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When Jennifer Ellis’s business fails, she decides to leave Oklahoma in a cloud of red dust and return to her San Diego roots. Then Troy Stanhope comes along with a solution to her company’s woes, and she falls for his velvety voice and appealing confidence. As their relationship deepens, she is called to the west coast on a family matter and decides to stay for the summer. She meets a new man and is drawn to his irresistible charm. Her newfound self-awareness mingles with salty ocean breezes and eucalyptus-scented air to place her in his arms. Their liaison is heartfelt but brief, mid-life’s last hurrah. Jennifer realizes her heart is back on the southern prairie, but she may be one adventure too late.
Rating: Sensual (PG-PG13)
Page Count: 372
Word Count: 86065
The prairie met the edge of the deck with no yard in between to serve as a buffer. Jennifer liked it that way. On the west side of the house, a thick row of junipers had been planted ages ago as a shelter belt to block strong spring winds and dust that kicked up at planting time. Other than a grove of mature oaks off to the east, this side of the property remained the windswept expanse it had always been.
With the aid of a wheelbarrow and thick leather gloves, Jennifer retrieved her gnarled driftwood from its storage place in the barn and set it on the edge of the wide deck steps. Instantly, the weathered wood ceased to belong to the coast and transformed itself into a sun-bleached piece of the prairie. Her former beach-combing expeditions became a search of the fields for interesting rocks to arrange on the steps, just so.
Troy joined her outside one day. He handed her half a geode the size of an abalone shell. "For your collection," he said.
She cupped it in her hands. "It's lovely. The color reminds me of a ring I've had my eye on in Chester's shop."
He watched as she tucked the geode in among the other rocks. Its presence there suggested their own flinty outsides also beheld these lavender gems there where it caught the sun's rays. Jennifer turned and looked up at Troy. Was that a trick of the light or a spark of love in his eyes?
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