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Any Luck at All Bonus Scene

This is a bonus scene for Any Luck at All and will contain spoilers. It is only available to newsletter subscribers. 

If you would like to download this bonus scene to your ereader, you can get a copy from BookFunnel. Follow this link

 

“Remind me why we’re going to this?” Georgie asked, glancing at River from across the hood of her car. Parking had taken a bit of calculation. She’d chosen a spot close enough to the party for them to make a quick getaway but far enough away to hopefully escape the inevitable fallout.

He circled around and took her hand, his eyes dancing with amusement. “Because Aunt Dottie asked.”

“Don’t downplay it, River,” said Georgie’s sister, Adalia. “It’s going to be amazing. Epic. Historians will be writing about it centuries from now.” It was nice to see Adalia excited about something, even if Lurch’s birthday party was sure to end in some sort of calamity. The former head brewer of Buchanan Brewery was what Georgie had taken to calling one of Dottie’s wild cards. She liked him—mostly—but he’d caused no end of trouble. He was the one who’d peed in one of the kettles at the brewery, requiring them to close. They’d turned the setback into an opportunity—they were updating the brewery and producing new beers created by River—but still, the memory wasn’t one she savored.

“I can understand why you would be invited, but Adalia and I barely know Lurch,” Georgie said, starting to walk.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” River said with a grin as he matched her step for step, “according to him, you saved his life.”

She’d suggested that he have a doctor examine him for prostate issues, and apparently he’d been prescribed a medication that made him ‘pee like he was twenty again,’ or so Dottie had said. He credited Georgie for the improvement in his quality of life, and while she was happy for him, she didn’t want to spend the next hour—surely they didn’t have to stay longer than that?—listening to stories about his bladder.

“I’ll be there,” River said, squeezing her hand. “I promise not to let any conversations about his bladder go on for longer than five minutes.”

She shuddered.

“Okay, two.”

“I make no such promises,” Adalia said, hopping into the road and walking beside them.

“Addy, shouldn’t you be on the sidewalk?” Georgie asked. Maybe she was an overprotective sister, but she’d seen how people drove on these roads. They were two-way roads that should be one.

“No thanks,” her sister replied. “While I realize I’m the third wheel, I don’t need to literally trail behind you.”

They approached Lurch’s yellow bungalow (of course it was yellow) with no small amount of trepidation—at least on Georgie’s part. It seemed unnaturally quiet. This was a Buchanan party, or at least a party involving many members of the Buchanan Brewery staff, past and present. Where was all the chaos?

“This is suspiciously quiet,” River said, echoing her thoughts. They exchanged a look.

“Can we leave?” Georgie asked. “On a scale from one to ten, how upset will Dottie be if we go and get ice cream instead?”

“Not happening,” Adalia said as she pushed ahead. “I refuse to miss this. In fact, I think we should video call Jack. He looked horrified at the Buchanan staff party.”

“Well, if you want to stay, we can pick you up later,” Georgie threatened.

“You wouldn’t leave me,” her sister said. Which was true. Georgie’s usual big sister protectiveness was in overdrive lately. Adalia had moved to Asheville under less than auspicious circumstances, and she knew her sister was hurting. 

“Well?” River asked, meeting her eyes. “What’ll it be, Georgie? If you want to run, we’ll do it together.”

Warmth flooded her, a near constant in his presence. She’d never stop feeling lucky to be with someone so intuitive. So caring.

“Let’s pick a safe word,” she said.

“How about ‘pink crystal’?” he suggested, his eyes twinkling.

She leaned in and kissed him.

“Ugh, you two make me sick,” Adalia said fondly. “Besides, that’s two words, River. So are we doing this thing?”

She gestured to the yellow bungalow, which was so quiet Georgie might have thought it empty if not for all the cars parked around it.

“I guess so,” Georgie said, taking a deep breath as if going into battle.

They approached the house together, all three of them in a horizontal line as if they were kids trick-or-treating. River glanced back at them, as if giving Georgie a final opportunity to change her mind, then knocked.

Nothing.

“Are you sure this is the right day?” Adalia asked.

“Trust me, I checked at least five times,” Georgie murmured.

“Oh, I believe you.”

“Maybe they’re out back?” River said, trying to get a look.

But if there was a raging party going on behind the fence, they could neither see nor hear any sign of it.

Adalia reached forward and tried the door. “It’s open,” she said, pushing it slightly.

She stepped inside, and Georgie and River followed her.

As soon as Georgie made it through the door—why was the entire interior painted Pepto Bismol pink?—two dozen people sprung up from behind the couch like a many-headed Jack-in-the-Box. Georgie jumped, and River wrapped his arms around her. When her shock faded, Dottie and Lurch came forward, grinning like they hadn’t almost given them heart attacks.

“Are you greeting all of the guests like that?” River asked.

“No,” Lurch said. Then he barreled forward, arms out, and embraced Georgie while she was still holding on to River for dear life. “You saved me,” he said in her ear, his breath hot.

A quick glance revealed that Adalia was either trying to video chat Jack like she’d threatened or capturing the party in a video.

“Yes, Dottie told me the new medicine you’re on is working wonders,” Georgie said as River gently pushed Lurch away, giving them some space. Dottie had swooped in to talk to Adalia, which had thankfully put a stop to whatever she’d been doing with her phone.

Lurch motioned to a door down the hall, which she could only assume was the bathroom. “Delphine is so grateful to you,” he said. “I pee like a twenty-year-old again.”

“Delphine?” she asked. Had he named his toilet?

The party had already exploded around them. Music blasted through the house—Jimmy Buffett, she thought, and Josie, another former Buchanan employee, was setting up something that looked suspiciously like the bubble machine that had trashed Buchanan Brewery a couple of months ago.

Lurch didn’t answer her question, leaving Delphine’s identity a mystery, but he proudly pulled a crinkled paper crown out of his pocket. It looked like something that had accompanied a fast food meal a few years ago.

“It may be my birthday party. But you’re the queen of the party,” he said, clapping her on the back. He’d probably meant it as a kindly gesture, but he was a huge man, and it pushed her a couple of steps forward. “That’s why we waited for you to get started.”

They would have been waiting a long while if they’d taken off, so it was a good thing her guilty conscience, plus her worry for Adalia, had pulled her inside. But did this mean she had to wear the paper crown for the rest of the party? She shot a somewhat panicked look at River, who took it from Lurch.

“You know, this is too special for her to risk wearing it, what with—” he gestured to Josie, who’d turned the bubble machine on—was that a slip and slide in front of it?—then to the refreshments table, which supported an enormous bowl of punch. It was the same shade as the one from the disastrous séance Dottie had held a while back. Lurch’s Pee Juice. And did her eyes deceive her, or…

Yes, all of the food was in shades of yellow. This was apparently a joint celebration of Lurch’s birth and his newfound ability to pee normally.

“Is it too early to say ‘pink crystal’?” she whispered to River.

He squeezed her hip. “Your sister’s having fun,” he said. To Lurch, he said, “Thanks, and happy birthday! I’m going to get Georgie a drink.”

He led her off toward the refreshments table. “I am not drinking any of the punch,” she said. “It almost turned you into a human torch.”

“True,” he said, giving her a little nudge. “But that’s only because you doused me with it.” He walked past the punch, and past another table bearing multiple red cups full of what looked like beer.

“What about those?” she asked.

“Remember the staff party? This is Lurch’s version of Blind Man’s Bluff. Except he just mixes a bunch of random beers together and asks people to guess.”        

“I can practically still taste it,” she said, wincing. Lurch had given her a mystery drink at the Buchanan staff party, and she’d ended up spitting it out over her dress.

River led her away from the crowd and back to a small kitchen, which was surprisingly clean and tidy.

Opening the fridge, he took out a couple of beers from a homebrew six-pack.

“Should we be taking those?” she asked, glancing back to see if anyone was watching. Adalia would have called her a goody two shoes, but she didn’t want to offend Lurch at his own party. Even if she was apparently the guest of honor.

“I told Dottie to bring it over,” he said.

“What is it?” she asked. “And why haven’t I heard anything about it?”

“It’s not for the fall line,” he said. “It’s more of a spring beer, I guess.”

“But where did you make it?”

“I did it at Dottie’s place.” He smiled. “I wanted it to be a surprise.”

He was full of surprises. Just last week, he’d declared they’d been working too much and drove her and Hops for a mystery date to Linville Gorge, one of the most beautiful places she’d ever seen. And yesterday he’d presented her with a pad he’d had made—the Georgie Scale for Beer Ratings. There’d been a beautiful striped pen to go with it.

“Are you going to tell me what’s in it?” she asked.

“No, I think I’d like you to tell me.” He set the bottles down on the kitchen island and drew her to him by the arms. “We need to use the Georgie Scale so we can tell if it’s any good.”

“Oh, it’ll be good,” she said. “You made it.”

She lifted onto her toes and kissed him, not caring that they were at a party that was getting wilder by the minute, if the noise in the other room was any indication. The kiss started simple and turned less so, River tipping her back a little.

He was the one who pulled away, panting. He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “You know, that crown would look pretty good on you.”

“Let’s not test that theory.”

He grinned and grabbed a bottle opener from the fridge—a Buchanan one, she noted—and popped the bottle tops.

They clicked their bottles and drank.

River looked at her with shining eyes, waiting. “Lemon,” she said softly. Was that for her? He’d always told her she smelled like lemon bars, a scent that reminded him of home because of Dottie’s baking. “But it’s not too tart. It’s refreshing,” she continued. “The kind of beer you’d want to drink outside in the spring. Maybe while gardening.”

“And the Georgie Scale?” he asked.

“A ten,” she said.

His eyes widened. “I’ve never gotten a ten.”

“You’re always a ten,” she said, grabbing one of the loops on his jeans and pulling him close again.

He kissed her—a slow, leisurely kiss, like they were outside in that garden, bees buzzing around them, sunflowers bobbing in the breeze. The beer, this moment, it was giving her a glimpse of their future.

Then he pulled back and looked at her, his eyes so warm. So full of love.

“I want my pillows to smell like lemon all the time. I want us to have a garden on our patio until we can have a real one. And I want you to live with me. This is the beer I came up with when I thought about what it would be like to live together.”

His thoughtfulness, his heart…the things they did to her. She opened her mouth to say yes, when someone shouted, “Feat of strength!!!!” and a cheer rose up.

“And you planned to ask me here?” she asked with a small smile.

“I thought it only appropriate,” he said, tracing the line of her jaw. “After all, it was a Buchanan party that brought us back together. And without Lurch, we never would have ended up working together in the first place.”

Leave it to River to think of that.

Then her thoughts turned to Adalia. Her sister barely left the house as it was, and now she was going to be alone in it? Could she really leave her?

Jack would be moving in soon, or so he said, but even so…

“I…I would, you know I would,” she said. “But Adalia.”

“Maybe you two can talk about it?” he suggested. “I know you don’t want to leave her, but it might be good for her to get out of the house a little more. Plus, we could have her over for dinner every night.” He paused, then added, “I want this for us, Georgie. I want everything for us. But I would never do anything to hurt Addy. She’s important to me too.”

“I know,” she said, taking his hands. “I’ll talk to her. Speaking of Addy…”

He grinned. “Yeah, I guess we’d better go check on her. Should we bring her a beer?”

She smiled. “It would be the kind thing to do. Although she doesn’t have as many memory associations as we do for the punch.”

Georgie grabbed another beer, popped the top, and River carried it. They went into the living room with their beers, and Georgie was pretty sure they both immediately regretted it. Some more floor space had been cleared. Had the feat of strength been moving the sofa? There was indeed a slip and slide paired with the bubble machine (apparently Lurch didn’t care much about his wood floors), and Josie came careening across it, crashing into Georgie.

“Oh, hi, Georgie,” Josie said, as if they’d come across each other in the grocery store. Her pants were soaking wet, but she didn’t seem to notice or care. Nor did she react to the fact that she’d splashed the bottom of Georgie’s dress. “Is that for me?”

She grabbed the beer that Georgie had, miraculously, managed to hang on to, and headed off to a line leading into another room.

River gave Georgie a look and silently passed over the beer that had been intended for Adalia.

“Thank you,” she said. “There’s a bubble in your hair.” She reached up and popped it, then caught sight of Dottie and Adalia in the corner. She took River’s hand and dragged him over, avoiding another dripping wet user of the slip and slide.

The art on the walls was an eclectic mixture of nature photographs and surprisingly detailed portraits of clowns that looked like originals.

Before they got to Dottie and Adalia, Lurch lumbered up behind them. “Like them?” he asked Georgie, whose eyes were transfixed by a painting of a crying clown with a green bouffant of hair and a live rat in one hand.

“They’re…interesting,” she said, which was the kindest thing she could think to say.

“Did all of the decor myself,” he said, waving a hand at the house. The wave encompassed the pink walls, the art, the slip and slide, plus the beige sofa, which had what looked like a ketchup stain directly in the middle.

She nodded, at a loss for words, but thankfully someone came up and drew Lurch away.

To her shock, there were actually people tasting the beer mixes in the red solo cups. Someone had put up a white board next to it, and it was covered in people’s guesses.

They finally made it over to Dottie and Adalia, both of whom were drinking the punch.

Georgie made a face at River, and he returned it.

“Ah,” Dottie said, “there you are.” Her gaze shifted to the beer bottles they held. “Did you ask her?”

Adalia’s eyes bugged out, her gaze shooting to Georgie’s hand.

Georgie blushed. “No, not that.”

“Oh dear,” Dottie said, “I suppose I shouldn’t have said anything.” But from the sparkle in her eyes, Georgie suspected she’d done it on purpose. And a part of her was grateful. She wasn’t so sure she would have had the gumption to talk to Adalia about this without any prompting.

River took her hand. “Not yet. I need to save up enough money for the ring.”

He said it like that was the only hold-up. The warmth inside of her ignited. “River asked me to move in with him,” she explained. “But I know the timing’s not right. We’ll wait a while.”

Adalia was already shaking her head. “No way. You two are so perfect for each other it’s sickening.” Her expression turned serious. “Georgie, I’m not going to hold you back. I’d hate that. It would make me feel like a burden.”

Which was the last thing Georgie wanted to do.

“We don’t have to do it right away,” she said.

“I give you two weeks, then you’re evicted,” Adalia said. “I’ll even write up an eviction notice.”

“Is this really happening?” River asked, his face lighting up.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Georgie said, taking his hand. Excitement bubbled up in her like a shaken beer. “Yes. I’ll move in with you.”

“Thank goodness,” Dottie said, “because I’ve already finished a sculpture for your housewarming gift.”

River and Georgie exchanged a look, both of them probably thinking of the sculpture Dottie had made of Beau Buchanan, Georgie’s grandfather, which boasted a pink crystal dick.

But Georgie just thanked Dottie, because she was Dottie, and she was wonderful, and any sculpture she made that wasn’t fit for guests could be kept in the spare bedroom.

Adalia’s expression had lit up at the mention of a sculpture—she had been shunning her own art, but she was so hungry for others’ work—but then her gaze landed on their bottles of beer. “Hey, are you guys holding out on me? I’m over here drinking pee juice and you have one of River’s special beers, don’t you?”

“Guilty,” Georgie said, clinking bottles with River. “There’s some in the kitchen.”

“If you dare to go over there,” River said, his mouth twitching. It looked like some kind of obstacle course, what with the bubbles, the slip and slide, the line that went who knew where, plus the tasting booth of mixed beers.

“Consider yourself forewarned, Adalia,” Georgie said, her gaze on River, “there’s about to be a public display of affection.”

Adalia waved a hand at them and linked arms with Dottie, probably going off to claim the remaining beers, but her sister looked back once, a genuine smile on her face. Georgie told herself she’d be okay. She had to be okay.

And then Georgie turned back to her man, her beautiful man, and rose up on her toes and kissed him. He kissed her back, a kiss that promised all of the things she wanted…no, all of the things they wanted together.

When she finally pulled back, she smiled up at him and said, “I think I have a name for your new beer.”

“Thank God,” he said. “Because I had no idea what to call it.”

“We’ll call it Home Sweet Home,” she said. Because that’s what they had together. They had it already, even now as they stood in the midst of the strangest birthday party she’d ever attended. They had it because they were together. And in her heart of hearts, she wished her lost sister would find that too.

Better Luck Next Time
Asheville Brewing #2
November 17, 2021

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