People who knew Treble James called her Trouble. Although she'd returned to Joyous, Tennessee, to help her sister through a rough pregnancy, the townsfolk expected their former wild child to get bored and run back to Atlanta long before the baby was born.
Even the town's new doctor was worried Treble's antics would upset not only the mother-to-be, but her ailing stepfather. Keith Caldwell might be handsome and worldly, but he loved the quiet town of Joyous precisely because it was safe and predictable. And after what he'd been through, he wanted to keep it that way.
Keith starts to change his opinion on the benefits of peace and quiet when things heat up between him and Treble. But is the big-city girl going to leave him in the lurch, or will she stay in her former hometown and put the "joy" back into Keith's life?
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July 10, 2007
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Excerpt from Trouble in Tennessee by Tanya Michaels
"Please?" The word was simple and dignified. As if it hadn't been preceded by twenty minutes of cajoling.
Even though they were on the phone, Treble James could picture the earnest expression in her half sister's big blue eyes. "Charity, you know I'll make time to visit after the baby is born, but--"
"How would I know that? You've been back home to Joyous all of, let me think, once in the past decade."
Maybe that was because Joyous, Tennessee, had never quite lived up to its name for Treble. Stifling, Tennessee. That would have been appropriate.
"I was there for your wedding," Treble pointed out, keeping a wary eye on the digital clock atop her bedroom nightstand.
"You don't think I'd make the trip for you again?"
"Then make it now," her sister begged. It was unlike Charity to request favors, particularly those that inconvenienced other people. "I'm scared. The books say placenta previa isn't all that uncommon, and my OB says mine isn't a severe case and that panicking is no good for me or the baby...but I'm a first-time mommy. Having my big sister here would make me feel better. Besides, being on bed rest is driving me nuts! Come tell me dirty jokes or something, keep me from killing my poor husband."
Charity doing harm to any living creature was laughable, but to Bill Sumner? They'd been smitten with each other since high school, as evidenced by their marrying shortly after Charity's graduation. It blew Treble's mind that her sister, at twenty-two, was expecting a child and had already been married four years. She hadn't even been old enough to drink champagne at her own wedding! Treble had taken it upon herself to imbibe enough for both of them.
It had been the best way to cope with being in Joyous two weeks after a bad breakup with the boyfriend who was supposed to have been her date. Twenty-nine-year-old Treble's relationship record--in contrast to Bill and Charity's seven years together--was about six months.
"Charity, I don't want to cut you off, but I need to leave for work, so--"
"You know what being pregnant makes you think about? Motherhood. I'm about to have my own little girl, and I wish Mom... Even though you've never been pregnant, you're my closest female relative. It would mean the world to me if you were here right now. Mom would have wanted that, her two girls together."
Treble did a double take, actually staring at the receiver. "I thought you were the good sister. Since when do you use emotional blackmail?"
"Is it working?"
Yes. "I really do have to leave for the station." Charity's softspoken barb had found its mark, though. Despite Treble's cynical shell, she retained weak spots for her late mother and younger sister.
"All right." Charity sighed. "I'm sorry to dump this on you. I know you have a career, a life in Georgia beyond all of us, but I miss you, Treb. And I love you."
"Love you, too, brat." The epithet had become a term of endearment over the years, but this evening it seemed particularly applicable. Didn't her sister know what she was asking? To go to Tennessee early and just wait around for Charity's due date in July...
Few citizens of Joyous would welcome Treble with open arms. More like the sign of the cross. She'd been a somewhat, ah, spirited youth, and folks in small towns had long memories.
Treble hung up, catching sight of herself in the oval mirror on the wall. "Don't give me that look," she chastised her reflection. "You don't want to go back any more than I do."
Talking to herself? Never a good sign. But Treble, a weeknight DJ for an Atlanta pop station, was used to addressing an audience. An audience she'd be late for if she didn't get moving.
Although she would be in-studio tonight and not doing a remote broadcast at one of the clubs she occasionally visited, she stopped long enough to run a brush through the dark ringlets that spilled past her shoulder blades and to apply her favorite dark red lip gloss. Even if her listeners couldn't see her, it helped her get into character for "Trouble J," one of the most popular noncommuting show hosts in the city. While the best airtime was in the mornings and afternoons, when most of the working crowd was stuck in gridlock on I-75, I-85 or the 285 loop around Atlanta, Treble held damn good ratings for her period and liked the late hours that allowed her to sleep in on weekdays and leave her weekend free for a social life. Not, she reflected as she headed toward the parking garage, that she'd had much of one lately.
The last guy to ask her out had been a producer on one of the station's other shows, and she wasn't interested in merging her professional life with her personal life. The producer aside, she'd been subtly discouraging men for several months.