Known for her amazing talent, the New York Times bestselling author of Only by Your Touch and Always in My Heart delivers an extraordinary new tale of two people who, in the most unexpected of circumstances, discover the healing power of love...
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March 28, 2004
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Excerpt from Blue Skies by Catherine Anderson
A drumroll reverberated through the bar, punctuating the end of the last band number. The lead country singer hooted into the microphone, the sound of his voice seeming to bounce off the walls. After tipping his Stetson to a pretty lady in red on the dance floor, he smiled and lightly strummed his guitar, leading into the next song, "She'll Leave You with a Smile." The music throbbed in the air, bearing testimony to the state-of-the-art acoustics that made Chaps the most popular country-and-western nightclub in Crystal Falls, Oregon.
Tapping the toe of his boot in time to the base guitar, Hank Coulter balanced a quarter on his thumb, took careful aim at the empty beer mug at the center of the table, and let fly. Flashing in the spiraling lights, the coin flipped end over end in a high arc, struck the edge of the glass, and bounced away. The other men sitting with Hank laughed, and someone shoved a full mug of beer toward him.
"Chug it down, partner!"
Everyone at the table took up the chant, yelling, "Chug! Chug! Chug!"
Determined to shake off his bad mood, the result of a quarrel that afternoon with his older brother Jake, Hank laughed and started to drink. The rule of the game was to consume the beer without coming up for a breath. Foam touched his nose as he gulped. When he slapped the empty mug back down on the table, his buddies cheered. Hank wiped his mouth with his shirtsleeve. Eric Stone, seated to his left, refilled the mug.
"Go again," he ordered, yelling to be heard over the loud music. "Pray for better aim this time, partner, or you'll be drunk on your ass before pumpkin hour. What's that make now, three "
"Five," Hank corrected. "And getting drunk won't cut it. I've got plans for later tonight."
"Don't we all " Eric nudged back his tan Stetson to survey the bar, his brown eyes dancing as he took inventory of the babes. "I've got dibs on that cute little brunette over there."
Hank had noticed the brunette and toyed with the thought of hitting on her later. She had a saucy smile and a way of swinging her hips that warmed a man's blood. "Go for it, son." Hank winked. "Maybe you'll get lucky."
Accepting the coin that Pete Witherspoon slid toward him, Hank took aim at the glass again. For the life of him, he couldn't recall how he'd gotten talked into tossing quarters. He came to Chaps on weekend nights to have a few laughs, toss back a few beers, and hopefully end the evening with an accommodating female. Getting drunk on his ass at so early an hour was not part of his plan, but now that the competition had commenced, he couldn't very well beg off.