MORE THAN I COULD releases as a live release (meaning, there is no preorder) on February 27th. It’s a single dad and nanny romance (grumpy / sunshine!) and I hope you love it as much as I do.
This chapter is unedited and subject to change, but I wanted to give you a taste of Chase Marshall today! I can’t wait any longer!
Copyright: Adriana Locke 2022
“Why does this always happen to me?”
My middle brother, Luke, sighs through the phone. His question, overly dramatic per usual, is rhetorical—or should be. We both know the answer. But he will wait for a response because he likes to wallow in self-pity and because I’m a fool for answering his call in the first place.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I say, returning his exasperation. “Ever think that maybe you’re just an asshole?”
“Well, maybe start there and work backward.”
My windshield wipers squeal, working overtime to clear the rain from my view. Unfortunately, the precipitation hasn’t let up all day. I’m soaked to the core, my bones ache, and the intense pain in my shoulder exacerbates my frustration—frustration my brother is compounding.
I want to get home.
“That’s pretty rich coming from you,” Luke laughs.
“Hey—you called me.”
“And you answered.”
I remove one hand from the steering wheel and stretch my arm to the side, desperate for relief. “Do you want anything? Or did you call to remind me not to have an odd number of children?”
I sigh. “Never mind.”
“So, back to this thing with Alyssa,” he says, not missing a beat. “I don’t think she’s coming back.”
She won’t if she’s smart.
Instantly, I regret that thought. It’s not fair. I’m cold and exhausted and have a fifteen-year-old girl waiting at home for our weekly pizza and movie night. Luke might be a pain in the ass—and more of a diva than my daughter—but he’s a solid guy.
I still don’t want to do this with him.
“Are you listening to me?” Luke asks. “I’m having a crisis over here, and you’re acting like it’s no big deal.”
“Do you want to know what happened to me today?”
“I was fifty feet in the air fixing a power line when an old lady came around the corner. She doesn’t see the cones, plows ahead, and clips the back of the truck. Jason jumped out of the way, or else he’d be dead. I fucked up my shoulder on the corner of the basket.” Thank God that was all that happened. My jaw pulses as the memory of thinking I was going to meet my maker passes through my brain. “So, excuse me for not classifying your pussy problems as a crisis.”
Gravel crunches beneath my tires as I turn onto the old country road that leads to my house.
Luke’s silent. He’s unsure whether to press forward or retreat from the conversation. Wise. Although there are a few things that I’d rather be doing less than acting as my brother’s sounding board, I have ten minutes to go until I get home.
I can suck it up that long.
“Why did Alyssa leave in the first place?” I ask with as much give-a-shitness as I can muster.
“She said she was sick, and I told her I had all the Vitamin D she needs.”
I roll my eyes. “You’re twenty-seven years old. Grow up.”
“I was joking. What do you know about women, anyway? When’s the last time you had a woman around?”
“If I don’t know anything about women, why in the hell are you calling me for advice?”
“Simple. You’re the only sibling that will answer.”
When will I ever learn?
“Gavin is avoiding me for reasons we won’t discuss,” he says. “I talked to Mallet last week, and he said his trainer was taking his phone. He’s been having a hard time concentrating for his fight, so Oscar was removing all distractions. And I’m not about to call Kate.”
I grin. “Aw, Kate’s your baby sister. I’m sure she has great advice.”
“She’s your sister too. Have you ever called her for advice?”
We laugh at the same time—Kate’s a firecracker. You risk setting your problems on fire if you ask Kate for help.
“Eh, maybe I’m better off without Alyssa, anyway,” Luke says. “Fucking the same person is a dead-end sport.”
My forehead wrinkles. “How do you go from one extreme to the other? Two seconds ago, you were fucked up because she was gone. Now you’re happy about it?”
“I just got my feelings hurt. I want her to want me.”
“You want everyone to want you.”
“Yes. I do. Not all of us are content with jacking off for the rest of our life.”
Here we go.
I frown and grip the steering wheel tighter.
My family’s ongoing push for me to find a—I don’t even know what it would be called at this age—a girlfriend? Significant other? God forbid, a wife? I don’t want one, whatever it’s called when you’re sniffing forty.
Am I against casual sex? It’s great for Luke. Do I have a problem with dating? Gavin loves it. Is marriage a social construct that works in the modern world? Mallet’s wedding was the happiest day of his life—if you ignore the fact that the union ended in divorce. And I’m certain Kate will have the biggest damn wedding the world has ever seen someday, and an enormous brood of kids too. Everything for that girl is extra.
Relationships, in all their forms, are great … for some people. I even understand the draw. But I also understand the drawbacks, and, quite frankly, I’m not interested in failing another human being in my life.
“You know what?” I ask, redirecting the conversation away from me. “You need to let Alyssa go. Just forget she exists.”
“Because you can.”
The line goes quiet while he ponders my suggestion.
The rain eases as I approach the bridge over Peachwood Creek. Through the drizzle, I spot a car on the other side of the waterway. It’s barely pulled off to the side of the road.
What’s going on here?
“What do you mean because you can?” Luke asks.
“You were fine with her leaving at the start of this conversation,” I say, leaning forward and squinting, trying to get a better look at the car. “If you can let her leave, you need to let her leave. Make sense?”
The back of my neck squeezes in frustration.
I don’t have time for this—any of it.
Luke rattles on, weighing the pros and cons of monogamy. On the other hand, I peer down at the white car sitting askew with its lights off. This is not unusual; many locals know this area is ripe for hunting and fishing. But locals typically drive vehicles with four-wheel drive if they’re going to hit the backroads.
I slow down, hoping to see some dipshit climbing out of the ditch with a fishing pole. If that’s the case, I can go home and get these wet clothes off. But something tells me that’s not going to be the case.
As I roll by, I can’t help but notice the glow of a cell phone in the driver’s seat.
I ease my foot off the accelerator and assess my options.
Do I go on? No one is asking for my help, after all. Or do I stop? Because someone might be in trouble.
I want to keep going.
“Are you still here?” Luke asks.
Groaning, I hit the break. I have to stop, or else it’ll bother me all night.
“Yeah, I’m here,” I say, ignoring the sudden weight on my shoulders.
I throw the truck in reverse and roll backward until my passenger’s side window lines up with their driver’s side door. “Luke, I gotta go. There’s a car parked half-assed on the side of the road by Peachwood Creek.”
“Well, enjoy,” he says.
The truck goes into Park, and I rest my head against the seat. My eyes fall closed. Please have stopped to make a call and do not need real help.
Water splashes around my boots as they hit the ground. I tug the hood of my sweatshirt over my head and make my way around the front of the vehicle. A cool breeze—the same one I’ve battled all day—washes over me, reminding me that a hot shower, sausage, and mushroom pizza are just down the road.
The windows are foggy, but someone moves as I get closer. I don’t know what I expect—someone to roll down the window? Crack the door? Step outside the car? Regardless, none of those things happen. Nothing happens.
What the fuck?
I rap against the glass with the back of my knuckle. “What’s going on?”
My hands go into my pockets, and I wait.
Frustrated, I clench my jaw. “Do you need help?”
“I don’t know.” Her voice muffled. “I don’t know what’s wrong.”
Okay? “Are you hurt?”
“Out of gas?” I ask.
“I don’t think so.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. “Are you confused?”
“No, I’m not confused,” she says as if she’s offended by the question.
I roll my eyes. “Look, if you don’t need help, I’m gonna go.”
“My car was … steaming, and I pulled over,” she says, her voice shaky. “I’m afraid to try to turn it back on.”
“You mean steam was coming from under your hood?”
“Yeah. I pulled over and turned the car off. But I’m panicking because cornfields surround me… and now there’s a man at my window. This is how every horror movie begins, you know.”
I glance around. Tall cornstalks sway on both sides of the road—just like every rural road in southern Indiana this time of year.
“I take it that you’re not from around here,” I say.
“Not sure how that information is pertinent.”
The fuck? “Excuse me?”
“It just feels like a very personal question coming from a man I don’t know,” she says.
“Well, this man you don’t know is only trying to help.”
“I didn’t ask you to stop, sir.”
My eyes go wide, and I half-laugh. Fuck this. “No. No, you didn’t. Good luck to ya.”
I turn to leave when a knock comes on the glass. “Wait.”
Looking over my shoulder, I’m surprised to see the door swing open. I’m even more surprised to see someone climb out of the car. But none of that matches my amazement at the woman who steps around the corner of the door.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.