Linda Seed, author: Book 2 Outtake: The Chapter That Might Have Been

Book 2 Outtake: The Chapter That Might Have Been

After the first draft of Like That Endless Cambria Sky, I was faced with the fact that the book was too long, at almost 90,000 words. That kind of length is great for a historical romance, a fantasy epic, or a literary masterpiece. But for contemporary romance, 90,000 words is just too damned many. So I had to make some tough choices to tighten things up and achieve the easy, fast pace I was after. One of the casualties was the first chapter.

In the spirit of those fun and wacky outtakes you sometimes see at the ends of movies, here is the original first chapter of Like That Endless Cambria Sky. It ended up on the cutting room floor, but I actually liked the chapter quite a lot. I’m presenting it to you here so you can see what might have been.

Like That Endless Cambria Sky
Chapter One, draft one

Genevieve Porter was drunk. This was not a common state of affairs for her; generally, she enjoyed a glass of wine or a nice craft beer and then stopped, sensibly, during the slight buzz stage but well before impairment or, God forbid, complete embarrassment.
Tonight was different. Tonight, she’d cruised right past “buzz” and careened headlong toward bombed-off-her-ass humiliation. There was just so much going on in her life that needed to be shut out with copious amounts of alcohol.
First, there was Kate. Gen’s best friend and upstairs housemate had shacked up with her boyfriend of six months. That, in fact, was what had presented the opportunity for Gen to get drunk off her ass: Kate and Jackson had thrown a party to celebrate his moving in. While Gen has happy for Kate—truly happy, as she could see Jackson was perfect for her—that didn’t change the fact that, A, her friend was no longer available at the drop of a hat for late-night Netflix binges, and B, Kate’s happiness had highlighted Gen’s loneliness. Gen hadn’t had a boyfriend—or sex—for so long that she’d almost forgotten what it felt like.
Second, there was Gen’s boss. Former boss. Just that day, she’d read the news of his death from an accidental drug overdose. Gen’s former boss was a sleazy, crooked asshole, and she wasn’t mourning him. Quite the opposite. But the news had raised questions for Gen—questions about her life, her career, and her future—that were so immense and intimidating that she didn’t know how to ask them, let alone answer them.
And third, there was Ryan Delaney. Tall, muscular, dark-haired, doe-eyed Ryan Delaney. A close friend of Jackson’s, Ryan had showed up at the party looking so absurdly sexy that Gen’s mouth went dry and her palms started to sweat within minutes of him entering the room. He’d approached Gen and started to talk to her, and that was great, that was so freaking great … until he started to talk about Lacy Jordan.
  Lacy Jordan was one of Gen’s closest friends. She was also a tall, willowy blonde with ice-blue eyes, an easy smile, and an immediate command of the attention of every man in any given room.
Right now, Lacy was talking to Daniel Reed, a glass artist Gen frequently worked with at her art gallery, and Ryan was standing next to Gen, watching Lacy and rhapsodizing over her every move.
“So, is she seeing anyone?” he said, gesturing toward Lacy with his beer bottle in what was probably supposed to be a casual way.
“Not that I know of,” Gen said. She threw back a shot of tequila. It wasn’t her first. In fact, if Lacy had been seeing anyone, Gen would know. Lacy would have told her. But for some reason, she felt the need to be annoyingly vague. Let him work for it, goddamn it.
“Huh,” he said. “I wonder why not. She’s gotta have guys hitting on her all the time.”
“All the time,” Gen echoed. God, he was hot. It wasn’t just the enormous, deep brown eyes framed by eyelashes so dark and thick any woman would envy them. It wasn’t just the voice—oh, God, the voice—all deep and dusky, and improbably gentle. It was … a quality. Something about Ryan Delaney, something about the character of his face, was simultaneously manly and vulnerable in such a way that you wanted to hold him and make it all better, regardless of whether he, in fact, had any problem that needed to be made better. If he didn’t, she could invent one. She wanted to hold his head against her breast and coo to him while stroking his hair.
“What does she like to do?” he inquired, his eyes never leaving Lacy.
“Crush the souls of unworthy suitors,” Gen replied. “Hey, I need another shot. You want a shot?” Gen was slurring her words, and she had that hypercorrection thing going on where she knew she was embarrassingly drunk and was speaking and moving extra carefully in a futile attempt to hide it.
“Uh … no, I’ll pass.”
“Suit yourself. More for me!” She left his side and went into Kate and Jackson’s tiny kitchen to hunt down the bottle of tequila so she could pour herself another shot. It wasn’t where she’d left it, so she hunted around in cabinets and behind the chip bags.
Kate came into the kitchen and rubbed Gen’s back. “You doing okay?” she said.
“Oh, yeah,” Gen assured her. “I’m … oh, yeah. Doing fine. Kate?”
“Hmm?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, honey.”
“And I love Ryan. But don’t tell him.”
Kate looked over her shoulder to where Ryan was gazing longingly at Lacy. “I won’t,” Kate reassured her.
“I can’t find the tequila,” Gen said.
Kate looked at her. “I really think that might be for the best.”

Ryan Delaney had 120 pounds of woman on his lap.
While the possibilities of that scenario were tantalizing, the reality was less so, since the woman in his lap was either deeply asleep or unconscious.
Ryan had been talking to Gen Porter at Jackson and Kate’s party, and she’d been drinking a little. Then she’d been drinking a lot. He sensed he’d upset her somehow, but he didn’t know how, and he was pretty sure that he still woudn’t understand even if someone explained it to him. The mind of a woman was unfathomable.
Gen.
She was a sexy little thing with wild red hair and a curvy figure, and he reflected on how it was possible that she and her friends—Kate, Rose, and of course, Lacy—could be so damned attractive. What were the odds? Did the gorgeous ones stick together?
He’d chatted with Gen for a while about this and that, and then it had occurred to him that she would know as well as anyone what it was that made Lacy Jordan interested in one man and not another. He started asking her some innocent questions. What kinds of things does Lacy like to do? Is she seeing anybody? What was her last boyfriend like? Innocent stuff, really, but it had seemed to irritate Gen. The more he’d pursued that line of questioning, the more alcohol she drank.
Now she was in his lap, either asleep or unconscious.
She let out a snore.
Asleep, he decided.
Lacy had gone home a while ago. When she was here, he’d been unable to take his eyes off her. He’d lived in Cambria for a long time—his whole life, in fact—and so had she. Obviously, they’d talked. They’d known each other. But for whatever reason, they’d never connected the way he’d hoped they would.
Ryan had been two years ahead of Lacy in high school. Two years—it’s not much when you’re an adult, but when you’re seventeen and she’s fifteen, it’s forever. She was scrawny and awkward and she’d worn braces, and he’d written her off as just a kid. But she didn’t stay scrawny and awkward, and she didn’t stay a kid. By the time he graduated from college and came back to town, Lacy had blossomed into a blond goddess with the kind of grace and beauty he’d never expected of her—or, hell, of anyone—back then.
He’d approached her, of course. He was friends with Jackson, and Jackson was in a relationship with Kate, and Kate was friends with Lacy, so they turned up in the same places from time to time. Even before then, even before Jackson had moved to Cambria, providing Ryan with something of an in with her, he’d seen her around town, chatted with her, even asked her out a few times.
It was all part of Lacy’s effortless grace, he supposed, that even when she turned a man down, he left feeling fine. She’d turn that smile on you and talk about how great it was to see you, and even though you walk out without an actual date—or any promise of one in the future—you’re so high on the drug of her attention that you don’t even realize you’ve been shot down like a duck during hunting season.
He was starting to realize the thing about the duck.
At Kate and Jackson’s party, Ryan had talked to Lacy for a while, and she’d been lovely, attentive, interested—until she turned that attention and interest on someone else, and he realized he’d been dismissed in the most gentle manner possible.
He reflected that it was probably time to give up on his aspirations of dating Lacy Jordan, but that wasn’t easy to do, having set his sights on her so long ago and having spent so much mental energy thinking about how he could make it happen.
In any case, he had other things to worry about at the moment. Mainly, the fact that the weight of Gen’s body sprawled across him was cutting off the circulation to his legs.
All of the guests had left except for him and Gen. Kate and Jackson were puttering around the house, gathering up empty beer bottles, putting away leftover food, gently chatting with each other about how the evening had gone.
They had an easy way between them. Ryan observed from his vantage point on the couch the way he touched the small of her back as he walked past her to get into the kitchen, the way she turned her face up to smile at him, the way she put her hand on his arm. They really had something, those two, and Ryan never would have predicted it for Jackson. The guy had always simultaneously attracted and repelled women in such a way that they were always coming around—and they were always leaving. Kate was different. She brought out the best in him. Ryan figured that was the best anyone in a relationship could do.
He looked down at Gen. Her upper body was stretched across his lap, her head on a pillow that he’d gently placed beneath her cheek. Her hair, long and curly and red, spread out over her back like flames. The backless dress she was wearing showed an expanse of smooth, white skin. She turned her head slightly and muttered something before burrowing deeper into him.
Gen was a beauty, and Ryan wondered why she was single. She wouldn’t be for long, it seemed to him. Not if there were any men around here with the taste and intelligence to appreciate her. In some future dream scenario, he would be with Lacy and she would be with … someone. Someone nice, a good guy who treated her right. And they would all enjoy an easy and satisfying friendship.
“I guess I’d better wake her up,” Kate said. She was standing in front of Ryan with her hands on her hips, looking at Gen with some amusement. “You’re kind of trapped.”
“Ah, it’s okay,” Ryan assured her. “I think she kinda needs to sleep it off.”
“You’re not wrong about that.” Kate shook her head. “I don’t know what got into her. Other than wine and tequila. She normally doesn't drink that much.”
“Something was bothering her,” Jackson put in from his place at the sink, where he was washing dishes. “Kate, you oughta talk to her tomorrow.”
Kate went back to straightening things up, and Ryan sat there with the warmth and weight of Gen on his body. He felt a tenderness toward her that he hadn’t expected. Whatever was wrong, he hoped it got better soon. He reached out a hand and stroked the fiery luster of her hair.
After a while, Jackson came over. “Her apartment’s just donwstairs. I’ll carry her,” he offered.
“That’s okay. I’ll do it,” Ryan said. He shifted until he had one arm beneath her shoulders and one behind her knees, and he carefully rose to stand with her in his arms. She smelled good. She was lighter than he’d expected, small, warm. She turned a little, whimpered a little, and put her arms around his neck without waking. He thought for a moment that he didn’t necessarily want to let her go.
“I’ve got the key. I’ll take you down there,” Kate said.
They went outside into the cool, foggy night air, and he carefully watched his step as they went down the outside stairway toward Gen’s door.
Kate opened the door for him, and he turned sideways to ease Gen inside the tiny studio apartment. Kate went ahead of him and yanked the cushions off of the sofa bed where Gen slept. She pulled out the mattress, arranged pillows, and pulled back the top sheet.
“Thanks. I’ve got her,” Ryan said.
“You sure?” Kate asked.
“Yeah, I'm good.”
Kate went back upstairs, and Ryan laid Gen carefully onto the bed. He removed her shoes and set them side by side on the floor next to the sofa. He wondered if he should remove anything else for her comfort, decided that would be crossing a line, and instead simply pulled the sheet over her. He hunted around, found a blanket in the closet, and laid that over her as well. Then he looked at her, at her peaceful, sleeping face, at the way her hair spread out over the pillow.
He didn’t know what moved him to do it, but he leaned over and gently kissed her forehead before leaving the apartment and locking the door behind him.