Exclusive Excerpt from Leaning Into the Look
by Lane Hayes
Whatever I was about to say was reduced to static when Miles smiled. It was no ordinary smile. This one had impact. It hit me smack in the middle of my chest. I couldn’t help returning the gesture times ten. We stood there grinning at each other like a couple of fools for a long moment until his cell buzzed.
Miles pulled his phone from his pocket and read his text.
“Eric needs something from his bag.” He responded to the message and then waited for a response before reading aloud, “ ‘It’s at the house, in the blue guest room.’ I suppose I’d better get back to work. I’ll walk with you till the path ends then head up the hill. You can entertain me on the way.”
“What kind of entertainment did you have in mind?”
“Tell me about your love life,” he suggested, batting his eyelashes when I gave him a funny look.
I huffed. “It’s good it’s a short walk back, because I have nothing to share.”
“No sordid affairs, clingy lovers, or troublesome conquests?”
I snickered at his faux-serious tone. “Nothing. Sorry to disappoint you. At the moment, I’m kinda grateful. I’ll have my hands full dealing with my folks next week. I can’t imagine adding boyfriend-level stress to the mix.”
“Understandable. However, I didn’t use the word ‘boyfriend.’ Who was the last person who made your pulse race?”
I furrowed my brow as though giving his lighthearted query serious thought. Then I stopped abruptly before we neared the gravel path leading to the winery and snapped my fingers. “You.”
Miles went perfectly still. I couldn’t tell if he was breathing either, which of course only proved the point that he was, in fact, guilty of giving me heart palpitations.
It was a known fact that on top of my inability to hold my liquor and effectively handle overbearing family members, I had terrible comic timing. I couldn’t tell a joke to save my life or pull off witty banter without it coming across as awkward flirtation. My satisfaction at rendering him temporarily speechless was ruined when I opened my mouth a moment later, and nothing came out. This was why I stuck close to guys like Josh and Eric, who seemed to know how to extricate themselves from sticky situations. When I was a kid, I would literally run for the hills to find a quiet place to hide until my anxiety faded.
Now I had no idea how to get myself out of this. I didn’t want to give Miles the wrong impression but I didn’t—
“Relax, Grant,” Miles said kindly. “I get it. A racing pulse can be caused by indigestion too. Is that what you were saying?”
“Of course not. I would never—”
“Oh, please.” He raised his hands in exasperation and then stalked ahead of me. Then he spun around and pointed a finger at me. “Why can’t anyone say what they think anymore? I’m not talking about crackpots spouting inflammatory BS on social media. I’m talking about honest, face-to-face communication. If everyone only says what they think others want to hear instead of the truth, how will we know what’s real or who can be trusted?”
“I wasn’t lying. You really are the last person to make my pulse race,” I admitted with a weak smile. “You make me nervous.”
“I do? Why?” he asked, tilting his chin curiously.
And this was exactly why I avoided Miles. One minute we seemed to be on the same page and the next, I was scrambling to keep up with him or I was dragging my feet, hoping he’d move on without me.
“I don’t—I mean…I—don’t know.”
Before I could add a quick good-bye and get the hell out, Miles pivoted on his heels in a half circle then moved back to my side. His eyes lit with easy humor. “If it’s any consolation, you make me nervous too. See you later, handsome.”