Authors: JM Dragon,Erin O'Reilly
Back of the Book
Jo Lackerly arrived in the small town of Danvers with nothing except a battered suitcase and her beloved guitar. Her aspirations to hit the big time as a singer over the years had petered out to playing for food and lodging.
Thea Danvers, the local motel owner, was in big trouble with the bank in more ways than financially. Her gentle spirit had her at odds on what to do. Should she resign herself to accepting fate or leave the only place she had ever lived and start again with no money or job prospects.
When the two women meet, an unexpected friendship develops, proving a catalyst for both women to change their lives irrevocably. Follow them on a journey of discovery that will have your heart smiling, blood boiling, and senses entangled in a wonderful romance.
Take Me As I Am
© 2016 by JM Dragon and Erin O’Reilly
Affinity E-Book Press NZ LTD.
Canterbury, New Zealand
All rights reserved.
No part of this eBook may be reproduced in any form without the express permission of the author and publisher. Please note that piracy of copyrighted materials violate the author’s rights and is illegal.
This is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Editor: Nat Burns
Proof Editor: Alexis Smith
Cover Design: Irish Dragon Designs
It is always exciting to work together on a story for we always feel we bring out the best in each other. We hope you will enjoy the read.
Nancy, thank you for the feedback, as always spot on the mark. Lisa, thanks for your observations and sorry it kept you up late…well we’re not really since it made us smile.
Thanks to Natty for her wonderful edit and Alexis for her attention to detail on the final proof.
As always thank you to our many readers who continue to follow this marvellous journey we travel with the written word.
For all our Affinity family members. You all rock.
Also by JM Dragon
Do Dreams Come True?
Falling Into Fate
The Fixit Girl
In Name Only
Death is Only the Beginning
A Window in Time
Waterfalls, Rainbows and Secrets
The Dragon’s Halloween Collection
Incantations – A Collaboration
Affinity’s Christmas Collection 2010
Christmas Collection 2011
Christmas Collection 2012
Christmas Collection 2014
Define Destiny Series
In Pursuit of Dreams
Actions and Consequences
All Our Tomorrows
Two Steps Forward
A World of Change
When Hell Meets Heaven
by JM Dragon & Erin O’Reilly
Against All Odds
Echoes of the Past
Paradox of Love
Quest For Love
The End Game
Quest for Love
Also by Erin O’Reilly
Return to Me
If I Were a Boy
Through the Darkness
Wolf at the Door
Specter of Fear
Those Three Days
Table of Contents
“Get the fuck out of my car now, you useless bitch,” Jed bellowed before forcibly pushing her hard against the handle of the door.
Joanna Lackerly, wincing in pain, scowled in hatred at the man who was yelling at her. “Screw you, Jed. I hope your sorry ass rots in hell,” she muttered loudly.
“Bitch, you’ll rot in hell way before me. I guarantee it.” He revved up the engine of the car. “Now, get the hell out of my car.”
“I hope I do get there before you. That way I get to be the welcome party,” Jo responded sarcastically.
She pushed open the door and hastily placed her pride and joy—her guitar and case—on the concrete sidewalk. Without getting out, she reached in the backseat for her suitcase and swung it over the seat before placing it next to the guitar case. She wouldn’t put it past the bastard to speed off, leaving her with nothing but the clothes on her back. As she cleared the car by a mere two inches, he sped off at a pace that left a cloud of dust.
Jo brushed herself off and looked around the small town that she was now stuck in. She was alone in the middle of the sidewalk with only her guitar and a strong voice to help her make a living. She assumed she would find a bar that needed or wanted her brand of entertainment. But she’d learned long ago that life held no guarantees and finding work in one-horse towns usually meant she had to consider something less savory in order to make money. She hadn’t done that in a while and hoped she wouldn’t have to ever again.
She looked toward the shabby entrance of the motel, situated at the end of what seemed the town’s only street, aptly named Main Street. “Danvers Motel. Can this get any better?” Jo picked up her belongings and began walking in that direction.
From the outside, the motel looked like the typical run down place she stayed in wherever she went. The creaking door, with dingy, peeling gray paint opened to a neat looking lobby, which was in total contrast to the outside facade. She could smell the fresh scent of cut flowers—carnations—and smiled as she saw several vases scattered around the room full of different colored carnations. It looked quite cozy and rather unusual.
Bet this is gonna cost me,
There were two well-worn but clean and comfortable looking easy chairs next to a coffee table with several magazines neatly spread on its polished surface. To the left of the motel desk was a long table with a coffeepot full of what appeared, by the smell of it, freshly brewed coffee. Jo was sorely tempted to pick up one of the china mugs situated in neat rows next to the machine. There was also, what was clearly fresh milk and cream next to them. Alongside that was a carafe that, she could tell by the faint, fragrant aroma, held a fresh brew of tea. The place was so out of the ordinary that she was certain her imagination was playing tricks on her.
Shaking her head, she heard voices getting closer, the door marked private opened, and Jo saw the back of a small woman with short blonde hair waving her arms as she spoke to an elderly woman.
“Daisy, it isn’t my decision anymore, it’s the bank’s. What do you want me to do?” If the tone of the blonde’s voice was anything to go by, she was distressed.
“I want you to go and tell that good for nothing George Andrews that you need more time. If your papa were alive, this wouldn’t be happening.”
The old woman, who was shouting in a passively aggressive voice, looked toward the opening and Jo could feel the eyes boring into her.
“I…oh, I know that, but if it hadn’t been for Papa in the first place, none of this would have been happening,” the blonde said.
“Little girl, keep them thoughts to yourself and go see what that tall stranger wants.” The older woman gave her a pat on the head and turned on her heel slowly before walking away.
The blonde turned green eyes on Jo as if startled by a stranger being in the lobby.
“Oh, no, why does this always happen when there’s a potential customer about?” she muttered, loudly enough for Jo to hear. She walked toward the reception desk, swallowed a couple of times, and then smiled politely. “Hello. What can I do for you?”
Jo looked at the considerably shorter woman and gave her a thorough examination. “I need a room, nothing fancy. What are the rates?” Jo once again felt the urge to take up the coffee invitation to her right hand side.
“Twenty-five a night is the cheapest room I have. It’s very basic with a twin bed and a small bathroom. There’s a small television but no cable or internet.”
Jo quickly added up what she had on hand and thought she had enough money to see her through to the end of the week without a job. She nodded. “I don’t need much. I’ll take it.”
“Would you sign the register for me? And how would you like to pay Ms.…?”
Jo arched an eyebrow in the other woman’s direction and saw the faint blush appear on her face. “Lackerly, Joanna Lackerly. I’ll pay with cash.”
“Well, Ms. Lackerly, I’m pleased to have you stay with us. Your room is number five.”
Jo signed the register and looked at the coffee, which was causing her nose to twitch in response to its aroma. “Is the coffee and tea a perk of staying here?”
“No. We charge fifty cents a cup.”
Thea Danvers smiled as she took in Joanna’s worn clothes that were relatively clean, but probably could do with replacing. The midnight black hair that was hanging loosely around her shoulders could do with a trim and a washing since it looked rather lank. The most captivating feature of the woman was her deep, dark blue eyes. She wondered what had brought Joanna Lackerly to Danvers but politeness stopped her, at least for now, from being too inquisitive.
Thea looked at the rather dour expression on the face before her. “Would you like coffee, Ms. Lackerly?” She looked at the woman and watched as she ran her tongue across her lips.
“No. Not right now. Maybe later. Where do I pay if no one is here?”
“There’s a jar behind the cups. We go by an honor system here,” Thea said briskly. She removed some keys from under the counter of the reception desk and jangled them. “If you follow me, I will show you to your room.”
Thea hadn’t wanted to sound too friendly and offer the woman a free cup of coffee. She’d learned that being friendly wasn’t what the customers wanted, although in the case of the men that stayed there, they would prefer the personal touch—a little more personal than Thea was ever going to offer.
Thea stopped at the door marked five and placed the key inside the lock and heard the snick as the lock was released on the turn of the key. “I hope you will be comfortable, Ms. Lackerly,” she said handing a key to the woman behind her.
Thea had felt the woman’s light breath on the back of her neck. When she turned, she noticed that the blue eyes were searching her face before the dark head nodded and accepted the key. She moved aside to allow the woman to move by her.
“Enjoy your stay,” Thea said with a smile before quickly moving back down the corridor.
Jo had followed the woman down a small corridor lined with motel rooms.
Damn. I could have used some coffee but I need to watch my pennies until I can find a job.
She had noticed when she looked at the brochure on the reception desk that there were ten rooms. The place was certainly well looked after and the decoration was tasteful. All the furnishings along the corridor looked old and worn, but seemed remarkably expensive in style. She speculated that someone bought them at a house sale or something.
She opened the door to her room and took a step inside. Her eyes widened considerably at the sight and she turned back to the corridor. “You’ve made a mistake,” she cried out. The blonde was no longer there.
Not really knowing what else to do, she went back inside, put down her things, and glanced around the room. The decoration was in pale blues and lilacs and it was so light and airy that it made her feel welcomed, as if she were coming home. She could smell fresh cut flowers and saw lilacs on the small table next to the window. Outside she saw what looked like a small patch of grass along with numerous flowers in several stages of growth.
The bed was a king-sized monster draped at the headboard with filmy translucent satin of the deepest royal blue with matching bed linen. There was a small television on a shelf, which made viewing easy from the bed or from the easy chair that was next to the table. The dresser had a large mirror and the local newspaper with a few flyers indicating what was available in the area rested on the dresser, along with a basket of fruit.
When she opened another door, she was amazed at the bathroom. It was a Victorian style bath with an overhead shower and a lilac shower curtain. Several toiletries were in a basket on the sink along with fresh smelling towels. Jo shivered at the thought of feeling soft clean towels after a long luxurious bath filled to the brim with bubbles.
It had to be a mistake for the woman clearly said the room had a single bed. She was there for now and decided that she could treat herself to one night of luxury before moving to a cheaper room.
Thank you, God.
After putting the plug in the bathtub and turning on the taps, she watched the water immediately steam and begin filling the tub. She smiled in satisfaction. It had been a long time since she’d felt hot, hot water. Most places she stayed had lukewarm water at best. Jo grinned when she saw bottles of aromatherapy bubble bath on a glass shelf positioned above the washbasin. For the first time in ages, she laughed genuinely as she saw the names of the two products—Sensual and Exciting. It was a hell of a combination. Selecting the one marked sensual, she poured it liberally into the flow of water and watched in pleasure as the bubbles rose.
“I wonder if I can get work around here. If it turns out that this is what I get for twenty-five dollars a night, I would stay here forever.”
She stripped off her clothes, which she knew needed laundering badly, as did all the other clothes in her bag
. Do I even have clean underwear?
It was a depressing thought. Nevertheless, she wouldn’t let the opportunity of having her body clean pass her by even if she couldn’t quite manage to extend that to her clothes. That was a task for later. Right now, she was going to soak in that old bathtub, which had her name written all over it.
Jo lowered her lean body into the hot water and bubbles as the strangely familiar aroma surrounded her. A decadent purr escaped her lips as she settled down into the depths and closed her eyes to everything. Everything that is, but the pleasure of the next half-hour or more.