Must Love Pumpkins by Tracy Joy Jones

An Excerpt from “Must Love Pumpkins”

Must Love Pumpkins by Tracy Joy JonesI love this little story I wrote last fall, and I hope you will too. It’s releasing on Amazon in July. But if you’re longing for pumpkins and fall and hot chocolate a little early, enjoy!

Kayla Mayberry had always been sensitive about her hair. She should have been over both the compliments and the comments by now, but she wasn’t. It didn’t help that she had two older sisters with dark, russet-red hair or that her younger siblings all tended towards strawberry-blonde rather than red.

In contrast, Kayla’s hair was “full of copper” — her mother’s gentle way of saying it was precisely the color of pumpkins.


Of course, Charlie Johnson had been right when he called her “Pumpkin,” but that didn’t mean she couldn’t hate him for it.

If only there was a way to wipe that smug grin off of his handsome face. So, what? She had orange hair. At least it was thick and shiny, and her facial features were good, and she had nice skin. He didn’t have to make her feel ugly or small. She was tired of it all. Tired of his bullying. Tired of him always winning. Tired of his mind games.

She picked up a small bright orange pumpkin from the table in front of her, testing its weight, and suddenly, she had an awful, terrible, wonderful idea. The pumpkin was almost the same width as a fast-pitch softball. She eyed the distance to him in speculation. All that was left was to decide just how hard to throw it. She didn’t want to seriously wound him, just teach him a lesson.

Taking a few steps back, she looked both ways as if checking the bases. It was still early in the morning, so traffic at the pumpkin farm was manageable. Over on the far side of the pumpkin tent, Charlie’s mother, Cecily, was distracted helping a young mom with her crying children, all wanting more pumpkins and another pony ride. Kayla should really go help them—but first things first.

She set her feet in the brown earth, digging in her right toe and lifting her heel in preparation for her pitch. Charlie’s eyes narrowed, watching her feet with interest, She could tell he had no idea what was coming or maybe he wasn’t afraid of it. She almost smiled. This was too easy. If she judged it just right, she might just knock a little respect into him without doing any real damage.

Kayla adjusted her grip on the pumpkin one more time, finding the natural “threads” and then pulled her arm back like a spring. As fast as a snake’s strike, she sprang into the motion she’d practiced thousands of times. Her arm whipped around, releasing the pitch at just the right angle to send the pumpkin projectile hurtling towards Charlie’s perfectly straight teeth, his flawless nose, his pretty green eyes, his tan skin, and his blonde head of hair.

But the instant the pumpkin left her hand, she realized her mistake. Too much power, too much anger, and the pumpkin was too light. Her hand flew from her release position to her mouth as the orange projectile hurtled towards Charlie.

His eyes widened at the last second as he finally clued into what was happening. If he’d been a ballplayer, he might have made an attempt at catching it. But Charlie Johnson, pumpkin farmer and sarcastic jerk, just stood there, too surprised to dodge the pumpkin she’d aimed at his head.

Direct hit. Right in the center. For the first time in Kayla’s life, she wished her aim was worse. It was like she’d toppled a tree, but instead of falling backward, he fell forward.

Owww!” His hand flew to his forehead, still on his feet but leaning over as if about to fall.

Oh, no. What had she done? She could have killed him. He could have brain damage. Those little pumpkins were really hard. He may be an idiot, but someone was sure to notice if his IQ dropped a few hundred points from a head injury. She rushed forward.

“Charlie? Charlie? Charlie, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think… I didn’t mean… are you okay?”

All she got in response was a groan, but that was a good sign, wasn’t it? At least she hadn’t killed him.

“Can I see? Did I hurt you?”

“Wasn’t that the point?” he snarled through gritted teeth.

And he was talking. Full sentences meant no brain damage. He rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand and stood up, towering over her as he did so, but then he staggered a little. On instinct, she gripped his arm to steady him, but the heat of his skin singed her hand like fire. The last thing in the world she wanted was to be touching him, and she was certain he felt the same way about her. She instantly let go. She didn’t want to make it worse.

“Charlie, I really didn’t mean to hurt you. Are you okay? Please be okay.”

He nodded slowly, carefully, his eyes still closed, his hand covering his forehead.

“I’m okay, Pumpkin. Just give me a second.”

One word. That’s all it took for her concern and remorse to evaporate.

“My name is not Pumpkin. It’s Kayla. And if you’re okay to insult me, then you deserve that lump on your head.”

“I have a lump?” He seemed genuinely surprised. He opened his eyes and moved his hand so she could see the extent of the damage.

Kayla had never seen his green eyes this close before, and she found herself studying them instead of the damage from her throw. They were the color of pine trees in winter or the stems of pumpkins in the fall, but there were also tiny flecks of gold in their depths. For once, his eyes were missing both his defensive wall and his offensive sneer. He’d dropped the attitude he carried like a shield, like it was him against the world and he couldn’t care less if the whole world hated him.

With an act of sheer willpower, her eyes lifted to his forehead, and her stomach dropped. Her throw might have knocked his defenses down, but it had also put a very angry red welt in the center of his forehead. It would probably turn purple and be very, very ugly by the end.

Oh, man. She was in trouble.

To read more of Kayla and Charlie’s story, sign up for my newsletter. It’s releasing on Amazon in July!!! I’d love to have you along for the fun!

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