Kindle Edition $0.99 3/19 to 3/25, 2018
Kindle Edition $0.99 3/19 to 3/25, 2018
With marriage only weeks away, Lacey struggles to uncover the dark secret concealed in her family. Must she risk losing her beloved Evs to protect him---from herself?
Her search leads to the Smoky Mountains, where the shotgun is more respected than the law, moonshine stills explode, and family may not be what is expected.
". . . A satisfying mix of intrigue and idealistic love."--Kirkus Reviews.
"Part love story, part mystery, a bit of redemption and quite a lot of fun."--Betty King, author of Second Attachments
July, 2013, Asheville, North Carolina
The rotten smell of sour corn mash assaulted my senses. Fergus' moonshine still could be any direction. I followed the path. Fergus needed a route to carry his wares down the mountain, after all, and this could be it.
I must have hiked the last half of eternity before I came to a dismantled car. Its rusted chassis rested off the path, while the hood lay separately almost in the path, its crumbling insulation black with oil and dirt. Miscellaneous dead car parts lay strewn about. Ahead I could see a clearing with wooden steps leading to a cabin with an open porch. A charcoal grill burned atop the porch as if ready to receive the beginnings of a meal. I wondered about the safety of an open grill on the wooden porch, as I clung to the shadows, deciding how to make my approach.
A grizzled old man opened a dilapidated screen door. He was carrying a piece of meat on a long fork. He appeared ancient, with stooped shoulders and long white hair and beard. A cigarette hung dead center from his mouth. He flung the meat onto the grill, then drew a potato from the front pocket of his bib overalls, flipped open a switchblade knife, and deftly sliced the potato length-wise into halves. He placed the cut sides down onto the grill. Coals sizzled and smoke curled upward, stopping at the underside of the tin roof of the porch.
I watched, then took a deep breath. It was now or never.
I attempted to appear confident as I strode from my hiding place toward the porch.
The man jumped from his grill and shouted at me. “Don’t come no closer.” He threw the remainder of his cigarette into the grill.
“I’m looking for Fergus Starks,” I said.
“He ain’t here,” said the man.
“I’m Lacey Roberts. My mother was Caroline Starks.”
“Dagnabbit woman! Leave me be,” the man said. “I’ve nothin’ to do with y’all. Stick to yer own bizness and leave me t’ mine.”
I took a few more steps toward him. Despite his denial, I was certain I’d found Fergus Starks. “I’ve spoken to Ruthella.” I stretched the truth a bit. “She suggested you had answers to my questions.”
“Don’t know nothin’, ain’t sayin’ nothin’. Don’t know who you are. Don’t care,” said Fergus.
Friendly lot, these mountain people, I thought. I decided to drop the bomb. “What happened to my grandfather?”
“Missy, yer messin’ where y’ ought not be messin’. Let it rest and git out.”
“I only want to find out about my family. What’s wrong with them? I think I have a right to know.”
“Ya don’t. Let it lay.”
“Fergus. Listen. I need to know. I’m being married, and I need to know if I carry something in my genes—something that makes the women kill their husbands. If I get married, will I put my husband in danger some day? I need to know what has happened to all the men in this family.”
Fergus came down the steps. He looked menacing, bow legged and holding the long-handled fork, but he didn’t raise a hand toward me. “Woman, what d’ya think I’m doin’ in these mountains? I left them loony wimmen years ago without saying g’bye. Roped m’self off and stayed clear o’ the bunch of ’em. If yer any kin of theirs, then yer no kin of mine.” Fergus stopped short and sniffed the air with a wrinkled nose. “Dag blame it! Ya made me burn m’ dinner.”
Fergus ran up the stairs and stabbed the meat with the fork, then flipped it on the grill. As he poked the potato, a deep rumble of heavy equipment began, and grew deeper. Or was it thunder?
Shouting and swearing, Fergus ran into his house. I could feel the rumble beneath my feet, and panic rose up my spine until it engulfed me. I remembered the liquor-smelling-man Amos’ story at church about the moonshiner on the riding lawn mower, and I knew—
“No!” I shouted. “Fergus, get out! Get out!” Not thinking about my own safety, I dashed up the steps and through the door. “Fergus!”
Fergus turned and pushed me backward through the door. I landed on the porch on my backside. I scrambled to my feet and retreated down the steps, falling, tucking into a roll. I sprang to my feet again and ran away from the house toward the extinct car in the path.
I didn’t make it. An explosive force pushed me forward onto my face. A ball of flames flew above my head with a thunderous roar. I couldn’t hear. The pressure on my ears filled my head with confusion. Stunned, I lay there for . . . how long? A moment? Longer? “Fergus!”
From my position on my belly, I twisted around to look toward the house. I didn’t see him. Panic-driven adrenalin allowed me to pull myself to my feet. My muddled brain pushed my feet, running toward the house, which was now engulfed in flames. The overturned grill on the wooden porch added to the devastation. I spotted Fergus face up on the porch, unconscious, flames licking close to him. He’ll die there! It could explode again!
I dashed up the steps. I grabbed Fergus under the arms and pulled him toward the steps. “Come on, Fergus, get up!” I received no response. I dragged him down the steps, holding his head and shoulders up near my knees while his boots slammed against each step.
I stopped briefly for breath and saw, more than heard, the crash of the tinder-dry timbers inside Fergus’ house as the porch began to sway. Transfixed, I saw a side post fall near the grill and lean against one of the trees near the porch. A supporting post on the porch buckled threateningly. The house is gone, and the tree is on fire! I had no sooner thought about the tree when its bark exploded with a pop, the sound muffled by my explosion-damaged ears. The whole forest is going to go! I tugged Fergus along the ground as a second wave of adrenalin energized my body. I made it down the path to the old car hood. With my lungs about to burst, I could go no farther. Insulation, my mind screamed. I pulled Fergus past the hood, then lifted it over his limp body. With my last ounce of energy, I slid my wheezing and spent body under the car hood with him, my body protectively over his, and prayed.
My next sensation was that of being lifted upward in strong arms. I was either dead, or dreaming.
Good. I wasn’t dead. I felt an oxygen mask being clapped over my face, while I coughed. I focused my eyes on my rescuer to see the largest Indian man I had ever seen. His young and handsome face shone with urgency and concern. His muscled chest and arms made me feel secure. His black, straight hair, the little that was visible under his fireman’s helmet, looked Native American, even though he wore a modern cut—longer than most, perhaps. His black eyes and bronze skin finished a look to swoon over, as if I hadn’t swooned already. He stood tall despite cradling his burden—me—in one arm, and holding the oxygen mask over my face with the other. Gently. That’s what I noticed most.
Fergus! What happened to Fergus?
“Git that blamed thing offa my face! Nobody toldja t’ save me.” Obviously, Fergus was fine.
“Shoulda let me die, woman,” Fergus shouted at me. “Look what your infernal meddling caused t’ happen. Blew my still. Never blew my still in all them years till a woman set foot near it.” Fergus shoved the arm of the fireman who offered an oxygen mask. “I said git that blamed thing offa my face!”
Join BookDaily now and receive featured titles to sample for free by email.
Reading a book excerpt is the best way to evaluate it before you spend your time or money.
Just enter your email address and password below to get started:
Instant Bonus: Get immediate access to a daily updated listing of free ebooks from Amazon when you confirm your account!
Jan has been writing since age 11 when she wrote 4-H reports for her local newspaper. She has won several national contests with her comedic poems about Eskimo Pies, weight loss, her messy kitchen, and other comedy. She is the author of two clean and wholesome romantic suspense novels, HEIR OF DECEIT and IMPRESSIONS OF INNOCENCE, and a short non-fiction humor book, MY WORD THAT’S ABSURD.