Authors: Rae Davies
|Love Is All Around|
|Looking for Love |
Patsy Lee Clark knows what she wants - out of Daisy Creek and away from everything country. That is until Will Barnes rolls back into her life. This bad boy from her past spent fourteen years making up for teenage mistakes. Now he's ready for a fresh beginning.
The harder Patsy tries to escape her Ozark roots, the more Will reminds her of what makes them special. The harder Will tries to start over, the more Patsy and her family get in his way.
Can Will convince Patsy they belong together in Daisy Creek or will she follow her dreams and leave him and the Ozarks forever?
Love is All Around
Love is All Around previously published by Zebra Kensington Books by author Lori Devoti as part of the Zebra Debut line.
Copyright 2005 Lori Devoti
ISBN 978 1 61138 032 3
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portion thereof, in any form.
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
If you notice any typos or formatting issues with this book, the author would appreciate being notified.
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Patsy Lee Clark twirled a daisy between two fingers. Life here was a lot like this flower—all simple and charming from a distance, but up close, it just stunk.
“So, you gonna apply at the BiggeeMart?” Her best friend, Ruthann Malone, interrupted her thoughts.
Patsy stared at her. Ruthann had known her since they were three. You’d think she’d understand Patsy better by now.
Tucking the daisy behind one ear, Patsy leaned against Ruthann’s Cavalier and replied, “I’m not planning on being a career checker.”
“You got another option I don’t know about?”
Patsy bit her lower lip. “I have plans.”
“You heard Bruce. The Bag & Basket’s closing in two months.” Ruthann tugged on her purple smock, hiding the smiley face that twinkled from her belly button. “BiggeeMart’s hiring now, and they got good benefits. My cousin Earlene retired at thirty-eight. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Patsy thought you could ask for a lot more, even in podunk southern Missouri. “That’s nice for Earlene.”
Apparently missing Patsy’s tone, Ruthann smiled in agreement.
Shaking her empty Pepsi can, Patsy asked, “What you have planned for after work?”
“Nothing.” Ruthann sighed. “Not like I have a date.”
Condensation from the can had dampened Patsy’s hands. She wiped them on her shorts. “You want to head out to Gordie’s?”
“I guess. I don’t have much money though.” With her fist shoved into her smock’s pocket, Ruthann continued, “The BiggeeMart pays nine dollars to start. They don’t dress like overripe eggplants either.”
“No, it’s more like a rancid radish.”
Ruthann straightened up. “I like the hats.”
To each her own. “So, Gordie’s?”
“Sure. Hey, you hear Will Barnes is back in town? You remember him?”
A soft late-summer breeze caused the daisy to flutter against Patsy’s cheek, but did nothing to lessen the heat reflecting off the sizzling asphalt. Pulling her sticky tee shirt away from her skin, Patsy replied, “Lisa’s brother? What’s he doing here? They moved away when we were what, twelve? I didn’t expect either of them to come back here.”
“Yeah, last I heard Lisa was married to some executive in Chicago.”
“And Will was what, in jail?”
Ruthann shook her head. “You shouldn’t say that, even if he was kind of a....”
Remembering the gossip, Patsy finished the sentence, “...Druggie?”
Ruthann looked uncomfortable with the term. “He ran with the Gormans.”
That said it all. Everyone knew the Gormans were destined for orange jumpsuits and careers in license plate manufacture.
Patsy rescued Ruthann from saying the ugly obvious. “So, Lisa’s in Chicago?”
With a look of relief, Ruthann answered, “Yeah, Will lived there too, before he made a bunch of money on the Internet. Bought the old Barnett place. Jessica Perry was his realtor. She told me all about him. To hear her tell it, he grew up real nice.” Ruthann wiggled her eyebrows up and down.
“Jessica Perry thinks any man with more than fifteen teeth and less than four ex-wives is real nice.” After yanking the daisy out of her hair, Patsy twisted toward her friend. “Still, I don’t understand what he’s doing back in Daisy Creek. His sister never liked it here, or us for that matter, they don’t have any family around, and if he has a bunch of money, he could live anywhere he wants. Why pick Daisy Creek?”
“Maybe he just missed us. Stranger things have happened. Listen, I gotta go. My shift started five minutes ago.” Ruthann pushed away from her car. “Give me a call later.”
So Will Barnes was back. Just what Daisy Creek needed—another good-for-nothing layabout. And Ruthann said he had money, made it on the Internet. Plenty of opportunity there for the less–than-scrupulous. Will Barnes’s type was hard enough to tolerate poor, but with money? That was more than Patsy could handle.
Not that he’d be crying on his pillow from loneliness. If he had money and was half as good-looking as Ruthann said, Jessica probably already had her hook set and was reeling him in.
Patsy didn’t care. Jessica could have every man in Daisy Creek County. Patsy had bigger fish to fry.
Will Barnes sat on the bottom step of the once-grand staircase leading up to the second floor of his new home. The place was a mess. It was still structurally sound, but needed work. Gold sculpted carpet and green brocade wallpaper were everywhere; it was almost painful to look at. And the smell indicated a cat with litter-box issues had been a recent resident.
His realtor had assured him that was all an easy fix. She could get him a “good deal” on some new Berber or a “nice” Saxony at her father’s flooring store. Not that Will planned on covering up the oak floors he was certain were hidden under the fragrant monstrosity currently underfoot.
The cell phone in Will’s pocket rang. Hell. Who could that be? The digital display flashed his sister’s number. Great, she probably ran into Cindy at Pottery Barn or DKNY. This would be a treat. Might as well look at it as a practice run for when his parents found out what he’d done.
He punched the call button. “Lisa?”
“Where are you?” His sister had a terminal case of impatience.
“Nice to hear from you,” he replied.
“Don’t toy with me. Cindy called.”
A planned attack.
“It took two lattes just to calm her down. What were you thinking?”
“Decaf, I hope?”
“She said you broke off the engagement.”
Apparently Lisa had opted for fully leaded. “She made the choice,” he replied.
“Right. Some choice. She worked herself silly getting things ready for the wedding, even researched neighborhoods. You were lucky to get a lot in Harbor Heights. The realtor was expecting a check today to hold it. You put Cindy in a horrible spot.”
“I researched different neighborhoods.”
“In Daisy Creek? Be serious. You can’t expect Cindy to pack up and move to redneck central. For God’s sake, the place probably doesn’t even have a Starbucks.” Lisa exhaled loudly. “Anyway, I got her calmed down. Just call her to let her know you’ve come to your senses. A few dozen roses and everything will be fine.”
“What? Are you calling her?”
“I’ll call you in a month.” Or twelve. He disconnected in the middle of his sister’s outraged shriek.
“You think she’ll track us down?” He asked Ralph, his mop of a dog, who was busy sniffing the carpet. “It would mean coming to ‘redneck central.’ So, I don’t think we need to pull out the guest towels just yet.”
Ralph seemed to agree.
“Now, when Dad and Mom get back from Europe, it’ll be a different story. Then all hell, and by hell I mean Dad, will break loose.” He ruffled Ralph’s curls. “Scared, aren’t you?” Will grinned.
Not that Will was looking forward to the confrontation, but it was a lifetime overdue. He and his father didn’t see things the same way, didn’t value the same things. He’d first realized this here in Daisy Creek. He’d rebelled, as only a sixteen year old with too much money, too much time, and too little loving attention can, then spent the next thirteen years trying to prove he wasn’t a screw-up.
Will was done apologizing for who he was, done being something someone else wanted him to be. He was starting over, and this time he was doing things his way.
Will looked at the dirty mess surrounding them. “We better get going, boy. We have a lot to do.”
Patsy pulled into the overflowing parking lot. Gordie’s was jumping. Dented pickups with gun racks and spotlights sat next to mid-sized American models. A few nicer “grown-up” cars were sprinkled around. Patsy doubted the teenagers who drove them had told their parents of their destination. Not that it mattered. Brenda, Gordie’s wife, would be on duty at the door. She didn’t put up with underage drinking.
Country rock blared out as the door to the roadhouse was flung open and two high-school boys were pushed out. “Don’t be showing me some fancy ID, Brad Stevens. I’ve known your daddy all his life. You’re no more twenty-four than I’m a natural blonde. Now get your sorry butts out of here, or I’ll call your momma and the sheriff.”
With her back pressed against the railing, Patsy let the grumbling teens stomp past. “Hey, Brenda. Looks like a full house already.”
“Yeah, we got a hot band tonight. They’re bringing in the crowd. We got people here from all over.” Brenda flipped a length of white-blonde hair over her shoulder and pointed inside. “Your brother’s playing pool with Randy Jensen. Ruthann’s inside somewhere too.”
Patsy squeezed past Brenda into the smoke-filled bar. It was one big rectangular room. To the left was the stage and dance floor. Behind her to the right was the bar, and in front of it sat three pool tables, all surrounded by locals in feed hats and worn Levis. Her brother Dwayne leaned against the back wall, a cue stick in his left hand and a long-neck Busch in his right. Patsy turned away before he or his companion, Randy Jensen, could spot her.
Randy wasn’t a bad sort: steady job as a mechanic at the Ford dealership over in Sylvester, a nice, if small, house off 32 Highway north of Daisy Creek, attractive with a lean build and ice-blue eyes, and he was interested in Patsy. She didn’t need Dwayne’s increasing hints to know that. The way Randy tracked her like a toddler watched an ice cream cone when she entered a room said enough.
He could track all he liked. He wasn’t her type. She wasn’t a snob, but a man with grease under his fingernails, a garage full of four-wheelers, and yard full of coon dogs was not her idea of ideal dating material, never mind anything more permanent.
Where was Ruthann? Patsy searched the small tables where people sat drinking, finally spotting her friend only a few feet away from where Dwayne and Randy stood. Patsy weaved her way through the crowd and pulled out a chair, keeping her back to the pool area.
“Hey, new top?”
“Yeah, I got it last weekend when we went to St. Louis.” Ruthann tugged the skin-hugging material of her halter. “You look good too. Where’d you get that?” She pointed to Patsy’s paisley cotton tank.
“I bought it online. It was a bargain, because the ‘romantic’ look is out, but I liked it.” Patsy’s thin cotton and lace shirt wasn’t flamboyant like Ruthann’s red halter, but she felt good in it, flirty but comfortable. The purple-blue color made her eyes look even more green than normal and the short length made the most of her flat stomach. It might draw a little too much attention to her butt, which was rounder than she would have liked, but the overall effect was good. She adjusted her denim shorts slightly so her legs didn’t stick to the vinyl chair and waved her index finger at the waitress.
“Looky, looky who’s here and what she’s towing in behind her.”
Patsy glanced up to see who Ruthann had spied. Jessica Perry had entered Gordie’s in a skin-tight dress that was a walking advertisement for Wonderbra and thong underwear. She beamed up at the man attached to her arm before she spun toward the room, giving everyone a full view of her outfit and date.
“Who’s the tall, dark, and handsome?” Ruthann openly stared at the couple.
“Your guess is better than mine. You’re the one who was just talking with her.” Patsy paid the waitress for her Bud Light and took a sip.
“Oh, my God. Is that Will Barnes? She said he grew up nice.” Ruthann waved her hand in Jessica’s direction.