Oasis of my Heart
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by Tara Nichols
Description: Sadie Davies is running away for the second time in her life. She had been fifteen and in search of stardom the first time she ran away to the city. This time she is running from it. After buying a rundown farm house near where she grew up, Sadie plans to search for the family she abandoned so many years ago. Intending to keep a low profile she sets up for a simplistic, solitary life but with sexy, know-it-all, neighbor Dustin Reed she finds it rather difficult, and he's as complicated as they come.
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: April 2008
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [378 KB]
Reading time: 255-357 min.
"Tara Nichols pulled out all the stops for this one. Hot, sexy, and a teaser till the end. Any time Dustin and Sadie come together there is a significant change in the temperature. Things get hot, hot HOT! I've got my eye on Tara Nichols."--Melisa, EuroReviews, 5 stars
Sadie didn't know where to go. The town seemed familiar, but at the same time, so much had changed. There was so much to do, and she didn't know where to start. She would need directions then a way to get to her new house, not to mention she would need food and clothes and ... Slow down, she told herself. One step at a time. First she would get directions. She knew vaguely where the farm was that she had blindly bought, and she still had the newspaper clipping with the address on it in her wallet.
Now where to ask for directions? she thought, looking around the street. A flicker of movement drew her gaze up to her right when a man entered the building behind her. A sign advertising the bus depot in the library window caught her eye, and she decided to ask in there.
She climbed the wide limestone steps slowly, the words she was going to use repeating in her mind. She wasn't going to give any more information away than she had to. Just the facts, then she would be on her way.
It was hard being back in town. She had gone to school here, but she had grown up on a farm in a small community outside of town. The last time she had visited the library, she had been in the eighth grade and working on a class project with her best friend Susie.
Remembering her old friend, she wondered where the tall, skinny blonde girl she had once hung out with was now. Was she married with children? Was she still living in town? If she was, maybe she would look her up. Maybe they could get together and talk about old times. Sadie's heart began to pick up speed at the thought, but then her nagging conscience spoke up, reminding her of the same dilemma she always encountered whenever she ran into people on the street. She was a celebrity, she scolded herself. If they didn't recognize her right away, what would she tell them when they asked what she had done with her life? She had left Toronto to start over, to be anonymous and leave the famous actress behind. Would these people who had known her, who had watched her grow up, treat her different when they learned who she was? Would they respect her privacy, or would she always suspect them of liking her because she was a star? Would they like her for herself? She doubted it. Aside from lying and making up a new identity for herself, she would just have to avoid the people she had once known. She didn't want to see her face on an advertisement any more than she wanted Horace to catch wind of where it was that she had fled to. No, she would have to remain a stranger. She would have to give up her past. Only first she needed to find her parents; she had to see them to tell them she was okay. She needed to make them understand, and maybe, just maybe, they would forgive her.
Just act casual, she told herself and straightened her posture. She approached the front counter where a middle aged woman, clearly a librarian, worked at filing cards behind the counter.
"Excuse me," Sadie murmured. The woman looked up, took one look at Sadie in her grungy clothes with her tattered plastic bag under her arm, and was about to dismiss her when Sadie stepped closer and waved again. The woman came forward grudgingly, a skeptical look still on her face.
Sadie realized then how dreadful she must look.
"Yes?" The woman sighed, peering over her bifocals, no doubt tired of answering questions for the bus depot.
"Hi. Um, I was wondering if you would be able to give me directions--"
"There's an info booth next to the grocery store across the street miss." She cut Sadie off mid-sentence.
"Oh?" Sadie bit her lip. "Yes, but I bought a house just outside of town and ... I've got the address, but it's in the country and ... and I don't know where it is."
"You don't know where your house is?" The woman frowned.
"No. I bought it through an ad in the paper." She rummaged through the plastic bag until she found a thin leather wallet from which she pulled out the worn and folded scrap that she had been saving for nearly a year. "Here it is." Sadie flattened the scrap. The woman leaned over, squinting at the tiny print.
"I also was hoping you could tell me if there is anywhere that I could rent a car. I just came in off the bus, and I don't have a vehicle."
The woman looked up at Sadie as though she were from another planet. "What?"
Sadie swallowed hard and glanced around nervously. "I just need a rental agency, or a--"
"This is the Old Cuthbert place," the woman stated incredulously, hammering the page with her index finger. "Why, that farm has been up for sale for years ... and you bought it?" She looked at Sadie anew, as though assessing the young woman for the first time.
"Can you help me?" Sadie leaned in, her voice barely a whisper.
"Yes, of course." The woman straightened. "I know right where it is. It's a shame about that place. Beautiful yard, though."
"What? What do you mean it's a shame--"
The woman's gaze caught sight of something at the back of the room. "Why, there's Dustin! He'll be able to help you. He's your new neighbor, after all." She stood up on her toes and waved frantically to some unknown person in the back of the room. "Yoo-hoo! Dustin! Come over here for a minute, will you, honey?" the clerk shouted very unlibrarian-like across the small room.
Sadie cringed and twisted to look over her shoulder to see who the clerk was beckoning.
A man in the back of the room looked up, startled. His dark eyes darted right to left as though he was looking for an escape. Realizing he was caught, he came forward grudgingly.
Sadie watched as the most striking man she had ever laid eyes on strode toward her, his long legs carrying him smoothly across the floor. His features were ruggedly handsome with coal black, tussled hair that teased the nape of his neck, a day's worth of stubble graced his chin, and his piercing blue eyes flashed a warning that said he was in no mood to be troubled.
Sadie ducked her head so he couldn't see her face, but continued to appraise him out of the corner of her eye. From her vantage point, she admired his athletic build, his tanned, sinewy arms and the way his tight black T-shirt fit snuggly across his rock hard chest. He was leggy, lean and all Amazon, making Sadie want to sink her teeth into him. Thankfully, she resisted.
"Dustin," the librarian announced sweetly, "this is..." She turned to face Sadie again. "I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?"
"I didn't." Sadie caught herself. Her fear was making her act irrationally. Nobody here was out to get her. Just act normal. "It's Rach--er, Sadie. Sadie Davies."
"Davies?" the woman repeated, squinting thoughtfully. Then with a shake of her head, she dismissed whatever thought had momentarily intrigued her.
"Miss Davies just bought the Old Cuthbert place," the librarian gossiped. "It looks like the two of you are going to be neighbors. Isn't that wonderful?"
Dustin glanced down at Sadie briefly. His eyes were not amused. Sadie looked awkwardly at the floor, and neither of them said anything.
"Miss Davies here has landed in town without any means of transportation, and then when I saw you lurking over there like a gargoyle, a brilliant plan came into my head."
The gorgeous hunk standing next to Sadie sighed with impatience. "I wasn't lurking, Evelyn, and--"
"Seeing as you have to drive past her place to get home, wouldn't it be convenient to drop her off? Maybe the two of you will hit it off."
"No. I..." Sadie tried. She noticed that her handsome new neighbor was also about to protest, when they were both cut off by Evelyn's enthusiasm.
"Do you have much to carry?"
"No, this is it." Sadie lifted her shopping bag.
Dustin looked at the bag with a frown. His displeasure roiled off of him in waves.
Sadie rubbed her temple, fearing a headache would soon be upon her.
"You'll do it, won't you, Dustin, for me?" The older woman batted her lashes as though it would win him over.
Sadie watched the man named Dustin grimace then nod with reluctance. "I need to sign this out before we go." He threw his movie across the counter, and Evelyn eagerly went to fetch the DVD.
"You really don't need to do this," Sadie whispered once the librarian was out of range.
"I'm aware of that," the man answered, his voice cold.
"This wasn't my idea, she just rambled off like a--"
"It's actually not what I want anyway. I had planned to rent a vehicle and--"
"Rent?" He scoffed and turned to her. She ducked her head so he couldn't see her face. "From where?" He shrugged, seeming exasperated.
Taken aback by his hostility, she fell silent, scowling at him beneath the brim of her hat. He may be good looking, but he sure was frosty.
"There's no place you can rent a vehicle around here except maybe from Len Freeman's, and then you're looking at a grain truck or a bob cat," he said.
Sadie sighed, regretting having ever step foot in the building. "I admit I hadn't planned out every detail of this trip." She glanced over her shoulder. "But at least I got this far. Thanks for agreeing to help, but I'll figure out my own way home, even if it means I have to walk." She turned to walk away, but a large hand touched her arm and stopped her. A jolt of electricity ran through her; the contact was so unexpected, she nearly cried out.
His hand jerked away. "Hang on."
She turned back to face him and noticed he was rubbing his wrist as though it stung.
He looked at her strangely in a mixture of amusement and puzzlement. "I'm not going to let you walk. First of all, I'd never hear the end of it once the Ladies' Auxiliary got wind of it, and second, it's spring, in case you haven't noticed. It's not that warm out yet, not to mention it's more than ten miles to a farm you don't even know how to get to."
Firming her jaw, she resigned herself to accept the ride. She would figure out the rest later. Right now, all she wanted was to get off the street so Horace couldn't track her down.
"Fine," she murmured. "Have it your way."
Evelyn handed the movie over the counter and waved a happy goodbye. She wore the satisfied face of a successful meddler.
Sadie followed Dustin out to a truck that looked as though it had been found in a scrap yard and had already been through the shredder once. What paint was left on it was dull gray in color. There were more dents than smooth spots, and the running board on the passenger side was missing.
She reached for the door handle and frowned when it wouldn't open.
"Hang on. I have to get it from the inside." He hopped in and leaned across the seat.
Sadie climbed in, pulling the door behind her, but quickly found she didn't know how to make it stay shut. Biting her lip, she tried again, only to hear metal bang against metal.
"Here!" he said, and before she knew what was happening, he had leaned across her lap, his long, tanned arm stretched out until his hand gripped the door handle. Then he pulled, giving a loud grunt, and the door swung closed with a thump.
They drove through town in silence.
After a mile or so, Dustin glanced over at his passenger out of the corner of his eye. Who was this stubborn woman? He tried to get a glimpse of her face, but he couldn't see anything except the peak of her black cap. That and her pale pink lips that pouted ever so slightly. They were plump, but not too much as to overwhelm. They might be nice to kiss.
Snap out of it! he scolded himself and gave his head a shake. Not only was she faceless, she was suddenly dependant on him, which was something he hated even though she was being rather stubborn about it. And she had nearly electrocuted him somehow when he had grabbed her arm. He rubbed his wrist again resentfully. How did she do that? I wonder if I make her nervous, he thought, feeling uncomfortable with the idea. Perhaps he had been too harsh. After all, this wasn't her idea; it had been Evelyn's.
The woman just sat there, tense, her face turned toward the window. He noticed how her clothes spilled out around her and she held her hands clasped tightly in her lap. Her hair was greasy and stuck out of a messy braid, as though she hadn't looked in a mirror for a week. She had a lovely neck, though, long and slender, and perfect little ears with rather fancy chandelier style earrings. He frowned, turning his head for a better look. They had to be diamonds, the way they glimmered. He would have expected to see something like that on a much better dressed woman, not someone about to go for a jog.
As though sensing his scrutiny, the woman turned to face him. For a moment, he caught sight of her eyes, and all he could think was how they made diamonds seem dull. They were an intense shade of blue, sparkling with their own inner light.
Her brow creased, and he realized he was staring. He needed to make conversation and fast.
"Nice earrings," he said trying to make conversation.
Her reaction was not at all what he expected. Her eyes went wide, and her hands immediately flew to her ears, covering them as though he wasn't supposed to see them.
"Oh, my God!" she said and gasped, plucking them from her lobes. "How could I have missed these?" Her voice was barely a whisper.
He wasn't sure if he was supposed to answer. She seemed quite shaken over the whole thing. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you..." he started to say, but she didn't appear to be listening. She was staring at her palm and the taboo jewelry it held.
"Hey, are you okay? You seem ... edgy," he said, using Taylor's earlier description.
"I'm fine," she murmured, not looking up.
"You seem nervous, is all." Not to mention downright strange, Dustin added to himself.
She shook her head slightly, but her body language told him another story.
He was more than a little relieved to see the corner coming up where he needed to turn onto the gravel road leading to his sister's farm. He pointed to a bluff of trees in the distance. "Your place is just ahead, two miles down this road."
"That's it? Two miles off the highway?" she said, sounding distressed as she looked around.
"You wanted something a little more remote?" he said, bewildered by her.
"Yes," she answered with caution.
He slowed as he neared the top of the lane. Glancing over, he saw his passenger was leaning as far forward as she could. She looked into the yard, no doubt seeing the long, uncut grass, the leaning barn, the peeling paint on the tiny, rundown house.
"My God!" she whispered.
"Didn't know what you were getting, huh?" he couldn't help but say.
She bit her lips nervously, but didn't answer. After a moment, she shrugged and reached for the door. "Well, thanks anyway." She grabbed her shopping bag and hopped out, not waiting to hear his reply. She struggled with the door until Dustin had to lean over and help her once again.
Dustin watched her cross in front of the truck, the wind blowing her loose clothing against her slim body. "What an oddball." He gave his head a shake. Why couldn't he have been blessed with a normal person to have as a new neighbor?