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Jeremiah Coltrane prefers his life the way it is, alone and with no messy female entanglements. He'd been burned once, and once was one time too many. He has enough problems with the bank breathing down his neck, threatening to foreclose on his ranch. He doesn't need a woman thrown into the mix. But when a pint-size bookkeeper with the biggest brown eyes he's ever seen literally falls into his arms, he's not so sure anymore.
(79 pages) - sweet
The scream, lodged in Abigail's throat, choked off her air, pulling the darkness in around her as fear held her captive. She was going to faint, then it could do whatever it wished. Her mind screamed for help, but not a word made it past her lips. Beady eyes watched her with each step, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
Abigail let out a screech and leapt from her chair.
"For crying out loud, Abby," John said.
A shudder racked her body as he lifted the newspaper, uncovering the horrid remains.
"It wasn't even as big as an eyelash," he said.
She formed a few semi-coherent words amid her chattering teeth. "C-c-can't help it. I'm t-t-terri-fied of sp-sp-spiders."
He grinned. "No kidding?" Patting her on the shoulder, he gently turned her away. "Go get a cup of water or something while I take care of this. And I'll do a quick hunt for anymore. Okay?"
Abigail nodded and walked on shaky legs to the water cooler. John was her co-worker and a really nice person. She couldn't blame him for a little teasing. She'd put up with it for most of her life, but no one ever understood her aversion. But then she hadn't ever explained it to them either.
Her personal life was off limits. The one time she'd bared her soul, laid it open to the man she loved, he walked out on her. Never again would she tell anyone about her childhood.
Abigail lifted the cup of water to her lips and forced her nerves to calm, but they only shifted focus to a different problem. Today was her last day at Harper Textiles. The company was closing, and she didn't have another position as a bookkeeper lined up. Without a formal education, no one wanted to hire her.
She'd learned her accounting skills on the job, and had worked her way into a comfortable position with a decent enough wage. After all, it was only her and a few plants. No family, no pets, just her, Abigail Simmons, and her aversion to crawling things.
Turning to go back to her desk and finish packing her personal belongings, her foot caught the leg of the small metal snack stand beside the water cooler, sending it and all the munchies crashing to the floor. With a sigh, she knelt down to pick up the mess. This was par-for-the-course. She was a klutz, jinxed, a walking disaster. The only thing she was good at, the only thing she never managed to make a mess of were numbers.
John appeared and helped her pick up the snacks. "Your cubicle is critter free, Abby."
"Thanks. I'm sorry for making such a fuss."
"Hey, we all have our fears. So, are you excited about your trip?"
She sighed as she placed the last pack of chips on the shelf, hoping they weren't too crushed. "Excited isn't the word I'd use. I wish I could get my money back."
"Look, everyone needs a break now and then. Something will turn up when you get back. You're an ace at accounting. Go west young lady and enjoy yourself," he said with a big grin and a chuckle.
Abigail smiled and released some of the tenseness from her shoulders. "It will be nice to see Nance again. It's been almost ten months."
Several years earlier, Abigail and Nance Becket had bumped into one another one day--literally--at the corner coffee shop. Papers covered with clothing designs fluttered to the ground along with Abigail's green bar reports. Nance let out a deep laugh, not the least bit upset, and introduced herself. They'd been friends ever since. Abigail missed her terribly.
Abigail and John turned and started toward their adjoining cubicles.
"You see? There's more than one reason to go and enjoy yourself," John said.
"Sure, but a dude ranch?" He chuckled and she punched him in the arm. "It's not funny."
"Sorry, Abby, but you've never even seen a horse up close much less rode one. I wish I could be there to witness it."
"I'll happily hand you my ticket, then you can enjoy the horse experience."
He dropped into his chair and held up his hands. "No thanks. I happen to like living. My wife would not approve of me bunking with Nance. Although ... the idea has merit," he said, waggling his brows.
Laughing, Abigail threw a wad of paper at him before she resumed her packing--after a careful perusal of her space for any other uninvited creatures, of course.
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