Welcome back for the next installment of Down The Dirt Road. If you are joining us for the first time this week, you can catch up with the first three chapters here:
At the end of this post, I have a little surprise for all of you. Let me know what you think of it!
It was another sweltering day. Less than twenty-four hours after Daddy’s funeral it was like the rain had never happened. Jennie mopped at the sweat on her brow with one of Daddy’s red kerchiefs he always kept on the work bench in the barn. There was no time to lock herself in her room and cry like Momma did. The animals needed feeding and the chores needed doing. Daddy always said the cure for a sad soul was hard work. Well her soul was as sad as could be and there was plenty of work to be done.One of the horses whinnied softly in his stall. The other neighed in response. As old as the farm itself, neither animal had put in a days’ hard work in a dozen years at least.
From somewhere beyond the walls of the barn a rooster crowed. Even the animals were miserable. Jennie cursed softly under her breath. This had to be the worst summer ever.
The cow needed milking. She grabbed the old metal milking bucket and headed out to the corral where the cow grazed. There was nothing so sweet as fresh cow’s milk, chilled almost to freezing, still frothy with cream. From the time she was a toddler, Daddy had always let her help him milk the cow. Old Bessie was her first friend. Her big brown eyes even now looked sad, as though she knew John Marshall wouldn’t be coming out to see her anymore. Jennie rubbed the side of Bessie’s head and patted her on the flank. “I miss him too, girl.”
An hour later, sweat running down her back, Jennie carried the jug of fresh milk up to the house and stashed it in the old style ice chest on the side of the house. She was up to her ankles in chickens as she gathered the morning’s eggs into a large wicker basket slung over her left arm when she heard a familiar voice behind her.
“Hey there, Jennie.”
She turned around slowly, using the extra time to compose herself and paste on her indifferent expression. “What is it with you two? Did Trisha send you?”
Michael smiled that irresistible smile of his, the one that always made her weak in the knees and melted her heart. His voice was as smooth as honey. “Come on, Jennie. Don’t be like that.”
“Like what, Michael? Like mad that you slept with my best friend? Like hurt because you told me that you loved me and it was OK to wait but the second I leave town you are all hot and heavy with Trisha? What should I be like then? Happy that you decided to show up at my father’s funeral? Secretly pleased that you are standing here on my farm smiling at me like nothing ever happened?”
He raised his hands up in surrender. “I just came by to see how ya’ were. See if y’all needed any help around here what with your Daddy gone….”
“He’s dead, Michael. It’s OK, you can say it out loud. Saying it won’t make it worse. Damn it, Michael! It can’t get any worse, you know?”
Michael closed the distance between them in two easy steps, his long legs covering twice as much ground as hers ever could. For a brief second she hoped he would take her in his arms, hold her close like he used to and tell her everything was going to be all right. And then a picture of Michael holding Trisha close, covered in straw and sweat filled her mind and she took a step back, praying he wouldn’t touch her. If he did, there was no was no telling what she might do to him.
“I’m sorry ‘bout yor’ Daddy, Jennie. I know how close y’all were.”
“You don’t know anything.” She turned her back on him so he wouldn’t see the tears. She shrugged off the large hand he placed on her shoulder. “Go away, Michael. We are through, there’s no reason for you to be here anymore.”
She whirled around to face him, a sudden burst of courage amping up her confidence. It lasted for all of ten seconds when Michael reached out and traced the outline of her jaw with his thumb. His touch was gentle, familiar. She had thought he loved her when he touched her so sweetly. But that wasn’t love. Just the hope that one day she would let him touch more of her. All of her. She stepped back, gathered her courage back up and scowled at him. “You have to leave now. I don’t want you here.”
Oh, how she did want him to stay. Her heart ached as he stood there and looked down at her. How she needed comfort—someone to pull her close and tell her that everything was going to be all right. But he couldn’t be that person. He was with Trisha now and besides, she was angry at him. So. Very. Angry.
“OK, Jennie. I’ll go. But if y’all need anything- anything at all- ya’ call me now, ya hear? I’ll be here in a jiffy to give y’all a hand with whatever you need. Your daddy was a good man. He will be missed by a lot of folks.”
“Don’t you talk about my Daddy. The last thing he heard before he died was how you broke his little girl’s heart. He wouldn’t want anything from you.”
He dropped his head and turned around to walk away. After a few steps he stopped and looked back at Jennie.
“I don’t love her, you know. It’s you I love—I’ll always love.”
“Right, well, you sure got a funny of showin’ it.” Jennie snapped, her tone as sharp as a razors’s edge. Michael winced and shrugged his shoulders in defeat.
“I’m sorry I hurt you. If I could take it back I would. Trisha was just so—so hard to resist in that miniskirt and she smelt so damned good and I was missin’ ya so much. But I should of turned and just walked away and never done what I did. You won’t ever know how sorry I am.”
“I was gone for four hours. You couldn’t have missed me that much. You were horny and Trisha was willing. I’ve come to terms with it and you should too. Now, just go on home and do whatever it is you gotta do and leave me alone. I’ve got work to do.”
She had no patience for his heart on his sleeve act. All she wanted was for the boy she once thought she loved to get the hell out of her barn and leave her alone. He finally took the hint and walked away without another word. As soon as he was out of sight, Jennie leaned up against the side of the chicken coop and let out a long breath. The flood gates opened and she cried until her tear ducts ran dry. She cried for her broken heart and the newfound loneliness that had settled over her since Daddy had died. The tears ran for all the long nights sharing secrets with Trisha and all the sweet love that she would never know with Michael. She mourned the certain loss of a future of love, life and happiness.
The chickens circled around her ankles clucking and pecking as though to comfort her. White feathers swirled in the dust filled air, clinging to her hair and tickling her bare skin. Enough with the pathetic tears. Jennie grabbed the egg basket and headed back to the barn. There was too much work to be done before school started up again in a week or so. She wouldn’t waste any more time mourning Michael or Trisha. What was done, was done. Best to just move on and focus on the future.
What future did she even have anymore? Momma needed her, the farm needed her. She was never going to get out of here now. No college. No big city. Just a lifetime of chicken feathers, cow manure and a rotten dirt road no one ever saw fit to pave.
Bessie brayed as she walked by and nudged Jennie’s arm with her head. Jennie stopped to pat her old friend on more time and run her fingers through her bristly coat.
“It’s just you and me from now on, old girl. Just you and me.”
Her words were sad, resigned. The day her father died, her dreams died right along with him. She, too would one day die right here on this farm, alone, at the end of a dirt road only she doubted anyone would really miss her at all.
And now...the surprise I've promised!
For those of you that have read Undercover in Six Inch Stilettos and those of you that want to...here it is...the official cover reveal of book two in the Secret Lives series...In the Shadow of the Shield
= = #CoverReveal = =
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: December 15, 2015
COVER DESIGNER: Wicked by Design:
= = SYNOPSIS = =
When a police officer falls, justice must be served.
Donnie Massey was an honest, skilled police officer. That’s probably what got him killed. When his wife Diana watches him die in front of her, the worst part is going to be telling their son, Jackson.
After a year of mourning, Diana decides it’s time to move on with their lives. The first step to getting closure is to visit Donnie’s grave. But when she gets there, she’s not alone...
Good cops are rare. Carter Ryan is one of them.
Mentored by Donnie, Carter is at the grave when his widow shows up. It may not be the best timing, but he needs her help. Carter admits the fallen shield may not have died in the line of duty, but was likely murdered while involved in a secret investigation with deep criminal ties. Diana agrees to aid in unveiling the truth. Donnie deserves that much.
The definition of insanity...
As the two work side by side, a new and delicate romance begins to bloom. But would falling for another cop be the worst mistake of Diana’s life, or the best decision she’s ever made? When the investigation leads them to an underground meth ring, their mission goes from risky to down right perilous.
After a brush with death hits too close to home, will Diana risk loving another cop? Or will their chance at happiness be forever buried in the shadow of the shield?