Flames of Desire(2)

By: Leah Brooke

Swallowing the bile that rose in her throat at the uncomfortable memories, Courtney fisted her hands on the envelopes in her lap. “The end result was the same. We had to leave our home.”

Now, she’d lost her home again.

The attorney got to his feet. “Be that as it may, you’ll have to go back there. Your aunt’s house here in Blackwell will have to be sold to pay off her medical bills. There should be enough left for you to live on for a while.” Perching himself on the corner of his desk, he leaned toward her. “Why don’t you open the flower shop you’ve always wanted in Desire?”

Courtney shrugged. “It seems pointless when I’m only going to live there a year.”

She couldn’t believe that she’d have to spend the next year living in a town that held such bad memories for her. “I can’t believe Aunt Sally would do this to me.”

The kindly attorney sat forward, smiling gently. “Your aunt loved you, and if she did this, she had a very good reason. You have a week to pack up your things, and then the house has to go on the market. When it sells, I’ll pay off the bills and send you the difference.”

“I’ll have to leave my friends.”

Chuckling, he went back to his chair and sat. “With your personality, you’ll make new ones.”

“I’ll have to leave my job.”

“Open your own flower shop. It’ll keep you busy while you pass the time.”

“I suppose I have no choice. I’ve saved my money for years and wanted to buy the shop I worked in but I won’t buy it if I won’t be here to run it.”

“It’s what your aunt wanted.” The attorney shrugged. “Of course, you could always ignore her, but then you wouldn’t get the money from the house here or the money from the house in Desire. If you don’t do what she asks, you’re on your own—and your father gets the money from the house in Desire.”

Courtney shot to her feet. “Over my dead body.”

* * * *

You’re on your own.

As Courtney pulled into the driveway of the house that would be her home for the next year, the attorney’s words kept playing over and over in her head.

For the first time in her life, she was truly alone, finding herself forced to live in a town she both loved and hated.

Blowing out a breath, she looked around—grimacing at the overgrown weeds.

The house looked worn and old and showed the years of neglect.

Thankful that she’d already had the electricity turned on, she pulled her key from the ignition and turned her key ring to the key Mr. Franks had given her only a week earlier, staring down at it for several long seconds before opening the car door.

It was late afternoon, and she had a lot of things to do before she could go to bed.

She was so damned tired.

The last week had been a flurry of activity. She’d had to pack up her belongings and donate her aunt’s clothing.

She’d quit her job and said good-bye to her friends, promising to keep in touch with them.

Her mother had shown up just long enough for the funeral, leaving again right afterward with her husband.

Her mother’s words came back to her. “Don’t look for love in Desire, Courtney. There’s nothing for you but heartache and loneliness here.”

She had the feeling that she’d have a lot of lonely days ahead of her.

It was only a year, though, and then she could move on and do whatever she wanted to do.

* * * *

Sitting on the front porch of the house he’d grown up in, Lawton Tyler grinned at his sister-in-law. “You know, you drive my brother up the wall, don’t you?”

Sipping her iced tea, Hope flashed an impish smile and leaned back in her seat again. “Of course. That’s my job. Your brother was getting a little too stuffy. He needed me to shake him out of that.”

Law narrowed his eyes, suspicious at the look in hers. “No. Don’t look at me that way. I don’t want any part of your matchmaking schemes.”

Hope’s look of feigned innocence didn’t fool him for a second.

His sister-in-law was always up to something, and only his brother could keep her in line. Since marrying Ace, she’d made it abundantly clear that she adored both him and his brother, Zach, and considered them her brothers.