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Lydia's Twin Temptation(Divine Creek Ranch 8)(2)

By:Heather Rainier

Her heart froze in her chest and cold chills spread over her skin as she slammed the door and rushed to the bed frame.

“No, no, no, please no!”

Lydia knelt and looked under the bed, reaching inside the box-spring for the plastic bag she kept her tips and that special piece of jewelry hidden in.

She searched more diligently, thinking perhaps she’d placed it in a different spot after putting yesterday’s tips in it. No. It was gone.

Frustration-induced tears prickled in her eyes. Crouching there in her faded tan waitress uniform, she cried wearily for a minute, wondering what to do next. Tears were useless and wouldn’t get her out of this mess.

Lydia got to her feet, lifted the queen mattress, and tilted it off the bed against the wall. Her search had been frantic and she might have inadvertently knocked the bag from its normal resting place. She lifted the box-spring from the metal frame and closely inspected the underside. Since the cloth covering was already torn, she didn’t feel too bad about ripping it back a little farther. A glint of something caught her eye and she reached inside. Her lip quivered when her fingers came into contact with the cool, metallic object.

More tears slipped down her cheeks when she realized she hadn’t lost everything. The plastic bag containing her money was definitely gone but the intricately crafted sterling silver bracelet Chance Carlisle had given her rested in her hand. Even though it was foolish of her to think it, she wished that he was with her right now. Being around that good-hearted cowboy made her happy, and she felt safe around him. Right now she didn’t feel safe at all.

Lydia called the police and reported the robbery then returned the bed to order. She checked the motel room door, noting that the lock had not been forced. Whoever had broken in either had access to keys or tools that could unlock her door. It could’ve been anyone.

There were no security cameras in the motel, and so there would be very little the police would be able to do to help her, but she at least went through the motions. Already resigned to it, she nodded when they sympathetically told her there was not much to go on in her case. They dusted the outside of the door and surfaces in the room for fingerprints and then left her to figure out what to do next.

She was grateful at least that her rent was paid up for another two weeks. There would be time to earn the money she’d need for rent before it was due again, but it would mean eating peanut butter and crackers at mealtimes again.

The thief had even taken her dirty clothes and her laundry basket, and Lydia couldn't understand why. She shouldered her purse and trudged to the door, thankful that today had been a good day for tips because she had to go to the store across the street and get some basics. They’d even stolen her lavender body wash and shampoo.

At five o’clock the next morning, she woke to the musical alarm of her cell phone and made quick work of getting ready. She avoided thinking about the days, weeks, and months of drudgery that lay ahead of her. She’d cried herself to sleep the night before when it finally sank in that she was back at square one. She’d worn Chance’s bracelet to bed, taking comfort from the memory of its thoughtful giver.

Chance had been thoughtful and kind to her on her very first day working at the Oasis Café. It must’ve been obvious to him that she’d had a long day, and she clearly remembered how much her feet had ached afterward. She’d waited on him and his companion as efficiently as she could, and after they’d left she’d discovered a one hundred dollar bill beneath his plate. The very next day she’d gone out and bought herself a decent pair of work shoes and blessed his name as she paid for them with the tip he’d left her.

Whenever he rolled through town on a cattle run, with his identical twin brother Clayton along for the trip occasionally, it always brightened her day. The gifts he sometimes brought had been a complete surprise but didn’t mean near as much as his sincere kindness and the playful twinkle in his piercing blue eyes.

Even though she’d done her best to be a realist, she’d found herself looking forward more and more to his visits. The last time he’d bid her good-bye she’d wished she could go with him. Watching him saunter out of the door had made her heart ache a bit.

It was pathetic to think that way because she was on her own in getting out of this situation, just like she was on her own in getting into it. Her brothers had told her of a chef’s position that was open in the little town they lived in, but she’d turned them down, needing a little space in which to forge her own destiny. She certainly had all the space she needed now.

Praying as she walked out into the predawn darkness, Lydia made her way down the poorly lit stairs to her little Karmann Ghia in the parking lot. Gunther sat there waiting for her faithfully and she had to smile. Her brothers had rebuilt the engine and painted it for her, after picking the car up at an auction five years ago. Despite their overprotectiveness, she liked the reminder of them that Gunther represented.