Dry Creek Sweethearts (Love Inspired Series) [NOOK Book]


Back From The Big Time…

She could scarcely believe her eyes. An enormous tour bus had arrived in Dry Creek, and from it stepped hometown hero Duane Enger, now a music celebrity. Linda Morgan, owner of the local café, had thought her ex-boyfriend had become too famous for the small-town life she loved.

But something had pulled Duane back. Maybe he missed a slower, easier ...
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Dry Creek Sweethearts (Love Inspired Series)

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Back From The Big Time…

She could scarcely believe her eyes. An enormous tour bus had arrived in Dry Creek, and from it stepped hometown hero Duane Enger, now a music celebrity. Linda Morgan, owner of the local café, had thought her ex-boyfriend had become too famous for the small-town life she loved.

But something had pulled Duane back. Maybe he missed a slower, easier life. Maybe he sought to regain his faith. Or maybe it was the girl he'd left behind. Whatever it was, Duane was now finding life in Dry Creek-and Linda—just as intriguing as life in the fast lane.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426815638
  • Publisher: Steeple Hill Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Series: Dry Creek
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 191,451
  • File size: 182 KB

Meet the Author

Janet Tronstad grew up on her family’s farm in central Montana and now lives in Pasadena, California where she is always at work on her next book. She has written over thirty books, many of them set in the fictitious town of Dry Creek, Montana where the men spend the winters gathered around the potbellied stove in the hardware store and the women make jelly in the fall.

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Read an Excerpt

I don't care if he did grow up in Dry Creek, he's still not one of us. Not anymore." Linda Morgan struggled to keep her voice neutral as she flipped the sign in her café window to Closed and began to stack chairs on tables so she could mop the floor.
A neutral calm was the best she could expect of herself when it came to Duane Enger.
She should have refused to let her younger sister, Lucy, hang his old guitar on the wall of the café when the idea first came up months ago. Then she and her sister wouldn't even be having this conversation now.
Lucy was too young to know there was no point in building a shrine to someone who had left everything behind so he could go off and chase his dream of becoming a rock star. Every time Linda looked at the guitar she remembered that the old six-string Silvertone hadn't been good enough for Duane to take with him. The frets were worn down and it needed new strings. So he had left the Silvertone behind, just as he'd eventually left everything and everyone behind, even her.
The small Montana town of Dry Creek had not been big enough for Duane and his dreams.
Of course, Linda couldn't tell her sister all of this—especially not in the tone of voice she was using in her head as she thought it. Lucy had a tender heart and Linda didn't want her to worry that anyone around here held anything against the man Lucy had just started to idolize. A teenage girl needed heroes, and Duane was better than most who were out there.
Besides, Linda told herself, the whole thing with Duane shouldn't bother her anymore. Lots of people were disappointed by their high school sweethearts. She wasn't the only one. It wasn't even worth talkingabout. It had been eight long years since Duane left Dry Creek. That was plenty of time for a broken heart to heal.
Right now, Linda had more important things to worry about anyway, like keeping the floor clean after all the rain they'd had this week. The road into Dry Creek was asphalt, but the parking area in front of her café was pure dirt. That meant mud and lots of it. She'd already mopped the floor twice today and she had to do it again tonight before she and Lucy headed home. A woman who needed to mop a floor that often didn't have time to be thinking about some man who had left her behind to pursue his fantasy of stardom.
Linda lifted the last chair up. It was half her fault anyway. She never should have trusted a man who couldn't even stick with the name he was given the day he was born. Duane had traded his name for a stage name before he left Dry Creek. That should have been her first clue about how much commitment the man had in his bones. He eventually started going by Duane again, but lots of people still knew him as the Jazz Man.
Linda set the chair down hard on the table and winced when she heard the soft slam. Okay, so Duane might still bother her a little more than she would like. Which was probably natural; she was only human. She might have grown closer to God since Duane left, but she still had a way to go. Her heart had healed, but her head still hadn't totally forgiven him or herself for believing in him.
Linda thought Lucy had given up the argument until she saw her sister looking at her with reproach in her eyes.
"But we have to display these things. He's famous." Lucy held up the letter she'd framed to hang beside the guitar and gazed at it as if it were written in pure gold. "The Jazz Man is the only famous person to ever come out of Dry Creek—right here—and he remembers us."
The Jazz Man is what Duane had started calling himself just before he left. All through high school, he'd played and sung his own arrangements, along with songs from the old jazz masters like Duke Ellington. Linda had sung with him, especially on the classics. Back then, Duane had been happy enough with himself and his jazz revival plans.
Then, he set his eyes on Hollywood and nothing was good enough, not his name, not his guitar, not his friends. Not even his hometown.
Still, Linda told herself, none of that was Lucy's fault. Besides, if Linda let her sister hang the letter on the wall as she'd been requesting, it might actually help them both forget about the piece of paper since it would no longer be in her sister's pocket where she could pull it out and read it every ten seconds.
"Go ahead and put your letter up there if you want." Linda tried to sound gracious. "But, just so you know, he's not that famous. There are lots of places where people haven't even heard of him."
Like Timbuktu. And maybe that nursing home in Miles City. The more Linda thought about it the more she knew she was overreacting. Lucy might have been carrying that letter around with her since it came in the mail a week ago. And she might have gone all dewy-eyed every time she read it. But it was the memories that it brought back to Linda that were the problem, not the letter itself.
Linda suspected she'd worn a very similar look on her face when she was four years younger than Lucy and had seen Duane for the first time. At the age of eleven, he had come to Dry Creek to live in the Enger family home on the outskirts of town. Rumor had it that Duane had been arrested trying to steal a car in Chicago and the courts had sent him to Dry Creek to get reformed under the stern guidance of his great-aunt, Cornelia Enger.
To Linda back then, Duane had looked every bit the tough city boy people said he was. He wore ragged black sneakers when the rest of the boys in school were wearing leather cowboy boots. And he had that old Silvertone guitar strapped to his back all the time. It was whispered that he knew how to hot-wire a car, pass a fake twenty-dollar bill and French-kiss a girl. No one was quite sure if the latter knowledge came from experience or observation, but the adults didn't like it no matter how he'd learned about it.
Linda's mother asked her not to talk to Duane in school and that had made Linda determined to be his friend. The adults in Dry Creek all eyed the boy cautiously, but Linda decided he just looked lonely. He scowled at everyone, but Linda just kept smiling at him until one day, when they were in the seventh grade, he smiled back.
It wasn't much of a smile, but the thaw had begun. Eventually, he would play a song on his guitar for her now and then. Over time, he seemed to fall in love with Linda as much as she was with him. She was thrilled when they were freshmen in high school and he said she was his girl, and then when they were sophomores and he called her his sweetheart. When they were eighteen, he secretly asked her to marry him…someday when everything was good…someday when he could support them…someday when his dreams had had a chance to come true.
Of course, someday never came. "It's just as well he left Dry Creek," Linda finally said. "He would never have been happy here."
She didn't know what would have made Duane happy. Back then, she had thought it was his music. He'd learned to play the guitar from some man in Chicago and Duane had been fierce about wanting to spark another major jazz revival. Linda believed he could bend the whole music world to his thinking by the sheer force of his wanting to make it happen. As it turned out, her belief lasted longer than his determination. He gave up on jazz and joined a rock band that promised a quicker route to fame. Duane was impatient with everything. He hated lines and contracts and waiting for people to respond to his music.
So, he left jazz and went to where the music beat faster. The rock band he joined toured and recorded and, now and then, even had a song with a few jazz overtones in it. She knew those jazz moments came from Duane.
Not that Linda really listened to the songs from Duane's band anymore. If she heard something from them come on the radio, she turned it off. She didn't want to be wondering what the words to these songs meant. Or, if Duane had written them and who he had in mind when he wrote them. Or if he ever sang the songs he had written for her. Or if he even thought about her anymore.
Not that she wanted Duane to think about her now. It was much too late for that. And it was okay. God's plan had been for her to be in Dry Creek. It was her place; hers and Lucy's. When their mother died and left them alone, the people of Dry Creek had made a circle around them and became their family. She and her sister wouldn't have been happy anyplace else. And she was happy here. Really, she was.
Sometimes her memories of Duane seemed like nothing more than a long-ago dream, vaguely sweet but irrelevant to her life today.
"I doubt he even signs those letters himself." Linda brought herself back to Lucy and the problem at hand. So much had changed. "He probably has someone who does the whole thing for him. You could have been anybody writing to him and you would have gotten the same letter back."
She hoped she wasn't being too hard on her sister. She hadn't known Lucy had sent a letter telling Duane all about the outdoor concert she and the other high school students had given last spring, until Lucy got a letter in response. Linda would have protested if she'd known Lucy had written; her sister didn't need to waste her time thinking about someone who wasn't giving anyone in Dry Creek a moment's thought. "He signed it 'Love, Duane.' That has to mean something."
Obviously, Linda thought, her skepticism wasn't making a dent in Lucy's adoration.
"It means he hopes we buy his new CD." Linda stepped over so she could take a closer look at the letter her sister held. "I don't even know if that's his real signature."
There was a time when Linda would have definitely recognized Duane's handwriting, but eight years was a long time and she'd had better things to think about. She had a business to run and, after her mother had died, she had a younger sister to raise. Besides, Duane had probably changed the way he signed his name many times over the years anyway. Change seemed to be his pattern.
"But you two used to be friends," Lucy protested. "I remember all those times when he snuck out to the farm when Mom was at work. He was your boyfriend. I saw him kiss you dozens of times."
Linda felt her whole face stiffen. Duane had been more than her boyfriend; she'd said yes when he'd asked her to marry him someday. She'd been foolish enough to think that meant she was his fiancée and she'd waited for him like a woman of her word until she visited him and it became apparent things would never work out. Not that she was going to tell Lucy that. No one needed to know about her empty dreams. "Things change."
With Duane, things had really changed. Everything was gone. Duane's great-aunt had died in her sleep just after he graduated from high school. She'd been ill for some time and the doctor said she'd just hung on until she could see Duane through school. Linda had stood with Duane as they buried his aunt and she'd felt him tremble.
There were no Engers in Dry Creek now, except for Duane's old dog, Boots. Duane had taken Boots with him when he first left Dry Creek and then, a year or so later, he'd asked Mrs. Hargrove if Boots could live with her for a while. He paid the older woman, of course, but still that didn't make it right.
A dog should be with its master, especially this dog. Boots would die for Duane.
Every time Linda thought about it she was indignant on Boots's behalf. Duane couldn't help it when he lost his great-aunt, but he didn't need to lose Boots, too. Besides, a man shouldn't ignore the kind of loyalty Boots had. It should count for something more than just remembering to send a check to cover some dog biscuits. And, if the truth were told, Linda wasn't even sure Duane sent the checks regularly. Maybe he'd completely forgotten about the dog.
Mrs. Hargrove was too kind to evict Boots even if she never received a dime for his care. Now that she thought of it, Linda wondered if Duane had some purebred show dog in Hollywood that he used for publicity shots. Maybe he'd replaced Boots just the way he'd replaced everyone else.
Linda almost said something, but Lucy clearly wasn't thinking about the injustice befalling anyone left behind in Dry Creek. She was looking straight at Linda with a hopeful look on her face.
"You went to Hollywood to visit him," Lucy said softly. "Remember? I stayed with Mrs. Hargrove and you went to see him. That had to mean something."
"That was a long time ago.
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