**Excerpt Two from Redemption Red**
The limo ride back to Portland was more eventful than Audrey would have liked. They pulled over several times so that the overly drunk bride-to-be, Shelby, could toss her cookies (or her dessert wines) all over the embankment. The reality was painfully close to what the guy — Tyson? Was that a real name? — had predicted back at Redemption Road Winery.
“Audrey?” Shelby had slurred as they’d finally pulled back onto the road to make their arduous way home. “Why’re you so quiet, girly?” She was a mess. She laid her head down in Audrey’s lap, smearing the remains of her vomit over the dark denim of Audrey’s jeans. Audrey pushed the hair away from her forehead. “You’re a good friend,” Shelby whispered as she passed out in Audrey’s lap.
She was. They’d been friends since grade school, though Audrey didn’t know any of the other girls sprawled around the leather seats of the limo. They had names like Brandi and CeeCee, and were all friends that Shelby had made at her sorority at OSU. Another thing that Tyson had been right about.
“How do you know Shelby again?” CeeCee asked Audrey, leaning forward and showing a lot more of her cleavage than Audrey had wanted to see that day.
“We grew up on the same street. We were in school together until I moved away in tenth grade.”
“Oh, that sucks. You had to start a new school as a Junior?” She actually looked sympathetic.
“My dad moved us to Fresno to be near his parents because his dad was really sick.” Audrey wondered why she was explaining herself to this girl. Everyone else in the car was napping by now. She wondered why CeeCee didn’t have the grace to just pass out, too.
“So where did you go to college?”
Audrey hated that question. It implied that she had, in fact, gone to college.
“Oh!” CeeCee looked immediately embarrassed.
“No, it’s not like that,” Audrey told her.
“I mean, it’s nothing to feel bad about. I just didn’t go right after high school. I’m actually in culinary school now.”
“Like, to be a chef?”
“Something like that, yeah.”
CeeCee looked relieved, as if she had just realized that she hadn’t wasted five whole minutes talking to an uneducated and uncultured urchin from Shelby’s dark past. “Cool,” she said.
“Yeah,” Audrey nodded. “To me it is.”
CeeCee finally slid back in her seat and closed her eyes, her camisole slipping off one shoulder and allowing one pink lace-clad breast to plop out from the ambitiously plunging neckline.
Audrey helped Shelby up the stairs to her parents’ house after driving her home from CeeCee’s, where the limo had delivered them. Shelby had finished college engaged, so getting her own place didn’t make sense since she’d soon be moving in with Paul, her soon-to-be husband, anyway.
“Audrey, honey!” Shelby’s mom met them at the top of the steps. Shelby’s legs were not quite functioning, and she was still half passed out.
“She might’ve overdone it a bit,” Audrey told Mrs. Summers.
“Nah, I was over-served,” Shelby slurred.
“Right,” Audrey agreed, smiling over her head at her mom.
Mrs. Summers took Shelby from her as they reached the top, putting an arm around her waist to steady her. “Audrey, will you stay for dinner?”
“I’d love to, but I have class tomorrow morning and I really need to get home.”
“Okay,” she smiled. “Please come see us soon!”
“I will, Mrs. Summers,” Audrey told her.
She walked back down the stairs to her beat up Jetta. Seeing Mrs. Summers always made her feel twelve years old. She’d spent her summers practically living at that house before her family had moved.
Audrey drove away down the treelined street, glancing in the rear view mirror at the house where she had actually lived. The blue paint was faded and peeling, and the house looked sad. Audrey pulled her eyes from her former home. She’d never wanted to leave Portland, and it was hard to come back to it, living a completely different life from the one that she’d been given.
The guy at Redemption Road had been eerily on-target, and Audrey shook her head as she drove out through the curvy suburbia of Healy Heights and back toward her apartment in the Northwest District.
There had been something more to that guy, she thought. Despite the fact that he was a complete ass, she’d watched him put on his performance in the tasting room, and just had a feeling that he wasn’t the genuine article. She’d known quite a few actual card-carrying assholes in her time working in the service industry, and she just didn’t feel it from Tyson in the few minutes she’d known him. He’d actually seemed apologetic as he’d handed Shelby’s purse back to her, and there was no denying that he was gorgeous. She’d been working to put the guy out of her mind, but he possessed a very serious heat about him that had made an immediate impression on her. He had close-cropped — almost military short — dark blond hair and the kind of facial hair that she usually hated, the kind that grew in a short stubble all over his jaw, but on him it looked completely right. His face was masculine without being too angular and the dark blue eyes that she’d found staring at her several times while they’d been in his presence had given little away. He hadn’t been jovial — that much was certain — and she found herself wondering what those eyes might look like if the serious Tyson ever cracked a smile.