The Last Goodbye (The Women of Independence)

BOOK: The Last Goodbye (The Women of Independence)







The Last Goodbye




Mona Ingram


Copyright © 2013
Mona Ingram


All rights


This is a work
of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events or locations is entirely


Author’s Note:

The ghost town
of Silverton as described in the book exists only in my imagination.



This one’s for


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty One


Chapter One

The jet carrying the movie people was
due to land any moment. Danielle draped her arms over the top rail of the fence
and listened for the sound.

She still didn’t understand why her Uncle
Jake had allowed the production company to shoot on his ranch. He certainly
didn’t need the money, or the upheaval that would inevitably take place. But
understand friendship, and Jake Flynn’s long-time friend Sean
Elliott was the producer on this film.

She glanced at her uncle as they waited
for the Gulfstream. Not for the first time, she wondered how he’d managed to
stay single all these years. “Big Jake” Flynn had a reputation as a confirmed
bachelor, but who exactly had ‘confirmed’ his bachelor status?

How did other people see him? The silver
streaks in his hair and moustache were offset by a darkly tanned face. Still
strikingly handsome in his late forties, she knew several women in the nearby town
of Independence who would be more than delighted to put an end to his single
days. A respected rancher, he not only owned the largest spread in the southern
part of British Columbia, he was a savvy investor as well. Very few people knew
that Jake Flynn was wealthy in his own right.

She turned away so it wasn’t so obvious
that she was studying him. Sometimes he was an enigma, even to her. Educated at
Wharton, of all places, he’d chosen to come back to Independence and run the
family ranch when her parents and her grandfather had died within a few months
of each other. He didn’t seem to resent the responsibility thrust upon him; as
a matter of fact he was probably the most content man she knew.

She leaned over the fence. The runway
was a prime example of Jake’s quiet determination. He’d wanted it to be long
enough to accommodate his friend’s Gulfstream, so he’d had the existing landing
strip extended and improved. It was as simple as that.

The high pitched whine of a jet broke
into her thoughts and she backed away from the fence, shading her eyes to scan
the sky. There was very little wind today, and judging by the windsock
fluttering listlessly on the pole by the hangar, the pilot would be making his
approach from the south. She turned and caught the flash of a reflection, and
for a moment, the Gulfstream seemed to hang suspended in the air.

She glanced over at Big Jake, just in
time to notice a change in his body language. Alert now, his eyes narrowed as
he judged the competence of the pilot. A pilot himself, with thousands of hours
in his logbook, Jake flew his own Cessna all over North America, but he’d confided
in her once that his dream was to get checked out on small jets. Finding the
time was something else.

The dark blue aircraft touched down at
the end of the runway, and the sound of the engines reversing reached them
moments later. Sunlight glinted off the silver star on the tail. Apart from the
call sign, no other markings identified the aircraft, and Danielle admired the
restraint of the owner.

“Starfire Productions”, said Jake, as
though he’d read her mind. He looked more alive than she’d seen him in ages. “What
a sweet ride.”

Danielle nodded and tried to look
impressed. She loved her uncle, and understood his fascination with aircraft,
but in her limited experience, private jets were the toys of the wealthy...
people who thought the rules didn’t apply to them. She thought about that for a
moment and admitted to herself that she probably shouldn’t make judgments based
on what she saw on television.

“What’s your friend like?” she asked,
injecting enthusiasm into her voice. The pilot taxied in close, cutting the
engines as the nose gear came to rest in the circle on the tarmac.

Jake’s reply was loud in the ensuing
silence. “He’s great.” He coughed self-consciously and lowered his voice.
“You’ll like him.” Jake and Sean had studied finance together at Wharton, and
the friendship was as strong today as it had been all those years ago.

The door opened and the steps unfolded
slowly. Jake continued to lean against the fence, an eager smile on his face.

The bottom half of a man appeared in the
door, wearing a pair of faded jeans and well-worn cowboy boots. He came down
the steps and looked around, his gaze resting lightly on Jake and Danielle
before taking in the rest of the valley. He was too young to be the producer.
This man was in his early thirties; he looked tired, and he needed a shave. Or
was that the look affected by so many models and actors these days?

She watched him carefully as he took in
his surroundings. No, he was tired. She may not know the man, but she could
tell that he needed the peace and quiet of Green Lake Ranch in the worst way.

Too bad he was part of the movie crew;
it was unlikely he’d get much rest once filming started. “Who’s that?” she
asked, eager to get an early start on learning the key players. She’d met Scott
Bailey, “The First”, and Marty Milner, the Second AD a couple of months back,
when they’d been scouting the location. Only a few key people were expected
today, but she might as well get a head start on their names.

Jake shot her a quick look. “That’s the
Director, Grayson Crawford. He’s...” His voice trailed off. Danielle frowned
and turned back to the aircraft to see what had distracted him.

The man in jeans had extended his hand
to a woman who stood tentatively in the open door. Somewhere in her forties,
she could only be described as lushly beautiful.

Jake’s boot scraped on the tarmac as he
straightened. His gaze was riveted on the woman as she walked down the stairs.
He sucked in his gut and pulled his hat slightly lower over his eyes. Danielle smiled
to herself as she watched her uncle’s response. It struck her that even though
she’d spent every summer on the ranch since she turned eight, she didn’t
know him. They rarely discussed personal issues; those she talked over with her
grandmother, or with Jake’s housekeeper Esperanza.

Another figure appeared in the doorway
of the jet, breaking Jake out of his trance. He swallowed, and rubbed his palms
down the side of his jeans. “There’s Sean,” he said, regaining his voice. “I
guess I’d better go and welcome them.”

Danielle nodded silently. She’d never met
Sean Elliott, in spite of the fact that he’d visited often over the years.
Growing up, she’d been a busy young woman, and they’d always missed one
another. She looked forward to finally meeting the producer, but she’d give the
old friends time to catch up; she would see him tonight at dinner. Besides, she
wanted to check the progress of the set she’d been working on.

The movie – as yet unnamed – was
basically a love triangle involving two brothers, one of whom has been recently
paralyzed in a fall from a horse. In the story, the second brother arrives for
a visit, and falls in love with the paralyzed man’s wife. Danielle thought of
it as
The Bridges of Madison County
An Affair To Remember

Thanks to the friendship between her
uncle and Sean Elliott, the choice of Green Lake Ranch for most of the exterior
shots had been a foregone conclusion. When the producer had learned that she
owned a construction company specializing in renovations, he’d quietly steered some
of the construction work her way... as much as he could and still keep the
unions happy. She had also agreed to serve as standby carpenter to the film
while they were immersed in principal photography.

As part of his duties as Second AD, Marty
Milner had chosen one of the two large barns on the property as the perfect
place to build the set for one of the important scenes in the movie. Danielle’s
company had contracted to create a tack room according to the plans provided.
She’d done most of the work herself, and was proud of what she’d accomplished.
All that was left to do before the set dressers went to work was to apply an
‘aging’ compound to the wood.

Green Lake Ranch had been a dude ranch
before Jake purchased it. As a result, it had two large barns, a long, low
stable building, a well equipped bunkhouse, and several cabins near the main
house. Over the years, Jake had added a large barbeque area, located
strategically near the cabins and the bunkhouse. Located some distance away, a
hangar for Jake’s Cessna and a drive-in shed for the growing collection of farm
equipment added to the outbuildings. From the air, the area around the big
house resembled a small town.

Almost at the barn, Danielle slowed for
a moment, taking in the familiar scene. Over the next couple of days, the crews
would arrive and everything would change. Already several portable buildings
lined the road leading into the ranch, and more were arriving tomorrow. This production
was comparatively uncomplicated, but even so, the meticulous planning was

She walked into the barn and waited a
moment for her eyes to adjust. The tack room set was nearing completion and she
stood back to admire it. “Hey, Nick.” She greeted her foreman. “How’s it
going?” Thank goodness for Nick’s loyalty; he’d chosen to stay when Bryce had
poached some of her best employees last month. She gave herself a mental shake.
Best not to think of that now.

Nick stood up, brush in hand. “This stuff
is great.” He’d almost finished applying the compound, completing the effect of
an old, well-used tack room. The literature accompanying the product had called
it “instant aging”.

“Do you mind if I give it a go?” Danielle
took the proffered brush, held it to her nose and made a face. “Smells

Nick laughed. “Why do you think I passed
it over so quickly?” He pointed to a spot down low on the tack room wall. “That
will probably be covered by straw bales, but I want to do it right. You can try
it out there.”

Chapter Two

Grayson released Carmen’s hand and
looked up to see the tall man approaching. He’d spotted him earlier, leaning
against the fence with a young woman... probably his daughter. He looked for
her but she’d disappeared.

“Sean!” The man extended his hand. “Good
to see you again.”

Grayson worked to hide his surprise. So
this was the owner of the ranch. Sean had pointed out the extent of the man’s
holdings as they flew over the property, and he’d imagined Sean’s friend as
more of a businessman. The man before him moved with the loose-limbed gait of a
cowboy, and the sweat band on his hat was stained with real sweat. Grayson had
seen enough movie prop hats to spot the difference. He liked the man already.

The ranch owner stumbled over his words
as Sean introduced him to Carmen. Grayson had to look away to hide his
amusement. Carmen affected men like this on a regular basis; if she was
younger, he’d fall for her himself. Well, maybe not this week; he was still too
raw from his recent breakup, not that his relationship with Melanie had been
serious, but still...

He turned back to the small group. What
was the man’s name? He’d read it in his notes. Oh yes, Jake. Jake was shaking
hands with Carmen, and smiling like a schoolboy.

Carmen Santangelo. In her way, she was a
Hollywood legend. Maybe she wasn’t a mega-star, but in Grayson’s mind, she was
more than that: she was a real woman. In addition to her beauty, she was one of
the most professional actors he’d worked with. She always knew her lines and
never kept the crew members waiting. As to her physical attributes, she’d never
been stick-thin, and now that other actresses of her era were aging badly, Carmen
shone like the movie star she was, and men of all ages lusted after her. Dark
eyes snapped with amusement as she shook hands with Jake. She laughed as a
breath of wind toyed with her hair, tangling it in her long eyelashes.

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