“If opposites attract, then I am nothing. Because you, you are everything.”
There’s no easy road traveled to such an intense sentiment, one I never dreamt I’d feel….
But I also never planned on Cannon Blackwell climbing aboard my tour bus.
S.E.Hall resides in Arkansas with her husband of 18 years and 4 beautiful daughters. When not in the stands watching her ladies play softball, she enjoys reading and writing. She's also being clutch at Baggo, when it's warm outside!
“I can’t let a stranger on the bus with Bubs. What if he’s a mass murderer?” What if he’s not as pretty on the inside as he is on the outside?
“Ah, Mama Bear, run him through all the tests. You’re careful. And he might say we’re crazy and tell us to fuck off. Let’s ask before we worry about it.”
Biding my time, I chew on the inside of my cheek and look back, confirming Conner’s still tossing the Frisbee happily, Rhett watching him. “You asking or am I?” I sigh, hopefully masking the foreign tingle of anticipation working its way up my battered spine.
“He’s hetero, I can tell from here. I say we send in,” he flicks a finger back and forth between my boobs, “the big guns.”
“Don’t lick your lips!” I shove him, mouth agape. “You’re like my brother. That’s illegal in at least forty states, and gross.”
“You didn’t think it was gross when—”
“Enough.” I slap my hand over his mouth hastily. “I’ll go, but you stay right here and watch, closely. He makes a move for a weapon, dial 911 as you run to rescue me.”
“On it.” He grins at me, full of victory, a hint of his earlier teasing still lingering in his expression.
Girding my loins, I think, do women have loins and can they be girded or is that only a guy thing? Summoning my courage, I move with slow, hesitant steps in the miraculous unknown’s direction, reminding myself with each one that it’s for the boys, the band, the overall goal of staying the hell out of Sutton. And it is, but I’m kidding myself if I don’t admit I wouldn’t be this anxious if I was walking up to an ugly man. Or even a kinda good-looking man. Shallow much, Liz? Nah, I have no control over biological response.
Almost there now, his head lifts and turns at my approach, connecting eyes as sable brown as thick molasses to my own. He was tummy-turning enough far away. Up close, he’s better than photoshopped, a clear-cut case for Guinness Genetics. His lips are full, much plumper than my own, and he has a strong nose and jawline, both very masculine, the latter covered in a dark scruff. His hair is the same rich chestnut as his eyes, not too short, but definitely not too long. “Just fucked” hair (isn’t that what they call it?) be damned. He’s got “just fucked her and she had to hold on” locks, unruly in the most intricate fashion. The black boots at the end of long, thick legs are scuffed, faded jeans worn, well, and the long sleeved black thermal he’s wearing? Oh, he wears it, or rather, every muscle in his torso holds it up flawlessly.
Bottom line—he’s easy to look at.
“Are you a deranged serial killer and/or rapist?”
I like to open subtly.
“No, are you?” His timbre is deep and gravely, sending my vagina subliminal messages. Something along the lines of “yup, you want it.” With a voice like that, I’m praying he isn’t a chain smoker. To fuzz this perfect picture with the stench of an ever-present cloud of smoke would be one helluva slap in the face of the Almighty creator.
“No,” I answer too defensively, this instant, highly unusual attraction frying my staple “too cool to care” attitude that, up until right now, I’d like to think I pull off fabulously. “You any good?” I lean and point to the instrument on his back, brows bowed in questioning antagonism.
“Define good,” he deadpans, head down as he pulls the guitar off his back and puts it back in its case.
“Not left-handed.” He shrugs as he straightens back up and captures my gaze.
He laughs, treating me to one seriously enlightening sound, accompanied by the sexiest blindingly white smile. “Then no, not even close to good.”
Damn, I should’ve gone with a mediocre guitarist! Now I’ve backed myself into a corner, Stranger Danger not giving me anything in the form of segue. Struggling, I shove my hands in my back pockets and rock nervously back and forth on my heels, forced to come up with another revealing yet seemingly aloof question.
“Why do you ask?” he rescues me.
“Our band.” I toss my head back toward the bus. “We need a bassist. And since you’re hitchhiking, I thought maybe—”
He drops down from his perch on the top edge of the bench and stands, well over six feet of sinister sex appeal stretching out before my eager eyes. “Do you know what a hitchhiker is?”
“What?” I shake my head to clear it and take a step back. “Yes, of course.”
“You sure about that?” He eats up the steps I’d retreated, placing his body close enough to mine that I can literally feel the battle of push and pull between us. “‘Cause where I come from, hitchhikers stand at the road, where you can see them. It increases their chances of actually landing a ride.” His left eyebrow curves up at one end and that same eye, I swear it, twinkles at me. “Seeing as how I’m sitting at the back of a desolate rest stop, I’m either the worst hitchhiker in history,” another step closer, “or you’re labeling me with the wrong tag.”
I check my phone for the tenth time. It’s almost 2 am, surely they’re asleep and I can sneak to my own bed. Sleeping with Conner isn’t as fun as you might think, unless you think being caged with a wild animal sounds like a party.
As quietly as possible, I slink out of the bed and through his door, pulling it closed; halfway there. Sending up a silent prayer I don’t meet any open, awake eyes, I turn, relieved at the lack of spectators, and scurry to my bed. After sharing my song tonight, I need some time to pass before I look them in the eyes—those lyrics, the tremor in my voice as I sang—I’m not ready for questions or commentary.
Of course I didn’t pull off the covert bed switch undetected. This bus—40 x 8 feet—might as well be a shoebox. I draw back the curtain, squinting my eyes against the dimness.
“Hey,” Cannon greets me with a whisper and grin from his bed, curtain also pulled open.
Giving him back the smile I can’t contain, I finger wave. Has he been waiting up for me? Was I secretly hoping he’d still be awake? Do I want to know either answer or what it says about me? What planet am I living on that this is now an issue?
“Here.” He scoots to the edge of his bunk and hands across…an earbud? Eyeing him curiously, I turn on my side, facing his way, and put it in my ear. “Shhh.” He puts a finger over his lips then winks and slips the other bud in his own ear, only breaking eye contact for a split second to tap the phone screen, then reconnecting in the muted light.
“Hello, Lizzie,” his voice sounds in my ear and as my eyes pop in surprise. He once again does the “shhh” thing, nodding to me to just listen. “I thought about playing you ‘You Are So Beautiful,’ but surely you already know that. This, you may not.”
There’s a brief pause, then music starts… It’s “Have a Little Faith in Me.”
I know I whimper aloud, but I force my eyes to stay on his no matter how badly I want to hide them and the building tears. Through the entire song, I stare and he stares back, mouthing the words every once in a while. With the closing notes, his voice returns.
“Not too corny, I hope. Just…think about it. Sweet dreams, Lizzie.”
Apparently picking up on the fact I’ve been rendered incapable of functioning, he reaches over and gently removes the earbud, taps the end of my nose with his fingertip, then closes my curtain for me.
I’ll have the corny with a side of corny please.
Brittany's Review of Pretty Instinct
Do you know what it’s like to not just lose a parent, but lose the person your older brother used to be? Elizabeth Carmichael does, and ever since those fateful few months seven years ago, she’s been harboring hatred for her father, the person she believes is responsible for everything that has happened in her life.
To deal with the inner turmoil raging inside her, Liz, Conner (her older brother), her two best friends, and Cami all tour the United States on a tour bus driven by her Uncle Bruce. Liz takes out her frustrations on her music while keeping a watchful eye on Conner.
One day, Cami, the bass player, says some rude and mean things to Conner. Liz, the best protective little sister ever, kicks her out of the band and off the bus. Leaving them short a bass player, they all take a rest at a rest stop in Indiana. When Liz spots a gorgeous man who has a guitar strapped on his back, alone, she instantly is on alert. He could fix their problems.
This sexy “not a hitchhiker” is named Cannon Blackwell. After a background check and “pee in a cup” drug test, he’s allowed on the bus. On the road again, he slowly connects with everyone, but has a certain interest in Liz.
Liz becomes Lizzie, Siren, A Little Bit Witchy, and whatever other names Cannon deems fit. Slowly, the interest the two have for each other becomes known to everyone. Liz slowly lets herself fall for Cannon, who promises to be there for her everyday, anytime, everywhere, and for anything.
If you think that is all this story has to offer, you’re wrong. There’s so much more, but I’m afraid of spoiling it for anyone. I know you will love this book, everyone so far has.
I love SE Hall. I love her to death. She is my wife. She proposed to me. I loved her Evolve series, and I will ALWAYS love anything she writes, ever, even if it’s just a grocery list. But, I have to give this book four and a half stars.
There were some spots in this novel where she would add something to a sentence that would cause it to not make sense to me. Now, this is just my thought, because according to everyone else I’ve talked to, it makes perfect sense. I’m just confused by everything. Other than that, this novel is pure perfection.
I absolutely love and adore Conner, Cannon, Rhett, and Jarrett. Liz is one of those lucky people that God deemed worthy enough to have so many people love her and love her truly. Liz is a brilliant, loving, and caring woman, and treats each person in their own way. Her relationship with everyone differs from each other, and it’s amazing. She’s a wonderful sister, amazing lover, and the best friend ever.
I do have to say though, and this has nothing to do with my review at all, that I don’t really have a team on this one. I will forever be Sawyer’s Shorty (from her novel, Entice), and not even these sexy as hell rockers can sway me.
Great job, SE Hall. You knocked this out of the park. I cannot wait to read more of this series. I know you have a bestseller on your hands.