Melissa was just getting out of the shower when her phone rang. She wrapped herself up in a bath towel and ran to answer.
“Hey, it’s me. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed spending time with you today and to wish you a good night.”
Melissa was grinning from ear to ear. “Thank you. I loved spending time with you, too. Did you find any new leads?”
“I’m sorry,” Melissa said. “Just remember I’ll help you tomorrow if you want.”
“Rest well, and I’ll check on you in the morning, if it’s okay with you.”
Melissa laughed, and the sound rolled through him like silk against his skin.
“Of course it’s okay,” she said. “Call anytime.”
And then the connection ended, and Sully put his phone on the charger, got in bed, and turned out the lights. He pulled up the covers, and within minutes he was asleep.
The sound of a siren woke Sully up the next morning, and he was out of bed, his heart pounding with adrenaline, before he remembered he wasn’t at the station anymore. But hearing a siren before daylight had him wondering what was going on in Blessings.
He glanced at the clock. It was just after six. He could smell coffee wafting up from downstairs and could do with a cup of that right now. However, it was too early for breakfast, and he wasn’t dressed. There was a one-cup coffee maker and an assortment of flavors on the cabinet above the mini-fridge, so he chose one of those, filled it with water, slid the empty coffee cup into place, and started it before going into the bathroom to shave. By the time he was finished, so was the coffee. He carried it with him to the window and watched what was left of the sunrise as he took his first sip, wondering if Janie was somewhere in the world, watching it, too.
Later as he was dressing, he began rethinking the wisdom of calling Melissa to help. Selfishly, he would love to spend the morning with her, but he’d had a concussion before and remembered the headache that had come with it being pretty rough and lasting a couple of days. And with that memory firmly in place, he talked himself out of calling.
Then five minutes later, she sent him a text.
My headache is barely there. I would be happy to help.
He grinned. She’d taken the decision out of his hands by offering, and he couldn’t think of one good reason to tell her no, so he sent her a text.
Pick you up around nine.
The day was suddenly a whole lot brighter as he hit Send and went down to breakfast with a bounce in his step. He noticed the young couple was absent, but three older women had arrived. He nodded at them as he entered, then paused at the sideboard to talk to Bud.
“What was the siren about so early this morning?”
“I was listening on the scanner, and I’m pretty sure they had a woman giving birth in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.”
“That’s great. A new baby in the world,” Sully said, then thought of his birth mother, knowing when the baby was born she was giving him away.
“Morning, Sully,” Rachel said as she came out of the kitchen. “Belgian waffles fresh from the waffle iron. Whipped cream and a mixed-berry compote, or warm maple syrup.”
It was against Sully’s personal beliefs to refuse waffles.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, then picked up a plate.
“Are you going to do more research today?” Bud asked.
“After breakfast,” Sully said.
“Then good hunting,” Bud said, and took the coffeepot over to the table to refill the cups for the trio of ladies.
A few minutes later, Rachel came back out with more hot waffles. She put them on the sideboard, then paused, eyeing Sully when he wasn’t looking, trying to figure out who he reminded her of. She was still staring when Bud came by and shifted her focus.
“Hey, honey, I just registered a family of four. They’re putting their things up in the room and will be back down for breakfast soon.”
“What are the ages of the kids?” she asked.
“Oh, both teenagers for sure.”
“Then the menu on the sideboard should suit them all.”
After texting Sully, Melissa still had a few calls to make, and this one she dreaded. She had yet to call her insurance company to let them know what had happened, because after she did, they would have to contact the responsible party, which in this case would be Barb Holland. She hated to add to what Barb must be going through and felt sorry that she was left to clean up her husband’s mess.
But the good that came out of Melissa finally making the call was finding out a rental car would be furnished as part of the perks of her policy.
With that checked off her to-do list, she gathered the garbage to take out before Sully arrived and headed out the kitchen door.
After Sully finished breakfast, he ran upstairs to get his notebook.
“Still on the search?” Bud asked as Sully came down with his keys in his hand.
“Yes. I’m going to the library today.”
“I wish you good luck,” Bud said.
“Thanks. Maybe today will be the day,” Sully said, and was out the door to go pick up Melissa.
His heart skipped a beat as he pulled up in the driveway. The anticipation of seeing her again made him feel like a teenager on a date. He was halfway to the door when she came out of the house with a purse on her arm and a smile on her face. She waved, and he waved back.
He thought as she walked toward him what an elegant woman she’d turned out to be. Classic features. A calm demeanor. And her clothing choices were timeless. Dark pants, a pale-pink long-sleeved shirt, and black flats. The smile on her face overwhelmed the bruises.
“Morning, sunshine,” Sully said as they met on the brick-paved path.
“Buenos días,” she said. “Remember Spanish class?”
He laughed. “I do now! Lord, I hadn’t thought of that in years. The teacher wouldn’t let us speak anything but Spanish in the class.”
Melissa grinned. “I remember you told the teacher you were infernó…when you meant enfermo.”
Sully grinned. “Yeah. Something I’d eaten in the lunchroom. If I remember right, I wasn’t the only one to get sick that day. You have a wicked memory.”
“Oh, girls always remember stuff about their first love.”
“And boys are so hormone-driven at that age with the girl they are crushing on that the only thoughts in their heads are when they might get a chance to kiss her.”
“As I remember, we had quite a few of those chances,” she said.
“Not nearly enough,” Sully said as he slipped a hand beneath her elbow and walked her to the car.
As soon as she was inside, he got in. Now they were together within a confined space, and the easy conversation had stalled. He glanced at her. She was looking at him.
“I don’t think I mentioned how beautiful you look,” he said.
A faint-pink flush spread across her cheeks, but she shook her head at him and smiled.
“Thank you. You certainly know how to make a woman forget about the purple bruise on her face.”
“What bruise? I don’t see a bruise,” Sully said, then winked as he started the car.
With Melissa pointing out the way, they soon arrived at the library.
“This is nice,” Sully said as he parked beneath the shade of the widespread limbs of an old oak.
“It’s been here about as long as Blessings has,” Melissa said. “They have a fairly new librarian. Her name is Gina Green. So let’s get this party started. Here’s hoping we find a lead for you today.”
“Here’s hoping,” Sully said.
They got out, and a couple of minutes later, Melissa was introducing him.
“Gina, this is Sully Raines, an old friend of mine who’s on a search to find his birth mother. Sully, this is Gina Green.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sully. How can I help you?” Gina said.
“The pleasure is mine,” Sully said. “I need to see some older issues of the local paper, going back at least thirty years to start.”
“They’re going to be on microfiche,” Gina said. “Follow me back here to the readers. I’ll show you how to access and load them. Try not to get them out of order.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sully said.
Gina set Sully and Melissa up with the first rolls of microfiche, showed them how to switch them out, and then left them to it.
“Here goes nothing,” Sully said as they began with issues over thirty-seven years back, which was when Robert and Janie Carter parted company.
They kept changing rolls of microfiche and reading, until they’d gone forward through five years of papers. At that point, Melissa quietly got up to go to the bathroom, and Sully was so focused on reading that he didn’t realize she was gone until a few minutes later. He looked toward the bathroom, then shrugged and kept reading until he saw how much time had passed since she left.
He got up to go check on her, but saw her curled up on a sofa in the reading area, sound asleep. He walked over to where she was lying to feel her pulse. It was as steady as her breathing.
He stood for a few moments looking down at her, remembering how mesmerizing her green eyes were when she watched him, and thought of the awkwardness of their first kiss. They had gotten better at it as the year progressed, but she’d moved away before it went any farther. He couldn’t help but think what might have been, and even let himself wonder what the possibilities were of having a relationship now.
Before his imagination took him any farther down the road to “what if,” a tear rolled from the corner of her eye and down the side of her nose.
Ah dammit. Don’t cry, honey.
The urge to reach out to her was strong, but the bruises on her forehead and cheek were vivid reminders not to touch. Shoving a hand through his hair in frustration, Sully sat back down and read ten more years of newspapers before he turned off the reader.
(C) Sharon Sala, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2019
Blessings, Georgia #9
What do you do when your whole life is turned upside down?
Sully Raines sets out to find his birth mother, and ends up in Blessings, Georgia. A new surprise awaits him here, but of the best kind—his childhood sweetheart, whom he hasn't seen since she moved away when they were teens, is living in Blessings now. He's not sure she's as happy to see him as he is to see her, but it's been a lot of years, and a lot of water under the bridge...
Sully's heartfelt search for answers about his past might just turn out to be the key to his future...
Romance Contemporary [Sourcebooks, On Sale: January 1, 2020, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492673712 / ]
SHARON SALA has over one hundred books in print and has published in five different genres. She is an eight-time RITA finalist, five-time Career Achievement winner from RT Book Reviews, and five-time winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
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