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Authors: Kristin Wallace

Imagine That

BOOK: Imagine That
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Imagine That

by Kristin Wallace

Published by Astraea Press

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.


Copyright © 2014 KRISTIN WALLACE

ISBN 978-1-62135-305-8

Cover Art Designed by Book Beautiful

Thank you to my Heavenly Father for gifting me with an amazing imagination. Just when I think the ideas may have dried up, a new one emerges. Thank you to my wonderfully supportive family. There are so many writer friends who have contributed to my career and I love all of you.

Chapter One

A stomach-churning
. A disaster-laden
. A scary, threatening

Emily Sinclair's hands clutched the steering wheel as she guided her
convertible to the side of the road. With a last ominous
, the car gave up the ghost.

She switched off the engine, waited a few seconds, and then turned the key again. Nothing.

Not surprising. As if anything
like an octogenarian trying to cough up a lung was going to restart with so little effort.

A cranky yowl went up from the passenger seat. Emily glanced over at the pet carrier and sent the fat Persian inside a confident smile. “Don't worry, Wordsworth. This is why modern man invented cell phones.”

She fished her phone out of her purse. A blank screen stared back at her. Pressing more buttons did nothing.


Dead as her car.

With a sound of disgust, Emily tossed the useless phone aside and stared out the windshield at the deserted country road in front of her. The
deserted country road that stretched around a sparkling blue lake and disappeared into the back of beyond. The kind of road featured in all the best horror stories. Emily's mind conjured up every one, along with the opening line in the newspaper article.

amous children
s author found mangled to death. Quest to locate her lost imagination and revive faded career ends in disaster… as her mother predicted.

Muttering an oath, Emily climbed out of the car and slammed the door as hard as she could. What a fix. And ironic. There were rules about writing. Not grammar rules, like where to put commas or when to use a semicolon. No, the unofficial rules for fiction writing. Chief among them is that an author should never start a novel with the character driving or thinking. No, readers wanted action right off the top, and the car could never break down.

In college, Emily had written a short story where the heroine's car stalled in a typical these-people-will-murder-you-in-your-sleep town. Emily's professor had written
in bold, red pen across the page. Not satisfied, she'd added
boring cliché
, underlining the
with three thick red lines. The critique had stung. The fact that it had come courtesy of Professor Vanessa Sinclair, Emily's mother, had been like ripping off an old bandage.

Emily was breaking all three cardinal rules of writing at once. Though technically the driving rule didn't apply. Same for the sitting rule. She was thinking, though. Thinking her entire life had become a cliché, so what did it matter if she broke her mother's precious writing rules? She was a one-hit writing wonder. A flash in the pan. A big-haired eighties' rock band that had scored one giant hit and then disappeared into the oblivion of those nostalgic ‘
Where are they now?
music specials.

Emily sighed. If one had to break down somewhere, one could do worse than… what had the sign said back there? Covington something. Covington something, Georgia. Muted afternoon sun shimmered off the surface of the lake. She lifted a hand to ward off the eye-watering glare and focused on the water. In her previous life, the golden flecks of sunlight reflecting off its surface would have transformed into a million different kinds of fantastical creatures. Or maybe something nightmarish would charge out of that bank of oak trees across the lake.

Unfortunately, Emily was stuck in her real life, and her imagination was on the fritz.

Well, at least she wouldn't die of water deprivation while she waited to be rescued.

Speaking of rescue.

A car had appeared, winding around the curve of the lake. A big ole' country truck calling to mind hoedowns and hay rides. A big ole'
truck, Emily realized as it drew closer. Burnt red growth spread out across the hood like a marauding band of Vikings overtaking a defenseless village. She imagined rust was the only thing holding the vehicle together.

The truck slowed and Emily tensed, torn between elation at being found and wariness regarding exactly who might be behind the wheel of the ancient rattletrap. The glare off the windshield made it impossible to see inside the cab, however.

The tires veered off to the side of the road and stopped, sending up a cloud of dust. Emily waved her hand, choking on the airborne dirt. Her mouth felt dry as if she had licked the ground. The door opened. Work boots emerged. Brown and roughed-up and covered in… paint. A man stepped out, and Emily steadied her hands against the car to keep from falling over.

Mr. Darcy. No, Heathcliff. Only instead of a cravat and breeches, he was dressed in faded jeans and a black T-shirt, which seemed molded to an impressive chest. Heath stretched up a good six-plus feet, towering over her puny five-foot-two frame. A lock of dark chocolate-brown hair brushed over his forehead. Their eyes met. Since she was already thinking in clichés, Emily's mind offered up a million of them to describe his eyes. She could start with gray, but no way did such a mundane word do them justice. Slate, storm clouds, a roiling sea, glazed pewter. Devastating, and framed by thick sooty lashes no man had a right to possess.

He stopped a few feet away, and Emily had the fanciful notion he was trying not to frighten her. Like she was a skittish filly about to bolt.

“Hi,” he said. “Car trouble?”

His voice was like his eyes. Smooth and deep, like honey in a cup of hot tea.

Emily nodded. How could she speak when every male literary fantasy she'd ever dreamed about had unfolded from a rusted-out pickup?

“You okay?” he asked. “You didn't have an accident? Knock your head on anything?”

“No. Just a car that decided to die,” Emily said, finally finding her voice. “Along with my cell. Although that's my fault since I didn't charge it last night, even though my mother is always nagging me not to forget, since I've taken it into my head to
wander the globe on an aimless search for purpose and meaning
. Her description anyway, but if you'd lost your imagination wouldn't you go to the ends of the earth to find it again? She doesn't understand, though. Although maybe she's right. I mean, here I am stuck in Covington something, Georgia, with a dead car, a dead cell, and a dead imagination. Although if I
an imagination I know I could come up with something fantastic about your truck.”

Emily slapped a hand over her mouth, horrified by the verbal diarrhea she'd just unleashed on her hapless rescuer.

The stranger stared at her for a moment, and then did the most unexpected thing. He grinned. “What was that?”

Her butt thumped against the hood of the car as her legs gave out. Oh, Heath had a smile on him that could tempt any fair maiden to let down her hair. Or anything else he wanted.

“That was me losing my mind,” Emily muttered. “Car fumes, maybe. Or all the fresh air around here.”

He hooked his thumbs in the belt loop of his jeans. “So, your car broke down and you need a lift?”

Oh, sexy. Emily had seen the pose from other men before, but somehow Heath reinvented the move.

“If you have a cell phone handy and maybe a number of a towing service, I could call someone,” she said.

Emily's brain might not be functioning on a normal level, but she was astute enough to know it was a bad idea to get into a car with a strange man. Even Heathcliff.

“Actually, my cell died this afternoon, too.”

Shoot, she thought, catching her bottom lip with her teeth. “Maybe when you get to wherever you're going, you could send a tow truck out here? No offense. I'm sure you're nice and all, but Ted Bundy acted nice at first, too.”

A furrow formed between his eyes, and his shoulders stiffened. “I would never hurt a woman. I would never hurt

Emily stared at him. It had been a long time since she'd trusted a man. She pushed to her feet and stepped closer. The stranger didn't move but kept his arms resting at his sides.

Then a dog barked. Emily swiveled toward the back of the truck. A black lab hung its head over the side. The dog barked again, and its tail swished back and forth in a boy-am-I-glad-to-meet-you greeting.

“Meet Blackie,” Heath said.

She chuckled. “Original.”

“My kid brother named him.”

Emily figured it was a pretty safe bet Ted Bundy wouldn't have a tail-wagging dog with him. She walked over to the truck, patted the dog's head, and was rewarded with a wet doggy kiss.

“Blackie, it's not nice to slobber all over people we don't know,” Heath chided.

Emily massaged the dog's floppy ears, and the canine quivered in ecstasy. “He's all right. It's kind of nice knowing someone enjoys me touching him so much… Oh!” She clapped a hand over her mouth again as heat rushed up her cheeks.

She had to stop running off at the mouth. What was wrong with her?

“That totally came out wrong.”

The expected suggestive rejoinder never emerged. Instead, he coughed into his hand. To hide a laugh, no doubt.

Emily studied him a moment more. If her rescuer passed on the opportunity to slam-dunk the setup she'd given him, he must be a true gentleman. “Okay, I'd appreciate a lift anywhere I can find a phone.”

“I can drop you off in town.”

“Hold on one second,” she said, with a decisive nod.

She spun around and hurried back to the car. A quick press of a button, and the convertible top slid back into place. She picked up the cat carrier, purse, and her keys. Two
and the car was as secure as it was going to be.

Her rescuer eyed the crate. “What's in there?”

“Wordsworth,” she said, holding up the carrier.

Heath leaned down to look inside, and a white paw zipped through the grate, accompanied by a hiss. He jerked back, narrowly missing a swipe across the nose.

“Word, don't be rude,” Emily said, tapping the crate door. “This nice man is going to ensure you get dinner tonight.” She gave her rescuer a strained smile. “Sorry. He gets cranky in the car.”

“Maybe if his face wasn't all mashed in he'd have a better attitude.”

“He's a Persian.”

“I'll take your word for it.”

Emily's cheeks were going to become permanently stained with blush. Fighting the urge to bang her head against the cab of the truck, she scurried around to the passenger side. Heath beat her to the door, opening it with a gallant wave. Emily leaned in and set the pet carrier on the seat. Glancing over her shoulder, she noticed Heath's eyes had drifted down. Right about the place where little rainbow patches resided on the pockets of her denim shorts.

Prickles of awareness heated her skin. She cleared her throat, and his eyes jerked up to her face. His gaze seemed to burn right into her soul. She'd always imagined gray eyes to be cold and lifeless. His were molten.

She swallowed. “What's your name?”

“Nathan Cooper. Most people call me Nate.”

She stuck out a hand. “Nice to meet you, Nate.”

Nate's hand swallowed hers whole. It fit the rest of him. Warm and firm with rough calluses.

He stared down at her. “Do you have a name?”

“I'm Emily Sinclair.”

She waited, but there was no stirring of recognition in his dreamy gray eyes. Only a polite nod. Maybe he was too old to know who she was. Or maybe she'd fallen off the map the last couple years, the same way she'd fallen off the best sellers' list.

Emily sighed and climbed into the truck. “Yep, eighties' one-hit wonder,” she muttered under her breath.

Nate slid into the driver's seat. “Did you say something?”

She gazed out the window at the lake, which was still just a lake. “Nope. I've got nothing to say apparently.”

BOOK: Imagine That
3.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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