Being broke, unemployed, and stranded back in the tiny town of Pick, Texas, was not part of Jancy Wilson’s plan. Yet here she is, watching her car literally go up in smoke—along with her last-ditch hope of staying with her cousin in Louisiana. When Jancy spies a Help Wanted sign hanging in the window of the quaint Strawberry Hearts Diner, the memories of the two years she spent there as a teenager—and the lure of the diner’s beloved strawberry tarts—are enough to draw her in and plant her feet…but only temporarily.
Raised by parents who refused to settle anywhere for long, Jancy has never known what it is to have roots. Now that Jancy’s swept up by the warmth and character of this quirky little community—and by the pull of an old crush—it’s beginning to feel like home. She’s making friends and even discovering the sweetness of falling in love. But when the town is threatened, Jancy knows it will take more than its legendary tarts to save it. Can she fight for this little Texas town—knowing she might not stay forever?
Later that evening, Jancy carried a cold beer out to the porch and settled in on the old wooden swing on the south end. She pulled her long legs up and propped one elbow on her knees. Chin in her hand, she watched a star fall from the sky, leaving a long streak behind it.
“Did you m-m-make a w-w-wish?” Shane stammered as he rounded the end of the house.
“Where did you come from?” she asked.
“Been out for a w-w-walk. Clearin’ the cobwebs outta m-my head,” he said. “Can I join you?”
She scooted to the end of the swing. “Want a beer?”
“No, thanks, but a little company would be nice. Evenin’s get lonely. I w-was goin’ to call. Hope it’s all right that I just stopped by.” He eased down, his body only a few inches from hers.
Delicious little shivers chased down her spine as the air between them came alive with electricity. She tried to think about something other than the way the earth shifted, but it didn’t work. She liked all those hot tingles when he’d drawn her into his arms at the picnic or when he’d slung an arm around her shoulders as he walked her to the door after the church date.
“Shane,” she said, intending to tell him that she was the wrong person for him.
“Jancy.” He moved a few inches toward her, cupped her face in his big hands, and lowered his lips to hers.
Fire surged between them when the kiss deepened and his tongue touched her lower lip, asking politely for permission to enter. She shifted positions so that she was facing him, and her arms snaked up around his neck. She tasted a mixture of cinnamon with a hint of brown sugar and sweet tea as she pressed closer to him.
When the kiss ended, he drew her to his chest. “I’ve w-w-wanted to do that since I saw you in the parking lot wh-wh-when your car was on fire.”
“Really?” Her heart was going like a steam engine, beating twice as fast as it should, and emotions she’d never felt with anyone were rattling around in her chest.
“Never saw a w-woman beautiful as you,” he said.
“Shane Adams, is that a pickup line?”
“Nope. Never have been too good with girls. My stutter puts them off.”
“Not me,” she said.
He pulled her even closer. “Just holdin’ you is a dream come true. I’d sure enough like it if you stuck around Pick for a wh-while.”
“I’m not goin’ anywhere until the end of summer at the least,” she whispered.
“Good.” He kissed the top of her head, and even that sent vibes dancing around the porch like a million shooting stars.
They sat like that, swinging, watching the stars twinkle for a long time before he finally leaned back, tipped her chin up with his fist, and kissed her again. This time it was a sweet kiss, but it still created a flutter down deep in her stomach.
Lord! Her insides turned to hot mush, and her hands were shaking. “Good night, Jancy. I’m glad your name starts with a J so I don’t mess it up. Reckon we could do this again tomorrow night?” he asked.
“I’ll be right here,” she said.
“We could go for a little stroll down to Leonard’s and get us a beer, take it to the park, and talk a spell,” he said.
“Sounds like a date to me.” She stood up with him and walked him to the edge of the porch.
He waved over his shoulder as he disappeared into the twilight of the summer evening. She picked up the half-empty bottle of beer and carried it into the house, plopped down on the sofa, and leaned her head back. Vicky looked up from the recliner where she’d curled up with a book.
“I thought I heard voices out there on the porch. Were you talkin’ to yourself?”
“Strangest thing just happened. I wanted to tell Shane that there wasn’t any chemistry between us and I couldn’t lead him on. So I was about to spit it out that we could be friends and nothing more.” She sat up and pulled her feet up under her to sit cross-legged.
“He kissed me.”
“I figured that would have happened when he brought you home from church last night. Shocked me a little when Nettie said he didn’t even try,” Vicky said.
“There were sparks like I’ve never experienced before.”
Vicky laid her book to the side. “Shane is not a bad-boy type. Don’t hurt him.”
“That I might cause him any kind of pain scares me. What do I do?”
“Follow your heart.”
“I can’t trust it. It’s led me astray too many times.”
Vicky moved from the chair to the other end of the sofa. “Have you ever listened to it? Really paid attention? When you were letting that boyfriend talk you into living in his apartment, didn’t you know somewhere down deep that it wasn’t right? Or when that other boyfriend was stealin’ cars, didn’t your conscience tell you to do something about it?”
“Probably.” Jancy nodded.
“Nettie told me that the heart never steers us wrong. Sometimes it doesn’t answer us as fast as we want it to, but we have to give it time and be patient. It doesn’t see, hear, or smell, but it has an acute sense of feelin’ and it will never lie to us.”
About the Author
Carolyn Brown is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and a RITA finalist. The Strawberry Hearts Diner is her eighty-fifth published book. Her books include romantic women’s fiction, historical romance, contemporary romance, cowboy romance, and country music mass-market paperbacks. She and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, where everyone knows what everyone else is doing—and reads the local newspaper on Wednesdays to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young. When she’s not writing, Carolyn likes to sit in her gorgeous backyard with her two cats, Chester Fat Boy and Boots Randolph Terminator Outlaw, and watch them protect their territory from all kinds of wicked varmints like crickets, locusts, and spiders. Visit her online at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.