Hard Candy

Jade Buchanan
Available from Amazon

She'd flown a thousand miles to confront the lies death had revealed. They left a bitter taste in Penny's mouth even as she breathed deeply of the clean northern air coming in through her open window.

She had missed this. She hadn't even realized that until she'd gotten off the plane in Missoula. Now she was almost home and she'd honestly never thought she'd be saying that again.

Bandit Creek hadn't been her home in over a decade.

The cold finally got to her and she reluctantly raised the window before turning her attention back to the narrow road in front of her that was poorly illuminated by her headlights. For a girl used to the bright lights of Houston, it was going to take her a while to get back into the feel of things.

It was a good thing Craig was willing to help her out.

As if on cue, the tinny sound of a man sing-songing "phone call, phone call" erupted inside the small car.

Jumping, Penny laughed at herself. She fished her cell out of her purse.

"Hey, Craig."

"Are you here, yet?"

"I'm already in the rental car and am about twenty minutes away."

"Are you regretting not letting me pick you up?"

She could practically taste the mirth in his voice. "I'm fine, but it's so dark I'm close to freaking out here."

She breathed deeply, studying the road in front of her carefully. She probably shouldn't be talking on the phone right now, but she wasn't going all that fast anyway. And besides, there was absolutely no one out here.

"You want me to talk to you for a bit?"

"My cell phone bill will probably hate me, but yeah, I need the company. There's nothing out here but rocks and trees and water."

"Seen any wildlife?"

Penny snorted. "Besides the man I saw at the airport?"

A sharp crack of laughter burst in her ear, exactly the reaction she'd been hoping for.

"He was a beast, was he? Did you rip his shirt off?"

"Craig Baxter!"

"That's a no?" Craig's voice was filled with mischief.

"Yes, I mean no, I didn't rip his shirt off."

"Why not?"

She shook her head. "I'm not answering that question."

It was silent for a minute. She was content not to talk. It was comforting just having him on the line. Penny was grateful for the company, so to speak.

Craig cleared his throat. "So, just to let you know… Your Aunt Gerttie phoned here yesterday. I swear I'm getting caller ID. The old biddy was in fine form."

She wanted to slam her head down on the steering wheel. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah, you'll be paying me back for that one, Pens."

"She's still mad?" She sighed, fed up with her aunt's interference.

"Mad doesn't even begin to describe it. She's threatening to erase your name from the family bible."

"She can choke on that bible for all I care. Both her and my dad lied to me for years. I'm sorry she's upset, but I had a right to know."

"I'm not sorry. I told her right on the phone where she could put her precious bible. I don't think she's talking to either one of us now."

She sighed gustily. "I'm sorry, Craig. I didn't mean to drag you into this."

"Stop that right now," Craig said, firmly. "We stick together, you and me. To the end, you got that?"

"I got it." It was surprising how much she wanted to rely on Craig. This wasn't even his family causing him drama, but he never complained. Never backed down. She loved him for it.

Maybe, just maybe, she could finally figure out whether that love would be enough.

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