Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Jan Irving 2014. All Rights Reserved, Total-E-Ntwined Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.
Tate Stevens took a critical look at the quilt he was working on. He’d nicknamed it ‘Summer Patchwork’ but another name for it could be pain in his ass. He sighed, rolling his shoulders. What the hell had he been thinking, coming to this small western town of White Deer, Montana? That he’d be inspired as an artist? So far it hadn’t happened and he knew why.
He was heart sick.
He was lonely.
So yeah, what a genius idea, coming here where he was even more isolated than in L.A. Terrific. Maybe he could cozy up to the crickets currently chirping up a storm in the wild grass outside his tiny cabin.
Restlessly he abandoned the sewing machine that had travelled all the way from the city in the back of his vintage purple Volkswagen van. Not a new SUV for him, but the kind of vehicle you could keep running with chewing gum and a spare rubber band. He liked old things, which was what had got him into quilt making in the first place.
Tate had worked in his uncle’s junk shop all during high school. When people bought in Grandma’s patchwork on consignment, Tate did any repairs needed to the pieces by hand. He had just been drawn to pick up a needle and thread and do it because looking at quilts, at the homemade embellishment of words or flowers, at the choice of colours and patterns, he’d experienced a connection with the quilt maker. He’d dreamed up lives behind the blocks of patterns, imagined what it might be like to sleep all his life beside a husband under a double wedding ring quilt.
So far he had lots of wedding quilts but no lover, not since his last boyfriend had ditched him. ‘You’re too much of a dreamer for me, man,’ Jerrod had told him. ‘It’s like you want every guy to be the one, you know? You need to get over that romantic shit.’
Yeah, thanks. Dump him and also trash his soul. It was all his fault his boyfriend couldn’t keep it zipped whenever he was out. So why couldn’t Tate stop pining for someone in his life? Because he was a pathetic loser. He did fall in love at the drop of his pants. No, more like after the perfect kiss, not that he’d ever quite experienced that.
But he’d dreamed about it plenty.
Fantasising about being gripped by urgent hands, the crush of lips on lips, the need singing through his body and into the body of his lover.
Which was not helping any since he was totally alone up here.
He pushed open the slider and let in the evening air, grimacing when his bare feet hit the rocks outside the cabin. Jesus, he’d forgotten to put on shoes again, so carried away working on his latest design. And he’d forgotten to shave and shower so his hair was still flattened on one side. Hell with it.
No one to see him, even though lately he’d been a little spooked out here. But that was just because of the wolf he’d spotted by the stream a few weeks ago. Ghostly silver, horribly scarred, as if it had been burned, and so very still, watching him, seeing into him and then gone, nothing but swaying tall grass where it had stood a second before.
Tate had yearned for his camera. He was trying now to capture those uncanny blue eyes in a design.
Since that glimpse, he hadn’t seen the big animal again but he’d felt as if it was nearby, watching him.
More, he’d felt as if it had been a sign, as if now that he had held the gaze of a wild, magnificent wolf, that his life would somehow change.
It was chilly out so Tate wrapped his arms around his bare chest, walking to the crude wooden bench near the dense patch of woods. He sat down, staring towards the stream where he’d glimpsed the wolf. It had been as large as a creature from a fairytale. Why did he feel so blessed that he’d seen it? Since its appearance he’d spotted deer, rabbits and even a mountain lion once—though fortunately from a distance. But nothing had been as intense as that moment looking with the wolf. It had felt like a moment of destiny.
His iPhone rang and he didn’t need to check the number to know it was his agent, Sheila. “Hey, girl.”
He caught the snap of gum and wondered if it was helping her kick her addiction to nicotine.
“Tate…you promised you’d get those galleys back for Quilting in the Smoky Mountains to your publisher by Friday.”
Tate sighed. Shit. “Yeah, I know. I’m glad you called because it’s…Tuesday, right?”
“Try Wednesday. Don’t you ever go into some kind of town? I mean, they do have towns up there, right?”
“Har. It’s Montana, not Mars. And not lately.”
“Are you eating all right?” Now her tone was motherly, though she was younger than he was, but he seemed to bring that out in women, a need to take care of him. It was probably his boyish looks—he knew he looked about seventeen, not twenty seven, with shaggy brown hair, olive skin and sad brown eyes. Not that he was sad, unless he’d gone a long time without someone in his bed. He might want love but he also loved sex, lots of it, and he was a cranky puppy without it.
“I had some peanut butter.” His favourite.
“Oh, good. Survivalist food.”
He laughed. “Hey, I’ll get those galleys done tonight, okay?”
“I’ll have FedEx there for a pick-up in the morning.” Her tone was half warning, half affection.
“Ouch, cracking the whip.”
“It’s what I do best.”
He found himself grinning, some of his earlier dissatisfaction leaving him. “I’ll have to ask your husband sometime if that is true.”
“Please. He’s only allowed to talk if Mistress allows it.”
Laughing, he cut the call, then felt a little wistful he wouldn’t have more time to work on his latest art quilt, but being the boy-wonder of the quilt world with his talent for clashing colours and wild design paid for his lifestyle, which wasn’t rich by any means but was something he could call his own.
Tate was something of a maverick. He’d begun attending quilt shows when he was still in high school and started cutting and sewing—with scissors and no fancy rulers—his quilts in his spare time. He’d finally gott up the guts to show a few of his pieces to some of the members of his local guild and they’d been astonished over his work. It was angry, it was energetic, it was even sexy, which was a new take on an old art form.
But mostly lately it was lonely.
Because, yeah, he was lonely.
“Time to change this song,” he muttered. But he stayed outside and watched as stars went on like light bulbs in the sky, until he felt a shiver climb down his spine, as if he were being watched.