I nod my head in understanding and slowly extract myself from his arms, realizing that I am pressing my very wet, and not so appropriately attired body up against him. Another loud crack of thunder makes me nearly jump out of my skin and I grab onto Hutch’s arm, causing him to chuckle.
“How about we go inside and get you cleaned up?” He suggests before looking out towards the drive then back at me a couple of times. Putting his hand low on my back he guides me to the door. “So where is your car?”
I can’t hold back my huff of frustration, “The stupid rental got a flat tire a few miles down the road and of course it didn’t come with a damn spare, so I walked.”
Looking down at my bare, muddy feet he raises his eyebrow in question.
“I was wearing fancy heels and after a mile or so my feet hurt. I may have thrown them into the woods.” I fold my arms over my chest in defense. “I’ve had a shitty day. I came here to get away from everything. And so far, nothing—and I mean nothing—is turning out like I anticipated.”
I braced myself for a lecture, knowing from what Drake has said about Hutch that he would never have been caught in half the situations I found myself in these last twenty-four hours. Of course, I was proven wrong yet again when he did the last thing I would have expected. He tilted his head back and let out a burst of laughter. The sound was like a warm brownie, fresh from the oven, delicious and forbidden. I could never pass up a warm brownie, so for the first time today I wasn’t surprised when I let go and laugh right along with him.
It was ridiculous. Never in a million years would I have pictured myself soaked to the bone, covered in mud, freshly scorned by both my fiancé and best friend, standing in the middle of nowhere with a virtual stranger, laughing my ass off at the absurdity of it all. It doesn’t take long for my laughter to turn into tears. I’m not even aware it happened, but there I am cuddled back into Hutch’s hard chest as I cry my eyes out.
I’m not one of those chicks that have cute little tears and make those quiet little noises. No, I cry so rarely that when I do it’s like my body is making up for lost time. Basically, I ugly cry—hiccupping sobs, red eyes, red face, complete with snot kind of ugly. Some first impression I’m making with this man who means so much to my brother. I try several times to pull away from him so I can go cry in private, but each time I pull away he pulls me closer and holds me tighter. Finally, I give in and let go of it all, while holding onto the man like he’s the last life preserver on a tumultuous sea.
At some point in my sob-fest Hutch moves us over to the couch and pulls me onto his lap, holding me close. His hands rub soothingly over my back while he murmurs words of encouragement. After one final shuddering breath, I pull back enough to look up at him, fully aware I’m tearstained and snot nosed. I offer a watery smile, hoping that maybe I don’t look as horrifying as I feel. “Thanks for that… I... um…” I struggle with what I want to say. What do you say to a man who just showed you more affection within the first ten minutes of meeting him, than the man you were supposed to marry? I don’t know either.
“Thanks,” I finally say. Lamely, I might add.
He brushes a chunk of my tangled, wet hair out of my eyes. “We all have to break sometimes, Blake. I’m just glad that you weren’t alone when it happened.”
His words are so kind that I nearly fall apart again. Instead, I pull up my big girl panties and choke it back. “Thanks.” I smile again. “Honestly, I came here for solitude, but I’m pretty glad you ruined my plans.”
Hutch chuckles, then taps my hip indicating I should stand up. “Let’s get you cleaned up and get you something to eat. Would you like some coffee?”
I scrunch my nose in disgust and stick my tongue out. “No coffee, but I could definitely go for getting cleaned up. Even I’m kind of disgusted with me right now,” I joke, holding out my arms and looking down at my disheveled state.
His eyes follow mine and I swear I see flash of desire in his eyes, but he quickly shutters his expression so I can’t be sure. He nods down the hall towards the bedrooms and bathrooms. “I’ll leave you to it then.”
Shutting myself in the bathroom, I finally catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Let’s just say that the Swamp Thing ain’t got nothing on me baby.
My hair is in horrific clumps. My eyes are bloodshot from crying and the eyeliner that I had painstakingly applied around my lashes is smeared so badly it could be confused for the eye black that athletes wear. My cheeks are still pink from crying and I have a mud trail from the apple of my left cheek all the way down my neck. My dress is dripping wet and caked with mud from my falls on the porch. I can honestly say that I have never, ever looked this rough and that is saying a lot considering some of the shit I’ve gotten myself into before.