Flames of DesireBy: Leah Brooke
Desire, Oklahoma 10
Courtney Sheldon wiped away tears that blurred the words of the letter she’d already memorized.
Her aunt’s lawyer had given the letter to her only hours earlier, right after the funeral, but as she read it again, she couldn’t stop crying.
My dearest Courtney,
I’ve been so blessed to have you with me all these years.
When your uncle was killed in Vietnam, I knew I would never marry again and knew I would never have children of my own. When my baby sister gave birth to you, it was as if I’d finally have the chance to have a child of my own.
I’ve loved you from the moment you were born.
When your mother left you with me, it was my pleasure to take you into my home and raise you as my own. Nothing in my life has ever given me so much pleasure.
Except for your uncle, who I’ve missed each and every day of my life.
You never knew this, but the house your parents lived in in Desire was our home. Mine and your Uncle Phil’s. I couldn’t live there after he was killed, but I couldn’t bear to sell it.
I spent the happiest years of my life in that house, and now I’m leaving it to you.
I’ve had several offers for it, probably because oil has been found on all the surrounding properties, but I’ve been saving it for you.
The offers are included with this letter for you to see.
But you can’t sell it. Not yet.
I want you, my darling niece, to have a chance at the kind of love that I had, so I’m asking you to live in the house for one year.
If, after that time, you want to sell it, you have my blessing.
As you can see by the offers, you’d be a financially secure woman then, and wouldn’t have to worry about your future, but the love I hope you’ll find there is worth more than all the money in the world.
I want nothing more than for you to be happy.
If you’re reading this, I’m with your Uncle Phil. Please don’t cry for me. I’m where I want to be. I’ve missed him so much.
I want you to find the love your mother threw away on your father.
Trust your heart, Courtney.
You’ve been such a joy to me—such a blessing.
I want you to find the love that I did. No one deserves it more than you do.
Looking up, she sniffed and sat back in the heavy leather chair. “I can’t believe I didn’t know about this. I can’t believe she really wants me to go live there again.”
From behind his large desk, Fred Franks, the elderly man who’d been her aunt’s friend and attorney for years, smiled kindly. “Believe it. Your aunt was adamant about keeping the house for you, no matter how many offers she got—and she’s gotten quite a few substantial offers. They’re in the other envelope. The one on top is the most recent, and most substantial.”
Her hands shook as she opened the envelope on top and scanned the single sheet of paper inside. Looking up at Mr. Franks again, she frowned, wondering if she’d read it right. “This is a lot of money for an old house.”
Mr. Franks inclined his head. “It is, but not for that town. It’s become a very desirable place to live, and the men who made that offer live right next door. They really want that property and can afford to pay for it. The residents become very attached to the town.” Sitting forward, he smiled. “That’s why your aunt wanted to be buried there, next to your uncle. You saw the town this morning at the funeral.” Sitting back again, he sighed. “From what I understand, it’s a very unique place to live.”
Frowning, Courtney folded the paper and slid it back into the envelope. “In what way is it unique? I’m afraid I don’t understand the fascination with a small town in Oklahoma—a small town that we were kicked out of when I was just a child.”
Mr. Franks sighed again. “I understand that there are certain kinds of relationships that seem to be prevalent there.” Raising a hand when she would have asked more, he shook his head. “No. I don’t know enough about the town to help you. I do know that your family wasn’t kicked out of Desire—just your father. Your aunt talked about it often. She’s been furious with your dad ever since.”