At the age of fifteen, Carly Sue McCluskie ran away from the family farm to escape her abusive great uncle Ezra and the torment of her classmates only to end up homeless on the streets of Salt Lake City. Eight years later, she reluctantly returns to oversee Ezra’s estate and is not surprised to learn
someone killed the old codger. What she didn’t expect is someone attempting to kill her.
Seth Wakely and his family have been feuding with the McCluskies for a lifetime, but that doesn’t stop him from helping a neighbor in need. Seth is as surprised as a pig laying an egg when he learns someone in their little country town might have killed Ezra and now Carly Sue’s life is in danger.
Seth finds himself torn between protecting her and the bitter memories of the past, including what he did to Carly Sue. Good thing he can send his Border collie, Jewel, over to protect her.
Will their Hatfield and McCoy relationship continue, or will Carly Sue and Seth be able to conquer the anger which corrals them and, instead, learn to love?
Carly Sue McCluskie leaned her hot pink Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle into the turn down the dirt road to the old farm and slowed. She hated the idea of returning after eight years. She had done everything in her power to leave her past behind and her memories of growing up in Elkhorn, Utah. She hadn’t set so much as a foot back in the whole of Summit County since leaving at the age of fifteen. Every decision she had made since then had been to distance herself from the country lifestyle Ezra, her father’s uncle, had tried to ram down her throat.
She couldn’t say she was sorry the old buzzard had died, either. He was the most miserable man God had ever placed on the earth. She didn’t regret the day she had run away to escape him. Spotting the rusty tin roof of the barn and sporadic blue shingles left on the old house made her slow her progression even further. Just getting closer brought back years of pain and suffering from having lived with him.
And it wasn’t just Ezra. At the time, she suddenly had no friends at all at school. She had no
idea what had happened, only that everyone avoided her like the plague. She had walked up to her best friend, Bailey, standing at their locker. Bailey had looked at her with big teal eyes and pulled at one of her auburn braids. “Sorry, Carly Sue. You know how it is.” She shrugged, turned, and walked away. She never spoke to Carly again.
Carly hadn’t understood what had changed. She still didn’t understand. Why had everyone started treating her differently…cruelly? Of course, she had never had many friends because of Ezra, but what had changed? Her chest tightened, and she swallowed hard. She didn’t want to remember the past.
She wanted to get this whole business of closing Ezra’s estate over with and get on with her life at her bakery, Sweet Creams. She had worked hard to get this far, and she had done it alone.
She wanted nothing from Ezra, not that there would be anything left. She wasn’t stupid. The attorney, Andrew Baxter, had indicated there were financial concerns, and she knew Ezra well enough to know he would have drank any profits the farm produced. So far, they hadn’t been able to find a Last Will and Testament or any of Ezra’s other important papers. Most likely, there weren’t any to be found.
Everything would go into probate and then his creditors would be paid off. That was fine with her. She hadn’t even wanted an autopsy, but they had insisted since he died alone. They considered that suspicious circumstances. She had no idea why she agreed since he was seventy-five and an alcoholic. And, Carly wasn’t even certain why she had arranged for a graveside service, except maybe to make sure he was actually dead and buried. She scoffed. She would have rather had him cremated and not bothered with a burial, but then she would have had to wait until the autopsy and the rest of the investigation was over. She wanted him gone and buried. There was no love lost between them.
She pulled up next to the rickety picket fence that needed a good coat of paint and parked her motorcycle. She half expected Mr. Baxter to meet her, but they hadn’t made such an arrangement. She slipped off her helmet, swung her leg over the seat, and hung her helmet on the handlebar. She peeked at her image in the side mirror of her motorcycle. Helmets did nothing for hairdos.
She tried to fluff her hair as she walked around the side of the house, checking things out. The place hadn’t changed for the good over the years. Of course, Ezra wouldn’t have wasted good liquor money on paint, that was for sure. She looked up and noticed an open window on the house. What would that be doing open? Water came flying out of the window, not giving her a chance to flee or duck. The cool liquid hit her right in the face and soaked the front of her blouse. She gasped.
“What in the name of Beelzebub—” a voice came from the house. “Is that you, Jewel?”
Carly couldn’t catch her breath to answer. Something moved behind her. She whirled around, her hair dripping water, to face a growling Border collie. The right side of the dog’s face was black, the other white. Carly noticed the graying muzzle and light brown eyes. The screen door squawked and slammed.
A cowboy—hat, boots, western-detailed shirt and all—rounded the house and stopped cold. Carly had never had anyone stare at her with such intense emotion. She didn’t know what to make of it. The dog let out a small growl again and looked at the man.
“Jewel, leave it,” he said, his expression quickly changing and his lips pulling into a smile. He pushed his hat back and then folded his arms across his chest. “Well, now. Mighty sorry about that.”
If she hadn’t been so angry, she might have noticed his broad shoulders, bulging pecs, lean hips, wavy dark hair, and dusty brown eyes. Wait a minute. She had noticed.
His smile faded. “Don’t tell me.” His shoulders slumped. “You must be Carly Sue McCluskie.”
About the Author
Cindy A. Christiansen writes sweet romance with humor, suspense…and dogs! She is a member of The League of Utah Writers and the American Night Writers Association. She is a former member of National Romance Writers of America and the on-line Kiss of Death chapter. She has served as both treasurer and membership coordinator in her local RWA Chapter. She has judged multiple writing contests, coordinated writing competitions, written extensive articles on writing and taught classes.
She published three novels with Wings, ePress, Inc. and nine novels with Sweet Cravings, a division of Secret Cravings Publishing with numerous awards. She currently has published all her past and current books with Dragonfly Spirit Books. Three of her books have been nominated for the prestigious Whitney Awards.
Cindy A. Christiansen has her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Weber State College, Ogden, Utah. She became a Programmer/Analyst for an aerospace company before becoming too ill to work. Her illness progressed from Mono and Epstein-Barr virus in the 1980s to Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) and Fibromyalgia in the 1990s. She’s been diagnosed with over thirty health conditions.
Cindy A. Christiansen grew up on a farm and had been active her whole life which made being bed-ridden very difficult. Although she had always enjoyed some form of writing, like plays, short stories, and magazine articles, she began writing her first manuscript in bed to keep her mind active.
Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit, is a true inspiration to her. Because Laura also has CFIDS, Cindy realized even though it might take her longer to see her dreams come true, she could still work to attain them. “These illnesses can challenge a person both mentally and physically, but that doesn’t have to stop me.” Although she might not be able to do all that other writers do, she is determined to give it her all.
Cindy A. Christiansen also wanted to write the kind of books she believes in. “I believe a book should put you through all the emotions, provide a happy escape, and also teach you a little something.” When she’s up to it, she also enjoys wildlife painting, scrapbooking, antique collecting and refinishing, and clock restoration.
Cindy A. Christiansen lives in West Jordan, Utah with her supportive husband, two very special boys who happen to be autistic, and all her rowdy dogs. All of her books include dogs because life wouldn’t be life without them. She is currently working on another novel and hopes she can be an inspiration to other challenged writers to live their dreams. She donates both time and money to organizations that support abused and abandoned dogs.
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