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Authors: T. L. Haddix

Cricket Cove

BOOK: Cricket Cove
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Table of Contents

Genealogy Chart

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Epilogue

If You Liked Cricket Cove

Streetlight Graphics Publishing

A division of Streetlight Graphics

 

Cricket Cove

Copyright © 2014 by Tabatha L. Haddix. All rights reserved.

First Kindle Edition: February 2014

 

Visit
www.tlhaddix.com
for updates, news, bonuses and freebies.

www.facebook.com/tlhaddix

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address Streetlight Graphics Publishing, a division of Streetlight Graphics.

Genealogy Chart

 

Chapter One

November 1993

T
he scene played out in front of her as though it were a movie. Candles gave the room a warm, intimate glow. The couple on the bed was completely wrapped up in each other. They were mostly naked, and his dark hair contrasted against her fairness.

The heat was delicious, unbearable. His touch roamed her body with hands that were warm and slightly rough. The feel of his exhalation in the hollow of her throat, then of his lips trailing down her chest, caused her own breath to hitch. His lips started to close around her nipple, and she arched her back with a moan.

Amelia Campbell came awake with a start, the gasp of pleasure still caught in her throat. For several stunned seconds, she sat in her dark bedroom, propped up on her elbows, trying to clear her head. When she realized she’d been dreaming, she let herself fall back onto the mattress with a frustrated growl.

“Not again.”

Even in sleep, Logan Gibson was driving her nuts.

He’d felt so real this time. So solid, so warm, so… sexy. Realizing sleep wasn’t going to come again easily, she threw the covers back and got up. It was after three a.m., and she had really hoped to get a solid night’s rest tonight, but apparently that wasn’t in the cards.

“Third time this week. I’m going to have to do something about this if it continues,” she muttered as she went into the bathroom. The house was cool, the mid-November weather starting to stamp out the last remnants of the unusually warm fall they’d had. She had yet to turn the heat on, though she had used the fireplace a few times, but if it got much cooler, she’d have to flip the switch.

In the kitchen, she got the milk out along with the cocoa, sugar, and vanilla. As she stood at the stove and waited for the hot chocolate to heat, she ran a hand across her tired eyes. Between her writing duties, filling in for her sister-in-law Zanny while she was on maternity leave, and planning her sister Emma’s wedding to Logan’s brother, Archer, Amelia was beyond tired and approaching exhausted.

Normally she could have handled all three projects with one hand tied behind her back. But thanks to the stalker she’d apparently picked up, she was feeling nervy. As a result, her sleep had been completely disrupted in the last few weeks, and she was starting to feel it. Without even trying, she’d lost five pounds. So far no one in her family had commented, but she knew if she lost much more they’d say something. With that thought in mind, she grabbed the heavy cream from the fridge and added a healthy dollop to the small cooker.

Just thinking about her stalker made Amelia’s hands clench. She had a good idea of who he was—Roger Mullins, husband of her best friend, Lori. He didn’t like Amelia, never had, and he wasn’t happy that Amelia was trying to get Lori to leave him.

Amelia didn’t care. He was abusive, both verbally and physically, and he’d caused Lori to have several miscarriages over the not quite three years they’d been married. Lori’s parents were as determined to break the two of them up as Amelia was, but so far none of them had been able to budge her.

She felt perilously close to giving up. Every time she’d think she made a step forward, Roger would figure it out and change his attitude just long enough to make Lori think he’d reformed.

“At some point, this is going to become a futile battle that’s going to drag on until we’re old,” she muttered. “Though with the stalking…”

Amelia had done research on stalkers and on abusive spouses. She was fully aware the statistics were not good for Lori and that the fact Roger was now stalking
her
meant he was escalating in his boldness. It meant he was starting to turn his attention to Amelia, and as much as she tried to brush it off, the change scared her.

She took the hot chocolate to the door, hating the fact that she hesitated before unlocking it. She’d grown up at the top of the mountain and had spent a good portion of her childhood tooling around at her uncle and aunt’s house just up the road from where she now lived. She should have felt safe, and she loathed Roger for taking that security away from her.

After a cautious visual inspection of the yard around the trailer, she stepped onto the porch and made her way to the comfortable swing on the end near her bedroom. She curled her feet up underneath her with a sigh, letting her robe cover them, and wrapped her hands around the mug. The moon was full and the creek across the road glistened in the moonlight. It gurgled soothingly, quietly, but even the calming sound didn’t work at relaxing her.

She closed her eyes, letting the sound of the creek wash over her. As much as the stalking disturbed her, thinking about that was almost preferable to letting her mind drift to Logan.

Six feet two inches of solid muscle, with slightly curly hair that was almost blue it was so black. Grey-green eyes that reminded her of moss-covered cliffs in winter and a chiseled face that was saved from being too beautiful only by the presence of a scar bisecting his left cheek. He was the most exasperating, attractive man she’d ever met in her life, and he drove her to distraction.

For the last five years, Amelia had heard about Logan Gibson. His brother Archer had joined the family five years earlier. A mechanic who worked with her uncle, Jack Browning, Archer had come to the family’s Fourth of July celebration. Amelia had immediately connected with him despite their age difference, and she’d adopted him as a third older brother. Almost as soon as they’d forged their friendship, Amelia had seen that Archer was drawn to her sister, Emma. She’d spent the last five years waiting for a chance to push the two of them together. This past summer the time had finally been right, and after a rocky and tumultuous courtship, they were engaged. The wedding was in a matter of weeks as neither Emma nor Archer wanted to wait long.

Given what she knew about Logan, Amelia had expected his personality to be similar to Archer’s, only quieter. More solemn. She’d been dead wrong. Instead of the easygoing, mischievous, laid-back sweetheart her sister was marrying, Logan was a surly, grouchy, self-righteous grump.

At least with her.

The same man who seemed to disapprove of her very existence was charming and polite to her sisters. He’d even unwound enough to joke with them at Archer’s birthday party a few weeks earlier. It was only when he interacted with Amelia that he turned into an unpleasant ogre. Not one to back down from a challenge, Amelia gave as good as she got. Being the youngest of five siblings had taught her a few things, after all. Every chance she got, she needled Logan.

Archer had been stunned by their grating interactions with each other, and Amelia had caught similar questioning looks from other members of her family.

“Pip, you can get along with anyone. But not him. What in the world?” Archer had asked after one particularly biting exchange that had her stomping off in the opposite direction of Logan.

It was true. The only person she’d ever not gotten along with, Logan aside, was Roger. And it wasn’t that she thought Logan was like Roger. She didn’t. But his attitude pushed every button she had, and she couldn’t resist pulling his tail.

The fact that he was the most attractive man she’d ever met in her life only made things worse.

Amelia was known amongst friends and family for being something of a Cupid. Her father, Owen Campbell, suspected it was one of her abilities. In a family with an assortment of unusual talents and “gifts,” hers wasn’t too shocking. Since she’d turned sixteen, she’d paired up ten couples who had gone on to become engaged or get married. Her mother laughed because guys who started out flirting with Amelia often ended up happily settled down with her friends and were left scratching their heads as to how it had happened.

She’d gone on dates, of course. All her other responsibilities aside, Amelia had an active social life. She’d even had a serious boyfriend once upon a time, but that had ended in disaster. So even though she was twenty-two years old and still a virgin, she kept a safe distance between any man she dated and her heart. She let them know up front that she was only interested in friendship.

The truth was that ever since her heart had been broken when she was nineteen, she’d never met a man who tempted her to let her walls down, emotionally or physically. She had always thought she’d just
know
when she met the man who was “it” for her, like her parents and grandparents had before her, like her brothers had with their wives. It hadn’t happened, and eventually, she’d stopped expecting it to.

But then there was Logan. And dear God, she was tempted. Sometimes it felt like she was holding back the force of a dam with one finger, having to be near him and not touch him. She’d honestly thought the first time she had seen him that she’d been electrocuted. Every part of her body had lit up, and she was stunned he hadn’t noticed. Astronauts in outer space should have been able to see her attraction.

So she avoided any sort of touch with him, even the most casual. That was something else that hadn’t gone unnoticed within the family. Amelia was a hugger, always had been. But she kept a careful distance between Logan and herself.

Amelia wasn’t sure what to do about it. She figured at first that she would just ignore it and the zing would go away. But it hadn’t. It had leveled out some, yes, so that it wasn’t almost painful to be in the same room with him. But she could still tell without looking when he walked in. She didn’t like the sensation one bit.

More than anything, her attraction to the man was embarrassing. If she’d had any hope there was a chance the two of them might have a romance at some point, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But thanks to a conversation she’d overheard, she was painfully aware of what Logan thought about her. Even now, weeks later, remembering brought a stinging blush to her cheeks.

She’d been at the homeplace in the hayloft of the barn, having gone there for some solitude and quiet. Archer and Logan had apparently decided to stretch their legs, and she’d watched from the window as the two of them came toward the barn. Though Logan was dark where Archer was fair, there was no denying they were brothers. The way they walked was strikingly similar, even with Logan’s limp. He’d just moved to Hazard after leaving the Army, where he’d been nearly fatally injured earlier in the year. Though the wounds were mostly healed, a faint limp remained.

When they came inside so Archer could show Logan around, she’d thought about speaking up. But she didn’t expect them to stay long, so she’d kept quiet. Her head was throbbing from having stayed up very late the night before, and she closed her eyes, hoping they’d soon leave.

Instead, they’d started talking. When the conversation had been about her, she’d not known how to react. Humiliation and pain had frozen her in place.

“How’s this?” she heard Archer ask.

Logan let out a sigh that was audible even from a distance. “Perfect. Thanks.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, it was just a little too close in there. That’s a noisy bunch you’ve affiliated yourself with. You looking forward to officially being tied to them?”

“You know, I really am. Pip likes to tease that they adopted me years ago, and I feel like they did. But it will be nice to have it on paper. To be able to point to Emma and Sydney and say ‘that beautiful woman and her daughter are mine and I belong to them.’” He paused briefly. “So is it just the crowd that made you so tense? Or is it something else?
Someone
else?”

Logan hesitated. “I’m just feeling a little hunted, that’s all.”

“Who by?”

“Your Pip. I can’t leave the room without her following me. I feel like I’m back in high school again. She’ll be asking you to pass me notes soon at this rate.”

Archer coughed. “I beg your pardon?”

“What are you saying? That I’m imagining it? You’re the one who called her a Cupid.”

“Yeah, but she’s not… Pip isn’t chasing after you. But if she were, would getting caught be such a bad thing?”

“Yes, it would.” Logan half-growled the words. “You know what I think about her. She’s all fluff, very little substance. And that dress she’s wearing today? Farm girl meets sex kitten? It’s sad, like a little girl playing dress-up. She’s trying to imitate her sisters but she can’t quite pull it off. She’s a pale imitation. She’d do better just going back to her usual self, the jeans and jerseys. At least she wouldn’t look so ridiculous then.”

Amelia looked down at the comfortable sundress she wore underneath a light cardigan. It was an outfit she’d worn at least a dozen times over the past year. She could see the farm girl comparison, but sex kitten? If she hadn’t been so hurt, she would have laughed.

There was a long silence down below, then Archer finally spoke. “I don’t know what to say to that, other than you have your head up your ass. Amelia isn’t like that. She’s not wearing anything she doesn’t usually wear.”

“What about her makeup? Seriously, did she put it on in the dark?”

“What the hell is your problem? She’s done nothing to deserve this kind of derision from you. And she’s not wearing much makeup. She hardly ever does.”

“She’s just like Mom. Irresponsible, only concerned with the moment. She has a brain in her head but she doesn’t use it. And you might not think she’s chasing me, but damn it, Archer, I know what I know. Can’t she find a man any other way than to trap him? Corner him into compliance? Maybe that works with the boys around here, but I’m not giving in to her machinations.”

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