No Direction Home (Sweet Home Colorado) (5 page)

BOOK: No Direction Home (Sweet Home Colorado)
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“No...I don’t know, maybe because people like you never tell me the whole story
. Now, spill it.”  Uneasiness settled in the pit of Grace’s stomach. “Tell me what you know.”

“If you insist
. Like Nana, I think he’s a good man.”  Cindy sighed. “Promise me you’re not going to take what I say the wrong way?”

something. Grace knew it. “I’ll take it the way it’s meant to be taken. That’s the best I can do.”

“Well, I don’t know much, but he and the boys from the ranch go to the Starlight Inn on weekends, Charlie's bar
. You remember Charlie Thompson from high school?” 

“Sure, I remember him, come on Cindy,
spit it out.”

Cindy leaned down and whispered into Grace’s ear
. “Charlie told me that Seth is an ex-con. He served time in a prison in Texas.”

The air whooshed from Grace's lungs as she sank further into the chair
. Her pain level jumped and she gripped the arms of the chair.
Oh, my goodness.

She needed time to think about this new aspect to the situation
. This she hadn’t anticipated.
I’m right. The man is up to no good
. Her deepest worry had come to fruition. She and Nana were living on a secluded ranch with an ex-con.









“Grace, y
ou’re pale. Are you all right? Can I get you some water or something?” 

Grace could hear Cindy’s voice from a distance and composed herself, taking deep breaths, trying to manage this new stress that was increasing her pain level
. "I’m fine. I need to turn my implant up."  She sat straighter in the styling chair and pressed the hand held monitor to her hip, hearing the short beeps increasing the stimulation. "I'm not surprised at this news. So he’s an ex-con?”

“Before I tell you anything else I want to make sure you're
okay."  She handed Grace a bottle of water. "Is there anything I can do for you?"  Cindy watched her in concern.

With the thought of Seth being an ex-con frozen in her brain Grace sipped the water
. "I'm fine. Tell me what you know."

"Well, I don't know much, that's just what I heard
. Don’t go crazy on me. So what? He made a mistake. Now he’s a changed man, an upstanding citizen. I know for a fact he's a father who takes good care of his daughter. Give him a break.”

stared at Cindy in the mirror. “What did he do?” 

“Don’t know
. I never found out. Charlie said Seth didn’t like to talk about his past and because he likes Seth he wouldn't push it.”

“I need to figure out what he did.
”  Somehow she had to find out what she and Nana were up against. The man was a manipulator of the worst kind, using his precious daughter to get in good with Nana. He was probably in prison for being a con-artist.

“Don't worry so much
. I bet Nana knows. I’m sure she’s heard the same rumors. Don’t you think she would’ve talked to him about this before she let him move into the house?”

The thought alone set alarm bells ringing in her head
. “No, not really, she’s blinded by her love for the child. I asked her about doing a background check on him and she was huffy with me.”  Grace frowned. “Now I know why.”  Her hands, hidden from sight under the shampoo cape, twisted nervously in her lap. “I wonder if he’d tell me if I confronted him.” 

“Don’t do that
. If he was going to do anything he would’ve done it by now, especially when Nana was sick.”  She laughed. “He's okay. I’d take him in a New York minute if he’d have me.”  She looked over Grace’s head and smiled into the mirror. “He’s a cutie who’s been hurt...."

“Why would you say that?
”  A pulsing knot within Grace demanded more information. Why was Cindy taking this so lightly, taking Seth’s side? She was deluding herself. Seth had conned his way into Nana's home and heart. He had been in prison. The man was trouble. Or could Cindy be right? Was she over reacting? She was confused as she listened to her friend.

“You know how everybody talks in this town
. Word gets around. If he was a bad person we'd know about it by now. Have you forgotten the hometown grapevine?” asked Cindy.

“How could I forget?
”  The ache in Grace’s chest became a sick and acid gnawing with old insecurities running rampant. I’m sure Lee and I were the talk of the town when he dumped me in the nursing home.”  She realized her voice had drifted into a hushed whisper. Why on earth had she brought that up? It was definitely something she didn't want to discuss

Cindy leaned down and gave her a hug
. “Honey, you're still the talk of the town, but in a good way. After what you’ve been through, everyone is happy you’re doing so much better. They’re all going to be happy to hear you’ve come home. We all know Lee is a jerk. It wasn't your fault. We’re here for you, to help in any way we can. We all care about you.”

She cringed at the thought of people discussing her love life or lack thereof
. “I know they do, but I hate being the subject of gossip.”  Feeling utterly miserable, Grace closed her eyes for an instant. “I want to be left alone to deal with what I’m going through in my own way. I’m doing fine now. I have it under control.”  She sat taller in the chair, her resolve gaining in strength tamping her insecurities back down.

“I’m glad to hear it
. You do look great, especially with this new haircut.”  She laughed and finished blow drying the new style, fluffing the soft hair around Grace’s face.

“Yes, it feels good.
”  She smiled and shook her head, watching the newly trimmed blond hair come alive across her shoulders in the mirror. “Thanks, Cindy, I really needed this. You’re the best.”  The old saying was true, when you look better, you feel better. The haircut was going to help her in so many ways.

“Hey, want to go to the Starlight Inn on Friday night for dinner
? Charlie would love to see you. Remember he always had a crush on you? He’s proud of the changes he’s made at the bar and likes to show the place off.”  She winked at Grace. "And who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and dance the night away with a handsome hunk or two." 

Grace’s smile wavered
. “I don’t know. I don’t go out and do much dancing these days.”  She could probably manage a slow dance, but most dancing would be too painful.

“Okay, we don’t dance
. We’ll have a nice dinner and catch up on old times."  When Grace shrugged her shoulders, Cindy gave her a warning look. "I’ll pick you up at seven—I won’t take no for an answer.”

“I...I guess.
”  She only hesitated because she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been out with friends. It was time for her to shake things up and stop feeling sorry for herself. She’d go. “It sounds like fun. You’ll have to tell me about our other friends. What they're doing and who’s with who these days.”

Cindy rolled her eyes
. “Yeah, it’s a regular
Peyton Place
here in Cedar Falls...not. Truthfully, it’s as boring as ever. You haven’t missed a thing.”

Cindy handed her a mirror and comb
. “I know you have to do the finishing touches. I hate working on other hairstylists. They're the worst people to deal with and you’re no exception. Tell me what you think.”

“It looks good.
”  Grace ran the wide-toothed comb through her hair, holding the mirror so she could see the back of her head. “Thanks. I’d better go. Gloria has someone waiting for you and she’s giving me the look.”

“Don’t worry about it
. She’s okay, tries to keep us on schedule. She’s kind of cranky cause she just found out she’s pregnant.”

Lucky Lady
, wish it were me.
Grace pushed herself out of the chair. Everywhere she turned, people were having babies, everyone except her.

Cindy tapped her elbow
. “Listen, I really want to do the dinner thing with you. Don’t back out on me. If you’re not feeling well, let me know and I’ll bring carryout to the ranch and we’ll do it there.”

“I’d love to go to the Starlight and see Charlie."  It was time she stopped hiding away at home
. Time she took her life back. "I’ll be okay. Let’s do it.”

“Great, I’ll see you Friday.

Grace walked to the reception desk to pay Gloria
. “How much is the haircut?”

“Fifteen dollars, please.
”  Gloria smiled. “Sometime I'd like to talk to you more about working on movie sets.”

“Sure, next time I'm in you can ask me anything you want."  She handed Gloria a fifty
. “Give her the change.”  In LA it had cost Grace a hundred-fifty dollars per cut and they didn’t do half as good a job as Cindy.

“Would you like to schedule for a trim in six weeks
? She stays booked.”

“Yes, of course, make me an appointment.

Gloria wrote the time and date on a card and handed it to Grace
. “We’ll see you on the fourteenth.”

”  She glanced back to see Cindy escorting another woman to the shampoo bowl. It was a busy salon. Good for her. She seemed happy doing what she loved. Grace envied her when she thought about what she might do with the rest of her life. Starting over wasn’t easy, and living with chronic pain had become a full-time job. Hey, maybe she should write a book about living with it.     

She'd play with the idea later, but right now it had been a full day and she was feeling it
. Picking up her Colorado tags, buying a new coat and having her hair done had exhausted her.
So much for pacing her activities.
Grace knew she had pushed it and would pay the price tonight with the increased aches and pains in her hips and legs, but it was worth it. She was happy to see Cindy and it had been a good day, except for finding out about Seth’s past. Life would’ve been so much simpler without him being an ex-con.

Now she knew
. She had to find out why he had been in prison.
How do I go about something like that?
Maybe there were records about such things, open to the public. She’d check it out when she went into Denver to meet with her new doctor. In the meantime, she’d keep an eye on him and the goings-on at the ranch. Apparently, he had ulterior motives for everything he did. No matter how convincing he seemed she couldn’t trust him. Somehow she had to protect Nana.

Deep down Grace had to admit she wasn't afraid of Seth
. She didn't think he would physically harm her or Nana, but they didn't really know what the man was capable of doing. Fear of the unknown and apprehension rampaged through her mind ratcheting up her pain level.

The big question was...did Nana know
? Should she say anything? She didn’t want to concern her. She would worry enough for both of them. But...after all, it was Nana’s home and her business. Sheesh, of all things, she had to deal with a charming ex-con.  


Pulling into the late afternoon traffic, Grace spotted Seth driving in the opposite direction down Main Street. He was alone in his old, beat-up red Chevy. The pick-up truck was rusted out around the fenders and had a piece of cardboard stuck in one of the side windows. Having seen better days, it looked like it should be put out of its misery.

Her stomach churned in a crazy happy dance when Seth waved as he passed her car
. It was official-—she’d clearly lost her mind. Her head told her she shouldn’t be feeling this way, but mixed feelings surged through her body and only confused her more. She had never been attracted to the cowboys at the ranch. Her taste had always run to the executive type. Her inner voice warned her.
Stay clear, Grace.
Yet, even knowing he was an ex-con, she was drawn to the man, like peanut butter to jelly. Maybe he had jaywalked or something equally innocuous—he didn’t seem to be the violent type.

She decided not to mention anything
about Seth to Nana just yet. Nana and Cindy both approved of the man and when it came to most people, they had good instincts. For now, Grace decided she would give him the benefit of the doubt but watch him like a hawk.

When she entered the house her mouth watered at the aroma of roasting meat
. She hadn’t taken time to eat lunch and she was famished. A clatter of dishes told her Nana was fixing dinner in the kitchen. “Hi, something sure smells good.”

“It’s a New England pot roast
. Seth started it earlier today in the crock pot.”  She smiled, while shaving carrots into the salad she was working on. “He always helps me with the meals when I work at the hospital. All I have to do is toss the salad and heat up some rolls.”

“He can cook, too?" 
Hmmm...who would’ve thought, a man who would help cook. In the eight years she’d been married, Lee had never helped with the cooking. Grace picked a piece of cucumber from Nana’s cutting board and nibbled on it.

“Yes, Seth helps me with lots of things
. How did your day go? Your hair looks great. How's Cindy?”

“Thanks, she
’s good. We had a nice chat. She hasn’t changed a bit and seems happy.”  Grace went to the refrigerator and poured a glass of ice water. “We’re going out to dinner on Friday night.”

“That’s nice, dear
. I’m sure it’ll be fun for you to catch up on old times.”  Nana sprinkled more shaved carrot into the salad bowl.

“Where are Seth and Jamie
? I passed him on Main Street.”  Grace wondered where he had been going and was still upset at her reaction to seeing him. She looked around the kitchen for something else to eat, sipping the cool water, keeping her thoughts of Seth to herself.

“He went to pick Jamie up from the daycare center
. She stays there after school when I work at the hospital.”  Nana continued breaking lettuce into the large bowl. “They should be here soon. Tell me, what did you think of Jamie? Isn’t she the cutest thing?”    “She seems sweet.”  She picked a piece of carrot off the cutting board, thinking Jamie was the kind of child she would’ve liked to have. “I haven’t been around many kids, but she seems okay. Sure has a lot of energy.”

“You’re going to get along great with her.

, we’ll see.”  She couldn't afford to get too involved with the little girl. Grace had to face the facts. The man had a prison record. She’d protect Nana’s holdings and the man would eventually leave with his child and take Grace’s heart with them if she let herself become too attached to the child.

BOOK: No Direction Home (Sweet Home Colorado)
12.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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