Excerpt from Desert Fire, Mountain Rain

Wade watched from his office window. What was she doing? Part of him wanted to go down and find out, and part of him wanted to turn away and forget he ever met her. But he couldn’t. She was trouble, and he knew it. Andrea Nelson was a know-it-all who embodied everything Wade had ever heard about Naval officers—opinionated, self-inflated, and self-righteous. 

Only, she hadn’t seemed that way when they met on the street and certainly not when she fled from him at the park. 

Wade hit the button on the intercom and asked Trudy to come into the office. Trudy entered, closed the door behind her, and took a seat in front of the desk. “Yes, boss?”

“Knock it off. You’ve been bossing me around since we were kids.”

“I know. That’s why I say it. I have to remind myself that you’re in charge here.”

He smiled in spite of himself. “What do you know about Andi Nelson?”

“Other than she’s older than me, an ex-Navy officer, darn beautiful with the most intense blue eyes, and really gets under your skin?”

Wade rolled his eyes. “She doesn’t get under my skin.”

“Then how would you put it?” Trudy leaned forward, giving him her full attention.

“She’s exasperating. Sweet and funny one minute, moody the next, and downright spitting nails the next.”

“But she doesn’t get under your skin at all, I see.”

“Would you stop saying that?” He huffed out a breath and ran his fingers through his short, wavy hair. “She’s up to something, and I can’t figure out what it is. All she does is walk up and down Main Street, looking in and out of the empty store windows. This is the second day I’ve seen her doing it since she got back in town.”

“Maybe she’s thinking of becoming a real estate agent.”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. She berated me for helping Mom sell the theater.”

“So, you sold it?”

“Not yet; I’m still trying.”

She frowned. “Any bites?”

“No.” He sighed as he twirled a pen between his fingers. “I can’t get anyone interested in it. Everyone says it’s a bad investment. Heck, this whole town is a bad investment. I don’t know what I was thinking, taking this thankless job. I should be back on Fifth Avenue. Do you know how much money I was making?”

“I have a pretty good idea. So, why not go back? Nothing is keeping you here. I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, but if you move Aunt Blanche into one of those homes up there, she won’t know the difference as to where she is. You could close up the house, sell it, level it, whatever. I’d leave if I could. And I’d never look back.”

“Why haven’t you? You’re young. You’ve been working here since you were sixteen. You must be ready to move on.”

“And where would I go? I don’t make enough to buy a house or even rent an apartment. You know what this gig pays.”

“Why don’t you date?”

“For the same reason you don’t. Look around.”

Wade nodded. He got it. Just about everyone he’d gone to school with had left and never come back. Trudy’s friends were the same. They were either gone or popping out babies or fighting drug addiction. The town was nowhere to find one’s future.

“Andi’s sister runs the library. Doesn’t she have a brother? What’s he doing now?”

“Not sure. He quit college, though. I don’t think it was his choice, but he’s back home. Not sure what he studied. Business? Marketing? Something like that.”


“Huh, what?”

“Nothing.” He stood and looked out the window again. Andi was staring at the movie theater. “What would you do with the theater if you were in my shoes?”

“Hmm…I’m not sure. It’s such an icon around here. I hate to see it closed, or worse, torn down. Mama likes to talk about how she and Aunt Blanche used to sneak around behind the old stage and smoke cigarettes and share bottles of Boone’s Farm.”

Wade turned to face her. “Really? My mother smoked and drank?”

Trudy shrugged. “I guess there wasn’t much else to do. I think they were good kids though. They obviously turned out all right. And they made great babies.”

He laughed. “I guess they did.” Wade clapped his hands together. “I should get back to work.”

Trudy stood and stifled a yawn. “Want me to find out what Andi’s up to? It’s not like I have tons of more exciting or pressing matters on my desk.”

Wade thought about it. “How ‘bout you keep your ear to the ground. Let me know if you happen to hear anything. But don’t go asking questions and stirring things up.”

She gave him a mischievous grin. “Little ol’ me? Stir things up? Why, when have I ever done anything like that?”

“You forget who you’re talking to. There aren’t many secrets in our family.”

Trudy threw her head back and laughed. “Oh, cousin, dear, you don’t know the half of it.” Wade smiled as he watched her leave. Nothing she said surprised him. He knew his cousin was a wild child at one time. She got in big trouble one night back in school and was ordered to do community service at the mayor’s office. She’d been there ever since. Wade also knew, as office manager to the mayor, a lifelong resident of Buffalo Springs, and the prettiest and most popular girl in town, she had her ways of finding out exactly what she needed to know about everyone and everything.