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A Hidden Heaven

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143 pages2 hours

Summary

What if you were a ghost and didn’t know it?

Daniel Woods is passing through the timeless and mysterious Appalachian Mountains on his way to Kentucky and his inheritance. A misstep tumbles him and his horse down the side of a mountain. Battered and bruised, they come upon a small homestead and help in the form of the lovely Justine Noakes. Daniel immediately finds himself inexplicably attracted to Justine - and determined not to embarrass himself by acting on impulse.

Justine Noakes recognizes the blue-eyed trouble that just led his horse into her settled world is something she never bargained for. Irresistibly drawn to him, Justine has a problem. She needs to come up with a way to get Daniel to stay in her mountain aerie. The only way that can happen is if Daniel accepts his new reality.

What Justine knows, and Daniel must discover, is that sometimes heaven is found in unexpected places.

* * *

Trouble had arrived in the form of a lone man leading a lame horse.

Justine Noakes glanced over at Duke. The dog was standing, ears and tail at attention, staring down the long meadow. Now was not the time for the hound to start baying. She had the top off one of her hives, harvesting the honeycomb. The honeybees were docile as long as she moved slowly and gently. She carefully eased the lid back in place and stepped away from the hive allowing the few honeybees still clinging to her to disembark.

“Get on the porch,” she ordered the dog. Duke growled low in his throat.

“Go on.” She tugged at his collar. He resisted at first then trotted obediently towards the cabin. 

She entered her small cabin and pulled her Derringer from under her pillow and slipped it into her pocket. It was not the weapon she preferred, but greeting the stranger with a loaded Colt .45 might stir the man’s temper.

Duke sat quietly on the porch when she emerged from the cabin. The animal had excellent people sense and his posture was a reassuring sign.

The approaching stallion limped painfully and the stranger stopped to allow the animal to rest. Whatever had happened, the man must have hope the horse would recover. Men didn’t walk a lame horse through these mountains in search of help. They simply shot the beast and obtained another mount.

She told Duke to stay and went to the well to draw a fresh bucket of water for the man. She had just set it on the porch steps when the duo moved again. 

The man was close enough now that Justine could get a good look at him. He was a tall, well over six feet. Dark hair curled on his collar and several days’ growth of dark beard covered his cheeks. He was dusty, dirty and visibly weary, his proud shoulders slumped. Instead of wearing his gun belt, it was looped over the saddle horn. He removed his hat and his intensely blue gaze swept her from head to toe.

She hoped she passed inspection, because if he looked at her like that again, it would be a toss-up between shooting him or letting Duke have some fun running him off her place.

Either that or she was going to turn all feminine and girly and fall at his feet, in which case maybe she’d have to shoot herself to end her embarrassment.

“Ma’am. I’m not looking for mischief.” His deep, ragged voice spoke of his fatigue and stirred her sympathy for the struggling travelers. “I need a place to care for my horse for a few days. I’ll work in return for you allowing me and him to sleep in your barn.”

“What’s your name?” Not that knowing his name would help if he were lying or bent on mischief. With his looks she no doubt he had trouble looking for him on a nightly basis when he was in a town.

“Daniel. Daniel Woods.”

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