Read Special Delivery (Mountain Meadow Homecoming 1) Online

Authors: Laura Browning

Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Mystery, #Suspense, #Romantic Suspense, #Blue Ridge Mountains, #Mountain Meadow, #Virginia, #Homecoming, #Abusive, #Ex-Fiancé, #Church Matrons, #Meddling, #Law Enforcement, #Cop, #Police, #Military, #Lieutenant, #Protect, #Serve, #Protection, #Wary, #Snow Storm, #Fledgling Family, #Family Life, #Pregnant, #Pregnancy, #Delivery, #Baby

Special Delivery (Mountain Meadow Homecoming 1)

 

 

Cover Copy

 

Welcome home to Mountain Meadow, Virginia—a small town with a big heart, where love is just around the corner…

 

All Holly Morgan wants is a safe place to have her baby. Nestled deep within the Blue Ridge Mountains, miles away from her abusive ex-fiancé, Spence, Mountain Meadow seems perfect. Holly can manage a few meddling church matrons if it means Spence can’t find her. Harder to handle is Jake Allred. He may be a dark-haired hunk, but he’s also someone Holly can’t trust: a cop.

 

Since his time in the military, Lieutenant Jake Allred has lived to protect and serve. And if anyone needs protection, it’s Holly. Having been let down by the law before, she’s wary of letting Jake into her life. But when an unexpected snow storm strands them together, their attraction is hot enough to melt the mounting ice. Just when Jake thinks he’s finally warmed Holly’s heart, Spence strikes. Now it’s up to Jake to save Holly’s baby and bring their fledgling family back together.

 

 

Visit us at www.kensingtonbooks.com

 

 

 

Books by Laura Browning

 

Winning Heart

 

Mountain Meadow Homecomings

Special Delivery, Book One

 

The Barlow-Barretts: An American Dynasty

Bittersweet, Book One

Balancing Act, Book Two

Remember Me, Book Three

Broken Heart, Book Four

 

Special Delivery

A Mountain Meadow Homecomings Novel

 

Laura Browning

 

LYRICAL PRESS

Kensington Publishing Corp.

www.kensingtonbooks.com

 

 

Copyright

 

Lyrical Press books are published by

Kensington Publishing Corp. 119 West 40th Street New York, NY 10018

 

Copyright © 2014 by Laura Browning

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

 

All Kensington titles, imprints, and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund- raising, and educational or institutional use.

 

Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Special Sales Manager:

Kensington Publishing Corp.

119 West 40th Street

New York, NY 10018

Attn. Special Sales Department. Phone: 1-800-221-2647.

 

Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

Lyrical Press and the L logo are trademarks of Kensington Publishing Corp.

 

First Electronic Edition: May 2015

eISBN-13: 978-1-61650-753-4

eISBN-10: 1-61650-753-5

 

First Print Edition: May 2015

ISBN-13: 978-1-61650-754-1

ISBN-10: 1-61650-754-3

 

Printed in the United States of America

 

Dedication

 

To my husband and son who have put up with my long hours at the computer, you have my love and thanks, not to mention the gratitude for the meals and clean-up you guys have pitched in to complete. I’d also like to dedicate this to my friend and teaching colleague, Karen Grayton. Not only have you been my number one fan, you’ve been a great sounding board for ideas. I love you guys.

 

Chapter 1

 

“Tyler, wake up,” Holly whispered. Her calm tone masked a heart pounding so loudly she feared her little brother would hear it as well.

Dark hair spiking above his rumpled blankets, Tyler rubbed his eyes and mumbled, “It’s still night.”

“We’re leaving. Now.” Some of her urgency finally broke though.

He sat, eyes wide in the dim glow of the streetlight filtering through his curtains. Holly hated doing this to him, but after taking yet another midnight call from Spence, her ex-fiancé, she didn’t dare wait any longer.

“I thought we weren’t leaving till Saturday,” Tyler grumbled as he rose and located the clothes he’d left folded at the foot of his bed. “What’s happened?”

Even at eleven, he was no dummy. Tyler had already come out on the wrong end of Spence’s temper and knew how vicious it could be. Holly ruffled his hair. God, she loved him. “Nothing we can’t handle, but I want to make sure we’re the ones staying a step ahead.”

No way would she share with him the latest threats Spence had made. Holly had tried going through the legal system. She’d obtained a restraining order right after Spence had gotten physical. Now it wasn’t enough. Something was off with Spence, something scary, and Holly wasn’t sticking around to see what. If the restraining order wasn’t going to stop him, then she and Tyler would just disappear.

“Meet me in the garage in five minutes. I’m going to check to make sure everything’s locked. We’ll drop the key by the real estate agent on the way out of town.”

She’d put the house on the market, but with the economy so slow, they’d had few nibbles, despite cutting the price. Now Holly hoped the real estate agent might be able to find a renter. It could provide some income, but she wasn’t holding her breath. Grinding her teeth was more like it.

She’d already put most of the furniture she wanted to keep in storage, figuring she could pick up odds and ends wherever they ended up. Once she was sure Spence hadn’t followed, she would send for the stored items. Still, her small car was packed as they backed out of the garage and eased down the street. Holly couldn’t help glancing at the rearview mirror several times. The house was the last tie to their parents. Now they would have to carry those memories in their hearts instead.

On the highway leading out of town, Holly at last dared a glance at her brother, giving him a small, reassuring smile as she squeezed his hand. So what if reassuring him also made her feel better too? Leaving the only home you’d ever known was scary.

His eyes reflected his uncertainty. “Are we doing the right thing?”

She shifted her hand to the swell of her pregnancy. “I hope so, Tyler.”

* * * *

When no one answered his call in the morning, Spence Dilby drove to Holly’s one-story ranch, snarling at every traffic light that slowed him down. Located in an upper-end area of Lynchburg, it still screamed middle class to him. He pulled to the back of the house where his car wouldn’t be seen. No use taking chances. He’d had enough of having the cops on his ass. Only fast-talking had gotten him out of hot water the last time. He didn’t need another incident because his father was nearing the end of his patience. At least he’d made his parents happy when he’d agreed to marry Seely.

He knocked on the back door. No one answered. He pounded, wanting nothing more than to feel his fist smash through the wood. Still no answer. Spence peered through the windows. “Open up, Holly! I know you’re in there.”

Silence was his only response. He walked to the French doors looking into the family room and noted with a burst of fury much of the furniture was gone. He smacked his palms against the wooden panels, the sting making him snarl. The bitch had left! He hadn’t believed her when she said she would. Why would she want to keep the baby when he would pay her to disappear out of its life?

Well, she wasn’t getting away that easily. No. Fucking. Way.

* * * *

Five-thirty in the morning and the sky had just begun to lighten above the ancient peaks east of Mountain Meadow. Jake Allred sucked in a deep breath, feeling yet again a profound sense of homecoming. More importantly, he could enjoy the imminent sunrise without feeling like he had to check over his shoulder or keep a hand on his sidearm. He knocked on his next-door neighbor’s door. The heavy wooden panel swung open to reveal the tall, lean figure of his best friend.

“We have to stop meeting like this, bro. People will begin to think we’re dating.”

Jake rolled his eyes. “Get off it, Evan. Even the church gossips know I can’t stand dating guys taller than me.”

Evan snickered. “Ready to run?”

“Ready to beat your ass.”

Running had become a morning ritual ever since Jake purchased the stately, blue Victorian home right next to Evan Richardson, the Castle County commonwealth’s attorney and Jake’s best friend. As their feet pounded the pavement along the deserted streets, Jake thought about the days getting shorter. He and Evan might be running in the dark soon, but Jake didn’t want to give up this morning ritual. Hearing their feet strike and lift in unison grounded him. He wasn’t on his own anymore. Evan was right there with him, just as he’d been for most of their lives.

The bite of the morning air was more intense. The vibrant colors of fall had already faded. It wouldn’t be long before winter blew in with its attendant headaches.

As they finished a route that brought them back to their houses, Evan asked, “Hey, we still on for poker tonight? Sam’s bringing someone with him.”

“Who?”

Evan laughed. “The new preacher from the Baptist church. Don’t tell his parishioners.”

“Are we pathetic or what? A Friday night and all we have to do is play poker…the sheriff, the police lieutenant, the lawyer, and now the preacher.” Jake grinned and slapped Evan on the back. “Maybe we should just wear signs that say ‘Losers.’”

“I don’t consider it pathetic,” Evan drawled, a glint in his eye. “I consider it once burned, twice shy.”

“Ancient history.”

“At least I have a history.”

“Screw you.”

“Later, baby.” Evan batted his lashes. “What would the neighbors say?”

* * * *

Holly’s stomach rolled. Whether it was from the baby or the sheer drop-off just a few feet away, she wasn’t sure. She had pulled off the shoulder of the Blue Ridge Parkway at a place where there was a scenic overlook. With one hip leaning against the car, she chewed on her lower lip, and stared, lost in thought, along the asphalt snaking around yet another curve. She rolled her shoulders and stretched away the tension in her neck.

Tyler stood near the edge of the mountain looking out over the valley spread below him. “This is awesome, Holly, like that miniature-town stuff Mom always set up at Christmas. Come look.”

Just a twinge of grief slipped through her consciousness at her brother’s mention of their mother. Far greater was the relief that Tyler could talk about her so easily. Holly grimaced in response to his suggestion, though.

“No, thanks. I’ll just admire it from here.”

She wasn’t keen on heights to begin with, but pregnancy had made her even more cautious. Her whole sense of balance had changed. While Tyler put his hand up to shade his eyes and squinted off into the distance, she counted the money she’d managed to come away with and blew out a frustrated breath. They couldn’t go much farther. She needed to save her cash reserves for a place to live.

Glancing along the parkway, she noticed the sign indicating travel distances. They’d been on the road for what felt like hours. Surely they had put enough distance between themselves and Spence. Besides, Holly was nearing exhaustion after being up most of the night. She did a quick eenie-meenie-minie-mo and discovered her finger pointing toward a place called Mountain Meadow. Sounded pleasant enough. Probably not much happening there with such an idyllic-sounding name. At this point, its name could be Hell’s Harbor as long as she could find a place to put her feet up. More than anything, though, she liked the spontaneity. Maybe it would keep Spence off their trail longer.

“Come on, Tyler.”

“Where are we going?”

She pointed to the sign. “Mountain Meadow. Sound good to you?”

He shrugged. “I like mountains, so that would be cool.” As they drove toward the town, Tyler laughed. “Hey! We should go check out the road back there.”

“Why?” Holly’s fingers clenched on the steering wheel. Unrelieved driving along the twisty roads had tightened her nerves.

“It’s called Mistletoe Lane. You know…Holly and Mistletoe.”

She had to laugh. It felt good to be able to for a change, and on a whim, she found a turnaround and headed back. Spontaneous, that was what they were being. As they bumped down the road, she glanced at Tyler. “This road is the pits, but maybe it will keep Spence away.”

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