Sneak Peek at Heavy Petting
Fletcher Landry’s life was about to change. Forever. Irrevocably. He was never going to be the same.
This was going to be the worst day of his life.
And his grandmother was throwing a party for the occasion.
Not only that, but she had threatened to cut him off from her gumbo for two weeks if he didn’t show up.
So now he was sitting at a huge table at the back of her bar with the rest of his family, bracing for the moment when everything went to hell.
At least there was lots of food. There was always lots of food when his grandmother was in charge. There wasn’t much that her jambalaya couldn’t make better.
It was a small comfort.
“Shut up! It’s starting,” his grandmother told the group.
Ellie Landry, the matriarch of the family, pointed the remote at each of the televisions in the bar, turning the volume up to he-couldn’t-ignore-this-if-he-tried level.
Fletcher groaned. Not only was this whole event going to suck, but he was going to watch it on television, with his whole family gathered round, with the volume set to blaring.
And he was going to have to listen to Jason Young sing as a warm-up.
Jason Young was the hottest rising country music star in Nashville. But he wasn’t from Nashville. He was from Bad, Louisiana, the town just up the bayou from Fletcher’s hometown of Autre. Fletcher had known him since they’d played football against one another as pee-wees. Jason was good-looking (according to others), talented (also according to others), and charming (to people who didn’t know him very well). And did things like giving to charity and visiting sick kids in the hospital.
Fletcher hated the guy.
Because Jason had also been dating Fletcher’s best friend, Jordan, since they’d been fifteen. Which meant that Fletcher had hated Jason since they’d been about fifteen and a half, and Fletcher had realized Jordan was going to keep dating him.
At first it had been fine. Fletcher had liked seeing Jordan happy and it seemed that Jason treated her well. Of course, Fletcher threatening to end his life if he didn’t might’ve had something to do with that. It hadn’t hurt, either, that he’d been backed up by his cousins Mitch, Josh, and Owen. All of whom also had no trouble getting a little bloody for the right cause.
They all would have considered Jordan the right cause.
But then Jordan had actually fallen in love with Jason and told Fletcher all about it with a sweet smile on her lips and a dreamy look in her eyes.
He’d started to hate Jason then.
He hadn’t stopped since.
Jason did three numbers and the family all ate in relative silence. There was never total silence when it came to the Landry family, but when there was food involved it was a little better. And the way Ellie had the TVs turned up, it was difficult to make conversation. Thank God. It was maybe the first time he’d been grateful that his grandmother was a huge fan of Jason’s.
Because he was sure that his family, specifically his twin brothers, Zeke and Zander, would be monitoring his reactions to Jason and whatever he had up his sleeve tonight. Not having to talk while he struggled to hide his reactions would be great.
The thing that made the whole situation even worse, was that Jason was actually pretty good. Fletcher would never buy an album and he would continue to turn the radio away from any of Jason’s songs, but it wasn’t like his ears were bleeding or anything.
“Vegas, wow, that’s fun,” Tori, the wife of one of Fletcher’s cousins, said. “I’ll bet Jordan’s having a good time.”
Jason was performing at the MGM Casino in Las Vegas.
Yeah, he was doing very well in his career.
“Shhh!” Ellie told her. Everyone’s eyes widened. Tori never got snapped at. She was sweet and kind and patient. And pregnant with Ellie’s first great-grandchild. She’d basically been treated like a princess since she’d moved here and like a queen since she’d shared the baby news.
But Ellie really was a big Jason fan. And the rumor was that he had something big planned for his live show tonight.
The further rumor was that he planned to propose to Jordan. On stage.
Fletcher pushed his plate away. Not even jambalaya could make that feel good.
Jason moved to the microphone, grinning into the camera. He had a room full of fans at that casino as well.
“Hey everybody, thanks for coming out tonight!”
The crowd roared.
His grin widened.
“This past year and a half or so has been pretty crazy for me. All my dreams seem to be coming true and there are some really important people who have been a part of that.”
He thanked his manager, his parents, and a couple of people Fletcher didn’t know. Then he said, “But there is one very special person who’s been here with me from the beginning and who I have a very special question for tonight.”
The crowd went crazy. Ellie gasped and grabbed her husband Leo’s arm. The women at the table sat a little straighter.
Fletcher rolled his eyes.
This was where things were really going to start to suck.
The noise in the casino was incredible and Leo reached for one of the remotes to turn the volume down. Ellie slapped his hand, but thankfully he managed to reduce it by a few notches.
“Yeah,” Jason said grinning. “I hope she feels the same way about it. Now I just need her to come out here with me.”
The camera swiveled and focused on a beautiful blonde who had just stepped out from backstage.
It was Jordan. Kind of.
Fletcher’s chest tightened and his heart thumped hard against his breastbone. He’d know that face anywhere, of course, but a lot of people who knew Jordan would be shocked to see her tonight.
Jordan was a tomboy. A natural beauty. A girl who wore lip gloss on Saturday nights. Maybe. If she remembered. The first time she’d ever tried to use mascara, she’d ended up with an eye infection. The most she’d ever done with her hair was having her girlfriends curl it for prom and she’d bitched all night long about her head aching from the bobby pins.
She was most at home in denim and bare feet and she had a perpetually sun-kissed glow to her skin and a smattering of freckles across her nose from being outside all the time.
The woman who was walking across the Las Vegas stage in three-inch heels, looked nothing like his best friend. She wore a form-fitting sparkly black dress and had her hair swept up in a fancy twist. She had heavy eye makeup on and lipstick.
The only thing that looked slightly familiar was the denim jacket she wore over her dress. But even that was studded with rhinestones that caught the spotlight and sparkled.
“Daaay-um,” Zeke said appreciatively. “Jordan’s got great legs. And other stuff.”
Fletcher ignored him. Zeke said shit like that to him about Jordan all the time. But he’d seen her legs a million times. Bare. Long. Tanned. The girl was from Louisiana. She didn’t wear a lot of clothes a lot of the year.
Yeah, okay, he’d seen a lot of her “other stuff” too. Not bare, but…
He stopped those thoughts right there.
He was good at that. He’d been doing it for the past four or five years on a regular basis.
And of course, she had great legs. She had always been athletic. She loved sand volleyball, and to swim, and could kick his ass at a game of one-on-one basketball up until he’d really had his growth spurt. They’d continued to play though. She was fast and had a really great three-point shot.
He guessed she was working out in hotel gyms now, though.
He rolled his eyes about that too.
But now, of course, he couldn’t stop looking at her legs and thinking that, yeah, daaay-um worked.
It was the dress.
The fucking dress.
Jordan wasn’t a dress girl so when she did wear them, they always kind of knocked him on his ass. Because they did make him think of her as a girl.
That had been happening a lot more since about the time they’d turned eighteen.
Then when she turned twenty-one, it got worse. She’d started going out to clubs and bars with her girlfriends and she’d started dressing up more. Lipstick. Curls. And dresses.
And she’d often asked him to join them. Or to pick them up after.
But beyond the dress, the lipstick, the heels, Fletcher honed in on something more important tonight.
Jordan looked terrified.
Some of it was probably having to walk across a stage in front of thousands of people in high heels.
But he also knew that she wasn’t a huge lover of the spotlight or big public displays.
And she had to know what was about to happen. Everyone knew what was about to happen.
And knot formed in Fletcher’s gut as he watched her. He breathed a small sigh of relief when Jason met her partway and took her hand. At least she wouldn’t end up on her ass on national television.
“Oh my gosh,” Maddie said. “This is pretty exciting.”
“I would die,” Paige added. “I hate public proposals.”
The group, sans Fletcher, laughed. Page had been proposed to five times before she had come to Autre and fallen for Mitch. And at least a couple of those had been public, from the sound of it. She was somewhat of an expert.
But it was the word proposals that made the knot and Fletcher’s gut tighten and, for possibly the first time in his life, made him regret scarfing down the bowl of jambalaya.
“You already promised me that you would ask Mitch to marry you here at the bar in front of all of us,” Ellie told Paige.
“I guess I don’t consider you all public,” Paige said with a smile. “You’re family.”
“Awww,” Juliet and Tori said together.
“Shhh!” Ellie said, sharply waving her hand to shut them up as Jason pulled Jordan to the microphone at the front of the stage.
The girls exchanged wide-eyed looks but grinned.
Ellie often had Jason’s music playing in the bar. She also had a signed poster of him hanging behind the bar near the cash register and watched him on TV every chance she got.
Some of it was because he was a local boy, but a lot of it was because he was connected to Jordan. Jordan had been like another granddaughter to Ellie growing up, constantly in and out of the bar and on and off the boat docks where Boys of the Bayou, the family business, operated their swamp boat and fishing tours. She’d swiped cookies, boudin balls, and fried pickles right alongside the other grandkids.
Ellie adored her. But Fletcher had a sneaking suspicion that as Ellie had listened to Jason’s music she’d actually decided it was good.
The casino crowd had been cheering this whole time, but as Jason swung his guitar to his back and went down on one knee, they quieted.
Ellie’s bar—and, miraculously, the Landry family—also fell silent.
“We’ve known each other forever,” Jason said, with Jordan’s hand in his.
Fletcher felt his heart squeeze and the jambalaya in his gut roil.
He wasn’t sure he could watch this.
Yes, Jordan was his best friend and this is a huge moment in her life. That was how Ellie had gotten him to come to the bar and sit down in the first place. Well, that and the threat of cutting him off from gumbo for two weeks. But he’d been dreading this moment for at least two years.
Jordan and Jason had been together for a decade. Of course at some point he was going to propose. Jordan was amazing and Jason was a lot of things, but an idiot wasn’t one of them. Of course he’d want to get a diamond ring on her finger. And of course she’d say yes. Fletcher had given her a chance to break up with Jason in the past. Two chances actually. To choose him instead. And she turned him down flat.
So yeah, Fletcher had been expecting Jordan and Jason to get married.
Though he’d figured he’d get this news by phone call. A phone call where he could fake a happy tone of voice and say all the right things even as he was cussing internally and planning to break things as soon as they hung up.
Witnessing it in person, and with an audience who would be very interested in his reaction, was pretty much hell.
Especially because the look on Jordan’s face was even more terrified now than before.
Fletcher frowned. Surely she’d been expecting this. The entire country had been expecting this. There was no way she’d gotten all dressed up like that just to stand backstage all night.
Then again, he didn’t really know how any of this worked for her now. Maybe she did get dressed up like this every night. It was true that every time he caught a glimpse of her on television on the entertainment news—always at Ellie’s because he didn’t watch that shit—she looked fixed up.
He supposed that when you were a big star touring the country with other big stars there were people like hair and makeup artists to help out. Maybe that extended to the significant others of the big stars.
They wouldn’t want to risk having Jordan make Jason look bad, after all.
Fletcher realized his hand had curled into a fist and he consciously made it relax.
He and Jordan were friends. The best of friends. They’d known each other since first grade. He’d known her longer than Jason had and she’d told him, more than once, that no matter what happened they would always be friends.
But, over the past couple of years they’d drifted apart. Especially since she’d moved to Nashville with Jason and started only substitute teaching so that she could travel with him more.
And especially since April, when she’d been home for the family weddings and told him that Jason had gotten a spot on this big tour and she was quitting her job entirely to go with him.
Fletcher had told her exactly what he thought of that.
Jordan was a teacher. A gifted teacher who loved her chosen career. Fletcher had bitten his tongue a lot over the years when it came to Jason, but that time he hadn’t been able to.
He’d also given her the chance to stay in Autre. With him. As a lot more than his best friend.
She’d turned him down.
And she’d cried.
And they’d not spoken for over a week. For the first time in their lives.
He wasn’t doing that again. Jordan knew that if she ever wanted to leave Jason, Fletcher would be there for her. Hell, she knew that he would be there for her no matter what. She knew he thought she should be teaching and that she deserved to have dreams too. He’d had his say, she knew where he stood, and it had made her cry. So he was done with that.
When Jordan became Jordan Young, Fletcher would be happy for her. At least as far as she would know.
“We’ve been through a lot together,” Jason went on. “It just seems right, at this point in my journey, that I ask this question.”
Loud whistles and a smattering of applause came from the audience, but for the most part everyone watching stayed quiet.
“I love you, Viv. Will you marry me?”
Fletcher frowned at the television. What the fuck?
Surely he’d heard that wrong.
Had Jason just said Viv?
“Wait. Who the hell is Viv?” Zeke asked.
Okay, so no, he hadn’t heard it wrong. Jason had just fucking said the wrong woman’s name. And yeah, who the hell was Viv?
Ellie swung to look at him. “Does he call Jordan Viv?”
“What? Is that like her middle name?” Zeke asked.
No, it wasn’t her middle name. No, Jason didn’t call her Viv. Jason called her Jordan. Fletcher couldn’t even remember hearing Jason call her sweetheart or honey, for that matter.
But he didn’t bother answering his family. His eyes were glued to the television and, more specifically, Jordan’s face.
The camera had zoomed in on both Jason and Jordan.
They both looked like they were about to puke.
Jason quickly got to his feet, grabbing both of Jordan’s hands as she started to pull away. “Oh fuck,” he said, directly into the microphone.
Well, they bleeped the word for television but it was clear what he’d said.
Fletcher realized his hand was curled into a fist again.
That “oh fuck” was all he needed to hear. Jason had said the wrong name. Accidentally, obviously. But there was a Viv.
He wanted to smash Jason Young’s face in.
It wasn’t the first time he had that urge, but this was the strongest it had ever been and if the guy had been in front of Fletcher in the flesh at that moment, he wouldn’t have been breathing normally out of his nose over again.
“No, I’m sorry, Jordan. Jordan. Of course. I want you.”
Suddenly there was a crash and the camera panned to the drum set that was now lying on its side, as the drummer bolted off her seat and ran for the side of stage.
“Oh, that’s Viv,” Zander said.
“What?” Ellie demanded.
Zander nodded. “Vivian Holbrook. Jason’s drummer.”
Ellie turned to face Zander, her hands on her hips. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that Jason Young basically just proposed to Vivian.”
“Why would he do that?” Ellie asked.
“Maybe because he’s actually in love with her but his management team told him that breaking up with a sweetheart like Jordan would look bad for him right now,” Zander said.
“How you know this?” Ellie demanded.
“I might have…read it…somewhere,” Zander said.
Ellie narrowed her eyes at him. “Do you follow country music celebrity gossip?”
“Maybe,” Zander said slowly.
Ellie nearly gasped. “I can’t believe you’ve been holding out on me! We could have been talking about Kelly and Brandon and Brett?”
Zander rolled his eyes. “Well, apparently, you wouldn’t have been that great to gossip with. People have been talking about Jason and Viv for a while and you seem shocked.”
“Don’t you tell me Jason Young has been cheating on Jordan,” Ellie said.
“Okay, I won’t tell you. But he”—Zander pointed at television—“basically just told you.”
“Maybe he was just nervous in front of all those people,” Ellie said, obviously not wanting to believe it. “This is kind of a big deal. Maybe he just said the wrong name. Obviously he knows Vivian really well too.”
Zander snorted. “Asking a woman to marry you is kind of a big deal. But not exactly something where you get the wrong name. Especially when you’ve been with the woman you’re asking for ten years.”
“But—” Ellie started.
Suddenly Fletcher shifted back from the table and stood. He threw his wadded napkin onto his plate and headed for the back door.
“Where are you going?” Ellie called after him.
He yanked the door open and turned back. His eyes flickered to the television screen again.
Tears were streaming down Jordan’s face and she’d turned to run off stage. Jason had started after her, but a bodyguard had stopped him. His manager was now in his face and they were having a heated discussion.
Fletcher looked at his grandmother. “Vegas.”