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Excerpt for Sweet Love of Texas

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(Book 4 of the Three Cross Faith Series)


Chapter 1


Callie Oliver searched the other side of the bleachers at the Three Cross High School gymnasium. The basketball game was halfway over and she was certain some of the Three Cross Faith members would be in the crowd.

"Will Lucas…I mean Somerset has the ball," the announcer said.

Lucas, but changed to Somerset. Jerome's kid. Callie knew the background all too well.

As she sat down on bottom bleacher, she grabbed the latest album of the Christian band from her purse, entitled 'Sweet Love of Texas,' and studied the picture on the front. The newest members of Three Cross Faith, Shannon and Greg Somerset, had been added to the CD that had just come out that week. She studied the cover and looked over to the home team side, scanning the crowd. When she saw Shannon, she smiled. Sitting around Shannon were Greg, Mac and his wife, Jaimee, and even Greg's unmarried brother, Eric. All of them were members of the band.

"Will's up…and he scores!" the announcer said.

The group of Christian band members stood up and cheered, clapping with smiles all around. Unfortunately, those smiles wouldn't last after she did her exposé on the group. Her boss, Jason, wanted the facts and she had a month to get everything she could, or else. Her life was on the line from various angles, including her boss' threats. Once she satisfied his assignment, she had to face her own problems, vowing to quit before those problems sidelined her for good.

She put the CD back into her purse and grabbed her pills, popping a few to make it through the night. Her headaches were getting more frequent, but she had to ignore the pain. There wasn't anything she could afford to do about it, anyway. Brain tumors were usually fatal and she was reminded of that with each new ache.

Will scored another basket, and even though he wasn't very tall, the junior varsity player had a bright future. Callie watched the game and then studied the cheerleaders. One girl in particular looked a lot like Will. From Callie's research, he had a younger sister named Harmonie. Both children were adopted by Greg Somerset after their real father, the notorious criminal Jerome Lucas, gave up his parental rights.

Callie had grown up with Jerome near Atlantic City, New Jersey, so she knew what kind of person he was—downright evil. Jerome's mother was clueless about the things her own son had done. If Callie's research turned up nothing for Jason, her boss, she'd still have that ace in the hole to reveal about Shannon's ex-husband so she could escape Jason's threats. But she'd have to be careful how she worded it because Will and Harmonie had paid enough in the past. She didn't want anyone to suffer or the band to be really hurt, so she was walking a fine line of satisfying her boss while trying to protect the innocent.

She decided to use her real name of Callie Williams from Ohio for this mission. She'd worked hard to lose her childhood New Jersey accent so she could fit in. But if need be, she'd just say she moved to Ohio when she went to college. Her current stage name, Callie Oliver, was the name she used for her job as a disc jockey and radio reporter in Princeton, New Jersey.

With the nursing degrees she'd earned years ago, she could fit in anywhere. But for this place, she had to remember the story she'd fabricated. Her aunt lived in Midland. Callie just wanted to take a trip south to Three Cross to meet the band before she returned to Midland to be her aunt's personal nurse. However, it was all a lie—the lie Jason made her tell.

Even though she wanted to run away, Callie needed to get closer to the group if she was to make contact. She stood up from her seat at the bottom of the bleachers and walked around the gym's perimeter to the other side. As she stood beside the bleachers, she eyed an empty spot in the crowded front, where she always sat. She couldn't climb the bleachers or she might fall from the headaches.

When the home team called a timeout, she scooted to the seat and sat down. The Three Cross Faith members were only two rows behind her, with one or two people in between. She could even hear their conversation. Since Shannon was the one directly behind her, she could hear her the best.

"So, did you like the pie I sent over?" Shannon said. Callie couldn't turn to see who she was talking to.

"Yeah." It sounded like a woman's voice, probably Jaimee. "I'd like that recipe." Jaimee didn't have a southern accent at all, which would fit Callie's research.

Shannon continued. "I'm teaching how to make that pie over at the art warehouse. Come on over and I'll show you."

"Mac would love that. I know the baby does."

Baby? Callie had to look back, acting as if she was searching for someone else. But neither woman looked pregnant. From the way Jaimee talked, it was her baby. She was pregnant?

That's one thing Callie had never done…gotten married and had any children. And now, with the current diagnosis, she never would. These women looked so happy. How could that be possible? They were Christians. Christians weren't happy. That's why Callie had decided to become an atheist. She wanted to be happy in her life and not be judged. Besides, with her past, God didn't know her at all, so religion was probably a myth.

"Mine too," Shannon said in a low tone. Callie watched her lean closer to Jaimee.

"You're pregnant?" Jaimee asked.

"Yep. Just found out. I'm due at the end of October."

"That's great!" Jaimee hugged Shannon. "Can I tell Mac?"

Callie hated staring, but they were so excited, it was magnetic. No, she should watch the game, so she turned around. Now she felt even worse about being in Three Cross for the mission she really didn't want to do.

"Greg was going to tell him after the game," Shannon said. "He didn't want Mac cheering for no reason."

"Excuse me," a male voice said.

Callie looked up to see a good-looking man wanting to get past her. She knew exactly who he was, too. His wide grin covering the entire bottom of his face was a dead giveaway, exactly like the cover of the CD in her purse.

"I didn't see you there when I went out for…my phone call," he said.

"Oh." Callie felt her cheeks heat up. "I moved so I could see better." She stood up and took a step down the row. "I can move."

"No." He touched her arm. "I'm all alone up here, with my brother and his wife and her family. Why don't you join me?" He pointed to the empty seats near his family with a grin.

Callie definitely knew that smile. He was none other than Eric Somerset, the drummer for Three Cross Faith. He also had brown hair and brown eyes, appearing a lot like his older brother, Greg. The man must've worked out, because he was very muscular and attractive, just like his picture on the cover of the CD.

She looked up the two rows to where the family sat. "Um…I'm not a fan of heights. I'll just stay down here."

"May I join you, then?"

As much as she hated it, she had to do her job, or Jason's threats would be carried out. This was definitely her way in. "Sure." She sat back down in her seat, and Eric sat beside her, the others around them moving to accommodate Eric and Callie.

He shook her hand. "I'm Eric Somerset."

"I know." She pulled the CD out of her purse. "I just love your music."

He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes a bit. "You do? I'm surprised you ever heard of us."

"Why?"

"You have no southern accent. You're not from around here, are ya?"

She chuckled. It was time to live the lie because she had no choice. "No. I'm from Ohio. I'm here to be my aunt's nursemaid in Midland next month, after she comes home from the hospital." She hoped the lie didn't sound too rehearsed.

"Nursemaid? You do realize you're south of Midland a ways."

"Yes. I told her I wanted to come down here to see if I could meet any members of the band. She told me to stay a month and return to her side when she came home. I have a nursing degree, so it works. I even get a vacation out of it."

He nodded. "Where are you staying?"

"I have a place north of Three Cross. It's a month-to-month furnished rental, so I'm going to find a job for a month while I wait for my aunt."

"There are probably jobs down in Timber Cross. I think they need nurses, now that the hospital is open."

She could do that. It would certainly help her fit in more. Granted, she hadn't had a nursing job for three months, but her license was current as a family nurse practitioner in Ohio. She'd even kept up the certification since she'd worked in the emergency room. However, if they looked at her former or current employment record, they'd find that she'd quit a lucrative career as an E.R. nurse practitioner working on her M.D. to become a radio personality in Princeton, New Jersey. They'd probably want to know why.

She had to keep to the topic at hand. "How far away is Timber Cross?"

"Not far. It's south of here." He grinned again. "What's your name?"

"Callie Williams."

He shook her hand again. "Welcome, Callie. I'd like to introduce you to the band someday. Would you like that?"

"Sure. That'd be really neat."

Neat? People in her social circles didn't use the word 'neat.' They were too highbrow and uppity for that. But she had to fit in.

Eric leaned closer. "Do you even care about this game?"

"Sure. The Three Cross junior varsity team is doing well."

He pointed toward the scoreboard. "They're down by twelve and there's a minute left in the game. I see you like basketball a lot."

She had to laugh. "You caught me. No, I just wanted to get out of the apartment."

"You probably thought we'd be here." He paused, watching her. "Are you targeting the Somerset clan or me?"

"No!" She backed away, holding up her hands in front of her. "Not at all. I just heard this was the center of all social functions in this town. I figured it might be fun. I didn't know you'd be here at all." She was really good at lying, after calling the school and acting like an old friend of the Somersets.

Eric chuckled and put his hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry. I'm not accusing you of anything." He turned slightly and looked behind him. "I'd introduce you to Greg, Mac, Shannon, and Jaimee, but it looks like they're excited about something else."

She bit her lips. This wasn't the time to tell Eric he was going to be an uncle, and a blood uncle at that.

He turned and looked at Callie again. "So, what are you doing after the game? I'd hate for you to miss out on other excitin' social functions in this town." He even rolled his eyes.

She almost laughed at him. This place was nothing like New Jersey. "What else is there? This was pretty exciting." She hoped he didn't hear her sarcasm, berating herself for even letting it slip out.

"Well, we could go out for a drink."

"Alcohol?" She hated alcohol since her father had been drunk most of the time. When he got like that, he was abusive, as well.

"No." He laughed. "There's this place in Three Cross that has the best root beer floats. Are you game?"

"Is this a date?" she whispered.

"No. I don't know ya well enough for that." He grinned. "Yet."

"Then sure. My aunt always warned me about forward men." She chuckled, because she'd dated many men back home. She'd been labeled 'love 'em and leave 'em Callie' by various men. As soon as they wanted to get close to her, she'd dump them, because she knew she had no future with any of them. It broke her heart, but she couldn't let anyone in on her secret illness or she'd be kicked out of the industry and people would pity her. She just wanted to die alone and let her name fade into the sunset.

The final bell rang for the game and people began descending the stands. Callie stood up, and Eric turned to see the rest of his family.

Shannon and Jaimee were having a conversation as Shannon stepped down one level on the bleacher. Callie kept an eye out, because the woman wasn't watching where she was going. Shannon suddenly slid and was off balance. Before Callie could catch her, Shannon fell onto the hard wooden floor on her side. The sound was loud and Callie knew she'd hit her head. Welcome to Callie's world of head pain.

But with a baby? Callie's heart cried out for the unborn, hoping it was okay.


 
 




Copyright © 2008- Eryn Grace
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