Staff Feature: Leslie DeVooght
Thirty wasn’t too old to move home.
Laura Ann paced the length of her canopied bed. Stopping at the end, she kicked the frills of the laced bed skirt. Fifteen-year-old Laura Ann and her best friend, Jimmy, laughed from a framed picture. It’d be nice to spend a little time with him.
Tingles skittered up her arms like minnows over the water. She brushed her skin, trying to remove the attraction that had materialized at the Christmas service during her junior year of college. She’d tried to dismiss her feelings, blaming them on the candlelight, but they persisted during the Easter service in the bright sunlight.
Avoidance had become her only option, and she’d become a master of it over the last decade, barely speaking to him on visits but rarely missing him all together. Jimmy wasn’t likely to want to pick up where’d they’d left off, much less start a relationship.
Too bad. She needed her friend.
Tap…tap…tap, tap, tap. Pebbles clattered against her window.
Laura Ann froze beside the window, grasping the lace curtain. It couldn’t be. Fully taking on her teenage persona, she peeked around the curtain’s edge.
Jimmy Gardner rested a fishing pole on his shoulder.
Sparks raced through her. She could manage a hello, but she wasn’t about to risk a fishing trip in the dark with that man. Dropping the curtain, she squared her shoulders. He didn’t need to know her feelings had shifted.
Laura Ann shoved up the window and leaned outside. “Don’t you have a cell phone?”
“Went straight to voicemail.” Grinning up at her, Jimmy dropped his handful of ammunition. “Fixed your old pole. You coming down?”
The limbs of the old magnolia dared her, but Laura Ann shook her head. “Think I’ll use the door.”
“Meet you around back.” A light sparked beside his face. Lighting bug? Never seen one on the island before, but maybe tonight was a night for firsts.
She blew out a long breath as she hurried down the stairs and out the door.
“Long time.” Jimmy gathered her in one of his friendly hugs, squeezing her tight. “Missed you. Doesn’t ever seem like we get much of a chance to hang out when you’re home.”
“Mm-hmm.” She pressed her lips together, holding her breath as warmth climbed up her neck. Get it together. Time to come up with a reason to end this encounter. Ducking her chin, she shifted from his embrace. “Pretty sure my bike tires are flat.”
“Always got an excuse.” Jimmy chuckled. “But this time, I got all the answers. Brought my golf cart and everything else you could think of—poles, bait, tackle, snacks. Let’s go.” Jimmy took her hand and led her around the house.
“Okay.” She slid onto the seat. Where was her resolve?
“Plan on sticking around?” he asked as he started the engine.
“Not sure. My career is probably over. Apparently, tweeting the truth about a celebrity is the fastest way to lose your job at an entertainment website.” She shrugged. “Not sure what’s next.”
Maybe she would finally write that novel she’d been planning since her creative writing class her last semester of college.
The breeze blew against them as Jimmy turned onto the recently paved road that had replaced what had once been little more than a gravel path leading to their secret bend in the river.
“Hope you’ll stick around.” Jimmy parked at the still vacant lot. “At least long enough for us to catch up.” He turned, meeting her gaze.
Nodding, she swallowed, unable to look away. A gust blew her hair against her cheek.
“I’ve been thinking about you…us. Once upon a time, we were really close. Some would say inseparable.” Jimmy brushed her hair from her face, settling his hand on her bare shoulder. “Back then, it never seemed right to say it, and then you were gone.” His thumb traced a slow circle. “You’re so beautiful.”
Her heart jolted, and she hopped out of the cart. “Surprised no one’s built here, but with the new road, it won’t be long before someone snatches it up.” She slipped out of her flip-flops, but even the cool, damp grass couldn’t smother the sparks his touch had lit in her.
“Somebody did, but he’s been waiting for the right partner before he builds.” Jimmy stepped in front of her, taking her hands in his. “He hopes she’s finally ready to settle down.”
“Really?” She tucked her lip between her teeth, scrunching her toes around the blades of grass. Her pulse sprinted, but she didn’t want to run. She liked her hands in his.
“Laura Ann, please tell me if I’m fishing in the wrong creek.” He stepped closer.
Her heart hammered loud enough to scare off any fish, and she inhaled a shaky breath as she lifted her eyes to meet his. “Pretty sure you’ve got the right one.”
“Good, because I’ve had this line out for about ten years, and I’m ready to reel it in.” He winked, moving her hands to his back and his to her waist. “So you ready to go fishing?”
“I really hope that’s a metaphor.” She rolled her lips together and rose on her toes, stopping a breath short of his grin. “What?”
“Hope this means that I’ve got a keeper.” He cupped her head, bringing their lips together, and as her eyelids fluttered shut, she dissolved against him, responding to his tenderness, his resolve, his patience.
Slowly, their lips parted, but Jimmy rested his forehead on hers. “Laura Ann, not to dampen the mood, but you know you were always my best friend and obviously, we both have deeper feelings than we’ve admitted. Anyway, I want you to know that my heart is yours, and I hope you feel the same way. Don’t know what I’d do if you left again.”
“I’m not going anywhere, and not to take a metaphor too far, but you’ve got me hook, line, and sinker.”
When Leslie isn’t writing, she serves as Director of Women’s Ministries at her church, cheers on her three children, and enjoys date nights with her husband, who loves that she researches kissing. Leslie is represented by Bob Hostetler of the Steve Laube Agency.