them was definitely difficult. In some ways she felt like she was deceiving her parents by not sharing with them what was going on, but she also wanted to respect Liz’s wishes.
When her mom had asked her this morning where she had gone the night before she told her she had gone to see Liz, avoiding questions about why or where by quickly announcing she needed to get to the barn to check on one of the pregnant cows.
Molly struggled to carry the basket down the stairs, bumping it against the wall and railing, wincing as she pinched her fingers in a crack in handle. She really needed to buy herself a new laundry basket. She could barely see over the pile of clothes and mentally scolded herself for waiting so long to wash it.
A few seconds later a scream ripped out of her at the sight of a man walking through doorway between the kitchen and the living room. She dropped the clothes basket, reaching for the bannister as she almost lost her balance.
Alex stumbled back against the wall next to the doorway, almost dropping the glass of water in his hand.
“Holy — what are you screaming for?!” he shouted.
“What are you doing here?!” Molly shouted back. “No one was in here when I went upstairs!”
Alex tipped his head back and laughed loudly, the glass of water in one hand and a granola bar in the other.
“Sorry. I came in to grab a glass of water. I didn’t even know you were up there.” He wiped tears of laughter from his eyes with the back of his hand. “That was entertaining though. Thanks.”
Molly’s heart pounded fast in her ears, adrenaline still rushing through her as she laughed and bent down to pick up the clothing that had fallen out of the basket. “Shut up. It’s not like I expected to find a man in my living room.”
Alex grinned. “Is there another room you expected to find a man in?”
Molly rolled her eyes and tossed the clothes back into the basket.
“Ha. Ha. Very funny.”
“Do you want me to help you with that?”
Alex walked toward her, but she raised her hand.
“This is my dirty laundry. No. Just no. That’s gross.”
She walked past him into the kitchen toward the laundry room and he turned slightly to watch her. She was wearing a pair of light blue capris and a loose-fitting gray Needtobreathe tshirt. Her reddish-brown curls were hanging lose down her back, slightly damp. He closed his eyes briefly and smelled coconuts and mango. It must have been her shampoo. Seeing her in her natural element, relaxed, laid back and without her work clothes did something to his insides he wouldn’t have been able to explain if someone had asked him to.
He hadn’t planned on talking to her about his feelings now, but since the opportunity had presented itself — and in an entertaining way at that — he knew he had to take the chance. They were alone, Robert wouldn’t be looking for him yet, and Jason was up in the upper field starting haying. Annie had pulled pull out of the driveway an hour ago, probably on her way to pick up groceries at the little supermarket in town.
Setting the water and granola bar down on the kitchen counter he followed her, leaning against the laundry room door frame.
“So, we haven’t talked much since that day at the overlook,” he started.
Molly loaded her clothes into the washer, her back to him. Warmth rushed from her chest to her cheeks. She hated thinking of that day, how she’d declared she’d always be fat, pointing out her weight in front of Alex. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t noticed, but still, there was no need for her to draw attention to it.
She poured laundry detergent into the washer, unable to look at him. “Yeah. Sorry about that. I guess I had some kind of breakdown or something. I really appreciate you talking me off the ledge, though.”
He tipped his head, studying the curls that fell across her back, the way they shimmered in the sunlight seeping in through the small window above the washer and dryer. He lovedt when those curls were out of the ponytail she usually kept them in, which wasn’t often.
“You’re too hard on yourself, Molly.”
She pushed start on the washer, her heartrate increasing at the tone of his voice. It was different than when they were simply joking around in the barn. It was more serious today; more sincere, like the day at the overlook.
Molly turned to see what expression was complimenting the voice. Her breath caught at the way he was looking at her, the intensity in his eyes.
He dropped his gaze, shoving his hands in his front jean pockets as he looked at the floor. He focused on a dent in the blue and white linoleum that made up the laundry room floor and kicked at it with the tip of his boot.
“So, hey, I was thinking . . . maybe we could hang out some time.”
A smile pulled at her mouth. What was this change of conversation direction about?
“Yeah. Like,” he shrugged one shoulder, looked briefly at the ceiling then back at her. “go out sometime.”
Molly’s eyebrows furrowed. Was he trying to boost her self-esteem by inviting her to go out with him and Jason and their friends? She wasn’t sure she would enjoy hanging out with sweaty men at some sports bar in the middle of nowhere.
“Um . . . I’m not sure I’d fit in with you and Jason and your friends.”
Alex laughed softly. “I wasn’t talking about with Jason or our friends.” He brought his gaze back to hers, rubbing his hand across the back of his neck. “I was talking about just you and me.”
Molly swallowed hard. Her head felt light and her hands had gone numb.
Or had they? Were they still there? She wasn’t sure so she slid them into the back pockets of her jeans to see if she could still feel the denim against her skin. She could, but only barely.
Was he trying to make fun of her? She wasn’t sure she could handle it if he was.
He folded his arms across this chest, and crossed one leg over the other casually. She fought hard to keep her eyes from wandering across his masculine forearms and biceps, the edges of the short sleeves of his plaid, blue checkered button-up shirt pulled tight across his upper arms.
“Okay. Listen, Alex, I appreciate you trying to make me feel better about myself by offering to take me out but —”
“I’m not trying to make you feel better about yourself. I really want to take you out. Like,” he cleared his throat. “on a date.”
Molly laughed nervously. “Let’s be serious here. I’m not exactly your type.”
“What do you mean you’re not my type?”
The question startled her. “Well. . . Uh… because all the women you’ve dated since you’ve been here have been cute, skinny blondes and, I mean, look at me.”
She gestured at her wide hips and full chest.
His eyes traveled the length of her and back to her face. “Yeah? I’m looking.”
Her face flushed at the grin tilting his mouth upward and the way his gaze slid over her. She struggled with how to respond.
“Well, I’m. . . I’m . . you know what I am.”
He tipped his head slightly, his eyebrows furrowed.
“No. I don’t know what you are, Molly.”
She scoffed. “I’m fat, Alex.” She slapped the side of her thigh with her hand and laughed. “F-A-T. Fat.”
He bit his lower lip, amused by her thigh slapping. He unfolded his arms, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops. His eyes were moving over her again and heat rushed through her.
“You’re not fat, Molly.”
“Alex, I’m fat. It’s okay. I know I am. It’s not that I’m proud of it, but it’s just the way it is right now. I – I’ve been working on it so maybe someday I won’t be as —”
Alex shook his head and tightened his jaw, his smile fading into a more serious expression. “Fine, if you want to say you’re fat go ahead, but you’re not fat to me and you can’t tell me who I’m interested in.”
He pushed himself off the door frame and moved toward Molly. “I know who I’m interested in.”
He knew it was now or never to show her what she meant to him and he was tired of not taking risks.
Molly’s muscles tensed as she stepped back and stumbled against the washer. What was Alex doing? He wasn’t stopping and the expression on his face was serious and determined. His eyes were on her mouth and she felt a rush of butterflies move from her stomach throughout the rest of her body. He was so close now she could see those familiar flecks of green in his deep blue eyes.
“Alex.” Her voice faded to a whisper as she tried to make sense of his movements, of his hand cupping her cheek now. “What are you doing?”
Alex knew what he was doing but he was terrified. His eyes focused on her mouth and he closed the gap between them more, moving his body even closer to hers. He knew kissing her was the only way to really show her how he felt.
“Molly. . .” His voice was deeper and huskier than she’d ever heard it before.
He swallowed hard and said her name again. How good it felt to say her name, let it slide off his tongue so easily, each syllable like a sweet melody.
Molly had been telling herself for more than a year that she’d think about how she felt about Alex later, but later was here.
Alex was standing less than two inches from her now and the heat coming off of him was intoxicating. She closed her eyes briefly, trying to calm herself. She opened them again as she felt his hand against her cheek. The palm of his thumb traced her mouth, first her upper lip, then her lower. She watched as his gaze followed the path his thumb was making. He drew in a slow breath and let it out again just as slow. Her heart pounded loud in her ears, a soft repeated thud that was increasing its rhythm second by second.
Was this really happening? Was Alex Stone about to kiss her and make it absolutely clear that he wanted to be more than friends?
The crunch of gravel under car tires startled her and she could tell by the look on Alex’s face it had startled him too. It took a moment for Molly to connect her brain to her mouth.
Alex stepped back from her quickly and glanced at the back door.
The car door slammed, and he began to wish Annie Tanner wasn’t such an efficient grocery shopper.
“I’ll find you later,” he whispered before he closed the door behind him. “We need to talk.”
She nodded slowly, stunned, and unsure what to think about what had almost happened.
She was still looking at the door, dumfounded, when her mom opened the front door carrying three bags of groceries.
“Hey, sweetie. What are you doing? Your laundry? Oh, you didn’t have to do that. I could have done that later today when I wash your dad’s.” Annie placed the bags on the kitchen counter and sat her purse next to them. “I found that yogurt you like. And that cereal your dad likes.” Annie paused by the counter and looked at her daughter who was now standing in the kitchen by the table, dazed.
“Are you okay honey?”
Molly looked at her mother, doing her best not to look as panicked as she felt. “Yeah. Why?”
Annie’s eyebrows furrowed in concern. “You look flushed.”
Molly shrugged. “I guess I just got overheated doing the laundry.”
“Maybe you need a cool shower.”
“You know what? I think you might be right. I’m going to head up and do that now.”
Molly rushed toward the stairs before her mom could ask her anymore questions.
Annie stared after her daughter, one hand on her hip, her eyebrows once again furrowed. “Well, I meant after you helped me with the groceries.”