Can online dating entice a divorced woman and a rancher to reveal the secrets of their lonely hearts?
As I’ve grown and developed along my writing path, I’ve also matured in years. Funny, how that happens. When I started plotting When Lonely Hearts Meet, I was aiming at a specific publisher call for submissions that dealt with the topic of online dating. Having a couple in their twenties involved in the plot seemed too easy. Going online, establishing a profile, and providing clever and intriguing answers would be normal for the tech-savvy generation.
But add twenty years to their ages and the characters are from a different generation. Individuals who are more hesitant about being open and accessible online. Ta, da–may I introduce Clover Damone and Wade Pallaton? Adults in their forties who have lived through contentious divorces and are a bit wary this time when they recognize they’re attracted to each other.
I loved writing this short novella set in Dorado, Texas as a companion to Gingerbread Wishes, the launch book in the Sugar & Spice Bakery series. If you’d like to add this story to your Want To Read list on Goodreads, here’s the link
I’m giving away one ecopy of this story with the name chosen from those who leave comments on the following question by Sunday, February 8. For a small town romance, do you prefer a graphic cover (like the one above) or one containing a couple?
The older woman’s voice was pitched low but the throaty tone carried. What caught his eye was the sight of shapely calves encased in skinny jeans. The trio of brass bracelets and the long sweater that almost reached her knees clued him in that the lady was new in town. Not normal attire for this rural Texas town. He’d automatically registered that her left hand was ring-free.
The sight of the key making station meant he’d walked halfway down the aisle in his perusal of the interesting stranger. Wade glanced up and jerked when he spotted a narrowed gaze shooting daggers from the thin face of a woman close to his younger son’s age. Busted.
“Eavesdrop much?” The younger woman jammed a hand onto her angled hip.
Tread lightly around this suspicious one. “Beg pardon, miss.” Wade tipped a forefinger against the brim of his Stetson as he dipped his chin. “Ma’am, I heard the call for assistance and thought I’d see if I could answer a question.”
“You work here?” Eyebrow raised, she gave him the once-over. “Dressed like that?”
“Hayley.” The older woman gave a sharp wave, glanced at his length then stepped closer. “Do you know about paints?”
“Done my share of painting. And I’m a fair-to-middlin’ handyman.” He gazed at her, recording the details of her easy smile, her hazel eyes, and the waves of light brown hair framing her face. The combination piqued his interest, something that hadn’t happened in a very long time. “I’m not an employee here…” he shifted his gaze to the young lady and again, dipped his chin, “but I can be neighborly and try to answer your questions.”
“I’m clearing out my great-aunt’s house and it needs a bit of work.”
Just visiting. A niggle of disappointment ran through him. But he still intended to see if he could offer assistance, and maybe even volunteer to help. “First things first. Name’s Wade Pallaton, ma’am.” He extended his hand in a friendly greeting.
A moment passed as she glanced at his hand and then back at his face before sliding hers into his. The edges of her lips flashed a brief smile. “Of course, I’m sorry.”
Warmth built between their palms and he tightened his fingers. Ten years had passed since his divorce, and this was the first honest-to-goodness spark of attraction he’d felt. Her skin was soft and her bones delicate within his grasp.
“I-I’m Clover Damone.” She stared down at their clasped hands, sucked in her lower lip and then jerked her gaze back to his, eyes widening.
A raspy throat clearing sounded from just a few feet away.
“Oh.” Clover broke the connection, wiggled her fingers and then pointed over her shoulder. “And this is my daughter, Hayley.”
“Do you live around here?” Hayley tilted her head and a ponytail a shade darker than her mother’s hair swung to the side.
“Sure do. Got a ranch twenty miles outside of Dorado.”
“So, you’d know if mold is a problem in ancient houses. Cuz the smell that rolled out of that old farmhouse made me wonder about that ugly black stuff.” She shuddered and moved her hands through the air as she talked. “Like maybe we’ll get sick if we stay there.”
Shaking her head, Clover frowned and pressed her lips into a straight line. “I told you, the house just needs airing. We’re staying.”
“Fine.” Hayley jerked her head and pushed an ear bud into each ear, tapping the screen of her phone. “Pick me up in the magazine section when you’re done.” She flashed a glare his way, then spun and headed toward the front of the store.
Unsure of the conversation’s undercurrent, Wade just waited, giving him a few more moments to enjoy the sight of this intriguing woman. Not having raised a daughter, he’d always admired people who maintained a rational tone around sassy attitudes.
“I apologize. She’s really not a rude person. Hayley’s between terms at college, at least I hope she is, and I convinced her this Texas trip would be a fun getaway.” Clover braced her hands on her hips and stared at the floor for a second before meeting his gaze again and crinkling her nose. “I might have exaggerated the “fun” part of packing up family heirlooms, especially to my ultra-modern, social media-fixated child.” She let out a sigh then ran a hand through her hair. “And I have no idea why I’m revealing all this to a complete stranger. This is twice I’ve acted like this in two days. Just ignore me.”
Impossible. Seemed that from the moment he heard her voice, Wade wanted to hear everything she could tell him. He let his gaze follow the flow of her wheat-colored hair as it spilled between her splayed fingers. “Don’t know that I’ve heard the name Damone in these parts.”