Authors: Geralyn Corcillo
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Humor
Cover @ Susan Traynor
Published by Blackbird Press at KDP
© 2013 Corcillo Literary Trust
Previously published as
She Likes It Rough
She Likes It Tough
by GVR Corcillo
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, situations, events, and locations are products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Best Humor Book Rebecca's Reads Choice Awards 2013
Best Indie Book Rebecca's Reads Choice Awards 2013
Book Buyer's Best Finalist 2014
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter Finalist 2014
For Ron and Doug
Six months ago I woke up rich, famous, and thin. Every woman’s dream, right?
Believe me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Not by a long shot. If it were, I wouldn’t be speed hiking up a mountain in what’s left of my Dolce and Gabbana power suit. Chasing a man I don’t know, no less.
I wish he would slow down! What was I thinking, following Jack Hawkins into the woods?
I'm charging after him through endless trees and shrubbery, clawing leaves and sticks out of my face as I go. What kind of hike is this, anyway? I didn’t bring a machete, let alone hiking boots. I am not prepared for this.
I should stop.
In fact, I should’ve stopped chasing Jack twenty minutes ago. That’s when he veered off the trail and disappeared into the forest. But I didn’t stop. I kept after Jack. I'd pulled into the lot just in time to see him lope off the path and vanish into the green mess of a mountain. Without stopping to consider for even a second, I put my car in park, popped the trunk, grabbed my workout bag, and jammed on my running shoes. Then I stripped off my jacket and followed Jack into the wild.
How could I have been so desperately impulsive? Into the Wild is the name of his company, for Pete's sake!
at USC talks about how he spends half his life in the great outdoors testing his designs. It's like he's the king of the eco-MBA or something. And I thought I’d be able to keep up with him? Big surprise, ab workouts in front of my TV haven’t transformed me into a game mountaineer. My calves feel like pool balls and I’m huffing like an asthmatic Snuffleupagus. Jack
hear me following him. So why doesn’t he just let me catch up?
I hate him.
God, I wish I could be more like him. So capable, so focused, so in control. It’s like whatever he does is no big deal because he knows it’ll turn out awesome. I can barely stand to look at the guy.
Wait—where is he? All I can see is wilderness. And no Jack. But I need him!
I pump my legs harder, ignoring all the branches snagging at me. I have to find him. Jack Hawkins is the key to everything. It’s time to seize the moment. I can’t be scared anymore. I just can’t. I have to catch him and make him listen. Not to mention, I’ll never find my way back to the car without him.
I lurch forward so fast that I stumble. And there he is! Jack Hawkins, a few hundred feet ahead of me. I haven’t lost him. I’ll get the chance to tell him my plan.
He has to agree. He just has to. It makes perfect sense.
Maybe not. But I got this feeling in class this morning that I
to talk to him. Talk to him right now,
, or I would lose my nerve forever.
Uh-oh. Uber-Hiker has slowed down to about the speed limit. But I’m not ready to see him yet. I pull back, keeping him in my sights through all the leaves and bark. He reaches under his windbreaker—he’s also wearing these windbreakery pants that look intensely comfortable—and takes something out of the pack strapped around his waist. He quickly bends up each leg at the knee and slips something onto each shoe. He looks at his watch, slips the things off, zips them back into his pack, and runs back toward me.
Oh! I duck, but he isn’t looking my way. He stops, turns, races back to the same spot, and repeats the entire process.
He came all the way up here to test some shoe-thing? Well, good. Now I'll have time to catch my breath and think about what to say to him.
How can I present my idea so that he can see how much sense it makes? Then again, maybe it makes sense only to me. I have been spending a lot of time alone since I got out of the hospital. Is it possible that my wits haven't fully recovered since the coma? Or maybe I just need to think before I crash ahead with an idea. But then again, I've been doing nothing but thinking for thirty-four years, and that's been no great shakes.
Oh, damn! He’s gone! Jack just disappeared before my very eyes! Wait…he must have crested a hill.
I dash forward, frantic not to lose him. My legs throb and my feet lose traction as I push up an incline, but I keep going. Up and up and—it’s not a hill. It’s a cliff!
I teeter on the brink like Wile E. Coyote. Then gravity yanks me over.
He keeps looking at me. Jack Hawkins is settling me onto a patch of loose dirt at the bottom of the jagged slope, but he could do this without looking at me, couldn’t he? It’s all so embarrassing. I mean, we’ve never even spoken to one another, and I just
I try to remember that I’m a rich and famous survivor who’s a lot skinnier than I used to be, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. Seriously, what good are all the millions from the settlement if I’ve got no sense to go with them? And the fame is no better. I thought all the media attention was some sort of cruel anomaly that wasn’t my fault, but here I am, voluntarily getting myself into one train wreck of a fix. And sure, I’m six sizes smaller than I used to be, if I go by numbers and not actual sizes, but I’m not nearly as in shape as I thought. How am I EVER going to get this topsy-turvy life of mine to make sense and count for something? Especially if I keep going off the deep end...or over the cliff, as it were.
I look back up the slope I just hurtled down. From here it doesn’t look so high. Eight feet maybe. And not that steep. Or jagged. But it looked A LOT scarier from up top. I really thought I was plummeting to my demise until Jack caught me. Well, body-checked me, really. But as titanium-tough as he’s supposed to be, my momentum still sent us tumbling. And if that weren’t mortifying enough, there was that awful yelp I made as we collided. Not an athletic
or a ladylike
or even a witty
Instead, I gulped down a gasp, sounding like a cat fighting to hack up a hairball.
I can feel myself blush as the humiliation of the past five minutes washes over me. Jeepers! I was half on top of Jack—and remember, this is a guy I barely know—when we finally rolled to a stop at the bottom of the hill. Naturally, I scrambled to get off him. But things only got worse.
* * * * *
“Ach!” he grunted.
Quickly, I shifted my knee out of his gut. But I couldn’t move it very far. My left foot had somehow gotten itself caught in the cuff of his pants, and we were stuck together like two dim-witted turtles on a first date. So, I twisted around, trying to extricate my running shoe from his pants. That’s when I noticed my skirt was pushed up around my waist, exposing to the world—and, more importantly, to Jack Hawkins—my now-filthy white undies and a garter belt holding up only one stocking.
And before you think I’m one of those secret sex goddesses who wears Victoria’s Secret lingerie everyday—as if I’m that organized—let me just say that pantyhose give me a stomachache. And I’m not going to wear those thigh highs with the sticky elastic on top. Please. They will totally fall down. And over the past few months, I’ve learned a thing or two about my talent for embarrassing myself, and have adapted accordingly.
Present situation excepted.
I rushed to pull my skirt down over my butt. Of course, to do that, I needed the hands that were keeping me levered up off Jack. So, as soon as I made my move, I came crashing down onto him, giving him a smack in the face with my head and an even better look at my caboose.
I shut my eyes and began muttering. “Etylf Asil. Etylf Asil. Etylf Asil.”
I felt a jerk and shift beneath me, like the beginnings of an earthquake. But my chanting wasn't transporting me to a parallel universe as I’d hoped. Jack was merely freeing himself from my pinning girth. In one fluid move, he stood up and set me well away from him. We became disentangled just like that. But I still hadn’t opened my eyes or stopped repeating my name backwards.
“Stop it,” he commanded. “You’re not going back to the fifth dimension. At least, not until you tell me what you’re doing. Then, I just might send you there myself.”
I opened my eyes. “That’s not very nice.”
I was surprised to find that Jack Hawkins is only a handful of inches taller than I am. Maybe 5’10 or 5’11. I thought he’d totally block out the sun if I ever stood this close to him.
“Lisa Flyte,” he said, looking straight at me. “You’re a mess.”
* * * * *
That’s when he brought me over here and sat me down like I needed a time-out or something.
Man, I thought I was coming so far in my plan to straighten up my life and make it matter. Joining the MBA program, getting in shape, dying my hair back…but now this. I’ve just completely humiliated myself on top of Jack Hawkins. The man I need so desperately.
I close my eyes as if I could make this scene fade away. Suddenly, I jerk my head back as my eyes fly open. He’s trying to touch my face!
“This would be easier,” he says in a low voice, one calmer and less gruff than I would expect from such a Snake Plissken-type, “if you would stay still. Your face looks pretty bad.” He catches my chin with his fingers.
“Hey—” I start to say. I’m about to slap his hand away when I realize he isn’t staring me down, trying to make me wither with shame. Instead, his grayish-blue eyes skip around, searching my face.
As he examines my scratches, I notice that he’s not the brawny man-hero type at all. For one thing, he doesn’t scowl all the time, making a big furrow down the center of his forehead, like Hugh Jackman does when he’s Wolverine.
And Jack’s not super huge—he’s not even as buff as stupid Rick, the useless ex-bodyguard. Jack’s not that much bigger than Keith, actually. And I used to wear Keith's sweatshirts and boxers all the time and they weren't even that big on me. I study Jack. I suppose he could be hiding a lot of taut, lean muscle under his clothes. His long-sleeved jacket and windbreakery pants cover most of his body, so not much is exposed for me to check out. Still, all in all, The Great Jack Hawkins looks kind of like a normal guy.
But I’m still scared of him up this close.
“These cuts might get infected.” He leans back from me, resting on his heels as he gets some stuff out of the pack around his waist.
He rips open a small packet and starts swabbing my face with one of those wipes like the ones you get when you order hot wings. But I think this one is medicated. Because IT HURTS!
But all I make is one startled sound, as though someone just woke me up and stabbed me. Then I clench my jaw. Hard. Despite my Spartan resolve, though, tears spring to my eyes.
But I have to give Jack credit. He works quickly and doesn’t say anything to make me feel like a big baby or like someone who’s getting what she richly deserves.
“Hold on,” he says when he finishes.
Like, where’m I gonna go?
He puts down the wipe, opens a small tube, and squeezes a daub of white cream onto three fingers. “Hypericum and calendula,” he explains. “It’ll help the scratches heal.”
I feel like such a dork just looking at him as he rubs goo into my cuts. I want to close my eyes, but that’ll make it so obvious that I feel like a dork. It’s not until he’s twisting the cap back onto the tube that I remember the Agatha Christie book where the old lady is murdered with poison administered through her ointment.
Oh, my God.
But wait. Even if Jack does want to kill me for being so intrusive, what are the chances he hikes around carrying poison cream?
Jack looks up from zipping the tube back into his pack and catches me staring at him. “So,” he says. “Does your face feel okay?”
I barely even register what he said. And I’m certainly in no shape to respond. Because pretty soon, I’m going to have to tell him my plan.
“Lisa? You okay?” he asks.
“Uh–” I flash on a crunched up plastic water bottle I saw in his pack before he zipped it. “Do you recycle?”
He leans back and sits against a boulder facing me. His movements seem cautious, making me wince.
“Sorry if I hurt you,” I offer.
He just kind of shakes me off. “What about you? Other than the scratches, are you hurt?”
“I’m okay,” I say. I hope it’s true. I didn’t really get much of a chance to test my ankles or anything when he hoisted me off the ground and moved me away from the rocky slope.
“Yes,” he says, closing his eyes, “I recycle.” He sounds tired. “It’s your turn.”
Quid pro quo
. My hand flies to my face. “Did you poison me?”
He opens his eyes, and he’s got this wolfish smile. Okay, maybe not wolfish. And maybe he’s not even smiling. But I’m pretty sure one corner of his lip tilts up a fraction.
“Lisa,” he says, “I want some answers. It
all right if I call you Lisa?”
His nod to propriety after everything I’ve done to him this afternoon makes me lower my eyes. Where do I get off
giving him an explanation?
I breathe in deeply and exhale a shaky breath. I can do this. I can tell him my plan.
“Why were you chasing me?” he asks.
Oh, thank heavens! I don’t have to explain. All I have to do is answer questions. “You knew I was chasing you?” I toss back at him. “Then why—”
“I didn’t know it was
” he clarifies. “I thought you were another fast-packer.”
“Me?” I say on a laugh. “You thought
was fast-packer?” I have no idea what a fast-packer is, but I’m sure I would never intentionally be one.
He shrugs. “Generally, people from class don’t chase me up mountains.”
“But fast-packers do?” I counter.
Jack shrugs. “Some fast-packers’ll challenge any fast-packer they run into.”
“Oh,” I say. “So that’s why you were going so fast? You thought it was a race?”
Pause. “Yeah,” he says.
But he hesitated for a second. I heard him do it. My scalp gets hot. “You weren’t really going that fast, were you? For you, it was a leisurely pace, wasn’t it?”
“It’s my turn to ask a question,” he says instead. “I think I’ll ask the same one since you haven’t answered it yet. Why were you chasing me?” Jack’s voice is quiet, almost bored-sounding, but his sharp look pins me like a butterfly.
I swallow. “I wanted to talk to you.”
I know I just have to say it. Quick with my eyes closed, like when I had to take cough medicine as a kid. I know I have to. I do. I know.
“Lisa?” he prompts.
I know, I know. I just need a sec.
“Lisa,” he says, “just tell me.”
I suck in a breath, then just blurt it out. The whole stupid truth. “I want to get brave.”
There. I said it. But just like with the cough medicine, I have that yucky taste in the back of my throat, threatening to make me gag. Jack stares at me like I’m…pathetic.
“It makes perfect sense,” I rush to explain. “You leap tall mountains and jump off high ledges into raging rivers. You sleep hanging from cliffs and race big vehicles at incredibly dangerous speeds. You don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. You even told your rich family to kiss off. Can you deny it? Then you started your very own company from scratch. No family money at all!”
“What the—” He looks confused. Angry, even. “How do you—where do you—”
“I, on the other hand, have no problem with free money. Don’t you get it?”
“What?” he squawks. “No, I—”
“I’m afraid of everything!” I cry. “Heights and deep water. Fast cars and big animals and loud noises. How to dress, walking into strange stores, grinding my own coffee beans, what my mother thinks of me! You can fix me. I’m sure of it.”
Jack shoots to his feet. “Fix you?”
He looks so appalled, but I know I’m onto something. Something big. I stand up, too, facing him head on. “You do scary stuff all the time. You can help me get brave.”
He takes a step back and speaks softly, like I’m a rabid bobcat or something. “Lisa…Lisa…look…”
My heart pounds so wildly I can hardly speak, but I have to do this. I have his attention. This is my chance. I stand tall, feeling the steel snap into my spine. “I know it’s a crazy idea, but I think it can work. We could help each other out.”
His gaze narrows. “How could
I lift my chin. “You have your own company. I have money to invest.”
“Into the Wild is employee owned. It doesn’t work like that.”
“I thought you were adding a charitable donation facet,” I counter, unable to give up. “I thought that’s why we’re in the same non-profit classes.”
Jack raises a brow.
Holy bravado, Batman! I think I’ve made a point he’s considering!
“Into the Wild doesn’t need your Burger Barn money.”
His voice is so flat and unyielding that my temper flares, on principle. “Are you mad at me for getting money because their drive-thru fell on me?” I demand.
His jaw tightens. I actually see the muscles clench and wonder if I should warn him about TMJ. But he’s looking at me with this blistering intensity, so I don’t say anything.
“Into the Wild doesn’t operate on corporate money.”
His tone sends chills down my back, but I manage to speak. “My money
corporate money. Yes, I
it from a corporation, but it’s mine now, and I’m not a company. I’m a
He looks at me. “It doesn’t matter anyway. We aren’t going to take donations. We’re going to make them.”
“Then why didn’t you just say that?” I shout. “Or did you feel that you just had to make a point about how my money is from Burger Barn and I was just an out-of-control fattie who got what she deserved because she wasn’t slim and petite enough to fit into a wedding dress?”
I can tell from the way he looks away that he knows what I’m talking about. He saw the tabloids—he read the stories.
Comfort Food Almost Kills Her: Burger Barn’s hayloft-style drive-thru nearly crushes a distressed bride-to-be on a binge
. Once I woke up from the coma, the articles had a raucous good time calling me a cow. At least that’s what Maggie and Mom were always laughing about. They said one even called me a heifer.
I can feel all of my frustration and fury rumbling like an avalanche ready to go. “Well, guess what?” I cry. “It doesn’t matter how much you make fun of me or how bad you and all of America make me feel because I don’t need the stupid dress anyway because Keith didn’t really want to marry me and he couldn’t wait for me to wake up so he could tell me! So there!” I huff and puff, furious tears pushing into my eyes.