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Lost Melody

Lost Melody, February 2013
by Dolores W. Maroney

State of Mind Publishing
Featuring: Mel Harper; Hank Travis
250 pages
ISBN: 0988434423
EAN: 2940016340999
Kindle: B00BFIZYKC
e-Book
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"A famous young woman receives the life she dared only dream of."

Fresh Fiction Review

Lost Melody
Dolores W. Maroney

Reviewed by Kay Quintin
Posted June 12, 2013

Romance Contemporary

Mel Ravenswood's father, Hamilton Ravenswood, was a famous rock star who died in a plane crash when she was 10 years old. At her mother's insistence she has been protected and hidden from the paparazzi and news reporters and has now come into her inheritance at 25 again drawing attention. Moving to the small quiet community of Willowbrook, Texas, Mel anonymously takes a job with the Willowbrook Gazette as Mel Harper. Her assignment to cover Henry Travis and his generous donation to the local school brings her a whole new problem when meeting his famous rock star son, Hank....indicative of the very world she hides from!

Mel soon finds herself doing a story on Hank's rock group, Black Wing. Falling in love with a famous musician is the very warning she has had from her mother since childhood. Hank and his band plan on recording their next album call Melody, written by Mel's father just prior to his death and dedicated to Mel portraying his love for his little daughter. Afraid to love a musician always in the spotlight, Mel refuses to commit to the man she has desperately fallen in love with. She wants a normal life of anonymity and a loving husband with whom she can fill her life with, and a regular family. Mel is thrown into a maelstrom of searching for the truth surrounding the events of her father's death and uncovers information that can change her life forever in bringing her closure and future happiness.

Dolores Maroney has created a heartwarming tale of a soul searching child turned adult coming to terms with what happiness really is and what it takes to achieve it. I was completely caught up in this story and loved every turn of the page. I was NOT disappointed in this beautiful novel which was very artistically written. My only regret was that LOST MELODY was over too soon!

Learn more about Lost Melody

SUMMARY

2014 HOLT Medallion Award of Merit
Finalist - 2014 Booksellers Best Award


Out of sight, out of mind. That's what Melody Ravenswood was counting on when she invented a new life for herself as Mel Harper in the small farming community of Willowbrook, Texas. She could be herself, whoever that was. Having long since lost her identity to being the only child and sole beneficiary of a legendary rock and roller, she was finally going to live the normal life she craved – a job, a house, friends and no paparazzi.

Hank Travis is the last thing Mel needs in her new life. The local boy turned rock and roll star's sexy, won't take no for an answer pursuit makes her long for a life she has only dreamed of. Before Mel can have the future she wants with Hank, she must confront her past and find the Melody she lost along the way.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Mel pumped a nickel into the antique parking meter in front of The Donut Hole and went inside. She paused to savor the intoxicating medley of aromas that never failed to jump–start her system—even after a near–sleepless night. Fatigue rolled off her shoulders. She smiled and greeted a few familiar faces with a wave over the crowded shop.

She took her place in line and thanked goodness for the owner's hot chocolate making skills. In the few months she had been in Willowbrook, a cup of Cathy's concoction had become her morning addiction. It was rich and decadent enough to inspire her to give her new life another chance.

At last, her turn at the counter arrived. Cathy smiled warmly at her. Gratitude for her friendship filled Mel with contentment.

"Morning, sunshine," Cathy said, taking in Mel's appearance and coming to the correct conclusion. Nothing got by her. "Another bad night?"

"So so. I think I'm getting better," she lied. She'd hoped moving to a new place, one far away in both distance and demeanor, would be the magic cure for her sleepless nights, but it hadn't proven to be the case. It seemed her problems were destined to follow her wherever she went.

"I don't get it, girlfriend. There's nothing in Willowbrook to keep a person awake in daylight, much less at night."

"I know. It's not the town. It's me. I just don't sleep well. Maybe I'm part vampire," she joked, knowing it wasn't the undead keeping her awake.

"I read something about an herbal remedy...Melatonin, I think it was called. The name reminded me of you. Mel...Melatonin. Get it?"

She smiled at the well–meant help. At least her new friend cared enough to offer whatever she could. "Yeah, I get it. Thanks, but I've tried it. Didn't work."

"Oh well." Cathy shrugged. "What will it be today, the usual?"

"I've got an interview, so two hot chocolates, and pick out half a dozen doughnuts for me. Anything will do, but make sure at least one has chocolate on it."

Cathy filled the order and passed it over the counter. "I'll put it on your tab."

"Thanks. Remind me to settle up at the end of the week."

"Oh, don't you worry! Go on, I've got customers waiting."

Mel held the door open for the group of silver–haired ladies who met at The Donut Hole every morning to gossip over pastries and coffee. She'd love to write an article about them one day. They probably had a million stories to tell about the town, and every one of them would be good. The last one through the door thanked her, and Mel headed to her Jeep. She tossed the doughnut bag onto the passenger seat, stowed the two steaming cups in the built–in cup holders, and went in search of her interviewee.

She pulled to the curb in front of 755 Pecan Street and cut the engine. The house looked like all its neighbors, except for the rioting scarlet azaleas in bloom along the base of the raised porch. She peered through the open front door behind the rusty screen. Seeing no one inside, she rapped her knuckles against the screen door sending it clattering against the jamb.

"Mr. Travis? Anyone home?"

She stepped back, taking a moment to admire the neat yard and well kept flowerbeds. The next–door neighbor tended her rose bushes, wearing a broad brimmed straw hat and rubber gardening clogs. The woman turned, revealing a sleeping infant in one of those backpack things hanging from her shoulders. Mel squashed the ping of envy that inevitably came when she saw a mother with her kids. Maybe one day....

No. It was a dream she'd let go of a long time ago, along with the one about finding a guy who didn't mind her being a fugitive from her own life.

A bee buzzed around her head and zeroed in on the bright spring buds surrounding the porch. She closed her eyes and breathed in the morning air tinged with the intoxicating sweetness of roses and the fresh clean scent of wet earth. Aromatherapy at its best. If peace had a scent, this she thought, was it. As tempting as it was, she couldn't stand on the porch all day. She had a job to do.

She knocked again, and getting no answer she turned to leave.

"Just go on in," the woman next door spoke, halting Mel halfway down the steps. "Henry is in there somewhere. He won't mind."

"Thanks. I'll do that. He is expecting me."

She wiggled her fingers at the neighbor—the best she could do with her hands full—and backtracked up the steps. Life in Willowbrook, and in rural north Texas, was different than anything she had ever experienced. Few people locked their doors, and everyone knew everyone else's business. In a few short months, she had grown to love the lifestyle. At first, the similarities between her busybody neighbors and the paparazzi had shaken her, but it hadn't taken long to figure out the difference. Folks in Willowbrook took care of each other—like a family.

She juggled her offering of doughnuts and hot chocolate and tried the screen door. It was unlocked. No surprise.

She stepped cautiously into the living room. The furniture was dated but not worn out. Morning light through the front window illuminated a faded floral rug over a hardwood floor. Other than a novel resting on a small table next to an overstuffed recliner, the room appeared little used.

"Hello! Anyone home?"

Silence.

She moved with caution, announcing her presence as she went. She could just see tomorrow's headline—Reporter Frightens Elderly Resident to Death. Or another possibility—Elderly Resident Mistakes Reporter for Burglar and Opens Fire. Neither one held any appeal.

She passed the tiny dining room and kitchen. They were both empty, which left only the short hallway and the bedrooms to explore. She entered the passage on trembling legs. Her imagination conjured every terrifyingly possible scenario. Poor Mr. Travis might be incapacitated on the bathroom floor...or worse.

Only three doors opened off the hall. Two bedrooms and one bath, she surmised—much like her own house a few streets over. She peeked around the first door and breathed a sigh of relief. The tiny bathroom was empty.

She leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. Her heart beat a wild rhythm in her throat and a pent–up breath rushed past her lips. She took a moment to gather her courage and checked the next room. A bedroom. It, too, was scrupulously clean and empty.

"Thank heavens," she muttered.

A faint rustling of papers drew her attention to the final door. Adrenaline flowed and her heart raced even faster. Fearing the worst, she sucked in a steadying breath and stepped into the open doorway.

She gasped.

Oh, Lord!

The man seated at the antique secretary didn't fit the house. Literally. He overwhelmed the small bedroom–turned–office. Long, denim clad legs stretched across the room. His feet, encased in canvas sneakers, tapped a silent rhythm. An overweight black Labrador Retriever slept on the floor next to his chair. The useless watchdog rolled her brown eyes at Mel but didn't move from her position.

"Hello," she called. Neither one stirred. The dog was either very well trained or the laziest canine on the planet. She couldn't imagine what the man's excuse was. Then she noticed the thin wire snaking across his chest from his shirt pocket to the tiny earbud headphones he wore. She shrugged and leaned against the doorframe. No wonder he hadn't heard her. He probably had the volume so high he wouldn't hear a freight train bearing down on him.

If this was Mr. Travis, he was younger than she expected—perhaps thirty. Certainly no more than thirty–five. His sandy hair was cut in a familiar style. Willowbrook had one barbershop and one barber, Judd Spencer. Her first week on the job she had been asked to write an article on the aging barber who had been doling out the same haircut to any and all comers for the last forty years.

She noted the man's strong, cleanly shaved jaw. He wore surprisingly stylish reading glasses, Ralph Lauren if she knew her logos, and she did. The sleeves of his starched dress shirt were rolled to reveal the corded muscles of his forearms. He held a sheaf of papers in long fingers.

He looked like he should be in a magazine ad for...something. Men's cologne, a sexy watch perhaps. Whatever. He was too sexy to be in this house—or in Willowbrook for that matter.

He ran a finger down the page, his focus complete. Her skin tingled. Lucky piece of paper. What it would feel like to have him study her with the same intensity, and oh Lord, to have those hands explore every inch of her body?

She licked her lips and swallowed hard past the lump in her throat. She had never seen a sexier man. Just watching him made things itch and ache that shouldn't be itching and aching—not for someone she was supposed to interview. It wasn't professional.

She mentally kicked herself. She had a job to do.

She took another step into the room and waved a quickly cooling cup of hot chocolate into his line of vision. "Hello."

Mr. Travis jumped to his feet, pulling the headphones and glasses off in the same motion. Summer green eyes framed by long lashes took stock of her in a brisk head to toe sweep. He dropped the papers and reading glasses to the desk. The earbuds swung on thin wires from his pocket, and the distinct chords of "Melody" by RavensBlood filled the air. The lump in her throat threatened to cut off her air supply, and those earlier tingles turned to icy shivers of dread. Memories battered at her defenses and threatened her hold on reality. She took a step back—as if distance could lessen the impact.

She forced the memories into the neat little box she had assigned them and mentally shoved it into the cellar where it belonged.

You can do this.

The job. Willowbrook. It was a new beginning, a chance to put the painful memories behind her. She would not blow it because the man had that song on his player. Hell, everyone on the planet had that song. It was something she had to learn to live with.

She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "I–I'm looking for Henry Travis." She nodded down the hallway in the direction of the front door. "I knocked several times. Y– your neighbor said I should come on in." Another more welcome idea blossomed in her chest. Perhaps he wasn't the man she'd come to interview. Please, God. Let it be someone else, anyone else. Just not a man with the ability to make her tingle, and long to run away at the same time. "Is Henry home?"

"Which Henry Travis are you looking for?"

His voice, like hot chocolate with an edge, coated the icy points of her nerve endings and brought back that tingly feeling. Insanity. It was the only explanation. "Um, I don't know exactly. Is there more than one?"

"Yes. I'm Henry Travis, Jr., but everyone calls me Hank. Henry is my dad." The dog roused from her stupor and stood next to him. He rubbed her head, earning the dog's adoration. "This is Betty Boop. She's harmless."

"Obviously." She spared a glance at the dog and returned her gaze to the man who most decidedly was not harmless—at least not to her, not with that infernal song still playing from the earbuds dangling from his pocket. She entertained the idea of asking him to turn it off but doing so would only invite questions she didn't want to answer. "Do you live here?"

He flashed a quirky half–smile that weakened her knees. "This is my dad's house. I have a farm outside of town. The Chilcote place. Maybe you know it."

She shook her head. "No, I don't think I do. I'm sort of new around here." Her legs wobbled under his scrutiny. Damn. She needed to get a grip, and fast. The way his eyes raked her from head to toe made her conscious of the way her silk blouse draped over her breasts, and judging by the way his gaze lingered there, he had noticed, too. So much for the professional appearance she'd been going for when she'd selected her wardrobe this morning.

"What have you got there?" He nodded toward her hands.

"Oh. I brought doughnuts and hot chocolate." She raised the bag as evidence.

His eyebrows shot up. "Okaaay. Why don't we go to the kitchen, and you can tell me why you're here."

She heard his low whistle when she turned and led the way. With each step, she silently cursed her other wardrobe choice, a sleek cotton and spandex blend pencil skirt that molded to her curves but allowed her hips to move when she walked. Heavy footsteps lagged behind—far enough to get the full effect. She placed her burden on the vintage oak kitchen table and turned. He stopped just inside the doorway, his face unreadable as he lounged against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest and his hips cocked to one side in a casual yet wary stance. The interview was not going well. Not at all. If she didn't get this back on track, she would walk out of here with nothing—and that just wouldn't do.

She pasted a smile on her face. "Maybe I should start over." She extended her right hand. "I'm Mel Harper from the Willowbrook Gazette."

Betty Boop ambled past her master and sniffed the doughnut bag. She plunked her rear end down and turned pleading eyes on the man in the doorway. Hank ignored the dog and Mel's outstretched hand.

"Well, Ms. Harper. I don't do interviews, doughnuts or no doughnuts."

His tone cut her bravado off at the knees. She dropped her hand to her side. "But I have an appointment at nine–thirty to interview you about your donation to the Willowbrook High School Band program."

He straightened, dwarfing the kitchen as he had the small office. Gulliver in Lilliput, and she was definitely a Lilliputian. She gripped a chair back to steady herself. The earbuds swung from his shirt pocket, but thankfully, he had turned the music off. He was close enough she could smell his aftershave—something woodsy with expensive undertones. Sexy.

He cocked his hips to one side and buried his left hand in the front pocket of his jeans while he studied the pattern in the old linoleum. His right hand rubbed along the back of his neck. She gripped the chair tighter to steady herself and to keep from touching him.

With a long sigh, he dropped his hand. He raised his eyes to hers and her heart did a somersault. In a matter of minutes, his appraisal had gone from hot to arctic to a gentle spring breeze—cool with a promise of genuine warmth. Wow! His mood changed faster than the Texas weather.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Harper. You must be looking for Dad. I wasn't aware he made a donation to the band. But I'm not surprised. It sounds like something he would do." He held his hand out, palm up. "He must have lost track of the time. He eats breakfast every day down at the fire station. I'm sure he got wrapped up in a domino game and forgot."

As if on cue, the screen door slammed and a smaller, older version of Hank Travis stormed the kitchen. "I'm sorry. I forgot the time."

She liked the newcomer instantly. Beneath heavy eyebrows, his blue eyes twinkled with merriment and spunk. Smile lines bracketed his mouth identical to his son's. Yes, this was the solid block from which the younger man had been carved. Time had smoothed the rough edges on one but had a ways to go with the other.

She glanced at Hank. He flashed another smile and raised an eyebrow as if to say, "I told you so." Clearly, he loved his father, quirks and all. Her heart softened toward him just a little.

"Chester tried to pull a fast one and got caught," the older man continued, "so we started the game over." He extended a hand lined with age.

She shook his hand. "Mel Harper. I just met Hank." A look passed between father and son.

"I hope he wasn't rude," Henry said, absently petting the dog who had wandered over, tail wagging, for some attention. "He doesn't care too much for reporters."

If that wasn't the understatement of the century, she didn't know what was, but she was a professional. Kill them with kindness was her motto. "No, sir. He's been quite the gentleman." She dared Hank to deny it. There it was again, a quick, shared glance between them filled with unspoken communication. "I brought doughnuts and hot chocolate. Would you like some?"

"Why, thanks! That was mighty thoughtful of you." Henry took a plate from the cupboard and emptied the bag onto it, exclaiming over the pastries as if she'd brought French delicacies.

"Son, why don't you heat her hot chocolate in the microwave? You can have my cup. I'm a coffee man myself," he said apologetically, "and I'm already over my limit for the morning." He took a paper napkin from the holder and selected a glazed doughnut from the plate. "But I never turn down a doughnut." He took a generous bite and tore off a smaller piece. He tossed it up. Betty Boop made an athletic leap and caught the treat in mid–air. Encouraged by her success, she plopped at his feet.

The older man pulled out a chair for Mel and settled himself across from her. Hank placed a warmed cup at her elbow and excused himself. She watched him go. Mood swings and lack of social skills aside, the man had it going on. Threadbare denim had never looked as good as it did hugging his slim hips, firm ass, and long legs. She forced her mind back to the reason she was here.

"I'm afraid I got off to a bad start with your son. I hope I didn't overstep by coming here."

"No, no, don't mind him. He's always short with reporters. He'll come around," he said. "Now...about the interview."

"Why? I mean, what does he have against reporters?"

"Oh, nothing. He had a bad experience a few years ago. Don't think anything of it."

"Well, okay." She was more than a little curious, but she had a deadline to meet. Though she couldn't blame him for that particular dislike, she had her own reasons to dislike certain members of her profession, Hank Travis and his problems were none of her business. She pulled a mini–recorder from her purse and set it on the table between them. "Do you mind if I record our interview?"

"That's fine as long as I don't have to listen to myself on it. Does anyone like the way they sound on a recording?"

Her gut clenched. She forced a smile to her face. "I suppose some do. But you're right, most people don't recognize their own voices on a recording."

He rubbed his chin. "I sure don't. Nope, I'm always surprised at the way I sound." He waved his hand at the recorder. "Go ahead. Turn it on."

She pressed the record button. "I understand you're making a large donation to the Willowbrook High School Band. Can you tell me what motivated you?"

"Sure. They need new instruments and uniforms." He laughed, deep and rich. "I can see what you're thinking, young lady. Don't be worrying I'm giving my life savings away to a bunch of ungrateful teenagers. I'm doing all right, and they need the money more than I do. They've been doing car washes and selling candy bars all year and they've hardly made a dent in the bill, so I thought I would help them out. They're a good bunch of kids, and I have a soft spot where the band is concerned."

He paused, his eyes focused on something only he could see. He drew himself up. "Anyway, every time there's a budget cut, it hits the music program first. I don't think its right, so I help them out every now and then."

"But Mr. Travis, twenty–five thousand dollars is a lot of money."

He looked her square in the eye. "I can afford it."

She backed off. "Well, then. Okay. You say you have a soft spot for the band. Why?"

His face softened, and a gentle smile curved his lips. "The band and the music program were good to my boy, Hank, and his mother, Gloria. My late wife taught music at the high school for twenty years before she passed on."

She instantly regretted her earlier skepticism.

Familiar footsteps sounded behind her. "Dad? Sorry to interrupt," Hank said. Shivers ran along her spine when she heard the smooth voice. "I made some notes for you on those papers. I'm going out to the farm. Are you coming for dinner tonight?"

"Yeah. How's six o'clock?"

"Perfect. I'll see you at six." Hank snapped his fingers, and Betty Boop stretched and followed her master as he left without so much as a goodbye.

Rude. She asked a few more questions, thanked Henry for his generous donation and his time, and rose to leave. He followed her to the front door. "You should ask Hank a few questions, too."

She didn't want to bring up how inhospitable his son had been, but she couldn't forget the sudden bolt of desire she'd felt when she first saw him. Personally, she wanted to do a lot more than ask him questions, but professionally he'd made it clear he didn't want to see her again.

"I don't think it would be such a good idea. I'm a reporter, remember? Besides, I only have until this afternoon to finish the article for tomorrow's edition."

His face fell like a kicked puppy. She scrambled to think of something she could do or say to put a smile back on his face. Then, like his son, his mood abruptly shifted. He snapped his fingers. "Hey! Why don't you come out to the farm with me this evening for dinner? You might get a second article if you play your cards right."

She couldn't imagine what kind of article she could write about a farmer, but she genuinely liked Henry and didn't want to disappoint him. "I don't know," she hedged.

"Trust me, Ms. Harper. Meet me there around six. It's the place out on Route 544. The one with the black bird wings painted on the barn."

She knew the place. She'd wondered about the giant black wings but decided it was just coincidence and better left alone.

He waited for her answer, expectation written all over his expressive face. She really didn't want to go, but she didn't want to hurt his feelings either.

"Well, if you think it will be all right." Her body warmed at the memory of the sexy denim–clad Hank Travis. She could make a dinner out of him, but as tasty as he appeared on the outside, she had no doubt he was pure vinegar on the inside.

"Oh, he won't mind. I bring friends out all the time," he said.

Agreeing to dinner at Hank's house was so not a good idea, but she couldn't bring herself to say no to his father—not with him standing there with a hopeful expression on his face.

"Well, okay, but I have to turn in the article before I can go, so I'd better get a move on."

"Run along, then." He held the screen door for her. "Six o'clock. Don't be late."

She climbed into her Jeep and pulled away from the curb. She had often wondered about her sanity but there was no doubt. She was insane. Completely bonkers to let Henry talk her into dinner at his son's house.


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