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Before You
Before You
Before You
Ebook133 pages1 hour

Before You

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When Jocelyn decides to take a two-week vacation away from the chaos of the city and work, she expects to just relax and enjoy. Instead, after taking an impromptu exit off the highway the car quits and she's stuck in some Podunk town in nowhere North Carolina. But the scenery is great – especially the guy who tows in her car.

Noah is helping his cousin out for the afternoon at the garage and is more than pleasantly surprised when the city girl shows up needing help.

Neither can foresee what drew her to that exit or what they will uncover trying to discover what has frightened her so. But they will do it, together.

PublisherDonna Steele
Release dateJul 2, 2018
Before You
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Donna Steele

Women strong enough for love. Donna writes science fiction, paranormal and small town romances about women coming into their strength and having the courage to find and accept love. Now that she has retired from going into an office every day, she created an office at home and writes full time. Talk about living the dream! She was the girl at the party who was yearning for the quiet corner and a book to read (go Rory Gilmore!), and has been writing in her head since she learned to read. Getting those stories down on paper (or in her laptop) has been more fun than she ever imagined it could be. The possibilities of science fiction have always drawn her and she's read them all, there just needed to be a little more romance in them. She finally got up the courage to write them herself and is delighted to be able to share these stories with you. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter of RWA and the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. She can be reached at www.steelestories.com, www.facebook.com/donnasteeleauthor, or https://twitter.com/steele_donna

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    Book preview

    Before You - Donna Steele

    Chapter One

    Jocelyn Warton admired the scenery, which was not despoiled by highway signs or gas advertisements as she reduced her speed on the narrow country road. She didn’t mind being alone for this vacation. If she’d decided to go to the beach, she would have invited Connie or Beth or maybe both to come along. Going to the mountains had somehow felt better alone.

    She was stressed and overworked. Not to mention her personal nightmare had begun showing up again nearly every night. That was unprecedented through final exams, high school angst and childhood trauma. Even her parents’ divorce hadn’t caused nightly visits from the gaunt white haired man. Hopefully, a break would ease the cycle. She could wander through antique shops and wineries on her own, at her pace instead of the frenetic normal speed of her friends. You had to train to go shopping with those ladies.

    No, this time was hers and she’d earned it. Relaxing was top of the list. She’d even turned off notifications on her phone. Blasphemy maybe, but it felt right.

    That fresh smell had to be the aroma of mountains, musty leaves, rocks. Who knew you could smell a rock? But it was there, a cool, gray smell. The highway had been carved out of that rock, and she’d seen places where rockslides still occurred. Major netting and space had been arranged to protect the road. At places along the highway, there was a view of ridges of the mountains rolling off into the distance, so many shades of green then turning blue in the distance.

    She took the exit on impulse, no plan to follow or time to be there. Jocelyn knew nothing about this part of the country. She’d been farther south, to Florida a couple of times, but never in between and never by car. This was a slower vacation. She’d flown into Raleigh, North Carolina but picked up a rental car to set her own pace. She didn’t drive much in the city so this was fun. No deadlines, nothing she had to see or do. The name on the sign had caught her attention. Simmonsville? There was a familiar sound to it though she couldn’t think why.

    It would be a good name to use in an ad campaign and she filed it in that part of her brain.

    She noted the town limits sign and smiled, wondering if the population was ever listed on those things anymore. It didn’t look like this town would hit three hundred from what she’d been able to spot so far. There were fields and farmhouses away from the road but nothing much happening close by.

    That was when the engine cut off. No chugging, no sputtering, just dead and rolling quietly toward the edge of the pavement.

    What was that about? She’d filled the tank before leaving the highway. Prices were generally cheaper out there. She’d just wanted to move away from the highway hypnosis, not actually visit . . . What was the name of the sign she’d just passed? Yes, Simmonsville. She’d thought to spend time along the Appalachian Trail exploring and maybe hiking a little. Now it appeared she’d be getting a closer view than she’d planned.

    Jocelyn attempted turning the key again. There wasn’t even the click of a dead battery. Nothing. There’d been nothing wrong with the car until it died. Good thing she’d taken the extra insurance. And gotten off the highway. Another try of the key met with the same lack of success. She could get out and open the hood, but what good would that do? It was different driving in the city. There was always someone close by, too close usually. All this space was kind of weird, and with no horns blasting her for not moving. Maybe she wasn’t as ready to be alone as she’d thought.

    Yes, she was on a country road and that was probably a good thing with the car dying so abruptly. She was really on her own. Jocelyn pulled out her phone to call the rental company. One look told her that was fruitless, no bars at all. She turned holding the phone out searching for more. Now one bar, the mountains were probably blocking her. She hadn’t thought of that. This was a little more alone than she’d realized.

    She got out, taking her purse, and locked up the car. There was nothing she could do here, and she wasn’t a member of AAA since she kept no car in the city. Why bother when she had the subway and taxis. She was already within the town limits as per the sign—the fact that she could see no town not withstanding. Well, she’d set out with the intention of slowing down for a couple of weeks. This was definitely slower, and it was a beautiful day. She had on sun-washed denim capris with a teal t-shirt and her running shoes. Exploring like this might even be fun. She wasn’t completely naïve though. Jocelyn pulled a walking stick from some debris near the road and made sure her cell phone was fully charged if not in service. The GPS was on. That was something her friends all insisted on for one another. She sent a quick text to Connie that she was sightseeing in Simmonsville, NC and to hold her jealousy for now. No immediate response so she slipped the phone back in her pocket.

    If she got desperate, Connie could call the rental company for her, but she wasn’t ready to give up yet.

    At this time of day, most people should be at work, but she’d never seen a traffic-less road before. Finally, she heard an engine and looked in that direction. It was a tractor in the middle of a field. She’d hold off heading in that direction as plan B, but at least there were other people somewhere.

    As Jocelyn rounded the bend, she was able to see downtown Simmonsville for the first time. She slowed and looked at it. A small post office, a hardware store that didn’t appear to be part of a chain, a café and a few storefronts seemed to be the whole place. She couldn’t tell from here what was in the storefronts, but they didn’t appear closed or boarded up. There was a much larger white building at the far end of the street but the sign faced the front so she couldn’t read it. Cars were parked along the street, and she saw people moving around in the hardware store. Someone there would know who she could call.

    Had she been here before? Or did every small-town look like this? Probably the latter, exploring rural North Carolina had never been on her radar before. All of her small-town experience came from old TV shows. She’d grown up in New York, and her parents hadn’t done this kind of traveling when they were together. Mom had enjoyed Europe, especially Italy with her third husband, or was it the fourth?

    Jocelyn kept walking. It was a beautiful day and fun in a weird sort of way, not having a destination or a time to be anywhere. There was a slight vinegary scent in the air, not unpleasant, and she wondered what kind of plant it came from. She should do stuff like this more often. As she was getting ready to cross over to the side of the road leading to the hardware store, she spotted a sign advertising some type of automotive motor oil and headed in that direction.

    A rattletrap truck passed her then and she glared at the back of the man’s head as he passed. Where were you ten minutes ago? But on second thought it wasn’t a truck she really wanted to get into.

    As she rounded another bend in the road, the sign to Moe’s Garage came into sight as well as several other businesses. Moe’s? Surely not a Simpson reference, maybe one of the guys that poked each other and made strange noises, the three stooges? One of her stepfathers had introduced her to them as a joke.

    A man stood just outside of the door with his back to her. Nice bod, was her first reaction. Wide shoulders, narrow hips, and he filled those low-slung jeans just right with those long legs. His thumbs were in his belt loops, which gave her a nice visual of those hips. His hair caught in the breeze and she thought she saw red highlights in the dark chestnut. Damn nice view.

    He turned, probably hearing her steps crunch on the driveway, and smiled. Okay, he was a stranger, someone she might exchange names with if he helped her with the car, but that was all. So why was her heart pounding? She knew a lot of good looking men, had dated quite a few, but the way his smile warmed his dark eyes was new. How could someone here feel so familiar?

    Sneaking up on me? He asked in a deep melodious voice. Did he sing? With that voice, he certainly could.

    Didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t exactly drive in. She met his smile with one of her own.

    Why not?

    Car died back there. Jocelyn pointed over her shoulder back the way she had come.

    Concern colored his eyes now, and he glanced down

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