I've joined up with four other western romance authors to bring you a new series of western TIMELESS HEARTS, and there are 12 books currently planned (3 from each author). The series starts with a prequel that sets up the time travel premise, and is FREE to download on Amazon! The first book released on Feb 12, 2017, and a new book will be released every week for then next three weeks, and then every two weeks after that. My first book in the series, TIMELESS HEALING, comes out on March 5th, and today I'm sharing the entire Chapter One.
Click here to go to the Timeless Hearts page on AMAZON to get the free prequel and check out the other books that are out so far in the series.
Timeless Healing - Chapter One
His hands gripped the steering wheel as if his life depended on it, and he stared straight ahead down the long stretch of the two-lane highway that disappeared into the far horizon. Chris Hawley shifted his tired gaze to the rearview mirror. The road was as empty behind him as it was up ahead. The last car had passed him a good ten minutes ago.
His old truck got him from one place to the next, but it wasn’t the most comfortable ride. The shocks were worn out, turning every bump in the road into a reminder of why he was driving through the middle of nowhere in the first place.
Chris moved to adjust his position on the bucket seat. The motion brought a dull ache to his knee, and his foot pressed down on the accelerator to alleviate the discomfort.
The V-8 engine roared to life and the old truck surged forward. Chris pulled his knee up to take his foot completely off the gas, then slammed on the brake. He swerved into the opposite lane. His upper body jerked as he overcompensated to straighten the vehicle back into his lane, which made the seatbelt cut into his collarbone. Chris hissed a curse.
He leaned forward, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment, then looking out the windshield to focus on the road ahead. He tapped the gas and the vehicle answered immediately. His fingers once again wrapped tightly around the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. The dull throbbing in his knee increased. Not much longer and the pain would become unbearable.
A sign sped past him that read:
Heartsbridge 5 miles
That wasn’t the name of the town he’d been given when he’d been told he’d find a man who went by the name of Doctor Feelgood. Chris’s eyes dropped to the passenger seat. He released one hand from the steering wheel and reached for his phone, which luckily hadn’t launched off the seat a minute ago. Blinking to focus his eyes, he tapped the screen to find his GPS app. Before he’d left his apartment early this morning, he’d typed in the location. It looked to be at least another forty miles up ahead.
Chris cursed again, tossing his phone back onto the seat. After a quick glance out the windshield, he leaned forward to reach for the knob that opened the glove compartment. The stupid thing liked to get stuck. He pounded on it with the side of his fist until it finally budged. The compartment door sprang open, and several pieces of paper, probably the truck’s registration among others, fluttered to the floor. An orange prescription bottle rolled out and dropped to the ground.
He leaned down as far as his seatbelt allowed, trying to reach the bottle. His fingers nudged it, and the blasted thing rolled under the passenger seat. Now he’d have to pull over to retrieve it.
He straightened, looking out the windshield. His heart leapt in his chest as a car came directly at him. The driver honked, and Chris swerved for the second time in less than a few minutes. He gritted his teeth as his heart continued to hammer against his ribcage.
He laughed and eased off the gas, then leaned his head back against the headrest as he inhaled a deep breath. He’d often thought of finding a way out, but this wasn’t the way to go. Not in his truck, and not by putting someone else’s life in danger in the process. With his dumb luck, he might survive a second car crash.
The first buildings of the town of Heartsbridge moved by, and Chris slowed the truck even more. The last thing he needed was to get pulled over by a cop for speeding. He had a court date next week. He didn’t need to add a second one to his itinerary.
Why he even had to show up in court and give a statement was beyond his comprehension. It had been nearly six months since the accident. He’d been questioned ad nauseum by the cops while he lay broken in a hospital bed, and again during his months of rehab while he learned to use his leg again. Stupid bureaucracy. Why couldn’t they just leave him alone so he could forget?
Chris punched his fist against the steering wheel and clenched his jaw until his teeth hurt. He turned the wheel hard enough to where the tires squealed, and pulled into a parking spot in front of a building with a large sign that read Heartsbridge Diner. The place didn’t look busy judging by the lone car a couple of spots over. He had no plans of going inside anyway. He needed to get his prescription bottle and then get back on the highway.
After unbuckling his seatbelt, he leaned over the center console and fished for the bottle that was somewhere under the passenger seat. Several failed attempts later, he sat up and opened the car door. His knee throbbed and so did his shoulder.
Pushing the squeaky truck door fully open, he stepped out, grabbing hold of the door as a surge of dizziness rushed through his head. He’d definitely been in the truck too long. Stretching his legs for a minute might do him some good. He glanced at the gas gauge. Probably wouldn’t hurt to fill up on the way out of town.
Chris looked around. There was a post office next door to the diner, and a few shops along the street. Several cars rolled up and down the main thoroughfare. Testing his equilibrium, he let go of the door and moved around the back of the truck to the other side. Movement out of the corner of his eye made him look up.
A woman walked up the street toward the diner, wearing jeans and a plain-looking pink blouse. Her auburn hair was tied back in a ponytail, and swung down her back like a pendulum with each step she took. She seemed to be moving faster while staring straight at him. Chris stared back, then shook his head and opened the truck’s passenger door. He didn’t need to draw anyone’s attention.
The dull pain was back in his knee as he bent to reach his hand under the car seat, groping for the bottle that contained what he needed to find relief. Finally, his fingers wrapped around the little container. By the sound it made, there were only a couple pills left, which was the reason he was making this long drive in the first place.
Finding someone who’d prescribe him more of the medication he needed to dull the pain in his leg was getting harder and harder. His doctors didn’t understand that he needed the pills, and had refused to refill his prescription months ago.
His hand trembled slightly while he opened the bottle and dumped the contents into his palm. He stared at the two round, yellow pills. The doctor before last had given him the pale-green ones, which were stronger than these. That’s why he’d run out so fast. He’d needed to take twice as many to have an effect on the pain. He seemed to be getting worse, not better.
His head throbbed as he threw the pills into his mouth. He tilted his head back to make them drop down his throat, and swallowed. If he sat in his truck for a few minutes and let the meds take effect, he could be on his way and have a full bottle again in a few hours.
“Excuse me, you look like you could use a glass of water, or maybe some coffee.”
Chris turned his head to the sound of the voice. The redhead who’d stared at him a minute ago approached. She looked at him with uncertainty in her eyes, despite the smile on her face. Her hand clutched something around her neck, tied by a blue ribbon. She stopped in front of his truck and waited.
“I’m good,” he said.
He stepped away from the truck and slammed the door shut hard enough to make the window rattle. Another wave of dizziness hit him, and he swayed slightly as he moved around the back of the truck to get to the driver’s side. The woman was already standing by the door.
“You really look like you could use a cup of coffee. You look a bit tired.” She plastered on that smile again. There was a definite note of uncertainty in her voice, and it showed in her eyes, too. She tilted her head slightly, and frowned, as if she’d rather not be talking to him.
Chris blinked to clear some of the fog from his brain. It didn’t help. He’d been up since before the crack of dawn. Maybe a cup of coffee wouldn’t be such a bad idea, after all.
“It’s on the house,” the redhead coaxed.
“On the house?”
She held out her hand. “I’m Moira Lockhart. I own the diner here. I was just coming back from running a quick errand, and –” She broke off her thought and dropped her gaze downward to the thing around her neck she kept concealed in her hand. Her eyes abruptly lifted to his face again. “And I noticed you standing there, looking tired.”
Chris wrapped his fingers around her smaller hand and shook it. “Chris Hawley. How would you know if I look tired or not from all the way over there?” He nudged his chin in the direction from which she’d come.
Moira Lockhart slipped her hand from his and waved it in front of her face in a dismissive gesture. She laughed. “When you run a diner, you see plenty of people every day. Many come in after miles and hours on the road, looking for that cup of coffee to wake them up again.”
Chris glanced at the empty parking spots. Good thing he’d apparently missed rush hour. He nodded at her.
“All right. Maybe a quick cup of coffee’ll perk me up again.”
Moira smiled. She let go of the pendant around her neck. It wasn’t a pendant, however, but an antique-looking watch. The hands whirred rapidly around the clock-face. The thing was obviously defective, or maybe the batteries were about to go bad. Not that he cared.
When the woman made no move to head toward the front door of the diner, Chris raised his brows. Their eyes met. She still wore that look of uncertainty, as if she was trying to reach some kind of conclusion about him.
“I don’t need that cup of coffee,” he said to help her out if she’d changed her mind about offering him some.
She blinked and shook her head. “No,” she said quickly. She held her hand out in the direction of the diner. “No, come on in. I wasn’t sure you were the kind of person I should be –” She broke off again, not finishing her thought. She laughed again. “Never mind. This is how it’s supposed to be, and who am I to say otherwise, right?”
Chris stared at her. “Right,” he answered slowly, letting the word trickle from his lips. This woman clearly needed more customers. Her lack of business must have made her a bit wacky.
He limped after her, stepping into the empty diner, despite a little voice nagging in his head that he shouldn’t. He had somewhere else to be.
“Take any seat in the house,” Moira called, much more cheerful than she’d sounded outside. She moved around the counter and poured a cup of coffee.
Chris limped up to the counter, and took a seat in front of her. Moira set the cup down for him.
“What happened to your leg, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Chris clenched his jaw. He stared at the wisps of steam that rose from the cup and curled in a spiral fashion into the air.
“Car accident,” he mumbled. Memories flashed before his eyes that he’d rather not see, but they surfaced every time someone asked him about his leg, or why he favored his right arm and had a slight bulge in his collarbone.
“When did it happen?” Moira poured herself a cup of coffee and looked at him with wide, expectant eyes.
“Six months ago. I got out of rehab for my blown knee and collarbone just recently.”
“Must still hurt pretty bad, huh?”
He stared at her. Why was she asking all these questions, and why was he even answering a complete stranger? The shrinks had already forced him to talk and relive that night over and over. Why couldn’t they let him forget? He ran a trembling hand over his face and through his hair.
“Yeah, it hurts.” More than anyone will ever understand.
His voice was nothing more than a rasping sound. Bitterness consumed him, followed by agonizing heartache. No matter how many pills he’d swallowed, the pain – both physical and mental – from the night of the accident, hadn’t gone away. He’d never told anyone the reason why he and Eric were in that car in the first place. Everyone simply assumed they’d been two stupid college kids, out drinking and driving.
Moira’s hand reached out and covered his. Chris flinched and pulled back.
“I saw you take those pills, Chris. I really don’t think you should be driving right now. I’ve got a comfortable couch in the back room. You can lie down and sleep for a while.”
Chris blinked at the dizziness that was growing more pronounced. The pills must be starting to work. He usually didn’t take more than one, unless he was at home, but for some reason, finishing off the bottle had seemed like the thing to do. He’d be getting a new bottle shortly.
“I’ve got somewhere to be.” He waved her off, and stood from his chair. His hand reached out to grab for the edge of the counter when his head spun more than before. He really shouldn’t have taken both pills.
“I insist,” the woman said more forcefully. “Or I’ll call the sheriff and tell him you’re driving under the influence.”
She didn’t waver when he stared at her. He didn’t need trouble with cops. An hour’s rest couldn’t hurt. He’d still get to where he needed to be to collect his prescription. No doubt he’d be spending the night in a motel room anyway. It would be too far to drive home.
“Maybe just for an hour,” he conceded.
Moira nodded, her satisfied smile back. Chris’s eyes were once again drawn to the timepiece around her neck. Those stupid clock hands hadn’t stopped moving.
“Doesn’t that watch bother you?” he asked when he moved around the counter and followed Moira down the corridor past the diner’s kitchen.
“No.” She glanced over her shoulder, still smiling. “It doesn’t always do that. Today must be your lucky day.”
She opened the door to a small office. The couch sitting against the far wall beckoned. Chris stepped into the room and headed for it. He let himself drop onto the soft cushions, then looked up at Moira, who’d stopped under the doorframe.
“Thanks for letting me crash for a while.”
She nodded. “No problem. Get some rest, and when you wake up, I’m sure things will look a whole lot different than they do right now.”
Chris leaned back and closed his eyes. If only that were true.
Purchase the book on AMAZON
Purchase the book on AMAZON
© Peggy L Henderson 2017
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