A coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.
Buying the 1920s farmhouse south of Phoenix, where the rumors of John Dillinger’s gang hid out in the 30s, is supposed to be Grace Evanheart’s way of escaping an old romance. When she finds an ancient diary with a map under the bedroom’s floorboard, the rumors solidify into fact. She doesn’t know who to trust with the news; Micah Stevens, the handsome deputy and the great grandson of the original landowners with whom she’s attracted, or Jerry, the young historian who seems too intent on learning about her new home?
Micah seems convinced their paths cross exactly at the right time and in the right place for them to fall in love. Now he just has to convince Grace of the same thing before suspicions of his real motive have her running again.
"Debra lives in Southwest Arizona, and has been married to Mike for 36 years. She's the mother of two awesome sons, who married their forever loves, and she's a grandmother to three beautiful grandchildren with one more on the way.
Debra wrote her first novella thirteen years ago just for grins. That brief taste into the world of an author started an undeniable writing obsession rivaling only her love of chocolate. She's an award-winning fine artist, and loves traveling with her husband."
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Dark loneliness sank deep into my stomach as I watched Chelsea’s taillights fade down the highway. Old memories flooded my mind, suppressed visions of watching my parents driving away, leaving my brother and me, yet again, with anyone willing to babysit while she went into the hospital for another test, or for surgery. I could never remember whole events, just bits and pieces, but what never left my memory were the intense feelings of abandonment and isolation whenever something flicked on that mental switch.
Mine was the oldest house in the area and still had the original driveway off Highway 84, now renamed East Frontier Street. The only reason anyone would turn at that crossroad would be to visit me, or they’d made a wrong turn. In the darkness I could see my neighbors’ lights burning. The houses were a good distance away. Charlotte said the original land was sold in seven-acre lots. I tried to imagine what the farm looked like before the son greedily broke the land into smaller pieces. Looking at all the houses in the distance, I guessed it had been huge.
The whole house had smelled musty when I’d first walked inside. Now it stank of new plastic furniture. It was kind of a unique fragrance, not unlike a recently unpackaged shower curtain. Between leaving the front door standing ajar and opening the kitchen door, I thought nature would bring in the fresh and take out the rank while I pumped up my air mattress.
To save money, I’d bought the kind of bed that didn’t have the automatic pump included. Sometimes being thrifty took more work, but for the next few weeks saving every dime I could would have priority over comfort.
With the doors opened I couldn’t use the candles, but I left the flashlight off, not wanting to use the batteries up all in one night. The bedroom I’d declared as the Master sat closest to the kitchen. Charlotte told me the house was built in the early 1920s, and although it had been renovated in the seventies, the owners hadn’t thought about adding a master bathroom.
A floorboard squeaking froze me in the mid pump. My first thought was Chelsea had changed her mind about staying the night, but why, then, didn’t she say anything? Then I noticed faint illumination in the hallway. Whoever came in must’ve had a flashlight; my heart leaped against my ribs in panic.
I listened. Were the footsteps getting closer? Or maybe they got farther away into the dining room? I couldn’t tell for sure with how my pulse beat loudly in my ears, interfering with my hearing. My cell phone was inside my handbag by the fireplace. Considering I only had the plastic pump and a half-inflated vinyl bed, I didn’t have anything to defend myself with—or hide behind. I knew I needed to get outside and run to a neighbor for help.
I just had to get my body to agree with my brain.
Fear had an ironic way of paralyzing important muscles. With my mouth open, I took a slow, deep breath—at least I took in a breath and convinced my feet to turn toward the bedroom door. The floorboard in the dining room creaked. I took off and rounded the corner, heading for the open front door. Heavy footfalls ran behind me.
“Stop!” a man shouted.
I didn’t stop. He grabbed my arm, slowing me down. I threw my best punch at what I hoped would be his head. His flashlight hit the floor—and so did I. He tackled me face first onto the dusty hardwood floor with my arm shoved up my spine. When I took in another breath, I realized the frantic screaming I’d heard a moment before had been my own.
“Pinal County Deputy Sheriff, ma’am. Stop struggling.”
His breath was next to my ear, his heavy body pressing down mine, but his words were spoken softly.
“Let me go—you’re hurting me—”
“You need to stop struggling.”
Nodding, I did what he said. After a moment, he let my hand loose and got up off me. I slowly moved my arm around and rolled onto my side, pulling up my knees. Squeezing my wrist didn’t squelch the pain, but at least I knew my hand was still attached and not lying next to me. I cradled my arm to my chest with my eyes closed and tried not to cry while his hand stayed on my shoulder. I guess he didn’t want to chance me getting away. I didn’t know if I could anymore. A bright light shined in my face.
“Do you have any weapons on you?”
I shook my head.
“How about some ID?”
“In my purse... by the fireplace.” I could feel the pressure ease up, if only slightly. The so-called sheriff didn’t want to let me go, but I knew he couldn’t reach it from where we were.
“Why did you run?”
He still had his light full in my eyes. I lost my temper and yelled, “What right did you have to come into my home without permission?”
“Your home?” The light swept over to the inflated loveseat sitting in the corner.
“What did you think?” I yelled that, too. It was that temper thing, and at the moment I didn’t feel like controlling it.
“What’s your name?”
“Grace Evanheart.” I closed my eyes again, prompting tears to drip down the side of my face. “And this is my house as of noon today.” He stopped pressing my shoulder and gently lifted me until I sat upright in front of him. With the flashlight pointed at my arm instead of my face, the ambient illumination made it possible for me to finally see the shiny star pinned to his shirt, along with about a dozen dark blind spots floating in the center of everything. I kept blinking, hoping they’d disappear.
“Are you injured?”
I held my arm closer to my chest. “You threw me to the floor and wrenched my arm. What do you think?”
He reached out and touched my hand. “I’ll call for the fire department and get a medic to take a look at you.” He pinched a microphone attached to the top of his shoulder.
“No, don’t, I...” I shook my head. “It’ll be... okay.” He grasped my hand and pulled it toward him. I didn’t make it easy. The short tug-of-war we had didn’t last long before I begrudgingly let him win.
“Does your wrist hurt?”
I nodded. I decided I’d better keep my mouth shut now, since he was a real cop. After all, I did have the right to remain silent.
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