Veronica Davis shook the dust of her hometown off her feet years ago, vowing never to return ý but family matters have brought her home, and a most unexpected love awaits. From award-winning writer Susan Andersen.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Head Over Heels by Susan Andersen
The wail of country music and the bar's smoky, beery smell hit Veronica Davis like a smack upside the head the moment she pushed through the Baker Street Honky Tonk's door. It immediately took her back, bombarding her with a raft of memories.
None of them wonderful.
Stopping just inside the doorway, she drew a couple of deep, carefully controlled breaths and watched a thin haze of smoke drift by on the current she'd created. It wafted and eddied, taking on the multi-colored hues of the neon liquor signs that passed for decor in the dimly lit bar. Votive candles in what she'd swear were the same smoke-smudged glass containers that had been there twelve years ago flickered in the center of each table.
There was a momentary lull while the jukebox switched to a new song. Voices rose and fell, balls clacked at the pool table in the corner, and glasses clinked as a waitress gathered empties from a recently vacated table and stacked them on a tray. A flash of panic threatened to stop the breath in Veronica's lungs, and she forcibly reminded herself that this was merely a brief visit to introduce herself to the new bartender/manager Marissa had hired and to get a quick overview of how the bar was doing. She hadn't worked here for years and didn't intend to ever again, so there was no earthly reason to feel as if she should turn tail and run.
As the waitress balanced the tray of empties in one hand and leaned across the table to wipe up a spill, Veronica remembered only too well how perpetually sticky the tables seemed to remain, no matter how often you washed them. She remembered, too, as a raucous group of men at another table made lewd remarks about the way the waitress filled out her jeans, the constant nerve-wearing commentary.
Oh God. Considering the circumstances that had brought her back to Fossil, she hadn't thought her stomach could possibly feel more chewed up than it already did. But she'd been wrong. While she'd never forgotten what it was like to dodge the free and easy hands of drunken men, it had been a long time since she'd had to deal with it, and its gut-churning immediacy had long ago faded.
But it all came rushing back as she watched one of the men take advantage of the waitress' occupied hands to grab her bottom. An old, familiar taste of impotent fury flooded Veronica's mouth as he grinned at his friends and gave the rounded cheek beneath his palm a squeeze. Incensed, she started forward.
She stopped dead, however, when the waitress's loaded tray dropped to the tabletop with a horrendous crash. It caught the side of the candle holder, which skittered across the table but luckily stopped before it toppled over the edge."That does it!" The cocktail waitress's furious voice rang clear in the sudden cessation of conversation and, reaching back, she raked crimson inch long fingernails across the man's hand, then whirled to face him as the hand jerked back.
The drunk yelped in outrage and surged to his feet, sending his chair clattering across the floor. "You bitch!" Droplets of blood began to form in the raw scratches across his hand and he stared at them incredulously. Then, making a fist, he drew it back as if to strike her.