Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1) (2 page)

BOOK: Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1)
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He noticed that? Damn. So much for keeping her feelings in check.

“If it makes you feel better, you could walk me to my truck.” Avery fidgeted with her shirt. Who was he? She’d never seen him before, and it’s not like Harmony’s Echo had that many newcomers. At least, not aside from the inn. Was he a reporter? Someone here to scope out the music scene? She hoped not. She hadn’t made a good first or second impression with the man.

Just stop making assumptions.

“I think I’ll do just that. But before walking to your truck with a stranger, how about we introduce ourselves? My name is Lucas.” He stuck out a hand. His grasp was strong, his hand warm and gentle as it enclosed hers for a handshake.

“Avery Callimer.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Avery.” He didn’t let go of her hand. Instead, he brought it to his lips and brushed a soft kiss on it.

“Oh, you’re quite the flatterer, aren’t you?” Avery laughed, pulling her hand from his.

“You have no idea. But that’s for another day. Another time.” Lucas grinned. He gestured toward the parking lot. “Shall we?”

“What makes you think there will be another day or time?” Avery asked, matching his stride as they made their way across the dirt to her truck. The night was balmy. The Texas humidity clung to the night. Droplets of sweat matted her bangs to her forehead. Between the humid air and the intense performance tonight, Avery needed a shower and a good, long cleansing.

Oh how her mind wandered then.

That is enough!

“I have this feeling,” Lucas replied. His tone was light. He was flirting. How could it feel so good when her relationship with Jameson just ended?

It’s been over with Jameson for a long, long time, and you know it. You just never wanted to admit it.

She’d never wanted to hurt him. Even though she’d been the one hurting.

She needed to get away from Lucas fast, before dangerous thoughts took over her mind. A man was the last thing she wanted to think about.

Thankfully, she stood less than a half a foot away from her truck now. Avery hauled her guitar case into the bed and laid it down gently. “This is my stop,” she drawled, hoping Lucas would get the hint and walk away now. Why was he sticking around, anyway? What did he want?

“I guess I’ll be seeing you around, Baby Stetson. By the way, how did that name come about? It’s intriguing.” He chuckled.

“It’s a long story.” Avery fumbled for her keys. When her hand grasped them, she pulled them from her purse, making sure to make them jingle loudly.

The man didn’t take a hint. “I’m all for a good story.”

She sighed. Fine. Whatever. She could tell him the shortened version and be on her way. Not to be rude, but all she wanted was to get home. After the long day and the emotionally draining conversation she’d just had, her bed and a decent night’s rest sounded more appealing then ever.

“If you must know, I’ve had the name since childhood. I was left on the steps of the bed and breakfast, bundled in a pink blanket and a Stetson hat. While the search went on to find my birth parents, I was dubbed Baby Stetson. The name has followed me everywhere since then.”

“Well, that was not what I expected to hear. That must be rough. And yet, you’re still here in this town now. You’ve got a powerful voice. Why not pursue it?”

“What is this, the third degree?” Damn. Now she was being rude. This man, Lucas, didn’t deserve the brunt of her irritation. “I’m sorry. I’m being bitchy. I apologize. Despite how well the show went tonight, there’s a lot going on. I’m still here because a family had the heart to take me in. I just- I’m not ready to leave the only family I’ve ever had yet.” In hopes that would be enough for him, Avery opened her truck door and climbed inside. As she reached for the door to close it, Lucas backed away, his gaze still on her.

“You intrigue me, Avery Callimer, also known as Baby Stetson,” he said softly. “I hope you have a great evening. Happy birthday.” With a wave, Lucas turned and finally walked away. Avery shook her head. What was that all about? When she couldn’t see his shadow any longer, Avery pulled out of the parking lot, heading for home.

If one more person wished her a happy birthday, she’d go crazy! Birthdays had never been easy. This year, especially. She was unsure why. It just hit her harder than it ever had before.

She frowned at the light shining through the living room curtains. Her parents never waited up for her. As managers of the local bed and breakfast, they had to get up early. Early to bed, early to rise.

Her heart raced as realization that something was wrong hit her. Could one of her parents be ill? Dead? Oh God. She needed to get inside. She hurried out of her truck and up to the wrought-iron gate, heart rate increasing with each step closer to the house.

Her fears were confirmed when she opened the door. Her mother sat in her rocking chair, an afghan over her lap, her eyes empty and hollow. Something was definitely wrong.

“Mom? What is it?” Avery asked, rushing over to sit beside her mother. A knot formed in her stomach as she waited for her mom to respond. What could have her mother up so late at night? Where was Dad?

Oh, no ... it wasn’t - nothing had happened to Dad, had it?

“Is Daddy okay?” Avery whispered.

Her mother nodded, before her face crumpled and she cried. She pulled something out from under the afghan. A long, white envelope. What could be so important in that little letter that had her mother all twisted up inside? “This came for you,” she said softly, almost so low that Avery couldn’t hear. Thank goodness for lip reading.

For her? Avery accepted the letter from her mother’s extended hand. Her mom’s hand was cold and clammy, and that’s when Avery noticed she was trembling. “I don’t understand.” She held the letter up. The return address and name didn’t ring any bells, but they must have to her mother, otherwise she wouldn’t be acting this way. The suspense was killing her!

“I think your birth parents are finally trying to contact you.” Her mother’s face crumpled again, the tears flowing down her cheeks.

Avery dropped the letter on the ground as if it were a hot pan and flew into her mom’s embrace.

Chapter Two

“There’s nothing that indicates this, Mom. Unless you know something I don’t,” Avery said, cautiously picking up the letter again. “Nothing gives anything away. To an ordinary eye, it looks like a normal letter.” She searched her mother’s gaze, waiting for some kind of answer as to why she was fretting so much.

“It was delivered officially, on your birthday,” her mom said solemnly, shifting her gaze.

Could this really be the moment Avery had longed for?

For years and years, Avery knew nothing about her history. She’d always wondered about her background, but as time passed, she gave up hope that she’d ever know.

And yet, that hope could be staring right back at her in an unopened envelope as her mother fell apart.

Avery didn’t want to be, but she was hopeful. Mom was most likely way off, but she wouldn’t know unless she opened that letter. It’s not that she didn’t love her mom and dad, but she needed to understand where she came from. It stopped her from fully living, and loving. Avery wanted to feel whole. She hated the fact that while she was absolutely loved, wanted, cherished, and adored, she still had an empty void in her heart that only knowing would fill.

It pained her sometimes, to look her mom and dad in the eye, feeling like shit for it not being enough. It should have been enough! Those were the worst days, where she had conflicting emotions about her past. Despite how much the Callimers loved and cared for her, some days she hated the world for the abandonment from her biological parents. The questions in her mind were always why? Why wasn’t she enough for them? She couldn’t ever express those feelings. No one would ever understand. It was a hidden pain within her. Until she took up songwriting. It had become a lyrical journey to the depths of her heart.

With everyone happy and wanting to celebrate her birthday, it made matters worse. How could they celebrate a day when no one knew when she had actually been born? They were only guessing that Avery had been no more than a day old when she’d been found. So they all declared that date her birthday. Avery dreaded it every year. It was a painful reminder of things she didn’t know about herself.

She couldn’t fault the Callimers. They tried. It was Avery that never said how she felt about it. For the most part, she had an honest relationship with her adoptive parents. Unless it came down to her feelings about being adopted. If Avery could learn real facts about her life, it would be easier.

She knew nothing about her biological parents. Not a single thing.

That was the part that hurt the most. Not knowing.

It gave her no desire to celebrate a birthday.

“That still doesn’t mean anything.” Avery wrapped an arm around her mother, coaxing her to look up. “What’s got you so upset?”

“It’s just one of those feelings.” Mom wiped her tears away and tried to give Avery a half hearted smile. “I’m sorry. I do this so often lately, don’t I? I’m just getting set in my old, silly ways.”

Avery hugged her tight. “Don’t say that. I love you. I love you and Daddy both, and I don’t know where I’d be without you.” Sure she did. She wouldn’t be as loved. Despite her nagging thoughts in the back of her mind, Avery always knew she was wanted by the Callimers. That was the most important feeling of all.

“We couldn’t give you much. I wanted so much more for you, Avery. You were a blessing that came to us by surprise, and I cherish every minute of it. I was always afraid your birth parents would realize what they’d lost and come back for you. That fear has only been amplified in the last few years.”

Avery’s heart fluttered. “Don’t you realize how much you have given me, though? You took me in, you fought for me when you didn’t have to. You raised me, scolded me when I was bad. You are the reason I am who I am now. How could you ever think you haven’t done enough? Oh, Mom, where is this coming from? You’re scaring me.” Goosebumps broke out on her arms. Avery rubbed them, hoping to ease the chill she suddenly had. She’d never heard her mother talk like this. It was eerie and strange, to say the least.
And this is why I could never express that void.
Mom already worried about not giving her enough. What would that hidden feeling make her feel?

Her mother’s eyes brimmed with tears again. “Are you sure? Wouldn’t you have been better off with younger parents, siblings, not running an inn with strangers coming in and out of your daily routine?”

Avery shook her head. “Growing up was wonderful with you. I don’t understand why you’re feeling and talking this way. If I have ever given you the impression that I wasn’t thankful for everything you’ve given me...” She trailed her voice off. Despite everything, Avery had been happy. She had a place to go home to. She had discipline, someone to set her straight when she went astray. What could she say to help her mom right now? “Mom, this anxiety is no good for you. Come on, why not get ready for bed and we’ll go have some girl time tomorrow evening?” She smiled, in hopes that her mom would agree and they could get some rest. From the dark circles under the aging woman’s eyes, Avery guessed that she needed it. Badly. Then they could forget about the letter that probably didn’t mean a thing anyway and be done with it. Avery folded it into the back pocket of her jeans and stood, holding a hand out to help her mother up. When she stood, Avery hugged her for a long time before they parted. Avery gave her a peck on the cheek and smiled. “Good night. Get some sleep. I’ll see you and Daddy in the morning. I’ll help with breakfast at the inn tomorrow, and then I have to meet up with Jameson for lunch.” Her mom would be heartbroken at the thought of Avery and Jameson no longer a couple. She hadn’t yet told her the things Jameson had confided to her months ago. It had been another thing too easy to throw in the avoidance pile. No wonder everyone was on edge. It seemed like they all had something to hide.

After her mother had gone upstairs and Avery heard her bedroom door close with the usual squeak, she made sure the front door was locked up, turned off the lamp beside the rocking chair, and went up to her own room. The letter was burning a hole in her pocket. Once in the privacy of her own room, Avery sat down at the vanity against the wall, pulled the envelope out and set it on the oak desk. She stared at it for awhile, wondering who it could be from and what had her mother fretting so much over it. She didn’t like the worry that her mother carried on her shoulders so often, but Avery could understand the fear. She was all they had in the world. No grandchildren, not that they knew of anyway. They’d suffered so much loss that they didn’t want to let go of Avery for anything.

There was the reason Avery hadn’t left to chase her musical dreams. She didn’t want to leave them and have something happen. They were getting up there in age, in their early seventies, and if Mom had to take one more heartache ... what would happen? Though she’d been told relentlessly to pursue a career in singing, Avery had to brush it off like she wasn’t particularly interested in making more out of it.

But she was.

And she hated to admit it to Mom and Dad.

The letter taunted.

Just open the stupid thing. Now Mom’s got you rattled!

Without another moment’s hesitation, Avery ripped open the envelope, carefully taking out the contents inside. It was a handwritten letter, scrawled in decently legible handwriting. Taking in a sharp breath, Avery read on.

Dear Avery,

I’m sure this is the last thing you’ll ever expect, and I may be getting my hopes up. My name is Rodney Morris, and I believe you are my daughter. There, I said it right off the bat. I’m not a man that beats around the bush. Your mother has finally admitted to me that she bore my child, though through a signed contract I’m not at liberty to state who she is. What pains me is that she left you in the middle of nowhere to advance in her own life. I won’t get into details about her, as I keep seeing red when thinking of her and what she’s done. If I had known about you ... I would have loved to have a daughter. I was blessed with three boys, and had always wanted a baby girl. Is that strange? Usually it’s a woman that’s longing for a girl, but for some reason, I did. Then I ran into your mother recently, she let it slip out about what happened. Maybe she was too drunk and didn’t mean to tell me, but regardless, she did. And then came the threats, but I made sure I was allowed to contact you.

BOOK: Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1)
7.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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