Publication date: December 11th 2018 (audio)
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Teri Campbell is on the run, on a bus ride to nowhere. An unscheduled stop on the wind-blown plains of Wyoming leaves her at M&J’s Truck Stop… and in the arms of Mike Gallagher, the young trucker who appoints himself her protector, who understands her as no one else could. But will her new life and her new-found love be enough when events take an unexpected turn? …and can even Mike keep her safe from the past that threatens to reclaim her?
Bone weary, Teri stared in trepidation at the house as Mike backed the car into a vacant spot along the curb. It had been four long, exhausting days. Even though they’d taken the trip in easy stages, only driving a few hundred miles a day, she felt strained and edgy. For five days she’d held onto the thought of arriving at the Parelli’s with relief, never doubting her welcome, and now they were here at last, all she felt was a great wariness and apprehension.
She looked around to see Mike watching her. He stroked her cheek with gentle fingers and she leaned into his touch, grateful for his strength that had brought them all this way.
“You’re going to be just fine. They’re going to love you, I promise.”
Giving her hand a quick squeeze, he released her and opened his door. At that moment the front door to the house burst open, and a young girl came flying across the lawn.
She flung herself at him as he unfolded his length from the car, and he lifted her, laughing, off the ground.
“Hiya, punkin,” he returned her greeting. “How’s school these days?”
“It’s a drag. Joan says you have a baby! Can I see?”
Not appearing to do anything by half measures, she danced out of his grasp to press her nose against the rear door window. Big brown eyes widened as she saw Amanda, awake and kicking in her car seat.
“Oooooooooooh,” she breathed. “Oh, she’s so little! Mike, can I hold her once we’re inside?”
He pinned her with a look.
“Only if you’re sitting down, and not bouncing like a basketball.” He added thoughtfully, covering all the bases, “and you’ve gotten permission from Teri or Joan.”
Teri stepped carefully from the car, and the girl beamed at her.
“Are you Mike’s girlfriend?”
She darted forward, but Mike caught her as passed.
“Whoa!” he laughed. “Carefully now. Teri’s had a C section and is still healing.”
He came around the car, his arm draped over the girl’s shoulders.
“Teri, this bunch of energy here is Lydia. She’s the oldest of the girls. At least… are you?” he broke off to ask the girl.
Lydia grinned at Teri, then up at Mike who towered above them both.
“Sure. We haven’t had anybody new since you were here last.”
She reached out one hand to shake Teri’s gingerly…. as if, Teri thought with amusement, she were going to break. She judged the girl to be about eleven or twelve, with long tawny hair slightly streaked from the sun, and almost as tall as Teri herself. The girl bounced out of Mike’s embrace to jiggle on her toes by the car door.
“So are you all going to, like, bring the baby inside, or what?”
Teri moved to unbuckle Amanda from the car seat, and found herself moved aside. Mike lifted the baby out, giving her a stern look.
“You carry your purse and not one other thing,” he told her. “I’ll mobilize the troops for the rest.”
Glancing at the house, she realized that they had an audience. Several children, ranging from a teenage boy to a toddler of no more than four, emerged from the house, followed by an older woman whom Teri had no difficulty in recognizing as Joan from Mike’s description of her. She felt Mike’s arm come around her. She leaned into him, grateful for his support.
“Teri! We’re so glad you made it safely!”
Joan’s smile was as wide as Texas and bright as the sun; no doubt of her welcome as she enfolded Teri into a warm embrace. Mike bent to kiss her cheek, and she turned to hug him as well, lifting Amanda from his arms.
“Here, you lot help Mike unload the car,” she directed as the children clustered around them, eyeing the tiny baby in respectful silence.
“The children have been so anxious, hoping you’d get here tonight,” she explained as she led Teri towards the house. “They’ve been on pins and needles since Mike called to say you were coming. I don’t think there’s a speck of carpet left by the front window, they’ve spent so much time running to look every time they heard a car for the past two days.”
A career medical transcriptionist, Allie McCormack is now writing from home full-time. Allie has traveled quite a bit and lived many places all over the U.S., and also a year in Cairo, Egypt as an exchange student, and a year in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia under contract to a hospital there, plus a short stint with NATO while she was in the Army. As a single mom, she raised a wonderful daughter who’s recently married and there are plans afoot for grandchildren. A disabled veteran, Allie now lives in the beautiful Sorona Desert in southern Arizona with her two rescue cats and writes full-time.
Allie says: “A writer is who and what I am… a romance writer. I write what I know, and what I know is romance. Dozens of story lines and literally hundreds of characters live and breathe within the not-so-narrow confines of my imagination, and it is my joy and privilege to bring them to life, to share them with others by writing their stories.”
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