Home > Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19)(3)

Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19)(3)
Author: Robyn Carr

“Well...not tonight. I’ve done enough driving for one day. I’m going to get a bite to eat and maybe a glass of wine, then probably find a motel. There’s that place to eat in town, I guess. Jack’s?”

“Yes, Jack’s,” Gerald said. “He’s been there about ten or twelve years now. We know him. Tell him we’re friends; ask him for any tips on good places to stay tonight. He’s a straight shooter. And he knows everyone.”

“I’ll let you know where I’ll be once I figure it out.”

* * *

Kaylee remembered Jack’s, though it looked to be much bigger than the last time she came here. It was a large two-story cabin at the center of town, tucked into a bunch of houses and maybe a park or very large yard. There was no big neon sign announcing Beer or Girls Girls Girls. If it weren’t for the five men gathered on the porch holding beer bottles and an Open sign on the door, it would’ve looked like someone’s house. There were quite a few trucks parked down the street, plus a couple of cars and SUVs. It appeared Jack’s was hopping.

She parked and walked up to the porch. It was a little intimidating until she recognized a couple of the guys on the porch as firefighters who had doffed their turnouts and now wore jeans and boots. One of them nodded at her and smiled.

“You doing okay, miss?”

“Yes, thank you. But I think I need to have a beer or something.”

“You do that. Let us know if you need help with anything. Even if it wasn’t exactly your house, it was going to be your house tonight before it caught fire.”

“Thank you, that’s very nice.”

“We have a fire-victims committee. You know—food, clothing, that sort of thing.”

“Fortunately, I hadn’t moved in yet, so I didn’t lose anything.”

“It can still be unsettling.”

She just smiled at him, thinking that was so sensitive.

One of them held the door for her and she stepped inside. And looked around.

It was almost a town in a room. A couple of elderly women sat at a table by the hearth. An entire family with five small children occupied a long table. A half-dozen men leaned against the bar at one end. Two middle-aged couples occupied a table, laughing and talking over their drinks. A table for four held women who were knitting while they nursed beers and wine. A woman was hustling from the back with a full tray of food and there were a couple of men behind the bar—one very handsome man in his late forties or early fifties with just a smattering of silver threaded into his brown hair and another man with coal-black hair, also sporting just a hint of gray.

She went to the end of the bar and sat on a stool. The handsome brown-haired guy was before her at once, wiping off the bar and slapping down a napkin.

“Evening,” he said. “What can I get you?”

“Any chance you have a nice, cold chardonnay and some peanuts?”

“I can do that,” he said.

“And is there a guy named Jack around?”

He turned back abruptly. “That would be me.”

“Ah. Well, I was headed for the Templetons’ house when everything fell apart. The fire department had just put out the fire as I was arriving. So now here I am, homeless for the moment. I spoke to Gerald Templeton and he asked me to tell you hello. And he said you might have some good ideas about where I should spend the night. A good motel or hotel not too far away?”

“The fire!” Jack said. “I heard about that. Damn it, that’s a nice house. The Templetons are great people.”

“They’re very old friends,” she said. “I’ve known them since I was about six.”

“Let me get your wine, then we can talk.” He busied himself behind the bar for just a moment and before returning to her with the wine, he spoke over his shoulder. “Mike, back me up, will you?”

“Absolutely,” Mike said.

He put down the wine and a bowl of nuts appeared. He reached under the counter and pulled out a second bowl holding pretzels. They shook hands, introducing themselves. “So, were the Templetons coming up for a while?” Jack asked.

“They weren’t planning to. I don’t know if their plans will change, given the damage to their house. I was renting it from them. I needed somewhere quiet with a change of scenery so it was to be mine for six months, though it was possible someone from the family might come for a weekend visit.”

“And now you’re stuck here with no house?”

“That about sums it up. I rented out my house in Newport, so just going back home is not an option; my renters couldn’t wait to get in there. Fortunately, I have friends in the LA area, but they don’t exactly have quiet lives...”

“Couldn’t you explain to your renters...?”

“I suppose, but really, I made a commitment and they seem to be nice people who were counting on living near their grandchildren for a few months. And I’m just one person. I could be tucked away in a guest room somewhere. I’ll have to think about where. Meanwhile...”

“Meanwhile, you should let me treat you to dinner. Salmon, rice, asparagus, corn on the cob. It’s delicious.”

“Sounds great.”

“I can give you a place to stay, too. It would be temporary, I’m afraid. We have a guesthouse out back, but my sister is coming for a visit at the end of next week, so the place is booked.”

“That’s very nice of you. You don’t even know me. I’m capable of staying the night in Fortuna or any place you recommend.”

“I understand if you’d rather not stay with strangers,” he said. “But there’s no need for you to drive over to the coast, especially since your plans are up in the air. I’ll give my wife a call. Her name is Mel and she’s very flexible.”

“Is it typical for you to offer housing to someone who wanders into your bar?” she asked.

He had a surprised look on his face. “I was going to say no, but the truth is that anytime there’s a situation that leaves someone without a bed and bath, I’ve been known to offer. We also have a cabin not far from here. That stays pretty busy, too. Especially in good weather.”

“I hate to impose.”

“Think about it while I check on the customers. After you’ve had a little of that wine, I’ll get you some dinner. By the time you’re done, you’ll know what you want to do. The welcome mat is out. You’re a friend of friends. I’ve known Gerald and Bonnie since I got to town over ten years ago. I like them. I think Gerald helped me with the roof on this place, back when it was just a small cabin. It’s doubled in size since—we added on.”

“Thanks, Jack.”

Before and during her meal, a few bar patrons stopped by to ask her if she was all right, if there was anything she needed, because by now half the town had heard about her and the fire. When she was done with her meal, feeling full and relaxed, Jack brought her a cup of coffee, though she hadn’t asked for it.

“You might want to go out to my place and check out that casita. Give yourself a couple of days and look around. There might be other rentals around here and maybe all your plans won’t be ruined after all. Sometimes things just work out. Here’s the directions. It’s not far and Mel is waiting for you.”

“You are unbelievably nice,” she said.

“Doesn’t cost anything to be nice, right Kaylee?”

2

IT DIDN’T TAKE much convincing to have Kaylee driving up the road toward the Sheridan house. It was at a beautiful location. The drive plateaued near the top where two beautiful ranch-style houses sat on big lots with twin porches that both faced west, looking over the valley for miles and miles. Kaylee spotted pastoral fields of crops, a large vineyard, scattered houses and grazing livestock.

The drive made a Y, veering off to the left to wind around the house to the back or to the right, ending in the front of the house. She could see a portion of the guesthouse in the back, just beyond a play area for kids with swings, a slide, a basketball hoop and a putting green. On the porch at the front of the house, a woman sat braiding a little girl’s hair. That would be Jack’s wife. And daughter?

Kaylee didn’t even have to think about it. She didn’t drive around to the casita but up to the front, parking and getting out.

“Mrs. Sheridan?” she asked.

“I’m Mel,” she said. “And you must be Kaylee.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Come up here and sit with me. All right, Emma. Go take your bath and I’ll be in shortly. Come, Kaylee. The sky is wonderful tonight—a million stars. That moon is like a lamp, lighting up the whole valley. It’s almost my favorite time of day. Jack tells me you’ve had a stressful day.”

There was just something about Mel from the second Kaylee met her. She was like a warm blanket. Welcoming and nurturing and completely accessible.

“It was a shocker, that’s for sure,” Kaylee said.

“He said you were going to be renting the Templeton house, but he didn’t tell me why you came to Virgin River,” Mel said. “Have you been here before?”

“Yes, a few times. The first time I was just a child and came with my mother. But the most recent was about ten years ago. I think the bar was a new addition then and I remember being glad to see it. Up till then I can’t remember there being any place to eat. The Templetons are very old friends and they offered me the house for a getaway.”

“Ah,” Mel said. “A very polite person would just let that go, but I’m cursed with rabid curiosity. Tell me it’s none of my business if it’s too personal, but what are you getting away from?”

“It’s kind of a long story,” she said.

“I’m not at all tired,” Mel said, smiling. “I certainly understand if you are—”

“Well, I think it boils down to running away from grief. I’m a writer. Fiction. Suspense, to be more specific. I’ve had some modest success and I have a contract. In fact, I have one book left on my contract, but I’ve had the worst time writing. I just can’t focus. It was almost exactly a year ago that my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Everyone was so optimistic, including the doctors. And yet, my mom got sicker and sicker and she passed away in December last year. I was living in her house. Of course, I stayed with her when she got sick and later when Hospice came. And then after she died and I was alone in her house, I was lucky if I managed a sentence a day. I really couldn’t think of anything but my mom. I needed to change my scenery, so I decided to look around for some place to go for six months, if only to finish this last book on the contract. Then,” she said with a shrug, “then I don’t know what happens. Maybe I look around for a teaching job. I taught for a while after college, writing at night and on weekends and vacations. But I might be done writing.”

   
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