Dana writes a variety of fiction from Paranormal Romance, to Contemporary. The following excerpt is from the novel Farther Than Nowhere, a tale of a woman coming to terms with her need to be loved unconditionally and the man that teachers her that love comes in many forms.
Of Foreign Cars and Shaggy Dogs
The morning had proven to be a glorious one with birds chirping and a cool, springtime breeze that kept the brilliant sun from seeming too hot. It was so idyllic in fact, that Trudy half expected to see little woodland creatures frolicking and singing on the shoulder as she sped down the interstate. Unfortunately, the only woodland creatures she managed to see on the side of the road were three or four pulverized things with furry tails and a bloated deer carcass being picked at by a couple of gigantic, black vultures.
“Nice.” She grimaced slightly and then sniffed the air. “What the heck is that smell?” She mused. It certainly wasn’t from a dead anything. In fact, it had the acrid smell of burning rubber. Trudy slowed down to more keenly tune into her sense of smell and yes, she was sure that she smelled something and it seemed to be coming from her car.
She sighed in disgust. Her SUV wasn’t that old and she hadn’t had any trouble with it in the past. But there was something definitely wrong now. She sighted what looked to be a small store or something in the distance and by the time she pulled up to the gas pumps in front, a thick, black smoke was pouring from the front end of her vehicle.
Trudy opened the door just as a middle aged man came out to meet her.
“You better get clear of that car, m’am. You’re a pouring smoke like nobody’s business.” He rushed to her side and assisted her out of the car and shut the door.
“Let me take a look at it and see what’s going on.” He glanced over his shoulder at her and motioned to the storefront. “You might want to go on inside. It’s mighty warm out here and if something happens…” he trailed off. She nodded in agreement and handed him the keys. Standing there, looking over his shoulder, Trudy watched him carefully open the hood of her car. He turned to look at her again.
“You just let ol’ Milt take care of this. You get on inside, honey.”
Trudy arched a brow at that clearly chauvinist remark, but then realized she wasn’t in Illinois anymore. This was Texas. A small town in Texas and the people here were probably going to be a little behind the times compared to what she was used to so she cut the guy some slack and headed into the building marked GURLIE’S GENERAL MERCHANTILE.
She smiled at the old fashioned name and was even more pleased when she saw that the interior of the store very much reflected the quaint charm that the name suggested. Deciding to look around, she walked up and down the isles selecting snacks for the remainder of her trip. The usual corn chips, pretzels and candy were all on display as well as a selection of what looked to be home-made turnovers and small pies.
Selecting something that looked to be a miniature apple pie, a couple of pieces of fresh fruit and several bottles of water, Trudy approached the counter and was greeted by a lanky teenaged girl. The girl smiled happily and rung up her purchase.
“Will that be all?”
The girl pulled out a paper bag and placed the items in it. “You’re gonna love the pie. My Mom makes the best apple pies in the whole county.”
“Your Mom made that?”
“Yes m’am.” The girl beamed with pride. “This is her and my Daddy’s store. We’re the Gurlie in Gurlie’s.” She smiled broadly and handed the bag to Trudy. “I’m Darlene. Darlene Gurlie.”
Trudy stuck out her hand and grasped the girl’s. “Good to meet you Darlene. I’m Trudy.”
“Good to know you. I saw you drive up. Milt kinda freaked when he saw all that smoke. If it can be fixed though, Milt’s the dude to do it.”
“Well, that’s comforting. I don’t know what’s wrong with it.” Trudy paused and looked around again. “I’m glad I found this place. There aren’t a lot of road signs around here. I kinda thought I was out in the middle of nowhwere.”
Darlene snorted. “Lady, you passed nowhere about an hour ago. You’re way farther than that.”
“Darlene! That’s no way to talk to an adult.” A tall, willowy brunette with brown eyes that looked to be the clone model for Darlene came from a back room and stood behind the counter. She looked at Trudy. “I must apologize for my daughter. She’s got a case of the ‘hate small town blues’.” The woman smiled softly and offered, “you are now on the outskirts of Monroe, Texas.”
“Monroe! That’s where I’m headed,” Trudy supplied enthusiastically.
“Why?” Darlene shook her head and propped her chin on her hands on the counter.
“Darlene Gurlie, watch your mouth.” The woman held out her hand. “I’m Rebecca.” She looked at her daughter. “This disrespectful heathen is my daughter, Darlene.”
Trudy chuckled softly, “We’ve met. I’m Trudy Baxter. I’m a writer with the American Heritage Project. I’m here to document the history of your town.”
Darlene rolled her eyes and snorted again. “Well, it’s a long history. Boring. But long. You’ll have lots to write about.”
Rebecca shook her head and came around the counter and waved her hand towards her daughter.
“Ignore her. “Writing about our little Monroe. That’s really exciting. So do you have a certain way you’re going to go about getting the history?”
“Well, yes. I am going to interview townspeople and get a real feel of how the town was founded and some of the things that make Monroe special. I’d wanted to start with Booker Monroe. Do you know where to find him?”
“Oh, Darlin’, Booker passed several months ago.”
“But Ms. Jo’s still alive and kicking.” Darlene supplied.
“Yes. His widow, Josephine Monroe is still alive. She lives out county road on a 110 acre spread of pecan trees. Gorgeous property.” Rebecca thought for a moment. “Oh and she was a De La Ponte too, so she can give you the rundown on both founding families.”
Trudy nodded and took a small pad out of her purse and jotted down the information. She and Rebecca continued to talk and were only interrupted when Darlene suddenly sucked in a breath. Trudy turned to see what had captured her attention only to come face to face with a man who could only be called beautiful.
“Hi, Cade.” Darlene drawled. Her eyelashes batted up and down as if she had something in her eye. Trudy inwardly smirked at the obvious crush.
He put his elbows on the counter and propped his head on his hands, nearly touching Darlene’s nose with his.
”Hi Darlene.” Cade drawled back, clearly mimicking her flirtatious tone.
“Darlene, you know why Cade’s here. Go in the back and get his order.” Becky announced sternly. As soon as her daughter disappeared into the back room, she slapped Cade on the arm.
“Will you stop encouraging her?”
“Oh relax, Beck. She’s a 15 year old girl with a crush. She’ll kick my thirty-something ass to the curb as soon as Billy Montgomery gathers up the balls to ask her to the spring dance and you know it.” He leaned against the counter and crossed his arms over his muscular chest.
“Well, maybe. But I just don’t think it’s a good idea to egg her on like that.”
Cade harrumphed at Rebecca’s statement and then turned in Trudy’s direction. He smiled and straightened.
Gesturing to the counter he said, “Hi. I’m Cade Monroe and despite what this looks like, I’m not a pedophile.”
Trudy burst out laughing. “I’m Trudy Baxter and I didn’t think you were, but thanks for clearing that up.”
Rebecca interjected, “Trudy’s here to see your Grandma Jo.”
When Cade looked at her questioningly, Trudy explained that she was writing the town history and his Grandmother was her first stop.
Cade motioned to the door. “That your Mercedes out there going up in smoke?”
She grimaced. “Is it still smoking?” She glanced back towards the door and saw smoke still wafting through the parking lot.
“Don’t worry, Milt’s the best there is. He’ll fix you up.” Cade went over to the door to look out. “Looks like they’re moving it around back to the garage to take care of it.” At that, his expression changed to one of annoyance and he growled, “Sugar, I told you to stay in the truck.”
Trudy cringed at the caveman like words coming from such a handsome young man, but then just chalked it up to the environment. It seemed to breed disdain for females.
Cade put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “Well, now that you’re out, you might as well come all the way in and say hello to everyone.” He stepped aside and in sauntered a shaggy, light colored dog that was the size of a small horse. He stooped down to get at the dog’s eye level and ruffled her fur while the dog unleashed her long tongue and graced his cheek with a wet kiss.
“You never do what you’re told.”
“That’s because you spoil her rotten.” Rebecca said with reigned disgust.
“Oh, she’s beautiful.” Trudy reached down to pet the dog’s shaggy head and looked down at Cade. “What kind of dog is this?”
“Uh… a snickerdoodle or something like that.”
Coming around the corner, Rebecca stooped down to nuzzle the dog as well. “You goof ball. She’s a Labradoodle. Full blood, papered and pedigreed.”
“Yeah, well I knew it was a doodle of some sort. Gotta give me credit for that.”
Rebecca rose with a huff. “That’s about all I’ll give you credit for.”
“Hey, can I get a hand here?” Darlene appeared at the counter dragging two very large bags of dog food behind her. With a grin, Cade scooped up both bags and hoisted them over his shoulder. All three women watched as his muscles rippled through the thin denim chambray shirt he wore. It was unbuttoned revealing a white undershirt that despite the fact it was clean and dry, molded to his body putting his broad chest and flat stomach on display.
“I’ll put these in the truck and I’ll be right back.”
As soon as he was out of earshot, a lovesick Darlene heaved a heavy sigh and went back behind the counter. Rebecca looked at Trudy and rolled her eyes. “I wonder how long it will take her to grow out of this?”
“I don’t know, I get kinda moony-eyed when I see a good looking man too.” Trudy smiled and winked at Darlene.
“Well Cade Monroe is due for a decent woman, so I encourage you to take a crack at him.” Rebecca patted her shoulder.
“Why do you say that?”
“Last girlfriend put him through the ringer. Kind of a…”
“Slut.” Darlene interjected with disgust.
Rebecca shrugged slightly. “I wouldn’t call her that, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who called her that either.”
Cade returned and handed Rebecca a wad of bills. “So, Trudy. Do you need a ride into town?”
“Oh. I don’t know. I guess I thought I could wait until they had my car fixed and I’d just drive myself.”
“I don’t think so, Darlin’. Your car isn’t going to anywhere for awhile. Milt was talking to the Mercedes dealer in Dallas and apparently they’re going to have to order whatever it is that you need.” He looked at Trudy’s worried expression and added, “Not a problem though, I’m going back into town and I would be glad to drop you off wherever you’re staying.”
Trudy regarded his earnest expression and thought he looked trustworthy and the Gurlie’s certainly seemed to trust him.
“Okay. I hate to impose, at least let me pay for gas.”
Cade shook his head and wayward lock of his longish dark blonde hair fell into his eyes. “Won’t hear of it. I had to come get food for Sugar and I have to go home. There’s nowhere in this town that isn’t on the way home.”
Trudy shrugged and said, “Well, I’m staying at the Pine’s Edge bed and breakfast.”
Rebecca’s eyes flew open wide. “Hey wait a minute. I’ll be right back.” She scurried into the back of the store and returned with a dozen or more packages of maple smoked bacon. “If you’re going over there, will you take this to Judy? I promised I’d have it to her today and it’ll save me a trip into town.” She placed all the bacon in a sack and handed it to Cade.
He smiled and said, “see? I have to stop there anyway.” He took the sack and looked at Trudy. “Well? Gonna take that ride?”