Lone Star Legacy [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Roxanne Rustand
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: For Beth Lindstrom, the rundown cafe she inherited in the small town of Lone Wolf was simply a means to an end. Selling it and moving on was the young widow's only hope of a fresh start for her and her five-year-old daughter--though she doubted there was any place on earth they'd feel really safe ever again. However, she hadn't counted on Joel McAllen getting under her skin. The handsome ex-cop seemed to sense that her past held a terrible secret that kept her on the run. But it wasn't until her husband's killer followed her to Texas that she realized she'd need to trust Joel with her life--and her heart.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Superromance
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2007
6 Reader Ratings:
NO WONDER the neon-yellow house had stood empty for the past six months. The surprise was that it hadn't been accidentally-on-purpose torched by an appalled neighbor on some dark and moonless night. Situated alone at the far end of Canyon Street, its nearest neighbor was a vet clinic, and no one would have noticed it burn.
But whatever the color scheme or condition, it offered a safe haven and a chance to start over.
Gripping her four-year-old daughter's hand, Beth Lindstrom gingerly stepped past a rusted bicycle, the twisted bumper of an old VW with flat tires, and walked up the dirt path to the front porch. The sign over the door, Crystal Mae's Café—Home-Cooked Food, hung askew.
"Pretty, Momma," Sophie whispered in awe, staring at the fuchsia shutters framing the tall, old-fashioned windows. Her gaze lifted to the high-pitched roof, where a pair of crescent-shaped windows was tucked near the eaves. "And look—it has eyes!"
"Sure looks like it, Poppin. And if I remember right, the inside is interesting, too." Beth smiled, rmembering just how interesting her late Aunt Crystal had been.
A strong, independent Texas woman to the core, she'd turned the main floor of her home into a café after her husband's death. With her ribald sense of humor and good, down-home cooking, she'd made a success of it.
"I gotta go." Sophie looked up at her, clutching her favorite doll. "And Maisie does, too."
"I'm sure you do. It's been quite a while since we stopped." Glancing over her shoulder at her SUV, Beth studied the deserted street, then hit her remote lock button twice and listened for the reassuring, answering honk before turning to fit a key into the front door of the house.
When she'd been here for Crystal's funeral five years ago, the residents of Lone Wolf were comfortable leaving their cars and homes unlocked. Most of them probably still did, but after a lifetime of suburban living, the thought made her shiver…doubly so, after the harassment and accusations she'd faced back in Chicago.
Even though it was all over, the ring of the telephone or a sharp knock on the door still made her flinch.
Despite the cool April days and nights, the café was muggy and smelled of musty decay when they stepped inside. Saying a swift, silent prayer, Beth held her breath and flipped the switches by the front door.
The lights flickered, then bathed the small café in light. Thick dust covered the dozen round tables, most with four chairs, though some of the chairs were tipped over, and several were broken and tossed in a corner. A lunch counter spanned the back wall. Behind it, a faded poster taped to the milk dispenser still read SPECIAL—Eggs, Grits and Beef Hash, $4.95.
Crystal's last special, probably. She'd died with her apron on, and the tenants since then had just rented the upstairs apartment, which had a private entrance. There'd been good renters at first, but then some had to be evicted, according to the Realtor. A few had stolen away in the night, after racking up months of unpaid rent.
"Where's the potty, Momma?"
Jarred back to the present, Beth led her to an open door at the back marked Fillies. She turned on the light and again held her breath…but no mice or roaches scurried away. Thank God.
She quickly wiped the dust from the fixtures with a paper towel, and surreptitiously checked for spiders. "Here you go, sweetie."
Sophie's eyes rounded in alarm. "I don't like this place."
"I'll stay right here. I promise."
"But it's icky."
"It's not nearly as bad as some of the gas stations we hit on the way down, right?" Once they'd left the freeways and started across rural Texas, the facilities along the two-lane highways had taken a major turn for the worse, and Sophie had hit her fastidious stage over a year ago. The trip had not been easy.
Pouting, Sophie finally gave in, but jumped back at the rust-orange water that poured from the faucet when she tried to wash her hands. Her eyes filled with tears. "I wanna go home."
Me, too. But that home was gone forever and this one was going to take its place…at least for a while. Beth swept her daughter up into her arms for a big hug and a kiss. "We're on a great adventure, honey. We're like Dora the Explorer, finding out about new things, seeing new places. It's going to be fun!"
Sophie's lower lip trembled. "Where do we sleep?"
"Upstairs, where my aunt Crystal had her apartment. But…" Beth mentally calculated the cash in her wallet. "We might stay in that little motel on the edge of town, just for tonight, so we can get things cleaned up, first. Okay?"
Sophie nodded, then wrapped her arms tightly around Beth's neck. "I'm scared, Momma."
Beth hugged her back, murmuring gentle reassurances. But that inner voice still whispered through her thoughts, just as it had on the eighteen-hour trip south. Me, too, Sophie. Me, too.
* * *
JOEL MCALLEN WEARILY STEPPED out of the back door of his Uncle Walt's vet clinic, hefted a circular saw into the back of his crew cab pickup and unbuckled his tool belt. He tossed it onto the front seat and climbed behind the wheel.
Walt appeared at the door of the clinic. "Dinner. Seven o'clock."
"Home. A shower. Bedtime." Joel grinned as he turned the key in the ignition. "You purely wore me out today."
Walt snorted. "Always an excuse, son. Time you got out and partied a little. Maria's made fried chicken, I hear. And your favorite pie. Don't show up, and you'll break her heart."
Copyright © 2007 by Roxanne Rustand.