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Authors: Carolyn Brown

The Lullaby Sky

BOOK: The Lullaby Sky
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PRAISE FOR CAROLYN BROWN

 

The Wedding Pearls

 


The Wedding Pearls
by Carolyn Brown is an amazing story about family, life, love, and finding out who you are and where you came from. This book is a lot like
The Golden Girls
meet
Thelma & Louise
.”


Harlequin Junkie


The Wedding Pearls
is an absolute must-read. I cannot recommend this one enough. Grab a copy for yourself and one for a best friend or even your mother or both. This is a book that you need to read. It will make you laugh and cry. It is so sweet and wonderful and packed full of humor. I hope that when I grow up, I can be just like Ivy and Frankie.”


Rainy Day Ramblings

 

The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop

 


The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop
was hilarious, and so much fun to read. But sweet romances, strong female friendships, and family bonds make this more than just a humorous read.”


The Readers Den

“If you like books about small towns and how the people’s lives intertwine, you will
LOVE
this book. I think it’s probably my favorite book this year. The relationships of the three main characters, girls who have grown up together, will make you feel like you just pulled up a chair in their beauty shop with a bunch of old friends. As you meet the other people in the town, you’ll wish you could move there. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments and then more that will just make you smile. These are real people, not the oh-so-thin-and-so-very-rich that are often the main characters in novels. This book will warm your heart, and you’ll remember it after you finish the last page. That’s the highest praise I can give a book.”

—Reader quote

 

Long, Hot Texas Summer

 

“This is one of those lighthearted, feel-good, make-me-happy kind of stories. But, at the same time, the essence of this story is family and love with a big ol’ dose of laughter and country living thrown in the mix. This is the first installment in what promises to be another fascinating series from Brown. Find a comfortable chair, sit back, and relax, because once you start reading
Long,
Hot Texas Summer
you won’t be able to put it down. This is a super fun and sassy romance.”


Thoughts in Progress

 

Daisies in the Canyon

 

“I just loved the symbolism in
Daisies in the Canyon
. As I mentioned before, Carolyn Brown has a way with character development with few if any contemporaries. I am sure there are more stories to tell in this series. Brown just touched the surface first with
Long, Hot Texas Summer
and now continuing on with
Daisies in the Canyon
.”


Fresh Fiction

ALSO BY CAROLYN BROWN

C
ONTEMPORARY
S
TAND
-A
LONE
R
OMANCES

The Wedding Pearls

The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop

The Ladies’ Room

Hidden Secrets

Long, Hot Texas Summer

Daisies in the Canyon

Trouble in Paradise

T
HE
B
ROKEN
R
OAD
S
ERIES

To Trust

To Commit

To Believe

To Dream

To Hope

T
HREE
M
AGIC
W
ORDS
T
RILOGY

A Forever Thing

In Shining Whatever

Life After Wife

T
HE
B
LACK
S
WAN
T
RILOGY

Pushin’ Up Daisies

From Thin Air

Come High Water

T
HE
D
RIFTERS
& D
REAMERS
T
RILOGY

Morning Glory

Sweet Tilly

Evening Star

T
HE
L
OVE

S
V
ALLEY
S
ERIES

Choices

Absolution

Chances

Redemption

Promises

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2016 Carolyn Brown

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781503937802

ISBN-10: 1503937801

Cover design by Laura Klynstra

This book is dedicated to all shelters for abused women and to the volunteers who help to keep them running. You know where you are and who you are, but please know that words cannot begin to tell you how much you are appreciated.

C
HAPTER
O
NE

T
he table gave Hannah something stable to hold on to as the old white-haired judge took his place at the highly polished bench. A river of sweat trickled between her breasts, but it would all be over within an hour. Seven years of misery was about to come to an end. Feeling four sets of eyes scrutinizing her, she stole a quick glance at the other side of the courtroom.

Marty and his lawyer were conversing in whispers, but his cold green eyes locked on her, disapproving as always. She shrank inside her skin and wished she’d worn the little black suit and high heels, that she’d swept her hair up into a twist at the back and not used so much smoky eye shadow. This wasn’t the day to take a stand for independence and wear skinny jeans, a western-cut shirt with pearl snaps, or cowboy boots. The papers weren’t signed and sealed yet, and her soon-to-be ex hated cowboy boots.

A hand came from behind to rest on her shoulder, and she tensed; then Travis patted her gently and she relaxed—at least enough to breathe again. With her four friends behind her, she could draw on their strength to get her through this day. Aunt Birdie, her great-aunt, and Miss Rosie, Travis’s grandmother, had wanted to be there for her also, but Hannah had convinced them to stay home and babysit her daughter, Sophie. Besides, those two old gals said exactly what they wanted when they wanted. Not what she needed in this courtroom.

People were sitting now that the judge had settled into his chair, but Hannah’s feet remained glued to the floor. Her hands had a death grip on the table. If she let go, would she faint? What if the judge said no? What if he made them wait another three months? What if Marty changed his mind and wanted visitation or even full custody of Sophie?

“You may be seated, Mrs. Ellis.” The judge nodded toward her.

The lawyer tugged on her arm, and she let go of the table and slid down into the wooden chair. “Sorry,” she whispered.

“It’ll be over in a little while,” he whispered. “You aren’t contesting anything, so there’s nothing to fight about, and from the looks of his girlfriend, he wants this divorce as much as you do.”

Though the old oak benches in the small courtroom were polished to a glowing sheen, a bit of dust lingered on the end of the table where Hannah and her lawyer sat in two straight-back chairs. Would Marty see that and go into a rage right there in front of his parents, his pregnant new girlfriend, and the judge? Marty did not abide a speck of dust on anything. But for him that was minor. Leaving a hair in the bathroom sink, or worse yet, a single wrinkle in the bedsheets—those were sure to set him off into a screaming rage. Instinctively, she wrapped her arms around her body to protect her ribs.

The judge fanned through the papers before him. Hannah remembered to take breaths, but they were shallow. Afraid to blink for fear she’d wake up and this would be a dream, she felt her eyes become so dry that they ached.

“Approach please, sir?” Marty’s lawyer asked.

The judge motioned him and Hannah’s lawyer forward, leaving Hannah unprotected except for her three friends. Darcy, sitting behind her and beside Calvin, mumbled something under her breath. Outgoing, bubbly Darcy with her spiky, blonde hair was the vice president of a bank in Gainesville, but Hannah had no doubt that the mumbling contained words that would fry the hair off Lucifer’s pointy little chin.

Cal laid a hand on Hannah’s shoulder. Having seen him in his starched jeans, white pearl-snapped shirt, big belt buckle, and polished boots, Hannah knew most folks in the room would think the tall blond was a bull rider or a rancher. Truth was, Cal was a fashion designer—sewing was his passion.

Travis was often every bit as misjudged as Calvin. Tall, lanky, and studious-looking with his wire-rimmed glasses and dark-brown hair that was always too long, he was often mistaken for a schoolteacher. In reality he could wield a hammer or run carpentry equipment with finesse. He’d left Crossing right after high school and had come home only for holidays until last year, when he came back for good. It helped to have some men on her side with Marty glaring at her.

Then there was Liz, the other target of Marty’s glares. He hated quiet, sweet Liz, because she’d given Hannah a job, and he despised the little bit of independence that job had brought into her life. Liz had pressured Hannah into working as a teacher’s aide the past several years at the school where she acted as principal. Liz should be in a court of law for the same reason Hannah was, but Liz was still making excuses for her son-of-a-bitch husband.

The whispering in front of the judge ceased, and the two lawyers returned to their clients’ tables. Hannah’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the smug expression on Marty’s lawyer’s face. She whipped around to try to read his parents’ body language, but both of them were looking straight ahead. His pregnant girlfriend, a tall redhead, laid a hand on her baby bump. She had that look in her eyes reserved for deer in the headlights and women who’re scared senseless of the man they are with. She blinked and looked away quickly.

A diamond the size of a dime on her hand glinted in the sunlight flowing into the room from the single window. Marty turned toward the woman and flashed one of those brilliant smiles that had endeared him to Hannah back in the beginning of their relationship. Marty wasn’t handsome, just generic—medium height, light-brown hair, green eyes. But when he walked into a room, that fake charm drew women to him. Looking back, Hannah realized now that his smile never reached his eyes unless he was slapping her around or yelling at her.

Hannah had fallen for his charisma. By the time she realized it was all a game to him, it was too late to turn around and go back. She was pregnant and then she had a daughter that he constantly threatened to take away from her. That poor red-haired woman sitting behind him was number two in what would probably be a long line of women that Marty would try to break with his “training.”

If only she could yell at her to run away and never sign the papers to marry him. Hannah glanced back at her again, but she was staring straight ahead as if she was afraid to look anywhere else. Hannah was the past; the redhead was the present. And someday when Marty decided he couldn’t train the new woman any better than he could the one he had in the past, he’d move on to the future. Nothing would ever change him.

Her lawyer checked a page on the papers in front of him and leaned toward her. He smelled like coffee and cigarettes with a hint of spicy aftershave thrown into the mix. “Are you sure that you don’t want to ask for more? This whole thing is pitiful. Your daughter deserves more, and so do you.”

She shook her head. “He didn’t change his mind about Sophie, did he?”

Her lawyer shook his head. “No, he is relinquishing all rights to his daughter, but for God’s sake, Hannah, he married you without a prenup. He owes you more than the piddling amount he’s offering as child support. You also deserve alimony.”

She shook her head. “Just get it over with and let me sign the divorce papers. I don’t want anything from him.”

“Are we ready?” the judge asked.

“Yes, sir,” both lawyers said in unison.

“Is there anything else that Mr. Ellis would like to say?” the judge asked.

Cal wiggled in the pew behind Hannah. Without looking she knew he’d propped his left foot on his right knee and folded his arms across his chest, daring Marty to say a word.

No, they aren’t pews. That isn’t right.
Hannah frowned. She had to get it right. If she didn’t, then there would be consequences. Churches had pews, and this did not resemble a church in any sense of the word, unless one took into account that the devil incarnate sat at the other table. In the courtroom they were benches.

They still looked like pews to Hannah, but then, she’d been in church a lot more often than she’d ever been in a courtroom.

“My client has nothing else to add to his petition,” Marty’s lawyer said.

“And you, Mrs. Ellis?” The judge nodded toward Hannah.

Hannah spoke before the lawyer could open his mouth. “I want to be clear on this. I get my child, my house, and the land that goes with it in this settlement.”

The judge nodded. “Do you agree with this? And are you willing to take a onetime payment in lieu of a monthly child support check, half today and half of which will be set up in a trust fund to be given to the child on her twenty-fifth birthday? And you will not revisit this issue at any time in the future?”

“Yes, sir.” Hannah nodded.

“According to this, you will have the deed to the house and all the contents thereof, the airplane hangar and what is in it, the property it sits on, and the 2004 Chevrolet that is on that property. Is that agreeable?”

“Yes, sir.” The lawyer finally got a word in ahead of her.

“Are you aware that since there was no prenuptial agreement you are entitled to a lot more?” the judge asked.

Marty’s lawyer moved in a blur as he pushed back his chair and stood to his feet.

The judge pointed at him. “Sit down. I want this young woman to know without a doubt what she is signing today.”

“I am aware. I will not ask for anything more from Marty in the future, and I understand what I am signing,” Hannah said.

“Martin or James, not Marty,” the lawyer muttered.

“What was that?” the judge asked.

“His name is Martin, James, or Mr. Ellis, not Marty. He does not like to be addressed as Marty,” the lawyer said coldly.

“Noted. Okay, I’m going to grant this divorce contingent upon the transfer of deeds and titles.” The judge picked up the gavel, but Marty’s lawyer jumped up again and asked if he could approach.

The judge sighed and laid the wooden hammer back down.

Calvin leaned forward and whispered, “It’s almost over, darlin’. Just a few more minutes.”

“I have all those documents right here. We would like to have this totally finalized today,” Marty’s lawyer said.

“I suppose you would.” The judge narrowed his eyes at Marty. “And one more time: Martin James Ellis, you are fully aware that you are signing away all parental rights, and that includes the right for another man to adopt her if Mrs. Ellis should remarry?”

“Yes, sir,” Marty said without hesitation. “Hannah can have her maiden name back if she wants it and give that to her daughter. I don’t want anything to do with this woman or her child again. Marrying her and trying to give her a better life was a mistake.”

The judge shook his head slowly. “I don’t want to see you back in my courtroom in six months or six years crying the blues about visitation.” He shifted his gaze to Hannah. “Do you want it entered into the divorce decree that you and your child will take back your maiden name?”

Hannah whispered to her lawyer as she nodded. “If it can be done right now, I do want my name back and for Sophie’s to be O’Malley instead of Ellis. If it’s going to prolong things, I’ll keep the Ellis name.”

“My client would like to have her name back and change the name of the child, but only if this can be done today,” the lawyer answered for her.

“Okay?” He turned to Marty. “You sure about this, Mr. Ellis?”

Marty’s head bobbed up and down as he conferred with his lawyer.

“My client says that he is fully aware of what he will be signing and he is fine with letting his wife have her name back and to give that name to the child.” His lawyer looked like a model for a toothpaste ad when he grinned.

Hannah could feel the touch of someone’s angry gaze and glanced over her shoulder at the pregnant woman behind Marty. This glare was cold as icicles. Cool as a cucumber sandwich on a hot July day, his girlfriend sat there with her chin up, but her eyes swam in fear and sadness. Marty was starting with better material this time. This one came from money, so he wouldn’t have to work so hard to get her fit for proper society, those words whispered so many times that they were branded in Hannah’s brain.

But maybe, just maybe, this woman could get away from him. Hannah would even help her if she could. Not only this poor woman who was about to endure the blazes of hell, but every woman who needed to get away from an abusive relationship. Hannah would be willing to do whatever she could to help them.

The judge slammed the gavel down and startled Hannah so badly that she whipped her head around, shoulders involuntarily shuddering and eyes blinking several times. When she could focus again, there was movement all around her.

Marty hugged his parents, kissed his girlfriend, and shook hands with the lawyer. Liz, Darcy, Travis, and Calvin leaned over the rail separating them from her and enfolded her into a group hug.

Hannah’s lawyer gathered up the papers and shook her hand when the hug finally ended. “I hope that you don’t regret this, Mrs. Ellis.”

“Miss O’Malley,” Liz said quickly. “And believe me, sir, the only regret she has is that she was ever Mrs. Ellis to start with.”

Hannah was no longer Mrs. Martin James Ellis IV, from the rich and famous Ellis family in Dallas, Texas. She was once again Hannah O’Malley from Crossing, Texas, and her daughter was now Sophie O’Malley, not Sophie Ellis.

BOOK: The Lullaby Sky
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