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Isabella Trueblood made history reuniting people torn apart by war and an epidemic. Now, generations later, Lily and Dylan Garrett carry on her work with their agency, Finders Keepers. Circumstances may have changed, but the goal remains the same.
One heiress. Sara Pierce, the missing beneficiary of Violet Mitchum's will, wants to disappear. When her roommate in a women's shelter dies suddenly, Sara thinks she's found a way to erase her past forever. She hasn't counted on the "accident" that erases her memory.
One knight in shining armor. Dr. Justin Dale finds himself between a rock and a hard placehe's falling in love with a patient a woman who knows less than he does about herself. A woman who needs him, not as a doctor, but as a man.
Finders Keepers: bringing families together
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"I'm still breathing, Violet," Sara Pierce sighed as she sank lower against the stiff seat of the bus.
But Violet's wisdom delivered nearly four years earlier had stayed with Sara. The mere fact that she had been so hopeless as to inspire a virtual stranger to take pity on her in a hospital emergency room had been just the push Sara needed. It had taken her months of careful planning and three more beatings, but she had done it.
Each week she had siphoned cash from the grocery allowance Hank Allen grudgingly provided. Sara had packed her bag a few articles of clothing at a time. If he suspected, Hank Allen never let on, but she had lived in mortal fear that he would discover her plan.
He didn't. Eight months after that fortuitous meeting with Violet Mitchum in the louisiana hospital, Sara Pierce had walked out on years of abuse.
After a few months in hiding, she had contacted an attorney and started the process of reclaiming her life.
She gave Hank Allen some parting gifts. First, there was a restraining order. When he violated that, Sara pressed charges and Hank Allen went to jail for six months. During his incarceration, she had obtained a divorce that included Hank Allen having to pay her rehabilitative alimony for three years. It seemed only fair that he support her while she returned to finish the college degree she had interrupted to marry that pig.
It seemed as if her life was back on track. She hadn't seen Hank Allen in more than a year. The alimony had ended a week earlier, the day before she had earned her degree. Sara was ready to begin a new life.
But Hank Allen wasn't finished with her yet.
She had returned from her graduation ceremony, stepped inside her apartment, and only wished she hadn't known what hit her. It took one blow for her to recognize the all-too-familiar feel of Hank Allen's fists.
She was convinced that he would have beaten her to death had it not been for the intervention of a neighbor.
Sara repositioned her travel bag on the seat beside hershe didn't want any traveling companion on this tripand crouched behind the dated newspaper she was using to obscure her face.
It seemed rather creepy that she found herself staring at the obituary page. A San Antonio socialite named Eve Bishop was smiling back at her. The wealthy woman's death apparently warranted almost a quarter-page of the paper. If Hank Allen had been successful, Sara knew her death would have gone unnoticed. She would have been little more than a statistic.
I was a statistic! she thought with incredible frustration. But no more. She had Violet Mitchum to thank for that, which was exactly what she was about to do.
Thank her and ask for help. Sara had learned a lot in the past few years. First and foremost, she had learned that asking for help was sometimes the only way out of a bad situation. Violet's simple offer that night in the hospital had changed the course of Sara's life. Now she needed a little more sage advice to salvage what she had struggled so hard to achieve. She hadn't even bothered to phone Violetafter Hank Allen's reappearance, all she could think about was fleeing to safety.
Outside the bus window Sara could see the vast expanse of Texas roll by. Since Hank Allen had not dared show his face at the hospital that night four years ago, he had no idea who Violet was. Consequently, he wouldn't know to look for her in some small place called Pinto. Violet would help her. Sara just knew in her bones that the kindly old woman would help her think of something. Some way to keep Hank Allen out of her life for good.
Sara shifted in the seat. The action caused her bruised ribs to smart. At least it was getting dark now. Dark enough that she no longer had to hide her battered face behind the newspaper. If the other riders noticed her bruises, they gave no outward indication.
She spotted the sign for Pinto outside the window. It made her feel safe. As an added measure of security, Sara remained on the bus until its next scheduled stop in Cactus Creek, a neighboring town. She wasn't taking any chances this time. This time her plan would work.
No one seemed to notice when she gathered her single bag and exited the bus in the center of Cactus Creek.
''Center'' was an accurate description. Cactus Creek appeared to have a main street and very little else. It was perfect. It was also fairly deserted. Aside from a diner, no light shone from the other shops dotting the dusty sidewalk.
Sara reached into her purse and pulled a tattered piece of paper from a side compartment. The writing was faded but still legible. Violet Mitchum had left her address for Sara that nightjust in case. The message read ''My door is always open.''
''let's hope that's true,'' Sara muttered as she walked toward the diner.
The tinkle of a bell greeted her when she pushed the door open, along with the twang of a popular country ballad. The place was deserted save for an attractive couple huddled in the end booth and a waitress seated at the Formica counter, engrossed in a paperback novel.
''Coffee?'' the waitress asked without looking up from her book.
Sara would have loved some, but it was already late and she wanted to get to Violet's as soon as possible. ''I need to know how to get to'' she paused and read from the scrap of paper ''Harvester lane in Pinto.''
The waitress lifted her head, her brows drawn tightly together. ''You sure?''
Sara nodded, careful to keep her face turned subtly in profile. It was easier than letting the waitress see her bruises and then having to come up with an explanation.
''Hell of a long walk, and nothing on Harvester but the Mitchum place,'' the waitress informed her on a sigh.
''Point me in the right direction and I'll be on my way,'' Sara urged. Out of habit, she glanced over her shoulder and scanned the street beyond the window. Seeing no sign of Hank Allen was reassuring.
Knowing she still feared him wasn't. Especially when she noted the couple sharing coffee. The woman had her back to Sara but the man was facing in her direction. He was dark and handsome, and the way he reached out and patted his companion's hand was telling. His action seemed to convey genuine compassion and kindness. Sara scoffed inwardly. Like she was an authority on men. Still, she lingered a minute on his thick, wavy brown hair and chocolate-colored eyes. His chiseled face was perfectly sculpted, right down to the slight cleft in his chin and a perfect dimple on his right cheek, which appeared when he flashed an understated smile. Sara knew she was exhausted if she was cataloguing a strange man's assets.
''Being as it's late,'' the waitress's voice intruded as she slipped behind the counter, ''why don't I give you a cup of coffeeit's freshand point you in the direction of the boardinghouse.''
Sara read the bright white nameplate pinned to the woman's tight blouse. ''Thank you Stella. But I really do need to be on my way.''
Stella's dark eyes were probing as she hesitated, coffeepot in hand. Then, with an accepting shrug, she said, ''Suit yourself. Go out the door, take a left and follow Main Street to the stop sign. Main runs right into FM 880. Harvester is on the right a few miles down. Just look for a lattice rose trellis. Can't miss it.''
''Thanks,'' Sara muttered.
She left the Blue Moon Cafe and followed the simple directions. Simple, yes, easy, no. Everything in Texas was big, she determined as she continued to walk. Her small overnight bag felt as if it were filled with bricks and her feet weren't too thrilled as she trudged down the dark road.
As soon as she passed the stop sign, she felt she had crossed some unseen border. There was a freshness in the crisp, cool night air. She could hear birds or some kind of critters scuttling in the underbrush as she walked through the virgin, ankle-high grass along the edge of the road. Occasionally a twig snapped beneath her foot or she would stumble on a rock. Her ribs ached and sleep deprivation was catching up with her. These were the longest miles she had ever walked. Violet would be a welcome sight.
Sara spotted the rose trellis up ahead. It had a strangely neglected look about it, even in the darkness. The roses were slowly being strangled by the hearty climbing weed overtaking the trellis.
But then, Violet was older, Sara told herself as she walked up a crushed-stone drive. Perhaps she wasn't able to maintain the property any longer. Sara was already planning on weeding the rose bed and doing a little pruning when she reflexively ducked to the side and crouched down in the tall grass.
A car was coming.
Stifling the urge to cry out when her ribs protested, she clutched her bag close to her and listened. She saw the dual beams of headlights crawling along the main road. They were coming from the direction of town. Sara huddled lower in the grass, praying there were no snakes lurking nearby.
It seemed to take an eternity for the car to drive by the entrance to Violet's ranch.
Sara needed a good few minutes before she had the courage to come out of hiding. ''Get a grip!'' she admonished herself. ''It was probably the couple from the diner going home.'' Unable to help herself, Sara started to create a scenario for the cute couple. What would it be like to have a real relationship with a man who looked like that!
She continued her musings as she headed toward the house. And then it happened.
With no time to run, she turned, dropping her bag to shield her eyes from the bright beams of the headlights that appeared out of nowhere before her. Her heart skipped several beats, making her chest feel as if it would explode. Fear replaced the blood flowing in her veins. This was her worst nightmare come true. She was in the middle of nowhere. Despite all her careful planning, she had provided her ex-husband with the perfect venue to kill her.
A spotlight clicked on from the driver's side of the car. Sara could feel heat from the light as the car inched closer. Something didn't seem right. Where had Hank Allen gotten a spotlight?
She was virtually blinded by the lights. An odd sense of calm washed over her. She ran the situation through her mind, remembering everything she had been taught in her self-defense course. Cooperation, she repeated like a mantra. Don't antagonize him and don't get into the car!
''Step up to the car, please, ma'am.''
Sara blinked at the unfamiliar male voice. She remained frozen in place.
''Texas State Police, ma'am. Step up to the front of the vehicle and place your palms on the hood.''
The disembodied voice was bellowing from a speaker. Sara was trying to grasp this sudden change in her situation when she heard a muffled curse as the car door opened.
''Lady,'' an irritated young officer groused, ''would you come on over here, please?''
''Geez!'' the young man groaned as he moved toward her. ''What happened to you?'' ''What?'' Sara repeated.
He emerged from the spotlight, his gun belt jingling with each step he took. The faint smell of aftershave arrived a split second before the young officer. Tipping the brim of his uniform hat back slightly, he stared down at her face with a frown.
''You need medical attention, ma'am.''
Coming out of her fog, Sara gently shook her head. ''No, I'm fine.''
''You aren't fine,'' he argued. ''Who did this to you and what are you doing out here in the middle of the night?''
''Visiting a friend,'' Sara explained. His brows crunched together. ''I don't think so,'' he countered. ''If you tell me the truth, I can help you.''
Sara didn't want to tell him how many times she had heard that before. There was the marriage counselor who was going to help her. Then the doctor who was going to help her. And the divorce attorney. And the support group. And the college dean. And the judge who issued the restraining order.
''Thank you, but I'm fine,'' she managed to reply as politely as possible.
''You aren't fine,'' he argued.
''My friend owns this place,'' Sara explained.
He snorted. ''Is that right?''
''Yes. I'm surprised she hasn't come outside with all these lights shining.'' Why hasn't she? Sara wondered to herself.
''Is this friend Miss Violet?'' the officer queried.
''She isn't here.''
Sara felt her heart plummet. ''Not here?''
''You say she's a friend?''
Sara nodded. ''Yes, we met a few years ago.''
''You couldn't have been too close,'' the officer said. ''Miss Violet died a while back. Which means you are trespassing."