Buying the 1920s farmhouse south of Phoenix, where the rumors of John Dillinger’s gang hid out in the 30s, is supposed to be Grace Evanheart’s way of escaping an old romance. When she finds an ancient diary with a map under the bedroom’s floorboard, the rumors solidify into fact. She doesn’t know who to trust with the news; Micah Stevens, the handsome deputy and the great grandson of the original landowners with whom she’s attracted, or Jerry, the young historian who seems too intent on learning about her new home?
36 years. She’s the mother of two awesome sons, who married their forever
loves, and she’s a grandmother to three beautiful grandchildren with one more
on the way.
thirteen years ago just for grins. That brief taste into the world of an author
started an undeniable writing obsession rivaling only her love of chocolate.
She’s an award-winning fine artist, and loves traveling with her husband.”
Micah – Zac Efron
Grace – Hayden Panettiere
Strawberries slid down the stark white wall, juices dripping in thin bloody ribbons toward the broken bowl near the baseboard. If I’d aimed six inches to the left, I’d have hit my boyfriend’s head as he left.
Three soft, confident taps on the door preceded my neighbor’s entrance. I knew who it was before I saw Chelsea Vanderbilt’s short, rainbow sherbet tips and blonde roots. She made my brown hair seem dreary and bland.
“Hey, Grace. I take it David’s gone.”
“He’s gone.” I followed her gaze to the newly redecorated wall. “I missed.”
Chelsea knelt down and picked up the largest chunk of ceramic bowl. “Well, lady, it’s probably a good thing you missed. He is the litigious type.”
I fell onto my hide-a-bed sofa, sighing loudly. “He told me he’s not ready to commit. That we should just be friends.”
Chelsea picked up a smaller bit of broken bowl and dropped it into the piece in her hand as she snorted. “I thought you were already friends.”
“I thought he was going to ask me to marry him. Instead, he dumped me.” I turned on my side and bumped my head on the worn-out arm of the couch. The brief pain only solidified my anger. “I’m going to be thirty next month. Alone forever! What am I doing wrong?”
“You’re not doing anything wrong,” Chelsea said, dropping the broken bowl into the trash, “except for maybe putting your trust in a man who never earned it.”
“I probably shouldn’t have dated someone younger.”
Chelsea turned and rested her skinny hip against the cabinet. “Five years isn’t that much of a difference. David’s a grown man.”
“Apparently he thought I was too old for him.”
“I don’t think your advanced age has anything to do with it.” I threw a tiny accent pillow at Chelsea’s head—and missed. Either I needed to stop throwing things or take better aim.
I stared at the many rings on Chelsea’s fingers, including the ones on her thumbs, and said, “Or I just wasn’t exciting enough.”
“Maybe now you’ll learn not to fall instantly in love with the next guy to look into your baby blues.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I wish I didn’t.”
David Sullivan had asked me out about five minutes after running into me—literally. I was out for a rare morning jog, went around a bend, and ended up in a tangle of arms and legs with a bloodied lip. That was two short years ago.
“What are you going to do now?”
I gazed around my apartment. None of the beat-up furniture was mine. I barely had room in one corner for my six-foot easel, and most of my cabinet space was taken up with my art supplies instead of dishes. I needed room. And I needed to get away and forget about David.
I sat up and put both feet on the worn-out carpet. “Start over. I know how
Micah leaned his hip against the cabinet, tucking his thumbs into his pockets. “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
Heat filled my face at his assumption. I opened the freezer compartment and looked inside. “What makes you think I don’t?” Two empty ice trays sat on a small shelf. I grabbed them so I could hide my embarrassment. I felt unworthy of love. Being dumped by David had been hard on my ego.
“It doesn’t really make sense because you’re so pretty, but if you’d had one, he would be here helping you instead of me.”
Even his compliment couldn’t cool the heat of the blush in my face. I twisted the cold-water faucet open, holding the tray beneath the stream, and listened to the clanking and groaning the pipes produced along with the water. “Why don’t I have a boyfriend? Huh, I guess you’d have to ask my ex-boyfriend that question. He . . . sort of . . .”
I took a deep breath, set the tray down in the sink and turned to look directly into Micah’s face. I hadn’t said it out loud since that night back in the apartment, when I’d poured my heart out to Chelsea, and I was curious to see Micah’s reaction. “He dumped me.” His brows went up marginally, and his eyes studied my face. He must have been looking for the hidden warts. “No, I don’t know why,” I said to his unasked question. “But it could possibly be because he didn’t want any deeper commitment than a girlfriend, and I was ready for more.”
I paced across the kitchen floor, the heels of my boots thudding like a hammer with every step. “We were together for two years, and suddenly he just wanted to be friends.” I turned and walked in the other direction. The kitchen wasn’t that big. “When a man says those words to a woman, the woman knows he doesn’t actually want to be friends.” I turned and marched back the other way. “We know what it means.”
“What does it mean?” Micah’s voice was quiet and gentle.
“That . . . that he never loved me.” I guessed at where the kitchen door was. I couldn’t see it through the stupid, self-pitying tears filling my eyes, blinding me. As I rushed outside I said, “I want to bring in the stove next.”