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Lydia's Twin Temptation(Divine Creek Ranch 8)

By:Heather Rainier
Chapter One

Fort Stockton, Texas, in early July…

Lydia Webster trudged up the stairs, her footsteps echoing faintly on the metal steps. She’d hoped to be out of this shabby West Texas motel by now. It had been the best she could afford when she realized she might be stranded in Fort Stockton for a while.

The perspiration trickled between her shoulder blades, even though the sun had set hours before. The heat was like a suffocating blanket, and the news she’d just gotten about her 1973 Karmann Ghia only added to her misery. The mechanic had promised he could get her car fixed and running well enough for her to make it out of Fort Stockton, once she got together the money for the repair. He told her the car might run a while longer for short trips to work and home but it wouldn’t last forever as it was.

She’d been saving the money to start over again somewhere else and had almost enough to strike out from Fort Stockton when her little red car had begun making a strange noise and smell. Her boss, Ruben Cortez, had suggested she run it by his cousin’s shop to have it looked at. She didn’t know any other mechanics in town, so she had done as he’d suggested and had been mortified at how much it would cost. The mechanic had told her that she might be able to drive it the way it was a while longer but risked permanent damage if she did.

The repair would wipe out most of the money she’d saved so she’d have to start all over again. That would be hard enough without the threat of poor little Gunther, as she’d nicknamed the car years before, breaking down permanently hanging over her head. She had no idea what she’d do if that happened, but she knew she couldn’t put the decision off. She was either broke again or walking to work every day.

Well, actually she did know what she’d do. But she was determined to make it on her own without help from her brothers, who’d taken it upon themselves to be her personal mother hens. She knew if she made a phone call right now, they’d be there in a matter of hours with a trailer to haul her and all her stuff out of this mess she found herself in.

After her parents had passed away, her mom from cancer and her father from heart failure a few weeks later, she’d moved to Austin from San Angelo to attend the culinary institute. Her mom had instilled in Lydia a love for cooking and her brothers had wanted to help make her and her mother’s dream a reality. Ace and Kemp had set her up in an apartment and even handled the rent for her so she could focus on her schooling.

She’d found a roommate to help cut down the cost, but the situation had never sat right with her, even though they insisted they didn’t mind. It didn’t escape her that during that time she’d felt accountable to them for her grades and progress at the institute. They’d also felt free to share their thoughts on anyone she dated while there.

Hoping to avoid a conflict with them, she’d never questioned how it was that they always seemed to know who she was dating when they were way out in San Angelo. The answer would have pissed her off too much. Private-stinking-investigator-buttinski-brothers.

Thinking of her big brothers, she had to fight the urge to smile because she knew their interference came from their hearts, despite how aggravating she found it. More often than not, they’d been right about the guys she’d dated not being good enough for her. Most of them had proved they were after only one thing.

Whenever her brothers had called, she’d glossed over the pertinent details, managing to sound like everything was fine and she was happy with where she currently was. She was up a creek without a paddle if they ever paid a surprise visit.

Lydia walked along the balcony outside the row of doors until she reached her own. Tilting her head back to ease the tired, sore muscles in her neck, she was about to insert the key in the lock when she noticed the door was ajar. Her heart lurched in her chest.

Oh, what now!

Cautiously pushing the door of her small hotel room open, she gasped at what she found. She listened for any trace of movement, but the room was deserted. The tiny bathroom was visible from the door, and when she saw that it, too, was empty she entered the room.

Everything was gone. Stripped bare. Just…gone. She looked again at the room number screwed to the door to make sure she had the right one. The pleasant scent of lavender still filled the air, masking some of the musty odor of the old motel room, verifying that it was indeed her room.

The last time Chance Carlisle had visited the Oasis Café he’d brought her a gift of lavender aromatherapy products and a beautiful silver bracelet. In light of her unfortunate isolation in Fort Stockton, the gift had made her feel special. She could still remember the hopeful look on Chance’s handsome smile when she’d tried the bracelet on.