COVER & EXCERPT REVEAL
BOURBON FIREBALL by Shari J. Ryan
Release Date: October 19, 2020
Cover Design: MadHat Studios
The heavy burden of caring for the well-being of another life shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of a teenager. But I never complained or shied away from it.
I had this friend. He needed me.
As the years went by, I continued to find myself drawn to those with pain in their eyes, wanting to ease their anguish with a smile or a joke.
That was what first lured me to Journey.
I quickly learned she bristled at even the suggestion of her vulnerability. We may be like oil and water, but I revel in fighting for her attention. This fiery beauty is worth the wait, and I’m playing the long game.
She claims not to be the commitment type, but I see hope and refuse to give up. Can I convince her we belong together? Or will I be the one left hiding my own pain behind a smile?
From USA Today Bestselling Author, Shari J. Ryan, comes the highly-anticipated conclusion to The Barrel House Series!
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Maybe she knows I’m outside, waiting. I’ve parked far enough away to be out of sight, but Journey must have a sixth sense for men like me. She eats my “type” for breakfast and always seems to have the upper hand. Why I’m attracted to that, I do not understand.
While standing beside her Jeep, expecting her exit from The Barrel House, I notice a slight scratch on her fender. The Jeep is a rusty orange color, but light enough to show flaws. I wonder how she feels about flaws. If someone sneezes near my truck, I have a fit and go through the carwash.
I shove my thumb beneath the hem of my shirt and stroke at the scratch, seeing if I can tell how deep it goes. Oh, it’s not bad. I could buff that out for her.
“Why are you touching my Jeep with your shirt?” It’s good to know all I had to do was touch her car to summon her presence.
“There’s a scratch. Did you see it?”
Like the gentle flower Journey is, she storms forward and nudges me away from the spot. “What the hell? That wasn’t there this morning.”
“You inspected your Jeep before leaving home this morning?”
“I would have noticed it,” she corrects herself.
“I can buff that right out for you. Nothing to worry about.”
“How do you know I can’t buff it right out?” she replies, and it’s evident she’s taking offense to my chauvinistic offer.
I place my hands on my hips and widen my stance. “You know, I don’t recall trying to be an asshole to you, at least not in the way you’re responding to everything I say. In fact, I have tried hard to be nice to you despite your inability to reciprocate.”
Journey huffs with aggravation, rolling her eyes up toward the sky. “Brody, why are you trying so hard to reconnect with me?”
I could remind her that she made the first move at the school, but I’ve said it enough times. She knows what she did. She re-sparked something that never fizzled out all the way.
“I don’t know,” I say. I’m not sure how else to answer at this point. I feel the need to break down her wall and I’m not one to give up.
“Well, that clears everything up,” she says.
“You know, by the way you speak to me, you’d think I did something as horrible, like steal your Jeep and return it in pieces, but I haven’t done a damn thing, so what’s your problem?”
She turns her back to the Jeep, facing me.
The sun blares its mid-morning rays into her eyes, turning the green hues to turquoise. “I can’t do this. I’m not in a place where I can offer someone attention or friendship. Rather than lead you on, I figure it’s best to keep things simple.”
“You kissed me,” I remind her. Again. Like I wasn’t going to.
“Yeah, I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had an urge and acted on it, and I shouldn’t have. It was a mistake, and I apologize for being inappropriate.”
Ouch. I wish I hadn’t brought it back up again. I think I’d prefer wondering what initially sparked her desire. I hold my hands up in defense. “Okay, okay, point taken. I’ll back off.”
With a couple steps back, I prepare to turn back for my truck and leave her be, but there’s a squint to her eye. Maybe it’s the sun, or maybe she’s thinking she’s wrong.
“Why were you waiting here, anyway?” This is where she bates me back in so she can sucker punch me once more.
I can take it.
“I wanted to see if we could go grab a coffee?”
Journey’s gaze floats across the street to the coffee shop. “I’m not up for any deep meaningful conversations or epiphanies about life,” she says.
“We don’t have to talk at all. I know you like coffee, and I like coffee, so I figured what the hell, if two people enjoy coffee, they should just have one together, right?”
She’s breaking at the seam. I can see it.
“Fine, but you’re paying,” she says.
“Only if I can borrow three bucks.” I take a step forward and playfully nudge her at the shoulder.
“I figured that would be the case,” she says.
I hope that her words are just another bout of sarcasm, and not because she thinks I’m a lowlife who has accomplished nothing and can’t afford to buy her a cup of coffee. “I have to grab my purse out of my car. One second.”
“You keep your purse in your—unlocked car?” I ask, watching her open the driver’s door without unlocking the doors.
“Who will take it around here?”
“Do you know every single person in this town or anyone who might drive through, looking for trouble?”
“Yup,” she says.
“Cool.” While she’s digging for her purse, I open the app on my phone for the coffee shop and place an order for two and pre-pay.
In silence, Journey retrieves her purse and closes her car door. I decide it’s best not to mention locking her Jeep. Instead, I follow her toward the street. A car flies by and the coast is clear, which instinctively causes my hand to land on her lower back as she steps off the curb. Journey stops short in the street and twists around to look at my hand. I retract my arm and shove my hand in my pocket. “Sorry, it’s a bad habit of being a gentleman. I won’t do it again.”
Somehow, we make it to the coffee shop twenty feet away. I didn’t think there was a chance in hell we’d walk through this door together. “What do you want?” she asks.
“I already ordered us both coffees. They should be ready at the pickup counter,” I say, opening the glass door for her.
A sidelong glance and a couple of small steps, and we’ve made it to our destination. Journey approaches the pickup counter ahead of me and peeks at the slips before grabbing both cups. “Thank you for the coffee,” she says. “Do you still need the three dollars?” Her eyebrow arches with question.
“I was kidding. It’s something people do to make others laugh occasionally. Ever heard of it?”
Without a response, she moves forward and prepares her coffee at the condiment station. I’m going with the black version today. I think I could use the extra kick at the current moment.
I take a seat at one of the empty tables and watch Journey pour the cream into her coffee as if it requires a steady painter’s hand, then sprinkles in a bit of sugar. She takes a sip as she makes her way over to the table I’m at and takes long steps as if gliding toward the open chair. I agreed we didn’t have to talk, so I’ll just sit here until she decides the silence is too awkward. I can play this game as long as she can.
With two hands curled around her cup, she rests her elbows down on the table and stares at me. “What about me makes you want to sit here and have a cup of coffee?”
“I thought we aren’t supposed to talk?”
“You’re right,” she says, taking another sip.
“You remind me of myself. When I’m angry or hurt, I wear the emotions like a blinking neon sign. Your dad just passed away and I can’t imagine you must feel too good right now.”
“So, I’m a pity project?” she responds.
“Shit. Okay, you know what. Forget it. I was trying. I was. We knew each other for the first half of our lives, and I thought it would be nice to reconnect. You seem like life has taken a toll on you and I get it, so I figured you might want company. I was wrong, so I’ll leave you alone. I should have listened to your sister when she said you were unavailable.”
“Melody wouldn’t use those words,” Journey retorts.
“She said something along those lines and warned me to leave you alone.”
“And you didn’t listen?”
“I don’t like to listen to what people tell me to do. I enjoy taking the scenic route. And no, I don’t pity you. If you can take the shitty parts of life and turn them into anger rather than pain, I’d say you have a step up on most people., I think it’s noble that you can control your feelings like that. Most can’t.”
“People might disagree with your statement.”
“Maybe, but it’s better than crying about something you can’t change, right?”
Something I said resonates with her because her eyes widen in response. “Crying causes headaches and swollen eyes. It does nothing to fix the pain.”
“Exactly,” I agree.
Journey glances down at her watch. It’s a sign she’s about to end this little rendezvous and move on with her day. “How do I remind you of yourself?” she asks with a squint of her eye.
“That’s a loaded question, but for starters, I’m about to turn forty, divorced with a daughter who has an attitude that could scare a WWE wrestler away. I can count the number of friends I have on my third hand, and I have a vendetta against life for reasons no one needs to know.”
“Is that your way of luring me in?” Both eyebrows rise this time.
“If I was trying to lure you in, I would have given you the impression that I might spill all my secrets, but I don’t plan to do that.”
“So, you’re a tease,” she states.
“Much like yourself,” I reply with a quick wink.
Journey places her cup down and rests her chin in her hand while leaning on the tabletop. “Maybe you’re not so bad, Brody Pearson.”
“With that said, what do I have to do to persuade you into spending more time with me?” I’m all in now. I’ve placed my cards down on the table.
“I’m sure you’ll try very hard to figure out a way to do that,” she says with a hint of a smirk.
“This is a game to you, isn’t it?” I ask.
“A game,” she repeats. “If you see this as a game—one you’ll never win, we can call it what you’d like.” The second I think I find a weak spot; she strikes back.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shari J. Ryan is USA Today bestselling author. She lives in Massachusetts with her wicked awesome husband, and two wild sons who fill her life with non-stop comedy.
With a life full of love, writing, drawing, TV binging, reading, and Starbucks, Shari is living her best life.
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