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Authors: Geeta Kakade

Tags: #Homespun Romance

03 The Long Road Home

BOOK: 03 The Long Road Home
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The Long Road Home

 

By

 

Geeta Kakade

 

ISBN:  978-1-77145-125-3

 

PUBLISHED BY:

 

Books We Love Ltd.

Chestermere, AB

Canada

 

http://bookswelove.com

 

Copyright 2013 by Geeta Kakade

Cover Art Copyright 2013 by Michelle Lee

 

 

 

The Homespun Series

 

Book 1 – Faith Hope and Love

Book 2 – Project Valentine

Book 3 – The Long Road Home

Book 4 – The Old Fashioned Way

Book 5 – Mr. Wrong

Book 6 – Daddy’s Little Girl

 

Use this link to find all Books We Love Ltd. books at Amazon Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Books%20We%20Love%20Ltd
.

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

CHAPTER ONE

 

The blue letters on a white background signified her worst nightmare come true.  Margaret Browning stared at the sign for a full minute.  Bedouin Trucking.  Higher up, on a huge pole, so it was visible from the freeway, was another sign.  Truck Stop, it proclaimed to everyone around.

Margaret closed her eyes and wished it all away.  She opened them a second later to find it was all still there.  She turned her gaze to the enormous brick and glass structure that had replaced Simm's old dilapidated garage.  The modern truck stop looked out of place in Inchwater, California, where the term new was applied to things ten years old, and the outside of every building had durable, practical, aluminum siding.

"Why here?"  She wasn't aware of saying the words aloud.

"Why not?" her companion in the battered Chevy answered.  "Magnum said he needed to expand.  Land in Los Angeles costs the earth.  Besides, he wanted a place somewhere between L.A. and Las Vegas, on the routes his drivers use most frequently.  He picked Inchwater for all the above reasons, plus the fact no one objected to having it here."

No one except her, and she hadn't been here to voice a protest.  "Wonder what Timmy's doing here?"

The thought of her brother having anything to do with the truck stop was part of her nightmare.

Margaret turned to Joe Graines, her high school classmate, who had picked her up at Ontario International airport, over seventy miles away from Inchwater.  Busy fiddling with the car radio, he didn’t seem to have heard her question.

Impatient to see her brother, Margaret had asked Joe to stop off at Dan's Donuts first where Timmy had worked since January.  To her surprise Dan had told her she would find Timmy at the truck stop.

Well, she was here now, and there was no sign of Timmy.  This meant she would have to go in and ask for him.

"Thanks for the ride, Joe."  Margaret smiled.

"Sure you don't want me to stick around and drive you home?"  Joe Graines asked amiably, the same way he had asked if he could copy her math homework their senior year.

"No, I need the walk."  She also needed time alone to sort through the jumble of her thoughts.

"See you later then," Joe said as Margaret got out of the car.  "I'll drop your luggage off at Janet's."

"Later," Margaret echoed, her mind occupied with her surroundings.  "And thanks again for meeting my plane."

"No problem.  Bye Margaret."

It was her father who had insisted everybody call her Margaret.  Not Marge, or Maggie, or even Meg.  Simply Margaret.  It was the name of a princess, he'd always maintained, and shortening it would ruin it.

As the Chevy roared off, Margaret took a deep breath and turned toward the truck stop.  Being here reminded her of Daddy and the work he had done.  Trucking had killed both her parents, snatching all that was best away from her and Timmy. 

As truck stops went this was one of the best she had ever seen.  The hundred feet of dirt that had separated Simm's garage from the main road was paved now, the asphalt hard under her pink sneakers.  There were trucks all around of every shape and size.  Neatly parked, being filled, being washed, or simply standing there.  Most of them were blue and silver and had a silver unicorn emblazoned on the side, and the words Bedouin Trucking.  Diesel pumps lined one side of the yard.  Fifty yards from the entrance stood a building marked OFFICE.  Glassed in on four sides, it allowed a clear view of all that went on in the truck stop.  At the rear, the huge brick building she'd noticed earlier housed more trucks in various stages of repair. 

Margaret headed for the office.  Maybe someone in it could tell her where Timmy was. 

As she looked around, sensations swamped her, bringing her to a dead halt.  Margaret took a deep breath.  The atmosphere here had a strange effect on her.  The shouts of the drivers calling to each other, the throb of the running engines, the smell of diesel and grease, the men and women milling about, were all sparks lighting the dry heap of memories she'd locked away so carefully. 

Pictures from the past danced out of the bonfire.  Too hot.  Too close.

Daddy!

It was the poignant cry of a child whom death had cheated of her parents' love. 

Margaret raised a hand to her mouth to hold the cry back as another image surfaced. 

"Look, Daddy, I can drive your truck." 

It was one of her earliest memories, sitting on his lap, being allowed to turn the steering wheel of the parked rig.  The texture of the sheepskin cover her mother had made for it tickled her palms, making her giggle.  The smell had been the same.  Diesel and grease.  Then it had been bearable, because the perfume her mother had used had been mixed in with it.  Now it simply whipped her memories into a frenzy.  Her father had dropped a kiss on top of her head and said, "You make a mighty fine truck driver, sweetheart."

A big burly man turned and waved to someone in the yard, and another picture jumped out of the blaze.  Daddy had always turned to wave, just like that, before he climbed into his truck. 

"Be a good girl for Aunt Janet, Margaret, and we'll have a surprise for you when we get back."

That was Mummy’s voice, cheerful and loving.

A couple stepped into the cab of their rig.  To Margaret's tortured imagination, they were her parents getting ready to leave on another trip.

"Mommy, Daddy, don't go away."

She had to stop them.  This was the last trip; the one both her parents never returned from.  Margaret could taste the disaster on her tongue.  Bitter, awful, searing.

Matt watched the woman approach through the glass.  The auburn hair was striking.  Slim, fashionably turned out in high heels and a suit, she stood out like a sore thumb in the yard. 

He frowned as he noticed the way she clutched her bag to her chest.  His eyes narrowed as she came closer, and he took in the stricken expression on her face, the hand over her mouth.  What the hell?  Instinct had him heading toward the door, as she stepped off the concrete median.

"Look out!"  The shout reached Margaret's ears at the same time as she felt herself being lifted in the air and put down.  The sound of a passing truck jolted her back to the present, leaving her cold and shaky. 

"Are you trying to get yourself killed?"

Large hands encircled her waist, as their owner waited for an answer.

"No."  Margaret blinked rapidly, tilting her head back to get a look at the person who held her.  The sun in her eyes made it impossible to make out anything, except that he was very big.

The hands at her waist were removed, and Margaret turned around slowly to find her nose half an inch away from a button.  A white button on a green-white-and-black-checked shirt.  Taking a cautious step back, she raised her gaze to a pair of eyes viewing her with undisguised hostility.

Margaret lifted her chin.  Nice eyes, a part of her dazed brain registered.  Forest green.  Nice smell too.  Pine. 

Nice stopped there, though.  The rest was all angry man.

"What was that all about?"  Her tone held one part bravado, two parts ice. 

"Suppose you tell me?"  His features looked as if they had been carved from rock.  Her gaze fixed on the deep cleft in his chin.  He sounded like the rain in a temper.  Strong, powerful, dangerous.  "One minute you're mincing along the concrete median, and the next you're stepping off it, directly into the path of a reversing truck."

"The driver has mirrors powerful enough to see a cockroach in his path," Margaret retorted, angered by his choice of words. 

Mincing brought to mind an airhead in a too tight skirt, with fluff instead of a brain in her cerebral cavity.  She resented the implication. 

"Only a psychic could know you were going to stop staring at everything like a kid at the circus, and step off the median as if you're sleep walking.  What are you doing here anyway?  If you're collecting for a local charity, do us a favor and just write next time, okay?"

"There's no need to be rude," Margaret said stiffly.

"There is, if your jaywalking is going to endanger you and us.  Can I help you in any way?" 

“Who are you?”

“The name's Magnum.  Matthew Magnum.” 

Margaret wet her dry lips.  Joe had mentioned the name.  She looked at the owner of Bedouin Trucking and tried to appear cool, calm and collected.  As he surveyed her from head to toe, cool and calm disintegrated. Collected seemed like a lost cause.  Margaret resisted the impulse to button the jacket of the beige suit she wore. 

Magnum's gaze returned to her face, "The mall is in the opposite direction.  This is a truck stop."

"I know where the mall is," Margaret snapped, "I'm looking for my brother, Timothy Browning.  Is he here?"

Matthew Magnum's eyes narrowed and he looked at her again, as if he were seeing her for the first time.  Then he nodded to himself.  "Thought that hair and freckles looked familiar.  The mouths are different though."

She had to give him a ten for his powers of observation.  Most people said, except for their mouths, Timmy and she might have been twins.

"So you're the prodigal niece I've heard so much about?"

Margaret's mouth fell open.  Prodigal niece?  What had Aunt Janet said to give him that impression?

"Home for the summer from D.C. are you?"

She nodded.  He didn't seem to approve of her or her job in Washington.  Confused, Margaret wondered what there was about teaching to arouse antagonism.

"It's about time you came home."

"Why?" asked Margaret.

His eyes narrowed.  "Why?  Just pull your head out of your private section of sand, and you'll see why.  Your aunt has too much on her hands with the restaurant and your brother to care for, while you live it up in DC."  Before she could say a word, Matthew Magnum turned away, "Tim!" 

The stentorian yell made her jump, and she glared at his broad back for a moment.  She could no more live it up on her salary than the dodo could make a comeback.  And why had he just implied she was an ostrich with her head in the sand, oblivious to what went on around her?  What was the man's middle name anyway?  Groucho?  He had to be the most abrasive person she had met in a while.

Margaret's thoughts shifted, as she saw the figure of her lanky brother emerge from one of the enormous sheds at the rear.  Tim had grown a couple of inches and seemed all hands and legs.  Margaret smiled.

"Yes, Matt?"

Matthew Magnum jerked a thumb over his shoulder, and Timmy's eyes grew round when he saw her.  A little of Margaret's pleasure evaporated as she realized Timmy's reaction to her presence held more shock than surprise.

"Take five."  Matthew Magnum entered the office, shutting the door behind him. 

"Hello Timmy."  Margaret's raised arms fell to her sides as she realized her brother had no intention of being hugged.  "How are you?"

"I'm fine, sis."  Timmy rammed his hands into his pockets.  "Did you have a good flight?"

Margaret nodded.  The red-eye special from Washington had been nothing out of the ordinary.

"What did he mean, take five?" 

The smell of diesel didn't bother her as much as the look on her brother's face as sullenness descended, shutting her out.

"Just that.  I work here."

The world tilted to a forty-five degree angle and took its time straightening, as the last shreds of hope that Timmy was simply hanging out here were whipped away.  "I thought you worked in Dan's Donuts?"

Her brother looked away.  "I did, till I got this job.  I like working around trucks better."

"I see."

True, their only contact in the last month had been brief telephone conversations, but Timmy could have told her about this new job. 

If he'd wanted to.

Somewhere in the psychology classes she had taken in college, Margaret had learned not to make a fuss about things she didn't like.  Angry reactions emphasized negative behavior, fixed it in the mind, put the person on the defensive.  She took a deep breath.  "I just stopped by Dan's, and he told me I'd find you here."  It didn't seem worth it to tell Timmy she'd thought Dan had meant he had the day off and was simply hanging out at the truck stop with a friend. 

Instead of replying, Timmy stared at a spot over her head.

"What time do you get through?"

That's the way, Margaret.  Just play it nice and light.

"Five."

"Shall I pick you up, and we can go to a movie in Garrison?"  They shared a passion for movies.

"Maybe another night.  I'm going out with TJ after work."  Where the Timmy of yesterday would have smiled over mention of his girlfriend, the young adult of today refused to meet her gaze. 

"That's great," Margaret said, as the hollow feeling inside increased.  Timmy had never been distant with her before. 

Everything that had happened in the last half hour seemed to assume gigantic proportions simply because she was tired, Margaret told herself.  The man for one, Timmy's behavior, her own uneasiness, everything would sort itself out.

"I'll see you later, sis," Timmy said awkwardly. "My break's up."

BOOK: 03 The Long Road Home
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