Authors: Debra Dixon
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A Loveswept eBook Edition
Copyright © 1994 by Debra Dixon
All is Fair
by Linda Cajio © 1986 by Linda Cajio.
Bad to the Bone
by Debra Dixon copyright © 1996 by Debra Dixon.
by Linda Cajio copyright © 1987 by Linda Cajio.
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
LOVESWEPT and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
was originally published in paperback by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. in 1994.
Cover image © Peter Bernick/shutterstock
To my sister, Lori Clark—
who found a family treasure
hidden in the mountains of East Tennessee
And to my grandfather, Byrd E. Daugherty—
newly found but much loved
A special thanks to:
Brenda Y. Smith, M.N., C.N.M., Associate Professor, University of Tennessee–Memphis, College of Nursing, for answering questions and sending wonderfully concise and informative literature. Her kindness and generosity made my research a pleasure. Any mistakes regarding midwifery practice and procedure should be attributed strictly to the author.
Excerpt from Linda Cajio’s
All Is Fair …
Excerpt from Debra Dixon’s
Bad to the Bone
“It’s the top-rated talk show! You can’t say no.”
“Yes, I can.” Joshua Logan spoke evenly, but he gripped the phone tightly enough to turn his knuckles white. He had no intention of going anywhere in the near future. “You don’t need me to sell the book. Five years ago, half the country bought
The new book will find its way without me.”
Derrick Tremont, his agent, swore into the phone. “You can’t still be serious about this ‘back to the mountain’ nonsense? I can understand your wanting to get off the university lecture circuit. You sure as hell don’t need the money, and if you want to stop being an archaeologist and digging around in the dirt, that’s up to you. You’ve already established your credentials. But you can’t turn your back on this publicity tour!”
“I can, and I have. I thought we were clear on this, Derrick. My contract doesn’t require me to put on a dog-and-pony show. As far as I’m concerned, the publisher
bought the book. They bought the gimmick. They didn’t buy me.”
“For God’s sake, you are the gimmick! A psychic Indiana Jones! What else would you call a flesh-and-blood scientist who admits that he can get psychic impressions from the ancient artifacts he handles?”
“Retired,” Joshua told him flatly.
Silence stretched out through the miles of telephone cable. Finally, Derrick said, “I can’t change your mind, can I?”
But I wish you could
, Joshua thought as he flipped off the mobile phone. A new mind would solve a lot of his problems. He’d let his psychic genie out of the bottle, and now he was having some trouble putting it back. He wanted out of the limelight, out of the high life, and back into real life.
When his head began a familiar throbbing, Joshua knew he wasn’t going to get any more work done on the new cabin today. The past was closing in on him, and he needed space. Not bothering to pack up his tools, he headed for the most restful spot on the mountain. Once there, he leaned his back against a smooth tree trunk stained green by moss and slid slowly to the cool earth.
Welcoming the quiet of the familiar and primeval forest, he let the magic of his surroundings soothe his mind and make him whole again. When the relentless pounding in his head diminished to a faint, manageable touch of pain, Joshua opened his eyes to the lush green kaleidoscope of the Appalachian Mountains. He pulled clean air and the scent of morning dew into his
lungs. Without a doubt, Joshua knew that coming back to live in East Tennessee had been the right decision.
He heard the muted whisper of water pulsing through the sluggish creek beside him, and he felt his equilibrium returning. The mountains had given him a place to fade away from the world, and more important, a place to let the echoes of the world fade away from him. Smiling, he realized this headache had been the first in weeks.
Soon the lush greenery would be replaced by the flames of autumn, his favorite season. Trading his career for peace of mind didn’t seem like such a sacrifice when he got nature’s beauty in the bargain. He’d come home, away from the emotional clutter of the cities, and he intended to stay. He doubted even an offer to excavate legendary Camelot would drag him off.
What was left of his career would have to come to him, and even then he wasn’t sure he’d try again. Every time was like opening Pandora’s box. Each new connection would only add to the emotions that had battered his consciousness for the past few years.
Emotions that didn’t even belong to him. Sometimes, emotions so old they had to be measured in centuries.
Years earlier he made a mistake that both created and ultimately ended his brilliant career as an archaeologist. In his impatience to touch history, he had opened himself to the shimmer of emotion and knowledge that coursed through him as he held that freshly excavated artifact.
His abilities had created a maelstrom in the world of archaeology and academia. A profession that normally thrived on unexplained mysteries began asking questions he couldn’t answer. All he understood was the seductive power of holding a piece of the past, discovering what had come before.
had been his attempt to explain. Instead of satisfying the curious, the book had catapulted him to celebrity status. After that, everyone wanted a piece of him, a bit of his soul. Everyone expected and wanted him to be just what Derrick said—a psychic Indiana Jones, archaeologist to the stars.
Joshua picked up a stone and sailed it past a small American chestnut tree. He made a sound that was partly sad and partly disgusted. How ironic, Joshua thought as he heaved himself up and began to walk. From the start, both the chestnut tree and his career had shown great promise, but then faltered.
Neither of them could handle the invasion. The chestnut couldn’t handle the incurable blight that continued to kill American chestnuts. He couldn’t handle the invasion of privacy or the emotional echoes that would surround him if he left the insulation of the mountains.
For him, there’d be no more cities, no more medical tests, no more psi tests, no more dog-and-pony shows. That much he could safely promise himself, he decided as he moved through the woods. The new cabin was almost finished, a testament to his conviction that he belonged there. He felt better than he had in years despite the fact he’d been driving himself to
the point of exhaustion to finish the inside of the new house before winter.
“If you’d let the contractor finish it, you’d be living in there now!” he told himself as he ducked under the branch of a sugar maple. “You’d be sleeping there instead of in an old swaybacked cabin with a tin-patched roof that leaks like a—”
Abruptly, Joshua halted not only his words but his progress toward the gray, weathered cabin. A bright red splash of color drew his attention to the top of the hill. An ancient Range Rover perched on the side of the road as if its owner thought better of turning the truck onto the gravel driveway, which snaked down a steep incline.
Studying the old cabin, which nestled in a small hollow, Joshua noticed the door was slightly ajar. But then, he never bothered to lock it. For a split second he wanted to mentally reach for the echoes inside the cabin, to get a sense of who had invaded his house and why. Even as he suppressed the impulse, he swore silently, realizing that his abilities had become a habit, his way of staying one step ahead of the world. Until his return to the mountain, very little in life had surprised him.
And wasn’t that one of the reasons you came home? To start living your own life instead of others’?
Joshua forced himself to judge the situation on evidence alone. He checked the truck and ruled out a flat tire. He also ruled out a neighborly visit. Folks on the mountain wouldn’t put a foot in his cabin without an invitation. They stopped by occasionally, hollered at
the edge of the porch, and waited for a response. If they didn’t get one, they left.
Not a burglar either, he decided. Unless he was a very stupid one. He’d have to haul anything he stole up the hill to the truck fifty yards away.
The most likely explanation was some hiker wannabe with car trouble. He had a mobile phone at the new house,
the hiker wanted to take the twenty-minute hike over the ridge. But he hoped the stranger didn’t. The only echoes in the new place were his own, and he wanted to keep it that way.
Joshua closed the distance to the old cabin. Wide steps of rough-hewn stone climbed to a covered porch, which was graced by two rocking chairs his grandmother had insisted he put there. “
J.J., no use havin’ a porch if you don’t sit on it! That’d just be a waste of trees.
” She was right. These same rockers would eventually grace the porch of his new home, which was a much larger, stylized version of a traditional mountain cabin.
Quietly, he crossed the porch and with the tips of his fingers pushed the door. It drifted open until he could see the one-room interior. Nothing had been disturbed. Nothing looked out of place, not even the woman who was currently testing the comfort of his bed. Her eyes were closed as she allowed herself to sink gently back into the softness. Joshua wondered if she’d be disappointed to know that the Jacob’s ladder quilt hid an overstuffed down-filled comforter instead of an old feather bed.
An aura of serenity, which had nothing to do with
psychic impressions, surrounded the woman as her arms spread out in a contented stretch. It was the sense of having made peace with herself and her life. Joshua envied her that peace and suspected some of her tranquility had rubbed off on him. Instead of angrily demanding to know why she had broken into his cabin, he made himself comfortable against the door-jamb.
From where he stood, he had a great view of his mystery guest. Black stretch leggings revealed every line, every curve of her legs until they disappeared beneath a long, brightly hued T-shirt of a coral reef and vivid fish, which undulated along the contours of her body. He liked the T-shirt and her legs, but doubted she’d be pleased to hear it. Instead, he quoted from an appropriate fairy tale.
“ ‘Well, well. Someone’s been sleeping in my bed.’ ”
The woman lost her languid calm instantly. Arching her back in an unconsciously sensual movement, she came up off the bed with a sharp intake of breath. Her dark hair swirled as her gaze locked with his.
“And she’s still here,” he added, and raised an eyebrow.
Any other woman might have gulped, screamed in fear, stammered an apology, or gushed one in a rush of words; she did none of those things, although regret and apprehension did flicker across her expression briefly before disappearing. As her hair came to rest just below her shoulders, she settled herself, almost visibly drawing her poise about her like a mantle.