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Authors: Anna Jeffrey

Tags: #Romance, #General, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Sweet Water

BOOK: Sweet Water
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What others are saying about Sweet Water


“Sweet Water ... is filled with wondefully complex characters whose personalities are gradually revealed. There are no easy answers for any of them, but the ones they find are mostly happy and satisfyingly realistic. A pleasurable read!” --
Romantic Times


“A warm contemporary romance starring amiable lead protagonists and a town of eccentrics who meddle, matchmake and mother the stars...Fans will enjoy this slice of life in West Texas.”--
The Best Reviews


“Sexy, tender, romantic don’t begin to describe how wonderful this story is.--




Sweet Water


Anna Jeffrey




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Published by

Anna Jeffrey on Kindle


Sweet Water

Copyright © 2006 by Jeffery McClanahan



All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.



License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.



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In spite of my nagging and nitpicking, Kristen Gibson came up with the beautiful
song lyrics that tell Ben’s story. Thank you, Kristen.


Good critique partners are like gold and I have two that fit that category, Mary Jane Meier and Laura Renken.


As always, I thank my husband George for his unwavering faith in me and my daughter, Adrienne, for being my relentless, cheerleading fan.



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Sweet Water



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Chapter 1

Marisa Rutherford was elbow deep, sweating and cleaning and cussing the only espresso machine in Agua Dulce, Texas, when Mr. Patel came into Pecos Belle’s Emporium & Eats and told her the whole damn town had been sold on eBay.

The news brought Marisa up from her task so abruptly she jammed her finger against the side of the espresso machine. She yowled and rubbed the injury and cussed some more. “You’re kidding,” she said through her pain.

“No. I am not.” The East India native’s dark eyes glistened as if he might break into tears.

“He is going to construct a monster petrol station.”

For a fleeting second Marisa wished for an Internet connection so she could personally check that information. Though all of the Agua Dulce citizens knew the embittered widow of the town’s owner had posted the village on the Internet auction a month earlier, no one had believed it would be sold. Who in their right mind would pay a million dollars for a town of ten residents in the most sparsely populated county in Texas? And in West Texas, at that?

Without a good-bye, Mr. Patel turned and headed for the front door, weaving through tables of antiques and flea market wares, dodging aged oxen yokes and weathered hames that hung from the ceiling. As he went, he muttered in a language Marisa didn’t even know the name of, much less understand.

From where she stood in the back of the building--the location of the “Eats” part of Pecos Belle’s Emporium & Eats--she had a clear view of Mr. Patel’s dumpy service station on the opposite side of the highway. The setting sun cast the stucco building in gold, which made it look twice its fifty-year-old age. Mr. Patel sold gasoline outside, but inside, he and his wife and two daughters operated an overcrowded convenience store that peddled everything from quarts of milk to T-shirts with Spider-Man logos on the front.

As Marisa watched him wait for a passing car, then dash across the highway, fear gripped her. How the hell would she support herself and her mother if Agua Dulce’s new owner built one of those mega service stations right next door? Or worse yet, right on top of them. Marisa’s thoughts careened into each other as she considered the consequences of the old brick structure her mother had leased for over thirty years suddenly falling into the hands and under the control of a new owner.

By the time she reassembled the espresso machine, she had worked herself into a full-blown panic. Pecos Belle’s balance sheet showed the combined value of goods for sale and functioning restaurant equipment to be close to a quarter million dollars, an investment accrued over years by her mother. If the new owner demanded that they vacate, what would she do with Mama’s stuff? All she could think of was screeching at her mother. Why had she done business in a leased building, in a privately owned town, in the middle of nowhere, for most of her life?

But Marisa already knew the answer and it was too late for recrimination. The chance of even a rational discussion of the problem was forever shut out of Mama’s brain. A brutal bastard was steadily sucking the intelligence and the very life from the mother who had once been witty, wise and loving. The scourge had a name Marisa had come to equate with hell: Alzheimer’s Disease.

The wall clock that shrieked and chugged like a locomotive at twelve and six every day—only God knew where Mama had gotten it--blasted Marisa from her thoughts. Suppertime. Time to get a meal together for Mama.

She locked the plate glass front door, hung up the CLOSED sign and turned off all but the night lights. Then she went to the kitchen. A gas-flame griddle and a short counter with a stainless-steel cabinet hanging above it, filled one wall of the galley-style room. A huge refrigerator and freezer, a commercial dishwasher and a stainless steel triple sink covered the opposite wall. Marisa could stand between the appliances and touch the refrigerator door with one hand and the hanging cabinet with the other. She couldn’t imagine sixty square feet of space being used more efficiently anywhere in the world.

After spending most of the afternoon cleaning the espresso machine, fatigue weighed heavily, but she pulled a ground beef patty from the refrigerator, placed it on the hot griddle and seasoned it. Pecos Belle’s served hamburgers made of lean sirloin, ground and molded into patties by Marisa herself. She hated that pre-formed, frozen cardboard product too many cafes--including the one where she had last cooked in Arlington, Texas--touted and served up as “fresh, home-style hamburgers.”

She constructed a hamburger with all the trimmings, then sliced it in half and tucked it into a parchment-lined plastic basket with a few French fries. Not the healthiest meal, but Mama loved hamburgers and Marisa indulged her. Her mother was dying. At this point, what difference did it make what she ate?

She turned off the flame under the griddle and spent a few more minutes wiping down and straightening the kitchen. On the way out the back door, she stopped off at the bathroom medicine cabinet in the apartment that butted up to the café’s kitchen and dining area. There, under lock and key, Marisa kept Mama’s assortment of pills. She stored them in the building separate from where she and Mama lived because it was too risky leaving them where they were easily accessible. Mama, in her addled state of mind, might swallow all of them at one time. Marisa bumped one tiny tablet onto her palm and slid it into her pocket.

Carrying the hamburger, she exited through the back door. A Fleetwood singlewide mobile home was set up behind the building where Mama had operated Pecos Belle’s flea arket/antique store and café/coffee bar since before Marisa was born. Oh, and there was a museum of sorts. It boasted reproductions of dinosaur footprints cast in plaster, a stuffed and mounted rattlesnake over fifteen feet long and a giant papier-mâché gorilla statue. There was also a real, full-sized covered wagon dating back to the post-Civil War migration west. Anything to drag a motorist off the highway. If Mr. Patel hadn’t already cornered the market on gasoline, Mama surely would have tried selling that, too.

Marisa followed a rock pathway two hundred feet to the mobile home’s front deck. When she entered the singlewide, she saw her mother sitting in front of TV watching a sit-com. Mama had put her blouse on backward and some strings of pink yarn hung in her white hair--not tied, just sort of draped.

Marisa felt a little ping in her heart. Mama had been so pretty when she was young. Marisa could vaguely remember her blue eyes, complexion like porcelain and long blond hair. Instinct caused a woman who had once been so attractive to still attempt makeup and hairdos, Marisa guessed, but more often than not, the effort came off with Mama looking like a clown. Seeing it broke Marisa’s heart, but she didn’t interfere. Her mother didn’t know the difference and these days, it was rare for anyone but Marisa to see her. What little family they had seldom came and Mama’s friends in Agua Dulce, out of respect, were reluctant to gawk at her decline.

“What’s happening on TV?” Marisa asked, setting the burger on the table in a cramped dining area that was squeezed between the kitchen and the living room.

As she took ice cubes from a tray, Mama answered her question by summarizing the TV show she had been watching, clearly mixing in a few scenes from other TV shows from who knew when.

Marisa pulled a pitcher of tea from the refrigerator and poured it over the ice, stirred in a teaspoonful of sugar and set the glass on the table beside the hamburger. Then, still listening to her mother’s prattle, she urged her up from her recliner and guided her to a chair at the dining table. She wrapped a warm hamburger half in a napkin and placed it in her mother’s wizened hands. “There, now. Eat.”

Mama lifted the burger and obediently took a bite. “I saw your daddy today,” she said, chewing robotically and looking into space, the vacancy in her eyes magnified by thick glasses.

To Marisa’s knowledge, her mother hadn’t set eyes on Marisa’s father since before her birth. She once heard from her Aunt Rosemary that her parents had lived together for a time. “Hec, the Sperm Donor,” Aunt Rosemary called him. Hector Espinosa. He was from Arizona, half Apache and half Mexican, which accounted for Marisa’s olive coloring and straight black hair. And possibly her sometimes hot temper. Her ancestry did not, however, explain her amber eyes.

“Really, Mama? Where was that?”

“I was at a dance in Odessa. I tried to get his attention, but he had his back to me.”

Even now, Mama loved to dance. Marisa had no trouble believing she had once tripped lightly with the best of them. “Awww. That’s too bad.”

“I’m not going over there again,” Mama said. “Nothing but a bunch of drunks. I got so mad I just walked home.”

Odessa was over a hundred miles to the east, but that fact meant nothing. These days she and Mama had many nonsensical conversations. Marisa always played along, not knowing what else to do. “I don’t blame you,” she said.

“Marisa, if he’s found somebody else, you can tell me, you know.”

A burning sensation flew to Marisa’s eyes and she turned away. Goddammit! Hadn’t fate been cruel enough to her gentle, caring mother? Hadn’t it been enough that some sonofabitch she had obviously never been able to put out of her mind left her pregnant and stuck in this West Texas sinkhole of a place for her whole life? No, apparently all of that hadn’t been enough. Now, a disease from hell was taking her mind.

“Why, Mama,” she said, “he could never find someone else like you. Go ahead, now, and finish your supper.”

BOOK: Sweet Water
2.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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