Waltz Back to Texas (Lost in a Boom Town)
Author: M. J. Fredrick
Publication Date: April 21, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Welcome to Evansville, a sleepy Texas town on the verge of a boom.
After growing up in a dying town, with only two restaurants, no movie theater, and no future, waitress Cassidy Simon wants out. For once, luck is on her side when the oil boom comes to South Texas. She’s determined to use it for her advantage, starting up an RV park for the oilfield workers to add to her escape fund. She’s never been out of Texas, and she’s itching for adventure.
Grady McKenna couldn’t get away from his family’s ranch fast enough when he was a teenager, but a tour in the Air Force in the Middle East is enough to convince him there’s no place like home. He’s seen the world, had his adventure. Now he’s ready to contribute to his family’s legacy in Evansville.
Naturally, the woman who draws his attention is the one intent on slipping through his fingers. How can he convince her life with him will be all the adventure she needs?
She was just bringing tea to the table, and he was trying to figure out how to break through the new ice wall she’d built, when Sage bounded back to the table. She greeted Cassidy cheerfully, which made both Grady and Cassidy look at her strangely.
Then the door swung open, Sage spun around and hopped out of her chair.
“Allison! Over here!” She waved wildly, then leaned in to give her friend a ginger hug. “Sorry I’m such a mess.”
Allison, however, was dressed to the nines, including heels that reverberated off the wooden floor of the cafe, and a straight skirt that made her steps shorter and louder. She dropped into a chair at their table, swept her blonde hair back from her face and smiled at Grady.
“Grady! So good to see you. You look amazing. Your time away was good for you.”
“My time away.” The smile he gave her was tight. “You make it sound like I was in prison, not the Air Force.”
“Oh, heavens, I didn’t mean that.” She waved a hand and set her purse in the empty seat. “I just didn’t know whether you talked about it.”
He didn’t, but he couldn’t resist needling her. “Why wouldn’t I talk about it?”
If he thought she would be flustered, he was wrong.
“Oh, well, I just didn’t want to drag up any unpleasant memories.” She reached over and touched his arm. “I bet you’re glad to be home.”
“I am.” He leaned back, breaking the contact, when Cassidy approached with menus.
“What can I get you to drink, Allison?”
“Oh, hey, Cassidy.” Allison’s tone changed, cooled. “I’ll just have iced water.”
“Okay. I’ll give you a minute to look at the menu, and I’ll be back.”
“Oh, you know, I’ll just have a salad. Y’all have salad, right?”
“Sure. What kind of dressing?”
“Do you have vinaigrette?”
“Ah, no. Ranch, thousand island and french.”
Allison wrinkled her nose. “French, I guess, though there’s so much sugar in that. Just on the side, maybe.” She handed the menu to Cassidy and gave her attention back to Grady.
“I’ll have the ribs,” he said. “And potato salad.”
She nodded, keeping her attention on the pad. “Sage?”
“Ahh.” Sage closed her menu, frowning. “I guess a salad.”
Grady snorted. “You need more fuel than that if we’re going to keep going this afternoon.”
“I’ll be fine.”
But he knew she was placing the order because of her friend. He shook his head and handed his menu to Cassidy. “I’m not picking up your slack.”
Sage made a face at him.
Allison pushed aside their conversation. “So tell me what you’ve been doing with yourself, Grady. And what your plans are.”
“Right now, I’m just happy to be back in Texas. I’m working with Sage now, and as soon as I can get her to agree to a contractor, I’ll go work with Trace and Dad on the ranch.”
“So what do you think of the changes in our little town? Amazing, isn’t it?”
“It definitely has the possibility for amazing,” he agreed. “I’m glad to see so many people investing in the town.”
“Well, you know, some people are just taking advantage in a kind of hope to get rich quick,” Allison said as Cassidy brought her water. “You know, seeking to better themselves and not the town.”
“I think everyone has different goals,” he said easily, aware that Cassidy tensed at the barb. “I think anyone who hires someone local to help make improvements to the town is contributing.” He watched Cassidy walk away, shoulders stiff, then turned his attention to Allison. “What is it you’re doing?”
Allison waved a negligent hand. “I’m the chair of the Bluebonnet committee. I’ve been working my tail off bringing everything together, since a lot of my committee has other commitments. I’m not married and don’t have kids, so my time is my own.”
“I thought you were engaged to Danny Estevez?”
“Oh, we broke that off before we graduated college. You have been gone a long time.”
He had been. But he hadn’t come back for this. “So what do you ladies have planned for the Bluebonnet Festival?”
“Oh, you know, so much. We thought instead of having the dance at the musty old VFW hall, we’d have it right here in the town square. I tried to beg your sister to have it in her place, but she insists it’s not big enough, though, you know, it looks plenty big to me. And we have a carnival company coming in with rides, and we’ll have our parade, of course. I could use some help with the decorations. How artistic are you?”
He choked out a laugh. “Not at all.”
“Oh, I bet you are and you’re just being modest.” She looked at Sage for confirmation of her suspicion.
“Nope, sorry. He can’t even draw a stick figure.”
“Hm, well, maybe we’ll find something else for him to do. I’m sure there’s something.”
She chattered on throughout the meal, about the festival, and the details, and who was on the committee, and how she kept everything straight, and how she hoped the weather cooperated this year, which it had last year but not the year before, and how the Farmer’s Almanac predicted a late cold snap right around the time of the festival, but how accurate could that be?
Since Grady’s dad swore by the Almanac, Grady wouldn’t discount the prediction.
He could tell even Sage was growing restless with the endless conversation, when a commotion by the door drew their attention.
An attractive blonde woman, vaguely familiar, came through the door with a redhead. The women laughed loudly, clinging to each other, and stumbled to a table.
“Oh, poor Cassidy,” Allison murmured.
Grady looked over in time to see the color wash from Cassidy’s face. He whipped around to look closer at the woman. Was that her mother? Cassidy crossed to the table and braced her hands on the table, her skin now flushed.
MJ Fredrick knows about chasing dreams. Twelve years after she completed her first novel, she signed her first publishing contract. Now she divides her days between teaching elementary music, and diving into her own writing–traveling everywhere in her mind, from Belize to Honduras to Africa to the past.
She’s a four-time Golden Heart Award finalist, and she won the 2009 Eppie Award with Hot Shot and the 2010 Eppie with Breaking Daylight.