Posts Tagged ‘excerpt’

Excerpt from Miss Goody Two-Shoes

Friday, August 21st, 2015

KOBO CHARLOTTE HUGHESKane pulled his duffel bag from the bike and approached the store, trying to decide if it looked as Melanie Abercrombie had described it. The building had to be at least a hundred years old, the wood faded and warped in places from the weather. A vin­tage soda-pop machine shared space with two long benches on the front porch, where a faded green awn­ing offered relief from the elements. Double screen doors marked the entrance, both of which sagged and looked as though they’d come completely unhinged in the next strong wind. Beside one door a small sign listed the hours of operation. A sign on the other side of the doors listed the rules. No loitering, profanity, or alcoholic beverages allowed. Kane didn’t have to be psychic to know who’d put up the sign. Even in her letters, Miss Melanie Abercrombie had come across as a real southern lady.

He paused before the door, suddenly nervous at the thought of meeting the woman who’d written to him faithfully the past year. How would she react when she saw him for the first time? His release had come about so quickly, he hadn’t had a chance to notify her of his whim to visit.

# # #

 

Melanie Abercrombie was in a sour mood, brought on by hunger pangs, her younger sister’s desperate, incessant phone calls, and a feeling of being over­whelmed. She peered through clunky square-framed glass at the mess before her.

Abercrombie Grocery was as disorganized and cluttered as a child’s playroom, proof that her father preferred visiting with his customers and listening to gospel music to sweeping and restocking shelves. Mel ran a finger across the lid of a jar of pickled beets where a layer of dust and grime had long since settled and made it impossible to read the price.

She knew she was partially responsible for the mess. Her flower shop had been in an uproar for a solid month, what with Easter, Secretaries’ Day, and proms following one right after the other. It was so bad her assistant, Eunice Jenkins, claimed she was getting varicose veins from standing on her feet so long, and prickly heat rash from sweating and handling pompoms. Mel simply hadn’t had time to come by her father’s store and clean the way she usually did. It was no wonder folks were driving into town to shop at the new Thrifty Sack.

Nevertheless, Mel had had no idea how bad busi­ness had been until she looked through her father’s financial records. Only then did she realize they would have to take desperate measures. The store must be cleaned up once and for all. They’d have to pull up all that scarred linoleum and tear down the warped shelves. They’d have to patch the roof over the meat cooler and repair the faucet on the bathroom sink, and have someone look at the old heating and air conditioning unit that never quite kept the place warm enough in winter or cool enough in the summer.

Mel sighed heavily. It was going to take so much time and money, neither of which she had very much of these days.

That brought her to the next problem: Where the heck was the carpenter she’d hired to do the work? She groaned inwardly as she wondered about him. She’d hired the man sight unseen from a Craig’s List ad stating he was unemployed and would work cheap as a handyman. She’d later learned, through the grapevine at church, that the fellow was unemployed due to a tendency to drink and forget about work altogether.

Mel was interrupted from her thoughts when one of the screen doors was thrown open and a man stepped through.

“Melanie Abercrombie?” he asked, trying to make himself heard above a modern rendition of the gospel song “Oh Happy Day” coming from a radio at the back of the store.

At first all Mel could do was stare at him.

She felt her jaw drop clear to her collar as she regarded the man before her. His head and face were covered with snarled blue-black hair. His brown eyes were so dark they appeared black. His expression was hard, flat, and emotionless. It was the sort of face one expected to find on Wanted posters, the sort of face that prompted decent folks to lock their doors at night before they went to bed.

So this was her carpenter. No wonder he couldn’t keep a job.

“Well, it’s about time you got here,” she said, her voice as crisp as fried salt pork. She wasn’t going to allow herself to be put off by that beard. She took in his clothes, the blue sweat-stained work shirt, and shamefully tight jeans. He looked tough, lean, and sinewy, and probably could do the work if he stayed sober. “I’ve been waiting for you all day.”

“You have?” Kane was clearly surprised. He couldn’t imagine how she’d learned he was get­ting out.

“Yes,” she replied, noting he didn’t look the least bit remorseful for being so late. Didn’t he want the job, for heaven’s sake? “I suppose an apology is out of the question,” she said.

He went blank. “You can apologize if you want, but I certainly don’t expect it.”

Her irritation flared. “I wasn’t talking about me apologizing to you” she said tightly.

His bafflement quickly turned to annoyance. She had obviously called the prison, although he couldn’t imagine why. She had never once tried to contact him by phone. “Why should I apologize?” he asked. “I came as quickly as I could. Hell, I don’t even have to be here.”

“Oh, is that right?” she quipped, meeting his gaze. She paused. “You think I’m desperate, don’t you?”

He was growing more confused. “Come again?”

“That’s it, isn’t it?” She fidgeted with the buttons on her blouse. “You think I need you so badly that I’ll put up with this sort of behavior.”

Kane was truly at a loss as he studied the woman before him and wondered where in the hell the con­versation was going. “I don’t think you’re desperate,” he said, at the same time wondering if she expected him to court her in return for all those letters. She was clearly not his type. Her skirt and blouse were too prim and proper; her hairstyle—slicked back into a bun—too severe. Her glasses were downright ugly and made her face appear misshapen. “I don’t want to appear rude, Miss Abercrombie, but I’m not looking to get romantically involved with anyone right now. I just want a fresh start.”

“What?” Mel’s head spun. What in blazes was he talking about? Did he think she was making a pass at him? Was he insane? She opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off.

“Look, I don’t want us to get off to a bad begin­ning. I’m not sure I would have made it this past year without your letters.” It wasn’t easy for him to be so honest, but she had done much for his morale these twelve months; he owed her.

Mel was at a loss. He wasn’t making sense. “Let­ters? What letters? Who are you?”

“Kane Stoddard.”

She froze as realization swept through her with the force of a tidal wave. “Kane Stoddard? From Leavenworth Penitentiary?” He nodded, and she thought she detected a small smile, but it was hard to tell with the beard.

But how can that be, she asked herself. The Kane Stoddard she knew was a convicted killer, serving life without parole. How had he gotten out? The answer came to her with lightning-quick clarity. She knew of only one way a prisoner could get out that fast.

Kane watched the color drain from her face. He had expected her to be surprised, but she looked as if she’d just received the scare of her life. “Are you okay?” he asked.

She knew she ought to do something, but what? Dial 911? Race outside and flag down the first motor­ist who came along? She tried to move, but her feet felt as though they’d been set in cement.

An escaped convict in Hardeeville? Was it poss­ible?

Kane watched, transfixed, as Melanie Abercrom­bie’s eyes glazed over, and then rolled back in her head like dice in a card game. She swayed, and he reached for her. He wasn’t fast enough. She collapsed and fell against a box of drain cleaner with the grace and finesse of a hundred-pound gunny sack of Vidalia onion

Excerpt From Welcome to Temptation

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Welcome To Temptation Front SmallHere is an excerpt from the just released Welcome to Temptation available in eBook format exclusively at Amazon, and in print almost everywhere. Click here to buy it:

“We need to get out of these wet things,” Michelle said, crossing her arms in front of her in an attempt to hide herself. She shivered as Gator continued to stare. He still had the power to make her body go berserk when he looked at her that way. Those glittering black eyes didn’t miss a thing. It was as though he were capable of seeing past flesh and bone to her inner workings, all of which shook at the moment as violently as the tree limbs outside the window. She was certain he knew what that look did to her—what it did to every female, for that matter. He had it down to an art. And if it had had a powerful effect on her at sixteen, it was doubly so now at thirty-two.

“That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day,” Gator said, shrugging out of his shirt. It was cold and felt like wet seaweed against his skin. He mopped his brow and chest with it and ran it across the back of his neck.

Michelle wondered if he had any idea how sen­sual that simple act was. He was all rippling mus­cles and taut flesh. Goose pimples stood out on his shoulders and his nipples puckered from the chill in the room. His arms were lean and as brown as the rest of him. The room seemed to shrink to the size of a shoe box. Michelle had seen enough male bodies in her job to know that the one before her was one of the best she’d ever laid eyes on.

Gator would have had to be blind not to notice her perusal. The grin he shot her was brazen. “Like what you see, Mic?”

Michelle’s head snapped up with a force that almost sent her reeling. Her face flamed. “I was just . . . just . . .”

“Staring?” He looked faintly amused.

He was laughing at her, she thought angrily. She fought the urge to race out of the room. “Don’t flatter yourself,” she said tersely.

“I don’t have to, pretty lady. You just gave me the biggest compliment I’ve had in a long time, whether you know it or not.”

“You haven’t changed at all, Gator Landry. I would have thought by now somebody would’ve knocked some manners into that thick skull of yours.”

“And you haven’t changed much yourself,” he said. “You’ve still got the prettiest green eyes I’ve ever seen. Not to mention the cutest rear end. I’d say you have improved with age.” He slung his damp shirt around his neck and stepped closer. “So you’re a nurse now. I remember the first time you told me you wanted to go into nursing. Do you?”

Michelle fought the urge to back away from him. To do so would have been cowardly, and she would sooner bite off her tongue than show Gator she was afraid of him. “How can I forget,” she said. “You suggested we play doctor so I could practice on you.”

He chuckled. “But you refused.”

“That’s because I knew what ailed you and didn’t want any part of it.”

“I think you did. Is that why you didn’t return the following sum­mer like you promised?”

“Let’s just say I came to my senses.”

“You’re still crazy about me, aren’t you?” he teased.

She almost laughed, because at the moment it was just like old times, with Gator trying his darnedest to get a rise out of her and her tossing his words or innuendos right back in his face. Gator Landry had always been able to make her blush and feel things that other boys couldn’t.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Gator,” she said. “I was only sixteen years old at the time. I’m twice that age now, and I hope I’ve got twice the knowledge I had back then when I acted on hormones instead of common sense. Besides, you weren’t the first man to kiss me; nor the last.”

He cocked his head to the side, as though pon­dering the thought. “Maybe not, but I’ll bet I’m the one you remember best.”

Shop Now for Welcome to Temptation

An Excerpt from Tall, Dark, and Bad

Saturday, February 14th, 2015
Contemporary Romance

New Romance by Charlotte Hughes

 

An excerpt from the romance

Tall, Dark, and Bad 

Available February 13th, 2015

Digital on Amazon Kindle

Trade Paperback everywhere

 

 

 

 

Summer had worked most of the night; as a result, her brain felt as if it had been stuffed with cobwebs. As she sipped another cup of coffee, she tried to find the file she had last worked on. It was nowhere to be found.  

The trash! She vaguely remembered tossing a stack of newspapers into a Hefty bag before before carrying it out to the Dumpster. Could the file have been under the papers? She groaned and grabbed a flashlight from the kitchen.

Arriving at the Dumpster, she found at least two dozen bags just like the one she’d tossed in. She sighed and muttered a four-letter word as she tucked the flashlight beneath her jaw and climbed the metal ladder leading to the opening. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of old food. Had the file not been so important, she would have given up. Instead, she jumped and landed in a mountain of plastic bags. After searching diligently, she found the bag containing her file. She tossed the bag through the opening of the Dumpster and shined her flashlight about, trying to find a ladder that would lead her out.

Nothing. Not even a foothold. There was no way out, and nobody would think to look for her in a Dumpster, not even the security guard she’d passed on her way.

Time crawled by. She called for help. What if nobody showed up to empty their trash? What if she were forced to spend the rest of the day and even the night inside the metal container? What if– No, she wouldn’t allow herself to think about the possibility of rats or cockroaches. She waited.

She thought she heard a lawn mower. No, wait a minute. That was no lawnmower it was a motorcycle! The engine died, and all was silent. “Help!” she cried. “Is anybody out there?” A second later, Cooper peered into the opening.

“Well, would you look at that,” he said. “Somebody has gone and thrown away a perfectly good woman.”

A Fun Excerpt From See Bride Run

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

See Bride Run! Discounted from $5.99 to 2.99 for a limited time on Kindle starting Feb 2,2015. Buy it?SeeBrideRunfontrightfront

 

 

 
Pleading exhaustion to her current dance partner, Annie returned to the bar, only to find Darla and Hank missing. The bartender in overalls returned wearing a grin. “Some of your dance partners have taken a shine to you,” he said.

“They want to buy you a drink. Several, in fact. What’ll you have?”

“I don’t want anything right now,” Annie replied as politely as she could, considering her head felt as though it was ready to split open. “Would you happen to know where my friend went?”

“She left with that other feller. Said to tell you’d she’d be back in a jiffy.”

“When you see her, would you please tell her I’m waiting for her in the car?”

“What do I look like, Western Union?”

“I’m sorry to impose—”

“I’m just havin’ fun with you,” he said, his chubby face breaking into a grin. “I’ll tell her.”

Annie made her way out the door, leaving a good por­tion of the noise inside. She passed a couple of men sitting on the

tailgate of a truck but pretended not to see them.

“Hey, baby, you lookin’ for some comp’ny?”

“No thanks,” she said, and kept on walking.

“Hey, that ain’t no way to be,” one of them said as he caught up with her. “What’d I ever do to you?”

“Please—” She stopped and turned. He was a beefy fellow but she wasn’t sure if she should be scared or amused. He

spit a wad of chew­ing tobacco on the ground, and she shuddered. “I have a splitting headache, and I just want to be

alone,” she said. She resumed walking. Where the hell had Darla parked?

“I got a headache powder in the truck.”

Sure he did, Annie thought. And she had a hundred dollar bill in her pocket.

It finally hit her that Darla’s car was missing, and the thought of being stranded at a place like Ernie’s almost made her

weep. Why would Darla have left her? Espe­cially knowing she didn’t have a dime to her name? She didn’t even have

enough money to call anyone. Besides, who would she call?

“You can drink it down with a cold beer, and that headache’ll be history.”

Annie saw a car turn off the highway into the parking lot, and she prayed it was Darla’s. She almost went weak with

relief when it turned out to be a Jeep driven by Sam Ballard. He pulled up beside her.

“Out slumming tonight, Annie?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“If you’re looking for trouble, this is the place to find it.” Sam slammed the Jeep into park and climbed out. Annie

noticed the stranger’s friend had come up and both of them towered over Sam.

“I asked you what the hell you’re doing and who these men are?” he almost shouted.

Annie’s jaw dropped. “I don’t have to take this—”

The man next to Annie nudged her. “Do you know this guy?”

“Yes, I—”

“I happen to be her husband,” Sam said, his words clipped and precise. “She has a new baby at home wait­ing to be

nursed. She told me she was running to the store for disposable diapers.”

“Oh, well—” The man looked from Sam to Annie and back to Sam. “Hey, man, we don’t want to cause no trouble

between married folks. Me and my brother was just passing through town.” He regarded Annie. “You should be home

with your kid, lady.” He looked at the other man. “C’mon, let’s get outta here.”

Annie was glad it was dark and nobody could see the crimson color on her face. “That was despicable,” she told Sam.

“Would you rather see me get beat up by the rhino brothers?” He didn’t give her time to answer. “Where’s Darla, and

what the hell are you doing in a dark parking lot with some men you don’t know?”

“I don’t know where Darla is, and I don’t have to answer your questions.”

“Great. Then I’ll just leave you here to fend for your­self.” He turned and climbed back inside the Jeep.

“Wait!” Annie hurried over. “Darla’s car is gone. She took off with some guy named Hank.”

“So you decided to wait for her in a parking lot filled with drunk rednecks and bikers. Great idea, Annie,” he said,

sarcasm ringing loud in his voice. “Now I see why your father had to make your decisions.” He regretted his choice of

words the min­ute they left his mouth, the very second he saw Annie’s face fall. But, dammit, she could have gotten in

bad trouble there.

Sudden tears stung her eyes. “You can just go straight to hell for all I care.” She started walking.

He pulled up beside her. “I’m sorry, Annie. That was a lousy thing for me to say. Get in the car, and I’ll take you back

to Darla’s.”

“I’d rather walk.”

“You can’t walk. It’s dangerous this time of night.”

“I can take care of myself. Contrary to what you might think,” she added angrily.

They had reached the highway. “I’ll bet you don’t even know how to get to Darla’s trailer.”

Annie wasn’t listening. It had been such a miserable day, not to mention humiliating as hell, and her head felt as

though it would explode. She had spent the better part of the evening wondering what she was going to do with her life

and cursing the fact that she hadn’t taken charge long ago. The last thing she needed was for Sam Ballard to show up

and rub her nose in it.

“Annie, I’m warning you, either get in the Jeep, or I’ll person­ally put you in.”

She kept walking.

Sam gunned his engine and parked a good distance ahead of her. He climbed out, then slammed the door so hard, his

Jeep rocked on its wheels. Teeth gritted, he closed the distance between him and Annie, then, with­out warning, hefted

her up and threw her over his shoul­der. She kicked and squealed like a stuck pig.

“Shut up, dammit!” he ordered. “Folks’ll think I’m kidnapping you.” She screamed louder, and he gave her a sound

whack on the behind.

Annie saw red. She kicked her legs and flailed her arms and finally grabbed a handful of his hair. Sam let a few

obscenities fly before he realized someone had pulled up behind them. He turned but was blinded by headlights. He

blinked several times before he realized it was the highway patrol.

“Dammit to hell, Annie, look, what you’ve done now.” He heard the door open and close, was barely able to make out

the silhouette of a patrolman.

“What’s going on here?” the uniformed man said.

Annie continued to pummel Sam in the back but glanced around at the sound of another’s voice. “Oh, Officer, thank

God you’re here. I’m being abducted.”

“Abducted, huh?” The patrolman spit what looked like a wad of chewing tobacco on the ground, and Annie wondered if

everybody in Pinckney chewed it. “Well, we don’t put up with the likes of that in Pinckney, Georgia ma’am.” He reached

for his gun. “I reckon I don’t have any choice but to shoot him.”

 In disbelief, Annie watched the patrolman pull his gun out of the holster and aim it at Sam. She screamed. “No, wait!”

“Put her down, pal,” the armed man said. “I’m warn­ing you, I got this sucker aimed right for your goozle.”

Sam sighed heavily and dropped Annie to the ground. She landed in a heap.

“Now move away, lady, so I can finish him off.”

“Officer, please let me explain,” Annie cried, crawling along the gravel as fast as she could. She pulled herself up by the

man’s pants leg. “He, uh, Mr. Ballard here, was only offering me a ride. I was lying about being abducted.”

“He probably told you to say that, didn’t he?” The patrolman pushed her aside. “You need to turn your head, miss. I’ve

done this sort of thing before, and it ain’t a pretty sight.”

“Oh, my God, no!” Annie threw herself in front of Sam, acting as a shield.

Sam stood there with his arms crossed over his chest, the lines in his face tense, as if holding himself in check while

Annie sobbed and carried on like a character in a bad soap opera. “Okay, Buster, you’ve had your fun. I’d like to go

home now.”

The other man chuckled and stuck his revolver back in its holster. “Listen, Sambo, you’re going to have to learn to start

charming the ladies a little better. You can’t just throw a woman over your shoulder like a sack of taters and haul her

off. You have to buy them flowers and candy and—” He paused and looked around as though wanting to make sure they

weren’t overheard. “You might have to write a few lines of poetry. It don’t matter if it don’t rhyme.”

Annie’s head swiveled from side to side. “Excuse me, but do you two know each other?”

Sam looked at her. “This is Johnny Ballard, my cousin. Folks call him Buster. He’s a real prankster.”

“So all this was just a big joke at my expense,” she said. She glared at Sam. “You let me grovel and beg for your life like

some idiot nutcase. How dare you!”

A car screeched to a halt, and Darla jumped out and came running. She looked panicked. “What’s wrong? Is somebody

hurt?”

“Well, now, ain’t you a sight for sore eyes,” Buster said. “Why don’t you and me go for a spin in my patrol car. I’ll even

let you play with my siren.”

“Annie, what’s going on?” Darla asked.

Annie tried to explain everything that had happened since she’d last seen her friend. It was all she could do to get the

words out, what with her stammering and sput­tering. Her heart was still racing.

“Didn’t the bartender give you my message?” Darla asked. “Hank needed cigarettes. I told the bartender to tell you I

was going to the convenience store not far from here, and that I’d be right back. Only, I didn’t know Hank was going to

hang around and look at dirty magazines.”

“Would you please take me home?” Annie asked, re­alizing that she was trembling. “You’re welcome to go back to

Ernie’s and stay as long as you like, but I’m exhausted.”

“Sure, honey. We can go.”

“I’ll walk back,” Hank said, having come up in the meantime. He kissed Darla on the cheek. “I’ll call you, babe.”

Buster put his hand on Annie’s shoulder. “I hope I didn’t scare you, young lady. Sam and I are always cut­ting up.”

“Actually, I think the whole scene was disgraceful,” she said. “I hope you have your little notebook handy because you

need to file assault and battery charges.”

Buster looked startled as he reached into his pocket. “Is this for real?”

“I’ll let you decide,” Annie told him. She balled her hand into a tight fist, swung around with all her might, and

slammed it into Sam Ballard’s face. Sam, caught off guard, reeled back, lost his footing and sank to the ground.

Take me to the Book

Excerpt From See Bride Run! a Romantic Comedy

Thursday, December 25th, 2014
Romance Novel Book Cover

See Bride Run
Charlotte Hughes

 

 

 

Buy the book in Kindle format from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Ballard had just accused his head waitress, Darla Mae Jenkins, of cheating at cards when she suddenly noticed the commotion in front of the Dixieland Café.

“Great balls of fire! Would’ja get a load of that!”

Sam swiveled around on the red vinyl counter stool and gave a low whistle at the sight of the white stretch limo sitting in the middle of Main Street. “Well, now. I wasn’t aware of any celebrities visiting Pinckney. Must be here for the Okra Festival,” he added. He’d barely gotten the words out of his mouth before he noticed smoke seeping out from beneath the hood. “Uh-oh, looks like trouble in Tinsel town. I’d better go see about it.”

“Hey, wait for me,” Darla said, following him out of the restaurant. A number of people had already gathered on the side­walk, including Mott Henry, the town drunk. From the looks of it, he hadn’t shaved or bathed in days. He watched the excitement for a moment, then turned and moseyed down the sidewalk toward the liquor store, ob­viously more interested in buying his next bottle than the commotion in the street. The Petrie sisters, still spry in their eighties, stood at the edge of the crowd, each holding a brown sack from Odom’s Grocery. They craned their necks to see over a group of teenage boys. “Is anyone in there?” a man in the crowd called out. “You can’t see diddly with them tinted windows.”

“I can’t figure it,” Darla said. “Why would anybody put tinted windows in a danged limo? Shoot, if I was riding in one of those suckers, I’d want the whole world to see.”

Sam was amused by the town’s response to the limo. One would have thought a flying saucer had just landed on Main Street, and everybody was waiting for the hatch to open. It just proved the town needed more in the way of entertain­ment. Mechanic, Bic Fenwick, owner of Fenwick’s Towing and Garage, happened by at that moment in his tow truck. He parked on the side of the street, climbed from his truck, and hurried over. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked Sam.

Sam shook his head. “I just got here. Darla and I saw smoke coming from beneath the hood. I figured I should investigate.”

Bic knocked on the driver’s window. “Hey there, did you know you got smoke comin’ out from under your hood?”

Sam chuckled. “I’d say it was a given, Bic.”

“Well, you never know what people can see with them tinted windows,” Bic said. He pressed his face against the window and squinted. “You want me to take a gan­der at what’s under your hood?” he shouted, as if the tinted windows might interfere with the person’s hearing as well.

Sam figured whoever was in the limo was having a good laugh. The window whispered down some five or six inches. Sam found himself looking into a pair of incredibly pretty green eyes, so pretty, in fact that he tried to think of the exact color and decided they must be what people referred to as Kelly-green. Her face was equally pretty, framed by hair the color of ripened wheat. Some kind of net clung to the fat curls, and Sam thought he caught sight of a pink tiara. He leaned forward. “Excuse me, miss, but you can’t leave this thing sitting in the middle of the road. You’re blocking traffic.”

As if to prove his point, a man in a pickup truck blew his horn. Sam waved him around. Annie gave an enormous sigh. As if her day had not been bad enough. She had spent the last half hour trying to make it from the interstate to the town of Pinckney before the limo died because she could not bear the thought of walking eight to ten miles in her wedding gown. Not only that, she was furious with Snedley. How could a paid chauffeur not know the limo was on the verge of having major problems? She supposed she should cut him some slack because his prostate problem had probably garnered much of his attention.

“Did you hear me, miss?” Sam asked. “You’re going to have to move your vehicle. You’re blocking traffic,” he repeated.

Annie could not hide her annoyance. Did the man think her daft, for Pete’s sake? She knew she was blocking traffic, but there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it. “Thanks for your input, Einstein,” she said loudly, “but it won’t budge so I don’t have much choice in the matter.”

Bic looked at Sam. “Einstein?” he repeated. “I don’t think she appreciated what you said.”

“Well, lucky for me I’m not trying to win a popularity contest,” Sam told Bic, even though he was peeved that the woman had resorted to name calling. “I need for it to be gone before my early bird customers arrive,” he added.

“How come you’re worried about people parking at the curb?” Bic asked. “You’ve got that big parking lot on the side and back of the restaurant?”

“Because a couple of my early bird customers are in wheelchairs, and some of the others just have a hard time getting around. It’s easier for their families to park in front of the restaurant and help them to the door.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Bic said. “Maybe I can figure out what’s causing all that smoke.” He addressed the woman inside of the car. “Miss, do you see a hood release in there?” he asked and told her where to look for it. He glanced at Sam and rolled his eyes. “’Least that’s where you’d find a hood release in most cars. No telling where they put ’em in these big suckers.”

“Probably next to the wet bar and Jacuzzi,” Sam said quietly. The woman in the car might have the prettiest green eyes he’d ever seen, but damned if he was going to get involved in a verbal tussle with her. Sam heard a metallic click, and Bic opened the hood. Smoke billowed out like a mushroom cloud.

“Jeez, Louise!” Bic said, backing away from the vehicle and snatching a cloth from his back pocket which he used to wipe his face.

“What’s going on here?” a voice said. Sam turned and found himself staring into Sheriff Harry Hester’s face. He was so bald that most folks called him Howie—for Howie Mandel—behind his back.

Bic answered. “This here limo is putting out more smoke than a bonfire. I’m trying to figure out what’s causing it.” Sam leaned close to the sheriff. “There is a lady inside. I may as well tell you, she’s a bit mouthy.”

“Oh, yeah?” Hester said. “We’ll see about that.” Sixty-year-old Marge Dix elbowed her way through the crowd. Most considered her a sourpuss. “Would you just look at that?” she said, her voice bristling with in­dignation. “Here we have starving people in this world, and we got folks driving cars the size of mo­bile homes. I hope whoever it is doesn’t plan on settling in Pinckney. I just can’t abide such vulgarity. Makes me ill, that’s what it does.”

Darla, who had been quiet up to that moment, pretended to give Marge a sympathetic look. “Then I wouldn’t look if I were you, Marge, honey,” Darla said. “If something made me that sick, I’d march right home, lock the doors, and pull the shades.”

Marge regarded Darla. “The Bible says we should store our treasures in heaven.”

“Some of us don’t want to wait that long for nice things,” the waitress replied.

Sheriff Hester stepped closer to the limo and tried to peer at the woman through the crack. “Miss, I need to see your driver’s license,” he said, “and I may as well tell you, a little kindness goes a long way in this town so you might want to be a bit more tolerant of our citizens.”

“You go, Howie,” Darla said.

Hester shot her a dark look. “Watch it, Darla Mae, or I’ll write you a ticket for having an eighteen-wheeler parked in your front yard last weekend.”

Annie gave another sigh. She should have taken a chance and gone back inside the church for her purse. She wished she could magically disappear; instead, it looked as though she was going to suffer her share of indignities. “I’m sorry Sheriff, but I do not have my license with me.” Annie waited, knowing he would derive a great deal of pleasure from that fact.

“Oh, really?” Sheriff Hester looked about the crowd. “Seems these rich folks don’t have to follow the same rules as the rest of us,” he said.

“That’s precisely what I’m talking about,” Marge Dix said to Darla. “Some people think they are better than us normal folks.” Marge looked at the sheriff. “Driving without a license carries a stiff fine, doesn’t it, Sheriff Hester?”

Sam frowned. He’d never cared for Marge Dix who was the town busybody.

“A fine?” Hester said. “Oh, yes. Not to mention possible jail time.” A smile twitched the corners of his lips. He was obviously enjoying himself. “She’d better show me a registration for that thing, or there’ll be a hanging in the courthouse square.” Several in the crowd chuckled.

Darla threw up her hands. “I don’t believe what I’m hearing.” She looked at Sam. “Do something!”

Sam pulled Hester aside. “I would tone it down if I were you,” he told Hester. “You don’t want to get hit with a lawsuit. If someone can afford to drive a car like this they probably have enough money to keep a lawyer on retainer.”

Annie was past being angry; she was furious. The man was no better than her father; out to make people feel small and stupid. “Then get your rope ready, Barney Fife,” she yelled as loud as she could, “because I don’t have the registration either.”

Darla laughed out loud. “You go, girl!” Several of the onlookers cheered.

The sheriff colored fiercely. He stepped closer to the limo and leaned forward to get a better look at Annie. “Sam was right; you do have a mouth on you,” he said, “but as an elected official, sworn to protect the citizens of this town, I do not appreciate you acting disrespectful to me.”

“Let’s get something straight, Sheriff,” Annie said. “First of all, I’m no threat to anyone. I don’t own a weapon and never have. You are free to search my vehicle. “Secondly, I have the utmost respect for law officials, but I will not tolerate being publicly ridiculed just so you can look like a big shot. Further, I don’t know that you aren’t some kind of nutcase who would actually hang me in the courthouse square, shoot me, or lock me up for the rest of my life so I consider that a threat. However, I do have rights so I’m allowed to call my attorney, and when he is finished with you, you’ll regret ever laying eyes on me.” Annie smiled. So what’s it going to be, Sheriff?”

“She’s good,” Darla whispered to Sam.

Sam shrugged. “Not bad,” he said.

In a flash, Sheriff Hester’s demeanor changed. “How’m I supposed to know this automo­bile belongs to you?”

“You could give her sodium pentothal,” Marge sug­gested.

Annie didn’t hesitate. “This vehicle belongs to my father. I borrowed it.”

“You borrowed it,” Hester said flatly. “Who is your father?”

Annie glanced at the woman beside him, Marge something-or-other, who was clearly the town gossip. “I would rather not say at this time.”

Hester seemed to understand. “Okay,” he said to the crowd. I want everybody to back away from the vehicle. Not you, Bic,” he added quickly. “You keep looking under the hood; see what you can find out.” Bic nodded and went back to what he was doing. “As for the rest of you, if you insist on hanging around you can stand on the sidewalk. You, too, Marge,” he added. He looked at Sam and Darla. “I would appreciate it if you two would stay put.”

“That’s not fair!” Marge said.

“They’re witnesses,” Hester said, sounding irritated with her, “not that I should have to defend my decision. Now move to the sidewalk or go home,” he added. Marge gave him a dirty look but did as she was told.

Sheriff Hester turned back to Annie. “I hope when you speak to your attorney you’ll tell him I did not drag you to the station for questioning, that I allowed you to sit in your daddy’s comfy limo with the window rolled down only a few inches, and that I assured you every word would be handled in the strictest of confidence. This is not how I normally conduct my, um, interviews.” He produced a small notebook and pen. “Now, then, where were we?”

“You asked me to give you my father’s name,” she said. “It is Winston Hartford. I am Katherine Anne Hartford, although I prefer to be called Annie since it is less formal.”

“And where are you from, Miss Hartford?” Hester asked. “Atlanta.” Sam let out a low whistle. Darla and Hester looked at him. “What? Hester asked. “Am I missing something?”

“Depends,” Sam said, not taking his eyes off Annie. “Your father wouldn’t happen to be in the iron and steel business?”

“Yes,” Annie said. “Very impressive,” Sam replied.

“Do you know her father?” Darla asked before Hester had a chance.

“I know of him,” Sam said. He looked at Hester. “Miss Hartford is heir to one of the biggest iron and steel companies in the southeast.”

Annie blushed. She always felt uncomfortable when people discussed the family finances.

Harry hooked his thumbs inside his belt. He seemed to ponder Sam’s words. “If that’s true, then I’m very impressed, but without a driver’s license or other form of ID, there’s no way to prove it.”

“You can’t disprove it,” Sam said.

“My father’s picture, as well as his business and other ventures are all over the Internet,” Annie said. “As is information about me.” She looked at Hester. “I would hope that would serve as an I.D. for now.”

For now, what I’d really like is for you to step out of the car,” Hester said.

Annie paled at the thought. A number of people were still watching from the sidewalk, including the nosy blabbermouth, Marge. Annie would be the laugh­ingstock of the town once they saw her in all her wedding garb. “I would rather not,” she said.

The sheriff looked surprised. “Is there a problem? Are you handicapped in some way? Do I need to send for a wheelchair?”

“No, nothing like that,” she said quickly. “It’s just—”

“I have been very patient with you, Miss,” he said. “Now, please remove yourself from the vehicle.”

Giving an enormous sigh, Annie hit the automatic door unlock and reached for the handle. The sheriff stepped back as she opened the door and tried to extri­cate herself from the front seat of the limousine. Her cheeks flamed a bright red as the crowd stared in disbe­lief.

The woman in the waitress uniform hurried over and tried to help her. Once Annie was out and standing among them, everybody stared. “Oh, my Lord,” Darla said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Annie longed to crawl beneath a large rock and never come out. Sam stared as well at what looked to be hundreds of yards of white satin and lace that made up the most elaborate bridal gown he’d ever laid eyes on. She still wore her veil although it hung askew, and her tiara looked as though it was barely hanging on. Seeing her face in the light was almost humbling. Her facial bones were delicate and very femi­nine, her skin flawless and glowing. Her mouth was full and sexy as hell. He could not help but stare openly.

Romance Novel Book Cover

See Bride Run
Charlotte Hughes