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 lose--her heart. And, although he doesn't yet know it, Levi stands to lose even more.
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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 growl--one 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...
When Summer Comes
By: Brenda Novak