Authors: Tallulah Grace
Stories of Starsdale,
Copyright 2014 Tallulah Grace
The names, places and events contained within this book
are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including recording, photocopying or any other information storage
and retrieval system without prior, written permission of the Author.
“Damn that woman, what the hell is she doing back in
Red slammed the kitchen door behind him, while
simultaneously tossing his hat and keys onto the counter. Heading straight for
the fridge, he grabbed a cold beer before dropping into the nearest chair.
“She’s been here a whole week! Seven consecutive days, a lot
for someone who left and never looked back.”
Remembering how happy she was to be living in LA, and how
frequently she told him so, when they were together, Red tipped the bottle,
drinking half of it down in one, long gulp.
The beer made him feel marginally better, but it would take
a whole lot more of the same to masque the pain he felt, thinking of Pamela.
She hated Starsdale, couldn’t wait to get out of this
one-horse town, to hear her tell it. Now she was back. For what, vacation? It
didn’t add up. Why would a successful talent manager take a step backwards,
even for a short while? Her parents had both passed; she had no other family
in, or around, town. She certainly didn’t want to have anything to do with him,
she’d made that quite clear, before he left. So, why was she here?
He knew he could find his answers at the diner. Lila had the
lowdown on every soul who walked through her doors, which included most of the
town. All he had to do was make an innocent inquiry, and Lila would tell him
everything he needed to know.
But his question might also put his feelings for Pamela on
Lila’s radar, not a smart move. The last thing he needed was the town busybody
poking around in his private life. Scratch that, he didn’t have a private life,
He had work, he had home, and a few friends. That was about
Draining the rest of his beer, he glanced over at the clock
on the microwave. There was enough time for a quick shower, before meeting the
guys for poker night.
“At least she can’t screw that up.” Red ran his hands
through his hair and sighed. “What is she doing here?”
Thinking over the past week, he counted the times he’d seen
Pamela. The first time, at the Arts Festival, he’d covered his true feelings
pretty well, he thought. He’d smiled, said hello, but before he could learn the
details of her visit, a group of teenagers set off a packet of fireworks,
sending the whole street into chaos. Their harmless prank had nearly wrecked
the festival, what with everyone ducking for cover at the unexpected bangs.
Ultimately, there was no harm done, but those kids would be
washing windows, and cleaning up storefronts in Starsdale, for weeks to come.
Grimacing, he finished off the beer. He’d done worse at their age, but the kids
had cost him his only opportunity to find out why Pamela came home.
Every other time he’d seen her, she was always going in the
opposite direction, on the opposite side of the street, or surrounded by too
many people for him to demand an audience. You’d think, after all they’d been
together, that she would at least drop by the house, or the station, and say a
“I guess she meant what she said, she never wanted to speak
to me again.” Dropping the empty bottle in the recycling bin on his way to the
shower, Red felt the pang of those heated words once more.
Their ending had been anything but amicable. Leaving their
home, leaving her, amidst a storm of accusations and harsh words had nearly
killed him. Coming home, to Starsdale, had been the balm he needed to get on
with his life. Such as it was.
Now she was here, messing with his mind and the peace he’d
worked so hard to find.
“Damn that woman!”
Pamela sat in the swing on the back porch of her parent’s
house, her house, absently pushing against the creaky wooden floor with her
She had to admit, the view was hard to beat, but many homes
in Starsdale could boast the same. Snow-capped glaciers ringed the distance as
the sun sank slowly behind the tallest peak, leaving shades of red, orange, and
yellow in its path.
“What am I doing here?” It wasn’t the first time she’d asked
that question, she was sure that it wouldn’t be the last. Running home, running
to Red, had seemed like the smartest thing she could do at the time. But she
hadn’t run to Red, not yet. She didn’t know if it was cowardice, or pride, that
kept her from asking for his help.
Somehow, being home again made the nightmare in LA seem like
it happened to someone else. So far, the calls had stopped, and she was
beginning to feel safe again. So much so, that she hadn’t been able to find the
courage to approach him.
He’d surprised her the first day she was in town, with his easy
smile and his soft hello. But she knew that his charming demeanor had been an
act, she could see the truth in his eyes. He hated her, still.
She couldn’t believe how much knowing that hurt her.
Who was she kidding? Of course she could believe it. They’d
been apart for over a year, but she still missed him, every single day. She
missed his off-beat sense of humor, and the way his dimples deepened, every
time he laughed. She missed his serenades in the shower, always more than a
little off-key, but filled with gusto, no matter what he was singing. Red put
heart into everything he did, especially into loving her.
She’d been such a fool, throwing it all away.
And now she needed him, needed his protection, but she had
no right to ask for anything from him, not after how she’d pushed him away.
“Maybe I won’t have to ask, maybe my leaving LA was enough
to stop the stalker.” As soon as she said the words, she knew they were lies.
He would find her, here, in Starsdale. He would find her anywhere. Hadn’t he
promised as much?
“I could make you something better than chips, pretzels, and
hot dogs before I leave.” Jade looked at the junk food Justin had assembled and
shook her head.
“No thanks, this is perfect.” Justin looked up at her with a
grin, causing her stomach to flip-flop as it had done since they’d met. “It’s
poker night, babe. Junk is mandatory.”
“If you say so,” Jade smiled, picking up her keys. “I’ll be
back around ten, try not to lose your shirt, okay?”
“I thought you liked it when I lost my shirt,” Justin
teased, coming to kiss her goodbye.
“You know what I mean,” Jade laughed, standing on her
tiptoes to meet his lips.
“Mmmm, you’re much too tempting, my beautiful Jade. Maybe I
could reschedule the cards.” Justin began walking her backwards, toward their
“Oh, no you won’t,” Jade protested, but slid both arms
around his neck. “We’ll never live it down, not after we cancelled on everyone
for dinner last week. The girls already give me a hard enough time, I don’t
need for them to have more ammunition.”
“If you insist.” Justin stopped walking and focused on
kissing her goodbye. “There, that will have to do, until later.”
Jade came up for air, wondering if she’d spoken too soon. So
what if the girls teased her? She was happier than she’d ever been.
A knock on the back door made the decision for her.
Apparently, it was too late to cancel.
“Hey, anybody home? Am I too early?” Mac’s voice boomed
through the house, followed closely by the door closing.
“We’re in here,” Justin called, giving Jade a final squeeze.
“Hey, guys,” Mac stopped as soon as he saw them, still
locked in an embrace. “Oops, sorry, are we still on for tonight?”
“Yes, of course,” Jade stepped away from Justin. She needed
the space to get her heart to stop racing. That man could send her to the moon,
with only a look. “I was just leaving.”
“Don’t let me rush you off,” Mac told her, hiding his grin.
It was obvious that his timing was less than perfect.
“You’re not,” Jade assured him, patting his arm as she
walked by. “You boys have fun, I’ll see you later.”
“Bye, babe, be careful.” Justin called, watching her go. It
still floored him how much he missed her, when she was out of his sight. He was
well and truly gone over Jade, no doubt about it.
“Sorry to interrupt, man.” Mac didn’t try to hide his grin.
“Don’t worry about it,” Justin grinned back. “You can help
with the grill.”
“That I can do,” Mac went to the kitchen, found the matches
right where they’d always been, when he’d lived in the house. “How’s everything
coming along with the permits?”
“Great, we only need the water commissioner to sign off, and
we’re a go.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem. Finding those underground
springs was a big plus, no one should have an issue with the development. The
lodge will be self-sufficient, not rely on any of the town’s resources.”
“That’s what I told him. I guess we’ll see.” Justin piled
wieners onto a plate. “How are the plans coming along?”
“Great, I should have something to show you and Robert on
Monday. We lucked out with the location. Creating the slopes will be much
easier than we thought. The land on the east side is perfect for beginner and
intermediate runs, but we’ll have to do some grading on the west side, for the
expert runs. Still, it could be worse.”
“You should consider a rock face for the expert runs, who
needs snow when you’ve got slick granite?” Red asked, coming around the corner
of the house.
“Don’t we know it,” Mac answered, laughing. “Good to see you,
“Thanks, where do you want these? In the house?” Red hefted
the twelve-pack he’d brought for the table.
“Yeah, put ‘em in the fridge, thanks,” Justin nodded, waving
with the thongs. “Bring us back a cold one, will you?”
“Sure thing.” Red disappeared inside, only to return within
minutes. “The place looks great. I remember when your mother put in this
garden. She worked us both so hard that summer that I never wanted to see
another bag of dirt for the rest of my life. Now look at it. A hundred years
later, and still going strong.”
“I’d forgotten about that,” Mac nodded, taking in the
garden. “I’d have to say it was worth it, but I sure didn’t think so at the
“The worst part was, when my mom got wind of it, she had to
have one as well. Ought to be a law against child labor,” Red shook his head.
“There is, we just didn’t know it back then,” Mac slapped
him on the back. “Hey, I saw Pamela Rhodes the other day. Did you know she was
moving back to Starsdale?”
Thunderclouds passed quickly over Red’s face. Surprised by
the sudden change, Mac and Justin exchanged a glance.
“Hell, no. Is that what she said? That she was
?” Red growled, not caring that his feelings were clearly showing.
“Yeah, she did. She’s staying at her parent’s place. Sorry,
man, I didn’t mean to hit a nerve.”
“Don’t worry about it. Are you sure you heard it right?
She’s living in Starsdale now? What happened to her almighty career, and her
love affair with LA?” Red’s eyes grew narrow, piercing Mac like he was interviewing
“Hey, don’t ask me,” Mac put both hands up, wishing he’d
never mentioned Pamela. “All I know is that she moved home, but I don’t know
why. I ran into her as I was leaving the diner the other day. She said that she
was living at her parent’s house, but she could have meant that she was
visiting. It sounded permanent, though.”
Red felt a flicker of hope rise up beneath the heaping pile
of pain he felt for Pamela. Maybe she changed her mind, maybe she really did
love him, after all.
“NO!” he said aloud, without thinking, making a fist with
“Whoa, slow down there big guy. Don’t pound the messenger.”
“Oh, sorry,” Red realized how threatening he must look.
Deliberately relaxing his hand, he took a deep breath. “It’s just that I didn’t
expect her to ever come back here.”
“Women,” Justin chuckled, trying to give Red an escape
route. “They do like to keep us on our toes.”
“Ain’t that the blessed truth!” Robert joined them then,
only hearing Justin’s comment. “You’ll never guess what Dana told me, just
before I left tonight. She wants to build two more barns, before winter sets
in. Do I have to tell you boys how much trouble that’s going to be? Where does
she come up with this stuff?” Shaking his head, Robert was oblivious to the
tension still rolling off of Red. “Where do you want these? The fridge?”
Justin looked at the two six-packs he held in each hand.
“Yeah, you can try. We might have to break out the cooler.
“Anybody need one?” Robert offered, but had no takers. “I’ll
leave myself two. Looks like I need to catch up,” he told them, placing the
beer on the picnic table. “So, what did I miss?”
“Nothing,” Mac said quickly, grateful for the diversion. “I
can help you out with those barns, if you like.”
“I was hoping you’d say that, thanks.” Robert answered,
gratefully. “Hey, Red, I think I met that woman you were talking about on the
plane, Pamela Rhodes. Did you know she was back in town?”
“Bloody hell, has everyone talked to her but me?” Red threw
up his hands, exasperated.
Mac and Justin moaned, simultaneously.
“What did I say?” Robert asked, totally in the dark.
“Let’s just say that certain topics are off limits tonight,”
Mac told him, raising his eyebrows meaningfully.
“It’s okay, hell,” Red raked his hand through his hair. “We
nearly died together, no need to walk around on eggshells.” Looking at each
man, he sighed. “Pam and I lived together in LA, I thought we were heading for
marriage, babies, the whole shebang. She had other ideas. We didn’t end things
on the best of terms, and it’s very surprising she’s back here. Yes, I ran into
her briefly during the festival, but we didn’t get a chance to talk. That’s
about it in a nutshell.”
“Except to say that you wish she were anywhere, other than
Starsdale, right?” Justin nodded knowingly.
“You got it. Now, can we drop the subject, and play some
cards? Looks like those dogs are ready to go.”
Pamela pulled the throw tighter around her arms. The weather
was already chilly, especially after the sun went down. October in Starsdale
was definitely different than fall in LA.
She’d forgotten how much she loved the cool air, the way the
air smelled, coming down off of the glaciers, and over the hemlocks that
surrounded her parent’s backyard.
It was so strange to think of the house as hers, even though
she’d grown up here. Once she left, she never planned to go back. Blocking out
the good memories was one way she could adapt to her new home, in the city.
For as long as she could remember, she’d wanted to escape
Starsdale. Nothing ever happened here, nothing comparable to the excitement
that she was sure to find elsewhere. Her parents understood, wanted her to
spread her wings, but she knew that it broke their hearts a little, her wanting
so desperately to get away.
Now, looking back, she realized what she’d had, growing up
in such a loving, nurturing environment. The things that made her crazy are the
exact things she ran home to find.
A sense of community.
Her life in LA was rewarding, she made more money working as
a manager than she ever dreamed of, growing up. But money wasn’t everything,
certainly not in comparison to the turn her life had taken.
Once Red left, she tried to move on, convinced herself that
she was better off without him. Of course, she had actually come to that sorry
conclusion before she asked him to leave.
“Idiot,” she chided, softly. “He really, truly loved you,
but you had to see what you were missing.”
What she’d been missing turned out to be a lot of headaches,
some heartache, and terror like she’d never known.
Meeting Chandler Chase had seemed like a dream come true.
Successful, sophisticated, uber-handsome, he bowled her over with charm,
blinded her with his magnetism.
They were out every night, for over a month. Never had she
felt so special, wined and dined in style, on the arm of such an elegant man.
Red had certainly never treated her like that.
At first, his attention was flattering, but eventually it
became cloying. What appeared to be extreme interest, was actually a form of
control. By the time she realized it, it was too late.
Phone calls that once gave her a tingle, turned into
dreaded, frequent occurrences. Late night drop-ins at her home became the norm,
even though she refused to open the door.
Removing Chandler from her life was nearly impossible.
Changing her phone number, changing her locks, nothing stopped him from
calling, or showing up. She could see his car sitting on the street, across
from her condo, for hours at a time. Gifts, some thoughtful, others disturbing,
were left at her door, along with notes, always typed, expressing how lovely
she looked that day, and describing the things he’d like to do with her.
The police were less than useless. She had no proof her
stalker was Chandler. Parking on the street and watching a building wasn’t illegal,
and she had no proof he was the one making the calls, or sending the notes and
When someone broke into her home, leaving dead flowers as a
calling card, she panicked. After months of putting up with his constant
harassment, she was at the end of her rope. The phone calls were threatening
now, much more so than ever before. He told her how he would kill her, how long
he planned to make her suffer, how easily it would be to get to her.
Running home to Starsdale, to Red, was the only thing she
could think to do. She had to get away from Chandler. Leaving the business
she’d worked so hard to build was a sacrifice she had to make. She knew that if
she stayed, Chandler would surely make good on his promises.
It had been seven days since the last phone call. Seven
wonderfully peaceful days, when her phone never rang. Changing her number,
again, and giving it to no one, was a sure way to keep Chandler from reaching
out. Transitioning her clients to other managers via email was doable, even
though it scared her silly to turn away from the one thing in her life that she
knew, and did, well.
But nothing was worth living that way, always in fear,
constantly looking over her shoulder. She would make a new life, here, or
someplace else. For now, she was safe, and that was the most important thing.
She’d no sooner breathed a sigh of relief than the landline
started to ring. Startled, she jumped, causing the swing to sway crookedly.
“It has to be a wrong number. Or Lila, calling to check on
me.” Wondering if she’d ever stop jumping at the sound of a ringing phone,
Pamela hurried inside.
“You tried to get away from me, didn’t you?”
The gravelly voice made the words sound even more
threatening. Pamela gasped.
“I told you I could find you anywhere. See you soon.”
The line went dead, but Pamela was rooted in place. Slowly,
the shock dissipated, and she replaced the receiver.
“He’ll see me soon,” she said aloud, the words spurring her
into action. “Does that mean he’s already here? Is he watching me, from the
woods? I have to get out of here.”
Whirling around for her bag, she didn’t even think to lock
the doors. Fishing for her keys, she raced out of the house to her car.
Once inside, she locked the doors and sped off in the
direction of town. It was the only thing she could think to do.