Read No Direction Home (Sweet Home Colorado) Online
Authors: Jude Willhoff
A couple of hours later, Cindy was dancing with a cowboy wh
ile Jenna joined Grace in the bar. A candle glowed in the center of the small round table where they sat.
“Charlie should be here any minute
. He called from Denver to check on us and said he was on his way.” Jenna patiently stared toward the front door.
Grace noted the tone of excitement in
Jenna’s voice when she mentioned Charlie. I'll be. So that's the way it is. She's
interested in Charlie. She smiled. “I’m glad you could join us. Dinner was great.” Grace watched Cindy laughing with a handsome cowboy on the dance floor, wondering what it would be like to be so carefree. Lee had told her she’d always been too serious...maybe he was right.
“Charlie has some new ideas for the business and they seem to be working
. He wants the Starlight Inn to be the place where the locals come to wine and dine their sweethearts. He’s doing great with the meals and having a live band on weekends helps bring in the crowds.”
Happy for Charlie's successful business, Grace glanced around the room, watching the couples dancing to the slow music
. She missed having a relationship, someone to snuggle with and call her own. Damn. She had to stop thinking this way. The past was dead and gone. Now it was just her, alone, and that was okay. Instead, she should pay attention to Jenna...not the couples on the dance floor. “Cindy said you owned your own business. What kind of business is it?”
leaned her elbow against the table. “I have a book store out at the new strip mall. I only fill in for Charlie when he gets in a bind.” She glanced at Grace. “My mom started it and passed away a few years ago. Loving books, I ended up running it.”
“I’m so sorry about your mom
. That’s got to be hard.”
“Yeah, it is, but being in the bookstore always makes me feel close to her.
” She hesitated. “Dad made some real estate investments in Denver and he’s moved over there to manage them.” She laughed. “I chose to stay here so I kind of inherited the bookstore. I love being my own boss.”
. There’s nothing quite like being self-employed.” Grace yearned for the old days when she scheduled her work days as a make-up artist. “You always know where you’re at and the lengths you need to go to make it work.” Grace wondered what she would do next. In her mind, she kept leaning toward helping others in some way. She just didn't know how.
“You do understand.
” Jenna glanced around the room, apparently looking for Charlie. “My mom will never understand that what you put into a business, you get back. She liked the idea of owning a business, taking long lunch hours and free books, but didn't like the nine to five hours and paying the bills so she let me buy her out.”
Cindy strolled back to the table fanning
herself with a paper napkin. “The problem with coming here is this is where all my customers hang out. If I don’t dance with the ones who ask, they’ll be mad.” She sat down and sipped her drink, continuing to cool herself.
“It’s a good thing you have tons of energy, because you have lots of customers,
” Jenna said as she watched the door. “Charlie should be here shortly.”
—he’s going to be in for a shock when he sees Grace. I can’t wait." She winked at Grace. "He hasn’t seen you for years.”
Jenna liked Charlie, Grace said, “It’s no big deal. Please, don’t make it into one.” She was uncomfortable knowing Jenna had a thing for Charlie with Cindy pushing her at him.
Cindy glared at Grace
. “You’re still shy, aren’t you? When have I ever made something into a big deal?”
Grace glared right back
. “In high school, when I won that writing contest. You blew it totally out of proportion, had the principal announce it over the intercom.” She glanced at Jenna. “She about embarrassed me to death.” Grace had always loved to write, but could she be good enough to make a living at it?
” Cindy smacked the table with a look of triumph. “You were always a good writer. You can write the next great American novel.” She paused to take a breath. “I’ll be friends with a
New York Times
bestselling author. I’ll be able to say I knew you when.”
. Thanks for the idea, but I haven’t written anything in years. I couldn’t do it.” She wasn’t ready to admit it to Cindy, but she’d thought about writing...a lot. Through the years she had tried and discarded attempts at novels. Maybe now, since she had all this time it would be different.
“Sure you can
. How hard can it be? I know you...you can do anything when you put your mind to it.”
“I don’t know.
” Grace played with a straw she was twirling between her fingers hoping to distract Cindy. “Things have changed.” These plans were new and she wasn’t ready to share them with anyone, not even Cindy.
“Lady, you still got it
. I can see it in your eyes. You may be down, but you’re not out. Come on, Jenna, let’s toast Grace.”
They raised their glasses
. “To Grace, may you have a wonderful writing career?” Their glasses clinked in unison. “I know you can do it.” Cindy grinned at her with kindness in her eyes.
Grace’s hands twisted together around the stem of her wine glass
. “Thanks, ladies. It gives me something to think about.” And she was really considering it. She had a feeling this was right...she should be writing. It would be productive and rewarding and it was something she could do at home.
Another cowboy came up and whisked Cindy away
. She was the life of the party, but Grace didn't mind. It was great just sitting at the cozy table with friends, an old friend who cared and thought about her and a new friend to get to know. She had forgotten what it was like to have real friends. Jenna excused herself when a man came up and escorted her to the dance floor. Grace didn’t mind sitting alone. In LA she had many acquaintances, but no real friends. And looking back she realized that most of them were after something. It was the LA lifestyle, a dog eat dog world and everybody searching for a bone.
She enjoyed watching Cindy and
Jenna dancing with a couple of cute guys she had seen around the ranch. All the activity on the dance floor made her back ache, but she was having a good time listening to the music.
The band started playing a slow song
. “Angel,” by Sarah McLachlan—Grace’s favorite. She closed her eyes and hummed along, wishing she had someone to care about her.
“May I have this dance?
” Her heart sang with delight. She hadn’t seen Seth come into the bar, but she recognized his sensual voice and opened her eyes to see him holding out his hand. Throwing caution to the wind, she placed her hand in his, causing her heart to beat faster. When she glided into his arms, her problems seemed to melt away. He tightened his arm around her waist and squeezed affectionately causing a tingling sensation to grow in the pit of her stomach.
“You look lovely tonight.
” His voice was soft, almost a murmur, whispering into her ear. He pulled her to his chest in a possessive gesture.
A part of her reveled in his open admiration
but she knew he was just being nice to his boss’s granddaughter. “Thank you.” A warm glow flowed through her while he gently moved her around the dance floor. For a moment, his touch was a balm to ease her troubled mind. But part of her problem was the man. She didn't know what he had done in the past...and his touch made her feel things she thought were long dormant. She had to conquer her involuntary reactions to that gentle loving look of his or she would be lost.
The song ended and Cindy walked up to them
. “Hey, Seth, you guys looked good out there. Care to join us?”
Grace’s heart slammed into her chest
. Was this the man Cindy cared for? Remembering Cindy saying she’d take Seth in a New York minute, she bet a lot of women in Cedar Falls felt the same way. After all, he was handsome, affectionate and most important...available. She pushed the thought that he was also an ex-con to the back of her mind, wanting to enjoy the moment.
, I have to talk to some of the boys first.” He held Grace’s hand when he led her back to the table. “Save another dance for me.” He studied her thoughtfully with an invitation in the smoldering depth of his eyes then walked away.
Grace swallowed the lump in her throat when she sat down
. The man took her breath away. She was putty in his hands. Why, now of all times, did she have to feel this way about someone, and why him? She’d decided she couldn’t be with anyone and now she had an undeniable attraction to Seth. Life wasn’t fair.
“It looked like you two had been dancing together for a lifetime.
” Cindy grinned. “Tell me, how do you do it? Seth doesn't date anyone. Most of the single woman in town have made moves on him and he ignores them. You come home and he's drawn to you like a bee to a hive.”
Flustered, Grace held her drink, running her finger around the rim of the glass
. “Oh, he was only dancing with me because we live in the same house.” She glanced at his well-defined profile while he stood at the bar. “He's not interested in me that way.” She couldn’t help but notice his nice buns. What was happening to her? She hadn’t been physically attracted to anyone in ages.
, tell me another one.” She laughed. “Wake up old friend of mine. I know these things. The man is attracted to you.” She seemed to enjoy Grace’s struggle to capture her composure.
“He was only being nice
. Besides, you’re the one who’s attracted to him.” She leaned back in her chair and smiled, showing Cindy it didn’t bother her.
? I don’t think so.” Cindy shook her head. “You silly goose, I’m not interested in Seth. I think he’d be great for you. He’s exactly what you need.”
She sighed with relief
—good, Cindy's not interested in Seth. But though she was glad it didn’t mean she was ready for a relationship—especially with an ex-con. “You’re way off base.” She spoke with determination. “I don’t need a man, especially not Seth. Anyway, I’m doing fine without one.” But being in his arms had made her feel alive.
Must be the wine.
The demon on her shoulder reminded her this was all a game. Why not have a little fun? One way or another, through Nana or her, Seth was only after the ranch.
“Yeah, I have to admit you’re doing great, but everybody needs somebody, even if it’s just for companionship
. Maybe Seth isn’t the one, but there’s someone out there for both of us. Mark my words. We just have to find them. And believe me it gets to be difficult in a small town like Cedar Falls.” Cindy sighed and gave Grace a hug.
“Have you had too much to drink?
” Grace asked. Cindy was acting tipsy, but still charming in her odd way.
“No way, I’m just getting started
. Not drinking, but having fun. I think I’ll ask Travis to dance. He’s been watching me all night, but he’s about the shyest cowpoke I’ve ever met.”
“Which one is he?
” Grace took in most of the bar in one swift glance. Cowboys dressed in their best Levis stood around the bar drinking. They all looked alike, except for Seth. There was an air of confidence about him. He leaned against the bar sipping a Coors, while talking to another cowboy. The man sent her pulse spinning. She crossed her arms and listened to Cindy.
“He’s the cutie talking to Seth
. He’s kind of short, but taller than me.”
“Well, that wouldn’t take much, since you are such a munchkin
. How tall are you now?” Grace smiled. It had been a long time since she’d been able to tease her friend.
“I’m as tall as you, my dear, and don’t you forget it.
. Stand up and I’ll prove it.” They stood back to back. Cindy’s jet black lay against Grace’s blond head. Touching the top of Grace’s head with her upraised hand, she conceded. “Well, maybe you are a bit taller.”
They sat down and
Jenna came back to the table panting from the fast dance. “Those boys will wear you out if you let them.”
“Is it always this busy?
” Grace checked out the dance floor. It looked like the room was shrinking with the couples swaying to the music. The place was packed.
“Yeah, since Charlie made the changes I told you about.
” Jenna picked up a napkin and nervously twisted it with her fingers. “His business is growing like gangbusters.”
Grace saw the source of
Jenna’s nervous reaction. She would’ve recognized Charlie anywhere when he approached them from across the room.
“My ears have been burning all the way from Denver
. Who’s been talking about me?” The tall, blond man towered over the table. When Charlie’s gaze fell upon Grace, his eyes widened in surprise. “Grace Sanders, as I live and breathe, how are you? I can’t believe you’re here.” He raised his eyebrows at the girls. “Cindy Lou, why didn’t you tell me?”