In honor of What the Heart Wants being part of Amazon’s November 100 Books for 3.99 or Less, I thought I’d give away some copies for all of you Kindle owners. Actually, you don’t have to own a Kindle to enjoy this giveaway. All you need is a Kindle app or your computer, smartphone, or tablet.
To whet your appetite, I’m posting an excerpt here. To win, all you need to do is post a comment ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE–NOT HERE. There’s a link to that page next to this post (it’s to the right on my computer. So, comment and win!
Winner of the HOLT Medallion
for Single Title/Mainstream Romance
“Hello?” A deep, masculine voice called from the front.
The voice did not belong to Mr. DeFoe. Candi backed out of the storeroom, and cautiously replied, “Who’s there?”
A tall man with wide shoulders wearing a uniform appeared in the back room almost as soon as Candi got the words out.
“I think that’s my line.”
A frown creased the man’s wide brow, and a badge on his jacket declared him a lawman. His hand rested on his gun as he eyed her suspiciously. That made him the second person in town today who’d looked at her that way. Aunt Ruby said to never trust a lawman because they were all crooked, always looking for something to harass you about. She felt her hackles rising.
“I’m perusing the shop, sir. Mr. DeFoe gave me the key.” She held it up for him to see. “I might be interested in renting it.”
He took off his dark brown cowboy-style hat and raked a hand through reddish-brown hair cut short, but not short enough to conceal its tendency to wave. A ruddy complexion and freckles that went along with his hair color sprinkled across his nose and cheeks making him look younger than the creases on his forehead indicated. A jagged scar on his chin marred what might have otherwise been wholesome features.
“My apologies, ma’am.” He approached and held out a hand, “I’m Sheriff Grady Wallace.”
Candi reluctantly gave him her hand, but retrieved it after only a brief shake.
“When I was making my rounds this morning, I noticed the front door standing open and came in to check it out. This building’s been empty for nearly a year now, so naturally, seeing that door open led me to believe that someone had broken in.”
“Well, sure. Someone might have been looking for shelter for the night, or teenagers could have been up to some mischief.”
“Well, I’m not a teenager, and I didn’t spend the night here, nor would I,” she said.
“Oh, I wasn’t implying that you would.” “What were you implying, then?” “I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name.”
“I didn’t give it.”
He took a breath, twirled his hat on his hand, and smiled. “How about if we start over.”
She stared at him blankly. She had no idea what he meant.
“I’m Sheriff Grady Wallace,” he said and extended his hand again.
She looked at it, frowning. “We already shook.”
He smiled again, like he wanted to put her at ease, and twirled his hat again. “I apologize for bustin’ in on you. I imagine I must have given you a fright.”
“You did that.”
“You have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
Great. She’d have to give him her name. He’d asked her point blank. She sighed and said, “Candi.”
“My name is Candi Heart, sir.” Candi Heart? Saying it out loud to a stranger, it sounded stupid and unnatural. What was wrong with her? She should have decided on Jones or Smith or Collins or anything, but Heart? At first, she’d thought it was catchy and memorable, but now she just thought it sounded like some kind of fancy lady. She was not that kind of lady.
He chuckled and rubbed his fingertips across the scar on his chin. “Your name is Candi Heart?”
“Yes, sir. I reckon you could say my mama had a sense of humor.” She waited and watched, hoping the explanation made the lie go down easier.
“Please, call me Grady.”
“Oh, I couldn’t.”
“Because you’re the law, and a body ought to show the proper respect.”
“Well, Ms. Heart, we don’t much stand on ceremony around here. If you’re plannin’ to live in Angel Ridge, you’ll find that out soon enough.”
Candi didn’t know what to say to that, so she didn’t say anything at all. He was quite a bit taller than her, and the fact that he was the sheriff, and that he still had a hand on his gun, made her uncomfortable. She remembered again Aunt Ruby’s warning about lawmen. Best to not say too much.
“So, you’re a hair dresser?”
He sure was nosey, askin’ all his questions. “No, sir.”
“I’m sorry. I just assumed that you might be since you’re thinking to rent Madge’s old shop.”
Candi continued to watch the man carefully. He seemed completely at ease. Confident and in control. Wonder how he did that when she felt like she might bust right out of her skin? She wished he’d get on his way.
“Mr. DeFoe will be coming by soon, and I’d like to look around a bit more before he comes, if that’s all right with you . . . sir,” she added.
“Of course. I’m sorry to hold you up.” He put his hat back on, and smiled widely this time. “I’ll just be on my way. But first, I need you to do something for me.”
Candi frowned. What could she possibly do for him? Still, she’d be crazy to get cross-wise of the law her first day in town. “I’ll do my best, sir.”
“Call me Grady.”
He held up a hand, halting her words. “Now, I insist. You callin’ me ‘sir’ makes me feel old before my time.”
Dixie Ferguson had said near the same thing earlier, but that was different. She could call Dixie by her first name because she ran a diner where interacting with people on a personal level was appropriate. This, however, was the sheriff. She couldn’t imagine ever calling him by his given name.
“I’m just bein’ respectful, sir. It’s nothin’ to do with your age. It’s to do with who you are—the sheriff.”
“I appreciate that, but if it’s just the same to you, I’d like you or anyone else in town to call me Grady. I’ve lived here my whole life, and as I said, we don’t stand on ceremony in Angel Ridge.” He looped a thumb in his gun belt and rocked back on his heels. “Would you be willing to give it a try?”
She took a breath and tried to at least act like she had relaxed into his easy manner, but found it terribly difficult. She chewed her lower lip, considering, and then said, “I’d be willin’ to try, say in a week or so, but certainly not with my just havin’ met you. I’m sorry, sir.”
Her words made a frown crease his brow again. “You mind me asking you where you’re from?”
She’d had about enough of his questions. “Yes, sir. I do.”
“Meanin’ no disrespect, but unless I’ve done something wrong and there’s some official-like reason that you’d be askin’, I don’t see as it’s any of your business.”
“I see.” He pulled the brim of his hat down lower on his forehead. “My apologies. I don’t mean to offend. Most folks around here would call asking a newcomer in town where they’re from just makin’ conversation.”
“Is that why you asked? Because you were just ‘makin’ conversation?’” She looked deep into his hazel-colored eyes to discern the truth of his words. He looked right back.
“I was just curious. Your accent isn’t like what you hear in our foothills. It has the sound of the mountains in it.”
So, he was an observer of people and their ways. Candi supposed he’d need to be in his line of work. She’d have to work on being more neighborly. If she was going to run a shop, folks would expect her to be friendly, but she didn’t see how that meant she had to tell everybody her business. Still, she’d do well to hold to Aunt Ruby’s old sayin’, You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
“You’re right, Sheriff. I am from the mountains.” She’d let him take that as he would. She wasn’t about to tell him she was from Laurel Mountain.
“Hello!” “Back here, Bud.” The sheriff called out to Mr. DeFoe, but didn’t break eye
contact with her. Let him look as long as he wants, Candi thought. He’s not gonna see anything but a stranger who’s just arrived in Angel Ridge.
“What are you doin’ here, Grady?”
At last he looked away to speak to Mr. DeFoe. Finally able to breathe again, Candi took a long, deep breath of the cool musty air filling the back room.
“Like I was tellin’ Ms. Heart here, I was doin’ my morning rounds and saw the front door to the building standin’ wide open. Since the place has been vacant for so long, I figured I ought to check it out.”
Mr. DeFoe slapped the sheriff on the shoulder and offered him his hand. “Well, I’m much obliged, Grady. Appreciate you keepin’ an eye on things around town.”
The sheriff took Mr. DeFoe’s hand. “That’s what you pay me for, Bud.”
“That it is.”
“I’ll leave you to your business, then.” The sheriff swung his gaze back to Candi and touched the brim of his hat. “A pleasure meetin’ you, Ms. Heart.”
Candi nodded, but didn’t say anything. Words sometimes were unnecessary.
© Deborah Grace Staley