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Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Young adult or teen  ➡  Romance  ➡  Romance  ➡  Short stories

Elusive Bride

 

 

Elusive Bride

 

by

 

Nancy Kay Moore

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by Nancy Kay Moore

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

 

[] Prologue

 

 

Ava tugged at the train of her dress as she scooted across the seat and slammed the door! “Drive,” she muttered.

“Yes, ma’am.” The driver did a mock salute and followed her instructions as he maneuvered the limo out of the church parking lot. He could hear soft sobs coming from the back causing him to make a mental note to drive until she regained her composure and then ask her where she wanted to go. He knew better than to try to talk to a woman in tears, especially one who had just exited a church filled with wedding guests, minus a groom!

 

[] Chapter 1

 

 

A few hours later…..

 

She had the face of an angel and the body of a model all encased in snow-white taffeta that spilled like liquid satin around her body. That much white material where fellows came for sinful fun on a Saturday night caused Weston to do a double-take as he strolled into the bar. He slid on the first empty barstool and rubbed his eyes, trying to adjust to the light and then he just stared. He wasn’t the only guy gapping at the lady sitting alone in the corner. She was drinking liquid from a frosty mug.

The Tic-Toc was usually filled with laughter and loud music but tonight it was noticeably quite as all male eyes were fixed on the lady in the bridal gown. A few of the braver guys had been taking turns approaching her with offers that Weston could only imagine were far from honorable. She was a looker – the kind a fellow would be proud to take home to meet his family. Her hair was the color of butter and the neckline of her dress dipped just low enough to stroke a man’s healthy imagination. Weston’s imagination was in high gear. The thought of what she had on under that gown kicked his libido into overdrive.

“She’s something else, isn’t she?”

“Huh?” Weston forced his eyes in the direction of the voice. Sam, bar owner and a genuine good guy, was standing behind the bar with a grin on his face. Sam was dressed in his usual attire: jeans, a white shirt, and a Stetson pushed back on his head. Everyone in town knew he had aspirations of moving down to Nashville and opening a western-type bar, but so far he only dressed the part.

“Ain’t she something?” He repeated.

“Yep,” Weston replied, “Do you know her, Sam?”

“Never laid eyes on her until a couple of hours ago.” Sam shoved a bottle of beer in front of Weston and continued, “No one has seen her around here and with that face and body, no red-blooded male would be likely to forget her.”

Weston nodded. He took a slow drink of beer and then rolled the bottle back and forth across his forehead in hopes it would cool down his red-hot emotions, “Where is the groom?”

“No sign of a groom but some of the guys have offered to stand in for him. They have pestered that poor little lady to death, offering her drinks and trying to get her to dance. She’s accepted the drinks but I just told Sally to cut her off. It’s coffee only until we close.”

Weston grinned. “Sam, you sound more like a protective father than a bar owner, but if my son Toby had been a girl I’m sure I’d feel the same way. Always looking out for your clients.”

Sam grunted and continued to wipe the counter.

“I’ve got to be heading home,” Weston said to Sam.

“Hold on a sec, will you?” Sam asked as he walked around the bar to talk to one of the musicians and Weston took another look at the mystery lady. She looked like a real-life Cinderella about to face the midnight hour. Sophistication oozed from every pore in her body and she looked as out of place in this bar as Weston would be at a presidential ball.

Sam came back around behind the bar and placed his elbows on the counter and stared at the lady.

“How’d she get here?” Weston asked.

“Some guy dressed in a navy-blue uniform dropped her suitcase by the door and said he had to be back in Nashville by ten o’clock. I figured he was the limo driver.”

“Mmm,” Weston mumbled, “I guess that explains why I didn’t see a limo parked outside.”

“Yea, he’s long gone. Probably back in Nashville by now,” Sam glanced at his wrist and wipe a towel across sparkling clean bar. “Won’t be long before I’m closing up myself.”

Weston watched the lady drain the last drop of beer from her mug.

“Wes, do me a favor. Go see if there is anyone we can call to come pick her up.” When Weston didn’t immediately volunteer, Sam continued, “Or I could ask Jake but by the way he’s been ogling her all evening…I can only imagine what’s on his mind.”

Weston frowned. Jake Hopkins had a reputation as the town’s #1 womanizer and he never failed to live up to it. Sam knew that and he knew Weston knew it, too. “Okay, okay, you win,” Weston replied as he slowly stood up from the stool.

All eyes were fixed on Weston as he strolled across the empty dance floor toward the woman in white. A hush fell over the room as Weston slid into the empty seat across from the mystery lady and pushed his cowboy hat back off his forehead. She didn’t look up. His knee raked across her billowy skirt, causing her head to jerk up. She looked sad. Her eyes were red and puffy and she sniffed and dabbed at her nose as she stared at Weston.

Weston opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. He drew himself up, ramrod-straight and flashed a smile at her. “Hi there,” he finally managed to speak.

She nodded. She rested her chin in her hands and gazed at him.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I think.” She turned the empty mug up to her lips and drained the last drop from the glass.

Weston didn’t know much but one thing he did know, she wasn’t fine. “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

“I’d love a cup.”

Weston motioned toward Sam for two cups of coffee and when he turned back to look at the lady, her head was down on the table, her eyes shut.

“Ma’am, are you sure your okay?” Weston laid his hand on her bare shoulder startling her.

“Just a little sleepy. It’s been a long day.” A single tear slipped down her cheek as she brushed it away with a swipe of her hand. “Sorry,” she mumbled, “I must look a mess.”

“Hey, no apologize needed. I’ve had my share of bad days, probably none to equal yours,” he added as he looked her up and down. Weston was a sucker for weepy women - heck- he was a sucker for women in general. That’s was the reason he’d gotten himself into his current pickle. Those tears caused an ache to stir deep inside his chest. She looked so vulnerable and lost.

“Today was supposed to be the happiest day of my life….but,” her voice trailed off to little more than a whisper, “but, so far it’s been the worst.”

Weston shifted in his seat, speechless. He was curious but knew better than to dig too deep into this woman’s life. As soon as he could extract a name of someone he could call he’d report back to Sam and be done with the matter. A voice in his head kept repeating -- don’t get too involved.

Sam shoved two mugs of coffee in front of Weston and hurried back to his work station. Weston pushed one of the mugs across the table, “Take a sip, it’ll make you feel better,” Weston coached her, “or kill you,” he added. “Sam has the best beer in town, but the worst coffee.”

“Did I tell you my name?” she asked.

“No.”

“It’s Ava. Ava Andrews.” She took a sip of coffee, “This is awful.”

Weston smiled. “I told you. Sam may have the best beer in town but to get a good cup of coffee you need to go down to Joe’s Place.”

Ava managed a weak smile. “I’d be a good one to ask about the beer here. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve had tonight,” she said as she shoved the mug away. “I need another beer.”

“I don’t think so. Drink more of this,” he said as he pushed the cup back to her.

She shook her head. “I don’t feel so good. I think I forgot to eat this morning.”

Weston quickly motioned Sally over and whispered something in her ear. She nodded and walked back to the counter while Weston turned back to his companion. She had her head resting against the back of the booth and her eyes were closed. She was sound asleep. “Ava,” he spoke softly as he gently shook her shoulder, “wake up. You need to put some food in that stomach of yours. It will make you feel better.”

Suddenly, she jerked her head up and opened her eyes, “Where am I?”

“At the Tic Toc Bar and Grill in Woodson, Tennessee.”

“Woodson?” She repeated, more confused and disoriented than before she had Sam’s coffee. “How’d I get here?”

“Sam told me a limo driver dropped you.”

“My limo driver?” She questioned. “Oh, him! He left?”

“Yea, a couple of hours ago according to Sam.” Weston replied.

“And who are you?” She had suddenly come awake and more clear-headed.

“I’m Weston Morris, at your service ma’am,” he tipped his hand at the brim of his cowboy hat.

“Weston. I like that name.” The way she said his name made him feel special. “I’ve never known a Weston before.”

“Well, we’re even. I’ve never known an Ava before.” Weston chuckled. “Now we’ve gotten the formalities out of the way – who can I call to come get you?”

“No one!” She blinked away mist that had formed in her eyes. “No one I can think of.”

Weston didn’t believe that for one minute, “No one?”

“I have a brother….” she hesitated.

“And?”

“He wasn’t even coming to my wedding so I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t come all the way out here. No, there’s no one who cares.” The last few words were followed by a hiccup.

Weston flinched. “How about’ your fiancé? Wouldn’t he come?”

“Oh no. I couldn’t face him or his parents ever again.” She hiccupped again as she spoke. “I never plan on going back to Nashville.”

“Ava that’s emotions talking. Your just upset. I’m sure it wasn’t all that bad.” Weston was beginning to question what could have been so bad to cause Ava to run on her wedding day. He didn’t want to care, but he did. She looked like she needed a prince charming. Someone to rescue her, protect her. That wasn’t him. He glanced over at Sam who shrugged his shoulders and busied himself with dirty dishes. When Weston turned back to Ava the look on her face tugged at his heart. All he had wanted was a night out, a couple of beers and some good country music and look what he’d gotten. This strange woman had managed to tap into a part of him he had tried to bury and all in less than an hour. All he knew about her was her name and she had an x-fiancé in Nashville she’d run out on and she felt no one cared.

It was time to put the ball back in Sam’s court. Weston felt he had done his best and gotten nowhere. He stood up and stretched out his long legs. Ava looked up, flashing him a weak smile. “You giving up on me, too?” She laid her hand on his arm. Just her soft touch felt too right to him, Weston froze. Had he been alone so long that a half-drunk, weepy woman in a wedding dress could awaken urges in him?

“Are you giving up on me?” She repeated.

“No! I just need to talk to Sam.” Weston laid his free hand over hers giving it a quick reassuring pat and smiled.

“I’m sorry. Really I’ll be fine. I’m not your responsibility.”

“I’ll be right over at the bar, Ava,” he assured her as he walked away. He slid on the empty stool in front of Sam and shook his head. “No luck.”

“You mean she doesn’t have a single sole to call?” Sam asked skeptically.

“Said she didn’t.”

“Why don’t you take her home with you?”

“You’re kidding me!” Weston frowned at Sam’s suggestion, “take her home with me. “No way, man!”

“Just one night. In the light of day I’m sure she will realize she needs to contact someone to come down here and get her. Just one night.”

Just one night was one too many in Weston’s mind. If his x-wife, Linda, got the notion he was taking in strange women or any woman she would have him back in court pronto! He couldn’t risk losing his visitation rights. “No can do, Sam. Ask someone else.”

Sam’s eyes scanned the bar, “I don’t trust anyone else, and I know you wouldn’t take advantage of her, Weston, you are just not that kind of guy.”

“Thanks, I think, but no way are you going to butter me up with that stuff you are spewing,” Weston answered.

Sam reached for the phone. “I’ll just call down to the police station and see if Boyd has a free cell for the night. Last chance to do a good deed. It’s your place or a cell.” Sam didn’t move, giving Weston time to think.

“Oh, heck! Okay, you win!” Weston knew he’d want to kick himself in the morning but tonight he really didn’t have a choice. He couldn’t picture that pretty lady waking up in a jail cell or some strange motel room in the morning.

“I’ll get her stuff.” Sam didn’t wait for Weston to say anything else. He hurried off to the storeroom before he could change his mind. “Won’t be a minute.”

Only one night, that phrase kept running through his head as he watched Ava sleep and waited for Sam to come back with her stuff. One night – that’s all it would be, one night.

[] Chapter 2

 

 

Only one night had been the cause of his first problem with the opposite sex and here he was falling into the same trap again. Not exactly the same since he had no intention of sleeping with this lady – none! He had mistakenly thought he’d found his soul mate when he’d rescued his x-wife, Linda, from a similar situation, but after their speedy courtship and marriage Linda had discovered she was pregnant with Toby. It had gone downhill from there, leaving him with a broken heart and an empty bank account.

After a lengthy battle over visitation rights he had just begun to get his life back on track. Now here he was about to take another strange woman home with him. The woman in question was dressed in a wedding dress and she wasn’t his bride. He glanced over at Ava as she leaned her head against the truck window, eyes closed. She was beautiful; but Linda had been beautiful, too and where had that gotten him?

Ava had fallen asleep before Weston could back out of the parking lot. Her day had obviously caught up with her and with all the beers she had consumed she would probably sleep through the night. She must be a trusting soul agreeing to let a stranger take her home.

The streets were practically deserted this early on a Sunday morning but Weston took his time driving home. The cool air from the open window felt good on his face. He glanced over at Ava again and shook his head. She looked peaceful sleeping in the seat next to him but he reminded himself she spelled trouble.

He guided his pickup into the empty driveway and parked by the walkway leading into the kitchen. Glancing around he felt relief, his brother, Rayland was still out on the town.

“Ava,” he gently shook her bare shoulder trying to avoid startling her, “wake up, we’re home.”

Ava mumbled something ,blinked her eyes and gazed out the window.

“We’re at my place.” Weston swung open the door and reached behind the seat for her suitcase. He held out his hand to help her get out of the truck

“Home?” She eyed him skeptically.

“My house for tonight. We can get a good night’s sleep and talk in the morning.” He steered her toward the back door. “We’ll think of someone to call in the morning, okay?”

She nodded as she stumbled along the walkway not yet fully awake and obviously feeling the effects of the alcohol she’d consumed.

The kitchen was dark as Weston walked across the tile floor and switched on the light. Ava’s heels clicked on the floor as she followed. She stopped abruptly and leaned down removing one of her shoes and then leaned against the wall as she tried to remove the other shoe. “Here, let me do that,” Weston said as he bent down on one knee and removed the shoe.

“I feel like the ugly step-sister,” Ava muttered.

“What?” Weston looked up, “what sister?”

“Cinderella – you know her ugly step-sister,” she replied.

“No way!” Weston stood up as he continued to hold her shoe, “Let’s get you upstairs and into bed.”

Weston had decided to let Ava use his room and he would use his son’s room. His bedroom was adjacent to the master bathroom in the event her stomach decided to revolt during the night.

He switched on the bedside lamp and guided her over to the king-sized bed. She flopped back, still fully dressed and rested her head on one of the pillows. Weston leaned over and shook her again and then waited for her to open her eyes, “Ava, I’ll be in the room next door in case you need anything.”

“Your leaving?”

“Just next door in Toby’s bedroom. You’ll be fine but if you need me just call.”

“But…who is going to help me with this dress?” She pointed to the yards of taffeta material spread around her on the bed. “You don’t expect me to sleep in this…?”

Weston flinched and ran his fingers through his hair. He didn’t know what to expect. Now he was faced with helping her out of the dress without embarrassing the both of them. He looked around as his eyes fell on the suitcase he’d placed by the door. He would have to rummage through her wedding trip stuff and find something suitable for a bride’s wedding night without the groom. He could only imagine the sort of nighties he’d find in that suitcase. He crossed the floor to a large chest-of-drawers and pulled out an oversized t-shirt with ‘Go TITANS’ imprinted on the front. “This will do,” he mumbled under his breath as he turned to face her.

She was staring at him with red, puffy eyes – beautiful but puffy. She tried to steady herself to stand but lost her balance and fell back on the bed with a sigh. “Well,” she said.

“Hold on, I’m getting you something to wear.” Weston held out his hand and pulled her to her feet. He slowly started to unbutton the tiny pearl buttons that started mid-way down the back to where the buttons turned into a zipper. He cursed under his breath as he fumbled with the buttons. As the dress fell off her shoulders she clutched the front of it trying to cover her breasts. When her lace panties came into view, Weston stopped and handed her the shirt. “Slip this over your head and let the dress fall.”

She followed directions and in a few seconds was dressed in the t-shirt. He took her hand to steady her as she stepped out of the discarded wedding gown. Weston gathered the dress and gently spread it across the back of the rocking chair.

“Call Goodwill. I won’t be needing it.

“Lay down, Ava.” She obliged as she allowed him to pull a coverlet over her body. “Now sleep!” He ordered as he flipped off the bedside light and left the door open. “I’ll leave it open in case you need anything….during the night.”

Ava mumbled into the pillow as Weston headed toward Toby’s room. ‘Just one night’ kept repeating in his head as he pulled off his jeans and flopped down on his son’s bed. He needed shut-eye now. He’d figure it all out in the morning.

 

*******

 

Bright sunlight streaked across the floor in Ava’s eyes. She rolled over and groaned. Her hand went to her forehead as she massaged her throbbing temples. Risking the added pain she anticipated she slowly opened one eye to be met by a set of eyes staring back. A big furry dog was sitting by her bed, “and who might you be?” The dog wagged his tail and licked her hand.

“The quite type?” Ava pushed back the coverlet and tried to sit up. The ache in her head was relentless, but it was past time to get up. ‘Yikes, where am I? and whose bed is this?’ She glanced around the room, eyes finally resting on her discarded wedding gown. She sank back on the bed and tried to remember how she had gotten where ever she was. Had she undressed herself? She couldn’t recall much about the previous night but the shirt she was wearing wasn’t hers. She couldn’t believe she had been so drunk she had let someone undress her. She had to face that person today.

A light tap on her door alerted the dog to a visitor and he trotted across the floor, tail wagging to greet Ava’s stranger. A tall, dark-haired guy stood at the door rubbing the dog’s ears. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt identical to the one she was wearing. “Morning, sleepy head.” His chipper tone tore through her head like a knife. “I see Mutt discovered we have a guest.”

“Mutt! His name is really Mutt?” Ava spoke softly to keep the throbbing in her head to a minimum.

“Naw, I call her Mutt sometimes, her name is Sophie. She was almost a goner when I rescued her. She is my son, Toby’s dog.”

Ava wondered where his wife and son could be so early on a Sunday morning but was too shy to ask. “Your son’s dog?” She massaged her forehead with her fingers again.

“Yep. Toby is spending the night at a friend’s house.” He didn’t provide any more details and Ava didn’t ask. Obviously, Weston was a single dad. “Headache?” He nodded, grinning broadly.

“A doozy,” she managed a weak smile and then added, “and my stomach isn’t feeling much better.”

“Here, drink this,” Weston handed her a glass of liquid, “guaranteed to cure a hangover.”

“Yes sir!” She did a mock salute and downed the contents of the glass. “What is this stuff?” She wrinkled her nose.

“An old family recipe. Guaranteed to make you feel like a new woman. Trust me.”

“I can’t remember if I thanked you for rescuing me last night. I appreciate it. I don’t think I can repay you for your kindness.”

“Hey, no repayment necessary. You just needed a shoulder to cry on. I was happy to oblige.”

“Was I a mess?”

“You weren’t too bad.” Weston winked.

She felt heat creep up her neck. He was handsome and he had been her prince charming last night. “Did I blabber a lot?” She asked.

“Nooo, but you did your share of mumbling and snoring on the way home.” The sound of the front door opening broke into Weston’s speech. “Wes, you up there?”

Weston glanced at Ava, “It’s my brother, Rayland. He lives here, too.” Before he could say anymore Weston’s brother appeared in the doorway.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here, bro?”

“I’m Ava Andrews. Weston was kind enough to rescue me last night at the bar.”

Rayland’s grin broadened, “Rescued you, eh? So that’s what they call it now.”

“Hey, Ray, don’t let that imagination of yours get away from you. Ava needed a place to crash for the evening and with all the extra room we have here, well….”

Ray continued to grin at his brother, “And how, brother-of-mine, do you plan on explaining this to Maria?”

“Who is Maria?” Ava asked.

“Maria is our housekeeper and Toby’s babysitter, but don’t call her a babysitter in front of Toby. He thinks he is too old for a sitter.”

Rayland turned to leave, “Good luck, big brother. Ma’am,” he tipped his hat and disappeared.

“Sorry, about that, my brother is a little crazy. Everyone blames it on his career. He is a writer and with that imagination of his, he can turn something innocent into a major story.”

Ava frowned. “You don’t think he would take my story and turn it into a novel, do you?”

“Who knows? I’ve told him time and again my personal life is off limits but how could he? I don’t know anything about you but the fact you skipped out on your wedding.” A sadness fell over Ava. Why had he said that? “How is the headache?”

“Much better. If I did a lot of drinking I would try to pry that secret concoction out of you for future use but I’m sure you’ve already figured I don’t hold my liquor well.”

“What I figured out is you must have had a good reason for drinking.” He pointed to the discarded wedding gown.

Ava nodded, “I better get dressed.”

“Right. I’m going to rustle up some breakfast. Want anything?”

“Nothing to eat, but coffee would be nice,” she replied.

“See you downstairs.” She looked at the dress and then down at the t-shirt. She grabbed her suitcase and pulled out a pair of white shorts and a yellow shirt. This will do. It was for our cruise but…..she sucked in her breath. It’s too late to feel sorry for myself she thought as she slipped into the shorts and shirt. She left the bedroom and headed downstairs.

 

*******

 

Ava followed her nose to the kitchen. Weston was removing a tray of buns from the oven and turned in time to catch her staring at his buns. He grinned.

Ava felt her face flush as she quickly looked down at whatever was licking her hand.

“Sophie, stop that!” Weston called out. “She is a sweet dog but when she likes you she makes a pest of herself.”

“I like her!” Ava exclaimed. “I always wanted a dog when I was a kid but my Dad was allergic so I got a gold fish and a canary instead of a puppy.”

“Too bad,” Weston replied, “I always had a dog when I was growing up. Ray and I would promise to take turns feeding and watering the dog but I did all the work. I guess that is what helped me decide on my career.”

“What do you do, Weston?”

“I’m a Vet. My specialty is small animals but I have been known to make some house calls for a sick horse or cow. I also run a small side business of helping to find homes for abandoned dogs, cats and occasionally run-a-way brides. That’s how we acquired Sophie. I went into the office one Monday to find her waiting on my doorstep. She was so thin and forlorn looking it broke my heart and I decided to keep her. I’m a sucker for a sad-faced female.”

“You’re telling me! I guess I fell in that category last night”

“Maybe, but you’re hair is nicer than hers.” He grinned as he patted the dog.

Ava rolled her eyes.

“No, you look much better this morning.”

“The shower helped,” she said as she watched Weston take one of the hot cinnamon rolls off the baking tray and place it on a saucer. “Better eat something. Too much coffee on an empty stomach isn’t a good idea.”

“Yes, doc.” She did a mock salute. “You are in the medical field, of sorts.”

“I’ve nursed enough hangovers to know how bad someone can feel the next day.”

Ava smiled. He smiled back. She seemed to have a way of making him do that. “I’m sure glad you dropped into the bar last night. I think you saved my life.”

“I wouldn’t go that far but I’m glad I could help. And, by the way, have you thought of someone to call to come get you? I imagine your fiancé is worried.”

Ava wrinkled her nose. She doubted Tyler was anything more than pissed off at her. Tyler would be the last person she would call. “I never intend to talk to Tyler again, ever!”

“But what about that rock on your left hand?” Wes pointed to the engagement ring, “plan on keeping it as a remembrance?”

“Hardly, I will mail it back to Tyler with some sort of explanation.”

“Mmm,” Weston glanced out the back window. Just as he turned to speak the phone rang, “Morris, here,” he shifted from foot to foot as he listened intently to the caller. “I see and what time is your flight leaving? Okay, I’ll run over and pick him up – just give me thirty minutes.”

“Problem?” Ava asked as she watched Weston searching in his pocket for his keys.

“My x-wife’s parents had a car accident.”

“I’m sorry,” Ava said.

“Yea, they are traveling in Nevada for the winter so Linda has to fly out there to be with them. She has Toby this week so she wants me to change weeks with her. I’ve got to go get him. Will you be here when I get back?”

“Probably, I don’t have anywhere I can go unless you can take me to a motel.”

“Sit tight, and we’ll discuss it when I get back.” The screen door slammed shut causing Sophie to look up from under the kitchen table where she had been napping.

“A nap sounds good to me too, girl,” Ava said to the dog, “then I can decide what I am going to do.”

[] Chapter 3

 

 

Ava was running through the parking lot with several men in tuxedos chasing her. She rolled over, opened her eyes and glanced at the clock, I’ve been asleep an hour! She slipped her feet into the white sandals she had purchased for her wedding cruise and held back tears. Twenty-four hours ago there was a wedding, a honeymoon and a Carnival cruise in her future, now – nothing. She had to pull herself together and decide what to do.

Laughter met her as she pushed the door open to the kitchen and saw a little boy standing in the middle of the floor holding a Frisbee above his head.

“Toby, don’t throw that in the house!” Weston glanced up at Ava as she stood in the doorway observing the scene. “Come on in, Ava. I would like you to meet my son, Toby. Toby, this is Miss Ava.” The boy stared at Ava, “Are you my new step-mom?”

“No! Just a friend of your Dads.”

“Do you like Sophie?” the youngster asked.

“I do, very much. I was telling your Dad I never had a dog when I was growing up. You are lucky to have her.”

Toby nodded and turned to his Dad, “Can we go out and teach Sophie to catch the Frisbee?”

“Go on son, I’ve got to talk to Miss Ava. Stay inside the yard.”

“Oh, Dad, I’m not a baby.” the boy protested. “Mon’ girl, let’s go outside and play.” The dog bounded across the floor after the boy.

“Want something to drink?” Weston asked Ava as they watched the boy and his dog disappear into the back yard.

“Coffee, if you have some made,” she replied.

Weston motioned to an empty seat as he poured two mugs of coffee. “Have you thought of someone to call or would you rather I drive you back to Nashville?”

Nashville was the last place Ava intended to go. The pressure of trying to be someone she wasn’t had taken its toll on her and she was pretty sure she had made the right decision last night. It was time for a new start. “Thanks for offering but I don’t plan on ever going back to Nashville. I think I’ll hang around here for a while.”

“Here,” Weston asked.

“Not here-here. I meant in town.”

“But you don’t know anyone here.”

“I know you, Toby and your brother. And, honestly the people I thought were my friends in Nashville, I didn’t know at all.”

“Last night you mentioned a brother. I recall you saying he wasn’t coming to your wedding but heck, Ava, siblings have their problems. Ray and I have had our share of differences but we’ve always worked them out.”

“No!” She snapped. “Skip wasn’t the only reason I ran out on Tyler.”

“What about parents? grandparents? anyone?”

“My dad died several years ago. It’s really just my Mom and me.”

“Didn’t you have a job?” Weston asked.

“I did work at Tyler’s company but after we got engaged his family decided it wasn’t suitable for Tyler’s wife to work. Ty wanted me to be a full-time wife and mother.”

Suddenly it was all clearing up. He could understand Ava’s dilemma. Tyler and his family were control freaks and she didn’t seem like the kind that could live with that kind of an arrangement.

“You are so lucky, Weston. You have a wonderful son who idolizes you and a lovely house and your brother seems nice.”

“Actually, Ray and I inherited this house jointly. Our parents left us equal shares with a slight stipulation. Whoever finds the perfect mate and marries first has the option of buying out the other brother.”

“That is odd.” Ava mumbled to herself. “Why do you think they did that?”

“I think it was because of my marriage to Linda. It was unpleasant from the start and it impacted my folks. They were married 48 years and they had a dream their sons would fill their home with grandchildren. When Toby came along they were both ill and died shortly afterwards.”

“Tyler wanted a house full of children.”

“And you? Did you not want a family?” Weston asked.

“I’d always dreamed of being part of a large family since I only had one brother and we were never close.”

“Ray and I were practically inseparable when we were kids,” Weston said.

“I wanted children but I wanted to wait a couple of years. I wanted time to adjust to married life.”

“Sounds reasonable.”

“But, it didn’t work out like I’d dreamed it would,” Ava added sadly. “You see my brother worked for Tyler and when I discovered what he’d done, I had to get away!”

“Your brother worked for Tyler, too?”

“Yes, Skip, had been stealing from the company but since he was the manager of the accounting department he’d covered his tracks but when the company hired an outsider to come in and transfer all the books over to disc they discovered irregularities and when they confronted Skip he admitted his wrongdoings. I expect they will press charges and send him to jail.”

“Are you sure you have all the facts?” Weston asked.

“Oh, I have all the facts. A courier service showed up at the church with a written confession signed by Skip and when Tyler saw that paper….I know he hates me! Since I couldn’t change anything my brother had done, I ran away. So, do you see why I couldn’t go back?”

“I see why you think you can’t.”

“I can’t!” Ava repeated.

Weston started to speak when Rayland opened the door to the kitchen, “Morning guys, what’s up?”

“Nothing, we were just talking,” Weston replied. “So what’s up with you, bro? What are you doing today?”

“Hangin’ out but I need to work on my bike. I’m also going into town later to visit my lady.”

Weston decided to change the subject, “Did you hear if Mrs. Swanson ever rented that room she had empty?” Not giving Rayland a chance to answer, Weston turned to Ava, “She dropped by the office last week and mentioned she was looking for a boarder.”

Ava looked hopeful, “Did she mention the rent?”

“No, but she did put a flyer up on our community board and if I recall, it said it was a by-the-week room. I just thought if you are determined not to go back to Nashville, you might check out her room.”

Ava smiled and nodded. “I like that idea.”

“So, let me call her now,” Weston smiled as he reached for the phone. A few minutes later he ended the call and turned to face Ava. “You’re in luck, Ms. Swanson said the room is still vacant. She is anxious to meet you.”

Ava nodded. “Great! I’ll go get my things.”

Rayland leaned over and whispered, “Geez, bro, you sure seem anxious to get rid of her.”

“I can’t let her stay here, Ray. You know Linda. She would pitch a fit if Toby mentioned I had a woman living here.”

Rayland nodded. “Tell Ava I’ll be out back working on the bike when she’s ready to go.”

“I’ll send her out when she comes back down. Hey, go easy on her. She’s been through a lot the last couple of days. She is at a critical point right now.” Weston said as he watched Rayland head out the back door.

[] Chapter 4

 

 

A week had passed since Ava had moved to Mrs. Swanson’s house and Weston could still feel her presence in the bedroom. She had left so quickly that afternoon she had forgotten her comb and brush and the wedding gown was still draped over the chair. The one she had told him to call Goodwill to get but she had been so torn-up that night he decided to wait. He wondered how such a brief encounter with her could occupy so much of his thoughts. The expensive gown of Ava’s was quite a contrast from his wedding attire. He recalled he’d worn his best jeans and Linda had been dressed in a sundress when they’d stood before the Justice of the Peace in Nashville with two strangers as their witnesses. What a catastrophe that marriage had been and except for Toby it had been a disaster until the day they divorced.

 

*******

 

Although Ava had been at Mrs. Swanson’s for only a short time she felt safe. The older woman had made her feel like family. “Dear, someone is here to see you,” Mrs. Swanson called from outside Ava’s bedroom door.

“To see me?”

“Yes. He’s waiting downstairs.”

“I’ll be right down,” she answered. She wondered if her fiancé’s family had tracked her down; with their connections she would be easy to find. No, she was sure they didn’t care as long as she was out of their precious son’s life. As she approached the kitchen she heard voices.

“How have you been?” She heard Mrs. Swanson’s voice but she couldn’t hear a reply. “Ava, dear,” Mrs. Swanson looked up, “look who dropped by.”

“Weston,” Ava said, “you came over to see me?”

Weston nodded as he slid a sack across the table. “You forgot this.”

Ava peeked inside the sack, “Oh, yes. I’ve been meaning to come by and pick this up.”

“If you two will excuse me I’ve got an appointment in town. Don’t be a stranger, Weston,” She patted his shoulder as she left.

Weston looked around. “The last time I was in this kitchen was after Mr. Swanson’s funeral, that’s been ages. Nothing much has changed around here,” Weston said as he shook his head.

“What?” Ava asked.

“I was thinking how Edith was. She probably didn’t have an appointment, she just wanted to give us time alone.”

Ava suddenly looked at her watch, “I’ve got to get to work.”

“You found a job?”

“I’m waitressing at the Tic-Toc.”

“No way!”

“Yep, I’m working part-time to start and then maybe fulltime.”

“Ava, you know most of Sam’s customers are just there to drink and blow off steam and try to hit on the female customers.”

“I know, but I’m not eighteen years old. I can take care of myself.”

“Sorry, I guess it’s not my business.”

“That’s right, I’m not your responsibility. Remember, I told you I could take care of myself.”

“I know, I know. Sorry, I should be heading back to the office myself.”

Ava followed Weston to the door. “Ava, are you sure about this job?”

“I’m sure, Weston. Don’t look so worried, I’ll be fine.” She said as he put her hand on his back and gently pushed him out the door, laughing.

 

*******

 

By Friday night Weston had come up with a thousand reasons why the Tic-Toc wasn’t the place for Ava to work, but she wasn’t his business. So, why was he pulling into the crowded parking lot of Sam’s Place? He had to check on her.

Music filled the parking lot as Weston killed the engine on his truck. The Tic-Toc was filled to capacity. Weston followed a couple of guys into the bar and immediately noticed several fellows gathered around someone he couldn’t see who. Jake was putting the make on Ava! Weston watched as Jake moved his hand from Ava’s shoulder down her back and he saw red! He stormed across the crowded dance floor and jerked Jake around. “What the!” Jake’s eyes were red and bleary and his speech slurred. “Wes, what’s up bro?” He managed a lop-sided grin as he stumbled back against the bar.

“Outside now!” Weston barked as he shoved Jake toward the door. “Move it!”

Ava caught up with the two men on the front steps of the bar, “Weston, don’t make a big thing out of it, he’s drunk.”

“Go back inside, Ava. I’ll handle this.” Weston shoved Jake down the steps not looking back at Ava. She returned to the bar.

When he returned a few minutes later with no sign of Jake, Sam motioned him over, “Where is he?”

“Sleeping it off.”

“You didn’t flatten him did you?”

“No. Give him a couple of hours and then check on him, okay?”

“Sure,” Sam replied.

“Sam, find someone to replace Ava. She isn’t working here anymore.” Weston said.

Sam looked from Ava to Weston and back to Ava, “Well?” he asked.

“Weston Morris, I can take care of myself!”

Weston looked at Sam, “Can she have a break?”

“Sure take all the time you need Ava,” Sam said.

Ava reluctantly followed Weston outside. “Come on over to my pickup, we need to talk. “Ava, this place isn’t good for you.”

“It pays the rent, Weston. I need this job.”

“Have you thought anymore about going back to Nashville?”

“Of course, I’ve thought about it but I’m not going back! I don’t have anything to go back to? I like it here and I can’t believe you just told Sam I quit? Weston, what am I supposed to do now?”

“I don’t know what I was thinking. I was just so pissed off with Jake I just lost it. I couldn’t stand it when he had his hands all over you.”

“I was handling him,” Ava insisted.

“I’m sorry, but Ava, haven’t you ever done something on the spur of the moment?”

“What a question to ask someone who ran out on a church full of people waiting for a wedding.”

“I’ll think of something,” Weston tried to sound convincing.

“No, please, Weston. Don’t think when it involves me. Let me handle it. Now, go home, please.”

He waved as he left Ava wondering if perhaps he was right, the Tic-Toc wasn’t for her.

[] Chapter 5

 

 

The reception area was jammed when Weston arrived. “Morning, Marilyn. Looks like we’re in for a busy day.”

“I heard you had a busy weekend,” she replied.

“Gossip sure travels fast.” Weston disappeared into his office with Marilyn on his heels.

“Weston, if you have a minute, I need to talk to you.”

“Sure, sit down. It sounds serious.”

“I need to take a few weeks off. My mother is having surgery.”

“I hope it isn’t serious.”

“She is having a hip replacement.”

“When?”

“The middle of next month, but I wanted to be sure you could manage without me for probably six to eight weeks.”

“I’m sure I can manage, but, it won’t be easy, Marilyn,” Weston said. “Why don’t you call Temps Are Us and see if they have anyone who could fill in.”

“I already phoned and they are working on it.”

“You think of everything, Marilyn. Don’t worry it will work out okay.”

 

*******

 

A week had passed since Weston had taken the liberty of quitting Ava’s job for her and he hadn’t had the nerve to face her. He rang the doorbell and waited, hoping she didn’t sock him one when she saw him. The door opened slightly and instead of Mrs. Swanson, Ava, was standing behind the door, dressed in shorts and a knit top. “Weston, what are you doing here?”

“I just dropped by to see how things have been going.”

“Okay, I guess. Come on in.” He followed her to the kitchen trying not to look at her figure that fit so perfectly in those shorts. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Coffee would be good.” While Ava poured the coffee, Weston tried not to look at her backside. “Have you found another …. job?”

“Not yet, but I’ve put my application in everywhere I could think might hire me.”

“I’m really sorry about that stunt the other night.”

“Well, Weston, I’ve had time to think about it and I was pretty mad at first but I’ve decided that probably wasn’t the place for me.”

Weston was shocked at her declaration, “Have you talked to your fiancé yet?”

“No, but I did return the ring and I don’t miss it. My hand feels so much lighter.”

“Didn’t he call when he got it?”

“Not a word, but I didn’t expect he would.” Trying to change the subject she said, “How is Toby?”

“Fine.” Weston hesitated, “I guess you are wondering why I’m here.”

“Sort of.”

“I have a proposition for you and before you say no, hear me out. I’ve been thinking, what would you say about working for me.”

“I didn’t know you were hiring.”

“My office manager’s mother is having surgery and she needs to take some time off and I thought you would be perfect. Let me make it up to you.”

“You don’t have to do that Weston. I told you I didn’t really like that job at Sam’s.”

“You’d be doing me a favor, Ava.”

“Weston, please I’m sure there are dozens of women in Woodson who would jump at the chance to work for a handsome vet.”

“So you think I’m handsome?”

“Weston, please.” Ava rolled her eyes.

“My housekeeper is leaving soon so I could use your help with Toby, too. Maybe you could work mornings in the office and afternoons at my house.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Take your time. I think it would be the perfect solution for both of us. Now, I need to get back to work.”

“Okay, and thanks, Weston. You seem to always be rescuing me.”

[] Chapter 6

 

 

Ava was up early on Monday. She selected navy slacks and a white blouse for her first day at Weston’s clinic.

“Don’t you look nice,” Mrs. Swanson greeted her as she entered the kitchen.

“Something smells great.”

“I baked muffins. Have one, dear.”

“You are spoiling me, Mrs. Swanson,” Ava said as she took a bite. “I must have gained five pounds already.”

“Child, you need to add some meat on those bones of yours. Did you need me to drive you to work?”

“No, Weston, is picking me up. He wants me to meet Maria before she leaves so she can give me Toby’s schedule. Didn’t I tell you I’d be working afternoons at Weston’s house.”

“Yes you mentioned it,” Mrs. Swanson replied. “Now, dear, you have a good day and I’ll see you this evening.”

The door bell rang signaling Weston had arrived. Ava drew in a breath, she hoped it would go well.

 

*******

 

Weston was quiet on the drive to his house. “Weston, do you think Toby will be okay with me taking Maria’s place?” she broke the silence.

“And, why wouldn’t he?” he smiled at her. He suddenly pulled off the road alongside a woman and child looking down into the ditch. “What happened?” Weston called out.

“I not sure. Becky and I were walking and she noticed the puppy down in the ditch. I guess someone hit him and drove off.”

“I’ll check it out,” Weston assured the woman and child as he descended the embankment. He wrapped the injured puppy in a towel and put him in a carrier in his truck. “I’ll take him down to the clinic and check him out.”

“Are we still going by your house first?” Ava asked.

“No, you can drop me off at the office and take my truck over to the house and meet Maria. I’ll call and let her know what happened.”

“You trust me with your truck?”

“I trust you with my son, why wouldn’t I?” He was beginning to have feelings for her beyond someone that needed rescuing. He’d have to wait and see how things worked out.

[] Chapter 7

 

 

It was well after five when Weston arrived home. He checked the mailbox and went in search of Ava and Toby, “Hey, guys!” Weston called out.

“Hi, Dad, guess what we’re doing?”

“Reading,” Weston replied as he sat down beside Ava.

“How is the puppy?” Ava asked, “I told Toby about how you rescued him.”

“Yea, Dad, how is the puppy?”

“He should be okay in a few days – nothing broken.”

“Can we find his owner?” Toby asked, “I bet they are sad.”

Weston didn’t have the heart to tell his son that someone probably dropped the puppy off on the road and didn’t care. “I was thinking we could call down to the newspaper office and see if we could put in an ad for a “found puppy” and see if anyone calls.”

“Great, I know you can find his family.”

“We’ll give it a try,” Weston said. “Now, what about supper? How does a pizza sound?”

“Great,” Toby replied, “Can Ms. Ava stay and eat with us?”

Ava nodded.

“Sure, shall we get the deluxe?” Weston asked.

“Yes,” They both replied in unison.

 

*******

 

Weston cleared away the dishes while Ava went inside to get her sweater. “I like Ms. Ava,” Toby announced.

“I thought you would. Run inside and see if she is ready to go home.”

“Can’t she stay here? No one is using Maria’s room.”

“Toby, Ms. Ava rents a room from Mrs. Swanson.”

“I know, but I was hoping she could stay here.”

Weston smiled. He had considered offering Ava the use of Maria’s room but with the attraction he felt toward her he wasn’t sure it was a good idea. His cell phone rang as Ava was returning from the kitchen. A few seconds later Weston snapped his phone shut and turned to Ava, “We have a slight change of plans. Marty has a sick mare so I have to stop by the office and get some meds and then we’ll drop you off. Toby can sleep in the truck. I don’t know how long this will take.”

Toby frowned, “I hate sleeping in that truck!”

“I have an idea,” Ava smiled, “Why don’t I stay here so Toby could sleep in his own bed. I could use your sofa.”

“No, just use Maria’s room. Toby can get you settled in.” Ava and Toby disappeared up the stairs, hand and hand. It looked right. He hoped he wasn’t getting in too deep.

 

*******

 

Weston found Ava and Rayland having coffee when he returned home. “Hey, bro, how’s the mare?”

“Better, I think she will be fine.” Weston could detect a tension in the air between Ava and Rayland but he was too beat to question them. “Can you drive Ava home? I need a hot shower and some shut-eye before I go into the clinic and check on the puppy.”

“Sure, if’s it is okay with Ava?”

“Of course,” Ava answered quickly.

Weston watched the two leave while he poured himself a cup of coffee. Something was going on between them and he aimed to find out what it was but at the moment he needed sleep.

 

*******

 

Ava tried to explain the picture to Rayland. She had been eighteen and her Mom was sick. She agreed to pose for the Harley Davidson calendar as Miss October. They needed the money.

She shivered when she remembered Rayland removing the picture from the envelope and asking, “Does she look familiar?” It was her perched on a motorcycle dressed in a skimpy bathing suit.

When Rayland asked ‘have you told him’, she had to say no. He had given her three days to tell Weston or he would. The last thing Rayland had said was ‘no one keeps secrets like that from my brother.’

She had three days to decide how to tell Weston – three days.

On day three, she arrived at Weston’s house feeling sick. Toby ran down the steps, “Ms. Ava, your back, I missed you. Dad wants to talk to you. I’ll go get him. He’s on the phone.”

“I’ll find him, Toby.”

Ava walked slowly toward the kitchen and entered just as Weston looked up. Unsmiling he motioned to a chair. He ended his call and turned to her, “You didn’t think I’d find out? How could you have posed for that? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Ava brushed away a tear, “I wanted to but I couldn’t.”

“After Linda, I swore I would never get involved with anyone who didn’t trust me enough to tell me everything.”

“I’m really sorry, Weston. I really am.” She didn’t give him a chance to speak, she grabbed her purse and left.

How could he explain this to an eight year old boy without hurting him? Toby loved Ava and he did, too.

[] Chapter 8

 

 

Weston couldn’t sleep, eat or focus on anything. After Ava left, he felt lost. He lied to Toby when the child asked about Ava and told him she had decided to return to Nashville. He was pissed at Rayland for telling him and at Ava for not. After all the crap he had spouted off to her about telling him everything he couldn’t face himself in the mirror. All he knew was he needed her, but first he had some secrets he needed to confess and until he did he would remain a lost, lonely soul. He thought about calling Ava but decided a visit might be better.

Weston pulled into Mrs. Swanson’s driveway and immediately spotted the older woman working in her garden. She looked up and shaded her eyes with her hands, smiled, and said, “Weston, it’s good to see again. Are you here to see Ava?”

“Is she around?” He asked.

“That Tyler guy found her and came to take her back to Nashville. I think they patched things up.”

Weston’s heart sank. He was too late. “Has she already gone?”

“No, she is still packing. I don’t like that Tyler.” Mrs. Swanson said.

“Is she up in her room?”

“She was when I came outside. Do you want me to go get her?”

“No, if it’s okay I’d like to surprise her!”

 

*******

 

Ava had spent the morning trying to decide if she was doing the right thing by going back with Tyler, but it was the only way to keep her brother out of prison. He had made it clear that if she didn’t go along with his plan his family would press charges against her brother and the rest would be history. She was ready to go but she wasn’t sure. She stared at the ring Tyler had put back on her finger but it didn’t feel right. A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts, “Weston!”

“Can I come in? I’ll understand if you don’t want to see me. I need to explain some things and then you can tell me to get lost.”

“Come on in. She stepped aside. “What did you want to tell me? Don’t worry I’m going back to Nashville.”

“Why, Ava?”

“I don’t want to cause any more trouble.”

“So Tyler convinced you to come back.” He glanced down at her finger, “And, marry him.”

“Yes,” she replied, “I’m not sure it will work out but we’ll see.”

“Ava, I need to tell you something.”

“No, Weston, you don’t owe me an explanation.”

“But, I do.” He insisted. “Remember when I told you about my whirlwind courtship and quickie marriage and then how Linda got pregnant on the first night?”

“Yes…”

“I found out later she was already pregnant.”

“Lots of people get together before they are married. Tyler wanted us to sleep together but I insisted on waiting.”

“But we didn’t have sex before the wedding. I knew she wasn’t a virgin but I didn’t know she was already two months pregnant.

“How did you find out?”

“An old friend of mine was Linda’s doctor and he didn’t know Linda hadn’t been honest with me so he accidentally spilled the beans.”

“Does Linda know you know?”

“No, you and her doctor are the only two who know, not even Rayland knows. So, you see I haven’t been truthful.”

“But, you did it to protect Toby.”

“Ava when you agreed to those pictures you were a desperate teenager and you did it to help your Mom. Do you think that makes you a bad person? I’ve had a week to think about how I reacted to that picture and I was stupid.”

“You could never be stupid. You just want what is best for Toby. I hope you will find someone to make you and Toby happy.”

“I already have.”

“Are you suggesting what I think you are?” Ava asked.

“I love you, Ava. I think I have from the first night in the bar when you looked so….lost.”

“I felt the same way but it just took me longer…” she didn’t finish. His lips were covering hers in the warmest, most loving kiss she had ever experienced.

 

*******

 

A few months later……

 

Weston felt the box in his pocket. He walked up and placed his hands on Ava’s shoulders, turning her to him. “I’m the luckiest guy in the whole world.”

“No, I’m the luckiest woman. I have a wonderful husband and a terrific son.”

He placed a box in her hand.

“What’s this?”

“A present for my beautiful wife.”

“But, Weston, I thought the cruise was my wedding present.”

“Yes, but I wanted something special for you to remember this trip when we’re old and grey.”

She opened the box and removed a gold necklace with two tiny intertwined hearts.

“Look on the back.”

She looked at the inscription: Weston loves Ava forever. She smiled at him, “Forever and ever.”

 

The End

 


Elusive Bride

Elusive Bride is a love story about a gutsy young woman, Ava Andrews, who decides on her wedding day she can't go through with the marriage. When she leaves a church filled with family and friends and tells the limo driver to "just go" she has no idea she will land up in a near-by town at a neighborhood bar, befriended by Weston Morris, a local veterinarian and all-around good ole boy. Will Weston convince Ava to go back and work things out with her fiancé or persuade her to hang around his hometown and start a new life? A life that includes him and his young son, Toby. Elusive Bride will hopefully convince you that sometimes even when you think you have it all figured out there is still time to change your mind.

  • ISBN: 9781311887580
  • Author: Nancy Moore
  • Published: 2016-05-23 18:20:08
  • Words: 9998
Elusive Bride Elusive Bride