Welcome to Whiskey Creek Heart of the Gold Country!
One day, Callie Vanetta receives devastating news
She needs a liver transplant. But her doctors warn that, in her case, the chances of finding a compatible donor aren't good.
Determined to spend whatever time she has left on her own terms, she keeps the diagnosis to herself and moves out to her late grandparents' farm. She's always wanted to live there. But the farm hasn't been worked in years and she begins to fear she can't manage it, that she'll have to return to town.
One night, a stranger comes knocking at her door
He's an attractive and mysterious drifter by the name of Levi McCloud, and he offers to trade work for a few nights' shelter. Callie figures she doesn't have anything to lose. He needs a place to stay until he can fix his motorcycle; she needs an extra pair of hands. The arrangement seems ideal until what was supposed to be temporary starts to look more and more permanent. Then she realizes she does have something to loseher heart. And, although he doesn't yet know it, Levi stands to lose even more.
Look for A WINTER WEDDING, the latest heartwarming story in Brenda Novak's Whiskey Creek series.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak has written over 60 novels. An eight-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best and other awards. She runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity that has raised more than $2.5 million for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). She considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life. www.brendanovak.com
Read an Excerpt
The barking of her dog dragged Callie Vanetta from a deep sleep.
Rifle, the German shepherd her parents had given her for Christmas, was only two years old, but he was the smartest animal she'd ever known, certainly savvy enough not to make a racket in the middle of the night without reason. Despite all the critters that scurried around the place after dark, he hadn't awakened her like this once in the three months since she'd moved to the farm.
So if he thought she had something to worry about, there was a good chance she did.
Despite the warm June night, chills rolled through Callie's body as she lay on her back, blinking against the darkness. She'd always felt so safe in her grandparents' home. They'd passed away five years ago, but the comfort of their love and the memories created here lingered on. Sometimes, when she closed her eyes, she could almost feel their presence.
But not tonight. Fear eclipsed all other emotions, and she wondered what she'd been thinking when she gave up the small apartment above her photography studio downtown. She was out in the middle of nowhere, her closest neighbor over a mile down the road, with her dog sounding an alarm and scratching at the front door as if some menace lay beyond it.
"Rifle?" She whispered his name as loudly as she dared. "Hey!" she added, making kissing sounds.
He charged into her room, but he wasn't about to settle down. He circled in place, whining to let her know he didn't like something he heard outside. Then he darted back to the front door, singularly determined to show her where the trouble was.
She thought he might try to rouse her again. He obviously hoped to get her out of bed. But she was so frightened and undecided about what to do she couldn't move. Especially when he quit barking and emitted a deep, threatening growlone that told her he'd laid back his ears and bared his teeth.
The hair rose on Callie's arms. Her dog meant business. She'd never seen him like this. What had him so upset? And what should she do about it? She'd watched too many true-crime shows not to realize what could happen. But, given her health, getting murdered would be too ironic. Surely, this couldn't be leading there.
She'd just decided to call the police when a heavy knock sounded and a male voice carried into the house.
"Hello? Anyone home? Sorry to wake you, but.. could a man come out here, please? I need some help."
A man? Whoever was at her door wasn't from Whiskey Creek. Her family had lived in the area for generations. Everyone knew that this was the Vanetta farm, that the aging Theona and Herbert had died within months of each other and she was living here alone.
"Hello?" the man called again. "Please, someone answer me!"
Should she respond? Letting him hear her voice would tell him she was a woman, which didn't seem smart. But she had her dog to defend her. And she had a pellet gun she used to scare off skunks and raccoons and any other animals that might have rabies or get aggressive.
Problem was she couldn't remember where she'd put it. The screened-in porch that overlooked the outbuildings in back? The mudroom off the kitchen? She might even have left it in the barn. Until now, she hadn't felt any need for self-defense. All the wildlife she'd encountered seemed more afraid of her.
Still, she should've kept that gun close. What good was it otherwise? She wasn't going to scare anyone away with her camera.
"Open up!" Bang, bang, bang.
Drawing a shaky breath, she called 9-1-1 on her cell phone, which had been charging on the nightstand, and, speaking as low as she could and still be heard, told the operator that she had a stranger at her door. The operator advised her to sit tight, a squad car was on its way, but she slid out of bed and groped through the darkness for some clothes. Summer had come early this year. With the weather so mild, she hadn't worn anything to bed except a pair of panties. In case her visitor tried to break in before the police arrived, she wanted to get dressed.
"Can someone help me?" the man hollered.
Wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans, and armed with the knowledge that someone from Whiskey Creek's four-man police force would soon arrive, she crept toward the door. What was wrong?
Despite the ruckus her dog was making, her visitor didn't seem to be giving up. His determination lent him a degree of credibility, even though she knew her reasoning was flawed. His persistence didn't necessarily mean he was telling the truth. If he had a gun and was capable of using it, he wouldn't have to worry about getting bitten.
So was he really hurt? If the answer was yes, how'd he get that way? And how did he come across her property, tucked away as it was in the Sierra Nevada foothills? She couldn't imagine some random individual driving these back roads at one in the morning, especially midweek. She encountered plenty of strangers during tourist season, which was upon them, but always in town. Not out here.
"Shit," he grumbled when he got no response. Then something hit the door harder than a knock, as if he'd crumpled against the wooden panel and was sliding to the porch floor.
A flicker of concern warred with Callie's fear. Maybe he really was hurt. Maybe he'd run his car into a ditch or a tree and injured himself so badly he was about to die
She snapped on the porch light. Although it went against her better judgment to let him know she was home, he'd managed to convince her that he might really need help. Some of the TV programs depicting real home-invasion robberies also showed innocent victims who were unable to get help because of other people's fear.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked.
A swiping sound suggested he was using the door to steady himself as he clambered to his feet. She peered through the peephole, hoping to catch a glimpse of him, but even with the porch light on she couldn't see muchjust a man's head covered in a hooded sweatshirt.
"Thank God," he said.
She might've thought it was one of the Amos brothers. Although they'd calmed down in recent years, a couple of the younger ones still caused problems, from drunken-and-disorderly conduct to selling crystal meth to fighting. But they lived down by the river on the other side of town, they'd never bothered her before and she would've recognized the voice.
"Who are you and what do you want?" she called out over Rifle's barking. The dog was even more excited now that he had the support of his master in taking on this interloper.
"Name is Levi, Levi McCloud. I need a first-aid kit, some water and rags."
She ignored the second part. "I don't know a Levi."
"I'm just passing through, ma'am."
He was leaning too close to the door for her to distinguish his features. Was he doing that on purpose?
The idea that he could be made her more nervous than before. "But you decided to stop here?"
"No choice. My motorcycle broke down a mile or two back."
"That's how you got hurt?"
"No. It was a a couple of dogs. They ran out and attacked me for no reason while I was pushing my bike. Got me good, too."
The way he forced his words through his teeth suggested that he was in pain, but maybe he was faking it. Maybe he was planning to rob her, rape her, possibly kill her.
"Where did this happen?" she asked.
He attempted to laugh but the sound died almost immediately. "Hell if I know. I've never been around here before."
"Then what made you come now?"
"Heard it was pretty country."
That was it? He was out on a joyride? Alone? His response didn't seem particularly plausible, but the scenario he gave wasn't inconceivable. Out here in the country, dogs weren't always penned up or put on leashes. He could've been attacked, as he said.
She was tempted to open the door, if only to verify his story, see his injuries. But she couldn't take the risk. "How'd you get away?"
"Listen " He dropped his head against the door, covering the peephole entirely. Now it was impossible for her to see anything. "I don't mean to frighten you. Is there is there a man in the house? Someone else who who might not be afraid of me?"
She didn't want to let on that she was alone. But if a male didn't take command of the situation soon, he'd know, anyway. Perhaps he'd said that to confirm what he already suspected. "Tell me how you got away from the dogs."
"I convinced them I wasn't anything they wanted to mess with."
Meaning he'd hurt the dogs as much as they'd hurt him?
She wondered whose pets they were, and if the incident had really happened. "How badly are you hurt?"
"Hard to tell in the dark, but it's bad enough to make me bother you, which isn't something I wanted to do."
She wiped sweaty palms on her jeans. "Okay, just stay where you are. I've called for help. The police will be here soon."
"The police?''" Instead of reacting with relief, as she'd expected, he cursed and shoved away from the door. "Are you serious? They won't do anything for me."
"They'll get you the medical attention you need," she said, but he wasn't listening. He was leaving. She could hear the porch creak under his weight.
"Where are you going?" she yelled.
He didn't answer.
After hurrying to the window, she dropped to her knees in an effort to catch a glimpse of him before he could move out of sight.
For just a moment, she could make out the broad shoulders of a tall, spare man wearing jeans with that hoodie.
Why was he taking off without the help he needed? And why had he acted so averse to meeting up with the police? Was he wanted? A known felon?
Possibly. He had to have some reason for avoiding the authorities. But seeing how obviously he favored one leg, she believed he really was hurt.
She checked the time on her cell phone, which she'd brought with her. How long could it take to get a cruiser out here? She didn't want to be any more vulnerable than she already was, but she also didn't want to be responsible for the death of a lonely, injured stranger.
"Come on, come on," she muttered, but each minute felt like an hour. When she couldn't wait any longer, she sprang to her feet and ordered her dog to silence.
Reassured by this show of strength, Rifle stared up at her, tongue hanging out and tail wagging eagerly. He seemed to be asking, "What now? What are we going to do now?"
"We're going to see where he went," she told him. She wasn't sure he could comprehend her words, but speaking calmed her, and he certainly understood her intention. He barked once to confirm that he was ready.
Holding him by the collar, she slowly, cautiously, opened the door a crack and peered outside. The porch was empty, just as she'd assumed. She couldn't hear or see any movement, didn't know where the stranger had gone.
Rifle struggled against the grasp she had on his collar. Then he nudged the door open wide enough to squeeze through and pull her along with him. He even tried to drag her down the steps. Clearly, he wanted to go after the man.
She wasn't up for that. But before she could insist they go back in and lock the door, she stepped in what her dog had probably smelledsomething dark and wet smeared on the floorboards of the porch.
The second she realized it was there, she knew what it was. Blood.
The police had come and gone, and they hadn't found a thingno tall, dark stranger hiding on the premises. Not in the old tack shed. Not in the barn. And not in the cellar. They attempted to follow the blood that led down the steps of Callie's porch, but the trail disappeared in the grass and dirt about ten feet away.
They poked around for over an hour, hoping to discover what had happened to her guest, but they didn't have any search dogs with them and Rifle wasn't trained to track. They tried using him for the first thirty minutes, but he was so distracted and excited by the two officers who'd come to help, she eventually had to shut him up in the mudroom, where she kept his food and water.
In the end, the police couldn't figure out where the injured man had gone, which left Callie as unsettled after they drove off as before. She couldn't help wondering if they hadn't found the stranger because he didn't want to be found. She didn't think he'd had time to go far, not injured as he was. So how had he just disappeared?
Maybe he hadn't. Maybe he'd reached a neighbor's property. But if that was the case, why hadn't anyone else called to report a bloody, hood-wearing stranger? And why hadn't the cops been able to find his motorcycle? Was there a motorcycle? And was it really broken down?
Exhausted in a way she'd never been before she'd been diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, she finished cleaning up the bloodshe didn't want to see it when she woke upand went into the house.
Rifle barked and scratched at the mudroom door, whining to be let out. But even now that everyone was gone, he was too excited. She didn't want to deal with an agitated dog after what she'd already been through. She'd found her pellet gun in the barn, felt that would offer her some defense if the man came back. So she called out a good-night to Rifle, promising she'd take him for a long walk in the morning. Then she used the bathroom off the kitchen and checked all the doors.
Once she was satisfied that the house was as secure as she could make it, she took a final peek through the window, dragged the heavy pellet gun to her bedroom and peeled off her jeans. She was too rattled to sleep almost nude, like she'd been doing earlier, but she knew she'd never get comfortable in fabric as stiff and heavy as denim.
It wasn't until she'd propped the gun against the wall next to her headboard and crawled beneath the blankets that she heard a noise. She wasn't sure what it was; it had been too slight. But when it came again her fear returned.
She looked aroundeyes wide, breath heldand realized her bathroom door was closed.
She rarely shut that door. It was in the master bedroom and she lived alone. There was never any reason to.
But that wasn't the only thing that made her heart race. The light was on in there. She could see it through the crack near the floor.
What People are Saying About This
The characters' "heartwarming romance develops slowly and sweetly. The sex is fantastic, but the best part is how Simon and Gail tease and laugh as they grow closer." -Publishers Weekly on When Lightning Strikes
"Novak delivers a lively, sparkling series debut...romantic gold by a superior novelist. The love story blossoms naturally, which is rare nowadays.... Additionally, by populating Whiskey Creek with realistic characters-instead of 'quirky' caricatures-Novak ensures that readers will eagerly await their next visit." -RT Book Reviews on When Lightning Strikes
"Whenever I see a new Brenda Novak book, I buy it and read it, pronto. I can always count on her for a solid, exciting story, full of adventure and romance."-Linda Lael Miller, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Any book by Brenda Novak is a must-buy for me." -Reader to Reader Reviews
"Brenda Novak's seamless plotting, emotional intensity and true-to-life characters who jump off the page make her books completely satisfying. Novak is simply a great storyteller." -Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author
"Well-written, nicely paced, filled with appealing characters and laced with a few surprises." -Library Journal on Dead Right
"I suggest Brenda Novak be added to your 'to buy' list today. You won't be disappointed." -Romance Reader's Connection
"In Close is intense and sensual and chock-full of emotional torment. The array of transgressions and suspects and small-town secrets makes for a riveting read." -USA Today
"Brenda Novak has always been an author I look for on the bookshelves.... Her characters are realistic, charming and have a life of their own. Don't miss out!" -Huntress Book Reviews
"Novak is an expert at creating emotionally driven romances full of heat, sensual tension and conflict that not only satisfy her characters but her readers as well."-Writers Unlimited
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When Summer Comes by Brenda Novak 5 STARS when Summer Comes is a Whiskey Creek book. It took me longer to read this book because I got so emotional and had to wipe the tears. Thier are few in my family & friends who are dealing with kidney transplant, so it hit close. Plus I like the characters in Whiskey Creek.I look forward to coming back and visiting them again. Callie Vanetta heard her door knock loudly in the middle of the night. She lives alone at a family farm. The voice on the porch demanded help and asked if a man was thier to help him. He needed a first aid kit. Callie knew it was a stranger than because pretty much the whole town knows she is staying thier to fix up the place to sell it. Callie dialed 911 and told them someone was banging on her door saying he needed help. She told the man that she had called the cops. The stranger had said why did you call them it will only make things worse. He took off. The cops did not find him and the blood trail ended. After they left Callie went back to bed. She is really sick and if she does not get a liver transplant by end of summer she will die. Callie is hiding it from everyone. Callie wakes up to noise in her bathroom. Levi McCloud is in her bathroom trying to find first aid kit. He fell in the bathtub. Levi has bite marks all over him and has lost a lot of blood. He won't go to emergency room and makes her promise to not call the cops again. So Callie calls her neighbor a retired vet. They both fix him up. Levi has been back from war for two years traveling around the country on his motorcycle. He broke down up the road from Callie and while pushing his motorcycle was attacked by two dogs and he fought them off. All he owns is his bike and backpack. Callie makes him a deal he can stay in the room in the barn and help fix it and paint it and she will toss in food and money to fix the bike. Because Callie is facing death she is acting different. She is not to worried about him hurting her. Since noone knows about her illness they want her to be careful and get rid of him. Thier were so many places that got my tears flowing. This book made me feel so much. Thier is so much drama in the book besides what Callie is facing. Her friends have different problems, Levi has lots of issues, someone tries to kill Levi. I only put the book down to wipe my eyes. Thier is one love scene. I was given this ebook to read in exchange for honest review from Netgalley 01/29/2013 PUB Harlequin Imprint Harlequin Mira 400 pages ISBN-13: 978-0778314233
Callie has received bad news. She needs a liver transplant or only has a few months to live. The one thing she doesn't want is to live the last months with pity from her friends. She decides to move to her grandparents farm for her last summer. It's the one place that has always made her happy. Levi is just passing through Whiskey Creek when his motorcycle breaks down and he is attacked by vicious dogs. He goes to the closest place for help, Callie is unsure about opening the door to a stranger. When she sees the blood left on her porch by the stranger, she knows he needs help. After getting Levi patched up she strikes a deal with him. She'll front him the money for repairs for his bike if he helps out at the farm. Living and working around the farm, is making it harder for both of them to keep their secrets. It's also harder for them to keep their feelings from each other. Callie is afraid of leading Levi on, and Levi is afraid of betraying a lost love.Brenda takes us back to Whiskey Creek a small town where your friends will always be there for you, even if you are not sure their help is what you want. When Summer Comes, will keep you turning the pages, hoping Callie & Levi can see what is right in from of them, and how family and friends will always be there for you
love her books
Brenda Novak has once again written an enticing story of love and choices. Callie is living on her grandparents’ farm and hiding a big secret from all of her friends in Whiskey Creek as well as her parents. She wants to have a wonderful summer at the farmhouse and is surprised when a stranger shows up with horrific dog bites all over his limbs. She enlists the help of retired veterinarian Godfrey, stitch Levi up and then she offers to let him stay in the barn while he recuperates. Levi also has a dark secret that is keeping him from being honest with everyone about his past. Of course, Callie and Levi seek solace in each other’s arms and then the conflict begins. Callie doesn’t want to share her secret and neither does Levi. The author does a masterful job of resolving the conflict and satisfying the reader at the conclusion. Fans of romance will not want to miss this book! Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I own this book, purchasing it from the author’s bookstore. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.
I love this book! Brenda Novak knows how to write a great story. She can hit on every single one of your emotions while you are reading her books and this one is no different! I so loved the ending, thanks Brenda!
Not her best
Levi needed help after being attacked by dogs and stopped at Callie's home. Levi needed Callie I believe as much as she needed him. Callie's liver is failing and she is spending what little time she has left there at the ranch. This is a wonderful story. Callie has some great friends that are there for her when she finally tells them the truth. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did.
This story in the Whiskey Creek series was awesome. Great read!!
I cried through the whole ending!!! This author is so good at creating realistic characters...when one of them is dying, you feel like you're losing a friend. I guess I'll have to read this whole series. I have loved all the books so far.
4.7 Star Review - When Summer Comes Callie has gotten horrible news. She needs a liver transplant. She has decided that she will tell everyone about her condition later. She moved out of town to her farm. She will live out the rest of her time how she wants. Levi is on the run. After being attacked he seeks shelter with Callie. She will allow him to stay if he does things around the house and barn in exchange for a place to stay. As the days go by they grow closer but she can feel Levi holding back. But what does she really know about Levi and what does she really want from him? When he finds out she is sick and keeping it from him he leaves. As the days pass and she gets sicker she wonders if she will ever se him again. Will Levi come back and see her before it's too late? Loved The interaction between Levi and Callie in this story. Her pain comes through in the words. Brenda knows just how to make you feel all the emotions during her stories and makes you keep turning the pages.
Wow, just when I think that I can't possibly love this series more than I do, I read the next installment. The characters are amazing! In the other books I wasn't really a big fan of Callie's but after reading her book, I like her just as much as all the rest. The story is just amazing, it's got so much heart and thank goodness things that I won't mention because I don't want to spoil it turn out the way they do. There were definitely tears involved but in the end they were happy tears. I really like the fact that this series centers around this group of friends that have known each other for so long and have developed such a deep relationship. These books aren't just about romance, or small town life, they are about enduring friendship and the strength that you can gain from those who care the most about you. They are an eclectic bunch of folks and they just mesh, which amazes me to no end.
This was my first book by Brenda Novak – A light summer romance with Callie (a photographer) who has liver cancer and needs a transplant. She has a group of friends with lots of romance in the small town with many nosy neighbors. She has moved to her grandparent’s farm house to live the remainder of her life and one day a good looking drifter shows up on her doors step with a mysterious past. She has nothing to lose and falls deep – with two secrets this couple face many challenges along the way to happiness.
This is the first book by Brends Novak I have read anf I really liked it" The story was iwonderful without being too sickening sweet and there wss humor anf heartbrrak in equal proportion. The characters eere rralistic except I got s little frustrated with Callie ssI felt she kept hrr secret way too long" I also didn't like the stereotype of the sheriff straight out of an old Western movie and dudn't see the point. Some of the men's behavior got downright silly. Still on the whole it was a good book thst held my interest snd msnsged not to be too cloyingly sweet or over dramatic.
It was ok but something was missing.
Home to Whiskey Creek has it all...deep friendships, endless compassion, unforgettable romance, and love that conquers all! If you like those types of stories, then this book is for you! I laughed, I cried, I even got frustrated! It's a book that once you start, you won't be able to put it down! Every time I read one of Brenda's book I think to myself, this one is the best...and yet the next book comes out and it's even better than the last! Prepare to be blown away...this book is phenomenal!!
I love this series!! It is a must read. I just bought the latest in the series last night and can't wait to start reading.