Now includes the bonus short story BABY FEVER!
Baby cribs and baby swings and a winking, blinking doll. Oh my! When Gwen Parker decides it’s time for a grandchild, nothing is going to get in her way.
Liz Templeton is about to have her life turned upside down. When her ex-husband, Mitch Parker, returns to town to hunt for the legendary Lost Lake treasure, her former mother-in-law is determined to reunite the estranged couple. While Liz dodges her attempts, she must also deal with the mischievous ghost of her teenage daughter, who is obsessed with discovering whether or not Mitch is her father.
Liz has one chance to stop her family from driving her insane…and falling head over heels in love with her ex isn’t part of the plan.
Available at Amazon!
Complete Character List:
- Liz Templeton
- Mitch Parker
- (coming soon)
Extras & Tidbits: Want to get the inside scoop on this story? Then check out the blog posts below.
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Book 22 of the Bandit Creek series has finally arrived and – you guessed it – it's WEDDING FEVER by Sheila Seabrook. What? Not surprised? You mean someone let out my secret? 🙂 First off, WEDDING FEVER is a novella, like the rest of the Bandit Creek books. I had a...read more
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Liz Templeton woke to the familiar sound of girlish snoring and the bleep-bleep-bleep of her cell phone. As she grabbed the unit off the nightstand, a sleepy voice came out of the darkness.
“What time is it, Mom?”
She squinted at the clock. “Four in the morning, baby. Go back to sleep.”
Only one person called her in the middle of the night.
She thumbed the talk button.
Randy Parker, her editor at the Bandit Creek Gazette, barked his orders through the line. “Tomorrow’s headline. Diver Rescues JD From Lost Lake. I want you out there to cover the story before it’s over. I need it for tomorrow’s edition.”
The line went dead. Groaning, Liz rolled out of bed and fumbled on the floor for the sweats and hoodie she’d worn last night.
Her daughter’s disembodied voice floated out of the darkness. “Want me to come?”
Fifteen-years-old and snarky, Naomi was the bane of her existence and the love of her life. “Stay in bed, baby. I won’t be long.”
By the time Liz headed to the kitchen, she could hear her mom stirring in the bedroom down the hall. She grabbed her backpack from the table and pulled open the fridge door. A moment later, the soft soled sound of her mother’s bunny slippers padded across the linoleum.
Betty Templeton may have been a fashion diva in her younger days, but now she valued comfort over short skirts and high heels. “JD again?”
“Yep.” Liz grabbed an apple juice box, shut the fridge door, and tossed the juice container into her pack. “If there’s one thing I abhor more than drunken local legends, it’s being woken in the middle of the night to cover said legend’s story.”
Her mom tsked. “How many times can one old drunk die of blood poisoning?”
“I’ve lost count.” With a wave of one hand, Liz headed out the back door. “Catch you later, Mom.”
“You be careful out there,” her mom yelled after her.
Jumping onto her bicycle, Liz turned on the tiny light and pedaled out of town. As she crossed the bridge over the creek and turned onto the gravel road leading to Lost Lake, darkness engulfed the road.
Somewhere in the vicinity of Crow Mountain, a wolf howled and a shiver of unease crawled up her spine. But there was nothing to fear in Bandit Creek.
No. What she feared the most—or rather who—had left her and the town behind in a cloud of dust.
With a dour pull to her lips, she thought, Good riddance, Mitch Parker.
As she came out of the forest of spruce trees and spotted the flash of ambulance lights, the sky in the east had started to glow pink with the promise of a new day. Liz jumped off her bike, leaned it against a tree, and saw JD on the ground near the water’s edge. Laid out like a corpse, he clutched the ever present bottle of Jack Daniels to his body.
In another hour, daylight would ruin the ambience of the photo. Liz headed for the lake front, pulled the camera out of her backpack, and clicked off a half dozen shots.
She exchanged the camera for a pad of paper and pencil and jotted down notes for the news story, beginning with the rumors she’d heard over the years.
That the current JD was the original Jack Daniels.
That he’d been dying of blood poisoning ever since the 1911 flood.
As far as she was concerned, the real Jack Daniels had died in the flood, when Old Town had been buried in the waters now known as Lost Lake. Surely the grizzled old man had to be his descendant.
Scanning the area, Liz noted the essentials—time of day, current weather condition, activity surrounding JD, and finally, the people in the immediate area. She recognized everyone except the lone man standing off to the side, his back to the rising sun, his face in shadows.
A stranger in town, not unusual for this time of year.
Situated two hours northeast of Missoula, Montana, Bandit Creek was home to three thousand people. But in the spring, when the ice came off Lost Lake and the weather warmed up, the population doubled in size.
By mid-July, a steady stream of tourists had infiltrated the town to partake in the annual spring and summer events. Divers flocked to Lost Lake with hopes of discovering the fabled treasure or—at the very least—to swim around the ruins of Old Town and maybe take home a souvenir or two.
Judging by the breadth of wide shoulders and lean hips, and the fact that he was half in his diving gear, Liz figured this stranger was here to check out Old Town.
She headed toward JD, crouched down at his side, and directed her questions toward the ambulance attendant. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s going to live.”
“Who made the call?”
The ambulance attendant hooked a thumb in the diver’s direction. “Guy over there. Good thing he acted fast. JD stopped breathing and if he hadn’t been tended to immediately, we might have lost him this time.”
Liz glanced toward the diver again. Something twigged, some memory that reached back further than she ever allowed herself to go. Back to a sad and unhappy time before her daughter reappeared—
A burp reeking of alcohol brought her attention back to JD.
The ancient shamanic bum looked otherworldly and serene, like he’d already passed beyond the bounds of this earth. Until he belched and coughed and took a shallow breath, proving he was very much alive.
And as legends were prone to do, he’d probably outlive them all.
Behind Liz, a rustle of grass and a flash of white light caught her attention. She didn’t need to turn her head to see who stood there. Naomi leaned over her shoulder and said, “Just die, old man, and put us all out of our misery.”
JD’s eyes flashed open. His bloodshot gaze fixed on Naomi. “Who’re you?”
Startled, Liz sat back on her heels while Naomi whispered, “Mom, what’s going on?”
The ambulance attendant put one hand on JD’s chest. “Stay put, JD. I need to make sure you’re okay before I let you go. You nearly drowned.”
With a muttered curse, JD resumed his prone position on the ground, hooked his arm around his bottle of Jack Daniels, and gathered it snug against his chest. “Who saved me?”
Once again, the attendant hooked his thumb toward the diver. Liz followed JD’s gaze. Behind her, Naomi let out a low wolf whistle. “Who’s that?”
JD frowned, but kept his attention on the stranger. He raised one arm, his bony fingers crooked. “You there, boy. Come here.”
As the diver came out of the shadows into the ever growing morning light, the memories Liz had buried deep erupted. She stared up at the familiar face. His gaze met hers only briefly before he turned his attention to JD and crouched down at his side. “No need for thanks, JD.”
Liz’s heart stuttered in her chest, then started pounding in her ears as JD grabbed the diving gear by the fist and pulled Mitch Parker down close enough to spit in his face.
“Do I know you, boy?”
Naomi touched Liz’s shoulder, her voice a bare whisper. “Wow. He’s pretty hunky for an old guy.”
“Yes, sir. I’m Mitch Parker, Randy and Gwen Parker’s eldest son.”
“Don’t you ever—I repeat—ever save me again.”
JD started coughing and the ambulance attendant shouldered Mitch out of the way.
With a grace Liz recalled far too well, Mitch straightened to his full height and backed up a few steps, the hard wall of his naked chest now aglow with the rising sun, his gaze hidden by the dark sunglasses he’d slipped over his eyes.
Behind her, Naomi sighed. “Wow. Now there’s a man you couldn’t say no to. Right, Mom?”
Mitch didn’t hear the teenager as he turned away and walked to the lake front where he resumed pulling on his scuba gear.
JD stopped coughing and shoved the attendant’s hands away. “Let me alone. You know I’m gonna live, so stop all yer fussing.”
As Liz started to push to her feet, JD caught her by the arm, his eyes shining with the fever of one suddenly possessed. “If love comes knocking, don’t answer the door.”
“What?” She pulled back to escape the alcohol fumes and stared at him, aghast because he’d never before given her a hint of advice.
“You heard me.” He let go of her arm, grabbed the Jack Daniels bottle by the neck, unscrewed the lid, and tipped the bottle to his lips.
While he guzzled down nearly a quarter of the amber liquid, the ambulance attendant tried to take the bottle away. “That stuff’s going to kill you, JD.”
Strong for someone who was normally so inebriated he could barely stand, JD held off the other man with a hand to his chest. At last, he pulled the bottle from his mouth and smacked his lips. “It’s for medicinal purposes. I’d be dead without it.”
JD tucked the bottle to his side and turned back to Liz. “You know I’m right, but you’re not gonna pay a lick of attention to what I say, are ya?”
Liz straightened and backed away, her focus shifting from the old shamanic bum to the diver.
Naomi elbowed her in the ribs. “Aren’t you gonna go after the hunk?”
“Who are you?” JD asked, his voice louder and stronger this time.
Liz said, “Hush, JD. You’re imagining things.”
Then she nudged Naomi ahead of her and made her way to her bicycle, wondering how she could get rid of her daughter so she could talk to her ex-husband alone.