Synopses & Reviews
There were ghosts in the house. Rachel Austin could feel them. She walked through the upstairs, going from dark, empty room to dark, empty room. Remembering. Once this house had been filled with laughter. But that was before, when Daddy was still alive. Before that last rodeo ... and that last bull. When he died, the laughter died with him. Afterward her mother, Christine, had died, too. It just took her seven years longer to quit breathing.
Rachel needed to cry, but there were no tears left in her to shed. Tomorrow was the auction. Tomorrow this house and the eighty acres that Pete and Christine Austin had owned would be overrun with people. By sunset tomorrow it would all be gone.
Rachel's footsteps echoed as she moved from the doorway of what had been her parents' bedroom to the bedroom down the hall. A faint moan drifted through the house. She wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered. It was only the wind blowing through a partially open window.
She pushed the door open, then walked into her room. She'd never noticed how small it really was. She walked to the single window overlooking the back pasture and stared into the darkness, imagining she could see the lights of Houston Bookout's home.
Houston. Just his name made her ache. It seemed that she'd loved him forever. If she closed her eyes and thought real hard, she could still remember the sound of his voice and the feel of his fingers around her wrist when he'd first asked her to dance.
Seventeen. She'd been seventeen to his twenty-six years. Before the night was over, she'd been wild, crazy in love. Nothing had changed. But that was three years ago. All the while she'd been planning to leave,he'd been waiting for her to grow up.
Her legs began to tremble as she turned her back on the night. She couldn't think about Houston right now, or about the fact that he assumed they would marry. There was tomorrow to get through.
Her thoughts drifted back to her childhood. For years their neighbors had predicted Pete Austin would go broke. That he couldn't manage a dollar, let alone a small ranch. Basically, they had been right. Every penny he had made he'd put back into rodeo entry fees and travel expenses. Now and then he would put by just enough to keep the bank off their backs. The next bull ride was always going to put him in the money. The next bull ride was always going to be his last.
Then one day it was. It took Christine Austin seven more years of struggling to pay debts before the bank finally called it quits. But cancer beat the bank to Christine. She died before the foreclosure notice came. Rachel got it, and the bill for her mother's funeral, on the same day. It had been a long time coming, but tomorrow it would be over. Tomorrow she would also be homeless.
Suddenly panic struck. She bolted from the room and down the hall, feeling her way in the dark. Then she was at the stairwell and running down the stairs, stumbling once, then again, in an effort to get out of the house.
But maneuvering on the lower floor was not as easy as it had been upstairs. In preparation for the auction, furniture was all out of place. Tables were piled high with dishes and linens and pictures that had once hung on the walls. Even the painting of the great Native American Sequoyah, her Cherokee mother's ancestor, was lumped in with everything else to sell.
The ghosts werecloser here, hovering over the tangible artifacts of a life they no longer needed, yet unable to move on because of the daughter they'd left behind.
Rachel pushed her way past a chair, then two lamps, then the old, battered desk where her mother had sat to pay bills. Shaking, she pushed the screen door open and then moved out to the porch, gasping for air. The need to move beyond the miasma of failure in which she'd been raised was overwhelming. When her feet hit the dry Texas earth, she started to run. Past the split-rail fence separating yard from pasture, toward the barn, then past the broken-down gate hanging on the corral, toward the moon hanging low in the sky.
Pain was everywhere now. In her legs, in her belly, in her heart, in her mind. Finally she stopped and looked back toward the ranch, to the barn and the house and the ghosts.
Tonight was the end of it all.
She started to scream.
Houston Bookout had been driving back and forth from Emery Feed and Seed in Mirage to his ranch for more than twelve years now. He'd started working for Dale Emery at the age of seventeen, putting in a few hours after school and on weekends. Loading fifty-pound sacks of feed for Dale Emery's customers had put muscles on his body that no fancy gym workout could match. At the age of twenty-one he'd gotten a commercial driver's license and gone from loading sacks to hauling them. For the last eight years his job had consisted of driving an eighteen-wheeler for Emery Feed and Seed. Although his work was steady, there was no chance of advancement. Except for owning the store, which on a ten-dollar- an-hour paycheck wasn't going to happen, Houston had reached the apex of his employmentopportunity. It was enough money to get by on, but not enough on which to grow.
By sheer guts and determination he held on to the 160 acres of hardscrabble land on which he'd been raised. In a good year he could run about twenty head of cattle ...
After losing her parents, Rachel Austin, a half-Cherokee beauty, leaves home for New York City and rockets to the top of the modeling world. With money and fame beyond her wildest dreams, Rachel is still lonely--longing for the childhood sweetheart she left behind.
A Million Miles From Home
When Rachel Austin bid goodbye to her hometown of Mirage, Texas, she knew she was leaving behind disappointment, tragic loss, and painful memories. But she was also leaving Houston Bookout, the only man she could ever love. In the frightening bustle of Rachel's new life, her intelligence, poise, and stunning half-Cherokee beauty help rocket her to the top of the modeling world. But money and fame cannot soothe a broken heart or protect Rachel from danger. And only when Rachel stands to lose everything does she learn that her one hope is Houston's love, a passion that cannot be torn apart by distance, glamour, or even a madman's obsession.
Leaving her hometown of Mirage, Texas, is the hardest decision Rachel Austin has ever made. But after losing her parents, and then her family's home, staying would be too painful. Leaving, though, means saying goodbye to Houston Bookout and the magnificent love they have shared since childhood . . . a love that is, for the first time, not enough.
Alone in New York City with little more than her breathtaking half-Cherokee beauty, Rachel gets the break of a lifetime. Rocketing to the top of the modeling world, she soon has money and fame beyond her wildest dreams. Life seems perfect -- until she discovers that all the attention cannot erase her lonely longing. Not until she comes close to losing everything can Rachel see what truly matters -- and the one thing, the only thing, she really needs. . . .
About the Author
With over fifty books in print, award-winning author Sharon Sala, who also writes as Dinah McCall, still has to remind herself from time to time that this isn't a dream.
She learned to read at the age of four and has had her nose in a book ever since. Her introduction into romance came at an early age through the stories of Zane Gray, Grace Livingston Hill and Emily Loring. Her pride in contributing to the genre is echoed by the letters of her fans.
She's a four-time RITA finalist, Winner of the Janet Dailey Award, three-time Career Achievement winner from Romantic Times magazine, four-time winner of the National Reader's Choice Award and five-time winner of the Colorado Romance Writer's Award of Excellence, as well as numerous other industry awards.
Her books are regularly on bestseller lists, such as the New York Times extended list, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Waldenbooks mass market, and many others.
She claims that, for her, learning to read was a matter of evolution, but learning to write and then being published was a revolution. It changed her life, her world and her fate.