by Erin Noelle
My younger brother is getting worse, and my job – my duty – is to help him at all costs. We’ve tried everything modern medicine has to offer and nothing works.
Deciding to turn to unconventional treatments, we end up at Fire-on-the-Mountain, a holistic resort deep in the Rockies.
In our search for medical marijuana, I find beautiful, free-spirited Hudson Shavell – a girl who may not only hold the key to heal my brother, but to fix me as well. Even though I can’t afford distractions right now, she’s all I can think about. All that I want.
It’s funny how everything can change with one little SPARK.
“Hudson, it’s your night to set the table,” my mom shouts down the hallway to where I’m hiding out in my room, puffing on my one-hitter while watching Pitch Perfect for the umpteenth time. “Lasagna will be ready in ten minutes. It’s just us tonight.”
Groaning, I reluctantly roll off the solid white comforter thrown haphazardly atop my bed until my toes squish into the soft carpet—shag, of course. Then, trudging my way to the kitchen, where my mom and Grams are putting the final touches on dinner, I grab the plates, silverware, and napkins for everyone.
Dinnertime with my family, even when it doesn’t include all of the resort’s guests, is certifiably insane. Even though my older sisters flew the coop, they keep showing up at meal times, claiming they miss us, but I know they’re just here for the free meal. Scavengers.
Thankfully, tonight’s not one of those nights. I’m not in the mood for their twenty questions about how the date with Beckham went, especially when the flavor of Crew’s lips is still fresh on mine. Not to mention, I’m positive my mom or dad will be sure to ask for the most inappropriate details within the first five minutes of us all sitting down. One of the major downfalls of having unconventional, free-spirited parents who preach peace, love, and rock and roll is having the most awkward, cringe-worthy conversations with them.
“Thank you, sweetie.” Mel kisses me on the cheek when I walk by. “When you’re finished, can you tell your dad and Denver that the food’s ready? They’re outside chopping wood for the cold front moving through tomorrow.”
“Yeppers. Is it finally gonna snow?” I ask, passing under the arched doorway that leads into our spacious dining room.
“That’s what the weather guessers are claiming, at least,” she replies distrustfully, then adds, “Let the girls know it’s time too, please.”
Ever since I can remember, we’ve always eaten dinner together at the table, a time to share about our day and stay connected as a family. When my mom says it’s time for dinner, unless we’re sick in bed or have other special plans that have been previously approved, our butts better be in our chairs, ready to participate in the conversation. This has never really bothered me, because before today, I’ve never had anything exciting to talk about, and now that I do, I don’t much feel like it. For once, I want something to be all mine.
After I quickly set the table, I call upstairs for Cheyenne and Brighton to come down before alerting Doug and my little brother that it’s time to head inside. I haven’t changed out of my clothes from earlier, wanting to hang on to the faint trace of Crew’s cologne lingering in my plaid flannel shirt, so before everyone else joins me at the table, I take a quick sniff of it and allow a giddy giggle to escape, still a little uncertain about what what happened earlier means.
“Yes, you need a shower, and no, it’s not funny.” Cheyenne startles me as she comes up from behind, making me jump several inches in my seat. She plops down next to me and crinkles her nose up like something stinks. “You always smell like outside…earthy; it’s no wonder you never have boyfriends.”
“Leave her alone, Chey,” Doug scolds as the rest of the family filters in, everyone taking their usual seat. “She had a date just last night, which I’m sure she’s dying to tell us all about. Aren’t you, Hudson?”
I squirm uncomfortably in my chair, hoping no one is paying much attention, since they’re all busy piling their plates full of Italian deliciousness. Several minutes pass without another mention of it, but as soon as everyone has served themselves and settled with their food in front of them, the topic is approached again.
“Now, we’re all ears, Hudson. Tell us about last night. When are you seeing him again?” Mel asks eagerly.
All eyes are locked on me, everyone waiting for me to divulge into some sensational story of heated passion. Setting my fork down on the edge of my plate, I take a drink of water and clear my throat. “I’m not sure I’ll be going out with Beckham again,” I mumble apprehensively, twisting a napkin in my lap. “The date was pretty bland, and I think we’re just better off as friends.”
“Oh, honey, what happened? Were you embarrassed to see him afterwards at school today?” Mel’s expression quickly morphs into one of disappointment and pity. “If so, that’s totally normal. Don’t think he’s gonna go around telling his friends what you were like in bed, ‘cause that’s just a myth. Guys really aren’t like that.”
“Yes, we are,” Doug interjects, “but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Be proud you were good enough that he wanted to gloat. I tell all my friends how incredible Mel is in the sack.”
What in the hell?
“There’s nothing for him to talk about! We didn’t have sex! He took me to a movie, then brought me home and kissed me goodnight. That was it,” I insist, trying not to make eye contact with anyone while ignoring the snickers from my sisters.
“Why not? Did you tell him you weren’t interested?” Mel inquires.
Tossing my napkin down on the table, I shout, “No! He didn’t ask if I was interested or not, but if he would’ve, my answer would’ve been no!” I pause to take a deep breath then lower my voice to a calmer octave. “After hanging out together, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was like going out with Denver…there was no spark between us.”
No one says a word for what seems like an eternity until Grams chimes in. “Did you feel a spark when you were making out with that cute boy in front of cabin eight this afternoon?”
Somebody, please shoot me now.
All hell breaks loose at the table as everyone’s shouting different things at me...everyone but Grams, who’s curiously silent again, sitting directly across the table from me, wearing a smug smile like she just won the damn lottery.
“Enough! That’s enough!” Doug stands up and bangs his spoon on the table like a judge with a gavel, demanding the courtroom’s attention. Once it’s quiet, he falls back into his chair and slides his eyes over to me. “Hudson, please enlighten us on what Grams is talking about. Is it true?”
Fidgeting like a guilty defendant on a witness stand, I shake my head no, but murmur, “Maybe.”
More pandemonium ensues, mostly coming from Cheyenne and Brighton, who are arguing they already claimed him and that life isn’t fair. Annoyed that my sisters are trying to make this about them, this time it’s me who jumps out of my seat to get everyone’s attention.
“Stop it! All of you! Just stop being so weird!” I scream, my control teetering. They all shut up and stare at me in amazement. I never lose my cool, like never ever, and this is the second time I’ve yelled in less than ten minutes.
Shaking my head, I drop my chin to my chest and take several deep breaths. “Look, Beckham is a nice guy, but we’re just gonna be friends, because that’s all I want from him.” I stop and peer up at everyone, ensuring they’re paying attention before continuing, “I don’t know anything about Crew Elliott other than I met him last night, then saw him again this morning, and I felt something different. Call it a spark, an attraction, whatever you want, but it was definitely more than I’ve ever felt around another guy.”
“But, sweetie,” my dad interrupts, “they’re only visiting. He’ll be gone next weekend.”
“No, they’re actually moving here. Mary, the mom, had a job interview today, and they went looking for a place to live this afternoon,” I clarify as I sit back down. “The younger son, Caleb, has epilepsy, and they haven’t had any luck with the traditional drugs and treatments, so they’re moving here in hopes that medical marijuana can help with his seizures and migraines.”
Both of my parents’ eyes fill with compassion as I go into detail about the family’s situation, and I know instantly that no matter what happens between me and Crew—even if it’s nothing at all—they’ll want to assist in any way possible. I explain how I researched the strains and took some samples of our stuff over to the cabin this evening, in order for Caleb to hopefully get some relief while they’re getting settled here.
“You know we’ll do whatever we can, Hudson,” Mel says sincerely, glancing around the table. “All of us…anything they need. I can’t even imagine what that poor woman’s going through. We’ve been so blessed to have healthy kids.”
Nodding appreciatively at my mom and dad, I relax momentarily, thinking the craziness has passed, but the second I pick my fork up, ready to finally dig into the now-cool meal in front of me, Cheyenne opens her big mouth.
“What does any of this have to do with you kissing Crew today?” she snaps, obviously still bothered by the thought. However, rather than blowing up again or telling her to mind her own business, I simply flash a sugary-sweet smile in her direction and say, “Girls who smell like dirt must do it for him.”
Erin Noelle is a Texas native, where she lives with her husband and two young daughters. While earning her degree in History at the University of Houston, she rediscovered her love for reading that was first instilled by her grandmother when she was a young child.
A lover of happily-ever-afters, both historical and current, Erin is an avid reader of all romance novels. Her titles published include the Book Boyfriend Series, the Dusk ‘Til Dawn Series, Translucent, Conspire — co-authored with SE Hall, Surviving Us, and MILF: Wrong Kind of Love.
Her books have been a part of the USA Today Bestselling list and the Amazon and Barnes & Noble overall Top 100.
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