All Shook Up
A man with a past.
A woman with a reputation.
In love. And all shook up.
J.D. Carver and Dru Lawrence thought they knew everything their lives had to offer…until they met. Can a failed good girl and a guy who never caught a break learn to believe in one another long enough to trust their love?
Between the Covers
- I’m a fool for cross-country skiing. Skating or classic style, it doesn’t matter to me as long as I can get out where its white, quiet, and beautiful. Every year my husband and I spend a long weekend with my brothers, sister-in-law, and several friends at the Mazama Ranch house in the Methow Valley of eastern Washington’s Okanagon National Forest. When the fam and friends go home, the soul mate and I head for Sun Mountain Lodge, where we stay an additional several days.
This is where I elected to set All Shook Up. I chose summer time for the purpose of my book but set it in the midst of one of my all time favorite locals. I took creative license, of course. Physically, Star Lake’s connection to Sun Mountain Lodge is a very loose one. I wanted the book’s lodge to be a smaller, more intimate, rustic architectural style, and I had no compunction at all about pulling Sun Mountain’s Lake Patterson up nearer to the lodge for my own convenience, which meant a lot more trees around the immediate setting. But I spent a good deal of time talking to the people who work there, and I was faithful to the ambiance of Sun Mountain’s fine service. (You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten in their AAA four diamond restaurant) I also conscripted several points of the interior layout for my own. My hope is that I managed to capture even half the feel-good atmosphere for you, the reader, that I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy for myself.
For a peek at the area, log on to www.sunmountainlodge.com. And if you ever have an occasion to spend time in that part of eastern Washington, do yourself a huge favor and spend a night or two.
Awards + Kudos
- 02-05-02 — All Shook Up is going large print with Thorndyke press. More info as it becomes available. 11-06-01 — All Shook Up is back in the news. Recently listed as one of 10 novels on Amazon’s 2001 Editors Choice: Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction, All Shook Up also just landed at #10 on Amazon’s Bestsellers of 2001: Romance list. 02-08-01 — One more week on the lists forAll Shook Up — This makes four weeks for the NYT Extended List (rising to #22!), three weeks for the USAToday list (two weeks at #41!), and onTHE WALDENBOOKS LIST: All Shook Up sits for three weeks straight at #2! 12-18-00 — Publisher’s Weekly gives ALL SHOOK UP a STARRED REVIEW:
“Readers will appreciate the well-drawn, saucy characters and witty exchanges that garnish Andersen’s latest rags-to-riches romance… Unlike many romances that are merely light entertainment, Andersen’s winning tale echoes with themes about learning to love, trust and believe in the goodness of humanity.
“FORECAST: With a plot line and characters that will remind many of Ally McBeal or Sex in the City, this book, if marketed well, will have some TV fans reaching for the shelves rather than the remote.”
~ Publisher’s Weekly, Dec. 18, 2000
Read an Excerpt
Dru Lawrence’s uncle Ben came to the monthly meeting armed with a police report on J.D. Carver. “He’s clean,” he said, slapping it down on the long, rustic conference table. “He hasn’t been arrested as an adult, and his juvenile record is sealed.”
“You needn’t sound so disgusted, darling,” Aunt Sophie said, reaching across the table to pat his hand before she snagged the report to read for herself. “That’s actually good news.”
But Dru could understand where her uncle was coming from. Star Lake Lodge had been a family-owned business for four generations, and they’d all been shocked right down to their flip-flops to discover that Great-aunt Edwina had left her share of it to an outsider. And an urban outsider, at that. Edwina had been an absentee co-owner for so long, leaving them to run it as they’d seen fit for so many years, that Dru had nearly forgotten it wasn’t theirs alone.
“Maybe,” she said slowly, “Carver’s just stopping by to get a peek at what he inherited. He probably won’t even stick around— and we’ll end up sending his checks like we did Edwina’s.”
“I wouldn’t count on it, hon,” Uncle Ben said. “I got the impression from his terse note that he’s ready to settle right in and take up the reins.”
Sophie suddenly pushed back from the table and walked over to the open window. She bent in front of it and held the neckline of her blouse open to catch the breeze blowing the green-and-tan gingham curtains into the meeting room. Dru got up and went to the built-in oak buffet against the far wall. Reaching past a collection of native baskets, she picked up a pitcher of water and splashed some into a glass. She carried it over to her aunt, stopping along the way to align an oil painting of snow-covered birch trees with the other landscapes that adorned the barnwood-paneled wall.
“I don’t know much about Carver,” Dru admitted as she resumed her seat. “Except that he was one of Great Aunt Edwina’s ‘boys.’ To tell the truth, I don’t even remember her all that well, aside from bits and pieces.” Edwina had been like Dru’s parents, a sometime visitor who’d flown in and out of her life. She’d known her great-aunt mostly as a sophisticated, soft-spoken summer drop-in, here for one week each August and then gone again, back to her plush home in Seattle.
Sophie rolled the glass back and forth against her temple and smiled in fond reminiscence. “You would have liked her, if you’d gotten to spend a little more time with her.” She returned to the table and gave the report a delicate nudge with her fingertips. “I always admired Edwina a great deal. And J.D. was special to her. He was the first boy she ever took in.”
“And the one she fretted over having mismanaged,” Uncle Ben added.
“I do remember that!” Dru straightened. “At least I remember sitting beneath your kitchen table as a kid while you grown-ups visited, and I remember her worrying over the way she handled some boy. The boy with her father’s watch.”
“That was J.D.”
“I got the impression she cared for him a lot.”
“Yeah, she did. He’s pretty much the reason she got into taking care of all those troubled kids.” Ben sighed. “Edwina had excellent instincts about people. And I guess when it comes right down to it, the shares were hers to do with as she wished.” He looked at Dru. “Soph and I aren’t as hands-on around here as we used to be, though, hon, so you’re the one who’s gonna have to work with J.D. on a day-to-day basis. What’s your vote on all this?”
“Well, contesting the will is pointless— from everything I’ve heard, Great- aunt Edwina retained her full mental capacity right up to the day she died.”
“The woman was sharp as a tack,” Ben said.
“Then I don’t see where we have any choice but to respect her wishes.”
“I agree,” Sophie said. “And if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right and give J.D. a warm welcome.”
“Of course,” Dru added dryly, “I also think I deserve a huge raise for taking on a new headache.”
Ben looked up from his notes, peering at her over his reading glasses. “We’ll definitely look into that— at next month’s meeting. This month, though, we’ve got a big problem. The repairs needed around here are mounting up. We’ve got to find a way to hang onto competent workmen.”
The gas gauge on J.D. Carver’s vintage Ford Mustang read Empty when he arrived in Star Lake, Washington, one day ahead of schedule. But then, it never read anything else— the needle had been stuck there since he’d bought the car in ’93. The car’s trunk held a few of his favorite power tools, a tool chest, and a fully loaded carpenter’s belt. The backseat held two table saws. He also had an antique gold watch in his pocket, an old canvas army duffel containing everything else he owned in the world, and a raft of emotions he’d give a lot to deny sitting heavy in his gut.
His life back in Seattle had gone to hell. It was his own fault, but knowing that didn’t help. His friend Butch he didn’t even want to think about right now. And Bob Lankovich, the man who’d given him his start in construction— and through whose company’s ranks J.D. had risen to become foreman— was in prison. J.D. didn’t want to think about Bob, either. Or his idiot son, Robbie.
He was just tired of the whole freaking mess— the threats, the being a pariah. In Rat City, for chris’sake. How could anyone do anything bad enough to be a pariah in a neighborhood known as Rat City? His unexpected inheritance from Edwina Lawrence was nothing if not timely. It was an excellent time to get out of town.
He laughed without humor. Of course, Edwina was just another can of worms. He ought to open a damn bait shop— between her, Butch, and the Lankovich mess, he was ass-deep in worms.
J.D. rubbed at the tension knotting the back of his neck. He was pretty much down to his last option. He’d given up his studio apartment, sold the tools he couldn’t fit in the car, and cleaned out his bank account. There was nothing left for him in the city where he’d grown up, and nowhere to go if this didn’t work out. So he planned to make it work, come hell or high water.
He pulled up in front of the fieldstone-and-timber lodge that he now had a half interest in, and parked the car. Then he simply sat there for a moment, breathing in the rich scent of evergreens and lake. Reaching into the watch pocket of his jeans, he stroked a finger over Edwina’s father’s gold timepiece, which she had left him along with her share of the lodge.
The same watch she’d once accused him of stealing.
More than Robbie Lankovich’s threats, or J.D.’s disillusionment over Butch’s collecting on a debt he’d always known would one day be collected, Edwina’s ancient betrayal still had the ability to bother him.
He snorted softly. Bother. There was a nice, understated way of putting it.
It still had the power to twist his gut into a mass of knots, and that wouldn’t do. Climbing out of the car, J.D. shouldered his duffel and stared up at the imposing shingle-roofed fieldstone porch that ran across the entire front of the inn.
It was bad enough that he still allowed a childhood injustice to color his life after all these years. But right now, he particularly needed to focus his concentration.
Because five would get you ten that he was about two minutes away from a no-holds-barred dog fight with Edwina’s relatives over the share of this lodge that she’d bequeathed him.
Dru thanked the front desk clerk and hung up the phone. Oh, God, he was here. She straightened in her chair, aware of her heart rate bumping up a notch. J.D. Carver was out in the lobby. He wasn’t supposed to be here until tomorrow.
She’d believed she was fully reconciled to the new situation. She’d honestly thought she was prepared to meet Edwina’s beneficiary and welcome him into both the business and the Lawrence clan. But if the sudden, apprehensive tripping of her pulse was anything to go by, she’d merely been fooling herself.
Standing, she checked to see that her sleeveless white polo shirt with its discreet lodge logo was neatly tucked into her walking shorts, then smoothed her hands over the crisp hunter-green material that skimmed her hips. She took a deep breath and blew it out. Okay, she was ready. She just wished he hadn’t arrived early; it destroyed their plan to greet him as a family.
Dru squared her shoulders. Big deal; she’d just have to tough it out on her own. She’d been meeting and greeting people professionally since she was sixteen years old. Besides, Aunt Soph and Uncle Ben were just over at the cabin they’d reserved for Carver’s use, putting on a few finishing touches to make him feel at home, so she’d have backup shortly. Not that she’d need it. She headed for the lobby. Just think of him as a long-lost cousin.
Easier said than done, Dru decided a few moments later as she looked at the man squatting in front of the massive fieldstone fireplace. Even from the back, he didn’t look like her idea of a cousin.
He appeared to be one supercharged mass of muscularity—from the spot where his dark hair brushed the tanned skin of his neck, right down to his work-boot-clad feet. A pristine white T-shirt stretched across wide shoulders and clung to the narrowing wedge of his back until it disappeared into a worn pair of jeans that hugged his muscular thighs and butt. Her heartbeat inexplicably picked up.
She cleared her throat. “Mr. Carver?”
He twisted to look at her over his shoulder. His dark eyebrows met over his nose, and for just a moment he seemed to still. But it must have been her imagination, for he said in a neutral tone, “Don’t call me mister. My name’s J.D.” He rose to his feet in one smooth, powerful movement.
He was downright intimidating at his full height when faced head-on. His T-shirt hugged the planes of his chest and the six-pack of muscles in his abdomen; it stretched thin over his biceps. Energy poured off of him in almost palpable waves. Dru took a reflexive step back.
Then she caught herself and thrust out her hand. “J.D., then. And I’m Dru Lawrence. I’m the general manager here.” Looking up into his eyes, she discovered that what she’d mistaken for brown was actually a dark hazel-green, ringed with an even denser green. “Welcome to Star Lake Lodge.”
Nerves zinged when he wrapped his callused hand around hers and shook it firmly, and it was all she could do not to jerk free. What was the matter with her? She’d met plenty of well-built guys before, for heaven’s sake— it wasn’t like her to act like a high school girl confronted with the star jock. Resisting the urge to rub her hand down her shorts to remove the heat that lingered when he relinquished his grip, she dragged her think cousin advice to the forefront of her mind and mustered up a courteous smile.
He indicated the fireplace with a jerk of his square chin and didn’t bother smiling back. “That andiron is nearly in two pieces. It needs to be pulled out and soldered back together.”
Good God, the man certainly didn’t lack brass— he hadn’t even been here ten minutes and already he was offering criticism? An uncharacteristic impulse to invite him to kiss her rosy red cheeks— and she wasn’t talking the ones she could feel glowing with temper here— surged up Dru’s throat. “I’ll make a note of that,” she said evenly, and forced another smile. “Is this your bag?”
She’d already bent to pick up the canvas duffel when his hand whipped the bag out from under her nose. Stuffing her own hands in her shorts pockets, she straightened. Smacking him would not be an auspicious way to start off the partnership. “I’m sure you’d like to freshen up after that long road trip. I’ll show you to your cabin.”
“Dru!” Sally Jensen, their front-desk manager, rushed up. She flashed an apologetic smile at J.D., got hung up gawking at his chest for a moment, then dragged her gaze back to Dru.
A genuine smile quirked Dru’s lips for the first time since she’d clapped eyes on her new partner. Whew. For a moment there she’d thought she was sliding into something risky, and she didn’t do risky. Clearly, J.D. Carver was simply one of those men who elicited strong female reactions— she probably would’ve had more to worry about if she hadn’t noticed his hunky body. “J.D., this is Sally Jensen, our desk supervisor. Sally, J.D. Carver, the new part owner.”
J.D.’s dark eyebrows drew together, but Sally had already turned back to Dru. “Brian Kebler just called in sick.”
“Wasn’t he scheduled to take a party of waterskiers out today?”
“Yes, the Jacobsen clan at three o’clock. I’ve already tried to get a replacement from the backup list, without any luck. If you can’t think of anyone else I can call, we’re going to have seven disappointed kids.”
“How about Monica White? Is she working the lunch shift today? She’s been driving boats since she was old enough to see over the steering wheel, and she expressed an interest once in filling in.”
“I’ll check to see if she’s here. If she’s not, I’ll give her a call at home to see if she can come in. But what do I do if she’s unavailable?”
“Comp the kids an ice-cream party in the Eagle’s Nest.”
“Okay; that might work. Thanks.” Sally spun on her heel and hustled off.
“Oh, Sally, wait.” When she turned back, Dru said, “Make Uncle Ben Plan B instead of the ice-cream party. He might be available if Monica can’t do it. If neither of them is free, though, go to Plan C.”
Sally flashed her a thumbs-up.
Dru turned back to J.D. and found him watching her with those aloof hazel eyes. He had a strong blade of a nose, the bridge of which looked as if it had been broken more than once, and a wide mouth with a full bottom lip. “Are you ready?”
He shouldered his duffel and nodded curtly.
“You’re not exactly Smiley the Social Hound, are you?” Oh, shit, where had that come from? Generally she was diplomacy personified, but something about this guy just breezed right past the guards she normally placed on her tongue.
His gaze did a fast slide over her, then returned to her eyes. “Depends on the situation.”
Dru shrugged and headed down the hallway to the wing exit. It was no skin off her tush if he never smiled. Maybe he had bad teeth or something.
Which didn’t quite explain this sudden compulsion to flap the neckline of her shirt to promote a little air circulation to the overheated skin beneath.
Injecting an almost military erectness into her posture, she coolly informed him, “Star Lake Lodge has been in business since 1911.” Dru opened the door to the stairwell. “It has thirty-one rooms, including four suites, and we have eight cabins, seven of which are available this summer. The one we’ve prepared for you was put out of commission this past winter when it sustained storm damage.” It most likely would’ve remained closed had they not been pressed for a place to put him up. In recent years, repairs and maintenance had turned into their largest headache, since craftsmen who could handle the jobs were scarce around here. “I’m afraid the porch roof is still a mess.”
J.D. shrugged. “I can live with that.” He pulled his gaze away from the sway of her hips as she preceded him down the interior staircase, and focused instead on the fat, glossy brown braid that hung down her back. “I expected you to just stick me in a room somewhere.” Like in the cellar, maybe.
She spared a glance over her shoulder. “This and the ski season are our busiest times, which means we’re booked to near capacity. And that means you’d be forced to move from one room to another every couple of days, which isn’t a whole lot of fun. We want you to be comfortable.”
Yeah, right. He was suspicious as hell of do-gooders. Dru’s fine, upstanding great aunt had seen to that.
Not that he’d been perfectly content before Edwina Lawrence had barged into his fourteen year old life and turned it upside down. Bouncing from foster home to foster home was less than ideal for any kid, but at least there had been a pattern to his life; he’d understood the rules. And rule number one had been: don’t get too comfortable. For sooner or later— and usually it had been sooner— he’d be out on the street again.
Not getting your hopes up was the first rule of survival, but Edwina had been different, and it had sucked him in, lulled him into forgetting a lot of hard-won lessons. She’d chosen him— he hadn’t been foisted on her by an overworked social worker. And the fact that she was unlike anyone he’d ever known had been a seduction all on its own.
They’d met the day he’d tried to steal her purse. It had been one of his stupider moments, but he’d listened to his friend Butch’s pitch of easy money and had given in to the lure.
The fragile looking little old lady had taught him that crime didn’t pay, though. Not only had she hung onto her purse, she’d gotten a good grip on him, to boot. The only way to break loose would have been to hurt her. When Butch had taken off running, leaving him to face the music on his own, J.D. had heard the mental clang of barred doors slamming shut, and thought he was headed to juvie hall for sure.
But instead of turning him in to the cops, the way any right thinking individual would have done, she’d taken him home. Then she’d made arrangements to foster him, and had offered him the run of her place.
He’d fallen in love with her that day.
She’d taught him there was an entire world far removed from the decaying streets and alleyways of the inner city, which was all he’d known up until then. But what she’d offered with one hand, she’d taken away with the other, at the very moment he’d finally relaxed his guard and begun to believe he was worthy of the clean new life she offered. And where once he had idolized her, he’d begun to bitterly resent the very breath she drew.
Shit. J.D. nearly tromped on Dru’s heels as he blinked the past back where it belonged— in the past. That was twenty years ago, Ace. Get over it.
Dru pushed open the outer door at the bottom of the stairs and the evergreen-laden scent of the country rushed in.
“You mentioned a ski season?” he said. “I didn’t see any lifts around here.” And although this was an alpine lake area, it wasn’t the type of terrain he associated with ski resorts.
Dru glanced at him over her shoulder, and the blue of her eyes was electric in the sunlight. “That’s because we feature cross-country skiing. See that trailhead over there?” She pointed to a hiking trail that disappeared into the woods down the side of the mountain. “That’s called Treetop, and it connects us to over a hundred kilometers of trails that can be hiked and biked in the summer or skied in the winter.”
She casually touched his forearm, and a muscle under his skin jumped as if he’d received an electric shock. Face carefully expressionless, he stepped away, slanting a quick look at her.
“Come on,” she said, clearly oblivious. “Your cabin is down this way.” She began to head toward the lake.
J.D. rubbed at the band of heat left behind by her touch. What the hell was that all about? He’d like to blame it on the fact that he wasn’t accustomed to being touched, but that didn’t explain the similar jolt he’d gotten when he’d turned around and seen her for the first time in the lobby. His initial reaction had been: want it. She’d looked so soft and round, standing there. Round eyes, round cheekbones, round breasts, round ass. He didn’t understand it— hadn’t then, didn’t now. She was pretty enough, in a subtle outdoorsy, girl-next-door sort of way. But she sure as hell wasn’t his type, so that covetous shock of awareness seemed out of place.
Rat City didn’t imbue a taste for subtle or girl-next-door, and he liked his women brassy. Big hair, big tits, clothing spray painted on to show every curve.
Watching her stride down the trail in front of him in her shorts and Keds, J.D. tried to figure out what had caused that uncharacteristic craving. He had to admit she had a body that would probably be dynamite in tight clothing. But it didn’t take a genius to see she wasn’t the type to wear it. She was too… fresh-faced. She had that silky, swingy hair, those freckles across the bridge of her nose, those big, guileless, startlingly blue eyes. He’d bet his last buck she wasn’t a woman to hang out in bars, waiting for some stud to come along and buy her a drink, like the barflies he associated with. She looked more like one of those happily-ever-after, put-the-ring-on-my-finger types. And— he checked— she wasn’t wearing one.
They rounded a curve in the trail and the lake was suddenly laid out in front of them in all its splendor. Shaped like a Christmas stocking, it was placid and blue. The sounds of kids splashing and laughing, the sprong of a diving board, and the occasional shrill blast of a lifeguard whistle cut through the silence of the woods.
“There’s a roped off swimming area and float around the next bend,” Dru said over her shoulder. She veered onto a short spur trail, and a moment later they emerged from the sun-dappled track into a small clearing, across which stood a cabin with half its porch roof missing. A man who looked to be in his mid fifties sat with one hip perched on the railing, smoking a cigarette, while a little boy in a Star Wars Phantom Menace t-shirt wielded a light-saber against an imaginary foe.
The kid saw them first and his face lit up. “Mom!” he yelled and, the plastic light-saber clattering to the floor of the porch, launched himself off the steps. A second later he hung like a monkey from Dru’s front, skinny legs around her waist, grimy hands linked behind her neck as he leaned back to give her a huge goofy grin.
“Whoa, you’re getting way too big for this.” Staggering under his weight, she nevertheless grinned back and kissed him on the nose.
It was a scene like a hundred others J.D. had observed as an outsider looking in. Crossing his arms across his chest, he watched mother and child and congratulated himself on his acumen. There you go, Bud. All that’s missing here is the carpool-mobile.
It doesn’t get any further from your type than this.