Valley of Love
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by Donna McClaire
Description: When Illinois antiques dealer Erica Phillips inspects choice property overlooking Sequatchie Valley in eastern Tennessee, inherited from a father she never knew existed, she finds scientist Mike Callahan camped there to study unique, soon-to-be-hatched fireflies. She must sell the property to afford a new business location at home, but he "freaks out" the day they meet when a condo builder makes her an offer. Miffed, she tells him, "If I have my way, this place will be sold within the week. And, Mr. Callahan, I will have my way!" That's all in the first chapter. The book shows their romantic ups and downs as they battle over the land's use, identify and solve a murder, realize their love is forever, and end their battles in a heart-warming way.
eBook Publisher: Red Rose Publishing, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: June 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [304 KB]
Reading time: 184-257 min.
Something scraped on the porch, then a knock sounded. Mike stuck his head in through the cabin's door.
"Lunch is served," he said.
"You really don't have to do this."
He opened the door wider and Erica stepped outside. The aroma of frying fish tickled her nostrils.
"I could go on back to town--"
"Too late. I don't know how to put those fish back together."
She smiled and fell into step with him. They crossed the clearing and she heard crackling from a skillet on the portable stove.
"You brought those fish with you?"
He shot her a quick glance. "This is your first time here, isn't it?"
He slipped a pancake turner under a sputtering fish fillet. In moments, six pieces were on a plate, which he placed on the table.
"They're homegrown," he said. "Look, through those trees. That's a lake--sixty acres, I'd guess. And it's overflowing with fish. Why, I had to run away before they all jumped out and followed me."
She smiled secretly as he opened a loaf of bread and retrieved a jar of tartar sauce from an ice chest. Hey, this Boy Scout was prepared. He smeared sauce on a piece of bread, flipped a fillet onto it, folded it and handed it to her. They devoured their sandwiches without talking.
She looked at him. Strong but gentle. Where'd she heard that? Not Ferdinand the Bull. Paul Bunyan? No, that wasn't it. It was probably for paper towels.
"So. You said my father invited you."
Surprise showed on his face. "Your father?"
"That's a shocker. Looks like you'd know more about the property, if he was your father."
"You'd think so, wouldn't you? Now about--"
"There's a story here." He poked at a third piece of fish, slipped it onto a bread slice, and extended it to her. She shook her head.
"He left it to me," she said. "I'm not sure why I'm telling you, but I just learned he was my biological father. My mother married someone else before I was born."
"I see." He gulped down half the sandwich and rubbed a hand across his mouth. "So you're here to see what he left you."
"You needn't make it sound like I'm a gold digger." She stood and brushed her trousers bottom.
"I didn't mean it that way. I only meant--"
"I really must go. Thank you for the sandwich, Mr. Callahan."
He stood. "Mike. The name's Mike."
"Whatever. At any rate, a potential buyer will be here shortly, and I must get ready." She turned to leave, but his hand on her arm stopped her.
"You're going to sell the place?"
Was that panic in his voice? She brushed his hand aside.
"That's right, Mr. Callahan. Apparently, a condo builder's interested."
"Condos?" Yes, there was panic in his voice. This stranger had seemed cool and collected, but now he was hyper.
"They'll tear this place apart," he said. "Bulldoze everything. Chase the small animals away, the insects--and cover everything with concrete. No firefly on earth could survive. You can't allow that."
Now he was ticking her off. Who was he to say she couldn't allow that--allow anything, for that matter? And this from a squatter, for Pete's sake!
"If they own it, I can't stop them," she said. "If I have my way, this place will be sold within the week. And, Mr. Callahan, I will have my way!"