Ditch Lane Diaries
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: D.F. Jones
Date of Publication: July 25, 2015
Number of pages: 173
Word Count: 61,570
Cover Artist: Amanda Northcutt, Jones Media
Ruby’s Choice is a coming of age story set in the late 1970’s in Middle Tennessee with a splash of paranormal which will blossom in the second and third books of the series.
Ever since Ruby discovered an amber-encased spider web in the Campbell Ridge Cave, she has had dreams of births, deaths and glimpses into the future.
Ruby’s shift is coming to a close at Everglade General Store. As she stacks the last row of bath soap, Ruby recalls the delicious dream she had the night before. In the dream, a gorgeous guy is kissing a tickle spot, just behind her left earlobe, sending shivers up her spine. If only that dream could come true, instead of the one where a state trooper gives her a seventy-five dollar speeding ticket!
Ruby snaps back to reality when she hears the store’s front door bells chime. If she didn’t know any better, she’d say the frickin’ Adonis from her sexy dream just walked through the door.
Reed Jackson and Brent Brown introduce themselves to Ruby as members of the local baseball team her brother, George, manages. Brent mentions they specifically came out to the store to meet George’s hot, little sister. Ruby is slightly confused when she hears Reed murmur Tap It under his breath, but then she remembers the rumor going around campus about Reed and Brent’s dating game, where the two best friends compete to have a girl profess undying love to one of them. And Tap It is a winner takes all—all of what, though, Ruby has no clue. Ruby decides that she’ll play along, but according to her rules. She’ll suss out if either of these players is worthy of her love and respect.
One thing is for sure, Ruby is no pawn.
Who will be Ruby’s Choice?
Author Reading https://youtu.be/urB0ToCii-g
Book Trailer https://youtu.be/quA4hqaQkIo
Available at Amazon
Ca m p b e l l Ri d g e Ca v e 1972
RUBY, ANNA AND SANDY HAD their backpacks filled with water, extra flashlights and batteries for spelunking the cave on Campbell Ridge. Ruby had discovered the entrance of the cave with her brother, George, five years ago, when they were looking for Indian arrowheads. George had told her never under any circumstances to go inside of the cave. But today, Ruby and her best friends, Anna and Sandy, were looking for new adventures.
The girls were deep inside the cave, surrounded by complete darkness with only their flashlights to illuminate the interior walls. The limestone cave had beautiful rock formations, crystals and stalactites. The cave underground had seemed alien, almost unworldly. The air smelled of the dank earth, and the only sound was running water from the stream that ran through the cave.
Ruby was forced to climb over a boulder on her belly to squeeze through a narrow pass. The boulder opened up into a hidden room. Ruby was still hanging onto the rock when she yelled back at the girls, “Hey, guys, you have to see this!” And then she slid down the rock into the room.
Anna and Sandy scrambled up and over the boulder, shining their lights into the hidden room. Anna slid down the boulder and entered with Sandy right behind her. The hidden room was roughly the size of a bedroom. “Holy cow, there are ancient drawing’s on the wall.”
Thousands of years of groundwater had caused the rocks on one
side of the cave to drop down forming large stalactites the size of a pickup truck. The large drawings revealed intricate details of each person etched in the stone wall. Sandy inspected the drawings closer as she walked down the length of the wall. “It’s a story. I read about ancient drawings like these in one of my National Geographic magazines. This is far out.”
Ruby tripped over a small rock, dropping her flashlight. The light on the ground lit the far left corner, revealing a massive figure carved in the stone. “Geez Louise! This dude looks like a freaking astronaut. Look at his helmet!”
Anna bumped into Ruby, nearly making them both fall down. She held onto Ruby’s shoulder and said, “That’s some spooky shit.”
Anna walked past Sandy to the next group of drawings. “Here’s the same dude again. He’s holding a totem and there are three people kneeling before him. This looks like a ritual or rite of passage.”
Sandy sat down on a rock, mesmerized by what they had discovered. She flashed her light toward Ruby and Anna as they traced their fingers over the different drawings. Sandy asked, “Do you think we should tell our parents or teachers?”
Anna and Ruby walked over sit to on the ground next to Sandy. Ruby’s light fused with Sandy’s as Anna’s light circled around to the other parts of the room. There was only one wall dedicated to the drawings. Anna replied, “I don’t think so. A tribe sealed this room for some reason. We should leave. I’ve got a weird feeling, like we’re being watched.”
Sandy stood, tipping over the rock she had been sitting on, causing her flashlight to point downward. “Hey, look, something’s under this rock. Bring your lights over here.” Anna and Sandy shined their lights over the place where the rock had been, as Ruby knelt down, reached in and pulled out the object.
The girls plopped back down on the hard ground, staring wide-‐ eyed at the totem. Ruby’s voice trembled. “It’s the totem in the drawing, the same one the deity is handing over to the people kneeling on the ground. I know this sounds weird, but this thing is pulsing in my hands.”
Sandy reached over to pluck the totem out of Ruby’s hand. The totem was around six inches tall, made out of crystal and quartz with piercing sapphire eyes. The detailed carvings made the image of the
RU BY’ S C H O I C E
face appear real, smooth as glass to the touch, as though sculpted by a master artisan, and no matter which way they turned the totem, it seemed to be watching them. “It’s a smaller version of the big guy in the corner. He is looking at me.”
Sandy handed the totem to Anna, who turned it over in her hands. “I see what you mean. This little dude is shooting energy to my fingertips. We need to place this thing back where we found it and get the hell out of Dodge. I have the creeps in here.”
Ruby took the totem and put it back in the hole. In another part of the cave, Ruby could hear rocks falling. “We need to get out of here because the cave is shifting.” The girls rolled the boulder back in place and made a hasty exit.
Outside in the daylight, they sat on a rock ledge, out of breath and speechless. Ruby opened her backpack and pulled out an amber-‐ encased spider web. “Well, shut the front door, what the heck? Look y’all, it’s a spider web inside a piece of amber?”
Anna found an amethyst stone in her pocket, and Sandy opened her thermos finding a hiddenite stone. Anna shook her head in bewilderment. “Well, I’m pretty sure these stones weren’t with us before we went inside the cave. If I wasn’t so dad blame scared, I’d take this back inside the cave, right now.”
Sandy stared at her stone and then spoke quietly. “I don’t want to spook you any further, but holding this stone gave me a vision of the deity who gave us the stones. In the vision, he is relaying that we’re to keep the stones on our person at all times. He will reveal to us in time what it means and we aren’t supposed to talk about this again until he reveals it to Ruby in a dream.”
The girls looked at each other wide-‐eyed, holding their stones in eerie silence. They never uttered a single word about the totem or the stones again—until years later.
Dr e a m We a v e r
Everglade, Tennessee Summer 1977
RUBY STOCKED THE SHELVES FOR tomorrow’s store traffic. Summer always brought in an influx of tourists, along with the store regulars. Her workday was coming to a close, which meant it was time to party. As she stacked the last rows of Dove soap and Jergens body lotion, she began to daydream. She bit back a playful smile, recalling the delicious dream from the night before.
In Ruby’s dream, she walked hand-‐in-‐hand with a stranger down a long sidewalk lined with pink dogwood trees in full bloom. The sun shone brightly as she looked up at him. She raised her hand, framing her eyes to deflect the sun so she could see his face more clearly. Her dream man turned and looked down at her with kind, expressive eyes and laughed. Ruby felt love; it surrounded and embraced her.
The dream shifted as she followed him into a bedroom. The wall-‐ to-‐wall bay window in the room overlooked the night lights of a city. Ruby stood only inches from him, not touching, but just looking into his eyes.
The dream shifted again. The man had disappeared and Ruby turned around frantically looking for him. She found him sitting on the edge of the bed. Ruby trembled as she walked toward him. He reached for her.
The edges of her dream blurred as purple, yellow and blue hues
distorted in her vision, and he seemed to shimmer away. Ruby tried hard to zero in on his face, and then he reappeared, clear and in focus. She sat down beside him, and he reached up to run his finger across her bottom lip. He cradled her face with his hand, and then he leaned down slowly covering her mouth with his, as she circled her arms around his neck. His kiss was so soft and tender that it sent a wave of pleasure washing over her so acute her mind seemed to go blank. Ruby felt him smile against her lips, and then he pulled back slightly and adjusted his angle so he could nibble on her earlobe, sending shivers up her spine.
Ruby ran her fingers over his shoulders and down his well-‐ defined biceps, as she arched toward him. Every nerve ending in her sizzled, and she cried out to him, “I love you.” Red-‐hot sensations spread through her like wildfire in a parched forest.
Ruby lay back on the bed, and his body rose over hers and then he pressed his face so close to hers, his lips barely brushed against her cheek. Mr. Dreamy traced his finger down her jawline and whispered, “I’m on fire for you and now you’re mine.”
Snap out of it! Ruby quickly recovered from her daydreaming as she heard her boss call her name.
Mr. Burns asked, “Ruby, honey, would you work the cash register for me so I can work on my books?”
Ruby replied politely, “Yes, sir, Mr. Burns.”
Mr. Burns had been teaching Ruby the art of running a small business since she was sixteen. She dreamed of owning her own grocery store, some day, and she had saved nearly five hundred dollars to use for start-‐up capital. She had a five-‐year plan from the time she graduated college in two years to the time she would open her doors.
Everglade General Store had been in the Burns family for forty years. The wooden exterior of the old-‐fashioned store had been painted white, and the interior walls revealed exposed logs and wood beams. The store had been renovated several years ago, but Mr. Burns had purposely kept the interior the same to reflect the era when his father had built it in 1938. Several huge wicker ceiling fans hung overhead, and the checkout counter still had glass-‐encased bins for candy and treats.
Ruby took off her apron and was making her way behind the
counter when she saw the front door open and two guys stroll into the store. She was checking the guys out when the one on the left looked up and caught her staring.
Holy smokes! It’s the guy in my dream!
It always blew Ruby away whenever something from her dreams appeared in real life. Ever since she had found the piece of amber that day in the cave with Sandy and Anna, she’d had life-‐or-‐death dreams, and occasionally she would see glimpses into the future. Typically, her life dreams would foretell the birth of a child for a friend or relative, and then she would find out days after her dream, a friend or relative was pregnant.
Ruby’s worst dreams were the ones about death. She hated those dreams. The first one had been about her Aunt Sammie. In Ruby’s dream, her aunt had been driving down the interstate and tried to miss debris from a jackknifed tractor-‐trailer. Her car had slammed into the guardrail. The dream shifted to the emergency room, where the family had decided not to continue life support. Thirty minutes after Ruby had woken from that awful dream she had received a phone call and learned her aunt had been in a terrible car accident. Ruby learned her aunt had indeed hit a tractor-‐trailer, but in reality the truck had crossed into her traffic lane. Ruby had rushed to the hospital, where the scene in the ER had unfolded just like the latter part of her dream—the family had pulled her aunt’s life support. To this day, Ruby hated having death dreams, but thankfully, they were few and far between.
Occasionally, she would have a dream like the one she’d had last night that involved people she had never met before. The guy in her dream last night apparently was real. Watching her real-‐life dream man walk into the store sent chills straight up her arms.
Ruby locked on his beautiful dark eyes, the color of espresso and framed with thick, luscious lashes. A fireball ripped through her as she ogled the dark-‐haired, warrior-‐like god who stood at least six feet tall. She could see his rippling muscles bursting through his tight, white T-‐shirt, which starkly contrasted with his suntan. He smiled at her with dazzling white teeth, and Ruby’s knees literally went weak.
For crying out loud, she was acting like a lovesick fool, fidgeting back and forth, trying not to look directly at the guy. Dreamy’s head
lifted and his eyes locked on hers again, sucking her in. She felt an instantaneous spark, a strange sort of electricity radiating from him to her. Only a moment had passed before she looked away, embarrassed for being caught gawking at him like he was a hot piece of Southern pecan pie and she hadn’t eaten for a month.
And then, Ruby noticed the second guy. He had the most striking green eyes, jet-‐black hair, and lips that made her want to kiss them. She just didn’t see gorgeous guys like these two every day in Everglade.
They were whispering to each other and chuckling as they walked past the counter. Ruby knew the blood must be rushing to her face. The two guys walked with such confidence, and they were so self-‐assured. Her gaze followed them to the refrigerated section in the back of the store. She watched them grab two Sundrop sodas and then head toward the candy aisle. When the guys walked toward the check-‐out, Ruby started straightening the items on the counter, trying to look busy. On the surface, she maintained a cool demeanor, but on the inside her nerves were bouncing off the walls.
REED HAD DRIVEN OUT TO Everglade with Brent to check out the hot sister of George Glenn, the manager of their summer baseball team. George had invited Reed and Brent to a party tonight at Ditch Lane, a local hangout for college students. Since the season started, the guys on their baseball team had been talking about George’s little sister, and those who had been brave enough to ask her out had been shot down. Reed had always loved a challenge, though.
Reed whispered to Brent, “Tap It! That little honey is going to be mine.”
Brent chuckled, as he tried to push Reed out of the way for a better look at the girl behind the counter. “No way, dude. The game is on.”
Reed and Brent had always competed against each other—from sports to women. Because they were always chasing the same women, during their freshman year at Middle Tennessee State University, they came up with a game called Tap It. In Tap It, they would choose one girl, and then they both dated her until she
professed her undying love for either Brent or Reed. The winner of the game would get to date the girl exclusively while the loser had to pay the other one’s bar tab for a month.
Reed and Brent walked to the front of the store and placed their sodas and candy on the counter. Reed hooked his thumbs in his blue-‐ jean pockets as Brent rested his hand on top of the cash register. Both of the guys were checking out every inch of George’s little sister’s body.
RUBY STRAIGHTENED HER SPINE, LIFTED her chin, looked Dreamy straight in his eyes, and flashed him a Colgate Ultra Brite smile. “Will that be all for you today?”
Mr. Dreamy said, “Yes, ma’am. This is it. Y’all been busy today?” His voice had a sweet Southern drawl.
Ruby began ringing up their items on the cash register. “Yes, Fridays and Saturdays are the worst.” She tossed a glance over her shoulder to make sure Mr. Burns hadn’t heard her.
Green Eyes turned to see who she was looking at and then turned back to her and winked. “You’re safe; he’s not looking.” He paused slightly and then said, “Hey, we’re looking for Ditch Lane. George Glenn invited us to a party there tonight. Would you mind giving me directions?”
Ruby placed their items in a brown paper bag. Her head shot up when she heard the bells chime from the store door opening again, and more people came in. Crap, it’s time to close. Don’t people ever read the hours on the front door? She looked back to the guys at the counter. “That’ll be sixty-‐five cents.” She paused and then said, “George Glenn? He’s my brother.”
Dreamy placed sixty-‐five cents on the counter and leaned in a little too close. “I didn’t realize George had such a pretty sister. I’m Reed Jackson, and this is my friend, Brent Brown.”
Ruby picked up the money and opened the register drawer, dropping the coins in their specified slots, and said casually, “Nice to meet you. I’m Ruby.”
Reed pulled his drink out of the bag and popped the top. “Well, hello, Ruby. I like your name. It’s a good ole Southern name.”
Good ole Southern name…is he joking? She smiled inwardly— surely he had a better pickup line. Ruby’s name had been in the Glenn family tree for generations.
Brent reached for the bag and pulled out his drink and Snickers bar. He handed the empty bag back to Ruby. “We’re playing on your brother’s baseball team this summer. Do you ever come out and watch him play?”
Ruby noticed the other customers in the store were nearly finished shopping, and then she returned her attention to Brent. “I haven’t seen him play this year, but I’ll make it to one of his baseball games before the season ends.”
George had formed an adult men’s baseball team to compete in the Williamson County League in Franklin. He looked for talent around the Middle Tennessee area to play on his team. She wondered where George had found these two. Ruby planned on getting the scoop on Reed and Brent tomorrow when she went swimming with George’s wife, Lizzie.
Ruby watched Reed as he turned his head around to check out the other shoppers in the store. There was a little boy who was running up and down the aisle with a toy wind fan, and his mother was shouting to the boy to put it back. The little boy was screeching, refusing to let go of the toy.
Reed shook his head and turned his attention back to her. Reed’s gaze flickered to her lips and then rose back up to her eyes, which made her nervously shift her feet. Her palms began to sweat.
Reed lifted a brow and then asked, “So, are you going to the party tonight?”
Ruby sat back on the little stool behind the counter and crossed her arms. Her knee was unconsciously bouncing up and down. She tried to exude a laid-‐back attitude, but her blood thundered through her veins. “Yeah, I’m meeting some friends there later.”
Reed placed his arm on the glass bin, leaned closer and asked, with a sly and very sexy sideways grin, “Are they ‘girl’ friends or ‘guy’ friends?”
Ruby arched her brow and leaned closer to him. “Both.”
Brent and Reed both laughed loudly at Ruby’s comeback. Brent slapped Reed on the back and said, “She’s got your number, brother.” Reed shrugged his right shoulder and took a step back.
Little Tommy, the kid who had been running in the aisle, was throwing a huge temper tantrum now as his mother physically removed the toy from his fingers. Mr. Burns walked out of his office to go talk with the boy’s mother. He rustled the hair on the boy’s head and Ruby overheard Mr. Burns tell Tommy’s mom the boy could have the toy.
Ruby’s eyes were drawn back to Brent. He straightened his shoulders and flexed his chest muscles, as he rubbed his hand down his bicep. Dang, that boy is off the charts!
Brent placed his arm on the register. “So, what time are you going?”
“I have to close tonight, so probably in an hour or so. Why?” Brent stepped around the counter and whispered in her ear, “So,
I can kiss you.”
Reed shook his head, laughing under his breath. Brent stepped back and shoved his hands in his pockets. He looked so cool—like he expected her to fall at his feet or something.
Ruby’s face flushed, but she remained in control and brushed off his advance. The lady and her son were walking toward the front of the store now. She jumped off the stool. “Oh, you need directions. Ditch Lane isn’t far from here. Take a right when you pull out of the store’s parking lot onto Highway 99, and then take your first right onto Concord Road. Follow the road for about three miles.”
Reed raised a hand to interrupt her. “Hold on a minute. Do you have a pencil so I can write this down on my paper bag?” Ruby reached into the drawer under the counter and handed him a pencil. Reed began to write down what she had just told them and then said, “Okay, I’ve got it. What’s after the three miles?” He poised the pencil in his hand to continue writing.
Ruby slowed down her directions so Reed could keep up. “You’ll come to a huge curve that bears to the right—take the street on the left. That’s Taylor Road. You’ll drive about three more miles, and then you’ll see an old white plantation house on the left. Ditch Lane is on the left before the house’s driveway. You’ll see the cars.”
Reed finished writing the directions down and then read them back to Ruby to verify he had them correct. His smile broadened. “Cool. Thanks for the directions, and if we don’t see you tonight, I’ll be looking for you at one of the games.”
Ruby’s hand rested on top of the cash register. Brent gently picked up her hand and rubbed his thumb across the top. “I’ll be looking for you, sweet girl.”
She stared at Brent but didn’t reply as she nervously bit her bottom lip. She had been unconsciously holding her breath. When they walked out the door, she let out a sigh. Ruby turned her attention to ringing up the last customers of the day.
Did that just really happen? Those two guys are smoking hot!
Ruby walked over to Mr. Burns. “Is it okay to place the closed sign on the door and close out the register?”
He looked up and scratched his head. Mr. Burns walked over to the cash register. “Sure Ruby. I’ll get the register and close out. You’re off tomorrow, but I have you scheduled to work next week on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, two o’clock to eight.”
“Yes, sir. I have marked it on my calendar. Then it’s okay for me to leave?”
Mr. Burns rubbed his lower back and then tapped her shoulder. “Yes, honey, go have fun, but be safe.”
RUBY DROVE DOWN THE BACK roads of Everglade. She had her radio blasting while she howled at the full moon. Thirty minutes later she arrived at Ditch Lane. She parked her car and headed out to find her friends and the two hunks from the store.
Ditch Lane was a dead-‐end road where a small bridge had been washed out from years of flooding from the creek. During this time of the year, the creek at the end of the lane was not deep enough to swim in, but on a hot summer night it was nice to sit on the bank and let your feet dangle in the water while you partied with your friends. Laughter echoed throughout the hollow, and tunes from the Steve Miller Band’s “Fly like an Eagle” had been cranked up on someone’s car radio. Ruby walked through what seemed to be fifty people, stopping to chat for a second or two with old high school friends, before seeing Anna and Sandy sitting on a log next to the bonfire.
“Hey, girlie, where have you been?” Sandy asked. She had been talking to Rusty Sanders, an old high school flame.
“This girl has to work for a living. Guess what?” Ruby said, and
continued on without a pause, “Mr. Burns has decided to allow me to negotiate with two of the major food reps for the store. I’m so excited!”
Anna gave her a hug. “Ruby, that’s rocks!”
Ruby gave them both high fives. “Yeah, I know I’m pretty psyched about the whole thing.” She took a step closer to Sandy and Anna and then whispered in a low voice so no one else could hear her, “By any chance have y’all seen two gorgeous guys out here looking for my brother?”
Sandy grabbed a brew from the cooler next to Rusty’s truck and walked with Ruby and Anna to the creek. “Hot dang! They were here with George. I haven’t seen Grade A choice meat like that in a long time.” Sandy fanned herself like she had the vapors and then tipped the can to her lips and took a long drink of her beer.
The girls sat down by the creek, took off their sandals and placed their feet in the water. The full moon shone through the trees as a gentle warm breeze caressed them. The smell of honeysuckle and a symphony of crickets filled the summer air.
Anna’s eyes widened and then she looked around to make sure no one had followed them. “Reed and Brent were here. They left because George had to take Lizzie home. She wasn’t feeling very well.” Ruby lay down on the ground and looked up at the stars. Anna turned around to face her and sat cross-‐legged while Sandy continued to splash her feet in the water.
Anna looked as though she was getting ready to reveal a big secret. “I met Reed and Brent last semester at a frat party. Girl, that Brent is too hot to handle, and I’ve never seen him date the same girl more than a few times. And Reed is such a hunk! He’s from East Tennessee but lives in Murfreesboro. He’s a senior at MTSU. I think he may have a girlfriend.”
Ruby rose up with a frown. “Reed has a girlfriend, eh? Dang it, that’s just my luck.”
Anna caught a firefly and then let it go. She turned to Ruby and asked, “Did y’all talk?”
Ruby replied, “They needed directions here. They both play on Georgie’s baseball team this summer, and Brent wanted to know if I ever came out to watch the games. Those two made me weak in the knees. Y’all, we have to go to the next game.”
Sandy stood up and looked back to the bonfire—and at Rusty Sanders. Rusty was motioning for her to come back to him. “Nah, I hate baseball fields. They’re too dusty, even if the dudes are hot.”
Ruby walked over to the cooler and pulled out a drink as Anna and Sandy headed back to the bonfire. As Ruby daydreamed about Reed and Brent, Jerry McDaniel came up behind her and squeezed her bum.
“Ruby Jane, you look sweet enough to eat.” Jerry circled his arm around her waist and twirled her around to face him. His eyes were bright and happy while he gently pulled a twig from her hair.
Ruby threw her arms around his neck and went to give him a kiss on the cheek, but he quickly turned, catching the kiss on his lips instead. She giggled. “Hey, Jerry, I thought your family was at Centerhill Lake this weekend.” They held hands and walked over to the bonfire.
He grinned mischievously at her, giving her a nudge with his shoulder. “They are at the lake this weekend.” Jerry inched closer to Ruby, burrowing his face in her hair. “Hey, you wanna come over and watch TV? We could make it by the time The Tonight Show starts. So let’s get out of here, okay?”
Ruby looked around the bonfire and noticed a few new faces, but most of the people here tonight were her friends from high school. She looked up at him and replied, “Okie dokie, Jerry. But I have to tell the girls. I’m supposed to hang out with them tonight.”
Jerry had been one of Ruby’s best friends ever since he allowed her to cut in line on pizza day when she was eight and he had just turned nine. He lived a short distance from Everglade Farms and would come over after school to play. Back then, he had been a tall, skinny boy with a buzz cut, and now he was a strapping, six-‐foot-‐ three hunk. He had shoulder-‐length blond hair, sea blue eyes, and the cutest dimples on either side of his hopelessly beautiful grin. Half the time they’d been at each other’s throats, and the other half, he was trying to stick his tongue down her throat. She loved Jerry; she just wasn’t in love with him.
Ruby walked over to where Sandy and Anna were standing near the fire. The music and the people were getting louder as the night wore on. “Hey, I just wanted to let you guys know I’m leaving with Jerry, ’kay?”
“Honey, if you don’t, I will,” Anna said, with a sly smile.
Ruby linked her arm around Jerry’s waist as he slung his arm over her shoulder. She looked up at him and said, “Come on, Jerry, let’s ride.” Jerry pressed his face into her hair and she laughed. “Jerry, stop. That tickles.” He lifted his head and threw Anna a peace sign.
As they walked to their cars, Ruby heard Sandy yelling at her in the background. “Don’t sleep late. We’re going swimming tomorrow!”
RUBY DROVE DOWN ONE OF the curviest roads of Everglade toward Jerry’s house. She turned off her radio and rolled down her windows. It was getting late, and most of the people in the homes she passed had already gone to sleep. The steam from the heat of the day rose off the asphalt and caught in her headlights. She heard the crickets and the occasional bullfrog singing in the night air. The full moon was rising higher in the sky as Ruby climbed Campbell Ridge.
As Ruby pulled into Jerry’s driveway, she noticed he had flipped on the back floodlights which illuminated the brick ranch-‐style house, casting long shadows across the yard. Ruby walked along the stone sidewalk and stepped onto the concrete patio that led to the sliding glass doors of the house. She walked over to admire the huge red geraniums and ferns in the clay pots scattered around the perimeter of the patio. There was a black iron patio table and chairs to the far right. The table had a basket of wildflowers as a centerpiece. Ruby inhaled the flowers catching a whiff of lavender and heather. Then she walked through the sliding glass doors without knocking.
Jerry gave her a big hug. “Did you have a hard day at work, honey?”
“Uh huh, I sure did. I’m dying of thirst. Do you have any Cokes or sweet tea?” Ruby plopped down on a barstool, swinging her legs back and forth as she thumbed through the pages of the most recent People magazine. Jerry walked over to the fridge and grabbed a couple of Cokes and a big bag of Peanut M&M’s. Jerry handed her a Coke and then poured the candy into a big glass bowl and placed it on the coffee table.
Jerry turned on one of the crystal table lamps that flanked the oversized, orange floral couch. Jerry’s mom, who spent her First Savings and Loan lunch breaks stealing ideas from the discount furniture store next door, had arranged their den with Sunday afternoon football games in mind.
Jerry grabbed the remote off the coffee table and clicked the television on. He stretched his legs out in front of the couch and motioned for Ruby to sit by him. “Come here, honey bun. Tell me about your day.”
Ruby sat down beside Jerry and crossed her legs. She grabbed a handful of M& M’s and popped them in her mouth one at a time. “Oh, you know, same ole, same ole. It was busy today. I worked on the display window. I set up the front sale aisle with all the new items for the summer store traffic. And then a couple of shipments came in I had to price and shelf. What did you do?”
“I cut hay in the hundred-‐acre field. I hope to get the bales up before the rain sets in. I had a few minor tractor issues, but at least the hay is cut.”
Jerry flipped to channel four. Johnny Carson had just wrapped up his monologue. Johnny was introducing Angie Dickenson when Jerry draped his arm around Ruby and, scooting her closer to him, began nibbling on her ear. “Mmmm, Ruby, you smell just like pickles.”
Ruby laughed so hard her shoulders shook. “I dropped a jar of pickles unloading one of the cartons this afternoon. I thought I cleaned all the juice off. Guess I missed a few spots.”
Jerry and Ruby had never been boyfriend and girlfriend in a traditional sense. He had first kissed her at the age of ten. They had been exploring Campbell Ridge and Ruby had reached down to pick up what she assumed was a civil war bullet. She had been turning it over in her hand when, out of the blue, Jerry had kissed her.
Ruby looked up at him, perplexed. “What did you do that for?” She placed her hand on her hips and frowned at him.
Jerry shrugged. “I don’t know. You just look sort of cute standing there. Are you mad?”
Ruby shoved the bullet in her bag of goodies and then took a step closer to him and punched him in the arm. “I don’t care if you kiss me, but next time, tell me first. Wanna kiss me again?”
Jerry grabbed her bag and placed it on the ground. He looked at
her with his lips pressed tightly together. Then shook his head no and turned his back to her. Ruby walked slowly around to face him. He grabbed her quickly and gave her a smooch on the lips. Ruby pushed him back and he fell on the ground. She ran over and jumped on top of him and he started tickling her.
Ruby tried wiggling out of his arms. “Stop, stop, Jerry. You’re going to make me pee my pants.”
Jerry quickly let her go and rolled away from her and then stood up. He brushed the grass off his pants. “Ruby Jane, don’t you know anything? Guys would never kiss girls if you had to ask them first.”
From that moment on, Ruby had looked at Jerry differently. Later on in middle school, they had agreed to be kissing buddies, even though neither of them had much experience with kissing. They just made a pact to stay friends no matter what, but would use each other for kissing practice. That had been ten years ago, and they were still practicing.
Tonight, instead of concentrating on kissing practice with Jerry, Ruby’s mind kept wandering back to Reed and Brent. Just thinking about those two made her hot as she imagined Reed making love to her on a white sand beach, with the crystal blue water of the ocean crashing on the shore. Then she pictured Brent, with his dangerously sexy eyes, undressing her in a secluded tropical garden with a waterfall cascading over a cliff. The way they had looked at her in the store had set her skin aflame and she had burned all the way to her toes. Ruby had never felt pretty; at best, she was cute on a good day. But Reed and Brent had made her feel pretty—even sexy. Every word out of their mouths dripped with charisma and charm. It didn’t hurt that they were both so dad-‐blame handsome.
Ruby climbed onto Jerry’s lap and began to kiss him gently—at first. But she couldn’t get Reed and Brent out of her mind. She covered Jerry’s mouth with her lips, increasing the pressure, lingering for a deeper taste. Ruby glided her tongue over his teeth. She probed inside his mouth, her tongue circling his tongue. She wanted to drown in the warmth and comfort of his kiss. Ruby was safe with Jerry and knew he would never hurt her. Her hands traveled down his arms, across his muscled chest and around to his back. She wanted Jerry to kiss away the emptiness and longing she felt inside.
Jerry stopped and pulled away from Ruby, looking a bit perplexed. He stared into her half-‐lidded eyes, so full of desire. “What the heck is the matter with you, Ruby Jane? You’ve never kissed me this way before. But I’m ready to give you more than kissing if that’s what you really want.”
Ruby snapped back to reality. She didn’t want to hurt Jerry’s feelings by telling him the truth—her skin blazed from the flirtatious duo in the store. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that. I kinda got carried away.”
Jerry squeezed her bottom. “No need to apologize. Just let me know when you want me to give you something more than kissing. I’m ready, been ready for a long time now.”
“Hardy, har, har, Steve Martin. I can go home right now if you want me to.” Ruby jumped off his lap and grabbed another handful of M&M’s.
Ruby noticed Jerry’s expression had changed from lighthearted to one of pain. She had told him repeatedly they would never be together sexually. But she had pushed him too far tonight.
He brushed her hair off her shoulder and kissed her forehead. “I’m not trying to push you away, Ruby Jane, but you turn from hot to cold quicker than my shower faucet. Sometimes you act like you really love me, and then other times, I feel like we’re brother and sister. It’s driving me freaking nuts!”
She had hurt him. “Geez, Jerry. I should have realized this thing between us could only go so far. I never want to hurt you, ever, but I can’t have sex with you. Sex would ruin our friendship and I won’t risk it. I love you, but as a friend, not a lover. You understand? There are so many pretty girls who like you.”
Jerry eyes lit up and he tilted his head as he locked her in a death-‐grip hug. “What pretty girls? Who?”
Ruby didn’t exactly know for sure, but she had a hunch. “Anna, for one.”
Jerry let go of Ruby and reached for the bowl of candy. “Anna, really? I never even thought she knew I existed.” He grabbed a handful of M&M’s, tipped his head back and filled his mouth with candy.
Ruby pulled her hair back off her shoulders and then she stretched out across the couch. “Well, for god sakes, don’t tell her I said it. Better yet, don’t say anything. Just ask her out.”
They watched the rest of The Tonight Show and then Ruby stood to leave. “Jerry, I’ve got to go. I’m going swimming tomorrow.”
He caught her hand and smiled at her with soft, dreamy eyes. “I’ll walk you to your car.”
“Okay, Romeo,” she said. He walked with her outside to her car holding her hand.
Ruby placed her hand on his cheek and brushed his jawline with the back of her fingers. “Sweetie, I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”
Jerry pulled her against his chest, not wanting to let her go. “Aw, Ruby Jane. Sure you can’t stay just a little longer?”
Ruby had turned him on in ways she hadn’t done before tonight, and she knew better. This was Jerry, for crying out loud. She kissed and hugged him again tightly, then got into her car, and rolled her window down to wish him a goodnight. “Bye, sweet boy.”
Jerry smiled as he watched her pull out of the driveway, then turned and walked back inside the house.
On her drive home to Everglade Farms, Ruby’s mind drifted back to Reed and Brent again. Out of the two, she had been drawn the most to Reed. He gave her a look like she was moonshine and he was Eliot Ness, which should’ve been against the law.
When her eyes had locked with Reed’s, it had sent a jolt of electricity straight to her stomach, but when Brent had said he wanted to kiss her, and ran his thumb across her hand, white-‐hot lightning shot down her spine, shaking the ground she stood on.
Why couldn’t she be in love with Jerry? They had been friends since they were kids. They were so comfortable with each other. It would have made everything easier. If only she could look at Jerry and feel the raw desire she had when she looked at Brent or Reed, she could be happy for the rest of her life. But, she didn’t.
That was it. She realized Jerry was her comfort zone—nothing scary there. Just looking at Reed and Brent scared the daylights out of her.
Character Name: Reed Jackson
Character Bio: Reed Harley Jackson
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee
Residence Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Height 6’3 Weight 212 Measurements: Arms 18.5, Calves 18.5, Neck 18.5, Thighs 27.0, Chest 54.0, Waist 30.
Senior at Middle Tennessee State University
Works in the Marketing Department on campus
Role in the Story- Hero
Works out and plays baseball
Favorite food Pizza
Favorite TV NFL Football
Wears blue jeans and listens to rock and roll
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
Worst: I’m stubborn as a mule Best: But, I’m honest as the day is long.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
That I was a comedian in a different life.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
That I am a comedian…get the joke? Yeah, no one else did either, that’s why it’s a secret.
What are you most afraid of?
Losing someone I care about to death or watching someone I love suffer.
What do you want more than anything?
Happiness, love and success. I have dated many woman and love the all, but what I really want is to fall in love and marry the woman of my dreams. Life is over in a blink. I want to look back when I’m 80 and have few regrets.
What is your relationship status?
Single and always looking
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
I’m a college student. Very casual and laid back. (Jeans)
How much of a rebel are you?
What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?
I’m a senior year in college and I run the marketing department on campus.
What is your idea of happiness?
I love to laugh. If I’m laughing, I’m happy, man.
What is your current state of mind?
I’m chilling out because it’s summer.
What is your most treasured possession?
An old silver dollar from my grandfather
What is your most marked characteristic?
What is it that you, most dislike?
Which living person do you, most despise?
What is your greatest regret?
Not spending enough time with my kid brother
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
Which living person do you most admire?
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My cowlick, it sucks.
What is your motto?
Let’s get it on
D.F. Jones is a native of Middle Tennessee and is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University. After college she landed a job with the ABC Affiliate in Nashville as a broadcast consultant. She opened her advertising agency in 1998. After years of writing creative for other people through her media company, she decided to write something for herself. It turned into her debut novel, Ruby’s Choice. If you love to read and get immersed into the characters of a book, then you will catch a small drift of how incredible it is to write your own characters and breathe them into life.