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Authors: Jessica Ferguson

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The Last Daughter (Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll)

BOOK: The Last Daughter (Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll)
10.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Table of Contents

Title Page





Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

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Thank you for purchasing this publication of The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

The Last Daughter


Jessica Ferguson

Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

The Last Daughter

COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Jessica Roach Ferguson

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Contact Information: [email protected]

Cover Art by
Debbie Taylor

The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

PO Box 708

Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708

Visit us at

Publishing History

First Crimson Rose Edition, 2013

Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-100-7

Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll

Published in the United States of America

Praise for

“In this well-crafted mystery, Jessica Ferguson has created a cast of intriguing characters that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.”

~Barbara Colley, author


“Suspense-filled and uplifting, somehow at once,
by Jessica R. Ferguson is a delight for those who enjoy curling up with a great romantic mystery. I’ll not soon forget this author; her story branded my heart.”

Anna Kittrell, award winning author of Skinbound (Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll series)

and Another Man’s Treasure


Always to Jim:

Thank you for making life interesting

and letting me chase my dreams.

I love you.


Many thanks to my editor, Ally Robertson, and beta reader Anna Kittrell—as well as the Oklahoma RWA Outlaws for the opportunity and inspiration.

The Mustang Oklahoma Public Library has the greatest writing vibes and I’m especially thankful for Janie Turnbull, who met me there on Tuesdays for a writing day. Janie, you’re a great encourager!

Much love and appreciation to my daughter Chaney and my BFF Barbara Colley, who read everything I write, multiple times. I couldn’t do it without you two.

Chapter 1

Rayna Guilbeau pressed the gas pedal hard and raced her black Honda CRV across two lanes toward Exit 150B. The lights of Oklahoma City mesmerized her to the point she’d almost missed the exit. Thankfully, Interstate 235 wasn’t busy at midnight. Safely and smoothly, she merged onto East Sheridan Avenue and turned right on Joe Carter, then took a left on N. Robinson. She was here. After being on the road for almost thirteen hours, she was finally here.

She felt swallowed up by the city. Excitement pumped through her veins. Very soon she would be slap dab in the middle of...

Of what, she wondered. A promising future? Her dubious past? A new life?
Or not.
She couldn’t imagine what might lie ahead of her.

She fingered the sheet of directions in her lap but didn’t need to look at them. She clutched the paper as tightly as a child clutched a favorite doll. She’d memorized every exit, every turn. All she had to do was drive through town to the neighborhood the Realtor had labeled
in transition
. That usually meant
or on the cusp of decline. Didn’t matter to her; she’d lived on the cusp of decline all her life.

If only she’d seen the picture of the house sooner. But she’d tossed the magazine onto the coffee table and hadn’t thumbed through it until her days off. Dumb, dumb, dumb. She pounded the steering wheel. When would she learn not to procrastinate? Starting immediately, she promised herself.

Her coworkers at the doctor’s office had told her she was nuts when she’d turned in her resignation to move from south Louisiana to Oklahoma City. She didn’t try to explain. She was too excited. Too hell-bent on selling the little she owned and heading west. Without a doubt, the unoccupied home held the key to her past. The moment she’d seen the color picture of the three-story house called Wounded Heart, her breath had caught, and she’d felt a heaviness in her chest. The moment she’d seen the branded heart emblem beside the front door, she’d known she’d once lived there. And she’d known she had to own it. Rubbing her chest, she turned her focus back to the highway.

Unfortunately, I don’t own it
, she thought,
but I’m going to find out who does
. When she’d called the Realtor to make an offer and learned it had been sold, she’d been told the buyer had raised his bid over three others. Why would anyone want an ancient old house in need of repair, especially one that, according to the Realtor, had an iffy reputation? Of course, when pressed to explain, the Realtor had admitted the iffy reputation was nothing more than gossip and speculation.

Driving through the sleeping city, Rayna crossed Piper Street and halted at a stop sign. There it stood, in the distance. Three stories perched on a hill, silhouetted against the sky. It looked tired, weather-worn, but still proud. The thought that it could have been hers took her breath away. Her loss filled her with sorrow.

Easing up the street, she stopped her car in front of the gravel driveway and stared up at the towering structure. Probably a good thing she hadn’t been able to buy the place. Even in the light of the full moon, she spotted peeling paint and splintered wood. With her limited finances, she wouldn’t have been able to renovate.

A full size pickup truck sat in the drive next to the front porch. Evidently the new owner had taken possession immediately and moved in. No light came from inside the house so Rayna killed her engine. What would it hurt to walk around the yard? It was after midnight, who would see?

Shoving her car door open, she climbed out, then hesitated. What an eerie feeling. The air was still. Her research had told her the wind always blew in Oklahoma, and that tornados could pop up at any time. Being mid-March, she wondered why the winds weren’t horrendous. She looked up at the sky. The round moon stared back at her.

She probably shouldn’t snoop around someone else’s house, but she had come so far. She had to see it, touch it, look inside it. Slowly, she walked up the driveway, listening for anything out of the ordinary in the peaceful spring night. No dogs barked—that alone was out of the ordinary. Back home in Louisiana, there was always a barking dog.

The closer she got to the house, the stronger the pull. She moved toward the elevated front porch, reached out her hand, and touched it. She brought her gaze to the Wounded Heart brand burned into the wood beside the front door and her stomach twisted into a knot of apprehension. She looked away.

Turning in a circle, she inspected the neighborhood, the yard, the driveway. She could hardly believe she might very well be standing exactly where her father had stood...or her mother. She fought the wave of emotion that built in her chest. What happened to them? How had she ended up in Louisiana with no one? At least, no one who truly cared about her. There were answers here in this house. She could feel it.

She followed the driveway until she stood in the back yard. The area was unkept but from what she understood, the house had been vacant for quite a while. At the back of the deep plot of uncut grass, an old clothes line stood. She wondered if she’d played on a pallet while her mother pinned clean cotton sheets to dry in the sun. She visualized the child she might have been and the mother she yearned for. How would she learn everything she wanted to know about her family? Who was left to tell her?

An overwhelming desire to see inside the house consumed her. Of course, she’d come back tomorrow, beg if she had to, but tonight...right this minute, she needed a peek.

If she climbed the few steps, no doubt the porch would creak. She didn’t want to alert the new owner, but the backdoor had a pane window. No curtain. Just one peek would satisfy her curiosity—even though she’d be peeking into darkness. She eased up the steps. As suspected, a slight wrenching sound pierced the night, as if her five feet seven inches and 128 pounds were too much for the aged wood. Once she was on the porch, she leaned toward the window to press her face to the pane when—

“I hope you’re not planning to break the window and let yourself inside. I’d hate to have to call the cops on you.”

Rayna jumped at the unexpected voice, whirled around, and slammed against the door. Her hand pressed protectively against her racing heart. A nice looking man, dressed in t-shirt and shorts, grinned at her, head tilted. He looked rugged in a minimalist sort of way.

“I wasn’t breaking in. Just trying to get a glimpse of the interior. I know it was on the market awhile back.”

He didn’t look angry; more amused than anything. In fact, he laughed, an oddly fun sound in the still of the night. Maybe he wasn’t the owner, but a person from the neighborhood out for a stroll or run.

He looked at his watch. “At twelve forty-two a.m.?”

“I just got into town.” She shrugged. “First things first.”

He scratched his ear and squinted as if something had just dawned on him. “You’re the woman who called my Realtor about the house, aren’t you?”

Rayna forced a smile. “Why would you think that?” She took a step toward the edge of the porch and grabbed hold of a rickety rail, clenching tightly.

He propped his right foot on the first step. “You asked the Realtor if she knew the previous owners and if I might sell it to you. Who else would show up to peek through windows at this hour?”

She jutted her chin forward. “Why did you want it? It’s so run down and in need of a lot of work.” She doubted he was a distant relative though that would explain his interest.

He shifted his stance. “I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. Not to mention all those wonderful antiques inside.” He rubbed his hands together almost hungrily.

“Do you have ties to this place?”

“Do you?” he challenged. He studied her before he folded his muscled arms across his rib cage. He waited for her response. She suspected he was trying to catch her in a lie. Well, he wouldn’t.

She leaned against the porch column, forced herself to relax. She wanted to look as calm and self-assured as he seemed to be. He didn’t come across angry or even exasperated with her for snooping around. In fact, he showed an enormous amount of patience, considering she was a trespasser. From the vibes she picked up from him, she thought he might be willing to help her. She’d level with him, but how much should she say? “I think I used to live here,” she said. “But I’m not sure.”

He didn’t look surprised, just curious. “You were willing to buy a huge old five bedroom house that needs a ton of work just because you
you used to live here? That doesn’t make any sense if you don’t have proof.”

His words agitated her. Maybe she had him pegged all wrong. “Not to you, maybe.” She flounced down the steps with every intention of leaving, but she stopped short when a horrific thought penetrated her brain. She turned back toward him. “Please—” Her voice broke. “You’re not going to tear it down, are you? Build apartments or something?”

“Of course not. I paid way too much to destroy this old beauty.”

Something about the way his face softened, the manner in which he said
old beauty
, warmed her toward him.

Her body relaxed, and she put her hand over her mouth to hide a yawn. “Sorry, it was a long drive.” She pressed a button on her watch to illuminate it. “I need to find a room, but if I come back tomorrow, will you show me around?”

For the first time, he did look impatient. “You don’t have a place for the night? Are you out of your mind?” Before she could reply, he held up his hand to silence her. “Sorry, I take that back, but I’m afraid you may not find a room at this hour, at least nothing decent. I noticed in this morning’s paper several big conventions happening. Not to mention the Thunder are playing the Lakers so there are lots of fans in town.”

She knew who the Thunder was—Oklahoma City’s very successful basketball team. She hadn’t counted on not being able to find a room. What now? “I guess—I wanted to find a place close to the house. I just didn’t think it would be that difficult.”

BOOK: The Last Daughter (Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll)
10.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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