The widowed sheriff's daughter wanted just one thing: a mom. But the lady she'd set her sights on didn't consider herself mother or wife material. Christine Turner couldn't abide her attraction to handsome lawman Dale Lewis. She'd moved to Oak Hill for a fresh start, but no matter how much she wanted it, she didn't believe a family was in God's plan for her life. Dale decreed it a crime for such a lovely, kind woman to hide away on her farm. Especially when he wanted to make his daughter's dream--and Christine's--come true.
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Where Love Abides by Irene Hannon
Great. Just great.
Sheriff Dale Lewis regarded the small pickup truck on the shoulder of the road, facing the wrong way and tilted at an odd angle. It looked like his already long day was about to get longer.
Stifling a sigh, he took a final sip of tepid coffee and eased his patrol car off the wet pavement. As he settled the disposable cup back into the holder, he scanned the truck, illuminated in the glare of his headlights. It had Missouri plates and looked brand-new, but he'd never seen it before. Must not belong to anyone around Oak Hill. He knew most of the vehicles from his hometown on sight.
As he keyed the license number into the laptop beside him and waited for the results to appear on the screen, he surveyed the drenched landscape. Considering how dry the entire month of August had been, he knew the area farmers would consider the much-needed rain a blessing.
But he suspected the driver of the truck wouldn't agree. The pavement could be dangerously slick around this bend when dampened after a dry spell, as the person behind the wheel had discovered. It was too dark to see the road, but he figured he'd find skid marks come daylight.
When the license information came back, he gave it a quick scan. The vehicle was registered to a Christine Turner, and everything was clean. The name seemed familiar somehow, but he couldn't place it. And he was too tired to try. If she'd been the driver, she must have called a family member or friend to pick her up and abandoned the car until daylight.
Not that he blamed her. It was pitch-dark, and he was pretty sure the respite from the earlier downpour was temporary. Lightning continued to zigzag through the sky in the distance, and the ominous rumble of thunder suggested the imminent arrival of another deluge.
The truck was far enough off the highway not to cause problems, but the driver should have put the emergency flashers on, he reflected. Hoping the vehicle wasn't locked, he retrieved a flashlight and flipped on the spotlight mounted near his sideview mirror. He needed to check it out anyway, as a matter of routine. He could take care of the flashers at the same time.
He circled the truck first, noting that the engine was still pinging. Meaning it hadn't been there long. One back tire was fender-deep in mud, but otherwise nothing seemed amiss. Completing his circuit, he checked the driver-side door. Unlocked. Good.
Pulling it open, Dale started to climb up, then froze. The cab wasn't empty. A woman lay sprawled on the seat, one limp arm dangling toward the floor.
A surge of adrenaline shot through him, and Dale squeezed into the cab, balancing one knee on the seat as he leaned over the woman. Pushing aside the shoulder-length light auburn hair that had fallen across her face, he pressed two fingers against her neck. A solid, strong pulse beat a steady rhythm against them, and he let out a slow breath. During his twelve years as a cop in L.A. he'd come upon too many of these kinds of scenes with far different results. The woman might be injured, but at least she was alive.
As Dale set the flashlight down and pulled out his cell phone, he studied her profile. Caucasian, midthirties--and with a very nasty bump on her left temple. He couldn't see any other damage, but her legs were encased in jeans and only a sun-browned length of arm was visible beneath the short sleeves of her cotton shirt. It was possible she'd sustained other injuries that weren't apparent.
Before he could tap in the numbers to summon an ambulance, the woman stirred and gave a slight moan. As he leaned over her again, her eyelids flickered open.
"Ma'am, please don't move. I'm calling an ambulance." Dale kept his voice soft, trying not to startle her.
It didn't work. Jerking her head toward his looming presence, she winced and tried to sit up, but he put out an arm to restrain her.
"Please, ma'am. You've been injured. It would be better if you didn't move until the EMTs check you out."
His soothing tone, meant to calm, seemed to have the opposite effect on her. She stared up at him in the dim light of the cab, blinking as if trying to focus, until all at once fear ignited in her eyes. Fumbling for the door handle on the passenger side, she twisted it open and pushed, scrambling away from him and sliding to the ground with such speed and agility that his mouth dropped open.
Then she slammed the door in his face.
It took a second for his brain to kick back into gear, and by the time he recovered enough to back out of the cab and circle the truck, she was clutching a length of board she must have retrieved from the back, holding it like a baseball bat.