by Carol Burnside
The return of students to their studies in the fall has no impact on my life that I can think of, except I might get a good deal on office supplies. Yep, that’s about the extent of it because my kids are unmarried adults who’ve not yet produced offspring. And even though I’ve left my college days far behind, I’ve tried to maintain a student mindset for everything I’ve endeavored to do in life.
We are students every day, learning from others. Our characters are no exception. As we throw obstacles in their path, they try new things and seek knowledge from others. In the process, they learn more about each other and their attraction grows. It’s this important step, this learning step that helps make their journey to love believable.
In the following excerpt from Her Unexpected Family, Claire is desperately clinging to Travis’ questionable reputation as a reason to avoid getting involved. He’s around a lot, renovating the salon where she works. When he and her client, a now married and pregnant former flame of his, conduct a reunion under her nose, she learns something unexpected.
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“I can’t believe it. I haven’t seen Travis in years. He still looks good enough to...” Lisa giggled. “Well, he always was fine looking.”
Apparently she had no qualms about watching Travis walk away. Claire had the sudden urge to give the woman’s long shag a swift yank to turn her head around. She gripped the back of the chair, shocked by the intensity of ill will toward another person, but especially a woman in the late stages of pregnancy.
What had come over her?
“My parents nearly had a heart attack when they heard who I’d been caught necking with at school,” Lisa confided, as if Claire had expressed interest. “Travis was every dad’s nightmare and every good girl’s guilty dream. Boy, can he kiss.”
Yes. Yes, he could. Claire wanted to say the words aloud to silence the woman, but withheld comment.
“What are we doing today? A trim, or did you want a radical change this time?” The words were a little too hard, her smile a little too bright. Oops.
Lisa’s gaze locked with hers in the mirror. She clapped a hand across her mouth and grimaced. “I’m sorry. Me and my big mouth. I didn’t know y’all were—”
“We’re not. Truly. It was one date. A casual thing. Ages ago. His sister Rosie is a friend.”
“Oh.” Lisa looked at Claire as if she’d confessed to being a space alien, then a sly smile appeared. “Fell under his spell, didn’t you?”
“Happens to the best of us, Sugar. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” She glanced around, lowering her voice to a hair above a whisper when the dryer in the far corner shut off with a solid click. “Folks think he’s some kind of Lothario, but he’s not at all.
“I know it doesn’t jibe with his reputation, but Travis has a protective streak a mile wide. Plenty of girls went to him for the wrong reasons: shock value, they fought with their parents, wanted to make their boyfriends jealous, or found enough false courage in a bottle to take a risk. But he refused to bite.”
Claire threaded her fingers through Lisa’s hair, inspecting the ends with exaggerated concentration. “No product build-up this time. You still using a clarifying shampoo once a week?”
Lisa huffed, an annoyed expression crossing her delicate features. “Fine. Ignore me, but I can’t be the only person who’s noticed his decency.”
Claire hesitated, not wanting to keep the subject alive, but her conscience prickled. “I believe you. He was very much the gentleman on our date. Now, what about your hair? I’m running short on time.”
“Thanks, Claire. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”
She nodded her acceptance and waited.
Lisa sighed. “Yes. I’m using the shampoo as recommended. Just trim the ends this time. Nothing drastic until after my hormones settle.”
“Okay. Let’s head back to the sinks.” Somewhat mollified by the woman’s agreeable nature, Claire led the way.
As if Lisa had expended her energy reserves, she sank quietly into a comfortable position, closing her eyes when the warm spray flowed over her scalp.
Without the usual gossipy chatter to fill the void, Claire’s thoughts clung to Lisa’s comments about Travis. She’d known he wasn’t a ruthless womanizer after their date, but Lisa made him sound like a Boy Scout.
Claire’s conscience pinched. Maybe she should ease up on him a little. Her motives for dating him hadn’t exactly been pure, and it was kind of silly to resent him for being better than his reputation.
Truth was, her ego took a hit when he refused what she’d so blatantly offered. A million insecurities had crowded to the surface en masse, reducing her to the age of sixteen. She’d heard her own voice pleading with Bud to let her move in with him. The same degradation she’d felt as a result of his laughter and derisive comments had washed over her, and she couldn’t get Travis out the door fast enough.
Coupled with what she now realized was an overreaction the evening before, it amounted to her painting him with someone else’s brush. He probably thought she needed a straightjacket.
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Don’t you just love that point in the love story when there’s a subtle shift and you just know that character is a goner, no matter what may be in store before the HEA? It’s the little ‘ahh’ moment that really starts them falling. Each time it’s unique to the characters involved.
Have you read such a moment that stuck with you? Maybe you’ve seen it in a movie, or written it in your own book. I’d love it if you’d share it with me in the comments.