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The crossroads cafe, p.1
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       The Crossroads Cafe, p.1

           Deborah Smith
 
The Crossroads Cafe


  Table of Contents

  Praise

  Copyright Page

  Title Page

  PART ONE

  Prologue - Cathy Crossroads, North Carolina

  Chapter 1 - Thomas Ten Months Earlier

  The Day of the Accident

  Cathy Beverly Hills, California

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Chapter 2 - Thomas Wild Woman Ridge

  Chapter 3 - Cathy Los Angeles, The Burn Ward

  Thomas

  Chapter 4 - Cathy Contact Is Made

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Chapter 5 - Thomas The Privy

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Chapter 6 - Thomas Baptist Stone Monkeys

  Cathy

  PART TWO

  Chapter 7 - Cathy The Phantom of Hollywood

  Thomas

  Chapter 8 - Cathy The Seclusion Worsens

  Chapter 9 - Thomas Cora And Ivy Arrive

  Thomas

  Chapter 10 - Cathy The Darkening Ruby

  Thomas

  Chapter 11 - Cathy Decision Time

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Chapter 12 - Thomas The News Articles

  Cathy

  PART THREE

  Chapter 13 - Thomas Thanksgiving

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Chapter 14 - Cathy The Next Morning

  Chapter 15 - Thomas One Week Later

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Chapter 16 - Cathy At Delta’s House That Night

  Chapter 17 - Thomas The Next Morning

  PART FOUR

  Chapter 18 - Cathy The Log Splitter Girls

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Chapter 19 - Thomas Chicago

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy

  PART FIVE

  Chapter 20 - Thomas The Dark Side Of Winter

  Cathy

  Chapter 21 - Thomas Sherryl’s Letter To Her Sister

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy Midnight

  Thomas

  Chapter 22 - Cathy Halfway to Dawn

  Thomas

  Chapter 23 - Cathy Beginnings

  PART SIX

  Chapter 24 - Cathy February

  Thomas

  Chapter 25 - Cathy Clearing The Way

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Chapter 26 - Thomas April

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy - The Proposal

  Chapter 27 - Cathy At The Crossroads

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Thomas

  Cathy

  PART SEVEN

  Chapter 28 - Cathy Restoration

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Chapter 29 - Cathy The Speech

  Thomas

  Thomas

  Thomas

  Cathy

  Delta’s Biscuit History and Recipes

  Some Good Biscuit Recipes

  THE CROSSROADS CAFÉ READING GUIDE

  Dedication

  The WaterLilies Series

  Non-Fiction

  ALL GOD’S CREATURES

  THE MOSSY CREEK

  HOMETOWN SERIES

  THE MOSSY CREEK

  HOMETOWN SERIES

  THE MOSSY CREEK HOMETOWN SERIES

  SWEET TEA & JESUS SHOES

  MORE SWEET TEA

  CREOLA’S MOONBEAM

  Praise for Award-Winning Author Deborah Smith

  “What is it about Southern writers that make their words on paper become audible voices in readers’ heads? Pat Conroy does it, with long, languorous sentences and poetically phrased prose. Roy Blount uses folksy characters and good-old-boy humor. And countless others have earned a voice over 200 years or so. Add to that list Deborah Smith.”

  —The Colorado Springs Gazette

  “Smith is an exceptional storyteller . . . Exciting and heartwarming.”

  —Booklist

  “A storyteller of distinction.”

  —BookPage

  “Deborah Smith is one writer who definitely has become a standard of excellence in the arena of contemporary women’s fiction.”

  —Harriet Klausner, Amazon.com’s top reviewer

  “Readers of the novels of Anne Rivers Siddons will welcome into their hearts Deborah Smith.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  “[Deborah Smith] . . . just keeps getting better.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “For sheer storytelling virtuosity, Ms. Smith has few equals.”

  —Richmond Times-Dispatch

  “A stellar romance,”

  —PEOPLE Magazine, When Venus Fell

  A Place To Call Home

  “A gracefully written and absorbing tale . . . seductive . . .a page-turner.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Laughter, wonderment, unrequited love! Meddling old biddies, warring families, lovers reunited. What more could you want?”

  —Rita Mae Brown

  “A rich evocation of family and place.”

  —Library Journal

  “A must-read . . . sweet, salty, passionate and wise.”

  —Woman’s Own

  “These characters leap off the pages. A moving story that holds you to the end and has all the warmth and tenderness of LaVyrle Spencer at her best.”

  —Iris Johansen

  “This incredibly magical book will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your heart. Storytelling at its VERY best!”

  —Romantic Times

  “Clear the decks when you read this book because you’re not going to be able to put it aside until you’ve finished the last delicious page.”

  —Janet Evanovich

  “An engrossing read. The reader’s sense is that these two could only belong to one another, and no one else. I also loved the rich detail of family life, especially the uniquely Southern aspects.”

  —Eileen Goudge

  “Rarely will a book touch your heart like A Place To Call Home. So sit back, put your feet up and enjoy.”

  —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  “Stylishly written, filled with Southern ease and humor.”

  —The Tampa Tribune

  “A beautiful, believable love story.”

  —Chicago Tribune

  “This is Southern storytelling at its best.”

  —Cox News Service

  “Enchanting new novel . . . a beautiful love story of reunion.”

  —The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC

  On Bear Mountain

  “Beautifully written . . . A shimmering web of sorrows and joys.”

  —Booklist

  “A poignant love story . . . Highly recommended.”

  —Library Journal

  “One of those rare novels that stay in your heart long after the final page is turned.”

  —New York Times bestselling author, Kristin Hannah

  “As addicting as chocolate.”

  —Baton Rouge Advocate

  “Haunting . . . a rock-solid romantic mystery . . . reaffirms that goodness in human nature will prevail.”

  —Associated Press

  “A rich and passionate novel.”

  —Pat Cunningham Devoto

  “A splendid story of love and honor . . . written with easy charm and sassy wit . . . a romance to treasure.”

  —Booklist (starred review)

  Sweet Hush

&n
bsp; “One terrific, roller coaster of a read.”

  —Bestselling author, Mary Jo Putney

  “A bodacious tale of Southern family heroism.”

  —BookPage

  “The story is fresh and passionate . . . A tale about a strong-willed woman out to protect her heritage, her legacy, and, most important, her son.”

  —The Columbus Dispatch

  Stone Flower Garden

  “Readers will be wringing out their hankies.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Gripping and atmospheric.”

  —San Jose Mercury News

  Charming Grace

  “Romance is about the future, and everyone gets a new one in this big-hearted Southern tale.”

  —The Washington Post

  BelleBooks, Inc.

  ISBN 0-9768760-5-1

  The Crossroads Café

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imaginations or are used ficticiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2006 by BelleBooks, Inc.

  Printed and bound in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

  Published by:

  BelleBooks, Inc. • P.O. Box 67 • Smyrna, GA 30081

  We at BelleBooks enjoy hearing from readers. You can contact us at the address above or at [email protected]

  Visit our website—www.BelleBooks.com

  First Edition September 2006

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3

  Cover design: John Cole and Martha Crockett

  Cover photo: Andrew Gunners

  PART ONE

  Beauty in the flesh will continue to rule the world.

  —Florenz Ziegfeld

  The ‘feminine’ woman is forever static and childlike. She is like the ballerina in an old-fashioned music box, her unchanging features tiny and girlish, her voice tinkly, her body stuck on a pin, rotating in a spiral that will never grow.

  —Susan Faludi

  You know, when I first went into the movies Lionel Barrymore played my grandfather. Later he played my father and finally he played my husband. If he had lived I’m sure I would have played his mother. That’s the way it is in Hollywood. The men get younger and the women get older.

  —Lillian Gish

  Prologue

  Cathy Crossroads, North Carolina

  January

  Before the accident, I never had to seduce a man in the dark. I dazzled millions in the brutal glare of kliegs on the red carpets of Hollywood, the flash of cameras at the Oscars, the sunlight on the beaches of Cannes. Beautiful women don’t fear the glint of lust and judgment in men’s eyes or the bitter gleam of envy in women’s. Beautiful women welcome even the brightest light. Once upon a time, I had been the most beautiful woman in the world.

  Now I needed the night, the darkness, the shadows.

  “Put the gun down,” I ordered, as I let my bra and sweatshirt fall to the ground. Behind me, a full, white moon hung in a sky of stars above the winter mountains, silhouetting Thomas and me. My breath shivered in the cold air. Beneath my bare feet, the pasture grass was brown and frosted, glistening in the moonlight. There were no other lights in our world, not the pinpoint of a lamp in some distant window, not the wink of a jet high overhead. There might be no other souls in these ancient North Carolina ridges that night. Only Thomas, and me, and the darkness inside us both.

  “I’m warning you for the last time, Cathy,” he said, his voice thick but firm. He wasn’t a man who slurred his words, no matter how drunk he was. “Leave.”

  I unzipped my jeans. My hands trembled. I couldn’t stop staring at the World War II pistol he held so casually, his right arm bent, the gun pointed skyward. Thomas had been a preservation architect; he respected fine craftsmanship, even when choosing a gun with which to kill himself.

  Slowly I pushed my jeans down, along with my panties. The scarred skin along my right thigh prickled at the scrape of denim. I angled my right side away from the moon, trying to illuminate only the left half of my body, my face. Half of me was still perfect. But the other half . . .

  I stepped out of my crumpled clothes and stood there naked, the moonlight safely behind me. The night breeze was a tongue of embarrassment, licking my scarred flesh. My hand twitched with the urge to cover my face. How badly I wanted to hide the awful parts. Thomas watched me without moving, without speaking, without breathing.

  He doesn’t want me. I said quietly, “Thomas, I know I’m no prize, but would you really rather kill yourself than touch me?”

  Not a word, still, not a flicker of reaction. I could barely see his expression in the shadows, and wasn’t sure I wanted to. Shame washed over me like a cold tide. Me, who had once preened for the world without a shred of self-doubt. I turned my back to him, trying not to shiver with defeat. “Just put the gun down. Then I’ll get dressed, and we’ll forget this ever happened.”

  I heard quick steps behind me, and before I could turn, his arms went around me from behind. His hands slid over my bare skin. I twisted my head to the pretty side but he bent his lips to the other and roughly kissed the ruined flesh. I cried with relief, and so did he. No matter what might happen to us later, I saved his life that night. And, for that one night, at least, he saved mine. Hope is in the mirror we keep inside us, love sees only what it wants to see, and beauty is in the lie of the beholder.

  Sometimes, that lie is all you need to survive.

  Chapter 1

  Thomas Ten Months Earlier

  The Day of the Accident

  It was never a good thing when I woke up at sunset on a Saturday in the back of my pickup truck in the café’s graveled parking lot. I had a fierce hangover, and I’d spent all day snoring in a sleeping bag in the truck’s rusty bed. Not long after settling in the Crossroads I’d proudly rescued the truck—a sixty-year-old Chevrolet—from a mountain junkyard. I was an architect, not a mechanic, but since my specialty had always been preservation I couldn’t resist the challenge.

  Admittedly, my rusty but classic Chevy deserved better than to spend its weekend nights under the café’s giant oak trees. The trees housed a large clan of bad-ass squirrels who crapped on the truck and on me. They were now cheerfully showering the truck, and me, with rotten acorn shells as they did their spring housecleaning.

  When shell fragments bounced off my forehead I opened my bleary eyes. I nearly gagged when I recognized the musky, ballsy, bad-feta-cheese scent that filled my nose. Squinting, I stared up into the face of a small, white goat. He stood beside my head, placidly chewing. Bits of black plastic fell from his lips. Like a dog enjoying a bone, he was demolishing my new cell phone.

 
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